5 Big Benefits White Papers Offer Technology Marketers

December 15, 2010 by

Surveys of technology buyers consistently name white papers as one of the most effective tools for influencing their purchasing decisions. Recent studies by Eccolo Media (1), and by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa (2) both put white papers at the top of the list, as the most sought-after, most influential and most viral of all weapons in the tech marketer's arsenal.

Why are white papers so effective at influencing technology buyers? Here are 5 big reasons:

1. White papers offer business buyers what they crave

Business decision-makers are information seekers.

They need detailed information to make informed decisions. Especially purchasing decisions. They need real solutions to real problems, but generally lack the time to figure out which solution is best. Often, they don’t fully understand their problem when they begin their search for knowledge.

That’s why they seek out white papers.

White papers show readers how to solve their problems. They explore the problem – show the reader exactly what he’s up against. Then they make and open-and-shut case for the best solution: yours.

What’s more, white papers provide all that in one handy, familiar package. They give busy decision-makers an all-in-one resource that's easy to reference, review, and share with colleagues.

2. White papers evade prospects’ anti-marketing defences

If properly written, white papers are a form of “stealth marketing” that fly under your prospects’ radar.

Why? Because, they don’t discuss your company or offering directly. Instead, they focus entirely on your customer’s problem.

Yes, your reader knows your white paper is promotional. But he’s willing to accept some bias, as long as you provide him with solid information he can use to make good decisions, and sound logic to justify those decisions.

By giving your prospect information he badly needs, in a form that doesn’t overtly promote your product or service, you greatly reduce his buyer’s resistance and skepticism. So he’s far more likely to accept your ideas.

3. White papers let you “set the specs” for your prospects

A good way to avoid specific mention of your offering – while still extolling its virtues – is to describe its innovations as the emergence of a new class of solutions.

In your white paper, you describe this new solution class in a generic way, i.e., you define the specification for the class. Then, you make a strong case for the superiority of this new solution class over existing solutions.

This way, you’re not simply throwing your hat into an already crowded ring. You’re sweeping away all other solutions, removing them from consideration.

Plus you’re giving white paper readers exactly what they want: a blueprint, or a roadmap to follow, for solving their problem in the best possible way.

It doesn’t matter that yours, for the moment, is the only solution in the class. What matters is that you get to “set the specs” for this new class. If your prospect is conviced, he’ll use your specs in his evaluation. The competition doesn’t meet the spec, so they’re eliminated. And you get the business.

4. White papers build credibility

Well-written white papers thrive on logic, not hype and emotion. They educate your customer. They give him or her something of real value to think about. They truly help your prospect solve his problem.

In doing so, they demonstrate your company’s expertise and position you as a thought leader. And since you back up the claims you make with facts and logic, you appear forthcoming and truthful.

This dual perception of expertise and truthfulness created by your white paper has a “halo” effect. It makes everything you say more credible.

5. White papers build trust and loyalty

By first giving your prospect solid information he can use, before you try to sell him something, you position your firm as a helpful, generous advisor.

You’re no longer just another vendor. You’re a guide. You’re helping your prospect understand what he needs, as well as what you have to offer.

You also create a feeling of indebtedness in your prospect.

You’ve given your prospect something helpful, something valuable. He feels the need to repay you in some way. This is what Rober Cialdini, in his landmark book Influence (1), calls the “Rule of Reciprocity”. People just naturally want to return a favor. In fact, they feel a real need to return your favor.

All these factors build the prospect’s confidence in your company. When it comes time to buy, prospects generally favor vendors they trust. And they tend to trust vendors who have already given them value.

Sources:

(1) Eccolo Media 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, www.eccolomedia.com, September 2009.

(2) KnowledgeStorm/MarketingSherpa Connecting Through Content Survey, Issue 1: How Technology Marketers Meet Buyers’ Appetite for Content, March 2007.

(3) Cialdini, Robert B., Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, William Morrow & Co., 1984, 1993.

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