But white papers can also be useful in a later stage of a sales cycle, when an individual customer or a buying committee is identifying the final purchase criteria and narrowing the list of products and vendors that will receive further consideration.
A white paper can set the agenda for a purchase decision by convincing the reader that the areas where your product is better than its competition are the most important to consider.
For example, a statement of direction white paper communicates the importance of future product directions as a purchasing factor.
A white paper that presents a product selection guide also can set the purchasing agenda in a prospect's mind.
Decision tools such as selection trees, product-comparison checklists, and payback worksheets in the white paper can help readers identify the key factors for choosing a particular product or vendor.
When customers reach the decision point, the buyers may need a comprehensive understanding of your product's underlying technologies, distinct applications, and implementation or migration strategies -- all are ideal topics for white papers.
A white paper also can be an advocacy piece that presents your company's viewpoint on industry standards and trends as a subtle way of diminishing a competitor's offerings or messages.
When written to help customers make a valid purchase decision (even if they don't choose your product or service in the end), a white paper can build the prospect's confidence and trust in your company.
For your next white paper project, consider these questions:
- What information and resources must the white paper present in order to advance the sales process?
- Do we need to produce multiple versions of the white paper for different buyers or purchase factors?
- Does our white paper writer have the content strategy and copywriting skills necessary to develop effective elements such as decision tools?
Add a comment to this post with your recommendations on using white papers to support the purchasing process for technology products and services.
Note: An abbreviated version of this post originally appeared in the Writing White Papers blog.