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Marketing Your Business with White Papers

Marketing Your Business with White Papers

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: September 16, 2010

Yo;ve probably seen white papers touted on websites, promoted in e-mail newsletters or offered by companies you do business with. Should you jump on the white paper bandwagon--could your business benefit from creating its own white paper?

First, le-s take a closer look at what a white paper is. White papers are educational reports, typically focused on solving one specific problem that is faced by your customers or a subset of your customers. For instance, a white paper could sum up research your company has done on a specific market segment, highlight what you discovered in a customer survey, or offer statistics that can help your target customers accomplish something of value to them.

White papers are typically shor-about 4 to 10 pages in length. And while they are often printed out as physical'papers' these days, they typically reside on a website in PDF format.

Before you start writing, you need to determine what you hope to accomplish with a white paper. According to, a website about all things white-paper-related, there are two primary goals a white paper can help you achieve:

  1. Gathering sales leads. If you want your white paper to attract qualified leads, yo'll want to restrict access to it in some way. This is called'gatin' the paper; it means that you require some type of information from users in exchange for accessing the pape'typically their contact information and anything else you want to know about them to ensure they are qualified leads. If you are gathering leads, yo'll typically promote your white paper to users via e-mail, direct mail or even telemarketing.
  2. Establishing your expertise. If your goal is to make yourself known as an expert in your field or on a particular topic, your strategy will be a little different. Rather than gating access to the paper, yo'll want to get it out to as many readers as possible. That means promoting it via public relations, social media, online and through your network of contacts.

Once you've figured out which option you want to pursue, it's time to choose your topic. The topics you write about should relate to your business, your customers' needs and your goals for the white paper. For instance, if you own a website design company, you could write a white paper on the psychology of why users abandon online shopping carts and how to prevent this.

White papers are most often used by business-to-business companies, but they can also work well for consumer businesses. You won't want to call it a white paper, as that sounds too intimidating; but if you are a realtor, for instance, you could create a report on The Top 10 Secrets to Selling Your Home or something similar.

While your white paper should focus on educating your audience on an area in which you're knowledgeable, it also needs to subtly show the reader why he or she needs your company to help achieve his or her goals. For instance, the realtor's report mentioned above could include home staging as one of the 10 secrets, and at the end, emphasize that your company provides home staging as part of its services.

When creating your white paper, remember that it represents your company. Make sure the design and quality are a fit with your brand image. Include graphics to make the paper more attractive, as well as useful links and large fonts for easy online reading. Remember, though, many users do print out white papers, so consider how the design will look on a page”not just on the computer screen.

If you are using your white paper to establish expertise, one smart strategy is to make your white paper (or part of it) available as a press release. Depending on the length of the paper, you can include just the key elements, tease the most interesting parts, or include the whole paper in the release. Putting your press release on one of the many press release distribution websites can get the media's attention and also create inbound links to your website.

Remember, if you publicize your white paper, you'll likely be contacted for quotes or interviews. Be ready to respond to media inquiries quickly and have some key takeaways ready to talk about so that whether you're contacted for a phone interview, radio podcast or by e-mail, you can get your core message across. Write enough white papers, and you'll become a trusted source that members of the media will turn to even when you don't have a new white paper out.

If you're using the white paper to generate sales leads, be prepared to follow up on those leads right away. Particularly in B-to-B industries, many people download lots of white papers, but don't actually read them”so strike while the iron is hot, and contact the lead soon after he or she has downloaded your white paper.

The uses for a white paper are almost unlimited. Here are some other ideas for getting more mileage from your white papers:

  • Consider offering your white paper (or a shorter version of it) as a bylined article to industry publications or any other media outlet you think might be interested. Getting a bylined article in a respected publication can be a great source of publicity for your business.
  • Use the white paper as a sales incentive or premium. White papers can be effective at getting customers to act (Act now, and get our FREE report) or buy more (Buy the Gold Package and you'll also get our 10-page report FREE of charge.)
  • Use the white paper for cross-promotion. If someone downloads one of your white papers, offer him or her the opportunity to download another for free. This can help you pinpoint what customers are interested in so you can further qualify them as leads.
  • Create your own library. Once you've got 10 or more white papers, start a Resource Center on your website where all your white papers are housed. You can either restrict downloads or make them unrestricted, again depending on your goals for the papers.

Spread the word about your white papers and you'll soon find your authorial efforts paying off with a new profile as an expert in your field, new customers and valuable leads, and plenty of attention from the media.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at, and visit to sign up for her free weekly TrendCast reports.

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 and visit 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