Your customers – existing and potential – want to know that you have your finger on the pulse of your industry. They want to be reassured that you have an eye on the horizon and can offer solutions to problems they face now and in the future. This is thought leadership. It’s a powerful tool for building authority and trust in your brand, and will help you rise above your competitors who remain stuck in reactive day-to-day drudgery.
White papers are the language of thought leadership. They are company-authored publications that are usually provided for free to leads, customers and other stakeholders. White papers are generally intended to be persuasive reports that use collected data to identify an industry trend or potential problem and then provide a solution.
This solution is usually related to the product or service offering of the company that has published the white paper. White papers also tend to be more authoritative in tone than ebooks and more in-depth than blog articles.
Many companies offer free downloadable white papers in exchange for your email address or other contact details for prospecting purposes. However, the supplementary power of white papers lies in their ability to increase your standing as a trusted thought leader in your industry. Here’s how.
Become a Hero to Your Customers
The most successful businesses are the ones that most effectively solve their customers’ everyday problems. You can use a white paper to draw attention to your customers’ most pressing problem and then clearly express how your product or service addresses it. This is often most effective for B2B businesses that can use a white paper to identify and tackle a persistent problem that exists throughout an entire industry. Doing so will quickly set you up as a ‘hero’ or thought leader with the ability to quickly and effectively troubleshoot issues within your target industry.
Educate Your Customer Base
Sometimes your customers are not aware of a problem that lies just around the corner. You can create a white paper to reveal an emerging trend or set of circumstances that may threaten companies in your target industry, and educate them on what they need to do to overcome it. This will help your customers view you as a thought leader whom they can trust to steer them through rough waters. In time, you’ll become a valued resource that your customers and even competitors will turn to for advice.
Increase Brand Trust and Authority
Regularly publishing white papers that companies in your target industry find valuable will naturally build high levels of trust and authority in your brand. This will pay dividends when potential customers are weighing you against your competitors. Customers will tend to choose the company they believe has the most expertise in that particular area. For many, this kind of tried-and-tested authority will likely trump more superficial marketing campaigns that are based on style over substance.
Build Your Reputation as an Agent of Change
Innovation is the lifeblood of the modern economy, and your customers want to know that you are hard at work coming up with the next big idea that will help drive their ongoing success. Publishing white papers that examine the future of your industry will build your reputation as an agent of change. It will also reassure your customers that sticking with you is the right decision for their own future.
White papers are about much more than generating short-term leads. They are a powerful tool for building trust, credibility and authority in your brand. Stay tuned for part two of this series, which will explain how to produce a white paper that will portray you as a thought leader.