It's not a news flash that communication vehicles are exploding all around us. Blogs. Twitter. Pinterest. Facebook. LinkedIn. Infographics. Podcasts. Video. eBooks. Webinars.
They're all great and should be part of a comprehensive Content Marketing strategy. But don't forget old faithful: White Papers.
Because they still work.
Everyone knows by now why White Papers need to be a key component of your CM plan - they set you up as an authority; they drive traffic to your web site; they generate leads.
That's why they work for YOU. But what makes White Papers so compelling to YOUR PROSPECTS that allows all that other good stuff to happen?
Here are five reasons why your customers and prospects still rely on well-written, thoroughly researched White Papers.
1. They establish a solid starting point
Let's face it. The demands on your prospects' time are increasing. Competing deadlines are the rule, not the exception. When a manager or executive faces a buying decision - whether for a product or a service - his or her to-do list just got longer. There is an abundance of data out there, but how can it be culled down to relevant information. That is what your White Paper can do. According to the 2012 Eccolo B2B Technology Collateral Survey, 59% of tech buyers found White Papers to be the most helpful tool in the initial sales phase. That's more than twice the second most used vehicle. After Data Sheets and Brochures, White Papers were the third most consumed collateral.
2. They are NOT advertisements
Or they'd better not be. When your customers are in the investigative phase of their buying process, they don't want to slog through gobs of marketing salespeak. They want facts, ideas and solutions. When done properly, a White Paper provides those things and becomes a critical document during a buyer's due diligence process. That's why it must be an objective document. Nothing will destroy the credibility of your White Paper - and get it tossed into the trash - faster than making it a thinly veiled infomercial. It needs to be interesting and well written but it can't be an expanded sales pitch.
3. They consolidate useful information
Business people today are being inundated with information from many outlets. A focused White Paper can filter the "noise" and provide the reader with the targeted information they want and need. The key to achieving that is to ensure that the piece is relevant to your audience. It has to address one of their problems and provide insight into solutions through use of the right product or service. Once they have that information, they will share it with other members of their teams. According to a report by Information Week Business Technology, 93% of IT buyers pass along nearly half of the White Papers they read.
4. They save time
Done right, the White Paper becomes a valuable tool for a decision maker. Yes, they could google the day away and come up with much of the same information. However by presenting a clear, well researched White Paper, you have just saved your customer or prospect a valuable asset - time. That's one of the reasons that usage of White Papers increased by 19% in 2012 according to the 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report put out by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs. Busy buyers always appreciate saving time.
5. They help drive decisions
Finally, White Papers still help make buying decisions. 55% of tech buyers have used a White Paper in the last six months and 57% found them to be "moderately to extremely influential" in the buying decision. It is a critical and sometimes determining factor for your prospect in ultimately deciding how they will proceed.
White Papers may not have the same sizzle as some of the newer communication tools, but clearly they still get the job done - for you and for your prospects.
What do you think? Does your organization use White Papers? Do your competitors?