Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

4 ways a white paper helps you sell

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

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.

  1. White papers generate interest. They offer education and information that addresses a particularly challenging point in the reader’s business situation.
  2. White papers are no-pressure. The format says we’re-sharing-useful-material-here-not trying to sell you.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Sincerely,
Barbara

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. barbara@reallygoodfreelancewriter.com.

* Good on your next project of $150 or more (more…)

What the heck is Web 2.0 and why should you care?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Every other headline these days features “Web 2.0″ and many of us just let our eyes glaze over.  Here’s another software thing I’m supposed to “get” (we might think) but I don’t have time!

Just think of it this way: when you see Web 2.0 they’re talking about helping your prospects and customers interact with you online. Which means blogs, wikis and stuff like that. Everyone reading this knows what a blog is. Many people read blogs but choose not to leave comments (interact)–professional/corporate blogs are generally more about giving information in a personal way. You’ll find that most blogs that get a lot of comments are one of two kinds: 1) a personal blog that plays on controversy to get comments from people who like to argue, or b) the blog of a very high-profile person where commenters can touch the fame and glory of that person by appearing on their blog.

If you are an executive with a famous company, your blog may get lots of comments. That’s great. But don’t be worried if your blog doesn’t get comments. As long as you are providing value to your readers–information, entertainment, encouragement, or whatever–your blog is being read and is building credibility and trust in your company. You can be sure of that.

Wikis are another form of interactivity. In this case, users are the co-creators of documents that all hold to be of interest. Say, for example, you want to invite your customers to help you shape the next product you will invest in producing. How valuable do you think it is to get direct input from them on exactly the features they like and the things they don’t like? Talk about cheap and on-target research!

But Web 2.0 is also about giving you better access to information/data/reports. When you collect subscribers to your blog, you’re building a database of names of people who REALLY CARE about what you do and what you say. That’s the kind of market research businesses have traditionally paid huge sums for. And you’re collecting it simply and painlessly over time. There is no more valuable marketing resource in the world than a database of people who have volunteered to hear more about your products and services.

So if you’re still on the fence about blogging for your business, get off. It’s a trend of the future for direct marketing.–both for large and small businesses. Questions? Call me. 773.292.3294 or 216.472.8502.

Be true to yourself–and leverage the power of the many

Friday, March 16th, 2007

Saw a documentary last night on the then-20-year-old woman who designed the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Inspiring story of a girl whose parents emigrated from China and became professors, both at Ohio University. She, Maya Lin, grew up with a strong example and internalized commitment to doing what not only what is right, but also what is important.  She stuck to it through all struggles she had to face as various factions fought over the appropriateness of the memorial, including facing angry Vietnam vets who intially felt the design was not only wrong but insulting.

Some of the most powerful images from the film were watching that young girl’s eyes as that angry vet reviled her design, and later watching her calm, quiet, and humble figure walk away from the 10th anniversary celebration of the memorial–attended by tens of hundreds of vets and families, almost all in tears.

She believed in what she was doing. Her vision won over the most prestigious and powerful competitors. She stood firm against opposition. And she remains true to herself today, having designed a moving memorial to the civil rights movement in addition to unique museums and even homes.

Perhaps the most moving of all the images were those of the fingers and the hands of the visitors/viewers who come to draw on the energy of those designs, fingers tracing the names of loved ones or breaking little pathways in the water flows. When people participate, a project gains far greater power.

And that is the principle behind social networking and the power of the Internet–as new technology makes it possible for more and more people to participate. Your project can gain greater power. And if you, like Maya Lin, keep always the highest ideal in mind as you work, your work will always remain meaningful and your decisions intelligent.

Single women as marketing demographic

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

If you make industrial products, you figure your market is most likely mainly male. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t women in the field. Are you marketing efforts unwittingly turning off those women? If you make or sell almost anything else, chances are the percentage of women who have buying power for your product/service is much higher.

Women are an increasing proportion of executives, business owners and professionals. Today the best-educated woman is 28 years old, the best-educated man is 56. Are you missing the boat by leaving them out of your calculations when you plan your marketing materials and other outreach efforts?

And increasingly the women you’ll be marketing to are independent, self-supporting women who may or may not have kids, but who are making it all happen for themselves. There’s a new organization SWWAN (Single Working Women’s Affiliate Network) just for single working women and their SWWAN blog focuses on issues specific to single women. They care about many of the same things all women care about, but they also may have radically different hot buttons that the right marketing techniques could really push. Read Laura Rowley’s article about women as a market demographic.

Any way you look at it, if you haven’t reexamined your target market with gender in mind, you may be missing some big opportunities.