What’s a white paper–and why should you care? Good question. You’re out there trying to run your business, and in the current economic climate that may be a more-than-usually challenging job. So who has time to develop another marketing tool?
There are several reasons smart companies are making the time. But first, let’s define our terms.
What’s a white paper?
The term white paper means a 6 to 12-page (can be 50 pages or more) professional write-up that explains objectively a possible solution to one of an executive’s specific pressing business problems. It can also be called a special report or other name. Here’s how it might work:
- If you’re a software company executive whose prospects need to track orders or coordinate resources, you could offer a white paper explaining how a new software solution has been proven to reduce lost orders and save money by optimizing trucks, pallets, drivers, and other resources.
- If you’re a private equity investment executive, you might offer a white paper that details steps to help people understand how to tell a smart investment from a poor one.
- If you’re a staffing company executive, you could educate your prospects about the complexities of making smart hires, explaining aspects of a familiar process that are not well understood by most people.
In other words, you don’t give your process or your tools away. Instead, you explain what the needs are, talk about where trends are heading, and hint at solutions (that you can, of course, provide).
Why should you care?
White papers offer a powerful but subtle way to position your company as the expert in a particular arena. A prospect who has engaged enough to ask for your information is a prospect who is genuinely concerned about the problem you’re addressing and who already feels a certain level of trust with you.
- White papers generate interest. They offer education and information that addresses a particularly challenging point in the reader’s business situation.
- White papers are no-pressure. The format says we’re-sharing-useful-material-here-not trying to sell you.
- White papers have credibility. Information is backed up by third-party, objective research. You’re not making claims in a vacuum. You offer proven sources as the basis of your assertions.
- White papers build relationships. They offer an invaluable opportunity to speak in your company’s True Voice and show customers you care about their problems.
But when do you sell?
Of course, you need to make sure you follow up with those who download or receive your white paper. That’s part of the marketing that helps make it effective. But if you turn the initial follow-up into a hard-sell situation, you risk turning the prospect off–and ensuring they will be unlikely to trust your future offers of information.
However, if the customer is ready to buy when you follow up, you’re in a strong position to make the sale right then. And if the customer is only in the early stages of research, you’ve initiated a relationship in which you’ll likely be welcome to stay in touch with occasional value-add offerings. That’s how you make sure yours is the company that comes to mind when the customer has more questions or is ready to move forward.
With your white paper you’re reinforcing your expertise and getting your company name and logo in front of the customer in a no-pressure, trusting, learning situation–a great place to be in today’s high-speed, short-attention-span, what’s-next? marketing environment.
P.S. If you’d like to learn how a white paper/special report might be a good tool for your company–and get a coupon for $50–call or email me. Chicago 773.292.3294. Cleveland 216.472.8502. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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