Almost every successful tech company creates whitepapers to help promote their products, technologies, and services. However, there is no clear consensus on what exactly a whitepaper is or what it should look like. Sometimes they are just one page. Sometimes they are epic, encompassing 20 pages or more. Sometime they are very high level, giving the big picture, and sometimes they are deep in the weeds, providing technical details and minutiae.
The one constant is that a good whitepaper walks the tight rope between educating potential customers about your solutions and coming across as a commercial, marketing piece that hits the hard sell. There is little point in creating a whitepaper if no one sees and reads it. You need to get eyeballs. There are many ways to promote whitepapers: you pay a publication or service to host and distribute it for you, you can make copies for your sales staff and partners to use on sales calls, and you can post it to your website's whitepaper page.
However, to fully leverage a whitepaper, you need to promote it. You need to tell the world it is available. Here is my recipe for making sure your whitepaper covers all the bases, and to use a baseball metaphor, hits a home run.
Start with one good whitepaper and post it to your site. Create a press release announcing its availability with a link to a free download. Send out the press release to a selection of high-quality industry and trade publications.
Five possible positive outcomes exist:
- The publication will simply post your press release with a link to your website and the whitepaper. That's not bad. If we use a baseball analogy, this is a clean single.
- The publication will create a short summary of the whitepaper and/or announcement and then post ti to their site with a link to your website. That is a bit better. OK, call it a double.
- Editors will post the whitepaper on their site — giving it the stamp of approval from an impartial industry expert. This is pretty darn good. Triple!
- Here is the home run. Editors will review the press release and whitepaper and then approach you and your company to write a bylined article that the editor will then post at his publication. This is great but takes a lot of work as you still have to write the article.
- Your press release and whitepaper so motivate and intrigue the editor that he or she decides to go ahead and write their own article or column about the subject matter in your whitepaper. This is the grand slam of PR success! Not only are your ideas being supported and vindicated by a neutral, third-party industry expert, and your technology is getting a major boost for free, you and your team don't have to do any writing! The editor is doing most of the work. Yes, they may ask you to fact check it to make sure that they have the details correct. But still, if you are going for the grand slam at least you can trot around the bases and slide into home base.
What makes a good whitepaper for an editor? It needs to explain how to solve a specific problem and provides information about an interesting technology rather than promoting a specific product.
For example, I have recently achieved a good deal of editorial success with whitepapers about how to put a smart home device on the web, what security requirements are really needed for web-connected devices, and how to select the right hall effect sensor for your application. All of these whitepapers were picked up, copied, and generated a lot of interest, including requests for additional articles about the subject as well as inspiring editors to write their own article about the subject. Grand Slam Home Runs!