White Papers For Dummies
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Here comes perhaps the most fundamental question of all: Why bother with writing a white paper? When done well, white papers are effective instruments for boosting sales and getting through to your target audience.

Why do companies publish white papers?

In general, vendors publish white papers for three key reasons: to generate leads, to nurture prospects, or to help close sales. Some publish white papers to attract attention, to redefine a market space, or to stake out a position as a leader in their industry. In the end, all these goals are measured the same: Are you attracting enough leads? And are you closing enough sales?

B2B vendors publish white papers for all these reasons:

  • Gather leads for the sales force.

  • Educate potential customers.

  • Influence a selection committee.

  • Educate the sales force or channel partners.

  • Educate the media.

  • Send to a trade publication or website.

  • Redefine a market space.

  • Build credibility or mindshare.

  • Keep up with competitors who have white papers.

On a strategic level, white papers fit into the growing trend of “marketing with content.” This model acknowledges that skeptical prospects are hungry for a vendor who can serve as a trusted advisor, not just a peddler of their wares. A white paper can serve this purpose remarkably well.

Why do prospects read white papers?

White paper readers are seeking useful information to help them understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. This often involves learning about the features and benefits of a product or service they’re considering buying. A survey of IT managers by Forbes.com and Bitpipe (now TechTarget) showed that they read white papers for the following reasons:

  • To stay on top of new trends (76 percent)

  • To get information about products and vendors (69 percent)

  • To compare products (50 percent)

  • To help justify buying decisions (42 percent)

  • To develop a shortlist of qualified vendors (33 percent)

This list sounds realistic to me. Business people must try to stay current with their field, compare different vendors accurately, and make wise decisions. White papers can help them with all these challenges.

Why do writers write white papers?

Writers write white papers for three main reasons: the money, the change of pace, and the challenge.

  • For the money: Doing white papers pays better than most other formats of B2B copywriting, such as autoresponders, brochures, e-mails, or web pages. You can earn more as a copywriter if you happen to write the control-busting sales letter of the year and get royalties on all the sales that letter generates for the next five years.

  • For the change of pace: Technical writers often work on 200- or 300-page manuals that take months to complete. Journalists regularly write short news stories or light fare; they don’t often get to sink their teeth into substantial subjects. A white paper gives a writer stuck in one of these ruts a welcome change rather than what they usually work on.

  • For the challenge: One of the most challenging assignments in B2B marketing is helping a company articulate the competitive features and benefits of an offering and how it can solve an old problem better than anything else. Doing the research to find enough convincing proof is one part of that challenge; another is choosing the most effective rhetorical devices to deliver the message.

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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