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How “Delayed Gratification” Improves White Paper ROI

by | Mar 5, 2019 | Lead Generation, White Papers, Content Marketing | 0 comments

One of the most frequent mistakes I see marketers make with white papers is allowing visitors unrestricted (ungated) access to them.

In a survey I conducted of technology companies who offered white papers on their websites, 61% allowed visitors to download any of their white papers without registration. [i]

Some marketers may feel that requiring registration will reduce downloads, keeping their white paper out of the hands of many potential customers. Yet, 79% of tech buyers surveyed by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa said they would willingly register to download a white paper. That was the highest total among nine media types, including demos and analyst reports (Figure 1). [ii]

The double problem of unrestricted access

Allowing visitors to download your white paper without registering for it creates two problems for you.

First, you get no contact data. No contact data means no lead: you lose countless opportunities to make additional marketing “touches,” nurture and qualify the prospect, track his or her activity and interest, and reinforce your branding.

Second, there’s no anticipation. Your prospect just clicks on a link and he’s got your white paper. There’s no build-up. No fanfare. No excitement. You’ve minimized the perceived value of your content. Chances are, your white paper will be quickly forgotten.

Building perceived value through delayed gratification

The remedy is also twofold: registration plus briefly delayed fulfillment.

Obviously, to secure contact data and generate a lead, you need to require registration. But (as I’ll explain in next month’s essay) your registration form doesn’t have to be onerous.

The secret to creating anticipation for your white paper, on the other hand, lies in “delayed gratification.” Don’t simply let visitors click on a link to download your white paper. Tell them they will receive their white paper by email. Deliver it via autoresponder.

Email fulfillment creates several advantages for you:

  • You’ll get a valid email address.
  • You can exclude popular personal and temporary email domains, if you choose.
  • You can build anticipation, through a series of staged emails.
  • You build brand recognition with multiple touches.
  • You begin to build a relationship with your prospect.

Delayed gratification in action: an example

If you choose to download the white paper from which this article is taken (more on that under Next Steps, below), you’ll see this tactic in action.

As soon as you complete the registration from, you’ll receive a confirmation of your order. A few minutes later, you’ll receive an email thanking you for requesting my report. That email also offers you a subscription to my monthly e-zine and my current sign-up premium. After that, you’ll receive a second email with a link to your report and checklist.

The next day, you’ll receive a follow-up email to make sure you received your report.

Plus, if you signed up for my monthly e-letter, you’ll have received a confirmation of that order, an email with a link to the download page of my sign-up premium, and the latest issue.

That’s a minimum of four contacts – and as many as seven – in a relatively short timeframe. And that’s not counting your trip to my website to order the report and any e-zine issues or related offers I may send you afterward.

Every touch you make increases your name recognition and helps you forge a relationship with your prospect. And because your prospect is expecting an email from you, you increase both your open rate and the chances your prospect will actually read your white paper.

You lose all that if you don’t require registration.

A caveat

There are circumstances in which you may not want to require registration. If, for example, your white paper is a product “backgrounder” – one meant to provide detailed product information for prospects at the final stages of the buying process – you may wish to forgo registration for the convenience of your potential buyer. You probably already have that prospect in your CMS, anyway.

If your objective is lead generation, however, you need to require registration.

Takeaway Points

  1. 79% of tech buyers said they are willing to register to download a white paper
  2. Allowing download of white papers without registering creates two problems
    • No lead capture means no opportunities to make additional marketing touches
    • No anticipation lowers the perceived value of your white paper
  3. A more effective approach is registration plus briefly delayed fulfillment
    • Registration allows you to capture leads
    • Delayed fulfillment creates opportunities to build a relationship with your prospect

Next Steps

This month’s article is the seventh of a series of excerpt from CopyEngineer’s newly updated special report, 10 Common Mistakes that Kill White Paper ROI: How to Avoid Them and Generate More Leads. To get your free copy of the report, click here.

Need expert help with planning and developing a new white paper for your company? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or drop me an email at I’ll be happy to schedule a call and discuss your project with you.


[i]   Cole, John, 10 Mistakes that Kill White Paper ROI: How to Avoid Them and Generate More Leads (Revised Edition), CopyEngineer, September 2018.

[ii]   Connecting Through Content Survey, Issue 2: Content Distribution—Where Information Intersects with Demand, KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa, May 2007.

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