Friday, October 31, 2014

White papers are more important than you think

Do "White Papers" actual drive sales? And if so, when are white papers appropriate? These are not insignificant questions given that a fair amount of time and effort go into their creation.

Why Create a White Paper?

The term white paper refers to an educational report roughly about four to 10 pages in length. In general, these reports are geared towards helping your potential customers solve a problem. White papers commonly summarize survey research or delve into a product or service relevant to a particular market segment.

As with most marketing collateral, white papers help attract qualified leads. Which is often why interested parties must exchange information about themselves in order to obtain such material. It essence, such material is "gated" to the user until they meet this precondition. In contrast, some white papers are widely distributed for the sake of helping establish a company's expertise on a particular topic. And as a result, they build confidence with potential buyers.

White papers are occasionally used by business-to-consumer companies - but they won't be called by that term. That's simply because the term can seem rather intimidating, almost as if a large, comprehensive study is at hand. As a result, many business-to consumer studies are labelled as a "report." And, as might be expected, these reports are somewhat shorter in length.

In contrast, business-to-business companies often employ white papers. Especially where expertise in a particular field is critical. Not incidentally, they're a frequently touted in such fields as telecommunications, biotech, manufacturing, etc. In In the end, white papers can help educate your audience and serve to subtly show why your company's expertise is critical for a job.

Do White Papers Drive Sales?

Although somewhat dated, a 2008 Eccolo Media Technology Survey found that nearly half (44%) of technology buyers found white papers to be very influential in their decision-making. In contrast, product brochures had the least influence upon decision-makers. Indeed, white papers are the most frequently used marketing collateral employed by companies (68%). And perhaps contrary to expectation, respondents noted that videos and podcasts were far less used (28%).

Not incidentally, white papers influence buyers very early in their decision making process. More than half of respondents (56%) noted that they review such material in the "pre-sale" stage the buying process. Obviously, when buyers have a wide variety of options to pursue, both white papers and case studies can be critical in making or breaking a future sale.