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I’ve written quite a bit about white papers in my blog posts because they are one of the key content assets I develop for my clients. So I’m always on the lookout for new research and insights into how to magnify their effectiveness. That’s why this study from IDG Connect caught my eye.

IDG Connect showed two white paper cover examples side-by-side to 250 buying team members and asked their preference. The first cover was a standard, common cover design with a title and author name. The second added profile information, specifically who the white paper targets, what buying stage it covers and the buying team role. Nearly 75% of respondents preferred the design that included profile details.

Here’s how a white paper cover with profile information impacts everything from likelihood of opening and reading the paper to sharing it with others:

While this finding isn’t groundbreaking, it supports best practices with research-based evidence.

What’s really interesting is that IDG Connect took the research a step further by assessing the impact of embedding navigation links directly into the cover so readers can easily and immediately navigate to relevant areas of the white paper. Unfortunately, the report authors seem to have accidentally used the first chart to show the impact of adding navigation so it’s impossible to determine the impact by percentages. However, the report states:

“Just by adding profile information to your white paper cover, you can increase positive behavior by over 20% in multiple ways and get assets opened more often than those of competitors. Then, take the next step to offer hyperlinks, not based on sections, but on needs, goals and issues – and see the positive results increase even more.”

Of course, to produce a cover of this sort takes more than being a whiz with Adobe Acrobat. It starts with a deep understanding of your prospects’ issues and concerns at each stage of the buying cycle and their role in the purchase decision. Unfortunately, far too many companies know just the basics about their prospective buyers, leading to white papers that miss the mark. You can arrive at this understanding of prospects by developing buyer personas. With this insight into concerns and content preferences, you can develop papers – and covers –  that strike a chord and move potential buyers one step closer to a purchase.