Gain Mindshare and Generate Leads with White Papers
White Papers – Still an Effective Marketing Tool
With all the marketing buzz about topics such as artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots, micro influences and mobile video, you may be wondering why I am writing about white papers. It is not one of 2019’s hottest trends, but it is an effective marketing tool that should not be overlooked when you are developing your strategic marketing plan. In fact, according to a recent survey, it was ranked as the second most valuable type of content for moving prospects through the sales funnel. Of the survey respondents, 37 percent mentioned white papers while only blogs/articles came in higher at 49 percent. White papers are generally used early in the sales cycle, before the prospect makes a purchase.
The History of the White Paper
According to its old-school definition, a white paper is defined as a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution. The British government was first to use the term white paper. Winston Churchill’s paper in 1922 is the earliest well-known example of one. Then during WWII and into the 1950s and 1960s, white papers covered other subjects such as science and medicine. With the advent of the PC in the 1980s, white papers became popular in the IT industry too. However, the real explosion of this marketing tool occurred in the 1990s when the internet provided an inexpensive and far-reaching distribution channel for them. The widespread use of white papers continues today with millions of business-to-business (B2) companies producing them every year.
What is a White Paper?
A white paper is a persuasive, informational, and in-depth document, which educates a target audience about a specific topic that relates to a company’s product or service. It is excellent for explaining complex issues.
Generally, a white paper is sponsored by a business. However, it must not come across as a product pitch. The document can briefly touch upon a company’s product or service, but it should not be overly salesy. Its goal is to educate and persuade your readers about a particular topic based on facts. People read white papers because they want to understand or solve an issue, or make a decision.
In general, white papers are no fewer than six pages in length, but they can run 50 plus pages if a topic necessitates it. The document should include a combination of text, illustrations, charts and references.
Distribution and Promotion of a White Paper
Now that you have created this great marketing tool, it is key that you distribute and promote it properly. I am a proponent of hosting it prominently on the home page of a website initially and then moving it to a resources or other relevant inner page after a period of time. A strong call-to-action must accompany it.
There are many pros and cons to gating the document. Since it is a valuable marketing tool, I recommend that at a minimum, users input contact information such as their email address, name, position and company. You may want to consider this approach when the document is newly published. By gathering contact information, you can build upon your leads list as well as know the demographics of your readers. A few months after publication you may want to open it up to the public.
Once a white paper is posted on your website, below are various ways to drive traffic to it:
- Digital Channels
Even though your website receives visitors every day, it is important to drive further traffic to a white paper with digital or online channels. Posts and/or ads about the document can be placed on your social media pages. Also, you can conduct a Google AdWords campaign to increase visibility. Finally, it can be the topic of an e-newsletter.
- Trade Shows
You can also promote your white paper at trade shows. Either hard copies can be distributed onsite or you can drive attendees to the link on your website.To further promote this thought leadership piece, you may even submit its topic when there is a call for speakers. If you are accepted for one of the coveted speaking spots, you can present on the topic and mention the white paper at the session.
- Customer Meetings
Face-to-face customer meetings are a critical component of any sales cycle. White papers can be a valuable tool for your sales team. If a potential customer raises a concern, it is very powerful to produce a document that addresses it right there in the meeting. Doing so further positions your company as an industry leader and will help to beat the competition.
Re-Purposing a White Paper
A white paper must not be a “one off” piece of collateral. It is a valuable document that should be part of an integrated marketing campaign. With that being said, its content can be repurposed in many ways. A shortened version of it can be the topic of a blog, which can drive a reader to the white paper. Certain statistics can be extracted for an infographic. They are great at increasing engagement when posted on social media. The topic of the white paper can also be presented as a webinar.
Ready to Write a White Paper?
As you have probably heard more than once, “content is king”. A white paper is one useful piece of content that will continue to prove its value in the future. As voice search technology and machine learning become more widespread, white papers will become even more valuable content.
However, writing, designing, promoting and distributing a white paper is not a small task. As an extension of your business, the diamonddog Marketing team can assist with any or all aspects of a white paper. Over the years, we have produced many white papers in a variety of industries. For further information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-269-1422.
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