By Jonathan Kranz
One of the most powerful ways B2B marketers can attract qualified leads is by offering expertise in exchange for contact information. Whether you call the resulting deliverable a “report,” an “ebook” or a “white paper,” the net effect is the same: You build credibility and trust by creating valuable content your prospects respect.
White papers have been with us for a long time. But innovations in printing and distribution—and even in the way we conceive white paper content—have dramatically changed the game. Let’s take a look at the ways you can bring color to the white paper and multiply the impact of your efforts.
It’s no longer linear, but modular
Traditionally, the white paper obeyed a formal model that presented a thesis, an executive summary, a persuasive “argument,” and a conclusion followed by appendices of research and data.
If my primary purpose were to impress my college expository writing instructor, I might be tempted to comply. But my real goal is to attract and hold the attention of busy prospects with short attention spans and a single question burning in their minds: “What’s in it for me?”
That’s why I prefer a modular approach that favors scanning. A modular format allows readers to pick and choose the sections relevant to them. The content is packaged in small, stand-alone sections that have meaning in themselves—without requiring readers to absorb the entire paper end-to-end.
Hence the beauty of papers such as The Nine Noble Truths of Customer Experience. You don’t care for six of them? Fine. But you might still find value in the other three. And that’s enough.
It’s no longer a heavy entree, but a pu-pu platter
The traditional white paper gives you a lot to chew on, perhaps more than you can swallow. Today, few of us have an appetite for long, uninterrupted blocks of text.
The alternative? Format your work in bite-sized pieces. The text body of any section can be “tenderized” with subheads and bullets. Better still, you can accompany the main dish with smaller appetizers, such as:
* Pull-quotes framed in graphic boxes that reiterate important points from the text
* Customer quotes relevant to the topic in the main body
* Callouts of relevant, “Did you know?”-type statistics
* Sidebars of real-life anecdotes or mini case studies that illustrate the main point
* Illustrations, photos, charts, and graphs that support your text
See this idea in action: 7 Savvy Practices for More Efficient and Effective Resident Screening.
It’s no longer dry, but rich and flavorful
Moses earned the right to speak from the mountaintop. But for the rest of us, the voice of commanding authority—the dry, distant tone affected by too many businesses—is a pretentious relic. Today’s white paper breaks the mold in two important ways:
* The tone can be conversational, informal, collegial. It’s me to you. As if we’re having coffee and sharing terrific ideas sketched on the backs of paper napkins.
* The look is no longer confined to black text on white or beige paper. Innovative marketers are using design and illustration to create themes, attract attention and complement written ideas.
Even if you choose not to download this ebook, I think you’ll be impressed by the quality of its cover: St. Jacques Big 30 Benchmark Report on Franchise Marketing.
It’s no longer confined to paper, but open to PDF distribution
And that changes everything! Now that white papers are available electronically, they can be distributed online with ease. Once online, viral marketing via blogs and other social media resources can play a major role in getting the word out—and your white paper in the hands of thousands of readers.
Take a look at how Daniela Barbosa promoted her ebook on her blog. The Taxonomy Folksonomy Cookbook is content-rich and visually stunning, and has attracted considerable viral attention.
It’s no longer passive, but incorporates a call to action
Were you to download any of the white papers I’ve linked in this article (and I hope that you read or see at least one), you would notice that none of them conclude with a traditional summary. Or worse, that prevalent call-to-inaction, the notorious “…for more information, call…”
Instead, each ends with a checklist that recites every distinct idea in the white paper, and invites readers to ask themselves if they’re applying or using that idea within their own organizations. This concluding checklist serves three purposes:
* It’s a reminder of the value of the white paper itself, of just how much the authors (the business behind the paper) gave generously of their expertise.
* It moves readers from the abstract realm of “best practices” to the particulars of their organizations—to imagining the impact of these ideas (and by extension, the author’s business proposition) on their lives or companies.
* Most importantly, it gives the reader a reason to take the next step, a reason to call the company: to get answers and insights on specific issues and how they can change the reader’s life or business.
Here’s how one service provider concluded a very topical book with an engaging call-to-action checklist: 8 Ways to Save on Freight and Fuel.
It’s no longer static, but interactive
Suppose you could imbed forms in your white papers that could survey readers, track reader involvement, and collect contact information without imposing software downloads on either you or your readers? That’s exactly what Docmetrics does. Docmetrics is a web-based service that eliminates the need for gated registrations that discourage prospects from downloading your papers. Instead, Docmetrics puts forms inside your PDFs. You ask the questions. You set the rules. And Docmetrics compiles and tracks the responses for you.
See how it can work for you by downloading the white paper, Document Performance: The Missing Piece of Marketing Analytics.
White papers can be extraordinary tools for establishing authority and expertise. By adding new color to a tried-and-true tactic, you gain a more powerful way to generate leads, attract favorable media attention and move prospects further along your sales pipeline.
About the Author: Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and the principal of Kranz Communications, www.kranzcom.com.