White papers (or special reports or even ebooks, if you prefer to call them that) have a significant influence on the people who buy technology for companies, according to Eccolo Media’s 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report. The study surveyed more than 100 people who were influencing or making technology buying decisions in the previous six months.
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they consumed a white paper when evaluating a technology purchase, and overall, respondents found white papers to be the second most influential marketing asset when they’re considering a technology purchase. (The third most influential: case studies!)
Clearly, if you’re selling a technology service or solution, you need to bulk up your marketing efforts with white papers (or special report, if you prefer), which point out your prospects’ common problem, position your service/solution as the answer to that problem and establish you as a thought leader – all without the resistance-inducing sales pitch. In fact, a good white paper won’t have a sales pitch at all.
If you’re in any of the following categories, white papers can really help generate leads and move prospects down the sales funnel:
- Your product involves a new technology, innovation or better way to do something
- You produce an unfamiliar product or service
- Your company needs to be seen as experts, thought leaders or the best at what it does
- Your product/service is a “big-ticket” purchase
- You need to sell the idea of your product
- You need to differentiate your product from its competition
All effective white papers have a few things in common:
- Rich, substantive content that educates, not sells
- New ideas that prompt and provoke innovative thinking
- A clearly communicated point of view on issues that are highly relevant and timely
- Statistically sound data and well-researched findings
An effective white paper is narrowly focused on a single topic, and it has to be of interest to your target audience. But, of course, it also has to position you as the go-to company for the solution. Put those three things together, and your white paper will excel.
Finding that narrow topic revolves around considering the thing you’re trying to promote, the benefit it provides and then the insight that comes from that benefit.
For example: You make an HR benefits solution that automates most of the annual enrollment steps. But that’s not what your white paper is about. It’s not about automating the process. Go deeper.
What’s the benefit? Well, I’ve worked in HR with a large employer before, and I know how hectic open enrollment can be, and the expense associated with paying data entry people overtime to meet your deadline. So, the obvious benefit is how this saves a lot of time for your HR reps. Good. But that’s still not your topic. (It’s not: “How your HR reps can save time during open enrollment.”)
Go deeper. What’s the insight you can share with others about that benefit?
Maybe the topic should be “Computers are cutting benefits enrollment time by 28% (and freeing HR reps to deal with the human side of human resources),” or “How companies are slicing hours off the annual enrollment process (without cutting customer service corners).” Or something like that.
The point is, the white paper is about a bigger, but simultaneously narrower topic. It’s not about how your product is the answer. It’s about how your prospects can solve their problem. And, oh yeah, you provide that service/solution.
Note, though, that a good white paper will take 40 hours or more to complete – that’s valuable time away from your other goals. Fortunately, there are some very good professionals you can hire to conceive, research and write your white paper. If you think a white paper could help your marketing and lead-generation efforts, let us know.