Tag Archives: white papers

Cloudy With a Chance of White Papers

30 Sep
cloud softwareI remember when Salesforce launched at the turn of the century. Okay, it was the early 2000s, but saying “turn of the century” makes it sound a lot cooler.
A publishing business I was working for at the time adopted Salesforce as its new CRM. We had a really young MBA for a CEO and he was always willing to try new things.
Salesforce was one of the earliest SaaS success stories. I recall that switching to Salesforce from our old, custom-built database required a steep learning curve for many of the sales personnel. This was back in the day before clean, user-friendly, WYSIWYG-packed applications were the norm. Workers were not yet hard-wired to navigate a cloud interface.
Switching to a new CRM also likely involved a lengthy contract obligation and manually migrating information from our outdated system. At the time, I’ll bet our CEO read quite a few Salesforce white papers and technical backgrounders to determine if the CRM would be a good fit.

Now My Head Is In the Clouds

Fast forward to 2013.  How many new cloud-based services do you sign up for each month? How many free SaaS demos do you try? As an online marketer involved in SEO, paid advertising, and social media, I’d estimate that I create about five new accounts monthly. Last week alone, I signed up for Trello, Triberr and a silly wedding planning app that shall remain nameless (I am getting hitched in a few months!)
The SaaS model is now ubiquitous. Anyone can demo a complex software solution in minutes for free or a low cost and with very little risk.  User-friendly dashboards and universal design best practices, make it quick and easy to learn how to use new software. In addition, many APIs play nicely with one another. This makes it easy for a Salesforce user to integrate other favorite tools like MailChimp or Google Apps.

So, let me get to the point and ask a few marketing questions:

Are traditional white papers still relevant marketing tools for selling SaaS products? Have free trials and monthly plans significantly lowered the risk of trying new cloud applications?  How have these changes impacted the B2B sales cycle?

White Papers vs. Ebooks and Numbered Lists

Gordon Graham, a.k.a. “That White Paper Guy,” recently authored “White Papers for Dummies,” a thorough guide to writing long form B2B content. In this book, Graham describes traditional white papers, such as technical backgrounders for CTOs or CIOs and Problem/Solution papers for executives. Along with those two styles of white papers, Graham also recommends an ebook, or numbered list paper. This is a more informal document that reads like a magazine article or an extended blog post.
There are still many B2B situations where a white paper makes sense. However, I think that many SaaS providers today, especially smaller startups, may benefit from a numbered list or ebook more than a more traditional white paper. 
Today you can demo a SaaS product, try it out for a month, and then cancel or sign up. In the digital marketing space, I see a ton of software startups with small teams and budgets selling services to other small and medium-sized organizations. In this space, the numbered list has several benefits:
1. Numbered lists are scannable and easy to read and contain actionable advice that will make the reader’s life easier. This will appeal to small business owners, who are pressed for time and always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations.
2.  The soft-sell approach of an ebook or numbered list advances the customers who are already in your sales pipeline. An ebook also works to attract new leads by addressing important industry questions or universal concerns. This is a big plus for startups who are trying to get their name out there and spread brand awareness.
3. Unlike a white paper, an ebook is not an obvious sales tool.  This makes ebooks and numbered lists more sharable and easier to promote on social media.  When you download a white paper, you know you’ll be getting a call from a sales person. A numbered list or ebook does not have the same “salesy” reputation (yet . . .).
What do you think about using ebooks and numbered list content in lieu of more formal white papers? Please share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below!
Photo credit: jojo nicdao

3 Content Marketing Tips to Engage More Readers

14 Feb
content marketing

Photo Credit Flickr user laurentzziu.

I have folder on my desktop packed with slideshares, ebooks and webinar recordings about marketing, social media, and copywriting. The folder keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I used to write “listen to webinar” or “review PDF report” on my to-do list, but I have been so busy, that I stopped scheduling time to sift through these materials.

This conundrum got me thinking about the value of free content. How does marketing with long form content like  an ebook, case study or webinar compare to marketing with blog content. How can businesses more effectively market with long form content? Here are three content marketing tips that will help to engage more readers.

Content Marketing Tip #1: Always capture data

Put free content behind a quick sign-up form to capture an e-mail address and a few data points about your reader. This allows you to re-market to them in the future. Maybe they’ll download your slideshare, save it in a folder and forget about it (like I did!). But if you e-mail them again in a few months with more compelling content, they might have the time or a greater interest in your offering and you’ll grab their attention the second time around.

Content Marketing Tip #2: Repurpose long form content in a blog post

If you’ve got a new case study, white paper, ebook or webinar available on your website, create a quick 700 word blog post around this content. A blog post is more attractive to readers because it is less time-consuming. By adding a blog post, you will reach more people than with a white paper or webinar alone. The blog post also acts as another SEO-friendly page (aside from the content landing page) driving traffic to your white paper or webinar. The blog post shouldn’t try to directly sell the long form content, instead it should encapsulate the main points or takeaways for the reader.  If  you are marketing with an ebook maybe summarize a few pivotal sections. For a case study, summarize the main challenges and results.

Content Marketing Tip #2: Create unique relevant and compelling headlines

Treat the headline for a special report or ebook like the subject line of an email. You have to grab the reader’s attention and say something that resonates with them or they’ll lose interest. Having a great headline also makes it easier to market your free content via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Use unique, powerful words like “secrets to,” or “crash course,” instead of “guide.” Try to put the title or role of your target audience in the headline and let that person know how this content will make their life easier. If you can, include metrics or percentages in the headline.

Here are 15 examples of powerful case study headlines, many of which can work for ebooks, white paper, webinars and slideshares too!

1. IT Executive Shares Secrets to Mobile Application Development Success

2. How IT Managers Can Increase Conversions by 50 Percent with Personalized Landing Pages

3. The Secrets of A Successful Lead Nurturing Strategy for Sales Managers

4. Leveraging Educational Content: What Online Marketers Need to Know

5. E-Commerce Retailer Generates 500% ROI Using Facebook Targeted Ad Campaign

6. Fortune 500 Executive Uses Project Management Software to Increase Employee Productivity by 20%

7. How Small Companies Can Double Sales with E-mail Trigger Campaigns

8. Lessons from a Brand Manager: How to Build Loyalty using Twitter

9. How to Optimize Your Logistics Program without Breaking the Bank

10. Testing into Social Media Results In 1000% ROI for Chain Store

11. Publisher Generates New Revenue Stream With Webinar Hosting

12. 3 Steps for Marketers to Build Brand Loyalty through Social Media

13. Using Video to Create Traffic and Conversions: A  Crash Course for E-Marketers

14. 10 Recession-Proof Tips for Generating Online Holiday Sales

15. How Point-of-Sale Promotions Improved a Restaurateur’s Bottom Line

(These headlines are excerpted from a guest blog I wrote for SmartBug Media.)

How White Paper Writers Can Conduct Better Interviews

7 Jul

On her site, White Paper Results, Apryl Parcher interviews “That White Paper Guy” – Gordon Graham about his strategies for getting the most out of a phone interview. This is the third interview in a series of posts. In parts one and two Apryl interviews John White- a marketing communications writer and Jonathan Kantor- a white paper expert.

This Q&A series will be helpful to any journalist or business writer who deals with interviewing clients and subjects for stories, case studies and yes – white papers too!

Check it out here.

Photo via Flickr user Leo Roubos.