White papers have been around as a business tool for a while now. But many businesses are still not taking advantage of them, or even aren’t sure what they actually are! So in this report I’ll run through the main benefits that creating and using white papers can offer to your business.
First of all, what is a white paper? In marketing terms a white paper is basically a report that you offer to your customers or potential customers.
But here’s what a white paper is in reality …. a potentially very effective form of long copy content marketing. Customers and potential customers are much more likely to read your white paper than they are to read, for example, a brochure.
White papers are especially suitable for business to business (B2B) marketing.
Here are some good reasons for using white papers ….
…. It marks you out as an expert in your field by giving you a chance to showcase your experience/knowledge in a subtle way. Even more so if your white paper adds to the pool of knowledge/thinking is your particular area.
…. It gives you an advantages over your competitors who don’t use them.
…. It adds more good quality content to your website and so is (or should be) great for SEO. The content of your white paper may be found in searches.
…. Good white papers are often shared online or quoted, perhaps in the press by those who receive them. That represents even more valuable ‘free’ marketing.
….. It’s a freebie which you can offer to your prospective customers. People like freebies. Offering something free can help your marketing make more impact.
…. It helps get your name/your business remembered. People are likely to keep white papers for future reference and they’ll see your name right there on the white paper.
….. You can use the offer of a white paper to collect the names and email addresses of prospective customers. Ask them to fill in their details which will then provide a link to access your white paper.
Once you have that information you can contact (with their consent) prospective customers whenever you like.
So how do you create a white paper?
Have a clear objective for your white paper in mind before you start. Who do you anticipate will read your white paper and what message do you want to get over to them? What kind of information will really interest them?
The most important thing about a white paper is that it should be useful and valuable information. Don’t make it too salesy, or even salesy at all. The whole of a white paper is that it isn’t a brochure. Plugs for your product or service (if any) should be very low key.
A white paper also shouldn’t be a rant. It’s good to include your thoughts and opinions but you don’t want to alienate your readers.
There are several different types of white paper. Here are some of my favourite ideas:
* A backgrounder. Giving your reader some useful background about your product/service/industry.
For example: Let’s say you’re a financial adviser. You could publish a white paper looking at some of the current issues in the pensions industry, and offer your thoughts and solutions.
* An explainer. Explaining an aspect of your business/industry that newcomers may find hard to grasp.
* Research based. Giving the reader some of your own research relevant to your industry, or collating other published research. This could be a product test, results of a survey which you’ve conducted, a review or market research.
For example: Let’s say you’re an estate agent or property company. You could publish white papers on your local area giving current supply/demand trends and prices/rents.
* Case studies/case histories can also make good white papers.
More points to consider:
Your white paper doesn’t need to be long. 3-4 pages may be enough. Although it can be as long as you like. One big advantage of a white paper is that it can be much longer than a blog post.
Facts, figures and references also add value to your white paper.
As well as text, diagrams and photos can be used in your white paper – maybe infographics if you like.
It’s also often a good idea to add authority (and differentiate your white paper from an ordinary blog post) by adding elements such as an introduction, summary and table of contents.
A white paper can literally be on paper if you like. This way you can actually hand them out when you visit customers and so on. But the most economical option is to host them on your website or offer them as a PDF for download.
I hope that’s been helpful. If you would like some ideas on how you could use white papers in your business, or some help with creating them, feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org