The World Doesn’t Need Another White Paper | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Posted On September 18, 2013

Would you maintain a marketing strategy that has shifted to a disadvantage? The answer seems like a no-brainer, but the reality is many providers in the global services market are indeed marching forward with a disadvantaged strategy.

In the increasingly competitive services marketplace, providers are running to thought leadership as a differentiation. That’s great. But here’s the problem: they use white papers to present their thought leadership but, frankly speaking, the world doesn’t need another white paper.

Nearly every provider has dozens of white papers; some have hundreds. Hoping to get past purchasing and get access to more senior people and business stakeholders, providers write white papers with the hope that they will percolate new business.

But the papers are not compelling enough to help increase their customer bases. They don’t differentiate in the area of thought leadership, because most of the providers are talking about the same topics or angles. The strategy might have worked when the topics were new; but that’s no longer the case. White papers usually sit on people’s desks and don’t get read. Even if they are read, they don’t make a strong impression and rarely result in new customers or serving an existing customer better.

For a white paper to work, it has to be different. It needs to be simple, profound and short. Buyers are looking for a practical vision of how to improve their business — they want something different than another paper about the capabilities of some tool or process. The paper won’t be remembered if it just tells the reader how to use a tool or process to do something.

Instead, a white paper with an effective message must ask penetrating questions. The right five questions will open the door.

IBM’s is doing this very well. So is Accenture. Think of their paper that gives an illustration of how a company saved $1 billion. The message is simple, clear, and leaves the potential customer asking questions. It invites a conversation between the buyer and the provider.

Webinars are similarly not effective. Like white papers, everybody is doing webinars and talking about the same thing. There is nothing compelling.

So you’re probably asking: Why is Everest Group doing webinars?

The audience for our webinars is a group of people who have subscribed to our content agenda on certain topics. In the webinars we effectively have a conversation with an intimate group invited to that conversation based on their expressed interest in it. We don’t attempt to evangelize through webinars; instead, we attempt to advance the knowledge of people who tell us they want to learn more about a topic and what’s going on in a particular space. Then we seek to move past the webinars to personal interactions and conversation with individuals.

It’s not that white papers or webinars are wrong in today’s marketing maneuvers. They have their place. It’s just that they are bad vehicles for projecting and demonstrating thought leadership to new people. They tend to be not insightful, all providers have them and the intended audience for the papers and webinars aren’t reading them or attending.

In the global services world marketing leaders depending on white papers or webinars to convey their message need to reinvent their strategy.

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