I’m wondering if white papers need to undergo their own honest labeling. In this age of transparency, isn’t it irritating when you think you’re getting a report on cloud security, for example, and then discover that it’s a blatant product pitch instead? In the last couple of months, I’ve seen plenty of product pitches and fact sheets masquerading as white papers.
Why does this happen? I think there are two answers. Either someone really doesn’t know what a white paper is supposed to be, or the marketing team is understaffed and doesn’t time to convert a piece of collateral into a format that requires additional writing and research.
Quick reminder: a white paper is a longer article (about four to ten pages) that examines, in an unbiased way, a problem of great interest to your target audience, positioning your company as the solution. It requires research, citations and interviews.
As Michele Lin of the Content Marketing Institute says in a Q&Q with the American Marketing Association, “White papers that are thinly veiled product pitches or those that could be published just as easily by your competitors aren’t effective.”
Here’s why doing it right matters so much, besides the honesty factor. Most white papers are available via download, so you have to submit your email address to access this coveted piece of information. When potential customers part with their email address, they must really want the information you have to provide. They’ve offered valuable information to you. Now you have to reciprocate and give them what they expect: a report that examines an issue or topic of extreme importance to them and provides a solution.
White papers are an effective marketing tactic. In fact, according to a Contact Marketing Institute report, 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, white papers are one of the top ten most effective tactics for B2B marketers.
So when you write your white paper, feel free to use a subject matter expert from your company as a source. Throw in some terrific case studies, letting your clients sing your praises. But when you mention your product, do so at the end of your white paper, or near the end. Or don’t even mention your product at all. Just put your logo and contact information at the end.
Your future clients will appreciate it.
This blog post first appeared on LinkedIn on Sept. 29, 2015