• The Definitive White Paper on White Papers

    There is a rare consensus among IT marketing professionals in the ongoing debate on industry best practices:  Well-written, data-driven White Papers remain a critical tool in the early stages of the sales cycle to generate interest, awareness and credibility.  Data support the potential value of the White Paper as a vital marketing vehicle, though poor execution can be disastrous. 

    In our White Paper, “Nine Strategies for B2B’s Greatest Lead Generation Content Tool: The White Paper,” emedia outlines the process for ensuring your White Papers exceed your expectations for driving demand.  Following are highlights from that paper.

    First, the data confirm the reliability of White Papers to differentiate your products and services:

    • 93% of IT buyers pass along up to ½ of the White Papers they receive (InformationWeek)
    • 68% find White Papers useful for researching individual vendors and 59% for creating a vendor short list (InformationWeek)
    • 85% of B2B decision makers and 82% of influencers find White Papers to be moderately-to-extremely influential in their purchasing decisions – the highest among content types surveyed (Eccolo Media survey)

    IT decision makers not only rely on White Papers to provide practical data to aid their purchase decisions, they now expect vendors to provide them.  These are the nine common applications of IT White Papers to drive sales leads and invigorate your content planning.  See the complete White Paper for real-world examples among the applications.

    1. Develop Trust and Legitimacy

    White papers are ideal for showing that your company understands a particular marketplace or technology, and is a problem solver within a certain space. The white paper lets your company build empathy with prospects. Then, by laying out a set of possible solutions and expert recommendations for dealing with the issue, the whitepaper gives you a chance to exhibit your company’s expertise.

    2. Thought Leadership

    “Thought leadership papers are typically written to demonstrate forward thinking, to help convince existing customers to stick with a company and to persuade the world to buy into a future vision”, according to white paper expert Michael Stelzner.  This is especially useful for companies that seek to position themselves as selling value, rather than simply products or services. Sometimes these papers are conceptual rather than prescriptive, and aimed at higher level decision makers more than implementers.

    3. Overcome Commoditization in a Saturated Marketplace

    Well-crafted white papers enable reach in a world where the average decision maker is inundated with information. DemandGen Report’s 2010 BtoB Buyer Transformation Survey indicates that over 80% of B2B buyers “either called the solution provider directly or were contacted after they requested further information online.” A quality white paper makes your company’s solution available at this key stage. It permits your company to reach decision makers at the outset of their buying process, before they want to deal with sales people.

    4. Fill the Sales Funnel from the Top

    White papers work wonders introducing prospects to specific company solutions. Because white papers are ideal for framing an issue, then presenting solutions, they succeed masterfully at getting business decision makers interested in learning more. By downloading your white paper, and consenting to receive more information, the decision maker is in position to be cultivated by your company as a quality sales prospect. At a certain point the prospect will be ready to talk seriously with Sales – as an educated, interested potential buyer.

    5. Expand On Sales Executive’s Pitch

    White papers can not only summarize your sales rep’s points in writing, but also provide substantial supporting facts, figures, tables, charts, illustrations, real-life examples, quotes & testimonials, and much more. In this context white papers embellish upon the essential points emphasized by your sales reps, offering color and detail.  This is especially evident with technical white papers.

    6. Clarify Frequent Prospect Questions In Writing

    Veteran writer Gordon Graham maintains that white papers “answer repetitive questions better than a sales person” (The Art of the White Paper, www.gordonandgordon.com). All sales people receive frequently asked questions common to their solution and to their market. White papers provide a readymade format for answering such questions.

    7. Offer Criteria for Appraisal of Competing Solutions

    The white paper is ideal for making it easy for prospects to begin the vendor selection process. White papers not only build awareness of your company’s solution, they enable head-to-head comparisons and provide opportunities to contrast your solutions from your competitors’. Prospects use white papers to create short lists of viable solutions, then conduct further analysis via other collateral and sales meetings. All in all, white papers allow companies to put their best foot forward through the initial, weeding-out phase of the decision process.

    8. Initiate a Diversified Series of Offers

    Since white papers shine at bringing prospects into the sales funnel, progressive companies are learning to use them to initiate varied lead nurturing sequences. Your company may introduce a new approach to a marketplace issue through a white paper release. Based on qualifying criteria set by Sales and Marketing, either your Sales team can contact the respondent or you can put her into a lead nurturing process. If directed along the latter path, the respondent receives a series of follow-up offers, up to the point at which, based on qualifying criteria, she is deemed ready for Sales contact.

    9. Approach Different Decision Makers with Targeted Offers

    Another approach is for you to launch one white paper for one set of decision makers and a separate but related white paper for another. For example, a high-level paper for c-suite complemented with a guide for database administrators, addressing the same issues but written for a more technical, “in-the-trenches” audience. This allows you to reach multiple levels of essential decision makers, and message to them in their own respective “languages.” This scheme is useful within a team decision making environment – a very common situation among IT purchases.

    Link to the White Paper, “Nine Strategies for B2B’s Greatest Lead Generation Content Tool: The White Paper.”

    Robert Drew is a business-to-business marketing professional with over a decade of experience driving revenues and margin both online and via traditional channels.  emedia is a B2B lead generation provider generating high-quality sales leads from over 80 permission-based audiences, including over 40 IT audiences, throughout North America and the UK. A permission-based model enables the presentation of client collateral and web-hosted opportunities to our targeted audiences of professionals, technologists and industry execs.  See emedia’s directory profile for more information.

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