How To Create a White Paper To Generate Leads - Part I
One thing I notice that a lot of marketers like to do is follow orders. Whether it’s repeating the practices of a previous marketing team, doing whatever their sales team asks them to do or following an article like this step by step. I advise all marketers to put a stop to robotic actions; instead take three steps back and begin to ask yourself “Why” before you do certain activities. Why am I sending this particular Tweet? Why am I blogging? And yes, why should I create a white paper? Once you ask the question, you’ll be about half-way to successful lead generation with your content. So when your team, whether it’s the VP of marketing, your sales Director, or someone else says “Hey we have money in the budget to commission a white paper” you’re going to say - before you jump in head first - what exactly are the goals, and who do we want to reach. Once you’ve figured out your goals and who you hope to reach, you are ready to create your amazing white paper!
The Curious World of Your Customer
Some marketers are a bit mystified by the idea of topics to focus on when creating content for their specific audiences. I am not surprised; Google around a little bit, and you’ll see that most of the content put out there as benchmarks of effective lead generation are actually pieces that were directed at marketers. If you’re not marketing to marketers, you’re probably out of luck as far as being able to piggyback off someone else’s brilliant ideas. Lead generation benchmarketing for content marketing for most products is often non-existent. Still, the idea of learning what your audience wants and needs is definitely attainable, it just takes time. If you’re lucky enough to have a communicative sales team, they will be invaluable. But you can’t stop there. The salesperson may be the topic expert – but never let them forget that ultimately you as the marketer are the “digital” expert. Digital is key here – I found out long ago that topics and keywords that are popular in one world may not be popular in another. You might have a buzz on something at a conference or in a board room, but try those topics in Google Keyword Planner (or simply Google them), and you may find that no one is searching for those topics online – at least using those particular words. You need to dig deeper to find exactly what the buzz is online, what will drive traffic to your site, and start those important conversations on social media.
Crowdsource Your Content
I have yet to find an industry that doesn’t have active thought leaders on Twitter - and I’ve worked in industries as varied as biotech, software, construction and logistics. Identifying those thought leaders, what they’re reading, what they’re talking about, will be key to discovering what the digital pain points of your potential customers are. Make sure you sign up for the email lists (and read) relevant online industry publications. And check out what sort of content your competitors are creating. Done all that? Now it’s time to revisit that Google Keyword planner. This will help you pick the particular keywords you want to use in your white paper (or other long form content).
So, you’ve narrowed down the topics you want to explore in your white paper, what next? Remember that competitor research I mentioned – if you’ve done that you’ll have a good idea whether or not someone else has already created a similar white paper. Of course you can Google “topic” and "White paper” but often that doesn’t work – especially if your competitors haven’t done a good job of promoting their white papers online. You really need, again, to dig a little deeper here – whether it’s checking out your competitors’ websites, and searching with multiple keyword variations. If you’re going to spend a good chunk of your budget, you don’t want to waste it.
Test and Learn
Figured out your competitors haven’t gone near the incredible idea you have? This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the space is wide open, the bad news is that your content might simply not be something people care about. Regardless of online buzz and headlines in industry magazines – you can never really be 100% sure your long form content is going to blow people away. Here’s where you can do some live testing. Try a couple blog posts in the general vicinity of the topic, and curate some of that topic’s news content – are people interested? If yes, that’s good news. If no, you might want to think twice about an investment in that content.
Meanwhile with all this contemplation going on your sales Director or VP of Marketing is wondering why you don’t have an update on your content plan. You may have to bite the bullet, even without being 100% sure your idea is going to be popular, and try it out. This is the point where you decide who will help create your long form content. Getting the right people involved may actually, in some instances, be more valuable in getting your content out there than having the perfect keywords.
Stay tuned for next month’s Part Two of Creating Your White Paper: Commission, Partner or Curate?