A question was posed to me the other day; are white papers still relevant in today’s world of digital marketing? It seemed like a great topic to address as we embark on a new year. Not surprisingly, in the course of my research, I found that this very same question has been asked continually over the last several years. Each time, the answer has been a resounding “yes”. As long as there is a need for companies to provide details to customers about their product and the problem it solves, white papers serve as persuasive marketing tools to promote their solution.
It’s all in the details
White papers are very useful for certain business and technical topics. They offer opportunities for in-depth studies on a specific business or technical problem and its solution, providing authoritative evidence with selected facts and logical arguments to back up a company’s position. White papers help readers understand complex issues, things that can’t be communicated in a tweet or a short blog. The people who read them are the ones who are looking to understand a solution in more depth.
Generally, we recognize three basic types of white papers:
- Problem/Solution papers, which introduce an improved solution to a common business or technical challenge
- Backgrounders, which explain the technical features of a product or methodology
- Tips, which highlight specific points or tips about an offering
Each type is meant to provide factual evidence that persuades the reader that the method being described is a superior way of approaching or solving the issue at hand. White papers answer the “So what?”, helping the reader understand what painful, nagging problem the offering resolves or what goal it will help to accomplish.
They help move leads along the customer journey
White papers are used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or inform and persuade readers. These can be prospective customers, channel partners, journalists, analysts, or even investors. The advantage of being able to gate these assets (meaning that you can often convince customers to provide contact information in order to receive something of perceived value) offers lead generation capabilities.
White papers are most often used towards the bottom of the sales lead funnel to help prospects make their final decision. Because they can be saved for future reference, white papers can be particularly useful in business-to-business (B2B) sales, where multiple decision makers are involved. If one decision maker is not entirely familiar with the solution, someone else, one who has read and kept the white paper, can use it to help educate the other.
Porter Consulting has the resources to write and help you promote your paper
At Porter Consulting, we’ve written many white papers for high-profile customers like Red Hat and HPE. We understand how to break down complex concepts into simple ideas that make the subject matter more approachable and gear the messages to the target audience. Our writers are technically adept and know how to translate engineering feeds and speeds into customer benefits.
The best white papers capture and keep the reader’s attention and interest and move him along to the next step in the purchasing process. They may cover products or solutions, such as this paper on security, or they may talk about a methodology, as in this paper on social media marketing, or this one on B2B sales navigation. (For more white paper examples, visit our analyst services web page.)
- Good copywriting is still key. There is an art to writing white papers. While many can expound upon a subject in detail, it is still imperative that the sales and persuasion element is present, yet in a subtle fashion.
- Messages need to be delivered by someone the reader knows, likes, and trusts. In many cases this means data is included from and referenced by known authorities in the industry, often a 3rd party who has the perceived expertise.
- Today’s papers are easily readable. They use bullets, pictures, graphs, charts, and shorter paragraphs. Their headers grab your interest and make information easy to find.
We would love to hear your thoughts on how white papers fit within the context of your marketing efforts. Have you used them often? Do they do what you need them to do? Do you gate your material?
If you’d like to explore opportunities working with Porter on developing white papers to suit your needs, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Porter also has the resources to help you promote your paper through our social media services.