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Question: My company is thinking of sponsoring a white paper written by a respected analyst firm. How can I use e-mail marketing to drive qualified professionals to our white paper?

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Answer: White papers are among the most powerful weapons in a marketer’s arsenal. Marketed properly, third-party white papers, especially those written by a reputable analyst firm, can raise awareness of problems addressed by your company’s products, enhance the credibility of your marketing claims, burnish your company’s image as a thought leader and, ultimately, help your company get on buyers’ "short lists."

Recent research performed by TechTarget shows that respondents turn to white papers very early in the purchase process, well before they have begun to develop a short list of vendors for purchase consideration. More than 75% of respondents indicated they’re more likely to consider evaluating products or services offered by companies that sponsor a white paper. More than 80% indicated they have contacted the vendor or have gone to their Web site after reading a sponsored white paper.

To get the full benefit of a white paper, you’ve got to promote it and promote it well. E-mail marketing is an extremely effective way to do so, whether it’s hosted on your company’s site or on a credible third-party site associated with your company’s industry. Following best practices for white paper marketing can significantly boost response rate for your white paper e-mail campaign, increase the quality of leads generated and convert leads into sales. Here are a few:

  • Grab attention with a subject line or headline that focuses on pain points and benefits—not your company’s product. Reinforce this practice with a proven format for your white paper, such as "Top" lists, tips, best practices, reprints of relevant analyses from credible media outlets and marquee case studies.
  • Use a custom landing/registration page to capture contact information and qualifying information that will help your sales force prioritize leads. Include up to five tailored questions. One question should ask "time frame to purchase." Answers will help you prioritize your sales and marketing efforts. Also ask the reader to "opt in" to a specific follow-up from your company, e.g., a call from sales, a relevant e-newsletter, product-update emails. And don’t forget a link to your company’s privacy policy.
  • Include a link to your white paper on a third-party site, such as a targeted media outlet that covers your industry. By placing your white paper in a contextually relevant environment that’s also perceived as "vendor neutral," you can increase the aura of credibility surrounding it. You’ll benefit from the white paper’s presence in front of a large, qualified audience and the use of their targeted e-mail marketing lists. You’ll also reap significant rewards from the site’s other traffic-generation and audience-development efforts.
  • With 80% of white paper readers taking some action after reading your white paper, make sure you provide them with multiple avenues for contact. If you can, personalize your outbound e-mails with the names and contact information—e-mail and telephone—for the sales reps who handle each account. If not, provide one central contact person or a list of names and contact info (according to region, for example).
  • Create a follow-up plan that prioritizes your leads. Then use it. Develop a formula to prioritize leads into A, B, and C pools for follow-up. Identify the communications strategy for each pool—including follow-up e-mails, relevant collateral and telephone contact—that will enable your sales reps to maintain a dialog with qualified leads and further qualify their interest.
  • For more details on the survey methodology and results, visit http://www.techtarget.com/whitepapers/whitepapers.html

Marilou Barsam is VP-client consulting services for TechTarget (http://www.techtarget.com), an information technology media company based in Needham, Mass.

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