White papers are an excellent way to disseminate your expertise to an industry community. By sharing your knowledge, not only are you establishing yourself as a thought leader, but you’re also providing the groundwork for launching content in other channels like blogs and e-mails.
Aren’t White Papers Dead?
You sometimes hear opinions expressed about the declining value of the white paper, or that the function of the white paper has largely been subsumed by the ubiquitous ebook. While some of this is fuelled by exposure to just plain badly written white papers, the truth of the matter is that, although not as ‘sexy’ as other marketing tactics, the sturdy white paper can boost SEO, enhance your brand, and directly contribute to sales.
White Papers: The Rationale
Here are solid reasons to consider including white papers in your marketing endeavor:
- Make Google love you. With the regularity of a plague, Google releases its algorithm changes. As it stands now, the kingmaker of search engines punishes sites offering poor quality content – in other words, mere content designed for searches. To gain that traffic that drives your business you need to offer value, not linkbait.
- Provide shareable social media content. To make your social media activity effective, you need to offer value, rather than hard sales tactics. White papers can be the means of not only engaging with followers, but also establishing that bond with them that can be a powerful stimulus to purchase products and services.
A 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey found that of those polled who had made a technology purchase
- 76% had read a white paper as part of the evaluation process
- 67% had made use of case studies
- 59% made use of video
- 40% sought audio
- Product brochures and data sheets alone trumped whitepapers at 83%
The value of the white paper lies in its credibility. The study cited above, queried responders concerning their preferences in selecting information sources as part of their decision-making process.
- 83% of those polled said that white papers were “moderately to extremely influential”
- 1% claimed that white papers were of no use at all
A 2011 study of the IT industry found similar results:
- 72% of respondents found white papers “useful to extremely useful” when it came to making decisions
The value placed on the white paper is corroborated when seen against lead generation. Lenskold Group’s Lead Generation Marketing ROI Study reports that
- Of those polled 35% stated that “educating and engaging contacts with white papers” are an effective means of generating high-value leads.
Content Is Critical
It’s clear that, although the parameters of online marketing continue to evolve, original content is still king, especially in the business services industry. According to a study conducted by BrightEdge, organic search drives 51 percent (51%) of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites, outpacing all other search channels, including paid search (10%) and social (5%). This divide was even more pronounced among business services, where a whopping 73 percent (73%) of all traffic was organically driven and the least amount of traffic from display, email, and referred combined contributed less than 20 percent (20%) of its traffic.
Content Is A Path To Reputation Building
Clients seeking business services are primarily concerned with credibility and professionalism. White papers deliver both, while providing your company the opportunity to communicate directly with your target market.
White papers, however, can be intimidating. While the format itself generates expectations of high quality, high-value content, white papers needn’t be dense dissertations. They can be about any topic that informs your readership. Help them to understand how your organization solves problems. Describe the environment in which you provide services. Summarize and simplify so that your potential clients might make better decisions. Provide value and build your brand as a trusted advisor. Moreover, create content that can be sliced, diced and cultivated over a wide spectrum of channels.
Carving A White Paper
Start with a small group of 4 – 6 decision makers in the company who can provide the ‘inside scoop’ on your industry. Ask them to discuss the problems that their clients face, the effects of that problem, and the solutions they provided, along with the pros and cons of various approaches.
Evidence of everyday problem solving, along with its granularity, lends credence; open and useful communications about the process engenders trust. Record and transcribe it. Podcasts would be perfect. Even if this meeting only takes place once a month, it is fertile ground for content.
As the discussion develops, ideas and trends will arise that can be couched in a white paper. In the meantime, these periodic sessions have produced blog posts, fodder for a newsletter, conference material, and, if you’re really lucky, some buzz. You are virtually mining information that you, as an insider, take for granted every day. Use it.
Trust And Loyalty
Clients want to work with business services companies that respect them as partners in a quest for success. Your company’s willingness to inform them and to display your interest in developing solutions for their specific problems are the key to building trust.
In a world of proliferating messages competing for our attention, it’s hard not to become jaded. B2B commerce does not appear to be overly swayed by empty, trite social marketing or slick e-mail campaigns but rather by the basic value proposition of a provider. White papers and the collateral content they yield provide proof that an enterprise is not only actively solving customers’ problems but that you are in a position to help them. The old-fashioned term was ‘gravitas’: a good white paper is a ticket to achieving it.
Quality content is the very stuff of life when it comes to online marketing. Want to learn more ways to make the quest for content work for you? Contact Zen Media today.