MRP Lesson 6: Reaching the real decision makers … with White Papers

When you’re looking to get your solution in front of a “decision maker,” you know exactly who that person is. It’s the VP of Strategic Whatever, the one who signs the checks, the one who calls the meetings, the one who holds the power.

Right? Maybe not.

Sure, that’s who ultimately makes the decision to hire you or buy whatever you’re selling. And, eventually, you’re going to have to appeal to that person.

But there’s someone else — probably multiple people — who can block your way to their door … or escort you straight onto the short list. They’re the subject matter experts the decision makers rely on to do the pre-purchase research and funnel the data back to them.

But how do you get in front of them?

One way is with a well-written white paper.

A white paper is a persuasive document that sets forth a problem and its (preferred) solution. Written in a style that’s a hybrid of a magazine article and a brochure, it weaves persuasive messages into an objective, educational document about the business advantages of your solution.

Why white papers are so appealing to your prospects

Even more than case studies, white papers are actively sought-after by potential buyers. Why? They help people justify and make mission-critical decisions. An informative white paper that’s devoid of marketing fluff will make its way across an organization’s desks in a way that a brochure never would. A white paper with cutting-edge information can also open doors to your sales force that would otherwise remain closed.

Typical structure

Length: Depending on the complexity of the information being presented, a white paper generally run anywhere from 6 to 12 pages in length, although some can run 50 pages or more.

Types of White Papers: White papers can be divided into four broad types:

Technical – These tend to be precise, detailed descriptions of processes and procedures and are targeted at engineers.

Business Benefits – Usually meant for managers and executives, these shorter, less detailed papers describe the advantages of implementing a particular solution.

Hybrid – A tricky combination of technical and business benefits white papers, these attempt to appeal to both technicians and managers. Usually, the business benefits are discussed first (or in an executive summary), and the technical details are included later.

Outline – This may (and will) vary according to the solution being sold, but typically these elements are considered essential:

  1. Definition/Description of the Problem
  2. The Generic Solution (the basic technology, methodology, etc.)
  3. Benefits of the Generic Solution
  4. What to Look for in a Solution a.k.a. “Buyer’s Guide”
  5. The Advantages of the Specific Solution (your product)

Why you should consider using white papers

Simply put, white papers are marketing materials your prospects want to read. They’re looking to answers to their questions, answers that don’t come across as just another sales pitch. You can position yourself above your competition just by providing those answers.

Next time, we’ll talk about a sub-category of the white paper, the technical brief. See you again in four days!

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