Just the sounds of those two words, together, can make the strongest amongst us quiver and shake.
The images of high school writing assignments. College papers.
But fear not. White papers can be an incredibly useful tool in your belt, helping build awareness, trust, and engagement with your prospective customers.
Helping convert inquiries to market and sales-ready leads.
And motivating sales-ready leads to becoming new customers.
All at a cost that will make you smile.w
What exactly is a white paper?
Ahh, good question. Here are a couple of definitions for you to consider.
A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization. Source: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/546/1/
And then there is this one…
A white paper is a persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to promote a certain product, service, or viewpoint. Source: https://www.thatwhitepaperguy.com/white-paper-faq-frequently-asked-questions/#what_is
And there are a lot more – and like these two examples, they are all over the board which means it’s up to you to decide what a white paper is and what it should accomplish.
From my perspective, a white paper is about 10 to 15 pages in length and addresses an issue (problem, need) from an educational perspective that addresses options, alternatives and then a recommendation with enough details that the reader understands and is comfortable with what is involved.
It is not a press release, advertisement or sales brochure – it is an educational document.
For example, here is a title of something that is not a white paper.
“ABC Company Launches New Product That Saves Businesses Money!”
And, for example, here is a title of something that is a white paper.
“Why Your Business Needs a Marketing Plan to Succeed”
As you can see, the first is telling you straight out that “It’s all about our great new product”, whereas’ the second is addressing a problem that many business owners face.
Why Does Your Business Need White Papers?
Would you like an affordable, effective way to attract high-quality leads to your business?
Right now, there are 3 groups within your target audience – prospects, inquiries, and leads.
Prospects meet all the criteria you set for your target audience but they have never reached out and made themselves known to your business. Inquiries have never purchased anything from your business, but they have reached out to you and made themselves known. And a lead is an inquiry that has met some but not all of your qualification factors so they haven’t been escalated to [ex] marketing qualified lead or sales qualified lead, depending on how your process works.
Let’s focus on prospects for the moment.
They may be buying from a competitor. Or they may not have had this need until now and have not and do not buy what you offer from anyone.
In either situation, they wake one day and realize they have a problem. And they begin to search for solutions to that problem – and that problem is something your products and services solve.
They turn to colleagues, family, friends. They go online and search.
Maybe it’s a business owner that realizes they need someone other than their neighbor handling their corporate accounting and taxes.
Or it’s a homeowner that realizes it’s time to remodel.
Or it’s an adult that realizes their career is going nowhere fast and they need to do something to jumpstart opportunities.
You get the point.
The business owner needs to know how to identify and select the best accounting firm for their growing business. The homeowner needs to know how to identify and select the best remodeler. And the adult needs to understand how to identify and select the best source for learning new skills that will help them get that promotion or shift careers.
And white papers are perfect for these topics.
Now, let’s just focus on the business owner to keep things simple. They will turn to the Internet and search for phrases like “accounting firms” and “accounting needs for growing businesses” and “fast growth business accounting problems” and…
You know the drill.
What he needs is a white paper entitled “How to select the best accounting firm for your fast-growth business” and that lays out options, alternatives, and a rational recommendation for what to do.
If they like your recommendations, you have achieved awareness and trust – two important steps in the process of acquiring new customers.
The next step is engagement and that comes with your offer to attend an event for owners of fast-growth businesses. Or homeowners interested in learning more about remodeling and contractors. Or adults interested in learning more about how your institution helps adults take their careers to the next level.
The Process Is Simple
Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.
Step one is understanding your audience and their wants and needs at each step of their decision-making process. For example, that business owner is in the pre-inquiry/prospect stage and at that early point in the process, they want information on options, alternatives, tips and hints in preparation of the remaining steps.
Step two is put together an outline of who the reader is, what their problem/needs are and what this paper will layout in terms of educational information.
Step three research and write the paper.
Step four proofread and edit.
Step five publish and distribute.
And when it comes to distribution, keep the following in mind:
- Make it an offer in your ads (paid media) – see if you get more responses from people earlier in the buying process.
- Make it an offer in your social media.
- Share it with key influencers so they can share it with their followers. (This includes TV, radio, press as well as online influencers and your current customers.)
- Put it on your website as an offer.
- Cut it up into smaller pieces of content and make a blog series with it. Turn it into a webinar and get that out there too.
This white paper, entitled Marketing Planning 101, is aimed at marketing executives in mid-sized businesses that have been struggling to achieve the business goals and objectives and have come to realize that maybe they need a better action plan.
The white paper has about 12-pages information on the problems businesses face without a plan and the options of trying to succeed without a plan. Then it lays down a straight-forward recommendation and breaks into a 20-page template for writing your own marketing plan.
This white paper has consistently generated more than 100 downloads per month for the past three years. (Yes, we update the content and freshen up the presentation on a regular basis.)
That’s more than 1,200 leads per year from one white paper.
Oh, and I am seeing the same performance for Content Marketing for Business which you can download here.
Any questions? Comments? Feel free to comment below or contact me directly