The Internet and the Information Age. Both were supposed to make our lives easier. Instead, the ever-growing tsunami of information they produce has become so overwhelming that consumers are now desperate for someone (anyone!) to cut through the clutter and tell them what they really want to know. People are tired of clicking through page after page of results in search of authoritative information from a trustworthy business resource. These real estate marketing ideas are the key to new customers.
Ironically, the situation has created a new marketing opportunity for a classic marketing technique: white papers (yes, white papers). Until just a few years ago, they were the exclusive domain of high-tech companies and their geeky target market. But now, the consensus is that any company with a long sales cycle and information-intensive product can score marketing points with these free reports.
Interested in learning how you can put this tool to work for your business? Keep reading.
- This paper, The Real State of Real Estate, is an excellent example of how the classic technical white paper format can be applied to a non technical subject – without being boring.
- To see the difference an attractive layout can make, take a gander at Embracing Thoughtful, Walkable Neighborhoods.
- There are even first-person white papers, like, Price Differences Between Foreclosures and Non-foreclosures, from Zillow’s chief economist.
Writing the Text
Ignore all the companies that want to ghost write a white paper on your behalf. You’re the subject-matter expert. If you’re a decent writer, you’ll do just fine – so long as you keep the following in mind:
- Define your target reader before you start, then make sure everything you write appeals to them.
- Use casual, easy-to-understand language, and avoid industry buzzwords.
- Don’t be afraid to use contractions and litter your paper with metaphors and humor. The easiest thing for a reader to do is stop reading, so keep things lively and fun.
- Near the end of your paper, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to make a pitch for your product or service. Until then, avoid direct selling and use a neutral, authoritative tone (like a newspaper article).
- Include facts and figures whenever possible to overcome consumers’ natural suspicions of anything marketing related.
Gathering the Content
If you write about a subject you know, there won’t be need for much research. But you will want to include facts, figures and other third-party references.
- Quotations from your customers are valid, but everyone knows they’re usually solicited and tweaked. Instead, include case-study examples featuring client projects and successes.
- Only use trusted sources, and cite each at the end of your report.
- Use real numbers. Generalizations don’t pack near the same punch as percentages and actual numbers.
- If you plan to quote more than a few sentences, ask for the original writer’s blessing beforehand.
- Keep competitor’s names out of it. Facts and figures that show your product or service is better than others shouldn’t include competitors’ names. Instead, stick with vague references (i.e. “twice the selection as the other guys”) which are much less likely to end up in court.
Formatting the Report
No matter how good your writing and research, most readers are initially only going to skim your report to see if it’s worth spending the time to read word-for-word. That’s why it’s so important to arrange the information logically, and make your strongest points stand out.
The introduction – Summarize the content of your paper without giving too much of the good stuff away. Focus on the problem and some of the potential solutions (but don’t give away your final conclusion).
The problem – Next, you’ll want to spotlight the underlying problem (falling home prices, destructive building practices, whatever) and provide readers with the background information necessary to understand the issue.
- Use real-life examples and include facts and figures.
- Break all the body text into sections (like a magazine article) to keep it from looking like a sea of words (and give each sub-section its own sub-title).
The solution – At some point during your discussion of the problem, you’ll want to segue into some potential solutions. Be sure to include – and note – solutions that don’t work so well (your competitors’ products / services), as well as those that have a track record of success (your product / service).
- Use customer case studies and success stories to show readers how actual users have benefited from these approaches.
The conclusion – By the time your target audience reaches the conclusion, they’ll be putty in your hands. Make this section of the report simple but compelling. Reiterate the best solution to the problem, and succinctly explain how your company is the best qualified to provide it.
The works cited – If you want readers to take you seriously, you’ll need to include a section detailing where you gathered all those supporting facts and figures.
Promoting your white paper
Once your white paper is written and formatted, here’s how to get people interested in reading and sharing it:
- Offer it on your website.
- Announce it on your blog.
- Talk about it on your social media sites (Facebook and Twitter).
- Include social media links within the paper (to encourage sharing).
- Cross-promote it on the websites of allied businesses.
- Post it on Bnet, Brand Republic, Knowledge Storm and other white paper syndication sites.
- Use direct mail (postcards are perfect for generating interest).
- Publicize it in a press release.
- Advertise it online.
- Distribute printed copies at trade shows.
Will a single white paper automatically translate into new sales? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure: When incorporated as part of an integrated marketing campaign, they can be very effective at.