White Papers For Dummies
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The problem/solution white paper is gaining popularity all the time as more marketing people realize how effective this format can be. Using one makes sense for any B2B company seeking to build recognition and attract as many prospects as possible. If you have the time and the resources to pour into developing a problem/solution, it can really pay off in a big way.

In particular, a problem/solution is the best to pick in five specific situations:

  • To generate leads at the top of the sales funnel

  • To educate salespeople and channel partners

  • To educate analysts, bloggers, and journalists

  • To redefine a market space

  • To build mindshare

Generate leads with your white paper

Hands down, a problem/solution is the best way to generate leads at the top of the sales funnel. This flavor enables a company to cast the widest possible net and harvest the biggest catch of fresh leads.

Because a problem/solution white paper is best aimed at prospects near the start of the buying process, it can’t come across as a sales pitch. Unlike a backgrounder, this uses a soft sell to inform prospects about an issue and position the sponsor as a trusted advisor. When the time comes to buy, B2B prospects feel so positive about your company that they’re inclined to do business with you.

Any smaller company that struggles to generate leads and fights to get onto vendor shortlists should consider publishing at least one white paper in the problem/solution format. By the same token, any large company addicted to backgrounders should publish a few problem/solution papers to round out its library and pull in some fresh prospects.

Educate salespeople and channel partners with your white paper

Your salespeople need to understand the point of your offering, the problems it’s designed to solve, and the drawbacks of every other way of doing things. A problem/solution white paper can give your salespeople all the background they need to discuss the problem in a more informed way.

It can also serve as a send-ahead or a leave-behind, a conversation-opener or a deal-closer. Ideally, a problem/solution white paper gives you a way to elevate your company so far above other vendors that your salespeople can sell without hearing any objections about pricing, features, delivery dates, or anything else.

All these benefits apply equally to channel partners. If you have a network of consultants, retailers, or value-added resellers (VARs) that help generate revenues, send them all your white papers. An effective problem/solution white paper can make the difference between being remembered or being forgotten when your channel partners are in front of a client.

Educate analysts, bloggers, and journalists with your white paper

A problem/solution white paper is a powerful item to send to opinion leaders in your space, including analysts, bloggers, journalists, and anyone who runs a website that your B2B buyers consider influential.

In this context, you aren’t necessarily expecting those opinion leaders to pick up your content to republish or even to comment on it publicly. But even if they look at your white paper as “deep background,” it can help shape their perceptions of your market from then on.

Imagine how opinion leaders see one company that regularly sends them helpful and well-informed white papers versus another that doesn’t. By feeding the media and other opinion leaders your best thinking in the form of a problem/solution white paper, you’re taking your best shot at influencing the influencers. As publicists have long known, getting editorial coverage has an incredible multiplying factor.

Redefine a market space with your white paper

Occasionally, a B2B vendor may seek to redefine an entire market space, perhaps to enlarge it by showing how it overlaps with nearby spaces, perhaps to limit it by showing how it has certain unique and specific requirements. Perhaps you want to introduce a new acronym or do something else to tilt the entire playing field in your favor.

A numbered list may hint in passing at some of these ideas without the depth to develop them. A backgrounder is too busy navel-gazing at your own offering to achieve this kind of profound effect. But a problem/solution is the only one that can grapple with this challenge of redefining a whole market space.

In this case, the problem is likely that every other vendor looks at the market space the wrong way, creating difficulties, limiting results, and wasting money. The new, improved solution can be as basic as a change in perspective so that readers see the market space in a new light. If your company ever reaches that historic moment when you need to redefine your market space, use the problem/solution.

Build mindshare with your white paper

An effective problem/solution white paper can do wonders to build more recognition for your company. Ideally, this is so thoroughly researched and well expressed that it has ample credibility. Those qualities can propel your white paper up and down the food chain, passed from one executive to another within the same company and even between peers and friends in different companies.

You may find your problem/solution white paper being commented on and recommended via social media. All this pass-along publicity helps to build mindshare by reaching B2B executives who may not have heard of your company before. Better mindshare helps smaller companies work their way into the inner circle and on to the vendor lists along with the big guys.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Gordon Graham — also known as That White Paper Guy — is an award-winning writer who has created more than 200 B2B white papers for clients from New York to Australia. Gordon has written white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, and for everyone from tiny start-ups to Google.

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