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How Not To Use White Papers
(or how to destroy your conversion on mobile)

Everyone seems to have mobile content tips these days. They suggest the best development philosophies to follow, OS platforms to design for, screen sizes to think about, and even content types to create for different platforms. To be sure, all of that is key, but it’s also secondary. The most important content tip when it comes to mobile is this: Make your content easy to Get. Make it simple. Yes, that may sound trite. Everyone from Henry David Thoreau to Steve Jobs has stressed simplicity in all aspects of life for a long time. But when it comes to mobile it’s absolutely necessary. In particular, mobile content needs to be utterly simple to access—quickly and easily—or it is absolutely doomed to fail. That sounds obvious, right? You would think so, yet all too often marketers create exceptional content that is barely consumed on mobile devices because it is so difficult to get to. Let’s take the example of the eBook/white paper/case study. Often organizations invest significant resources in developing, publishing and promoting these offerings—with researchers, writers, designers, copy editors, and managers involved. However, rather than making it simple to access this content, marketers often force consumers undertake a series of unwieldy steps. Here’s a recent (real) example from a firm that created a white paper offering mobile marketing tips. And just to be open about this, we are big, big fans of this particular firm’s content, but somehow getting the content is not as simple as we would like it to be.  We will illustrate our journey to obtain the content with images to clearly show what the problem is. Step 1: An email arrives with a link promoting the report.  Indeed, it is an eye-test, and to click the correct link, an agility test as well. Not for folks with big hands.
Step 2: Consumer clicks email and is taken to a landing page in their browser. Indeed, once more:  ”it is an eye-test, and to click the correct link, an agility test as well. Not for folks with big hands.”
Step 3: Consumer fills out the required info in a form. Filling this form out on a mobile phone was quite an achievement. Apart from the unnerving scrolling and zooming required, as you can see, often it is not even visible which field one is filling out.
Step 4: Consumer waits for PDF to download/load and gets to see the report. Somewhat.  Finally made it to the content. Honestly, conversion on this for mobile cannot be anything but up for improvement. But then the content arrives and indeed:  ”it is an eye-test, and to click the correct link, an agility test as well. Not for folks with big hands.” The content is extremely hard to read, and is going to require a lot of effort on behalf of the consumer.
Getting and reading this content was a very cumbersome, almost annoying experience, but the same holds true for numerous other mobile content flows. Think about how difficult it is to convert an email into an iOS app use. The consumer must open their email in their mobile email client, click a link, get taken to the iTunes Store, click the “Free/Price” button, enter their password, wait for the download, exit iTunes, and finally find the app on their phone/tablet. Now this is not to say that you should never use conversion pages to collect email addresses— obviously  you need to turn clicks into leads. Nor is it an effort to discourage the development of apps. What these examples are meant highlight is how important simplified content access is to mobile consumers. It’s doubtful that many users on phones or tablets went through that whole process to access the PDF document. On the other hand, they very well may have read the report on their devices if the process of getting the content had been easier – simpler. Similarly, there are times when a mobile app is necessary to provide an interactive experience. But there are other times when, again, that content could be delivered via a simple link to a mobile-optimized page. Given the barriers to getting a download, is an app always the necessary channel? Of course, the best methods for reaching mobile consumers will vary depending on your situation and goals. However, this will not change: the simpler you make accessing your content on mobile devices, the more engagement you will get. Ultimately, isn’t that the point?
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