The great thing about content marketing as a whole is that the process is incredibly customizable for each and every business. We at Content Equals Money are proud to be able to serve a wide variety of content needs, but the reality of the situation is that our content marketing packages are even more attuned to your needs than you might think. Don’t think that this is an unreasonable plug for our own service – rather that it is important to know that content marketing is not a “one size fits all” scheme. Just like with humans, businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and everybody needs a custom content marketing plan that fits.

In this edition of the content primer, we talk about one of the lesser-discussed aspects of content marketing: the mighty white paper. I say “mighty” because the white paper can pack quite a wallop in terms of marketing – few things say “information authority” as loudly and clearly as a white paper does.

Are white papers effective?
• Ben Stroup says yes with statistics: white papers were adopted by 19% of B2B businesses that had content marketing in place in 2012. Check out his new research about content marketing here.
• Susan J. Campbell says yes and talks about how white papers can allow the customer to “get to know” your brand with her post White Paper Marketing is Driving Sales.
• Search Engine Journal says yes: it includes white papers as one of its ways to Unleash the Power of Content Marketing in 5 Easy Steps.

So, take my word for it: it’s not just me. White papers can be huge.

So What Are They?

White papers are a way of giving information to the consumer in a highly professional format. Indeed, a white paper is an even softer “sell” than a blog or articles – while business blogs tend to have a bit of sales language at the end, a white paper is strictly business. This is where you will win the consumer over with your information, not your charm.

A white paper works as a “problem/solution” style paper. The majority of the white paper is spent on the problem side of the equation – essentially, this is where you inform your customer that there is a situation concerning the white paper’s subject that exists. For example, if I were going to write a white paper about content marketing, I would spend the first ten pages going over the ways in which the presence of the internet has permanently changed the face of marketing. The “problem” is that the advent of Google revolutionized the way that businesses interact with each other and the way that consumers interact with businesses.

It may seem strange to spend so much time on what appears to be the “lead-up,” but if a white paper is written correctly, by the time that the reader gets to the “solution” stage of the piece, they’re fully convinced by the weight of your evidence. The first part of a white paper should leave the reader tripping over facts. Get ready for a lot of footnotes!

The “solution” part of the paper comes after the reader has been convinced that there is an issue that needs solving. The “solution” to the “problem” is generally your product. In the example about content marketing, after I had proven that the internet had indeed changed the flow of business and given examples about how it had, I would then say that a comprehensive content marketing campaign is a necessary and reasonable solution to the “problems” presented by the shift in marketing thanks to Google.

White papers are not sales pitches. There are some white papers which do make reference to the company that is producing it in the text, but generally I recommend that clients keep their white papers information-only. This way the reader is left with a “wow” due to the influx of information, and they didn’t even get a sales pitch in the process! Setting up your business as an information source leads to conversions – after all, if they go to you to learn, they’ll go to you to buy.

White papers can be marketed in any number of ways, and they stand out particularly well as a treasured addition to a resource bank. White papers are solid gold if used with Pay-Per-Click campaigns, and there are also a number of general resource banks that you can submit them to for extra exposure.

When thinking about content, never ever underestimate the power that a white paper can have. Information carries a hard punch – put that punch to work for your bottom line!

This post is part four in a series of primer. Check out yesterday’s post Content Primer #3: Getting Chatty with Social Media