B2B Marketing Blog

Should B2B marketers spend time on whitepapers?

Oct 16, 2013 12:10:00 PM / by Lisa Shepherd

We all have a finite amount of time to spend on marketing activities, so it’s important to allocate these precious hours to marketing activities that pack the most punch. We know that whitepapers take quite a bit of time and effort – is it worth it?

MarketingProfs recently released its 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report. Their annual study, conducted among 4,397 B2B marketers, showed that 93% are marketing with content, including whitepapers. Here are a few of the interesting findings around content and whitepapers in particular:

  1. Goals: Marketers are using content marketing to support multiple business goals: brand awareness (82%), lead generation (74%), customer acquisition (71%), and thought leadership (68%).
  2. Usage and Effectiveness: 64% of B2B marketers use whitepapers. This represents an increase of 13% from 2012.
  3. Budgets and Production: B2B marketers dedicate 30% of their total budgets to content marketing.
  4. Challenges: The greatest challenge is lack of time (69%). Other major challenges include producing enough content (55%), producing content the kind of content that engages (47%), and lack of budget to produce content (39%).

The data shows that for B2B companies to stand out in the increasingly crowded market, whitepapers are an effective tool. The only challenge - whitepapers are probably the most challenging type of content to create (eBooks aside). They require a deep understanding both of a product's technology and its application in solving real-world business problems.

Here are a few tips on how to produce quality whitepapers that will help establish your company as a thought leader:

  • Choose a topic that aligns with your brand and is of interest to your main target market. Writing whitepapers is a huge amount of effort – there’s no point doing it if your target market isn’t going to care.
  • Write a clear and attention-grabbing title. Avoid buzz words. Be slightly provocative, if that will work with your audience. For example, “The Pitfalls of Manual Time-Keeping: Making a Case for Automating” by a company that sells workforce management software or “The Top 5 Online Database Attacks and How to Stop Them” by an Internet security company.
  • On the first page, include a brief overview describing who the paper is for and what it covers. Should business development managers be reading this? CEOs? Let the reader know.
  • Whitepapers take an educational approach – they include market overviews, key trends, projections on market evolution, relevant findings from third party research papers and articles, historical data, and expert advice. A well-written whitepaper gives readers the impression that you have proprietary expertise and are willing to share it.
  • Whitepapers should be between four and fifteen pages long. Use sidebars, pull-out quotes, text boxes, and bullet points and lists to emphasize key points. Including charts and graphs will further support your arguments, and add visual interest.
  • End your whitepaper with a summary of implications for the reader. Including a point of view on how the reader can use their new knowledge will help readers take a next step, which may involve your company.
  • Whitepapers are meant to inform, don’t mention a specific company or advertise your company in the content of the whitepaper. Prospects want subject-matter expertise. If they feel they are being sold to, you will lose them. At the end of the whitepaper you can credit yourself and include an ‘About’ paragraph with info on the author and company, including contact information.

Once your whitepaper is ready, you’ll need to actually promote it. For tips on how to promote your whitepaper, read my colleague Vanessa’s post on how to quickly and easily become a thought leader!

Looking for more help to make marketing work in your B2B company?  Get proven tips in PROFITGUIDE’s Special Report on The Radical Sales Shift.

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Topics: Marketing Strategy and Planning, Marketing Tactics