A white paper remains a very crucial component of marketing and sales collaterals that most mid and large sized firms aim to produce at the start of each year. Wikipedia defines a white paper as “an authoritative report or guide helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers are used in two main spheres: government and B2B marketing.”
One of the earliest known instances of white papers remain the ‘Churchill White Paper’ released in 1922. White papers issued by the governments often serve the twin objectives of presenting government policies and testing the climate of public opinions about them.
The currency of the term in the context of B2B marketing can actually be traced back to the 1990s. This was the time when commercial white paper writing was undertaken by firms to argue or persuade that a particular product, technology, service or approach was superior than others to solve a given business problem. As marketing collaterals, white papers aim to promote products or services of a company thereby establishing thought leadership, educating readers, generating sales leads, and persuasively informing various stakeholders (clients, potential customers, analysts, channel partners, investors, journalists etc.).
What is it All About?
B2B white paper writing generally premised on facts, graphs, tables, maps, photos, and figures to build a business case. Most of them often run from three to 20 pages and seek to present a solution to a business problem. B2B companies often look to outsource white paper writing to avoid costs of finding and retaining a full time resource. Most of the times the content writers available for hire (part-time or full-time) are not equipped to create such specialized marketing communications (marcom) documents. Hence, it makes sense to outsource one’s requirements to an agency or consultant for efficient outcomes. Some of the key distribution channels for white paper including the Web, trade shows and conferences, and sales representatives.
3 Can-Do Tips Revealed
1) Inform and persuade: As a marcom document to be used during a pre-sales stage, a white paper should be full of information value and logical substance to appeal to the end users. Well-researched statistics, quotes from industry leaders/gurus, snippets from major reports, useful facts and figures to support an argument should be key constituents of an ideal white paper.
Perry Marshall, internet marketing maven, lists out more than 40 types of white papers that subsume cheat sheets, pocket guides, application guides, installation manuals, troubleshooting guides and even tutorials. However, the reality is that almost all of these documents are used and useful after a sale has been made. Hence the text of these supposedly ‘white paper’ documents is structured to ‘document and explain’ and not to inform and persuade.
2) Right Audience: If you’ve chosen to outsource white paper writing, ensure that your consultant or agency inquires from you about the primary readership of the document before commencing the undertaking. Often it serves well, when audience is determined in partnership with the client. Various other details become manifest as soon as there is a clear picture of the readership (individuals, organizations, not-for-profit setups, committees, or a generic mix).
3) Title Structuration: Titles that are plain and dull and uncreative do not ever receive any eyeballs. It really helps to invest in adequate and non-linear thinking in creating a title that is an attention-getter for maximum impact.
Suggest Some Ways I Can Use White Papers…
Well, if you’re reading this, chances are you already appreciate the significance of white papers and are close to taking the next step!
White papers are best used if you want to:
- issue them ahead of a new service or product launch, or a technology rollout
- educate existing, new and potential buyers about your services, technologies, products, and business challenges
- boost your existing sales marketing and PR collaterals
- reduce any barriers in the sales process and convert these into sales
- position your business as an industry thought leader
- publish links to them from your website to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social sites
- distribute them out at industry events, trade shows, conferences and customer meetups
- publish them on your website to be available as PDF downloads
Remember, white papers are THE MOST FREQUENTLY downloaded content assets – highly effective tools to deliver return on all your marketing investments. They are perfect instruments for generating credibility. Prospective clients in 9 out of 10 times respond better to informative, well-researched write-ups when compared to barefaced ads.
A good white paper never comes cheap as the logistics entail involvement of various resources in the production process – client-facing coordinator, writer, subject-matter expert(s), editor, proofreader, and a designer/illustrator (optional, as client, on occasions may wish to do it in-house).
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