As website owners, your clients know that marketing and advertising are rapidly changing to include and often emphasize their online presence. Many small businesses now use content marketing techniques such as blog posts, website articles and social media to develop reputations as experts in their fields and to attract new sales leads in the form of readers.
The white paper is an increasingly used online marketing method that is particularly useful for both business-to-business and business-to-customer enterprises.
A white paper is a focused report that addresses and solves one or more problems commonly experienced by the target market. Websites often promote free white papers available to visitors by email. The white papers provide additional specific and detailed information on topics that may have been addressed more generally on the website through a blog post or short article. Creating a free white paper is a useful content marketing tool for several reasons:
- helps build your reputation and authority as an expert in your field;
- provides a means of collecting valuable customer leads if readers opt-in to the paper through email sign-up or a Facebook "like";
- can increase incoming links to your site from other sites, leading to improved search engine rankings;
- increases customer awareness of your brand so you are the first choice when the need for your product or service arises.
Writing a white paper is different from creating a traditional report or guide. While guides are often presented in a "How-To" format, a white paper instead focuses on solving a problem experienced by a business' typical customer.
Readers want useful, relevant content that makes their lives easier. To create a white paper that people will want to read and reference, have your clients keep these five tips in mind.
1. A fresh and focused look at your niche.
Don't present website visitors with a boring report on information they've heard repeatedly. Instead, look for a new angle and a more focused approach to problems facing your typical reader. For example, "Dealing With a Leaky Roof" can become "Fixing a Leaky Roof in Winter: Solutions You Never Thought Of." Writing a white paper to provide useful solutions for your reader increases the likelihood it will be read.
2. Keep your writing clear and simple.
Though your audience may consist of other business owners, your readers may not be as familiar with technical acronyms and processes as you are. Use short sentences and keep paragraphs succinct. If your report includes many technical terms, consider adding a glossary. An effective white paper uses a simple format of introduction, details the problem and provides a solution. Describing problems in detail and pointing out how the problem negatively effects your readers' businesses shows potential customers you understand the issues they face.
3. Include recent and relevant statistics and facts.
This confirms you are up-to-date on recent developments and have access to the most current information. At the end of your white paper, describe how the service or product your business provides presents a solution to the problem.
4. Market your company white paper EVERYWHERE!
Advertise your white paper prominently on your company homepage. Include a call to action to encourage readers to "Click here" to sign up for the free paper. Add a link to the white paper sign-up page as part of your business email signature. Post, pin or tweet about it as part of your small business social media strategy.
5. Encourage and respond to your readers' questions and concerns.
A white paper provides a specific solution to a problem, and not everyone will agree with the answer you provide, particularly your competitors. Prepare to explain your position and debate the issue through online communication and comments on your website or through social media. A well-argued discussion is a good opportunity to build credibility and prove your expertise in an area. Back up statements in the white paper with more statistics, facts and figures where appropriate.
Though not as well-utilized as other online content marketing techniques, white papers can be effective tools in your clients' small business content marketing strategy. Once a top quality white paper with a great title has been created, spend some time on a compelling marketing strategy. Pique their interest enough and readers will not only sign up and download the white paper, they will remember your client's name when they need to take action on the issue that led them to the company's website in the first place!