Search for ‘White Paper’ on the websites of Intel, IBM and Cisco and you are presented with thousands of results. Clearly these industry giants have a lot to say on a lot of topics and are working hard to present an image of thought-leadership. And they’re very good at marketing. They recognise the importance of white papers as part of their integrated marketing campaigns and raising their brand visibility.
A 2015 poll* of B2B marketers put white papers top of the list for delivering quality leads through content marketing. This is likely to be because they are perceived as useful and can be easily targeted to a specific audience. (In the same survey, 48% of respondents admitted that their marketing was less effective than it could be because it wasn’t developed for target audiences.)
The White Paper as a ‘trigger’.
What is really interesting is what happens when you download a white paper. As is usual practice, the white papers aren’t actually ‘free’, you exchange them for your email address. So you’re not really surprised when you receive an email sometime later. But, what might surprise you is the type and tone. The email looks like it’s been written by an individual (rather than a marketing department) and simply asks:
‘I see you’ve downloaded the white paper on ….. Do you need any more advice or help on this?’
Now, at the end of the day, you can’t really tell if an email has been sent automatically as a response to some kind of trigger or if there’s a person sending them out. But if you had a question you would probably respond to the email. And a connection is made.
White papers help to build authority and confidence
This is integrated marketing at its best. The white paper doesn’t sell products all by itself, it helps to build authority and confidence in your reader, and at the same time identifies that person as a prospect. And, as you know which white paper someone’s downloaded, you can approach them knowing exactly what their current problems are.
And as well all know, the key to selling is not to sell to someone, but to help them to resolve their challenges and issues.
How to make the most of a white paper
Firstly, it’s best to think of a white paper as an asset. Not a commodity. Don’t just put it on your website and hope that the people who read it will call you. Maybe they will, but you can be much more proactive than that.
The first thing to do is make sure your white paper is worth reading. We cover how to do that in the next post – but for now, let’s just say that it has to address a current and pertinent industry issue for your target market.
Secondly, make sure you know who’s reading it by collecting contact details from your website. Promote the paper through social media, direct marketing and – quite simply – let your sales people use it in their arsenal of sales tools. They can use the arguments within it to foster discussions as well as make sure it ends up in the hands of the right people.
But, the real key to generating business with a white paper is to follow up. Call or email the person who’s downloaded it. Find out if they’re a prospect. If they are then you’ve qualified them and they can go on your list for further nurturing with everyone else.
Next time on White Papers: How to write a good one.