Let’s be honest – we all have those certain competitors we wish would just….. “go away.” I mean, you’re a great organization providing unique products or solutions for your customers. Your clients love your products/services and you’re one of the best in your field. Everybody in your target market should buy from you, right?

Unfortunately, your competitors are also out there at events and online claiming that they’re the best. You wish you could just scream out, “WE’RE REALLY THE BEST, NO REALLY. DON’T PICK OUR COMPETITOR – HE/SHE IS THE WORST!” Alas, the world of sales isn’t that simple. Of course, the route to gaining a customer is about the positive results that you bring to the table – not about bashing your competitors. (Admit it though – you’ve all thought something negative about a competitor!)

White Papers

In today’s competitive climate, it’s not about claiming that “you’re the best.” To a degree, it’s not even about actually being the best. It all comes down to proving you’re the best. You have to demonstrate your expertise to your target market!

A great way to get a “leg-up” on your competition is by authoring white papers. White papers are a fundamental part of a strong content marketing strategy. If you are unfamiliar with the term white paper, here is a definition from everybody’s favorite online resource, Wikipedia:

“A white paper is an authoritative report or guide helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.” – Wikipedia

White papers can be “How To” guides or capture interesting industry trends and information. Here are three key reasons why white papers are a dynamic marketing tool:

  1. Establish CredibilityWhite papers project your industry expertise, building a trust factor between you and your target audience. This gives you the opportunity to show that you’re a “thought leader” within your field. Especially if the value of your products / services is comparable to your competitors, credibility can be the determining factor when your prospects make a purchasing decision.
  2. Drive New Leads / Gauge Interest of ProspectsWhen people fill out a form on your website to download a white paper, it helps you obtain and qualify leads. For example, x number of people may visit your website every month… but are those people random visitors or genuinely interested targets? When people download information from your website, you get a better sense of who’s simply visiting your website vs. people who are interested in your content. Furthermore, this will provide insight into the types of topics important to your audience.
  3. Support All Stages of the Sales CycleIf a target customer isn’t familiar with your brand, a white paper can be a great introduction. When your prospects are searching for information on the web, they may just stumble across your document (especially if you promote it). Or, if a target is deciding between multiple vendors, your white paper may nurture them as a lead and give you a boost. Current clients may read your white paper and want to explore a new product/service.

Convinced you want to write a white paper? Here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Research: What types of white papers are available in your industry? Is there a “gap” of available content that you can fill?
  • Create: White papers are a time-intensive project. Relax and take it one step at a time. Outline your thoughts and the main points you would like to convey. Back up all of your points with credible information, stats and resources. Check out this example, Inbound Marketing for CPA Firms.
  • Promote: You took the time to author a white paper, so you want to promote it everywhere. Use and promote the content from your white paper on your website and in press releases, blog entries, social media posts and e-mails.
  • Evaluate: How many people downloaded your white paper? Did your white paper and promotional efforts increase website traffic? How many downloaders were converted into a sale? If you’ve seen successes, author more white papers on that topic. If not, try a new angle for your next piece. Either way, assessing the results of your efforts will help you adjust your white paper strategy accordingly.

As you develop your marketing strategy this year, consider leveraging the power of white papers as an effective marketing tool!