White papers can be a key element in your lead generation mix, especially if you sell technology products or services. According to the Eccolo 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report83% of technology buyers said “white papers were moderately to extremely influential in helping them make their final purchase decision.”

However, many white papers miss the mark when it comes to engaging an audience and driving leads. One reason could be because readers don’t relate to the topic.

Here are 3 ways you can come up with a white paper topic that resonates with your target audience and generates leads:

  • Determine your marketing objectives. Although you want your content to appeal to your target audience, you must first ensure it aligns with your business objectives. Think about your marketing goals and what you hope to achieve with the white paper. For example, are you using the white paper for overall lead generation? Do you lack resources for a specific product or service and need to fill gaps in your content? Are you launching a new product and creating educational resources to support it?
  • Determine your target audience’s key pain. Your white paper will be more successful if it helps your buyers overcome one of their key challenges. If you do a good job addressing your audience’s concerns, they will download your white paper and share it with their networks. One way to determine your audience’s key pains is to make a list of the questions they frequently ask you. If you don’t know their challenges, you can conduct formal or informal surveys to find out.
  • Ask for feedback. Once you have a few possible topics, ask some of your best customers which one they would prefer to learn more about. You can also run topic ideas past your social media communities. Asking for feedback early in the process will ensure you don’t waste your resources on a white paper that doesn’t bring you a strong ROI.

Here’s one more consideration …

Make sure your white paper is educational. If you spend most of the document describing your product’s features or pitching your services, even the best topic won’t engage your readers. Buyers download white papers early in the sales process to learn more about one of their key challenges – not to read a 10-page sales pitch.

What about you? What factors are the most important to you when you choose a white paper topic? Feel free to share your comments below.