Thursday, February 21, 2013

White Papers can be a great agency new business tool

One of the biggest challenges for agencies is to differentiate themselves as an authority in a certain area. Blogging and Twitter can be helpful in this area, but for my money a well-written white paper tops them all for effectiveness.

A white paper can generate awareness about a product, service or organization, and is especially valuable as it is often read while in the evaluation stage for a new purchase. During the past decade we have seen an explosion of business white papers as B2B marketing and sales tools, but surprisingly, many ad agencies have failed to take advantage of white papers as a marketing tool.

White papers can be used in several ways by ad agencies: As an awareness and lead-generation tool for new business; As a thought-leadership and CRM tool for current clients; As a training tool for employees and clients.  

Why should your agency use white papers? That's simple, they work.

Several studies have documented the importance of white papers in evaluation and decision-making. A study by MarketingSherpa on technology marketing reported that 44% of respondents said they like reviewing white papers. Even more importantly, 70% said they visited the vendor website and 45% contacted the vendor for further information. According to Information Week, 93% of white papers are passed on to at least one other reader and 86% say they are moderately or highly influential. Case studies have reported that white papers can significantly outperform banner ads and email as a lead generation tool for many businesses.

White papers can establish your agency as a thought-leader.

 White papers provide a platform for an agency to demonstrate their expertise and the quality of their thinking. Whether the topic is general (e.g. branding strategies), industry-specific (e.g. trends in healthcare marketing), or topic-specific (e.g. how to use social media), a well-written white paper can establish your agency as an authority on the subject. Importantly, studies have shown that executives read white papers, so a white paper can be that foot-in-the-door that you've been trying to establish but can't seem to get past the voicemail and spam blocker screens.

Some of the more popular ways to use white papers are: Discuss trends (can establish the need for a change from the reader). Identify problems (can build a rapport and affinity with the reader). Provide solutions (can confirm your expertise, but must be seen as objective and not a sales message to have credibility with the reader). Suggest what to look for (can also confirm your expertise, but again must not be seen as an overt sales message).

A good white paper must be reader-focused, not self-focused.

It is critically important to write white papers from an objective viewpoint so that they are seen as educational, not sales-focused. Too many marketers make the mistake of treating their white paper as a multi-page text ad for their product or service. That approach is a recipe for disaster. And rejection. A well-written white paper becomes persuasive when the reader is presented with facts and charts to support the writer's viewpoint and avoids any claims about the company or its products and services.

Michael Stelzner ( , seen by many as the foremost authority on writing white papers, gave this illustration of a reader-focused vs. a self-focused white paper in a recent webinar: Self-Focused: Groundbreaking TechWidget by XYZ Company Solves Time Management Dilemma. Reader-Focused: Solving the Time Management Dilemma with Technology.

A white paper can drive traffic to an agency's website for more information (or more confirmation of the agency's expertise).

 A white paper can carry more authority than other agency marketing collateral. It is important to remember that a white paper can carry a cachet of authenticity that other marketing collateral for your agency doesn't possess. To some readers, there is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that white papers are completely objective and factual, almost like a scientific paper that has been peer-reviewed. So be careful that you don't mis-use or abuse the white paper as a marketing tool.

But it can, and should, be used by more agencies.