White Papers: Your New Favorite B2B Lead Generation Tool
Leads are the lifeblood of business-to-business companies. Your marketing team needs to generate them (preferably in large volumes) so that your sales team can go to work and turn those leads into paying customers. Sure, it all sounds so simple when you put it that way, but devising effective strategies that will captivate potential customers is becoming increasingly more difficult. Tactics like pay-per-click advertising and banner ads are great, but they don’t provide you the space needed to demonstrate your expertise. The modern customer isn’t simply handing over their credit card information to the company who’s ad they see first- They’re performing due diligence, consuming relevant content to help them decide which business is right for them. Simply put, a user won’t become a lead unless they’re first convinced your company can help them with their business objective. And while there’s no one size fits all marketing plan, there are certain tried and true tactics that seem to be effective across nearly all industries. Customers need to be reassured that the people they hire for the job are knowledgeable, and the superior choice over that company’s competitors. This is where white papers come in.
To put it simply, white papers are long form content used to generate leads. This is accomplished by establishing the author as a thought leader in his or her industry. You’ve probably seen white papers before. Say you’re searching for an answer to a particular issue and you come across a downloadable white paper. You plug in your contact information, download the PDF and take a peak, and in no time you find the answer to your question. Ideally after you read it, you remember the name of the company who was able to help with your issue. And when the time comes to buy, you’ll go back to them. This tactic is a form of inbound marketing. Other forms include SEO, blogs and podcasts. Whereas traditional advertising like direct mail, radio advertising and cold calling attempts to buy the audience’s attention, inbound marketing earns the attention of the audience.
Using White Papers to Generate leads
White papers have actually been a popular sales tactic of B2B marketers since the early 90s, but in recent years, the increased popularity of inbound marketing strategies and the ubiquity of technology has given new life to white papers. Online white papers are usually accessed through a landing page which requests the user provides their contact information before they can access the aforementioned content. You provide the audience with something they need in exchange for an opportunity to contact them. They have questions and you have the answer. This is what makes white papers one of the most effective lead generation tools in B2B marketing.
In addition to generating leads, white papers can help with your search engine optimization. High-quality content could potentially be shared by your industry peers, creating backlinks, more inbound traffic and even more leads! And after your white paper has been completed, it is essentially on auto-pilot, continuing to generate you quality leads with very little additional work needed. Leads from sources like white papers actually cost 61% less than leads generated from outbound sources like pay-per-click or print advertising.
White papers are such a dynamic marketing tool because they can incorporate everything from videos, infographics, statistics, case studies and additional resources. This gives you even more opportunities to convince a reader to become a customer. White papers work because they don’t simply tell people that you are the best. They demonstrate your value by identifying and solving common issues faced by your audience.
The fact is that your target market is hungry for information related to how your product or service can address their specific business challenges. A recent study has shown that 41% of potential customers read research papers and postings from thought leaders, and 78% of B2B buyers start their research with online search. The white paper makes the user come to you when they’re ready to learn more, which in turn creates better qualified leads and an increases the likelihood they’ll turn in to customers. When the overwhelming majority of B2B customers are ready to buy, they’re going to use search engines to find your great content, and become that much more likely to trust your company due to your demonstrated expertise.
58% of B2B companies plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2014. Your competitors understand the importance of utilizing marketing tactics like white papers in order to generate more leads. White papers have proven to be one of the most effective lead generation tools a B2B marketer can have at her disposal. The key to improving your leads, both in terms of quantity and quality is not to chase after the customers, but give them reasons to come to you. And no tactic works better at doing just that than white papers.