Over the past two decades, white papers have proven to be one of the most effective and affordable ways to promote businesses online. Distributing white papers in the form of free reports and videos helps business websites generate traffic, build mailing lists, and convert visitors into customers. Here we’ll look at six ways strategic deployment of white papers can help boost your business.

What Is a White Paper?

White papers were originally government reports designed to sway public opinion by laying out the rationale behind official policy. In a business context, the white paper format has been adapted as a tool for influencing consumer opinion by presenting the benefits of a product or service.

Online White Paper Formats

In an online environment, white papers can take not only a traditional text format, but also multimedia formats such as narrated slideshows, videos, and podcasts. In any of these formats, white papers can serve as powerful selling tools by performing a number of important sales functions.

1. Generate Traffic

White papers are an effective, cost-efficient way to attract traffic to business websites. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to generate traffic from white papers is to build target keywords into the titles of white papers and the headlines of opt-in forms and articles accompanying them. Another effective, low-cost strategy is to announce the publication of white papers through social media.

2. Capture Contact Information

When visitors arrive at your website to look at a white paper, it presents an opportunity to capture their contact information. The easiest way to do this is to offer a white paper as an incentive for joining a mailing list. Another method is to conclude a white paper with an invitation to join a mailing list in order to receive follow-up information or other benefits.

3. Extend Offers for Free Trials or Consultations

You can use the conclusion of a white paper to extend offers that further your sales strategy. For example, if you sell a product such as software, you might offer your white paper audience a free trial. Or if your business is service-oriented, you might extend an offer for a free initial consultation.

4. Establish Your Expertise

White papers help set the stage for your sales presentation by establishing your expertise. A white paper enables you to demonstrate your mastery of your subject by addressing your audience’s problems and offering solutions. White papers also give you opportunities to describe your credentials, cite customer testimonials, and review case studies.

5. Present Your Sales Benefits

White papers advance your sales strategy by giving you a forum for presenting the benefits of your product or service. You can describe and illustrate the problems you help your customers solve, and follow up with a presentation of your solution.

6. Position Yourself Against Your Competition

Finally, white papers provide a platform for positioning you against your competition. White papers let you set the tone of discussion by establishing the criteria for evaluating products or services in your industry. You can then follow up by demonstrating how your product or service outperforms your competition.

Collectively, these applications of white papers can support every phase of your sales funnel, from lead generation to closing sales. When all these advantages are weighed in along with the relatively low cost of white papers versus advertising, it makes good business sense to make white papers a cornerstone of your sales strategy.