Weighing White Paper Price Against Market Impact
I received notice of an interesting link to this blog a few weeks ago from a blog called, “Stunt & Gimmick’s” with a post entitled, “Getting What You Pay For: Scripted and the Continuing Death of Good Writing”. The article discusses another writing service offering cheap white papers for only $49 with a total length of 300-500 words:
“The basic premise of the site, which bills itself as an exchange for writers to connect with people needing writing, is that they will sell you a blog post of 350-500 words for a flat $49 by “expert writers”. Lets examine that, shall we?
A blog post of 350-500 words in and of itself is not bad. We prefer to go a little longer (averaging about 600-700 words for client blogs), but it’s perfectly acceptable to have posts of 300-500 words, especially on quick-release schedules and when you’re posting a lot of content. The next part, however, is what should scare anyone who even remotely cares about the quality of online content. $49 for 350-500 words. Do the math, and that breaks down to $.10 and $.14 cents per word. We’ve all heard about how terrible the situation is for writers these days, but magazines are still paying a dollar or so per word, and reputable news agencies are not too far behind. So what kind of writer are you getting at $0.14 per word?”
The post also references a quote that I have used on this blog quite frequently relating to the ideal white paper length:
“I tell my clients that the minimum is six pages and the absolute maximum is 12 pages. You need a minimum of six to provide enough background information to bring the reader up to speed on the topic.”
While everyone likes “cheap” stuff, I’m still amazed that any legitimate business would seriously consider producing a one page white paper without considering the ramifications of such an action on their brand, reputation, and image.
Let’s step back for a moment and think about how much content you can fit into a 500 word, single page document:
- A concise summary of one single subject
- Three paragraphs to a problem/background, and three paragraphs for a solution, benefit and contact summary
- Six individual paragraphs of about three sentences each devoted to six different subjects.
Now, consider how any lead generating, white paper topic would fit into a document of this size: Your business strategy? Your competitive advantage? Market research that demonstrates your brand advantage? See any problem with this approach?
I thought so.
Let’s get real for a moment. If you need bulk paper for your laser printer, by all means look for the cheapest possible price. But if you’re evaluating white paper services based solely on the lowest possible price, without considering what you are getting for that price or how that will be seen by your target audience, then you are making a fool-hearty business decision.
The impact? Most businesses will perceive that any organization distributing a single page “white paper” doesn’t have a solution/strategy available (we used to call that “vaporware”) or that your solution is so bad that you have nothing worthwhile to present. Both perceptions certainly will not generate a significant number of “warm” leads, and can actually do more harm than good.
In the end, a decision based on price usually costs your firm more….more in diminished brand, market, and thought leadership.
I guess some firms need to learn their business lessons the hard way.