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Techvangelism in Action
5 Elements of a Great Whitepaper
July 15, 2014
Whitepapers are a staple in any tech companies content arsenal as a lead generation tool. But, sadly, many just sit on the company's website and are never fully utilized. If a whitepaper is to have an impact in the buyer's journey, there are a few elements about your next whitepaper you need to consider when using it to generate leads.
1. The Title
The title is probably the most critical aspect of your paper. Here's why. First off, if it doesn't catch the attention of the (potential) reader, you've lost the battle. Second, if it's not properly conveying the subject matter, the lead you (presumably) pass to sales is of little or no value becuase the reader has something other than your product in mind. Third, the title helps potential buyers self-select, acting as a filter to only have those that are interested in your product choose to read the whitepaper in the first place.
What To Do: Choose a title that conveys to the reader that they can do something (that your product helps with). For example, if you sell SQL Server Backup software and had a whitepaper titled Simplify SQL Server Backups, only those that - a) are involved with SQL, b) are responsible for backups and c) would like to simplify the process - will download. Let me reiterate the need for the title to help the reader self-select and identify themselves as a potential buyer.
2. The Content
Depending on where the use of the whitepaper falls in the customer journey, the content differs. For lead gen purposes, someone is clearly in the awareness phase, trying to educate themselves on how to solve a problem and not looking for a product pitch. So the content needs to fall along those lines - predominantly agnostic in tone (although the buyer isn't stupid, so a small amout of "you need a solution to solve this" is acceptable), and educational in nature. The best papers help lead the reader to a conclusion that actually helps them - whether they want to buy your product or not.
What To Do: Plan your whitepaper content out so that it helps the reader better understand the nature of the problem they have indicated they are trying to solve (see #1) and place some standard boilerplate at the end about the related product.
3. Supporting Content
This is one most companies miss. You need content that should be used both before and after the whitepaper's place in the buyer's journey. Not sure what I mean? You're not alone.
What To Do: Prior to the whitepaper, you need email content to help promote it (which is part of the next element I'll mention), as well as several blog posts to promote it. (Yes, several - I usually write whitepapers with three sub-topics in mind that are of interest to the reader so that a blog post can be written around each subtopic and promote the whitepaper at the end of each. Also, having a few helps with SEO. You probably aren't posting enough to your blog anyway.)
You also need email content for after a buyer has downloaded the whitepaper. The content should first encourage them to read it, and another to see if they are ready to move from awareness to interest in your product.
Lastly, if you feel strongly about the topic, you can turn the whitepaper into a webinar - remember, there are those that like to read and others that like to watch/listen. (I normally plan from webinar and then work to whitepaper, but the end result is the same.)
4. A Campaign Plan
If you just put the paper on your website, no one - including your own sales team - will know it exists. You need a plan to promote the whitepaper.
What To Do: First, and foremost, give your sales team a copy and tell them what it's about. Next, you need to include it as part of your Social Media outreach (and have your sales team help you promote it), email old prospects that haven't engaged with you in a while, and use external advertising (there are both whitepaper-centric vendors and tech-focused vendors that can help promote this new content).
5. A Lead Strategy
OK, this is the tough one. As a general statement, someone that downloads a whitepaper (unless is is about your product and how your product solves a particular problem) is not ready to talk to sales. It is waaaaaay too early in the buyer's journey to put them in front of a sales person. All the buyer did was ask to read a whitepaper on some topic related to what you do and most companies think having a rep call them asking them "wanna buy?" is the logical next step. It isn't.
What To Do: Respond to the lead based on what they've done. In this case, most likely, they're just interested in finding out more. So use that post-whitepaper email content to offer them more - more infor on the problem, perhaps invite them to a webinar, anything that is a measured response to their action. Anything more is too much and negatively impacts the buyer's journey.
I suspect most of you miss the mark in at least 2 of these 5 elements. It's important to make the whitepaper as strong as it can be. And it's more than just the whitepaper itself that needs your focus to ensure the whitepaper is a great success.