Figuring out the right content marketing strategy can be a challenge – from learning about your audience to implementing a campaign across multiple mediums and devices, there's a lot for the digital marketer to cover. The value though, it seems, is well worth the work. With Content Marketing Institute's latest trend report stating that, on average, 89% of B2B marketers are using content marketing, the question begs - are budgets being used wisely and strategically?
From PR strategies, webinars, blogging, SEO, ebooks, infographics and beyond - choosing the right channels to invest your content strategy resources is a feat of logistics. Often, marketers will take the path they are most familiar with, missing opportunities that may be better suited to their business. Sometimes, though, it's a back to basics approach that can garner the most return.
White Papers: Tried and Tested
We've all read our share of white papers. While they may not be the newest platform for information distribution, they are one of the most under-the-radar content marketing tools for powerful lead generation. If not crafted well, they can be dry and even uninteresting - the result of undirected content development and uninspired design. Alternately, when planned, designed and distributed to their full potential - can be highly shareable, valued information gathering tools for their intended audience. In fact, according to a recent poll, 79% of B2B buyers listed white papers as the material they were most likely to share with colleagues.
The best application of a white paper is to provide information that helps solve a problem that is meaningful to the reader. It should justify why the problem must be solved, objectively explore alternative ways to solve the problem, and logically lead the reader to the conclusion that your organization has the knowledge, expertise and tools required to solve the problem. By providing content that is useful and beneficial to the user, the material is seen as a solution. In addressing a problem-solving solution, readers will naturally be drawn to the material to satisfy their need.
Building Brand Trust & Solving Problems
A truly engaging white paper is informative, educational and sometimes surprising. An integral part of any sales process in which purchase decisions are made, users should become experts on the subject at hand, walking away with the belief that the organization presenting the information is the premier resource on the subject.
A white paper's ideal application is to provide information that is valuable to the reader. In this case, the value is in it's ability to problem solve. Through summary, setup, justification and solution - the presenting company explores all avenues of problem solving, outlining why they have the tools, expertise and know-how to solve the problem. By providing content that is useful and beneficial to the user, the material itself is seen as a solution.
What a White Paper Is - And What It Isn\'t
What a white paper it is not, is a forum for promotion. Over-selling is discouraged, and while businesses should use white papers to dive conversions, it must first serve their customers\' needs. A common mistake made in the development of white paper content is getting too sales driven or gimmicky in both language and delivery. To ensure that a white paper can deliver the results expected, there must be an objective. It should discuss the product or solution, but offer more of a unique but authoritative perspective on the given subject that keeps a consistent tone but differs from the company's overall marketing materials.
Because the white paper has proven so shareable particularly for those in the B2B arena, it's critical for data leveraged to be accurate. An explanation of how how statistics were reached as well as the process in which they were gathered will strengthen thought leadership status. In addition to hard numbers, data sources can be tapped to provide testimonials or case studies to strongly illustrate credibility to the solution.
The Graphic Element
Similar to a website design process, identifying the audience being marketed to will help determine how the data should be presented. By illustrating data, the material is retained, allowing for heightened engagement. Whether a mix of image and context or infographic treatment, studies have shown that when people hear information, they\'re likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later.
A Plan to Launch
As with any good campaign, a launch plan is key to getting content in frond of the right audience, or any audience for that matter. In this case, the launching material is, in it's essence, the knowledge of the company that is releasing the white paper. Highlights, including supporting statistics can be an effective platform to catch interest and promote shareability. Involving relevant blogs, thought leaders and publications to review, quote or guest post on the material can provide both testimonials, references and valuable links back to the originating site. Because much of the content within a white paper is highly shareable, it can be used for blog posts, infographics and social media broadcasts. Tracking interactions can be a little tricky with white papers, but the ROI should align with the delivery method. From tracking of downloads, exchanging credentials, or marketing automation tool - digitally connecting the user to the material will allow a business to effectively assess the campaign's value.
On average, 68 percent of viewers of white papers contact organizations who invest resources and enter a white paper engagement for more information. In addition to motivating prospective buyers with a specific solution, a white paper builds valuable connections through problem-solving content and is an important part of a marketing strategy that should not be passed up.
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