Marketing with White Papers

From America’s largest corporations and most sophisticated marketers to solo service providers and single product marketers, one of the most popular and cost-effective methods of generating qualified leads in the business-to-business marketplace is the offer of a white paper. It’s called a white paper because it’s printed on …white paper. That is, it isn’t a four-color product or company brochure. It carries the look and feel of a scientific or academic treatise, rather than a promotion vehicle.

White papers give the marketer the opportunity to project his expertise in a given category or discipline, without seeming to promote himself.  White papers are objective

studies or overviews of some aspect of the product or service with which the marketer and the prospect are concerned. Take, for example, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.

A typical CRM white paper might provide some background on the development of customer relationship management theory and practice, include data on the growth of CRM in the prospect’s industry ( the more targeted the better), outline the promise and pitfalls of CRM, and suggest ways to create a cost-effective solution (surprisingly similar to yours).

If yours is a software solution, you may want to demonstrate the need for CRM products to integrate seamlessly with a company’s legacy systems( as yours does). If you are a management consultant, you might stress the importance of upgrading all of the company’s customer touch points and emphasize the need for training (both of which you are eminently qualified to provide).

The paper should answer technical questions, but leave enough open so the prospect is encouraged to seek additional details. It could include a successful case study as an illustration of key points, but it needs to be more than a case study.

It should be substantial — at least 10-12 pages in length — but not oppressive; not more than 25-30 pages, and readable. There is a quality of instant gratification to a free premium such as this, and the prospect wants to feel that he or she can digest it in about 30 minutes. Technical specs and descriptions, if any, should be well within the prospect’s comfort area.

Consumer marketers and even retailers can use white papers as well, depending on their product or service mix. A carpet shop, for example could offer tips on how to identify and purchase kilims and other exotic carpets. A lingerie store could offer tips on how to fit a bra, and so on. Take another look at your product/service for “how-to” opportunities.

Target with the Title

Naturally, the more detailed and authoritative the material, the higher the perceived value of the document.  The title needs to be carefully chosen to target one or more key interests of the prospect and it should be clear that the paper is altruistic in nature — valuable in and of itself — requiring no further contact with you in order to implement its recommendations, strategies or techniques (but obviously, you could help).

You will, however, be sure to require name and contact information  in order for your prospect to obtain the paper. Each request is a qualified lead which you should quickly follow up by email or phone.

The free white paper is your offer.  In lead generation, the offer — not you or your world-class services — is what you sell.  It’s the essential first step in getting your prospect’s attention, establishing credibility, and making him or her available — and hopefully positively oriented– to your sales pitch.

Interactive marketing works best with people who, by virtue of their personal experiences, previous buying patterns, or company responsibilities can reasonably be expected to be predisposed to your product or service.  If you have to sell them first on your product or service category, then sell them again on obtaining that product or service from you, you’re probably dead in the water.  Accurate targeting through careful list selection should help avoid or at least minimize that situation.

An alternative to the type of white paper described above could be a detailed case study that provides a useful blueprint for the process you plan to offer(not a puff piece).  You needn’t identify the company by name although it’s more credible if you do. Size and category can suffice if confidentiality is a concern.

A variation on the straight white paper would be a collection of 10-12 shorter case “stories” carefully titled to project value. For example, “How Fortune 500 Companies Reduce Costs and Increase Sales with Sales Automation,” assuming Fortune 500 companies are your target.  If your target were small business, you might try, “How Small Businesses Reduce Costs and Increase Sales with Sales Automation.”  Another possibility is an industry survey or study, so long as the data are significant and the analysis is sound and meaningful.

Case studies are also powerful marketing tools because they provide the influence of a positive experience with your company described by objective third parties.  They also offer prospects a snapshot of what it might be like to work with your company and to go through the product selection and installation or deployment process.  Further, they act like triggers to give a decision-maker “permission” to contact you, since another peer or colleague – perhaps even someone or some company the prospect knows and respects – has attested to their own good results with your product or company.

Offer the White Paper on Your Web Site

Most white paper offers are designed to direct the prospect to the marketer’s Web site where the paper can be downloaded, as a text document or a PDF file. That gives the prospect an opportunity to become more familiar with your company through your Web site. You’ll want to make sure your Web site properly reflects the look and feel, the expertise and experience you want to project. And as indicated above, follow up quickly by email or phone to maximize the value of the lead.

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