Using White Papers to Generate Leads? Here’s the Very First Question You Must Answer
If you’re using white papers to generate leads that convert, you’d better not skip this step.
White papers can be phenomenally fruitful lead generation assets, but not if you skip this important step. You’ve got to identify your ideal reader. Not just what they do, what they want, and what they’re like. You also need to think about where they are in your sales funnel – or from their perspective, where they are in the buying process.
Merrily Going about Their Business?
These prospects don’t know they’re prospects. They don’t even know they want or need what you sell. They may not even know that what you sell exists. They know what they like, and may know they’re lacking in the area your product or service helps with, but their search for a solution is more curiosity based than specific.
They’re hovering around the mouth of your sales funnel. Your white paper needs to capture their attention, make the aware of a problem they may or may not even know they’ve got, present your solution, and prompt them to take the next step further into your funnel… all before your competitor does. You may need to nurture these leads with a series of follow-up messages that press on the pain points so the problem is not forgotten.
Reaching these prospects is a matter of demand generation. The object of the game is waving your solution in front of them so they say, “I never even knew this was available, and now I can’t stop thinking about it. This could really help my business. I want to find out more.”
Houston, We’ve Got a Problem.
These prospects know they’re facing a challenge, but may not know there are solutions out there. They’re hopeful that they can find a viable solution and are just at the beginning stages of gathering information about the available options.
They will fall into the middle of your funnel. Your white paper should connect with their pain points, showing that you get the problem. After discussing the main problem these prospects are dealing with, and all the problems that cascade from that main problem, your white paper should present your product or service as an effective solution. You want to overcome any skepticism that the problem can be solved. Each email follow-up message in your lead nurturing sequence for this kind of prospect could highlight feature and benefit pairs as they relate to specific challenges your solution meets.
Pursuing these prospects is more about lead generation. They are prospects with significant awareness of their problem. The object of the game at this point in the funnel is to make sure your solution is in contention for their business so that your competitor doesn’t win by default, as the only option your prospect ever saw.
Eeny Meeny Miney Mo
These prospects know they’ve got a problem, know there are solutions available, and are in the process of choosing whose product or service best matches their needs. A buying decision is not far off.
They are at the bottom of your funnel, and your white paper needs to help them decide yours is the solution they should go with… now. By the time they reach this point in their buying decision, they know they’ve got a problem. They know there are solutions available. They just need to decide which one to use.
Pursuing these prospects effectively requires validating their pain points, showing how you solve the challenge, and differentiating your product or service from the prospect’s other options. They’re choosing now, and need to know why yours is the obvious choice. The clear next step for these readers is to request a demo, trial, or consultation so they can verify that your solution will do what you say it will.
Many companies publish white papers that try to go after prospects in all three of these funnel locations. Not a good idea, because if you don’t apply the appropriate amount of ‘push’ in your funnel, readers will either feel sold (never good), forget about the problem that prompted them to download your white paper in the first place, or even initiate a conversation with your competitor that you could have prevented by providing answers to the questions you knew they’d want to ask before pulling the trigger.
White papers are an exercise in strategic planning before anything else. Once you identify exactly who you’re publishing this specific white paper for, there are other questions to answer before you’ll create one that’s effective – but this one’s the first. If your company is planning to use white papers to generate leads this year, now is the best time to get started with the strategy.