White papers are not as widely used in the manufacturing sector as in other sectors. The use of white papers can separate you from your competitors. A well-written white paper is an excellent marketing tool for a manufacturing business because it can help optimize your lead generation efforts.
What is a White Paper
According to Wikipedia, a white paper is an “authoritative report or guide helping readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers are used in two main spheres: government and business-to-business marketing.” A White Paper is an informational document that is used to promote the features of a solution, or a product or service offered by that company. White papers are used as a presale marketing tool, not as a post-sale support document. They educate potential customers on how your company’s product or service can help solve their problems or needs. White papers are a good venue for explaining topics from a new manufacturing process, development of a new product or a cutting edge business solution, and shouldn’t be confused with user manuals or technical documents, which are used to provide post-sale support for users.
How a White Paper is Different than an Article or Blog
White papers are used in the Business to Business (B2B) marketplace, while articles and blogs can be used in either the B2B or B2C (Business to Consumer) marketplace. White papers differ from blog posts and articles in tone, scope, length and audience. White papers are usually longer than an article but shorter than a research paper. The tone is more formal, similar to an educational or academic piece and less persuasive than sales materials. Blog posts typically have a conversational tone, and can even be an opinion, while white papers have a more formal tone and are based on facts and research.
The primary audience is senior management and CXO’s, whereas articles and blogs target a more general audience. Additionally, the scope of a white paper is broader in nature than a blog or article. White papers go in-depth on a specific topic and are designed for the reader who is seeking information on how to solve a problem or make an important purchasing decision. Blogs and articles are frequently aimed at the casual reader. It is important to understand the nuances, so you can leverage the white paper content in your marketing efforts.
Why Businesses Use White Papers to Give Them an Advantage
White papers are used by businesses for lead generation and to help move prospects along the purchase process. They can be used to obtain leads directly, as a leave-behind at a presales client meeting or as an authoritative piece on how to solve a problem. White papers are often made available for download on a website in exchange for the reader leaving contact details. When used as a “leave- behind” after a client meeting, they can help close existing prospects. White papers can also position you as the go-to expert in your field and increase your company credibility. CEOs and decision-makers will use white papers when they are researching solutions to their problems. Proper use of white papers will help position you ahead of your competition in your prospect’s minds.
Components of White Paper
There are several key components of a white paper. The subject can vary over a broad range of topics. The key is to make sure that the subject is valuable to your target audience and that it offers answers and insights. The language and tone should be written on a level that your audience will find relatable.
A white paper should center on a key problem faced by your target audience. Make sure to explain the impact of the problem. Describe current approaches and solutions to the problems and point out the limitations and drawbacks. Finally, describe your solution and address how it is better or different from the other solutions. Make sure that you back up your view using research and statistics (where possible).
While the format and length of the white papers may vary, there are some general standards. Make sure you are addressing a problem or challenge and offer a solution. A common mistake is to litter the content with sales hype. Remember, the focus is to educate and is a very soft sell. Some tips to remember:
• The tone should be formal.
• Address a common problem, challenge or need of your target audience.
• Education (not sales) is the top priority.
• Focus on the benefits of your solution, not on features of your product.
• Include information that is useful to the reader.
• Include research from respected sources.
• Avoid a hard sales pitch.
• The length varies widely, but is usually in the range of 5-12 pages.
In summary, remember that white papers are relatively long documents, written in a formal and educational tone, include useful arguments and data, and center on a common problem.
Spread the Word
You want to distribute the white paper as widely as possible to maximize its value. An email campaign can be developed around the white paper using a landing page to get contact information in exchange for a free download of the paper. Use popular social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to help spread the word. Also, include a small, but meaningful, section of the white paper in the company newsletter then include a link to the white paper.
When done correctly, white papers can help in your lead generation efforts. They can build your credibility by making you a subject matter expert as well as increasing the number of qualified leads that will lead to a higher conversion rate. White papers require a significant amount of time to develop and promote, but they can help separate you from your competitors.