By Jonathan Kantor
When it comes to marketing, one typically does not find the terms “white paper” and “commodity” appearing in the same sentence.
Customers of commodity products and services have traditionally been interested in two things: price and availability. On the other hand, white papers have been associated with high-value solutions that fulfill a specific market niche and as a result, command a higher price.
So if you have a business that produces a commodity product or service, can white papers be used to gain new customers, grow market share, and provide a unique differentiation over the competition?
The answer is: Yes!
There are two components associated with using white papers in a commodity-driven market space: education and repetition.
First, the use of white papers that provide high-quality, informative content can educate a customer and gain a unique position for a commodity product or service.
Let’s use the example of a commodity business-to-business service that is often determined on price-oriented basis: carpet cleaning. Some ideas for white papers in this area might be:
* How to Double Your Flooring’s Life and Value With High-Traffic Business Carpeting
* Understanding Steam Cleaning: Three Principles That Any Carpet Cleaning Service Should Know
* Lower Your Health Care Costs: The Relationship Between Allergies and Carpets
The idea here is to educate the market with high-quality information that might not have been known before. This new level of knowledge allows an audience to view the commodity in a new and different light, providing greater credibility to the service provider. As any marketer will tell you, getting your customer to remember your brand is half of the battle. The development and distribution of white papers using this educational approach provides a clear differentiation for the commodity provider, effectively separating it from the rest of the pack.
Will the distribution of a single white paper automatically translate into a huge sales spike? Probably not. That’s where the second part of this strategy is applied: repetition.
To change the perception of a product, service or brand, repetition must be an integral part of that strategy. By continuing the practice of publishing educational white papers over an extended period of time, a ‘value-oriented’ message is married to that commodity brand. The repetitive publication of value-oriented, educational white papers ultimately changes the perception of an otherwise commodity product/service to one that has incremental value. At that point it is up to the marketer to translate this increased awareness into either a higher price, or simply greater volume.
Can white papers alone overcome a huge price disadvantage? Again, probably not. But in a commodity market space where prices are relatively similar, customers will look to other factors to make their purchase decision. In this case, the addition of informative white papers may be just enough to plant that brand in the customer’s mind and sway an otherwise pure price decision in favor of the white paper marketer.
About the Author: Jonathan Kantor is the principal of The Appum Group, “The White Paper Company,” an organization specializing in white papers for the business community. You can read his blog at WhitePaperPundit.com.