White papers are one of the primary educational tools for technology decision makers throughout the buying process. Technology marketers have a unique way to provide crucial information and directly influence purchase outcomes by providing informative white papers to technology decision makers.
Busy professional IT(Information Technology) buyers are under constant pressure to learn about new technologies, solutions, and to implement and integrate products and services in the most effective way possible. White papers play a critical role in filling this educational need.
Information Week Business Technology Network’s latest study shows the important role white papers play in purchase decisions.
The study is titled ‘How to Maximize the Use of White Papers In Your B2B Marketing and Sales Process’. There is a wealth of information in the study. I have summarized some of the most interesting findings below.
What are white papers used for?
According to the study, IT buyers use white paper to:
- Investigate tech solutions – problem solving
- Learn about specific vendor & solutions – create and/or build awareness
- Evaluate and identify benefits/limitations of proposed technology or platform – will it work for us?
- Research potential vendors – create vendor short list
- 76.3% use white papers for general education on specific technology topic or issue
- 73.8% use white papers to investigate possible technology solutions for the business/technology need
- 68.0% use white papers to learn about a specific vendor and their solution technology
- Case studies and tech category overviews represented 35% of the white papers read
What is the right length of a white paper?
86% say to keep white papers under 10 pages with, 50% wanting even shorter ones at under 5 pages.
What are components of a great white paper?
Top components of a great white paper (in rank order) are as follows:
- Tight abstract
- Minimal marketing
- Technology use case studies
- Product information and specifications
- Technical Diagrams
- Downloadable PDF versus digital format
Where are white papers searched for?
Source for finding valuable white papers are as follows:
- 51% visit vendor websites to find white papers
- 43% find them at IT Professional Organizations
- 33% said they find white papers on B2B media brand sites and libraries
Marketing to-do’s based on the study
- Hit each stage of the buying process with a relevant white paper
- Educate don’t sell and bring in a 3rd party to validate this effort
- Distribute through a variety of sources to maximize your investment
- Content value will drive performance of lead generation campaigns
5 key take aways for writing and marketing whitepapers from this study
- Make it easily accessible. Your own website is a gold mine to educate your customer and attract prospects. Ensure that your whitepaper and other marketing collateral are easily findable on your webpage and other related sites.
- Spread the message. Syndication is one of the best ways to get increased viewership of your content (whitepapers or marketing documents) and grow your business.
- Educate and inform. Don’t tout your product or solution and its benefits. Look at your customer’s problem and present the solution from their perspective.
- Show instead of tell. Get a 3rd party to validate or recommend your product or service. Who better to sell your story than a happy customer? Use customer success stories to show case your product or service benefits.
- Quality not quantity. Write a shorter white paper packed with useful information for your customer rather than a lengthy one which will lose their attention.
You can read white paper guru Michael Stelzner’s summary of the study at New Research Reveals Marketing Role of White Papers.
Over to you:
What sort of white papers have you had most traction with? Product or Solution Overviews, case studies, third party analyst reports?