The following is excerpted from a position paper I've been nurturing for some time; thought it was about time I shared it. This renewed interest was prompted by a webinar I recently heard on B2B marketing and social media from Tippit.
Originating in British Parliament, white papers present an authoritative overview of a particular issue and layout specific actions. Businesses adopted the term in the ‘90s as a moniker for sales and marketing documents that aim to educate the audience.
In B2B marketing, white papers are an integral part of the buying process and serve a variety of purposes. From the vendor point of view white papers accomplish the following:
- Establish thought leadership and a presence.
- Keep a vendor ‘in consideration’ and ‘top of mind’ during a long sales cycle.
- Provide the tools to generate a cost benefit analysis.
- Generate interest and leads.
- Breed a sense of trust in order to reduce risk in making a decision.
- Get on the approved vendor list before a decision is needed.
- Facilitate peer recommendations to reduce risk; peers are often the first resource people turn to when researching.
- Leverage sales for referrals in addition to closing sales.
- Establish credibility and thought leadership to garner the ‘wisdom of the crowd.’
While white papers are read and used by a large number buyers (and committees) the form factor remains the old document-based ‘paper’ in this day of tweets, Diggs, sharing and comments.
Borrowing from the success of ‘social media news rooms’ this [post] describes a new delivery model for this valuable content. Rather than just producing a PDF, the social media white paper consists of a variety of elements that facilitate content distribution and sharing of information. From quotes to slides to a printable version, reports are presented in a variety of forms that make it most useful to the audience.
Rather than a listing of PDF files behind a registration page, the concept creates a diverse set of objects that readers can use to meet their needs. To accomplish this; a new section [should] be added to a firm’s website tentatively called the ‘white room’ – a combination of the white paper and news room. To provide control of the functionality, content, and track distribution the white room is a separate part of a web site that contains a variety of sections. Using the standard sections of NewsCactus or PitchEngine as a guide it could take the form of:
- Home: an introductory page for the section. Similar to many blogs, it contains a synopsis and listing of recent contents.
- Overview: Provides a place to discuss what the section is about (optional)
- White Papers: Listing of white papers with links to the actual page. Each page is designed to be found as part of inbound marketing strategies.
- Highlights: Links to other events related to white papers, e.g. presentations, or speeches.
- In the News: Listing of mentions of the firm as thought leader.
- Multimedia: useful objects to associate with the white paper.
- Company Kits: Fact sheets for company, leaders, and products.
The Internet has changed how we read and consume content [see the "Twitter Paradox"]. To facilitate consumption and spreading of information the following should be supplied.
- Content written in form that can be scanned. Use of bullets and short sentences, paragraphs required in this day and age of Internet-reading.
- Sub-heads written in the form of tweets that can then be used with url-shorteners to deep link and drive traffic.
- Plain text (not Word) and PDF versions of full white paper and key paragraphs.
- Audio version of paper (mp3 format).
- Three to four specific recommendations or points that can be forwarded quickly. Written for retweeting.
- Links to outside, relevant resources within the copy. No more than one link per 150-200 words.
- A description, synopsis of the piece in 30-50 word that can be emailed to others like the reader's boss.
- A list of key words associated with the piece; used to develop content to facilitate search traffic.
- Two or more multi-media objects – pictures, video, or audio interviews.
- Charts in clear template form for both PowerPoint and Keynote as well as on slide share – with speaker’s notes.
- Spreadsheets if providing calculation tools.
- Full contact information for key resources: all relevant channels.
- Links to social bookmark and network sites.
- Simple registration – accept LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter profiles.
I have some ideas here too....