Archive Page 3

Lessons for PrintStrategists from the Trenches of Social Media.

Posted February 28, 2010 by Larry Bauer
Categories: eMarketing
Tags: , , ,

My design partner, Julia, had already plunged into social media with her successful SnarkyVegan blog. I, on the other hand, was a rookie and a skeptic at that. But as we strategized about ways to establish thought leadership for our businesses, we decided that enewsletters, which would roll into blogs, would be a good starting point. The results were PrintStrategist and MondoBeat: Ideas to Improve Your Marketing Rhythm.

To say the least, one thing led to another. Strong receptions to the enewsletters/blogs began to pique our interest. Soon we were announcing new posts at our Twitter sites, and I began to wonder if there was any potential in our mostly dormant LinkedIn accounts.

So Julia and I got busy completing our profiles, linking feeds from our blogs, posting slide presentations, connecting with colleagues and participating in groups. Along the way, I was invited to manage my college’s alumni group as well as Print 2.0. So I got to see “groups” from both the participant and manger perspectives.

Then recently Julia and I co-founded the PrintStrategist LinkedIn group. The objective was to form a diverse group of professionals from all sides of the table who shared a common goal of effectively using print. Within a few weeks, membership reached nearly 140, and it literally grows each day.

What We Learned.

Clearly social media is evolving and participants are evolving along with it. Here are three key findings from our experience:

1. Synergy Counts.

The more options we integrated into our social media goal of raising our thought leadership perceptions, the better we did. More people started to follow us on Twitter, and we connected with more and more professionals on LinkedIn. Both are significant drivers of readers to the blogs, and LinkedIn is now our number one source of hits and page views.

After a year of participation, here are PrintStrategist’s social media stats:

  • 2,390—blog page views
  • 478—targeted enewsletter subscribers
  • 329—Twitter followers
  • 191—LinkedIn connections
  • 10—Twitter Lists

Of course everyone always wants to know if you were able to monetize social media. That was not our goal—thought leadership was—but we did receive several inquiries about our services and made presentations as a result of our social media experiences.

Additionally:

  • Our customers are virtually all loyal readers of our enewsletters/blogs.
  • We found a capable subcontractor through a renewed contact made on LinkedIn and used the individual on a project.
  • The enewsletters/blogs grew to the point that we are now considering offering sole sponsorship opportunities for each issue (you’ll eventually be able to judge that success for yourself).
  • We are now more knowledgeable, empathetic social media advisors to our clients—you know the old adage about the best doctor being the one who just got out of the hospital.

2. Participation Counts.

If you want to benefit from social media, you have to be willing to participate on a consistent, frequent basis. You also need to be willing to learn the rules of social media so that your participation helps, not hurts your business. And you need to set your internal social media goals and appoint someone to coordinate your social media team.

In addition to getting some professional advice, we recommend taking one of the many good social media classes available. Some even offer social media certifications. The more skillfully you employ social media, the better the results.

3. Participation Takes Time.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that social media is free. It will definitely cost you time, a valuable commodity in today’s downsized companies. We easily spend an hour to an hour-and-a-half per day on social media, and that excludes writing our enewsletter/blog posts. You may be able to—and probably should—share some of the responsibilities, but don’t start if you’re not willing to commit the time. As a point of reference, many large companies now have one or more people on staff who do nothing but monitor social media.

Finally, remember that social media is for relationship and thought leadership building. It should be part of your marketing plan, but continue to leave the heavy lifting to postal mail, email, print advertising and other marketing media better suited to directly generating sales and ROI.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective social media programs from strategy development through program deployment. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer.

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter. Or join Print Strategist on LinkedIn.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media.

Posted February 28, 2010 by Larry Bauer
Categories: eMarketing
Tags: ,

Social media participation requires your time, but it needs to be quality time. Otherwise, you can cause more harm than good. Use these tips to create relationships and thought leadership that will help build your printing business.

Do

  • Set a social media strategy—outline what you want to accomplish and how it is going to happen.
  • Get some formal training—you need to know everything from the tools available to social media etiquette.
  • Appoint someone to direct and monitor your efforts.
  • Learn how your respected competitors are tapping social media—research them in the major search engines.
  • Create blogs, enewsletters and other articles on your sites to bolster the number of keywords and increase your search rankings.
  • Keep taking your social media to higher levels—provide richer content, etc.
  • Remember that social media is about earning attention.
  • Help, teach, guide and be tolerant with people new to social media—keep learning yourself.
  • Get in sync with your audience.
  • Be transparent, genuine and real about you and your company.
  • Spend at least as much time listening as you do broadcasting.
  • Help your customers find ways to combine social media with print—maybe you’re printing menus for a restaurant and you help them get set up to Tweet daily specials on Twitter.

Don’t

  • View social media as simply a place to hype your wares—unlearn some of your traditional marketing habits.
  • Underestimate the power of video in social media.
  • Be naïve about the time commitment to do social media right.
  • Forget that cheaters never win—trying to game the system will eventually get you busted.
  • Neglect to measure—it’s the only way to know if you’re achieving your goals.
  • Get upset about losing followers unless they’re the people you really want to target—then figure out why you’re losing them and adjust.
  • Be thin skinned or take everything that happens in your social media experience personally.
  • Think you will ever know everything about social media—it turns on a dime.
  • Participate on an inconsistent basis—frequency definitely matters in building a following.
  • Fail to add value—people won’t spend their time if they don’t receive something worthwhile in return.
  • Disrespect the community—treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Forget to enjoy your social media experience.

Join the Print Strategist Group on LinkedIn. Print Strategist on LinkedIn is a group of professionals who value the power of print communications and share a common interest in advancing print’s effective use. Professionals involved in all aspects of print—marketing, design, production, manufacturing, distribution and related areas—are welcome. The only requirement is a desire to learn and share in a truly collaborative environment.

By Larry Bauer

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Hashtags as Leadership Tools in Twitter.

Posted February 28, 2010 by Julia Moran Martz
Categories: eMarketing
Tags: , , ,

We all know that starting and maintaining relevant conversations with customers and prospects are key to using thought leadership to enable sales, support and brand building. Before electronic social media tools, corporate socializing occurred on the golf course, while sharing beers at the local watering hole after work—even rented suites at the Indy500 and other events enabled you to prove your mettle with VIP clients and prospects.

Many of the ways we used to participate in social business conversations also translate well to social media tools. Discovering existing conversations about your brand or product niche is as easy as eaves dropping by searching for keywords in Twitter or using Google Blog Search. Creating and leading such conversations requires a concerted effort by you and your company.

Leading the Conversation.

Tags are a type of metadata used to identify specific topics online by assigning keywords to a specific piece of information, making that information easy to find. Hashtags are a specific type of tagging used in social media that you employ to create topically oriented conversations and to follow others’ conversations on Twitter or identi.ca.

It’s a way of grouping relevant messages into conversations, similar to but much broader than corralling VIPs in an event room or networking on the golf course. Imagine no conventional boundaries, and the fact that you’re potentially conversing with 500 or even 5,000 people in a given day, week, month.

By using hashtags (and tags in general), you can establish yourself as the thought leader for a given topic by starting the conversation, interacting intelligently with others and continuing to provide information/advice/support.

If you’re going to use hashtags for leading and managing conversations about your brand, be sure to follow these tips:

  • Write a great hashtag. Hashtags like #news are not helpful. Be more effective by using tags like #BrandNameNews, #BrandLaunch or #BrandHelp and be considerate of length. Remember that it does get counted in Twitter users’ 140-character limit. AND beware of acronyms as there could be multiple unrelated conversations potentially using the same acronym.
  • Use = promotion. Use the hashtag religiously and appropriately whenever speaking online about the specific topic. AND use it interactively when conversing with others in social media tools.
  • Don’t spam. Don’t pick up unrelated hashtags and appropriate them as your own. Inserting hashtags about a recent earthquake is NOT ok if your tweet has nothing to do with the earthquake. This is a proven method of upsetting Twitter users and they will make their displeasure known.
  • Promote it in other analog and digital marketing tools. Land Rover developed a very successful hashtag campaign in April 2009 by using a myriad of print and online promotions to promote the hashtag on Twitter. There is a lot to learn from Land Rover’s experience, and I would encourage you to not simply copy their strategy but to view it only as a starting point.
  • Develop communication guidelines for social media in general and apply them here. Include such things as a communications tone and consider any concerns that legal may have. Make sure anyone you’ve tasked with participating in social media on behalf of your brand is trained and knowledgeable.

Dealing with Loss of Control.

When putting your own hashtag out for use in the twitterverse, you must be prepared for negative use of the tag. Remember, just because the tag originated with you doesn’t mean you own it. It’s part of the larger conversation that you can participate in but never control. The effect is akin to having conversations with people at a party where some know and love you, some know and hate you and many don’t know you at all.

This is why it’s critical to understand and ensure your brand’s integrity and value. Likewise, it’s important to have the ability to lead the conversation as a valued participant. If your brand is suffering from poor quality products/service/support, no amount of twittering or tagging will save you. But you can use social media tools as part of your plan to turn your brand around so long as you are taking steps to improve the problems.

If you have quality, support or deliverability issues that you’re taking steps to resolve, plan on mitigating negative use of the hashtag by:

  • Fixing your problems. Start resolving the problems that affect your brand’s quality before taking on social media. You don’t have to finish resolving your issues, but you should be well on the path to recovery before initiating that first social media conversation. You may even want to use your resolve to repair the damage as your first hashtag topic.
  • Increasing your response time and quality. Comcast is THE benchmark for response times and problem resolution via Twitter. Forget their phone support, you’ll never get through. But use Twitter and they’ve got a tech on top of the problem within five or 10 minutes.
  • Creating a human voice. Again, Comcast wins hands down. They’ve got real live technical humans monitoring Twitter conversations about their product and service. These folks are also trained to interact with customers AND solve the problem.
  • Maintaining transparency. If there’s a problem, own up to it publicly. Take a lesson from Toyota’s recent PR fiasco and own up early, take steps to resolve the problem and communicate those steps without corporate speak. You must sound authentically human. Don’t skimp on this part or you’ll get nailed to the Twitter wall quickly.

And by all means, pay attention when online. Use the opportunity to converse with large numbers of customers to both help and guide them as well as learn if there are problems or areas for improvement. If your brand is loved and respected universally, you won’t have much of a problem. However, there are always instigators in any venue. You should be prepared to encounter them with knowledge, grace and honesty.

By Julia Moran Martz

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Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

Posted February 28, 2010 by Julia Moran Martz
Categories: Marketing

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Using envelopes as your “get opened” tool.
  • Postcards get you and your clients more for less.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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Webinars as Lead-generating Tools for Print Strategists.

Posted January 26, 2010 by Larry Bauer
Categories: Marketing, eMarketing
Tags: , ,

For those less electronically initiated, a webinar is an online virtual event that typically includes a small number of presenters delivering a slide presentation to a dispersed audience over the Internet. Participants view the webinar from their computer desktops and hear the audio through their speakers or over a telephone line.

Using an outside webinar delivery platform makes sense for most companies. Many of these systems offer interactive capabilities such as:

  • Live chat.
  • Question and answer boxes.
  • Audience polls and surveys.
  • Virtual white boards.
  • Desktop application sharing.
  • And a number of other options.

They also generally offer customizable registration materials as well as tracking, automated reminders and post-production reports. Providers typically support popular programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Some can provide event management services for an additional fee.

So How Much Do Webinar Services Cost?

Actual delivery costs vary, but most license agreements are fairly modest. For example, GoToWebinar, one of the more popular delivery systems, offers flat-fee pricing that allows you to conduct unlimited webinars for one rate. You can purchase a standard, single-user license online for $99 per month or $948 per year. There are no additional licensing costs for attendees to join.

Pick a Strong Webinar Delivery Platform Provider.

The last thing you want is unreliable technology and support when you’re doing a webinar. You look bad and people abandon the event. We really don’t have favorites, and you may uncover a great provider on your own, but we suggest at least looking into these proven companies:

Are Webinars Better Than In-person Events?

They are two different animals, each with its own set of pluses and minuses. The big advantage of webinars, especially with strained budgets, is the low cost to reach an audience anywhere in the world. In many ways, the cost structure helps to level playing fields among small and large printing companies, just as digital communications alternatives do in many other marketing activities.

Webinars are also:

  • Convenient and cost-effective for participants who don’t have to travel—distance becomes a non-factor.
  • Convenient for presenters who can be at multiple locations and likewise avoid travel.
  • Capable of bringing valuable information quickly to market.
  • Efficient at speeding the sales cycle with proper follow up.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • More competition than for in-person seminar events.
  • Less interaction with participants.
  • Limited flexibility to change presentation order and flow.
  • Restrictions on managing questions.
  • Technology dependence to the ultimate degree.

In both types of events, you need to have a relatively large universe of qualified prospects. But the general guideline for webinars is that approximately 5 percent of those invited will register and half of those will not attend. Some, however, will view the on-demand, archived version later.

Do Decision Makers Like Webinars?

Studies and my personal experience say they do. According to a white paper by Ridge Business Development LLC, The Benefits and Pitfalls of Webinars, people like the idea of learning about products and services without having to deal with a salesperson.

The white paper also points to a recent survey by Gartner indicating that 86 percent of respondents will view as many or more webinars this year as last. And a survey by PR Canada similarly indicates that only 7 percent found webinars a waste of time, while 86 percent found them convenient and 66 percent found them time effective.

In my consulting practice, I’ve helped printers in a wide range of size and market categories stage successful webinars of their own as well as sponsor events through trade publications. Attendance of 100 or more is not unusual, and smaller companies with close client relationships often do as well as very large national printers.

What If We’re Not Ready to Stage a Webinar Ourselves?

Many trade publications and associations offer webinar sponsorship opportunities that enable you to test the medium with varying degrees of participation. For example, you might strictly serve as the sponsor. But you also might be able to suggest topics, give input on selection of the featured presenter, provide qualifying and polling questions and perhaps even deliver part of the presentation if you choose.

You’ll typically get a banner ad at the registration site, inclusion in all of the promotional efforts and, of course, mentioned as the sponsor during the webinar. Additionally, you’ll virtually always get access to the registrant list for follow up.

This all comes at a price, of course, and $10,000 to $30,000 isn’t unusual. For example, if you wanted to reach the catalog marketplace, the published open rate for a Multichannel Merchant webinar sponsorship is $18,800. But a strong publication or association might also draw participants that you wouldn’t attract on your own, and it greatly reduces your time investment. Plus, it’s a good way to get started.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective webinar programs from topic selection to content development and event promotion. Or, we can effectively negotiate and manage webinar sponsorship opportunities with trade publications or associations. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer .

You can connect with Larry Bauer

Do’s and Don’ts of Webinars.

Posted January 26, 2010 by Larry Bauer
Categories: Marketing, eMarketing
Tags: , ,

Webinars are inexpensive compared to face-to-face meetings. But like email and other low cost electronic options, easy entry often lures ill-prepared companies into the arena. Use these tips to create and present webinars that will meet your audience’s highest expectations.

Do

  • Select your topics and presenters carefully.
  • Evaluate your internal capabilities objectively—outsource when needed.
  • Keep your presentation to one hour or less—including Q&A.
  • Start and end the webinar on time.
  • Seed questions to ensure covering important points and to encourage participation.
  • Learn to take advantage of the technology options—drawing tools, polling surveys, etc.
  • Promote your webinar beyond a homepage blurb—use email, direct mail, banner ads, social media, etc.
  • Be wary of using a wireless connection by a presenter.
  • Consider having a few friendly faces in the presentation room—presenters benefit from seeing reactions and playing off the “audience.”
  • Use professionally created slides—be sure to review outside presenter’s slides and be prepared to offer assistance.
  • Develop a lead follow-up plan— demand accountability from the sales team.
  • Record and archive your webinar—many executives appreciate and use the on-demand option.
  • Explore opportunities to generate passive income—selling a recorded series as a set, for example.
  • Rehearse and then rehearse again.

Don’t

  • Use inexperienced presenters as featured speakers—give them a smaller role until they get a few webinars under their belts.
  • Underestimate the investment of time to pull off a professional presentation.
  • Use webinars for target audiences that may not be tech savvy.
  • Dismiss the value of a good moderator to the webinar’s success.
  • Think that webinars will completely replace the need for face-to-face contact.
  • Assume that webinar leads are conversion ready—they are more likely in the exploratory stage and will require further nurturing.
  • Fail to add qualified attendees to your marketing database.
  • Forget to invite your customers to webinars.
  • Use an unproven webinar delivery platform provider—they are not all created equal.
  • Overburden the moderator with the technology requirements—consider a person for each role.
  • Fail to follow up with registrants who don’t attend the webinar.
  • Overlook the value of a webinar as a training tool for your own people.
  • Forget to continue promoting your recorded webinar.
  • Neglect to collect some qualifying information at registration—use checklists and limit the number of questions to three or four.

Join the Print Strategist Group on LinkedIn. Print Strategist on LinkedIn is a group of professionals who value the power of print communications and share a common interest in advancing print’s effective use. Professionals involved in all aspects of print—marketing, design, production, manufacturing, distribution and related areas—are welcome. The only requirement is a desire to learn and share in a truly collaborative environment.

By Larry Bauer

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Extending Your Brand To and Beyond the Webinar.

Posted January 26, 2010 by Julia Moran Martz
Categories: Branding, Marketing, eMarketing
Tags: , ,

Assuming your presentation is buttoned-up tight and focused cleanly on your topic, what else can you do to ensure wise use of your webinar budget? Well, it’s all about two key points we seem to repeat a lot:

  1. Ensuring brand integrity builds and maintains brand recognition.
  2. Linking this particular tool (webinars) with other marketing and sales tools builds a network around your prospects, creating additional sales touch points.

Essentially, it’s all about maintaining professionalism while being available where and when your prospects need you.

Ensuring Brand Integrity In Webinars.

This seems pretty limited on the surface, right? It would appear that all you can do is send the webinar company your logo as a low-res jpeg and hope for the best. While that may be true with some third-party webinar companies, consider these options below and push, push, push on behalf of your brand.

  • Make sure your presentation is easy to read for the age group of the attendees and includes key brand elements such as logo, colors, fonts (where possible), image assets, etc. This is especially important because the webinar company will be using their own brand elements in the general interface.
  • Don’t choose an outsourced webinar delivery platform based solely on price. Also DO consider how well its interface supports branding your webinar as well as its user-friendliness.
  • Realize that folks will be attending from a variety of platforms and monitor sizes. Adjust the content of your graphics and text appropriately. If your Corporate Brand Guidebook doesn’t contain information specific to webinars, pull from the chapters for PowerPoint and Website styling.
  • Choose a speaker whose voice is appropriate for your brand. If your subject matter expert has a whiney voice, choose someone else or outsource. Stay away from extremely high or low-pitched voices, as they may be hard to hear and understand via many computer audio systems.
  • Be certain that your support materials are brand cohesive. This includes anything you’re linking to from the webinar such as white papers, case studies, speaker bios or an annotated outline of the webinar content.
  • If you’re sponsoring a trade pub’s webinar, ensure that you’re using every brand tool at your disposal: logo files, ad page, banner ad and link to landing page for more info. Negotiate for additional touch points where possible and connect them back to tools you can control such as landing pages or your website.

Opportunities for Extending Your Brand Beyond the Webinar.

Working your communications before and after the webinar takes research, planning and time. But the key benefit is keeping your audience engaged beyond the webcast to the point of closing a sale.

Imagine being a big-ticket sales person in a brick and mortar store and discovering a way to get the name, phone number and email address of every interested shopper with whom you spoke? You’d do it, right? Even if they didn’t buy from you right away, you could provide additional information and follow up with them during and after their buying process.

This is why it’s critical to look for opportunities to increase the viral aspect of your brand beyond the basic webinar.

  • Make sure you create avenues for attendees to interact with you following the event. Creating an ongoing forum or listserv or even linking to a blog post about your topic provides additional discussion options. If you already have an online discussion forum, open a new topic coinciding with the webinar and publicize it in follow-up communications.
  • Also ensure that your speakers have valid corporate Twitter and/or LinkedIn accounts for attendees to connect with afterwards, and provide that information freely at the webinar. Both tools have methods of supporting discussion topics.
  • Consider setting up a landing page or mini-site to support your webinar. Use this as an info link during registration and reminders, and then modify it afterwards to collect more information during post webinar follow up.
  • Consider timing your webinar close to a key industry trade show and include special invitations to webinar attendees for a VIP session or special gift at the show. This takes advantage of your sales team’s limited travel budgets.
  • If you’re offering in-depth workshops at an upcoming trade show, pre-empt the show with a preparatory session via a webinar. This can generate excitement for the show and increase valid attendees at the live event.
  • And remember, if you’re creating your own webinar content, you can still advertise it via banner ads in industry publications, usually for relatively modest expenditures.

Ultimately, It’s About Building Branded Networks.

Don’t think of a webinar as a one-off event. Use it as a building block within your entire communications network to get the biggest impact.

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2010’s Top Ten Marketing Career Resolutions.

Posted December 1, 2009 by Larry Bauer
Categories: Marketing
Tags: ,
  1. Eat lunch with others—share a meal with colleagues. Eating alone at your desk might seem productive, but it won’t expand your career-advancing network. Make good use of the lunch hour with people inside and outside your organization.
  2. Seek high-profit areas—low-margins equal dead ends. Most of the praise and promotions go to people who work in high profit areas of companies. Learn the high performing (and high potential) parts of your business. Focus on getting a position in one of those areas.
  3. Develop your elevator speech—your brand travels by word-of-mouth. Decide what you would want people to know about you in a sentence or two. Maybe it’s that you have an MBA from a prestigious school or an in-demand skill. What makes you different in a positive way?
  4. Be the answer—figure out how to get things done. Your boss has enough on his or her plate without having to walk you through solutions. If you get an assignment, find a way to deliver the right response without wasting your boss’s time.
  5. Make the big play—assume some risk. Playing it safe won’t likely take you very far. You don’t need to constantly put yourself out on a limb, but you do need to be an aggressive change agent. In the end, it’s really the only way that you and your organization will prosper.
  6. Loosen the reigns—recognize others’ skills and potential. Being a control freak won’t help you develop the strong people you need around you. Set goals and provide resources as well as reasonable oversight, but give others the freedom to find their own way of accomplishing it.
  7. Play to your strengths—get in the right seat on the bus. You always want to be open to learning new skills, but you also need to understand what you really love to do and what you’re really good at doing. The faster you identify this, the more quickly your career will advance.
  8. Learn to measure—metrics will get you everywhere. Like it or not, senior executives are increasingly demanding marketing metrics. Don’t abandon creative thinking or softer measurements like customer feedback, but also make a point to improve your analytic proficiency.
  9. Know the right people—invest your limited time wisely. Right or wrong, whom you know means a lot. Choose people who are successful themselves, appreciate your accomplishments, demonstrate a sincere interest in you and have a strong circle of influence that would benefit your career.
  10. Have some fun—lighten up now and then. There’s some truth to the “all work and no play” adage. You certainly don’t want to be the office clown, but finding humor in situations and being an enjoyable colleague will make you and everyone around you happier and more productive.

Successful Marketing Campaigns Won’t Hurt Either.

To help you along, we recently published The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts. It’s a collection of the eight most viewed “Do’s & Don’ts” published by our Print Strategist newsletter to date. Simply send Print Strategist Larry Bauer your postal mailing information and we’ll send you a complimentary copy. Then relax, turn off the digital devices and enjoy a wonderful holiday season.

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White Papers As Thought Leadership Tools.

Posted November 11, 2009 by Larry Bauer
Categories: Marketing
Tags: , ,

bernieBubo-250White papers got their start in the government sector as reports outlining policy or offering authoritative commentary on a major issue. The origins of the term date back to early 20th century England, where it referenced brief research reports used by the British Parliament.

White papers were short government reports in comparison to longer, more detailed documents that were bound in blue covers and referred to as “blue books.” Since the shorter government publications were bound in the same white paper as the text inside, they took on the term “white papers.” When the use of white papers became standard practice during this time period, the term became associated with a document having a high level of importance.

White Papers Today.

White papers are now part of the corporate world. Klariti, an Ireland-based technical writing firm, offers this definition, “White papers discuss a specific business issue, product or competitive situation. In many cases, they summarize information about a topic; for example, the results of a survey or study and then suggest a proposal for action, with the research data providing the justification for the action.”

Why They Work.

Business people are increasingly searching for quality content. Studies show that company decision makers often use white papers as their initial external information source. White papers are an effective medium capable of educating, informing and influencing your targeted customers and prospects. Done properly, a white paper serves as reinforcement for preferring your company to the competition.

Consider these statistics noted by Senior Reporter Sean Donahue of SherpaBlog:

  • In 2008, 44 percent of business prospects said they were reading white papers more often than in the past. That’s an increase from the 39 percent who said in 2007 they were reading white papers more often.
  • More than 50 percent of business decision-makers and influencers said they read two to five white papers per quarter.

White papers can serve as excellent relationship starters followed by other thought leadership events such as invitations to webinars, podcasts and conference presentations. They also have terrific pass-along capabilities that tend to cross departmental borders as internal groups collaborate on business initiatives.

Elissa Miller, a senior marketing consultant for Hoffman Marketing Communications, a business and technology writing company, points out that “publishing white papers at third-party information sites such as Bitpipe.com [geared toward IT professionals] generates goodwill and ‘mindshare’ by making research and analysis widely available. In addition, it drives interested prospects to the company, prospects that might not otherwise have known that such an offering existed.”

Why They Don’t Work.

Corporate-sponsored white papers are strategic marketing documents. That is also frequently the root cause of a white paper’s downfall. It’s fine to carefully weave in positive points for your company through techniques such as case studies, but white papers unravel when sponsors lose objectivity. Most readers will quickly see through marketing propaganda disguised as legitimate research.

Further, many white papers provide an inadequate balance of technical details and the larger business context they address. They sometimes lack a compelling persuasiveness that helps people understand complex issues and how they can apply a solution.

Finally, a lot of marketing types shy away from white papers thinking that their other collateral, from brochures to product sheets, serve the same purpose. If they do get involved, they frequently fail to realize that white papers are unique communication vehicles that not only fill an important gap, but also require writing skills different from marketing communications and even technical writing.

To White Or Not to White.

The evidence is clear that white papers are highly effective thought leadership tools that do not require a huge monetary investment but do require handling with care. You’ll have the most success if you choose the writer carefully, and then develop the white paper through a collaborative process between the writer/researcher and your internal subject matter experts. The entire experience provides an opportunity to delve more deeply into important topics and can be a stimulating professional experience for everyone involved.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates can help you develop white papers and other components of an effective thought leadership strategy. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer .

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter.

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Do’s and Don’ts of White Papers.

Posted November 11, 2009 by Larry Bauer
Categories: Marketing
Tags: , ,

vernVulpes-250White papers aren’t particularly expensive to create, but that doesn’t mean anyone can just slap one together. They take some careful planning and decision-making to serve as true thought leadership builders. Here’s how to get your white papers off on the right foot.

Do

  • Know your audience and focus on their interests.
  • Identify problems and concerns and provide a solution.
  • Understand that people with different responsibilities view the same problem differently—accounting vs. sales vs. technical people.
  • Think of your audience as a group of investors.
  • Attract interest immediately or risk losing the reader.
  • Assume that your reader is new to the topic.
  • Tell people what you’re going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them.
  • Subtly and carefully craft your own message into the white paper—case studies and customer quotes are a good approach.
  • Include an executive summary—many people will only read this portion or read it first.
  • Use compelling graphics to reinforce your message—charts, diagrams, illustrations, etc.
  • Adopt a conversational style that includes the word “you”—no one wants to read a term paper.
  • Let your first draft sit for a few days before you begin editing—you’d be surprised how much a little distance can help.
  • Identify key words for Web-hosted white papers before you begin and use them liberally throughout your white paper—load up the opening paragraph.
  • Edit, edit and edit again.

Don’t

  • Make your white paper self-serving—no one wants to read dull details about your product or service.
  • Forget to read a few white papers in your field—you’ll get a quick sense of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
  • Attempt to write the white paper yourself if you don’t have the depth of knowledge or the writing skills.
  • Overwhelm your audience with techspeak and acronyms—offer clear definitions when you do use technical terms.
  • Get lost in theory and forget to provide real world, supportive examples.
  • Neglect to include a brief About Us section at the end—include telephone and email contact information.
  • Task technical people with the writing assignment—make them information sources and members of the editing team instead.
  • Make the white paper too long (6-10 pages are about right, but they could be as short as 1-2 pages—break longer topics into multiple publications).
  • Write a user’s manual if your white paper is addressing a product or technology solution.
  • Skimp on the promotional side—use news releases, email, postcards, social media, etc. to promote your latest white paper.
  • Shortchange the introduction, conclusion and executive summary.
  • Hesitate to use eye-popping color to attract attention and encourage readership.
  • Neglect the title or the look and feel of the white paper—they are two of the key drivers of readership.
  • Forget to ask yourself what action you want people to take upon reading your white paper.

White Papers Play Well With E-newsletters. Sending an e-newsletter highlighting your white paper and offering a free download from your website or a landing page is effective. We can write and design both your white paper and newsletter, create a landing page and broadcast the message through our MailVox system. You’ll get all the reporting you need right from your desktop, to say nothing of the benefits of working with an experienced single source.

For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer .

By Larry Bauer

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“White” Paper Doesn’t Mean Generic.

Posted November 11, 2009 by Julia Moran Martz
Categories: Branding, Marketing
Tags: , , ,

cainyCastor-250Creating a successful white paper isn’t just about the content. The content is in fact worthless if:

  • The paper doesn’t support the brand,
  • It’s too hard to read,
  • Your credibility is lacking because the paper looks amateurish, and
  • Your charts or graphics are boring.

I dare say most white papers are not tackling new theories or topics. And in a highly competitive situation, who are your prospects going to believe? The guy in the rumpled suit or the guy whose shirt is pressed, shoes polished and handshake firm? Likewise, a rumpled and amateurish white paper will not engender trust.

Here are five design guidelines for creating highly functioning and trustworthy white papers:

  1. Keep it readable: Readability is created by a combination of design tactics that take your specific content and audience into account.

    Choice of typeface is top on the list. While all computers have Arial available, a smarter choice for readability of long passages would be a face with a larger x-height. For example, for readability of lengthy white papers on screen, Verdana or Georgia are two excellent options. For readability on paper, Myriad Pro or Garamond may work well. Serif typefaces are usually more readable than sans serif, but you also have to weight that difference with your brand’s needs. Of course, there are thousands of typefaces available and your corporate brand style guide may also govern the ones you use.

    Bigger is not always better when it comes to sizing type. That said, there are many designers who adhere to the school of tiny type. Use a designer who understands the nuances of type size as it relates to your content, writing style, typeface selection and most importantly, the needs or your target demographic. Striking the right balance in size means ensuring readers can easily read your paper without squinting and that your type isn’t so large that they can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Also consider line length and line spacing. Line lengths that are too short cause too much hyphenation and make reading a choppy venture. Lines that are too long make it difficult for the mind’s eye to track from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. To optimize reading speed, designers have for years been using the 66-72 characters per line rule. Generally speaking, this rule continues to work very well but again, is dependent on your white paper’s specific needs. Papers with lots of very long words may require a slightly longer line length. Just try reading a James Joyce novel with a short line length—painfully slow.

    Line spacing also affects the ability of the mind’s eye to read quickly. Spacing that is too much or too little will slow the reader down, getting your message embedded later rather than sooner. Line spacing is also interdependent on typeface selection and average word length.

    Keeping your white paper readable at maximum warp speed is a fine balance between many factors.

  2. Look professional: Good design will pre-sell your white paper and ultimately, you.

    Not realizing this and acting on it will place you in the league of second bests or the do-not-consider group. It’s really not any different than showing up at an interview in a freshly pressed suit, shoes polished, hair in place, teeth clean and nails trimmed.

    Likewise, if your white paper looks like it was created in Microsoft Word, it will compete poorly against a competitor’s paper that is branded, polished, neat and professional. There are many design nuances that Microsoft Word or Publisher lack but a good designer trained in traditional typographic techniques can provide.

  3. Be interesting: Being lively and interesting will get you more attention than the party bore.

    Don’t think that the term ‘white paper’ means you can’t use color or interesting graphics. White paper doesn’t refer to the overall design of your paper, and you’re doing your brand and your customer or prospect a disservice by not making your paper visually interesting.

    Now I don’t mean embellish your paper with fancy dingbats and doodads that don’t add value. Good design is not about decoration. Make sure all your graphics are working hard for the content and/or the brand image. And do something to stand out. Don’t be boring.

  4. Design for the distribution method: Good white papers will be shared digitally among peers.

    If your white paper is being distributed via email, be careful to adhere to the email marketing laws in the country of distribution, don’t use spam triggers, do apply permission-based marketing techniques and make it easy to share by including forward links.

    If your paper is a downloadable PDF, recipients are more likely to print it before reading. So make sure you design it to be most readable printed from an inkjet printer.

    If you are professionally printing your paper for snail-mail distribution, you must also consider the paper stock used and ideally, make sure it is ballpoint or pencil ready with healthy margins for jotting notes.

  5. Pay attention to details: If God and the devil are both in the details, then this is where you’d better spend some time.

    We all know of HR people who throw away any resumes with typos, punctuation and grammar errors. It’s one way to narrow the field to the real professionals. Ditto with thought leadership and design. If you don’t look buttoned up in terms of details, how will prospects trust you with the details of their business?

In terms of white paper design details, look out for these common mistakes:

  • Ditch those double spaces between sentences. It affects reading speed and isn’t necessary since we no longer use typewriters.
  • Be consistent with periods and commas. If you’re using a serial comma, stick with it.
  • Don’t break proper nouns at the end of a line, especially if the line length is long.
  • Watch for too many hyphenations, which also slow reading and just look like you don’t care.
  • Keep your bullets closer to their text than the line below them.
  • Use a grid to align your content perfectly so nothing looks out of place.
  • Consider balance of elements on a page. Look for triangulation of weight.
  • Use styles to keep content consistently formatted.
  • Use color appropriately and don’t overuse. This isn’t a flea market.
  • Consider how your document will be printed and if on an office inkjet, make sure key content doesn’t exceed printer margins.
  • Align table columns appropriately for the content. Align decimals on the decimal, for instance

Skimpy Investments Deliver Skimpy Results.

Ultimately, good white paper design is about taking care of your prospects, making it easy for them to consider you. Yes, it’s a larger investment, but if that’s what gets you moved to the head of the pack, then that’s what you must do.

Remember, looking the part and being easy to understand shortens the distance to being considered a thought leader.

By Julia Moran Martz

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Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

Posted November 11, 2009 by Julia Moran Martz
Categories: Marketing

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Thought Leadership Series Part II: White Papers
  • Thought Leadership Series Part III: Seminars/Webinars
  • Thought Leadership Series Part IV: Social Media
  • Using research to improve your bottom line.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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