Why should white papers be part of your marketing and sales strategies?
Remember those successful outbound marketing campaigns such as Marlboro’s cowboy or De Beer’s famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever”? Well just as with technology, literature, politics and pretty much everything created by human beings, business techniques are changing rapidly. Sure, outbound marketing still plays a key role in most companies, however, it is inbound marketing that is gaining the attention of most marketers (and prospects) nowadays. Probably the most recognized strategy from this new marketing trend is that of content marketing.
Content marketing is based on the dissemination of online materials such as videos, presentations or articles. These relate to a business’s products or services, but certainly, do not promote them in a straightforward manner. The aim is to provide quality content that attracts the interest of potential clients and then convert this interest into intent. It is more of a passive instead of an aggressive marketing technique. It has proven to be significantly cheaper than conventional marketing strategies while generating significantly more leads.
Which are the main methods used in content marketing to approach customers? While there is a great variety of possibilities to promote through content, there is no doubt that white papers are one of the strongest content marketing weapons, if not the strongest.
What exactly is a white paper?
You can think of writing a white paper as an extensive report of a problem as well as its potential solutions. They usually provide diverse guidelines or recommendations from an expert on how to approach or solve a particular issue. Mainly, they provide educational material to the readers in the form of tips, hacks, “how-tos” or industry secrets.
White papers are considered to be a powerful lead generation tool because they not only answer the readers’ questions, they also point them towards a solution. This solution is a service or product offered by the marketer’s company. Thus, white papers are not only a great marketing tool to generate awareness, they also work as a lead magnet.
The role of white papers in the Buyer’s Journey
You’ve probably heard of the Buyer’s Journey. It is the “journey” a prospect makes along the sales funnel. It starts with the customer’s awareness and interest of your business. Awareness then slowly evolves towards consideration and finally results in a purchase decision. Writing white papers is a great way to empower this process.
A white paper attracts traffic from the specific target group as an extensive and educational piece of content. Thus, it helps marketers generate brand awareness and educates prospects on potential solutions to meet their needs. In this sense, it also guides readers towards the consideration step by introducing them to solutions related to your business. Therefore, white papers are not only significantly valuable for marketers, but also for sales reps.
Most content marketing strategies attract marketing qualified leads (MQL), but white papers can also act as a magnet for sales qualified leads (SQL), since a white paper helps a reader consider the services or products of a business as potential solutions. Customers that want to know even more are usually sales-ready and they just need that last push to commit to a purchase. But, how can you make sure you are attracting customers that are going to buy? And how can you get in touch with them?
How to take advantage of whitepapers to drive conversions
There are two main aspects that need to be considered to generate promising leads through white papers: the quality of the content and the implementation of the white paper strategy.
White paper content:
Structure your white paper carefully
The title is extremely important. Choose an original headline that hints the solutions you are offering (e.g. 5 hacks to get rid of those annoying mosquitoes). Do not jump into the solutions before analyzing the problem carefully, and position your company only towards the end of the white paper.
Educate through knowledge
Quality content will only result from white papers that are published in your area of expertise. Moreover, it is important that you provide highly accurate material and focus on facts instead of opinions. Your white paper should be centered on educating instead of selling.
Think of the target audience:
Content aspects such as length, language, visual content and story-line depend significantly on your target group. Pitching a B2B SaaS white paper is not the same as pitching a cooking recipe.
White paper strategy implementation:
Carefully select the channels you are going to use to share your white papers. The traffic you attract will depend on these channels. Usually, white papers are published as part of blogs, web pages, and landing pages. But they can also be shared in social media channels, newsletters, forums and much more.
Adding a call to action at the end of the paper can be an effective means of attracting buyers. However, gating your content is even better. It ensures that you are capturing the contact information of interested leads because they’re willing to provide information to access the content. Depending on your strategy some options are: contact forms before the article, verified contact data submission after a certain presentation slide/page or a premium model with a maximum of free white papers per month.
Follow-up with leads:
This is a key process for both marketing and sales teams. It is important to understand the lead’s stage of the Buyer’s Journey, and nurture leads adequately. A reader that spends 5 minutes on your articles and gives you his contact data to continue reading, is quite different from a reader that likes your post on social media and occasionally reads your newsletters. One might need more information on your business, while the other might already be looking for a specific discount offer on your products.
By creating intriguing, educational content and promoting it through the right channels, sales and marketing teams can align the lead generation strategies and optimize a business’s conversion rate with the help of white papers.
Author’s Bio: Michael Steinberg is the Head of Business Development at Beamium, a platform to capture leads and smart statistics through online presentations. Graduated as a MSc. in Business Administration and Technology at the Technical University in Munich, he has worked with various start-ups in Germany and Latin America focusing on the business development, online marketing and social entrepreneurship fields.