People who make decisions about complex, expensive, or disruptive products and services want resources they can trust. Let's say you're looking for a conversational AI solution to answer tech support questions for your company. You certainly don't want to make the wrong decision at the cost of unhappy customers.
So, you begin your research looking for sources you can trust to educate you on everything you need to know about AI. Then, you start looking for solutions.
White papers can help companies of any size to connect with decision makers, from the beginning of their search to when they're evaluating vendors. They can communicate an idea, explain a complex process, or introduce something new and disruptive, like a conversational AI solution.
White papers are known to help people make decisions, if they are created with the needs of the buyer in mind. Unfortunately, some white papers are perceived as just another vendor sales tool.
Are your white papers perceived as a trusted resource or just another sales tool? Could they use a little help to educate your buyer on making better decisions?
If so, this article will help you do two things.
One, create a white paper that positions you as a trusted resource. There are 3 essential ingredients that will help you collect the information you need.
And two, pick a goal to focus on. You will soon see 9 Powerful Goals to choose from. Each of these goals will give your audience new insights to help them make better decisions, while at the same time, achieve real business results for your company.
Why do you want to create this white paper?
Recently, I had a discussion with a potential client about a white paper he was looking for help with. So, I asked, "Why do you want to create this white paper?"
He quickly replied, "Because our competitor has one on this subject."
Unfortunately, that is not a good enough reason to put the time and money into creating a white paper. If you want good results, you need to dig deeper. For example, what can you do better than your competition to help your buyers solve their problems and make a decision to change?
Which leads us to the three essential ingredients. Let's find out just what they are.
Three Essential Ingredients for a Powerful White Paper
Planning is key. Uncovering the right information will help you connect with your audience and get better results. [You can download The 3 Essentials Checklist at the end of this article.]
#1 Your Business Needs
Basically, what do you need to focus on to move your business forward with this white paper? Is it to introduce a new product, generate quality leads, or maybe help close the sale?
What are we trying to achieve as a business with this white paper?
Why are we doing a white paper instead of other content types?
Where are our prospects in the sales cycle that we are most interested in reaching?
Do we want a positive on negative spin on this white paper? (An example would be highlighting improvements instead of mistakes to avoid.)
How do we want to handle our competitors and their solutions?
Do our competitors have a white paper on the subject? And if so, what can we do to put a unique spin on ours?
Keep in mind, white papers can be used from the awareness stage all the way to buyers considering to purchase. Your goal should be focused on one purpose and exactly who you are trying to reach.
[Your competition.] This is also where your competitors' messages and solutions can become part of the process. See goals #5 and #8 below for more ideas.
#2. Your Audience
Your message should zero in on your audience, their interests, desires, and challenges.
Think about these questions:
Who is your specific audience for this white paper and what is their role?
What is their biggest pain point?
What questions are they asking?
What are their greatest risks?
What are they trying to achieve?
What problems can you solve for them?
Are they used to reading white papers?
What social media channels do they use?
What about trends?
A big question companies may forget to ask is this:
What do buyers really want to see in a white paper?
Let's revisit the latest trends to see exactly what buyers want. It's best to track the trends each year and compare them to your past white papers. Then, decide if you should make any changes for the future.
Content that usesmore supporting data and research.
White papers are the perfect tool for this. They should be well-researched and provide data that supports insights into the problems, desires, and solutions discussed in the white paper. All research sources should be cited at the end of the paper.
Buyers also want content with less sales messages, especially early in their search.
Some may not be aware they even have a challenge. Others want to find trusted sources that educate them about their challenges and options, first. Then, it opens the door to finding the best solution for their situation.
It's a process. It takes more than one white paper to educate buyers along the buying journey.
#3 The Industry
It's important to understand the industry you are focused on for the white paper.
Ask yourself these questions:
What industry are we targeting?
How competitive is it?
Is it fast-moving?
Are white papers common?
What are the most popular channels for content (i.e. webinars, LinkedIn and Twitter, in person events, conferences)?
Knowing the trends and the competitive landscape for a particular industry presents a good case for change.
Once you narrow down your business needs, your audience, and the industry they are in, you can pick a goal to focus your white paper on.
9 Powerful Business Goals for Your Next White Paper
Here are 9 Powerful Goals to start with. Each of these goals will give your audience new insights to help them make better decisions and, at the same time, achieve real business results for your company.
Pick the topgoal you want to achieve.
1. Introduce a new industry trend, concept, or an idea You see a new industry trend developing. Or maybe you have a disruptive idea that you want to introduce. A white paper is the perfect way to share your knowledge, build an audience, and start interacting with them. You can examine the possibilities for change, the challenges they can overcome, and the benefits they can get from something new. Give them a brand new perspective.
2. Support a product launch You're close to launching a new product or service. Zero in on your target audience. Show them you understand their needs. Then, introduce your new solution and explain how it opens up new possibilities. The call to action will take them to the next step to get more details on the features and benefits.
3. Get noticed Maybe you're a startup company or entering a new market. Your potential customers may not know anything about you. Start by connecting with your audience. Find ways to pique their curiosity. Focus on their needs and desires and be helpful. Also, make it easy to consume and share your white paper.
A numbered list is a popular type of white paper that attracts attention and gets shared on social media.
"A 5 Step Process to..." "7 Things You Must Know About..." "3 Mistakes to Avoid..."
It's a great way to attract attention on the web and get noticed. It's light and refreshing. It promises easy scanning for people with little time to read, but still gives valuable advice. And it gets your name out there.
4. Simplify a Complex Process After you educate your audience about a complex solution, go deep and simplify the process. This is where you can explain your solutions so that it's easier to understand and remember. A visual diagram of your process and solutions can be very helpful. Think of adding a customer success story to make it more relatable.
5. Generate More Leads
Your goal is to generate more leads. This type of white paper is focused on prospects in the early stages of the buying journey.
These are possible scenarios:
You may have a complex process or a disruptive solution that you need to help people understand.
Maybe there is big nagging problem that your prospects are worried about. No one has been able to solve it and your company finally has the answer.
You have a solution that your prospects didn't know they needed, until now.
How do you educate your potential customers, earn their trust, and persuade them to consider your solutions?
First, focus on your target audience. Start by discussing the problem they have and the drawbacks of other methods being used to solve it.
Then, introduce a new improved solution. This is not the time to mention your product or service by name. It's too early. The prospect is still thinking about their challenges and the possibilities for solving them.
This is why buyers want less sales messages. They're not ready yet.
Your call to action can mention your solution and guide them to more detailed information.
[Your competition.] Here's where you can compare the pros and cons of solutions that your competitors offer, but without mentioning brand names. Your company will be mentioned at the end and your call to action will take readers to the next step.
You can create another white paper that dives into the details of your solutions. [See #8.]
6. Expert and thought leader status You have knowledge on a topic that is new and original. You want to share your expertise on it and become known as a thought leader in that space.
White papers can give you the platform to dive into the data and research people need, so that you can be seen as a go-to trusted resource. Many people will give you their information in exchange for a white paper so you can nurture them with more content and build the relationship.
You can also pick a white paper apart to create other content. This makes it easier to consistently share useful information in different ways to grow your audience.
7. Offer a "leave-behind" What big question is often asked by potential customers in sales meetings?
Create a white paper as a leave-behind piece of content to give to a potential or current client. This helps reinforce your message, gives prospects more useful details, and enables you to stay in touch.
8. Help close a sale White papers are known to attract decision makers who are ready to purchase. If written effectively, white papers can educate buyers and help them eliminate objections, reduce risk, identify gaps, and compare solutions. These are things that help persuade them to make a better decision and in your favor.
An evaluation white paper is a key piece of content at the later stages in the buyer's journey. This is where you focus on the details of your products and services and guide them to the sale.
[Your competition.] You also can compare your solutions to your competitors and include a comparison chart of all the brands.
9. SEO Benefits There are two ways to look at SEO benefits and how your prospects do their research.
First, buyers search for theirnagging business problem.
For instance, "How do I gain insights into customer behaviors" or "How do I know if I need a cloud PLM solution" or "How do I solve problems with inaccurate data".
They don't search for the brand or product name, yet. They are just educating themselves on their issues and finding out what possible solutions, if any, are available. So, your white paper should be focused on the nagging problem, including the title.
Once they understand what's possible, then they search for the brand products/services or companies to evaluate the best options for their situation.
For example, buyer's search for brand specifics when they are considering a purchase. Such as, "Acme Software's PLM advantages" or "Acme app comparisons".
This is where an evaluation white paper is valuable. It helps your buyers see you as the expert and the resource that made their search easier.
In Summary Buyers want content they can trustand that uses more supporting data and research. They also want content with less sales messages. A white paper can give buyers what they expect, if planned and written effectively. Yet they can still be persuasive without focusing on the sale.
To get the most out of your white paper, there are three essential ingredients to consider. Your business needs, your audience, and their industry. After gathering the information on all three, you will be able to pick a business goal to focus on.
This article also shares 9 Powerful Goals to get you started. Each of these goals will give your audience new insights to help them make better decisions and, at the same time, achieve real business results for your company.
Engaging Stories Persuade will help technology marketers reach, engage, and persuade the right people with content. To make your content stand out above the rest, Customer Center it, Visualize it, and Repurpose it.