Santanu Hazra

I am an internet marketer since 2003

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See with customer's point of view

Think as a customer thinks

Santanu Hazra

February 13, 2009

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If you're writing a whitepaper—or plan to include one in your marketing strategy—you should check out a premium article at in which Steve Hoffman provides an in-depth list of dos and don'ts. Here's a peek at some of his advice:

Get the length right. It's nearly impossible to develop a compelling idea in four pages; most readers, meanwhile, don't have the patience to wade through 20. Hoffman advises a target length of eight to ten pages, or around 3,000 words. "[There's a] notable exception to this recommendation," he says. "Some highly technical audiences demand even more information, justifying a longer paper."

Appear as objective as possible. The purpose of a whitepaper is to educate, inform and demonstrate thought leadership. Overt plugs for your product or service will undermine effectiveness; strictly factual descriptions in the second half of your discussion, though, can enhance a sense of objectivity after you've covered challenges, motivations and best practices. "Whitepapers are not marketing collateral," he says. "[T]hey complement marketing collateral."

Inspire with useful information, not fear. Savvy businesspeople won't make a decision based on hyperbolic doom-and-gloom scenarios borrowed from late-night infomercials. "Whitepaper readers usually prefer factual statements of the possible repercussions of various courses of action to aid them in their evaluations and decisions," says Hoffman.

The Po!nt: Just the facts, ma'am. A "whitepaper" that actively markets your company to readers is nothing more than a long, wordy brochure. You'll achieve better results by expanding their knowledge base, and letting them connect the dots on their own.

According to Justin Hitt, B2B sales teams routinely get it wrong when seeking new customers. "The problem is, not every sales person knows who makes a good client," he explains. Among the common errors he sees:

Chasing too many prospects. "Successful sales people focus on highly qualified prospects most likely to close," Hitt says.

Not chasing enough prospects. The reverse is true as well, he says. Prospecting should be a daily activity.

Not testing enough. If you aren't continuously testing, "you'll likely stop pursuing great customers out of indifference," he predicts.

To avoid falling into these traps, Hitt urges B2B marketers to follow a basic prospecting formula: identify, challenge and qualify to close.

* Identify your ideal customers using specific criteria that are important to you. Then "pre-qualify every lead with a well-designed marketing campaign," he advises.

* Challenge your assumptions by really understanding your customers. Carry on an ongoing dialogue with them, showing real interest in what matters to them.

* Qualify a good prospect as the ideal user of your solution, until it's obvious that their only choice is to buy. This beats the hard sell every time.

Nurture leads and educate prospects, Hitt advises, instead of "pitching them with endless dribble about your organization."

The Po!nt: Ditch the sales pitch. Instead, take a real interest in the companies you contact. This approach will serve them well, and help you clearly identify your hottest prospects.

It would be terrific if email marketers had universal standards for the creation of all their html messages. In the absence of such comprehensive guidelines, Winston Bowden offers some fundamental design rules as a jumping-off point:

* Aim for a width of 600 to 620 pixels. Use CSS inlinks rather than external CSS style sheets.

* Optimize images for quick loading.

* Avoid Flash.

* Link to forms and surveys rather than including them in the body of the email message itself.

Now, let's say you've developed a great layout with these tips in mind. Sadly, that's still not the end of your design job. The reason? A recipient opening your message doesn't automatically see what you designed on your computer. Ensuring that they do requires testing. Here are two areas Bowden suggests you focus on:

If you target B2B customers, you must be well-versed in a quirk of Microsoft Outlook 2007, which renders html emails in Word, not Explorer. If you aren't, it may pay to hire an expert who is.

If you're targeting a B2C audience, testing on other clients—primarily Entourage, Apple Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, Thunderbird and Yahoo—will prove especially useful.

The Po!nt: Learn from the past. Even though a design "bible" for email marketing doesn't exist, you can still find the guidance you need to avoid the mistakes others have already made.


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