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by Gary InwoodApr 01, 2017

by Gary InwoodApr 01, 2017

Using Whitepapers for Lead Generation in Japan

What are marketing whitepapers?

Whitepapers are used as marketing hooks to gain B2B customer information and reinforce branding. They are designed to exhibit thought leadership and map your products against customer issues. However, whitepaper campaigns that succeed in the mother country may not live up to expectations overseas. Here are five simple things you can do to improve the performance of whitepapers in overseas countries such as Japan.

Diagram 1: Five things that improve whitepaper performance in marketing campaigns
Five things that improve whitepaper performance in marketing campaigns

1. Create a media plan

Whitepapers do not contain an explicit call to action. As with any campaign, you have to generate supporting materials such as landing pages and a media plan to deliver the number of impressions required to achieve conversion (download) targets. Include a healthy mix of third party media to determine which performs best with your type of whitepaper material. Enlist the aid of a local marketing agency if there are no internal marketing resources available.

2. Simplify the download form

Overseas teams hungry for sales want whitepapers for immediate requirements such as generating an approach list. If you want to develop the largest possible list, then you should not ask customers to complete a lengthy form. The optimal approach for whitepaper fulfilment is to send an email with a link to the content in return for the customer’s email address, name, company name, and department. This will maximize downloads while providing sufficient information for telemarketing teams to contact customers. Omission of telephone numbers from B2B forms may improve downloads by up to thirty percent [1].

3. Serve up web pages instead of PDFs

Whitepapers are usually delivered as PDF downloads. However, PDF downloads provide no feedback about engagement. If you want to know whether customers actually read the whitepaper and which sections interested them the most, then you should convert your whitepaper into a multi-page web document to allow such analytics to be collected.

Diagram 2: Traceability of whitepaper events by delivery format
Traceability of whitepaper events by delivery format

Note: PDFs do not provide data on how content is consumed.

Web-based documents can be coded to enable a good quality printout and when the campaign is over, provide SEO benefit simply by linking them to the subsidiary web site and instructing search engines to index the pages.

4. Use more examples and illustrations

Whitepapers must leave customers with a positive impression to support future interaction. If your whitepapers are largely text based, make an effort to increase the weight of visual elements to aid comprehension and enable readers to consume snippets of information without having to read an entire passage. Academic evidence suggests that native speakers of languages using pictographic characters such as Chinese and Japanese learn faster when visual inputs are provided [2].

5. Reduce sentence length for translation

Translation issues may also exacerbate whitepaper abandonment in overseas countries. Translating into another language often results in content that is difficult to comprehend and hence tiring to read. The translation itself may not be incorrect, but by failing to capture implied meaning will be less coherent than the original text. Shortening sentences prior to translation can eliminate this problem.


Using a whitepaper successfully overseas requires more than just placing a link on a download page. Overseas subsidiaries operate in very different environments, with little or no brand recognition, and fewer sales and marketing resources, meaning you have to be absolutely sure your whitepaper campaigns deliver results.

If you follow the procedure outlined above, more overseas customers will be exposed to your whitepapers and you will be able to generate more leads for overseas sales teams from your existing budget.


  1. An equipment manufacturer located in Japan
  2. Turnage, T.W. and McGinnies, E. (1973), “A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Effects of Presentation Mode and Meaningfulness on Short-Term Recall”, American Journal of Psychology, 86 (2), p. 369-381.