Why do White Papers Fail? Reason #2

Spotlighting the Product

White Paper Fail Reason #2 at www.novytechandcopy.com

There’s a reason why white papers are effective, and it has to do with crediting the reader with intelligence. White papers are all about building trust and educating the potential customer. White papers give solutions to problems.

Engineers in particular are a tricky bunch specifically because they make data-driven decisions. Marketing professionals accustomed to techniques that work on the general public can be frustrated and confused when all their tried and true methods fail applied to engineers.

Traditional marketing uses emotional responses like greed, jealousy, and pride to grab the attention of the lead. Engineers make data-driven decisions, not emotional decisions. The time-honored technique of hype is an even worse idea. That tends to annoy engineers, and annoyed really isn’t the state of mind you want your leads if you want any hope of closing a sale.

So, what does this have to do with white papers? Everything. Engineers often research the solution to a problem by engaging with white papers. When picking up a white paper, they expect certain characteristics. Among those characteristics is a large degree of objectivity.

What? Objectivity in a document my company is dedicating resources to sell my products? Absolutely! The call for action in a white paper is subtle. Using your product as an example when discussing the solution to a problem is fine, and even expected. But, a white paper discusses the nitty-gritty of a problem. The how and the why. It isn’t about spotlighting your product.

It seems counter-intuitive, but that’s the way things go when the target reader wants to make up his or her own mind about your product. A well-written white paper builds credibility and trust while educating the reader, all powerful agents in selling to analytical people.

So, how does the engineer react when handed a “white paper” with a title in the spirit of Why the Acme Anvil is Best for Dropping on Cartoon Coyotes? If the engineer bothers to even flip away the cover page, there will probably be eye-rolling at the minimum.

While there may be many valid reasons for a document spotlighting a product, none of them apply to white papers. Calling such a document a white paper is, in reality, a lie. To the reader expecting a proper white paper, a white paper like that damages your company’s reputation.

It portrays you as more interested in closing the sale than in solving the engineer’s problem. Which one does the engineer care more about?

This article originally appeared in my LinkedIn account.

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