Defined by Hubspot as a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution, white papers have been called the most popular, influential piece of collateral in B2B decision making. Additionally, the Content Marketing Institute states, 71 percent of content marketers leverage white papers as a key part of their content marketing strategy.
That said, there are a few factors contributing to white papers losing their efficacy. One, the cost of creating them. A piece developed by a third-party can cost thousands and the research is usually rendered statistically irrelevant within as little as a year. Additionally, marketers are up against the ever decreasing attention span of readers and content overload when putting out an extensive piece of content like a white paper.
So what can marketers do to address this drop in effectiveness? The key is to transition the paper from a static document into one that is interactive. To do so, marketers need to leverage 4 P’s: personalization, provocative content, prescriptive information, and profitability. That way, white papers aren’t just broad pieces of marketing collateral that remain unchanged for each client. They’re flexible and adjustable in order to address specific business challenges.
Here’s more on the 4 P’s and how to implement them.
Today’s B2B buyer is more informed than ever. According to Forrester, 68 percent of buyers find accessing information online far superior to interacting with a salesperson. The buyer isn’t going to enter into a conversation with a salesperson lightly–they’ve already done their research and they don’t want to hear information they can simply get from a website–it has to go deeper.
Because no one business problem is exactly the same, buyers care about how a solution fits their unique problem. Use this as an opportunity to take your white paper and customize the content to the prospect’s challenges, communicating value in the context of what the prospect will care about most.
For example, while getting to know a prospect, collect the information and statistics you learn from them. Use this information to customize white paper content to them, adding in any relevant information and eliminating generic content. If you have benchmark data available, you can even include a peer comparison, showing the prospect where they currently stand among competitors. Use this information to guide them to your product as a solution.
Due to decreasing attention spans and distracted readers, words aren’t always the best way to get your point across. Communicate your differentiating value with visuals, not words. Keep readers interested with dynamic, visual storytelling like whiteboard animations, embedded video and interactive infographics. Visuals are increasingly important as 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. This is also to say that key points may be made in both text and graphics to ensure the point is transmitted and absorbed.
Along with personalized content, a variety of publicly available information available about any company at any time. Train your sales leaders to extract the right information from prospects in order to “diagnose” the business’ condition. Where are they going wrong? What challenges are they facing?
Next, use the information you have on hand–from your white paper–to prescribe your solution to the prospect. This way, the problem is established and you’re using third-party research to back up your business as a solution.
With many vendors that overlap in offerings, the vendor that communicates its value best will always win. Pose the following questions to the prospect: “What is the cost of ‘doing nothing’? What if a competitor adopts a solution and gains a competitive advantage while you remain operating in the same manner?” Consider which parts of your white paper you could convert into an ROI calculator or interactive assessment tool to better communicate the upside of using your solutions to the buyer.
It’s clear that white papers are still valuable tools in the marketer’s toolbox. However, in order to maximize usefulness and impact, marketers must consider critical adaptations to the content in order to engage and interact with the reader. Using the suggestions in this article will prolong the readers’ interest in the informative and prescriptive content you’ve shared with them. Show them the ROI of your solution for optimal results.
About the Authors:
Tom Pisello is Chief Evangelist at Mediafly. Also known as the ROI Guy, Tom is a successful serial entrepreneur, popular speaker and author. He develops new practices to best communicate and quantify business value to ever more financially-focused, frugal buyers.
Isabelle Papoulias, CMO at Mediafly.For over 20 years, Isabelle has worked at media and creative agencies and quantitative research companies managing iconic brands across the globe. Now, Isabelle leverages her experience to help lead marketing strategy, awareness and demand-gen initiatives, including business development for the sales enablement platform. Her ability to lead cross-functional teams and identify new revenue opportunities has helped Mediafly build a strong marketing engine and secure steady growth.