When I wrote about press kits a few weeks ago, I talked about a lot of different documents you could include in your kits to market your business. Today I want to give a little shout out to another great small business marketing tool: the white paper.

White papers work as stand-alone marketing collateral, but you can also make them a part of your press kit, too. Their versatility even makes them perfect for use as incentives — offer your free report as a reward for newsletter subscribers, survey respondents, and social media fans and followers.

What is a White Paper?

White papers are simple but informative reports that you write with the goal of helping your customers solve a common problem. What makes them useful to you as a small business owner is that they help you establish expertise and generate leads.

Most of the time small businesses use separate white papers for each targeted segment of their audience. White papers work for B2C or B2B marketing, and you can distribute them as a hard copy or as a PDF download.

Although experts disagree on the perfect length for a white paper, four to twelve pages will usually do the trick. My personal recommendation is to keep your white papers lean. Although twelve pages is fine if your document is heavy on substance, you don’t want to forget that today’s readers are always pressed for time.

What Should You Write About?

Choose a topic that addresses your customers’ needs and directly relates to the services your small business provides. If you were an IT consultant, for example, you could write a white paper titled “The Top 10 Small Business Security Threats and How to Fix Them.”

While you want to provide useful information for your readers, you also want to ensure the document serves your purposes, too. It should encourage readers to seek your company out for help, but it shouldn’t be an in-your-face sales pitch. Try to strike the appropriate balance.

If you are looking for inspiration, check out how other businesses are using white papers and save the best ones for your swipe file. Take notes about what you like the most, and incorporate those concepts in your own white papers.

How Can You Publicize Your White Paper?

Publicizing your white paper is important because it can generate direct leads and sales, but it can also lead to interviews and quotes in print and online sources. Here are some ways you can promote your white paper:

  • Talk about it in your e-newsletter
  • Share it on your social media accounts
  • Hand out hard copies when you call on clients and potential clients
  • Blog about it
  • Feature it on your website

For maximum impact, turn five to ten individual white papers into a series. Once you have several papers published, you can include them in a resource library on your company’s website.

How do you use white papers to market your small business?

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