Generating quality leads is a growing challenge for many marketing professionals. More than ever before, legions of marketing materials are competing for the attention of prospects. How can you be sure to stand out from the crowd?

New research shows that white papers are among the most compelling ways to attract leads. Should white papers be on your marketing radar? If you are focused on business-to-business interactions, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

What Makes White Papers so Attractive?

White papers help people make decisions, especially in the information technology world. Consider recent research that found an astonishing 70% of information technology professionals rely on white papers to make purchasing decisions in the U.S. (ITtoolbox, July 19, 2006).

Because white papers are informative, they are sought after by prospects early in the sales cycle and can generate quality leads. This is supported by a recent KnowledgeStorm and SiriusDecisions study that concluded white papers were more valued by those at an early stage in the sales cycle—more so than free trials, analyst reports and webinars (July 6, 2006).

Are white papers a part of your marketing mix? Because they are pulled into the company by prospects, white papers have the ability to linger and travel around the business, persuading along the way. It's not uncommon for a well-written white paper to travel across the desks of dozens of people in a single company. Well-written white papers are proven prospect magnets.

Using White Papers for Lead Generation

The key to generating leads with white papers is for the content to avoid a hard-sell. This means avoiding the mention of your company or product in the first half of the white paper. When prospects begin to sense they are being sold to, the white paper shifts from being a valuable resource to just another marketing message.

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image of Michael Stelzner

Michael A. Stelzner is the author of Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them EngagedFollow Michael on Twitter.