Does anyone still do whitepapers?

“Does anyone still do whitepapers anymore?” said a both jockey at a technical trade show I recently attended. We were discussing some of the content marketing work that Smith’s Point Analytics does and I mentioned that among other things we produce whitepapers. This was her reaction and it got me thinking.

The short answer is, of course, Yes people do still do whitepapers and in fact, they are getting more effective as content marketing assets. According to data from the Content Marketing Institute, 58% of marketers found whitepapers effective in 2015 with that number growing to 63% in 2016.

This data may be lost on a Business Development rep at a trade show who along with the attending develops probably don’t have time to read an in-depth whitepaper. That does not mean their bosses don’t. The point is that different stakeholders have different inputs on the buying cycle and different types of content resonate with them. Short form content such as blog posts and articles may be great for developers that are looking for quick solutions or browsing the web for interesting nuggets of knowledge. Blog posts may be compelling enough to catch a developer’s attention long enough to perhaps sign up for a free trial. The challenge is migrating trial subscriptions to a paid ones. This is where longer form content or white papers can help drive conversions.

To convince business managers to invest in your solution you have to persuade them that you understand their problem and have thought through the solution. This is only possible with more in-depth and engaging content.

The challenge of course with whitepapers is writing them so they don’t suck and put people to sleep. They must be well written and compelling. This requires research and a writing style that makes papers easy to read. Protracted and compound sentences that strain to make multiple assertions with complex prose and industry verbiage  designed to display your Ph.D. level vocabulary may make you feel intelligent but it overly obscures already difficult to grasp concepts. I bet that last sentence took a lot out of you. Keep it simple and don’t make it any harder to read than it needs to be.

In order to write clearly, you really have to know what you are talking about. This is where thorough research is key. If you have researched a topic completely you will understand the nuance of each issue and be capable of breaking it down and presenting it in simple terms. By offering a clear and insightful analysis, whitepapers can educate readers and get them thinking. Once you get them thinking deeply and getting below the surface of an issue they can see it clearer. With greater clarity decision makers can take the next step.

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