How to Create White Papers that Sell

Among the many tools that a company has in their arsenal to make their case to prospective customers, the white paper can be one of the most potent when it is used effectively.  It is content that easily makes the transition from the web to physical handout while retaining its effect in the marketplace.  Most importantly, the format communicates a seriousness about the brand and/or the product that an online article, video or image cannot easily do.  Because the white paper is a sober, well researched and factual presentation of your company’s assessment of how to solve a real-life business problem, the document is considered to be a more trustworthy marketing piece than a standard brochure or presentation.

White papers that sell

What Is a White Paper and Why Is It Trusted

The white paper originated in governance and was a way for proposals to be made to start new projects, request funding and most importantly to consider new legislation.  Because of this the structure of the communication needed to be objective, with depth that indicated that the research had been done to cover contingencies.  Because the form was effective in governance to ‘sell’ new ideas and concepts, it eventually evolved into a marketing tool.

Current Evolution of White Papers

White papers are used by companies to educate prospects and clients as well as the general public on what is required to solve certain problems.  The research involved in assessing solutions is also used by successful companies to boost their image and brand in a new or experimental niche. Moreover, white papers are now used to position companies as a ‘thought leaders’ in mitigating the effects of new problems that don’t have commonly known and practiced solutions.

A Good White paper Educates to Sell

Part of what any good white paper does is to bring the knowledge of the prospect or client up concerning the depth and impact of a particular problem.  In some cases, this part of the education process is critical because those to whom you are presenting may not know or understand how a particular issue is affecting them or their marketplace.  The objective presentation of both the problem as well as the negative consequences of allowing it to go unresolved is often the key to making a deeper impact on decision makers who make purchase commitments.

White Paper Topics Solve Problems

When a company decides to commit to write a white paper, it should consider what the most confounding problems in its industry are.   Typically these problems are going to revolve around those things that affect costs and/or revenues in some sense.  However, the problem being analyzed could also have a more indirect linkage to costs and revenues.  Regardless, it should be one that a prospect has a need or desire to resolve as soon as possible.

How Long Should a Good White Paper Be?

The way to approach this piece of research is not to work toward a pre-determined length.  The most important issue is that it flows to the right amount of depth in communicating the nature and effect of the problem.  Because every niche is different and the nature of its problems is different, it is difficult to speak to what the “right amount” of content in a white paper should be.   The question that every company should ask before completing the process is about what it takes to achieve the educational goal.  Is the prospect or customer aware of the depth of the issue you are writing about?  Do they recognize what not solving the problem could mean to their revenues and/or costs?  Are they calculating potential strain that the issue could be placing on their human resources?  The education process needs to be long enough for the reader to have credible and reliable information on which to make a good purchase decisions.

What Is the Structure of the White Paper?

A.) The structure of a good white paper is very basic, but the critical factor is that each stage should engage as well as prepare the buyer for a soft sales pitch at the end.

  1. Introduction
  2. Discussion of the Problem
  3. Nature of the Solution
  4. Conclusion or Sales Pitch

B.) The appearance of the white paper should be very easy to read with copious graphics and photos to make the information clear.

C.) Although a call to action is necessary, the text should be void of a sales pitch until the conclusion.  A white paper is a soft-sell piece, not a hard sell letter.

D.) The document is a researched proof piece of the depth of your understanding of a prospect’s market and what a solution can actually do for them.

Because a completed white paper has inherent in it, significant resources in research and writing, a company should repurpose the content many times.  While it should be posted to the company’s web properties, it should also be viewed as worthy to be re-contextualized in local, regional and national trade publications.  Moreover, the content can also be used in e-mail/e-courses as well as press releases and high level sales presentations to senior executives.

A white paper, in effect is serious minded content that states to the marketplace that you are a leader and problem solver.  Good marketing messages communicate a unique position in the marketplace. That message can be made superior with proof that a company understands its prospect’s needs and constraints, and that that where the white paper shines.

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Are you a Jerk Online?

We work and play in a technological world where tone has lost its presence, or has it?? As we’ve all become accustomed to interpreting e-mails, text messages and chats to determine the other person’s personal feelings behind the messages, I feel many of us forget that our tones are still easily unveiled through electronic communications. And recently, with the uprising of different social media platforms, its making it easier to lose personality when communicating online.

Communicate online

I realized during a ‘Colder than Normal’ conversation I was having with a good friend and mentor that it was actually my own lack of energy and emphatic tone that was resulting in a less than personal conversation.? I had to literally stop myself in my tracks, trace back, and openly realize where I went wrong.? Technology makes it easy to lose the personal connection that enhances so many relationships in our lives.? We spend our days talking and interacting with computer screens more than human beings, but our philosophy behind the relationships must remain the same.? Would you believe that the way you write, text, e-mail or chat have a lasting impact to how other perceive you?? You better start.

Here’s a list of 4 simple things to remember when communicating electronically with others.

1.) Don’t short cut it

Treat your messages like they were conversations.? If you wouldn’t answer that person with a one word answer to their face, then don’t do it to their e-mail.

2.) Always personalize your messages

The greatest sound a person can hear is their name. It shows that you have an interest in that person more than just what they can do for you.? Even after exchanging a high volume of e-mail dealing with a particular subject, occasionally mix the person’s name into your text and show them you know who they are, outside of what they can do for you.

3.) Automate your responses and save time

I am a big advocate of automating your life and business. To many people’s surprise, automating e-mail messages can actually add more personal touch than not. Taking the time to automate e-mails such as when you need to reject an offer, answer a commonly asked question, or simply inform the other side that you’ll need some time before you follow up, can allow you create thought filled correspondence that leaves the other party feeling appreciated.

4.) Always follow up

The easiest thing to in today’s electronic marketplace is become so overwhelmed by the amount of e-mails you have, that some get pushed down and, eventually, forgotten.? Nothing is more irritating than sending an e-mail to someone and never hearing back.? Prioritize your inbox. Manage who you can answer at work, and outside work, and categorize those messages. Again, if you need more time, automate the responses so that the other party knows you’ve received their message, and will respond when its convenient.

Closing Thoughts

All these things add up to a more friendly, approachable and less forgettable communication channel. People remember good communicators, and good communicators remember people.? Time is a shortage in today’s world.? As many people scramble to organize their work and lives, it becomes easy to forget the basic principles we learn as children. Keep communication strong, offline, and on.

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The Industrial Revolution, 2012.

The industrial Revolution

When the first industrial revolution happened, change came at a lightning pace. Maybe it doesn?t seem that way looking back; to our eyes, the old Ford factories, textile mills and production lines at the turn of the 20th Century can seem downright archaic. But you must step back and understand that we learn from experience, and this is no different. There is a lot that we can take away from the revolution that reshaped our world.

Revolution Requires Change

Change is scary. imagine the farmers, factory workers, business owners, entrepreneurs and plant workers who transitioned from fields and put down their trade looms to sit at a painfully dizzying machine for nine to ten hours a day, six days a week. This was the beginning of a revolution that triggered the development of systems and automation in a way that was incomprehensible to our kind. Remember, as you look forward, that even basic machinery was fine innovation at one time.

During those times, going from a standing to sitting position while working was a revolution for many people. In the blink of an eye, life as they knew it, life as we knew it, life as the country and even the world knew it, had changed forever.

Those who resisted the change lost more than just their jobs or their livelihoods; they lost valuable and game-changing momentum. Opportunity comes to those who see potential and act on it, not cross their arms and lament change until it literally passes them by.

Oppose, and you fail

Every revolution has its naysayers, doubters and grumps. Once upon a time, they said cars would never replace horses, that radios would never replace live performance, that TVs would never replace radios, that phones were a luxury item that few would embrace. Today those products are ever enhanced with TV-DVRs, Satellite Radios, and multimedia communications giving buyers more power to determine what they are marketed and what they?re not. Commercials are now skipped, radio advertising passed, and direct mailing non-existent on electronic devices which are continuing to build a force behind what runs our society. This transformation is causing companies to transform their own communication methods, not as a way of adopting new technology, but as a way of being adopted in a technologically savvy world.?

Prepare yourself.? Prepare your company. Its only going to come stronger.

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8 Ways You Can Use Content to Close the Sale

Because Business to Business (B2B) marketing depends on relationship building, owners and managers have long relied on traditional methods of client attraction including:

  1. conference and trade show attendance,
  2. personal networking,
  3. cold calling,
  4. semi-direct mail and
  5. referrals
Content selling

And to some degree, sales professionals within B2B industries, still rely on these methods.  However, the web continues to provide an increasingly wider range of marketing tools to decision makers when used strategically.

How Web-Based Tools Affect The B2B Sales Process

B2C Companies have been at forefront of using these tools over the last decade.  Leaders in those companies have been successful utilizing different forms of inbound marketing to attract consumers into their marketing funnels.  Through the use of SEO, social media and online multi-media, companies have been successful in capturing clients in the midst of researching intriguing problems and looking for personal comforts.  Consumers have now fully adopted the practice of being converted from prospect to customer entirely online, and have shown increasing affinity toward direct marketing processes.

This prospect to client process works well for personal purchases with relatively low dollar amounts and a single decision maker.  However, B2B transactions are typically made by more than one individual, and rarely made at the point of being introduced to a particular product or service.  This inherently longer sales cycle doesn’t lend itself well to attraction efforts that lead to direct marketing tactics.  In a B2B context the two (internet attraction and direct marketing) are incongruous.

Rule of Attraction in B2B Marketing

A B2B Marketer can and should use attraction methods with website/blogs, social media and email marketing.  But the attraction process is less of a hard sell and more of a dialogue about how the product benefits the customer.  A B2B marketing funnel must affirm the traditional forms of relationship building and networking mentioned above while also problem solving through educating clients.  Whether the initial contact that a prospect has with the company is a journal article, whitepaper or webinar; marketers should be always be demonstrating their knowledge of the depth of the problems in the industry.

In that context, intelligent decision makers are able to go an additional step by helping prospects to understand the nature of their problem if left untreated.    A good education process not only outlines the nature of the problems in the industry but answers the question: what will happen if a company decides to delay fixing the problem described?  Since the solution to the problem is the company’s product or service, this question and answer is the transition point from educating a prospect to moving them to into position to make a purchase.

Each stage in the B2C marketing funnel provides tools to move the client forward while building a relationship.  The B2B marketing funnel has them also, and the position in the relationship that a company should seek to earn is that of an expert trusted advisor.   Being able to secure that position in the minds of managers at the prospect client’s company is critical to the effective use of internet attraction.

B2B Marketers should use blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, SEO, webinars, video and SEO interchangeably at all stages in the marketing process, including the attraction of traffic, conversion of leads and enticing their clients to make additional purchases.

8 Steps to Close the Sale with Content

What then are the steps to implement an education based selling method?  As a start, companies should do the following:

  1. Get a firm handle on the concerns of the industry.  Research industry trade journals, participate in online forums, interview clients and attend industry conferences.  In attending these events, the purpose is information gathering. It is not necessarily prospecting, as mentioned above.
  2. Keep an ongoing list of the issues that perplex executives.  Prioritize this list based on which problems can be solved by the company.
  3. Determine the forms of content needed to effectively reach industry executives and decision makers.  Will executives be most likely to watch videos, listen to podcasts, read whitepapers, interact on webinars, etc?
  4. Once the content delivery method has been determined, sales funnels should be designed with marketing automated databases in place.  The databases will assist the company in segmenting  prospects according to the issues that the company has the capacity to solve.  Make sure that tracking mechanisms are secured from the marketing databases and integrated into the content delivery.
  5. Utilize the created content to attract prospects into the marketing funnel.  Companies should make use of SEO principles, public relations (PR) and social media to strategically place content online in locations where individuals are looking.  Effort should also be made to publish content in prospects’ and clients’ industry trade publications, conferences and trade shows.  In every content piece, companies should promise in-depth answers and solutions in exchange for the prospect’s contact information when they opt-in.
  6. Offer more specialized solutions to those who opt-in.  Offer webinars, seminars and written content that more definitively answers their questions.  Propose solutions that come form your company’s product and service line.
  7. Continue the cycle of discovering industry problems and strategically placing content in locations online and offline that  concerned executives will see and consume.
  8. As part of the sales funnel process there should be an individualized follow up procedure. In other words, each product-to-client solution should warrant a specific follow up plan.  Although most of the follow up will take place “offline”, executives should make sure that every available means of contact can be systematically employed.

Takeaway

The key is to use education to reinforce real transparency and relationship building knowing that unlike B2C marketing, the entire process is unlikely to start and finish on a website with only minutes having transpired.  The B2B education process assumes that the marketing funnel starts with trusted advice and ends with a decision being made to authorize a check, with days, weeks or months in between.

What is your company implementing to build transparency and relationship building?

Does that process lead to more sales?  If not, can you use education to bridge the gap?

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