Whitepapers, and other free B-to-B information-based offerings, identify prospects’ problems and offer data and suggestions to help them decide on a solution. “When people can read in a paper about a problem that they’re having, it builds an affinity between the business and the prospect,” says Michael Stelzner, executive editor of WhitePaperSource.com and author of the book “Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.”
In a down economy, more and more companies are offering free content to gain mindshare. “If you are lagging, and your competition is out there providing lots of rich content to the customer base, you’ll probably suffer over time,” says Terry Flynn, president and founder of Amherst, N.H.-based BtoBPodcast.com. To compete in using free B-to-B content to generate leads and convert sales, apply the following expert tactics:
1. Select a Value-Added Title
How you refer to your free-content offering can affect its perceived value. “In the world of B-to-B, ‘whitepaper’ has a very high value, as a matter of fact, higher than case studies, or any of the other types of labels,” Stelzner recommends. But, he warns, that if you are targeting an industry that is not accustomed to the terminology, you may want to use a more generic name like “report” instead. The title of the paper itself is also crucial; it should be short and include a promise, but not the name of your company or product, Stelzner advises. He also recommends selecting a title which adheres to B-to-B copywriting specialist Bob Bly’s four “U” formula of urgent, unique, ultra-specific and useful.
2. Look to Your Audience for Content
The best place to look for content is within your audience. In order to understand your audience, Stelzner suggests surveying them using a tool like SurveyMonkey.com. “Ask them what topics are particularly hot right now, or challenging, and they have to be topics that, of course, your company can solve,” he explains. Google AdWords Keyword Tool can also further refine your survey results. “You can see how many advertisers and how many hits certain keywords get, which will allow you to determine whether or not, maybe topically, you should go down path A or path B,” Stelzner says.