White papers aren’t just for politicians and scientists looking to publish policies or complex findings from clinical studies. They are a great tool for helping businesses position as expert in a specific field of influence.
White papers are becoming ever more commonplace, being used as a way of trading some information for free in return for permission to make contact with the recipient. They are increasing used as a data collation tool, placed and promoted through carefully selected industry websites and portals. Adopting the free or ‘freemium’ model – where some content is offered for free, but more is available behind a paywall, subscription or data collection device – is a powerful way of engaging people with what you have to say, but also what you have to offer too.
White papers are great for b2b brands because they provide information and we know that most business professionals use the Internet as a way to improve their awareness, knowledge and understanding in respect to suppliers, products and services they are interested in procuring.
White papers work best when they are used to discuss the latest trends in a sector, offer solutions to a common problem or position a new idea or way of working.
The best white papers act as a summary of information on a given topic. Think about any service you offer and rather than trying to sell it, think of a problem or myth related to it that might be in your customer’s mind. Maybe there is a barrier to engagement? How can your knowledge of what you do best be presented in a problem solving way?
If you are struggling for inspiration, check out the news, information and community portals in your sector. What are the big issues? What are the headaches? What are the things that keep getting talked about? What legislative challenges exist? If that doesn’t help, hit the blogs and the corporate sites of your competitors. What are they talking about? What opportunities exist to impact the industry discussion?
How to get started?
Designed specifically to inform and educate, white papers are usually 8-12 pages long, and are laid out in an easy-to-read format. This means succinctly presenting the objectives of the white paper and clearly navigating the reader through the content.
Thinking about the issue or problem you want to tackle often results in a white paper that is based around Best Practice, a ‘How-To’ guide, Top Five Best ways to achieve something or the Five Things to Avoid Most about something.
Style them so they look professional. This is important as the first download may go viral through an organization, with your material potentially seen by very senior management in target organisations. They are called white papers for a reason. Use page headers, titles and footers and break up the body copy on each page with high impact sub titles. In addition, they should not be overly promotional, but it is permissible to brand them and offer further contact details on the cover or at the end.
White papers are often provided in Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) as this is a free to use format freely available to all computer platforms and Internet browsers. Documents set up in most word processing and design packages can be easily converted into PDF format. Using the PDF format also ensures that the document is compressed down to as small a size as possible to facilitate speedy download and sharing by email.
White papers (and webinars, which will be discussed in an upcoming post), are used to good effect by b2b companies in a range of sectors.
In the food trade for example, companies like Danisco, Brentag and Palsgaard host white papers on key food ingredient websites and within e-newsletters like Food Navigator to ensure targeted delivery and a high take up.
Brands like Mettler and Toledo are releasing white papers through sites like Packaging News to drive interest from packaging professionals.
Similarly, in the information technology sector, companies like SAP, Oracle, HP and Genesys use sites like ComputerWorld to build engagement with their brand by positioning their expertise.
And, Slipstream and Eloqua, demand generation specialists use the B2B Marketing Magazine website to promote their knowledge based services.
If you want to generate quality leads, position yourself as expert and distribute some free material by adding white papers to your marketing arsenal now.