January 4, 2010
by Sandra L. Howe
Data sheets. Brochures. Sell sheets. Youve tried these traditional methods to market your B2B services or solutions to the natural products industry. But have you tried a white paper?
Properly utilized and under the right circumstances, a well-written white paper has the ability to create powerful lead generation. Research consistently shows white papers are seen as credible and trustworthy within B2B industries, and carry considerable influence with key decision-makers.
A recent study, for example, reveals white papers remains the most effective piece of marketing collateral for company buyers who purchases B2B services or products. In this study, conducted by Eccolo Media Inc., the 155 company buyers overwhelmingly ranked white papers as positively impacting their buying decisions, more than any other marketing collateral. Product brochures and data sheets ranked far below white papers.
Despite this, white papers are under-utilized in nearly all B2B industries and have the potential to make your company stand out from others:
Why Are White Papers Effective?
Why does this approach work so wellespecially when it's educational in nature, as opposed to directly marketing your B2B solution? Here are five reasons why.
A good white paper leverages your companys position.
Your company stops being merely a vendor that wants to sell to its prospects and moves up to being a respected expert who provides information these prospects actively seek out. Prospects want to keep on top of industry trends, which can change quickly. They often turn to white papers in search of information they can trust and rely on. Any company that can help in this regard will project an aura of expertise.
A good white paper builds relationships.
In providing valuable information, a good white paper builds relationships and generates trust. Your company wins its prospects loyalty and, ultimately, their business. Providing this information builds relationships with journalists as well. A white paper gives your company free publicity if it provides information relevant to their readers. And since both prospects and journalists receive your e-newsletters and announcement once they sign up for your white paper, your company maintains these relationships.
A good white paper flies under key decision-makers anti-marketing radars.
Good white papers are sought after and often brought into your prospects companies by the decision makers themselves. These papers travel from colleague to colleague, spreading throughout these companies in a way no other document could ever hope to achieve. They fly under the radar because theyre not selling anything. And yet, when these prospects decide to use this solution, theyll most likely contact your company.
A good white paper generates word of mouth (WOM).
WOM happens when people start recommending your company to their colleagues and peers. Good white papers can help with this. Part of their appeal (for you) is they can easily be e-mailed to one, two, or many other people. In that way, good white papers can go viral quickly. Your company becomes known and seen as a trusted source.
However, white papers are not for every B2B company, nor for every B2B service or solution.
Your company should consider this approach if:
it is a B2B company
its competitors already have white papers, and
it has a procedure, service, or solution that is:
relatively new or unknown (requiring explaining)
relatively expensive (needing justifying)
In other words, if prospects can easily Googleand finda lot of generic information about your B2B service or solution, a white paper is probably not the best possible approach.
But, if your company does need a white paper, it must provide information that prospects consider helpful. Many white papers are thinly disguised sales pitches, which can put prospects off. For example, research shows if the brand name of a product or procedure gets into the main title of a white paper, this automatically cuts the number of downloads of that paper by at least half.
Here are a few dos and donts for a good white paper.
Two donts, first:
Dont put any heavy marketing in the white paper, as prospects may question your companys credibility.
Dont use overly complex, technical or scientific languagewhite papers are no longer just for the technical or scientific person.
A few dos:
Do establish that a problem does exist, and describe it clearlyprospects may still be trying to sort the issue out themselves.
Do provide a clear solution to prospects problemswithout marketing your companys own solution.
Do compare the different solutions that exist, as long as your solution basically outshines them.
Do include a strong call to action at the end, compelling the reader to contact your company for more information or help.
Do use graphics and illustrations to make the concepts easier to understand. It will make the paper more visually compelling, too.
Finally, in order to earn an acceptable ROI, the white paper must be actively promoted. Diverse marketing strategies, such as press releases, case studies, presentations and social media, can be used to drive traffic to your company Web site to download the white paper. Your company also captures prospects e-mail addresses and afterwards, can keep in contact with them over the long term via automated e-newsletters and announcements.
Utilized properly, and under the right circumstances, a good white paper can help enormously with lead generation. Could it be the marketing approach your B2B company has been looking for?
Sandra L. Howe is a natural health copywriter who specializes in making high-quality procedures, services and products stand out in the crowded natural products marketplace without violating FTC, FDA or DSHEA rules. Visit SandraLHowe.com or e-mail her at [email protected] .
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