Focus on business or technical problems–not on product, ever
I think I’ve used Roman Numerals more in this series than I have since I was in Latin class in 9th grade. Welcome to part eye-vee, or IV (not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin album).
So, here’s the deal: Don’t talk about your product unless asked. It’s the polite thing to do. If someone decides to download a data sheet, attend a product webinar, or view a demo, you’ve got an audience for that.
But a whitepaper should focus on one thing alone–the reader’s problem and the outlines of a solution. That’s right, the reader has a problem (maybe business, maybe technical) and wants a solution.
So billboarding your new whiz-bang product will be a distraction and probably an aggravation. Nobody but you cares about it. Sure, your product is what you sell, what you make money on. But solving a problem is what customers value. It’s what will keep them employed and it’s what will get your sales rep’s foot in the door. Make an impression with a thoughtful, well research, fact-based whitepaper and you’ll cut through the clutter.
And that’s really it. Just add a clear, powerful call to action. Simple, isn’t it?
One more thing
To gate or not to gate? Me? I’d say let it be free. My bet is (and my experience shows) that you’ll generate more business by freely distributing your whitepapers–taking the Grateful Dead approach–than you will by putting them behind a gate.
People who end up reading those papers (and the numbers will go up exponentially) will appreciate it, and the subset of those people (again, this will be a larger number) who raise their hands and get in touch with you will be higher quality than the people who give you bogus information just to download a paper today.
But removing the gates can be a controversial call because some people are addicted to those leads (rather than qualified pipeline). So I’ve found ways of freeing the information while preserving the gated PDF. Just build great, information-rich, graphic-loaded landing pages that give your readers a lot more than a short executive summary. Problem solved.
Next up, the punchline, the payoff. Give your reader a “what’s next.”