White Papers Win Customers!

July 28, 2019


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You know everything there is to know about the problem you solve, the technology you use, and the results you expect to get or are getting. You book space at trade shows, print out some information, and charm everyone who comes to your table. Are you getting the sales you want?

One high tech company spent a lot of money on their 86-page “white paper.” They had a stack of them on the table when the doors opened and still had a stack of them on the table when the doors closed. They did not get a single phone call or email in the days following the trade show. Their investment in that event resulted in absolutely no return on the investment but they learned something of value. It took some doing but multiple reviews of the material resulted in a half page graphic on the first page that replaced 90% of the content. The graphic told the story. What was left of the content was an easy read. The rest of the content added details. After that, the white papers flew off the table and there were phone calls, emails and sales during and after the events.

A while ago, I wrote a book called “Hand It to ’em on a Platter” to help people who ask me for help with their job search. The job search is marketing with a human as a product. The principles are the same for white papers, pitches, and any marketing material. In every case, you need to know what your audience wants and needs and let them know if you have it. Don’t make them work to find out you have the solution they’re looking for! You definitely want to hand it to ’em on a platter.

You might have different white papers for different types of trade shows but you do not want to overdo it. You’re always thinking of the audience. A startup wanted to reduce their printing costs for the 32 expensive marketing brochures they had developed over a couple years. A review of the material showed that not only was there a great deal of redundancy; there was a great deal of conflicting information. No two of the brochures looked alike. Claims for results differed from one to another and, if people only saw one, that might not prevent sales but they put out stacks of many different brochures on the table every time and people took more than one. There were only three types of trade shows that they did – three brochures were all they needed. It took time but verifying the facts and developing a common “look and feel” resulted in three brochures that fit the three types of audiences.

A three-part formula can make an effective white paper.

  1. Tell your audience what problem you solve in their terms, as they define it.
  2. Tell them what your solution is without being “salesy.” Simply explain your better solution.
  3. Tell them about proven, quantifiable results.