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How to Attract and Retain Customers With a Whitepaper

How to Attract and Retain Customers With a Whitepaper

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: July 7, 2015 Updated: July 7, 2015

What is a whitepaper, and why should you create one? Targeted to B2B customers, a whitepaper is a short document (generally six to 10 pages long) that provides useful information to your customer base, displays your thought leadership, and showcases your business’s expertise.

Whitepapers are generally used to target buyers still in the pre-purchasing stages. With most B2B buyers now researching products online before they even contact a vendor, whitepapers are a great way to attract prospects to your website and capture their contact information—not to mention influencing their purchasing decisions. In fact, in a study by Eccolo Media, B2B technology buyers report that whitepapers are the most influential type of content they read when doing research on a business purchase.

Generally, a whitepaper lays out a business problem, challenge, or trend; shares information, best practices, or research related to that subject; and then summarizes what it means for readers. Short take: It’s a problem, an explanation, and a solution. For example, if you’re an IT consultant who targets other small businesses and want to create a whitepaper for clients, you could write about the growing risk of online cybercrime; explain why small businesses are a special target for cybercriminals; and share strategies for protecting a business.

While ebooks and blog posts can be fun and informal, white papers tend to be more serious. Types of topics often covered in a whitepaper include:

  • Industry trends affecting your customers
  • Common business problems or challenges
  • Research, statistics, or other data your business has collected that’s relevant to customers’ problems

Notice a common thread here? Yes, it’s your customers. To come up with an appealing whitepaper topic, brainstorm things that your customers care about, as well as things that your business can help them with. The intersection of the two is where you’ll find your ideal whitepaper topics. Present facts about the topic, and strategies for dealing with it that your business can help with or provide. Throughout, your goal is to educate customers on a topic, which makes them feel smart and makes you look good.

It’s important to remember that while a whitepaper is a sales tool, it shouldn’t appear like one. Whitepapers need to be “vendor neutral”—in other words, if you’re writing about data security for small businesses, don’t tout how your IT consulting service can help—tout how an IT consulting service can help. It’s a subtle difference, but saying, “Stevens IT Consulting can help you protect your business from these risks” comes off sales-y, while “selecting an experienced IT consulting service familiar with small business IT issues can help you protect your business from these risks” comes off as impartial advice that makes customers want to learn more.

So where does the sales part come in? Include your business name prominently on the cover page of the whitepaper. On the last page of the whitepaper, include a description of your business—sort of like an author bio. This should be about a paragraph long and spell out what your business does. If the whitepaper about data security explains that the solutions are A, B, and C, then your business description says something like, “Stevens IT Consulting is an IT consulting firm that specializes in providing A, B, and C to small and midsized companies. For more information or a free consultation to find how we can help with your data security needs, contact [contact information].” Be sure that your contact information is prominently displayed.

How can you use a whitepaper?

  • Offer it as a free download to prospects who share their contact information with you
  • Print and distribute it at trade shows or industry events
  • Offer it as a “reward” when someone fills out a form or speaks to a salesperson
  • Post a link to it on social media to attract new prospects

Your whitepaper also needs to be designed—charts and graphs can help convey information. If writing and/or designing it is beyond your skills, ask other business owners for referrals to freelancers specializing in content marketing who can write and design a whitepaper and even help you hone your topic and focus.

A good whitepaper is a useful document not only for your readers, who will refer to it for help in running their businesses, but for you—as you can use it over and over again as long as the information and advice remains current.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades