Prioritizing White Paper Effectiveness over Size

In today’s tight economy, it’s important to reduce all unnecessary costs in an effort to balance an operating budget. But for many organizations the emphasis on reducing expenses is  so strong that it can negatively impact marketing and fail to meet the larger goal of attracting new customers and growing the business. After all, if you’re not moving your business forward along with keeping an eye on your total expenses, then it’s merely a question of time before you are forced to close your doors.

Sacrificing your white papers marketing campaign in an effort to trim costs is a good case in point.

Many organizations attempt to tailor their strategy message to fit a reduced number of set of pages to accommodate a reduced marketing budget. For example, a company that needs six to eight white paper pages to effective educate a target reader to all issues surrounding a business topic instead opts to constrain the project to four pages in an effort to fit a reduced budget. The result is akin to cramming ten pounds of material into a five pound bag. Neither the content nor the bag ends up ahead in the end.

Let me make a comparison to better illustrate what I mean. I consider the ideal content for a 6 to 8 page commercial white paper (today’s industry standard) to consist of the following:

Page 1 – Executive Summary

Page 2 – Introduction

Page 3 – Current Business Challenges

Page 4 – Company/Industry Vision and Strategy

Page 5 – Tactical Solution Benefits that Solve Existing Business Challenges

Pages 6 and 7 – Actual Customer Case Study

Page 8 – Concluding Summary, Solution Advantage Summary and Contact Information

Now let’s assume that our client doesn’t want to spend the cost necessary to construct an 8 page white paper. Instead they only want to spend enough for only four pages. Given the choice from the content above, most companies will opt for the following white paper structure:

Page 1 – Combined Introduction and Business Challenges

Page 2 - Company/Industry Vision and Strategy

Page 3Tactical Solution Benefits that Solve Existing Business Challenges

Page 4 – Concluding Summary, Solution Advantage Summary and Contact Information

What’s missing from this shortened white paper, and what is the impact from its absence?

1. No Executive Summaryforces a time challenged readers to read the entire white paper from beginning to end. Many fail to become engaged and will give up after page one.

2. No Detailed Introductionfails to properly educate the reader to current industry dynamics and build affinity with them.

3. No Detailed Business Challenge Presentationfails to validate reader’s current business situation and makes your white paper content seem like an overt sales pitch.

4. No Case Studyfails to provide an actual “proof of concept” and reduces your solution message to a personal opinion, leaving the reader skeptical of your results.

As a result, white papers that fail to generate business leads. Instead of saving marketing budget dollars, you have wasted the cost associated with the four page white paper project.

The proof is in “in the pudding” as the saying goes.

According to a September 2011 study conducted by Eccolo Media entitled “The 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey”, showed that white papers were considered THE most influencial form of business collateral across ten different categories polled in the study. Among the 500 survey participants (58 percent identified themselves as technology purchase decision makers; the remaining 42 percent identified themselves as purchase influencers.), 65 percent rated white papers as “very” to “extremely influential” during the past six month period. This compares to 42 percent of similar respondents from the previous year’s study, or a 35 percent increase!

By constraining the size of the white paper, you limit the education value of the white paper, failing to connect with the reader, which in turn fails to generate quality leads.

So what do you do if your organization has limited marketing funds and you want to generate leads with a white paper? Choose to either limit the number of white paper projects or eliminate other less proven marketing projects in favor of a full sized 6-8 page white paper. To do otherwise is simply a waste of your valuable and limited marketing funds.

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