White papers published by consulting firms are usually forgotten within moments of downloading. That’s because, quite frankly, beneath the different brands and formats, your services and your competitors’ are pretty similar, and you all outline the same quality results and deliverables your clients expect you to make. There’s nothing wrong with that. But all too often, you’ll be passed over. Your white paper hasn’t done enough.

Now imagine your prospects come across your firm’s website and your competitor’s at nearly the same time. Both of you have pretty much identical services, ratings, and other market factors. You also have a resources section, and that’s where you differ. You offer a white paper for free download: “How To Save 15% On Procurement Costs Using Resources You Already Have In-House.” You attract far more downloads, email list growth, and inquiries because people remember people who put them first, and that’s what your white paper does.

Now, of course, it’s not that simple. The worlds of business politics and bureaucracy demand that you do more than please a single reader. This is where you make sure the reader can justify her partiality to you, with solid information she can successfully put into practice, add to intelligent conversations, and share with colleagues. Your white paper ends up making your reader look good–not in the forced “I’m reading industry-related mumbo-jumbo all the time so I must be a genius” way (which actually works for some people), but in the practical, everyday aspects of his job that really get him recognized–and through him, you. You’re already a favorite in the client’s house, and you haven’t even exchanged a phone call yet.

Now, being a “favorite” is a vague, intangible goal, but there’s nothing vague or intangible about how to achieve that goal, or its results. Clients have spelled it out in 2015 market research conducted by the Association of Management Consulting Firms. The top five aspects of thought leadership like white papers, case studies, and ebooks that draw a direct referral rate as high as 26%:

  1. Relevance
  2. A demonstation of your deep knowledge of a problem and its solution
  3. Evidence of your solution’s effectiveness
  4. Help diagnosing their problems
  5. Original case study research

Do you see a common denominator? Clients are asking that you earn their engagement by offering valuable insights addressing what matters to them most, which isn’t actually different than what matters to you most: the clients’ problems. By writing a white paper that keeps this goal in mind… and then writing another… and another… your referral rates will skyrocket because you are becoming a favorite, over and over again.

For insights on these characteristics you can use when developing your content strategy, and proof of the response rate white papers, case studies, and other forms of thought leadership deliver to firms like yours, download my special report, The 5 Most Coveted Content Characteristics According To Your Professional Services Clients.

Source: Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF). Thought Leadership: Cutting Through the Noise to Unlock the Value. Chicago: AMCF, 2015.

Photo credit: “3D Bright Idea,” Chris Potter. Courtesy Flickr, CC 2.0.

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