The value of a B2B white paper is not rocket science

Imagine you are a salesperson at ABC Software, a B2B company that sells accounting software to enterprise businesses. Or maybe you don’t have to imagine – maybe you are a salesperson at a company that sells products and services to other businesses. Either way, let’s pretend you are sitting in the office with a VP who is thinking about buying your software for his department. In fact, the deal you’re proposing would bring in a whopping half-million dollars for ABC Software.

“I need to run this by the accounting department and our IT team before I can sign the paperwork. I’ll give you the names and email addresses of the people I want you to send your white papers to,” the VP says.

Gulp. You don’t have any white papers to send them. You scramble. “I have some brochures I can send over. Or I’d be happy to do a live demo.”

The VP glares at you. “No one has time for that. These guys need information so they can compare your software to other options – details they can talk over when they meet to make a decision. You seriously don’t have anything informational you can send us?”

“I’ll get something for you. Let me talk to some folks back at the office and I’ll get back with you soon,” you respond, picturing $500k going down the drain.

When you get back to your office later that day, you call up the marketing person at your company. “I need a white paper! A half-million dollar deal is on the line!”

“I’ll assemble a team to create one for you – but it’s going to take a few weeks, at least.” This is not what you want to hear from your marketing person. But it’s the grim reality. There is no way you will have that white paper in the VP’s hands before your competitors do and that VP has decided to buy someone else’s software.

Busy businesses don’t have time for sales demonstrations. They don’t have time to mess with hype-filled brochures. They need information, because they are comparing your offering to that of other similar businesses.

The two sticking points I see most often with businesses who need to create white papers for their offerings and haven’t yet done so are:

  1. No one qualified to write it
  2. No budget for it

Finding a Qualified Writer

The first point can be solved by finding a high-quality, experienced writer. I recently wrote a post about how to go about this, in which I gave these three pieces of advice for picking a reliable, responsible and high-quality resource for your project:

1. Choose your resources carefully. Social proof is powerful, and testimonials on a website can be helpful – but go one step beyond. Ask for clips, a portfolio or better yet, references.

2. Ask what their process is. This is a great way to tell if the way they work flows with or clashes with the way you work. For example, if you’re highly organized, you might not want to work with someone who says things like “I go with the flow,” or “we’ll just wing it.”

3. Here’s a loaded question, but it really works. Ask them to tell you about a time when they missed a deadline.

Find the Budget

Producing an expert white paper may seem like an expensive endeavor when the writing alone starts at around $2,000 – but if you’re selling to executives or tech teams, you can’t afford not to have one.

Let’s do the math.

Let’s assume an 8-page white paper will cost you $2,000 for the writing and $1,000 for the design, for a total of $3,000.

Let’s assume you meet with a VP like the one from the beginning of this article once per quarter. So four times a year you meet an executive who needs a white paper in order for him and his team to make a buying decision.

Let’s assume the average sale from that meeting would result in $500k for your business.

So you pay $3,000 one time for a white paper you can use over and over, which will result in sales totals of $2 million for the year. Yes, you would spend $3,000 to bring in $2 million in sales.

This is not rocket science.

A white paper is unique in that it is versatile and can be used over and over. It is a one-time investment. For B2Bs, it is a crucial investment.

Do you have white papers for your high-dollar offerings? I would love to know, and I would love to see them!