“When done right, nothing pulls in qualified leads like a well-targeted offer for a juicy white paper,” says marketing expert Larry Chase, publisher of Web Digest for Marketers. White papers are indispensable in reaching and converting qualified buyers who are making career-shaping decisions about expensive, complex solutions.
White papers showcase your unique solution
White papers — aka special reports, e-books, executive briefs — are business-to-business (B2B) fact-based articles about a technology, process or innovation that sets your company, product or service apart from the competition. White papers are about a new or better way to solve a problem or achieve a result. White papers help buyers understand an issue and make a decision.
White papers are a win-win for marketers eager to establish authority, build brand awareness and generate qualified leads, and buyers and influencers who need credible information to help them make crucial buying decisions. White paper guru Gordon Graham says, “Skeptical prospects are hungry for a vendor who can serve as a trusted advisor, not just a peddler of their wares.” White papers may be the only source of unbiased information about your innovation that is available to buyers, influencers and decision makers.
Unlike a product brochure, effective white papers make a business case for your technology with no hype. White papers analyze business issues, opportunities and trends from a relatively unbiased vendor-neutral perspective. White papers are in-depth, authoritative and based on well-researched facts. They focus on the solution, not the product. Because white papers are fact-based, buyers trust them as reliable information in making critical purchasing decisions.
According to “2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report” by Eccolo Media, a leading tech marketing company, white papers “continue to be the ‘must-have’ asset in the technology marketers toolkit.” Sixty-five percent of B2B buyers surveyed find white papers “very” or “extremely influential” in buying decisions, up from 41 percent in 2010. Fifty-two percent expect to use white papers to promote their own technologies.
White papers attract qualified leads
“Nothing could touch a white paper for generating a strong return on the effort we invested in it. No other piece of content can generate so many business benefits for so long when it’s done right,” says Graham, reflecting on his experience as a tech marketing director.
Useful at the top of the sales funnel for generating leads, white papers can also come into play at any point in the sales process whenever a credible argument is needed to justify a purchase.
White papers position your company as the authority
White papers are valuable content marketing pieces because they position your company as a leader and authority by providing credible guidance to the prospect. This guidance is a powerful social trigger that emotionally binds the reader to your brand.
White papers build brand awareness
White papers build brand awareness, credibility and trust. Because readers trust well-written white papers, they build bridges to high-value appointments, meetings and sales.
Your white paper puts your solution into the conversation already in progress with the prospect. Surveys show that 80-90 percent of buyers do up-front research before reaching out to vendors. The sales team is no longer the gatekeeper for product information and calling a sales person is now the last step in the purchase cycle, not the first.
Google blesses quality content
A good white paper is fresh, “engaging content” that Google uses to favorably rank web sites. A steady stream of white papers and other helpful information, such as case studies, can raise brand awareness by influencing search engine results.
Position your company as the go-to provider
How does an unbiased, fact-based white paper position your company as the go-to provider? By focusing on the unique, game-changing nature of your innovation and tying it to a tangible business benefit in a way that competitor’s can’t replicate. If your solution isn’t so unique, the presence of a well-written, well-targeted white paper has authority-building power that can put your company or solution on the buyer’s short list.
The key is to select a targeted topic that is of high importance to the reader and that also positions your company as the only logical choice.
The white paper audience is expanding
As more and more people get involved in complex buying decisions, white papers are getting into the hands of influencers and decision makers such as executives (decision makers), finance executives (financial recommenders), IT managers and staff (technical recommenders), managers of potential users, potential users and in-house champions of the purchase.
A survey of IT managers by Forbes.com and TechTarget, reports that buyers and influencers read white papers to:
- Stay abreast of new trends (76 percent)
- Learn about new products and vendors (69 percent)
- Compare products (50 percent)
- Help justify a buying decision (42 percent)
- Help shortlist key vendors (33 percent)
White papers have strategic and tactical advantages
Strategically, vendors publish white papers to attract attention, redefine or stake out a position in the marketplace, build credibility or mindshare, or position their company as a leader. Tactically, vendors publish white papers for a number of reasons, such as:
- Generate leads for the sales team
- Educate prospects
- Influence a selection committee
- Educate the sales force and channel partners
- Educate the media
- Send to trade publications
- Keep up with competitors who have white papers
Many companies can benefit from publishing white papers
Any company that develops products that are complex, expensive or both is a candidate for a white paper. A white paper is a must for any “considered buying decision,” that is, a buying decision that entails risk to the buyer due to cost, complexity or both.
Focus on a solution
White paper readers are looking for solutions. So, it’s no surprise that the most effective white papers focus on a specific solution, technology or innovation that sets your company apart from the competition and builds a fact-based case for a tangible business benefit to the reader.