Content marketing has been widely adopted as an essential component of today’s search marketing campaigns. After Google unleashed its algorithm updates (Penguin, Panda and more), punishing sites with low-quality content, the realization hit home that you can’t use content designed solely for search anymore. You must provide value—and value comes in the form of content that resonates with your target consumer.
That’s exactly where white papers come into play. “It's a way to educate and market at the same time—the best-case scenario,” says Norm Bour of OpisNetwork, a business consulting and marketing firm based in Newport Beach, Calif. Online consumers are increasingly looking to content that offers tips, tools and resources to help them cope with day-to-day life, solve common problems or discover which products are best for their needs.
How to find valuable white papers. White papers are everywhere. And practically every company issuing them is more than happy to have other companies share them, too. It’s a mutual benefit: You get a great marketing tool, and the publisher gets a little recognition.
For example, Gartner, a technology research firm that's a well-known authority across industries including IT, security and supply chain management, frequently releases its research results in the form of white papers. That research is then widely referenced and used by companies in that specific niche.
As a small-business owner, you’re probably aware of at least one authority in your industry. Here are a few examples:
- HubSpot for inbound marketing
- Content Marketing Institute for content marketing
- Pearson for education
- U.S. National Library of Medicine for the medical field
Of course, access to white papers isn’t limited to a single source per industry. There are dozens of reputable sources in any industry, and many of those thought leaders and research groups produce white papers regularly. A simple Google search for “white paper” combined with your industry terminology will produce pages of results. Narrow the search to the most recent listings to find the newest research.
How to use white papers to market your small business. So you’ve identified an authority in your niche and uncovered some informative white papers that are relevant to your target audience. Now what? There are a few different ways you can use white papers for marketing.
First, white papers are a valuable educational resource for your business. Read it thoroughly and make note of relevant facts and findings. If you’re reading a white paper on content marketing, for instance, you may find interesting statistics that show one social network is growing more rapidly than others. You can use this information to refine your own marketing strategy based on what works in today’s landscape.
Those same facts and findings you’re using to improve your own effectiveness can be the basis of your content efforts. Write up a blog post summarizing the findings or even a press release. Just be sure to give full credit to the publisher.
Based on the publisher’s copyright, you may be able to offer a white paper as a download on your own site. Typically, publishers specify how the information can be used by other entities. If in doubt, ask the publisher directly for permission to offer the white paper.
White papers are also useful for warming up prospects. Use white papers as an excuse to reach out to a prospect you’re hoping to land as a client. For instance, a social media marketing agency may send a prospect a white paper with statistics on how businesses benefit from social media. Because the information is coming from a reputable third-party, it could be just enough to convert a prospect to a customer.
White papers provide share-worthy social media content. As social media has become a major component of marketing a small business, white papers provide valuable material to make your social posts more interesting. Experts say you should be offering value through your social networks and avoid talking about yourself all the time. But small businesses sometimes struggle with coming up with valuable content.
White papers can be shared in one of two ways via social media. You can simply pull out relevant statistics and findings, using each piece of information as a separate tweet or Facebook post. But you can also share a white paper in its entirety, directing your followers to a download page on your website or to the publisher’s website.
Ideally, you want to direct traffic to your own site. But sharing white papers can still generate brand recognition for you regardless of where the traffic is directed. Every time your post is shared, your profile is exposed to more followers. Social users tend to follow businesses that share insightful, engaging and relevant content. Use this tactic to provide value to your network and generate more connections for your business.
White papers have always been used as an educational resource. Small businesses can remain knowledgeable in their fields of expertise by reading up on the latest industry research. But white papers can also be used in a multitude of ways as a marketing tool. The next time you read a white paper, don’t discard it. Turn it into something valuable and use it to grow your business.
Looking for more tips and advice on content marketing? Check out these content marketing articles.