June 28, 2005
White Papers Just for Technical Marketers?
Barbara Bix and Melissa Josephson Edwards
As marketing professionals, it is our job to stimulate demand for a company's
goods and services with one of two outcomes: increasing sales volume or increasing
it comes to selling big-ticket items
or complex services, increasing sales
volume is often not an option. Fewer
customers require these specialized solutions.
Those that do require them tend to purchase
only once, or—at best—infrequently.
sales volumes are not the only reason that companies
look to marketers to generate higher prices for big-ticket
items and complex solutions. These sales are also
more expensive to conduct and close. Customers, anticipating
that the purchase will have a significant impact
on their businesses, usually require several levels
of approval before they decide to buy, and sales
cycles stretch out.
how do marketers get the price premiums they need?
marketers tap into prospective customers' most pressing
needs and raise awareness of the "pain" prospects
will experience if they fail to buy. Then, they develop
a compelling value proposition that demonstrates
how their solution is superior to that of the competition.
The only caveat is that "superior" means
different things to different people. Nowhere is
this more apparent than when selling technology.
their peers in other industries that sell complex
solutions, high-tech marketers employ a variety of
tools to create value, depending on where the prospective
customer is in the buying process and the departments
that they need to win over. Brochures describe the
benefits that users will experience, such as higher
quality outcomes or increased ease of use. ROI calculators
help financial buyers evaluate the return on investment
the solution will deliver. Case studies help decision
makers vicariously experience the results and benefits
that others have derived from the product or service.
marketers, however, face yet another hurdle. Whether
the technology is a minimally invasive device for
a teaching hospital or an automated enterprise-wide
auditing system that assures compliance with Sarbanes
Oxley, few of their sales close without the recommendation
of a specialist whose job it is to compare technologies
and determine whether each vendor's solution will
perform as promised.
Marketing's Secret Weapon
selling to technical personnel, high-tech marketers
turn to "white papers." Like other marketing
aids, white papers position the product as superior
to the competition's by highlighting differences
that create unique value. They...
fear around a particular problem
up doubt and uncertainty about existing solutions
demand for the new solution
a price premium for that solution
papers may not be as slick and glossy as other marketing
collateral, but they are essential to technical personnel.
Before recommending a particular solution, technical
personnel often need to understand how the product
solves the problem. One key advantage that white
papers have is that they can motivate technical experts
to demand a particular technology rather than just
a solution to the problem.
papers are an excellent forum for explaining not
only how the underlying technology works but also
why it's the best way to solve a particular problem.
Without this information, technical evaluators often
stall in their decision-making process. By highlighting
the shortcomings of the current technology and demonstrating
how the new solution overcomes these obstacles, white
papers do more than merely help companies differentiate
their products. Since the prevailing solution has
a known value, white papers help peg the worth of
the new technology at a higher price. White Papers
That WorkWhite papers target the technical evaluator,
but they are available to everyone. Since multiple
audiences may reference these materials, white papers
must do double duty and also speak to the needs of
business and operations personnel. Effective white
papers often pull in less technical readers by starting
with anecdotes that illustrate the problem. Then,
they describe the current or competing solution and
outline its shortcomings. Finally, they present the "desirable" solution
and explain technically how the solution addresses
and overcomes the issues just raised. Often, white
papers include supporting diagrams illustrating the "before" and "after" scenarios.
To ensure success, many companies team a marketing
writer with a technical expert. Together, the marketer
and technical expert determine what benefits they
want to convey and how they will convey them. The
technical expert's job is to demonstrate the clear
superiority of the company's solution by comparing
the strengths and weaknesses of competing technologies.
The marketing writer's role is to capture attention
by clearly articulating the product's benefits and
ensuring that the technical information is presented
in such a way that non-technicians can understand
it. Advancing the Sales ProcessWhite papers serve
multiple purposes in advancing the sales process.
Effective uses include the following: Lead capture:
Pique interest by offering white papers to prospective
customers as a fulfillment piece for an email or
direct mail campaign. When prospective customers
respond to the offer, marketers can obtain lead information
and begin to build a platform for future discussions.
Lead refinement: Provide an incentive for the "right" people to self-identify
by posting an "ad" for the white paper on the company's Web site.
By requiring interested parties to fill out a registration form before accessing
the white paper, the company can filter out requests from competitors.
"Bait" for search engines: Deliver viewers to the company's Web site.
White papers are dense with words that pertain to the company's technology. Search
engines will direct viewers who specify relevant key words to the company's Web
Effective follow-up: Stay on prospects' radar screens. White papers give presenters
at trade shows and conferences a way of continuing conversations with prospects
by offering more substantial information about a solution than the information
presented in product data sheets or on Web sites.
If your company sells complex products or services, you may want to take a
page from the high-tech marketers' book. Continue to use conventional collateral
to differentiate your solution and demonstrate value. Then, see if you can
create independent demand for your unique methodology or business processes.
If so, you can then use white papers to capture buyers' attention, generate
qualified leads, shorten the sales cycle and justify a price premium. After
all, if you can sell your product for more, then why sell it for less?