Marketing with White Papers: Secret #1: The Right White Paper at the Right Time

Four secrets that guarantee white paper success


How successful was your last white paper? Did it accomplish its goal? Not all white papers do.  There are a host of pitfalls in the process of producing a white paper.

This series of posts, Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, presents four secrets that guarantee white paper success. Secrets that can help ensure your next white paper is a resounding success. Secret #1 is about picking the right kind of white paper at the right time.

Secret #1: The Right White Paper at the Right Time

There is a misconception in B2B marketing that white papers are only appropriate at a certain point in the water industry sales funnel.  Usually it is assigned to the middle of the funnel to generate leads. That way of thinking is really missing the true power of white papers. White papers, when the right kind is chosen, draw your prospects through your sales funnel and beyond.

So, what kind of white paper?  When?

By understanding the sales funnel and how decisions are made when the problem is complex and the solution expensive, the right type of white paper can be chosen for each point in the buyer’s journey.

At the top of the funnel you want to generate leads

B2B customers need time and information to make decisions.  And decisions in the water industry are about complex problems that require expensive solutions.

At the top of the sales funnel, the object is to get the attention of potential customers.  Build awareness. Generate leads. 

At this point in the funnel, a problem/solution white paper can help generate leads.  In this type of paper, you first define the problem your prospects are trying to solve.  You provide quality information about the solutions already in the marketplace.  You then introduce the new type of solution your company provides.

The idea is to provide information upon which a buyer can base a business case – never use the hard sales pitch at the top of the funnel.  Never mention specific products in a problem/solution white paper.

A problem solution white paper is used:

  • To generate leads at the top of the funnel.
  • To educate salespeople and channel partners.
  • To educate analysts, bloggers, and journalists.
  • To redefine a market space.
  • To build thought leadership.

In the middle of the funnel you must maintain interest

The middle of the sales funnel can be excruciatingly long.  You need to be able to maintain interest without exerting pressure.  Do it by providing controversial, educational, and possibly even entertaining information in a numbered list format. 

marketing water papers

A numbered list white paper might be a set of tips, points, questions, or answers about an issue.  They tend to provide quick summaries in an easy to read format.

People love numbered lists because:

  • They are easy to scan.
  • You always know where you are.
  • They are an easy read.
  • The structure is clear.
  • You’ve been reading them for years.

Numbered list white papers are relatively quick to produce since they tend to present highlights rather than deep analysis.  The points presented can almost be random with the numbering system holding them together.

A numbered list is especially powerful:

  • To get attention with provocative views
  • To help prospects along that are already in the funnel
  • To cast doubt on your competitors.

A numbered list keeps the information flowing into the middle of the sales funnel.  At its best, a numbered list white paper encourages discussion by introducing sometimes controversial ideas about the problem or about solutions currently available.

At the bottom of the funnel you pull in the sale

At the bottom of the funnel you want to pull in the sale.  A technical backgrounder white paper provides detailed technical information about the features and benefits of yourproduct, process, or service.

A backgrounder has a tight focus on one offering from one vendor.  This type of white paper is also referred to as an evaluator’s guide or a product briefing.  It tends to do one of the following:

  • Explains key features, functions and benefits in more detail than a brochure or data sheet.
  • Explains new, unfamiliar or misunderstood technology to a technical audience.
  • Supports a product launch by explaining the product in technically detailed terms.

A backgrounder-style white paper is powerful in the late stages of a buying decision. It can help the buyer or buying committee make a final decision.  The white paper needs to provide specific details of how the features of your product, process, or service will benefit the buyer.  And how those features will solve their problem.

At this point features are as important as benefits, sometimes even more important.  The buyer needs to know that your product/process/service will solve their problem.

Post-sale, maintain interest and relationships by re-purposing white paper content

After the sale, your content can help build stronger customer relationships. Relationships that can lead to future sales.  After publishing an effective white paper, the content can and should be used to feed other channels. 

marketing white papers

To establish thought leadership, you must provide new and engaging content continually.  Search engines like Google assess content as well as keywords.  Because white papers are expensive, re-purposing their content makes good business sense.

Each section of a numbered list could become a post on your blog.  They could each be re-reworked into an article in your newsletter. Both the blog post and the article should contain a link to the full white paper on your website. 

A problem/solution white paper could be presented at a conference with a PowerPoint slide show.  Several white papers could be tied together and published as an e-book.


White papers can engage and educate your prospects all the way through the sales funnel. They make an excellent call to action in a strategic content marketing campaign.  Prospects who download the white paper are expressing an interest in the solutions offered.  Be sure to collect information when they do.  Then follow up. Follow up. Follow up.

In next week’s post we’ll find out in Secret #2: the white paper plan, how important it is to plan your white paper.  A white paper plan dramatically increases the chances of your white paper being a success.

Are you looking for a white paper writer for your next product launch? Why not hire an expert?

A persuasive white paper, special report, or e-book uses simple language to explain complex solutions.  I understand the science and technology behind your product, your services.  I can translate that complexity into easy-to-read content for a lay audience.

I know when to leave the jargon in and when to take it out.

Contact me to plan your next successful white paper


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