Thursday, 16 August 2012

How to Write a B2B White Paper and Sales Page Appealing to Corporate Finance Executives

The White Paper as a tool in B2B marketing is experiencing use fatigue and increased competition. In the summer of 2001, a Google search for the phrase “white papers” yielded 1.4 million hits. Nine years later, the same phrase yielded 19.6 million hits.

Just reaching a CFO with your marketing materials is a challenging task. Research finds that many traditional marketing tactics are typically ineffective when selling to corporate finance executives. Thought leadership marketing, on the other hand, always has delivered great results for B2B brands, so it’s important to understand how to write a white paper that conveys the power of an effectively written educational and sales page.

How to Write a B2B Sales Page or White Paper: Understanding Your Target

At Proformative we actively use our customer’s white papers as one of many methods to foster engagement with our user base of over 600,000 corporate finance executives and generate highly qualified leads. While some white papers are crafted for this audience, others ask for some improvement in order for them to be an effective lead generation asset that will attract CFOs’ attention.

Here’s what to remember: The CFO’s role has changed from being the “chief accountant and number reporter” to being a core part of the business team evaluating every major strategic and tactical move in the enterprise.

Now a clear second-in-command at most companies behind the CEO, the CFO drives almost all inward-facing activity at their company, and increasingly is involved with customers and press as well.

To appeal to corporate, finance executives such as the CFO know they want to see bottom-line benefits summed up in a page or two when you write a white paper. They want to hear about lower costs, better sales, higher profits or improved customer service. They expect a no-nonsense, polished production, with clear graphics they can understand at a glance.

Saving Time and Money on the Process

If you’re a medium-sized technology firm, you’ll spend $5,000 to $8,000 and one to two weeks to have a white paper written and illustrated, so here are some quick tips on how to write a paper to save you time and money:

1. Round up approvals from all stakeholders early on.

2. Submit short deliverables for discussion and consensus, such as a creative brief or a one-page outline, before you start writing the 10-page document.

3. Get your client or company to make a tangible commitment to completing all steps involved in writing a paper.

4. Make sure your designer understands the white paper format.

The top four problems facing most CFOs

Appealing to financial executives is challenging because they consume more information due to their added responsibilities. It requires them to deliver more insights, more diagnoses, and more data and that needs to be considered when you write your white paper or sales pages.

1. Quality Information – Companies make tactical and strategic decisions all the time. Finance and accounting are right in the middle of these decisions. Key is getting the right data at the right time and in the right format to make it useful to whoever needs it.

2. Risk and Compliance – Companies face risks every day that arise from employing people, operating in various locations, moving and managing large amounts of money, responding to the needs of shareholders, and being targets for litigation.

3. Communications – The traditional responsibility of the CFO was to produce and publish financial statements. Now a media-driven world pressures the CFO to provide a company image to analysts, investors, and employees. In light of recent events, positive image mostly means integrity and value, both in the company’s character and as a financial investment. Another frequent communication issue for CFOs is needing accurate metrics to help analyze “big picture” issues.

4. Financial Planning/Reporting – Many CFOs lack the tools required for forecasting or planning. These serious problems make hearing a sales pitch insulting. But help them solve their problems through education and useful information, and you can get the CFO’s attention.

For a copy to be appealing to corporate finance executives such as a CFO, it should be in a plain, clear language and format that is easy to read. It should not include distracting graphics or extraneous links, but instead provide high-value information relevant to your audience.

Use a Layered Approach when Crafting the White Paper Content

Attention spans are getting shorter as the result of growing workloads and the popularity of social media, so adding attention-generating elements to your white paper ensures that your key marketing messages will appeal to corporate finance executives and have the best opportunity to be noticed, read, and acted on.

Produce something that can be consumed in three layers.

Skimming – Just by using headlines and summary highlights, the basic points of the entire document can be read and understood in less than a minute.

Preliminary Reading – Assuming the one-minute skimming is effective and motivates more interest, set up the material so a second layer of information can be consumed in 15 to 30 minutes.

Comprehensive Reading & Recommendations – A third reading can then offer the details, statistics and background information for the person on an as-needed basis.

Table of Contents

A useful way to lead a reader quickly through your white paper is to provide the following:

1. The executive summary with a synopsis of the entire white paper in one concise page.

2. The concluding summary with essential walk-away messages.

3. Summary paragraphs and juicy, meaningful quotes highlighted by formatting are excellent and often the first things noticed on a given page of a white paper.

4. Graphics provide a way to understand complex issues via illustrations and visualization.

5. Bullet lists help readers to see and understand all the elements that make up a complex issue.

6. Shaded text boxes provide readers with bottom-line summary statements. Shading one or more paragraphs of text is an effective way of distinguishing bottom-line statements from the remaining text on the page.

Copywriting Specifics – writing for CFOs

Avoid marketing jargon. Don’t use terms you’ve heard used in selling; it will not appeal to corporate finance executives. They will tune you out.

What does impress them is information that helps them run their business. Educate them on trends or how to get the most out of corporate systems, or new ways of using data in internal communications, etc.

Educate first, last and always. Connecting with them on their issues will, as in any process, increase the likelihood of a response. Give them the information they most value and make it easily digestible to create the brand impression you desire.

CFO’s Are Humans Too, You Know?

Despite their intense, unique demands, CFOs respond to the same copywriting basics as all of us. Deliver a white paper that clearly answers the following questions:

What will they learn?

Why do they need your product or service?

Who are you?

What qualifies you to speak to them?

Your Check List:

Has your final document created an emotional connection or hook that identifies with their emotional reason for needing your product or service?

Have you clearly shown the way your product or service can not only improve their business, but also create transformation for your readers that leads to emotional relief and satisfaction?

Have you let readers know that the product or service is easy to use?

Have you added trust factors such as testimonials and risk reversals such as guarantees?

Have you added call to action and placed it strategically where it can have the best possible effect?

So, you’ve written a perfect white paper. Now what?

Proformative’s Solutions For Reaching CFOs

and Over 600,000 Other Corporate Finance Decision-Makers

Proformative’s integrated marketing campaigns offer marketers an opportunity to take advantage of comprehensive features in their B2B marketplace:

B2B “micro-site” with multiple sub-tabs of rich information on your products;

Full company contact information including websites, phone numbers, email and more;

A full, graphically rich, descriptive home page;

A tab for your company’s locations;

White papers and case studies with unlimited lead generation;

The ability to publish videos, news and blog posts;

A Resource tab where you can post any number of collateral and resource documents;

An Events tab where you can post events that draw the interest of our community;

A tab for customer reviews.

Proformative offers not only a wide range of world class marketing solutions for lead generation; it also has designed a variety of on-site and off-site lead nurturing solutions that advance prospects through the purchase cycle and provide marketers with ready-to-buy sales leads that return high ROI on your marketing investment.

About the Author

Nancy Ashley

Author & Editor

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