Great content is the foundation of an effective lead generation effort — especially for B2B tech companies, in which content is a primary way of demonstrating an expertise and thought leadership. White papers can be one of the most valuable tools in a company’s marketing arsenal, but too often their value is compromised by lack of understanding about the strategy behind it.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, “A white paper needs rich, substantive content that educates, not sells. It has to present new ideas that prompt and provoke innovative thinking, and are backed by statistically sound data and well-researched findings.” Here are a few core characteristics of an effective white paper:
It’s High Value, Not Just High Quality
Most of us only need look as far as our inbox to know that not all content is good content. The dearth of relevant, engaging content is staggering. It is no wonder a majority (60%) of B2B marketers report that their top challenge in 2016 will be producing content substantive enough to be valuable. On the customer side, 3 in 5 global executives report feeling confused or overwhelmed by the volume of content they encounter.
Part of this problem could be the interconnectedness between quality, value and relevance. In a recent report from The Economist, most executives said that the quality of content produced by companies and brands has improved over the past year. But only a minority could say that content’s value or relevance had grown. Your white paper can’t just be well-written and well-designed; it has to be relevant to your reader.
White papers should be written to help move prospects through the sales funnel — but they must do so using objective analysis, thorough research, and informative content. If a prospect downloads your resource expecting high-value content and instead finds lots of promotional jargon about your company, you can and will lose their trust.
It’s Interesting and Engaging, Not Promotional
We’ve all downloaded a purported “resource” only to find long and tedious columns of text that didn’t really answer our core question or — perhaps more frustratingly — were a blatant sales pitch that did nothing to enrich or expand our understanding of the problem at hand.
Too often, white papers are written not as engaging, valuable resources but as technical papers or sales brochures. Your white paper must be compelling in order to hold the prospect’s interest and maintain trust. Remember to talk about business problems from the buyer’s perspective to show that you understand what they are looking for. Show them that you “feel their pain,” have a mastery of the subject, and are proposing a better solution than they have right now.
It Addresses a Real Market Problem, Not Just a Brand’s Assertions
A successful white paper starts by clearly identifying and defining the specific market pain point. Then it articulates a developed understanding of the problem facing the potential customer and demonstrates a thorough, researched understanding of potential solutions to the problem.
A well-formed white paper will point the reader toward solutions offered by the publisher of the paper but it is important that pertinent in-depth knowledge and expertise is clearly demonstrated along the way.
The good news is that, for B2B technology leaders, the expertise is already there. In every company, there are subject matter experts who are able to speak confidently and in a way that adds value to their field. The art is channeling their knowledge and framing it into a publication that customers are hungry to engage with.
Our latest white paper will show you how to create a white paper that answers the questions your buyers are asking, and then leverage it in your B2B technology marketing. Download it below.