Here’s a quick hypothetical. Suppose two service business owners and two expertise authors (often the same people) have equally well-designed, persuasive websites. But only one owner and one author have taken the additional step of writing a white paper to attract new clients or new readers.
This owner and this author wisely used their white papers to address a current challenge facing their specific audiences. And they provided information that offered, if not a solution outright, then everything needed to approach it intelligently. They literally gave away information their desired readers considered valuable. So they became positioned in those readers’ minds as providers of valuable content – as virtually synonymous, in fact, with valuable content.
If you were asked to choose which of these four owners and authors won the confidence of potential clients or book buyers, whom would you choose? If you picked the two white paper authors, you would be right.
:: White Papers Create “Followers”
White paper authors are far more likely (than their colleagues relying solely on a website) to gain the kind of trust that creates loyal fans or “followers” — people who will turn to their service or their book when referring others or buying a service or product themselves.
A website is both important and necessary as a foundational marketing tool. But what distinguishes a service provider or author from others within their area of expertise is the ability to reach beyond the Internet in addressing –substantively — the self-perceived needs of clients, referral partners, or readers.
:: White Papers Communicate Both On Line & Off
A white paper, unlike a website, can communicate off line as well as on. Distributed as a PDF, a white paper can be printed out and read whenever convenient. And it can just as easily be shared on line – emailed to referral partners, colleagues, clients, other interested parties, and, of course, readers.
But apart from the “portability” and “share-ability” of white papers, this content marketing vehicle wins people over because the form itself, its “genre,” is well-respected. The aura of expectation that surrounds white papers is one of being a source of research-based, objective, and trustworthy information for specific or specialized audiences. As a result, even though white papers are understood to be a form of marketing, they are eagerly read and passed around.
:: White Papers “in Action”
Here are some examples of white papers “in action,” doing the content marketing they’re designed to do:
:: A psychotherapist writes a white paper about the treatment of long-term stress resulting from a challenging economy. He describes research demonstrating how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy makes significant improvement possible in a majority of cases in a relatively short time (weeks or months, rather than years).
This therapist distributes his white paper to colleagues in complementary fields, seeking referral patients or clients who are exhibiting, among other symptoms, economy-related stress and even post-traumatic stress syndrome. So he is using his white paper for “practice to practice” marketing.
:: A marketing coach with a well-received book that describes, among other marketing strategies, combining social media with traditional media to promote small businesses, is a featured speaker on this subject at a national conference.
Wisely, she distributes her white paper on her presentation topic to all attendees, tucked inside their conference welcome packets. As a result, she receives numerous requests for consultations, a handful of new long-term clients, and a big jump in the number of people subscribing to her mailing list, in the weeks following the conference.
:: A family law attorney who specializes in divorce mediation writes a white paper about the benefits of mediation, including a discussion of the research proving it can be instrumental in effecting a non-punitive and amicable divorce.
This attorney uses several methods for distributing her white paper, but the most immediately successful one is passing out copies to therapists specializing in couples counseling, during conferences at which she is a panelist. (A few of her other methods include publicizing the link to her white paper when she appears on online radio shows, and using Twitter and other social media platforms to invite downloads of her white paper from her website.)
:: The executive director of a nonprofit environmental organization works with a handful of well-known academics and bestselling authors to produce a white paper underscoring the importance of regional watersheds for biological diversity and balanced ecological systems.
He promotes this white paper through local and regional media by calling attention to local waterways suffering from industrial pollution, and using his white paper and famous co-authors as “media bait.” This accomplishes a number of things at once.
On the one hand, the white paper gives this executive director a means of bringing together some “big names” on behalf of his organization, and their support provides enhanced visibility to his organization’s environmental work. On the other hand, the media attention alerts regional philanthropies to the work this environmental organization is engaged in and boosts their fundraising efforts. As a beneficial side effect, it also boosts general membership enrollment and smaller donor activity.
:: White Papers Are Very Versatile
White papers are very versatile marketing vehicles and their uses are only limited by their authors’ imagination — if not daring.
Experts and professionals, as well as organizations, businesses, and institutions possessing a body of knowledge — gained through experience and backed by research — can produce white papers which engage their audiences by providing valuable, often actionable content.