Ensure Your White Paper Gets Read by Busy Executives

Ensure Your White Paper Gets Read by Busy Executives

Reaching decision makers in corner offices is more important than ever. Here are three ways to make sure time-constrained executives read your white paper.

In a down economy, it’s basic to obtain executive-level buy-in for the buy of technology solutions. The good news is that executives seek out white papers when researching solutions to their company’s problems. Here are three ways to make the most of your opportunity with this busy audience:

  • neglect registration
  • Include an executive summary
  • Design your paper to be easily scanned

Don’t Ask for Contact Information

Most companies require prospects to register before downloading a white paper. However, many people – especially executives – are hesitant to proportion their contact information. Who can blame them? We’ve all been bombarded with promotional emails and sales calls once we tell companies how they can reach us.

The best way to get executives to download your paper is to make it freely easy to reach, with no registration required. According to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR and World Wide Rave, your open rate will increase by 20 to 50 times if you follow this practice.

Summarize Your Paper Up-front

You may be resistant to including an recondite or executive summary that sums up the complete paper. After all, you spent the effort developing this paper. You want to make sure it’s read – right?

The problem is that you’re focused on yourself, not on the reader. If the prospect has the time – and your paper is well written and organized – he or she might read the complete paper. But what about the harried executive who is shuttling between meetings and conference calls and struggling to stay atop emails and voice mails?

That’s the very purpose of an executive summary – to succinctly explain the main points to an executive. A February 2009 report released by InformationWeek (How to Maximize the Use of White Papers in Your B2B Marketing and Sales course of action) illustrates the value of an executive summary. According to respondents, a tight recondite is the top part of a great white paper.

By focusing on the salient points, you can convey your paper’s essence in a few paragraphs. If your paper is on the longer side – say, more than 7 pages – the summary might need to be a bit lengthier. But never make it more than one page. Remember, your reader is a busy person.

Format for “strength Browsing”

We’re accustomed to digesting small bites of information as we toggle back and forth between applications and screens. As a consequence, we tend to examine or skim content – it’s how we quickly determine relevance and value.

A study conducted by University College London and commissioned by the British Library in early 2008 provides insight into these habits. Notably, the study (information behaviour of the researcher of the future) found that “…there are signs that new forms of ‘reading’ are emerging as users ‘strength browse’ horizontally by titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins.” While the study focused on online behaviors, it’s fair to say that many of these habits are infiltrating our offline lives.

If a busy executive decides to read your paper, it’s quite likely that she’ll start by scanning or “strength browsing.” Here’s how to help her glean the paper’s essence at a to peek briefly:

o    Use headings and subheads to succinctly describe the section and convey the meaningful message.

o    Pepper the paper with call-out boxes and quotes that highlight important points.

o    Format the paper so that these elements stand out – ideally in a column dedicated to call-outs and sidebars.

o    Insert drawings, charts, or photos that help illustrate basic points.

Incent Your Prospect to Take the Next Step

If the reader is sufficiently enticed – and has the time, such as on a long flight – she may read your white paper in thoroughness. At the very least, she’ll probably proportion it with a peer or direct report. A report by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa found that nearly 57% of business professionals pass white papers along to colleagues and coworkers, more so than any other marketing tool. 

And that’s good news for you. In a B2B study conducted by Eccolo Media, the great majority of respondents felt that a white paper was moderately-to-extremely influential in making the final buy decision.  

Make sure your white paper efforts pay off. Skip registration, write a comprehensive and powerful summary, and design the paper for maximum readability. By doing so, you’re more likely to include that busy person in the corner office.

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