Archives for April 18, 2007

Get Snuggly with Whitepapers.

It’s no secret that one of the hottest B2B lead generation methods going today is whitepaper marketing. Done right, creating and submitting technical whitepapers to selected industry websites in your target market can attract some very interested prospects-buyers who may not respond to traditional marketing.

This past summer, ITtoolbox (www.iittoolbox.com) discovered through a research study that 70% of U.S. IT professionals rely heavily on white papers to make purchasing decisions. Other industry groups have also concluded that white papers are the most valuable resource for buyers at the research stage of the buying cycle, even more popular than free trials, analyst reports, webinars and others.

Here is why marketing whitepapers are so successful for lead generation, and why you should devote precious time to developing and distributing them:

Whitepapers are informative, and non-threatening. Pass along value – timely, well-written papers often travel among colleagues. Easy to place on websites in your target category. Positions your company as an industry thought leader.

Here are five critical rules to follow to create a whitepaper that will give your sales process a little extra traction:

1. The Approach – Put your sales pitch on hold for a moment. Your whitepaper must be issue-oriented, never product oriented, if you really want it to appeal to prospects with the genuine pain that your product or service can relieve. Start by asking yourself ëhow can I help my target audience solve a common industry problem, or take advantage of a big opportunity looming on the horizon?í Focus your approach on the issues, rather than your product. You can discuss your product, but save the features for later, much later.

2. The Structure – Most successful whitepapers follow a fairly common outline, particularly if itís a technical whitepaper. Business and technology people have certain expectations of what a whitepaper will look like and sound like, and if yours smacks of a product pitch, your prospect will dismiss it without reading the second page. Stick to this structure and you canít go wrong.

  • Abstract – explains who has prepared the whitepaper, why they prepared it, and what they hope to accomplish by distributing it.
  • The situation – outline the business problem or opportunity in detail, down to the granular level if necessary. Help your prospect understand that you feel their pain. Give your report some added credibility by citing relevant research that helps you state your case.
  • The solution – show them you understand their big picture ñ how others in their industry are solving the problem, or seizing the opportunity. Explain why these particular solutions are successful.
  • Technical details – Take your solution a step further and offer more detailed ëhow toí information here. Your technical solution will make much more sense because you explained the big picture first. Show process illustrations whenever possible to clarify.
  • Product or solution details – OK, here it makes sense to demonstrate how your product or service can specifically help them. However, to continue to establish your thought leadership credibility, be sure to mention your competitorsí solutions, and be as fair and objective as you possibly can.
  • How to – List step-by-step instructions whenever possible.
  • Summary – Give a brief synopsis of key details and benefits of the information you have presented.
  • Sources – Mention all who contributed content, particularly important research. This will add to your credibility.

3. The Killer Headline – Your headline is perhaps the most important element of your whitepaper. Before you distribute it, make absolutely sure your title connects with your target audience, and demonstrates to them in no uncertain terms that this whitepaper will help them. If your headline doesnít grab them by the shirt collar, your whitepaper marketing efforts could right down the tubes. Here are a few examples:

  • Seven proven strategies for..
  • Five important rules to follow…
  • Four key technologies that will solve your CRM..
  • The solution to rising IT labor costs.
  • Everything You Don’t Know About..

4. The Opening Paragraph – If your headline has intrigued your reader, your opening paragraph has to immediately and convince the reader that you understand his/her pain and have an appropriate solution. To really connect with your reader, state the problem as concisely as possible, but make sure to include the most compelling facts or scenarios keep the reader involved (In 2002, over 2.5 billion man hours were lost due to network downtime..). Next, give a brief overview of the solution (Today, IT professional all over the world have solved this problem with a proven process that..)

5. The Marketing – Now that your paper is complete, itís time to distribute it. Start by contacting web sites in your market. You could also consider paying a service provider to place your white paper across a network of vertically oriented sites targeted at your ideal prospect. There are literally hundreds of websites that accept whitepapers absolutely free.