I like VR’s post because it answers the all important question, “What the heck is a white paper?”
From Wikipedia: A white paper is an authoritative report. White papers are used to educate customers, collect leads for a company or help people make decisions.
and then the VR post goes on to provide tips for what to include, and suggest ways to promote a white paper once you’ve got one.
But something that might not come across clearly is that you actually need to approach this from the other direction.
Instead of writing a white paper and then thinking about how you are going to use it and promote it, first think about your PR and marketing objectives, decide if or how a white paper will meet those objectives, who the white paper is for, what you want them to do/think after reading it, how you are going to get the white paper in front of them, and then figure out what content needs to go in the paper.
There are a lot of good PR and marketing objectives that can be supported by creating a white paper (or hiring someone like me to write one up for you). Here are a few:
- Demonstrate that you are an expert in your field
- Demonstrate that you care about your clients, prospects and colleagues by giving them a document that is valuable to them and makes it easy for them to understand and use your service
- List build – a white paper that attracts the interest of your target market can be used as an enticement to subscribe to e-newsletters and other forms of permission marketing
- Prospecting – a white paper can be a powerful CPC (Pay Per Click advertising) draw. Google ads that drive people to your white paper can help you build site traffic and permission marketing lists. But keep in mind that people who want information are different from people who want to buy and there are different reasons that companies choose to speak to both markets.
- Sales support – a white paper can become non-salesie common ground between your sales staff (or you) and your clients/potential clients. It provides an opportunity to discuss industry best practices and that conversation can feel more like a beneficial exchange of ideas than a hard sell. (And while you are having that conversation you can further demonstrate that you are an expert in your field and that you care…)
So check out Vertical Response’s blog post about white papers, keep in mind they offer a service that makes it pretty easy to link a white paper to your e-newsletter sign up process, and if you are interested, contact me to discuss developing a white paper (tool kit, tips sheet, or industry report) that supports your PR and marketing objectives.