In today's increasingly Internet-driven world, end users pondering an RFID acquisition are looking to obtain detailed, hype-free information without wasting hours searching the Web. Despite the advent of YouTube videos, online slide shows, webinars, podcasts and other sophisticated electronic marketing technologies, most end users—some 65 percent, according to a recent study conducted by Eccolo Media, a San Francisco-based marketing firm specializing in the IT market—find what they're looking for in a traditional white paper.
Far from being relics carried over from the pre-Internet era, white papers continue to serve as inexpensive and highly effective marketing tools. While most white papers are now distributed as PDF files as well as on paper, their basic mission remains unchanged: to help readers gain detailed information regarding a particular market, technology or business situation.
RFID solution providers that offer white papers know firsthand that they can help sway indecisive end users toward an acquisition. "We believe in the power of white papers and have used them for many years," says Tracy Gay, VP of marketing at Omni ID, an RFID tag manufacturer based in Rochester, N.Y. She believes white papers enable vendors to establish themselves as trusted authorities on essential products and services. "White papers allow you to provide useful information to end users, and to position yourself as an expert," she explains. "We try hard to be a company that's very easy to do business with, and being able to provide this information is part of what we strive to do."
Target the Message
The first step in developing a white paper is to pick a topic and set the document's objective. "Put yourself in the mindset of your audience," says Alan Sherman, director of marketing at OATSystems, a systems integrator based in Waltham, Mass. "Figure out who you are writing for and make it compelling for them to want to read."
White papers fall into several categories, including market analyses, problem solvers, best-practice guides and case studies. "All of those different flavors have their purpose and place," says Robert Zielinski, director of commercial marketing at CDO Technologies, an RFID systems integrator headquartered in Dayton, Ohio. "It really depends on what the company wants to say and, more importantly, what the user wants to know."
A white paper about any topic must be service-oriented, offering some form of assistance to readers who can benefit from the document's insight. A white paper that simply describes a technology or business practice provides no immediate value to end users and will likely be ignored. "If you can help [readers] address a challenge, or provide them with valuable insights that will make their jobs easier, you've taken important steps toward determining your target audience," Sherman says. If the white paper's message, for example, involves using RFID to streamline a retail inventory system, it should be targeted at business and technical leaders at companies that could potentially benefit from such a solution. "If there is a good match between what you have to say and who you are saying it to," he states, "it will be well received."
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