Technical white papers are a mainstay of marketing plans for B2B technology companies. Even before the Internet made content marketing a thing, companies produced technical white papers to present at conferences and symposiums, or for publication in trade publications and journals. Now that more B2B technology companies are engaging in digital marketing and social media, they are using technical white papers as content generators to power successful digital marketing campaigns. Follow these seven steps for turning your technical white papers into lead-gathering machines.
Seven Steps for Success
Begin with a project goal
It’s important to know who the audience is and the message you want to relay to them. Where will the white paper live — on your website, a trade publication platform, or both? Does the trade publication require a copyright agreement? Is there a sponsorship fee involved? Will they post the paper behind a registration wall and provide the leads? Do we want it to be interactive? Downloadable? Both? All these questions should be answered before the writing begins. Then determine the paper’s topic, title, focus, and tone of voice, and assign a writer who can deliver on all these elements.
It starts at the source
Writers should gather and review source materials provided by the subject matter expert. Additionally, they may need to conduct some independent research to gather relevant market data, trends, and supporting technical references. The writer may want to recommend any supporting graphics that should be drawn according to brand style by a graphic designer. If existing graphics or images are used, copyright permissions must be obtained, and they must be properly cited.
Write, review, and revise
Whether you use an internal writer or a freelance writer, make sure they understand the company’s tone of voice, and present the information in a compelling narrative. One way to do this is by following a challenges and solutions approach. The introduction should set the stage and provide context for the story you want to tell. Avoid shameless product promotion, especially early in the paper. White papers that present as extended datasheets generally lose the reader’s interest fairly quickly. It also makes it difficult to create spokes.
The paper should first be reviewed by an editor for structure, context, storytelling, and tone of voice. Then a subject matter expert should review for technical accuracy and to fill in any information gaps. Finally, the paper should be proofread by a third party who is checking it for spelling, grammar, and adherence to a particular style guide.
Make it visually appealing
The final stop before publishing — either on your website or with a third-party platform — is to make sure the paper is in a branded template, with well-designed graphics and images that support the storyline. Some topics lend themselves to video elements, polls, and surveys. In this case, it’s possible to create an interactive white paper using HTML that allows for these elements to be embedded into it. While this version wouldn’t be downloadable, it can still be gated behind a registration wall for lead-gathering purposes.
Promote your Hub
Set up a digital marketing campaign in your customer relationship management (CRM) tool of choice, such as Sharpspring or Hubspot. Start with a database of current clients and select your target audience. Develop assets to promote your white paper organically. Both downloadable and interactive white papers need a landing page that is not gated in order to be indexed by Google. Create a landing page and lead-gathering form to gate access. The landing page should be optimized for search engines by following best practices and using keywords. Create and send an eblast to your current mailing list and encourage readers to share the link to the paper on their social platforms. Set up LinkedIn or other ad campaigns to drive new leads. Consider promotional opportunities with industry trade publications.
Create your spokes
Once your white paper is live and is generating leads, (or even before) it’s time to start thinking about creating your spokes. These could be blog posts on related topics that can refer back to the white paper as a call to action. Publishing a technical feature in a trade publication based on the white paper, with a link back to the landing page is another way to expand your audience.
If your paper contains a lot of data points, it’s the perfect candidate for an infographic. Infographics use visual elements to illustrate these data points. Or maybe there are some illustrations that lend themselves to animation and voice-over that would make a great video on the topic.
Once created, these spokes can be used to drive readers to your white paper landing page, extending its longevity.
Rinse and repeat
Each spoke should be treated as a stand-alone piece of content with its own digital marketing campaign. Therefore, it will need its own assets created to promote it via eblast and on social media. Gating spokes is not necessary. They need to be open so that they can be indexed easily by search engines and used to drive engagement — and potential leads — to the white paper.
To learn more about technical white papers and how to put them to work for you, download the full White Paper on White Papers: How to Turn Your Technical White Paper into A Lead Gathering Machine.