The White Paper and Its Following

By John White

The goal of your white paper should be to create a following and start conversations that include you. Do you know your followers well enough to do that?

Colleague John Bromhead is fond of saying,”Marketing is the process of starting a conversation.”

David Meerman Scott is more specific:”Marketers, PR pros, advertisers, and salespeople are on the payroll for one reason: To generate attention.

Attention + Conversation = FollowingIn short, we’re all trying to generate attention in order to start conversations. For a long time, we’ve assumed that the conversations would be between our prospects and us, but the big lesson of social media is that the most powerful attention and conversations take place in this “following” that we’re creating in our wake. Your white papers (and all of your content) need to fit your following.

The White Paper’s Call to Action

Do most of your marketing pieces contain a section titled, “For More Information”? Traditionally, this is where you place your call to action, the thing you want readers to do once they’ve read the paper or watched the video. But maybe you should rethink this.

Your ideal readers have just met you, and you’ve just pushed your content at them. Do you really think that most of them “want more information”? Do you think that they are ready to mail you a check now? No! Your call to action in a white paper in this day and age is “Follow Us.”

That’s what your audience is ready to do now. They want to tune in to the conversations going on about you, to see how and whether you’re engaged with them. They want to see what kind of attention you’re generating, and what you’re doing with it.

Make Your Content Fit the Follower-Models

Are you publishing white papers, case studies and Web content with the thought that readers will see how great you are and buy from you? Good luck with that.

Or, does your content give readers enough value – remember: teaching sells – for them to want to follow you, then decide whether they want to buy from you when the time is right?

Denise Wakeman stresses the 4 E’s – Engage, Educate, Enrich, Entertain – in developing content that will induce people to follow you. Maybe your white paper won’t exactly entertain, but when you understand your ideal readers and deliver content that leads them where they want to go, you’ll engage and educate them and enrich your subject matter.

Do you know your followers and potential followers that well? Spend time where they spend time and make your content fit their follower-models.

John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photo credit: Brianforbes37

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  • charlotterainsdixon

    Seems like such a simple distinction, but what a powerful mind shift it creates. Great food for thought, thanks. I think I need to go look at my blog with this advice in mind.

  • superantioxidant

    Wow! proof that a little knowledge is dangerous…but in the good way!