November 18, 2009
Case Study

Video Ebook Revives White Paper: 7 Steps to Repurpose Content and Attract 8x More Readers

SUMMARY: The concept of turning an existing white paper into a video eBook was one of the most intriguing examples of content repurposing mentioned at MarketingSherpa’s recent B2B Marketing Summits. Based on positive audience response, we developed a detailed case study about the campaign.

See how a networking communications company turned a technical white paper into a multimedia eBook that featured short video interviews with company experts alongside links to a host of related downloads. The eBook attracted eight times as many readers as the original white paper – including hard-to-reach C-level executives.

Ben Bacon, Segment Marketing Manager, Level 3 Communications, wasn’t satisfied with the content his team used to market the company’s Ethernet technology and services.

Their primary marketing asset was a technical white paper that offered great details on industry trends and the company’s capabilities, but -- which Bacon admits -- was a "pretty dry read." They also had a collection of miscellaneous collateral such as a network map, industry-specific brochures and technical specification documents that, on their own, were not "terribly compelling," says Bacon.

"We felt like we had a story to tell, but the question was how to tell that story using a lot of this information we already had."

The team wanted to repurpose these content assets in a format that made the information more accessible for prospects. At the same time, they needed to provide information that would appeal to a range of key personnel in their target companies, from CIOs all the way to network engineers.


The team combined these disparate pieces of content into a new type of collateral: A video eBook that featured highlights from the technical white paper alongside short video clips of company experts providing commentary and customer examples on the subject matter.

By breaking the content into eight chapters, they also created opportunities to include links to supporting content, such as network maps, technical specifications and industry-specific marketing collateral.

They made the video eBook the central offer of several marketing efforts, including a direct mail outreach and email campaigns.

Here are the seven steps they took to create the piece and use it to generate leads:

Step #1. Select white paper to repurpose

The team wanted to base the video eBook on a high-value asset from their content library. They selected a technical white paper, written in partnership with a third-party industry analyst group, Heavy Reading, which provided two major marketing benefits:

- It provided an overview of the use of Ethernet technology by enterprise businesses.

- It featured Level 3 as the analyst firm’s "Ethernet service provider of the year," offering highlights of the company’s technical capabilities and flexible service offerings.

Step #2. Edit white paper into sections for company video commentary

To repurpose the Heavy Reading white paper as a video eBook, the team divided content into several chapters. The chapter format offered opportunities to include video commentary and links to additional relevant resources.

They looked for natural breaks in the white paper content and ways to drill down from broad, industry trends to company capabilities and detailed analyses of specific customer needs. The result was three main sections and sub chapters.

- Ethernet services market drivers and trends:
o Emergence of business class Ethernet
o Enterprises embrace Ethernet but want rich features
o Heavy Reading’s 2007 user survey results
o Taking Ethernet service types to new levels

- Level 3 Communications Ethernet profile:
o Level 3’s strengths in Ethernet services
o Level 3’s portfolio of Ethernet services

- Addressing requirements of key industry verticals:
o Financial services
o Health care

Step #3. Tap company subject matter experts to provide commentary

The team wanted the video portions of their eBook to highlight the expertise of the company’s key personnel.

"We have a lot of really smart people who are really in tune with how the Internet and networking works," says Bacon. "One of the things we struggle with in marketing department is how to take these smart people and showcase them."

They looked for good candidates to sit down for video interviews related to sections of the eBook. These subjects would have deep understanding of the company’s technology and services, along with experience from the field and direct knowledge of customer applications.

They chose four executives in different product management roles:
o Paul Savill, VP, Long-Haul Transport
o Russell Shriver, VP, Data Services
o Chris O’Toole, Sr. Director, Financial Services Segment Management
o Carolyn Reuss, Director, Healthcare Segment Management

Step #4. Film Q&A sessions with subject matter experts

The team planned a filming session with their in-house video production department. One week prior to that appointment, they sent each subject matter expert a list of questions they planned to ask them on camera. They also provided bullet points of key information they wanted experts to cover in their answers.

The document gave the participants time to prepare notes on their topic areas. However, Bacon’s team encouraged participants not to read from prepared notes, but to answer questions in a natural, conversational style.

They set aside one day to film the four participants discussing their areas of expertise. For example:

- Paul Savill spoke on broad industry trends, to be paired with the chapters:
o The emergence of business class Ethernet
o Taking Ethernet service types to new levels

- Russell Shriver spoke on the company’s specific network capabilities, Ethernet experience and service offerings, to be paired with the chapters:
o Level 3’s strengths in Ethernet services
o Level 3’s portfolio of Ethernet services

- Chris O’Toole provided insight and customer examples from the financial services sector, to be paired with the chapter:
o Addressing the requirements of financial services

- Carolyn Reuss described the role of Ethernet in the health care sector and shared customer examples, to be paired with the chapter:
o Addressing the requirements of health care

The interviews took between 15 and 30 minutes to complete. Then, the in-house video staff edited out the moderator’s questions and assembled short two- to three-minute clips that focused on the most compelling information from each session.

Step #5. Combine text and video into eBook platform

The team built the video eBook in Flash. Their goal was to break the content into easy-to-consume sections and provide intuitive navigation that let prospects find the sections that were most interesting to them.

- The design included Level 3’s logo and brand colors along the top of the eBook screen. Heavy Reading’s logo was included on the bottom of the screen.

- The eBook used a two-page layout. Text was placed on the left page and video on the right. Arrows on the edge of each page let users flip forward or backward through the material.

- The table of contents page included clickable chapter titles that took visitors directly to the corresponding section of the white paper.

Step #6. Include links to related content

In certain sections, the team included links to existing, ancillary collateral that viewers could download for more information related to that chapter.

- The chapter on Level 3’s strengths in Ethernet services included links to:
o Level 3’s network map
o A timeline of Level 3’s achievements in Ethernet technology

- The chapter on Level 3’s portfolio of Ethernet services included a link to the company’s service technical specifications.

- The chapters on addressing the requirements of financial services and health care included links to overviews of the company’s expertise in those industries.

Step #7. Use video eBook in multi-channel promotions

The team made the video eBook a central offer in several lead generation campaigns. For example:

- They developed industry-specific direct mail campaigns for the financial services and health care sectors. The packages directed recipients to a microsite that featured the video eBook.

- They also developed geo-targeted email campaigns to reach prospect companies close to their networks. The messages included links to a landing page that featured the video eBook.

The video eBook helped to breathe new life into the team’s existing content:
o The eBook attracted eight times as many readers as the downloadable white paper
o 65% of all microsite visitors viewed the video eBook
o The average viewer spent eight minutes interacting with the video eBook
o Response to the direct mail promotion exceeded forecasts by 80%

The team was particularly pleased with the direct mail promotion, which was aimed at C-level executives and put what otherwise would have been dry, technical information in front of key decision makers.

"No CIO is going to take the time to read an 18-page white paper," says Bacon.

The success of this foray into using video resulted in a new focus for the team’s content development efforts. Not only do they continue to offer the video eBook from their homepage, they’ve since created additional video content, such as:
o Video case studies
o Video brochures

"We started investing [many] more resources in creating videos where we can tell our story," says Bacon. "It really changed the way we think about ourselves."

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Level 3’s video eBook campaign

Video’s Role in Your Marketing: 6 Proven Tactics to Support Lead Gen, Search, Product Launches

Babcock & Jenkins: Helped the team develop the video eBook and plan the marketing campaigns

Level 3’s video eBook, "Business Class Ethernet: Trends in Perspective"

Level 3 Communications

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