White Papers and Webinars: Free Information Fast

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by Spencer Wade

White Paper: An authoritative report or guide helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. White papers are used in two main spheres: B@B marketing and government. Many more white papers are produced for B2B vendors today than are produced for government agencies.

Webinar: The term webinar is actually two terms combined: web conferencing and seminar. The term refers to any service that allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations. The service is made possible by TCP/IP connections on the Internet. It allows real-time point-to-point communications as well as multicast communications from one sender to many receivers. Voice, text-based messages, and video chat can be shared simultaneously across geographically dispersed locations.

 Technology and Users

 Technology has become the driving force behind many of today’s fastest growing career fields. In all of its forms, and there are many, technology has changed the world. It has made its way into nearly every human endeavor, and, in most cases, drastically reduced the workload required of its operator. This is progress of the highest order, but it is not without its own problems. There is an enormous amount of learning needed to master technology. In fact, if one truly wants to become an expert then the learning never stops. Technology is constantly changing through modification and upgrades, so the only way to maintain a high skill level is to absorb as much information as possible every day.

 The information necessary to stay on top of the technological game can be difficult to gather, digest, and use in a meaningful way. The Internet is vast and the information is found in many places. This makes it difficult and time consuming to bring it together, and more so to compile it in a meaningful way. Time is money in the modern world, and every second spent finding the right information equates to lost revenue.

The demands technology places upon its users in terms of time spent studying can be enormous. The whole experience can be overwhelming to many, but there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. That light is given off by white papers and webinars. These two resources are invaluable to technology users. They save all the time spent searching for the right information, and cover everything one must know in order to get the most out of a specific technology.

The definitions for white paper and webinar were given at the beginning of this paper to help the reader understand these terms. These resources have become the backbone of many users understanding of the technology they use in everyday life. Without this freely-given information, there would be much more confusion concerning, and misuse of, technology. The information found within these resources is directly, and specifically, related to a given technology, and allows users to quickly and efficiently become familiar with the technology in question. This is a godsend to the millions of people out there who are required to use technology they do not fully understand.

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White Papers

There are countless white papers available on the Internet today. These white papers are divided into three categories: backgrounder, numbered list, and problem solution. The definitions for these categories are listed below:

  • Backgrounder: Describes the technical and/or business benefits of a certain vendor offering. This can be a product, service, or methodology. This type of white paper is best used to supplement a product launch, argue a business case, or support a technical evaluation.
  • Numbered List: Presents a set of tips, questions, or points about a specific business issue. This type of white paper is best used to get attention with new or provocative views, or cast aspersions on competitors using fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
  • Problem/Solution: Recommends a new, improved solution to a nagging business problem. This type of white paper is best used to generate leads, build thought leadership, or inform and persuade stakeholders.

These papers can be combined in many ways to better accomplish the writer’s goals. There are, however, some caveats to combining them. For example, a numbered list may be combined with any other type, but it is unworkable to combine the detailed product information of a backgrounder with the industry-wide perspective of a problem/solution white paper.

Most B2B white papers argue that one particular technology, product, or method is superior for solving a specific problem. They may present research findings, list questions or tips about an issue, or highlight a particular product or service. These papers are marketing communications documents designed to promote the products or services from a company. They use selected facts and logical arguments to build a case favorable to the company publishing the document.

In June of 2010, Stephanie Tilton published an article that reaffirmed white papers as one of the most important tools companies have for accomplishing all of the previously stated white paper goals. Here is a sampling of the research from her article:

  •  70% of IT buyers used white papers to get information on enterprise technology solutions in the past three months.
  • 77% of respondents responsible for either making B2B technology purchases or influencing purchasing decisions read at least one white paper in the first six months of 2009, with 84% rating white papers as moderately to extremely influential when making final purchasing decisions, and 89% passing them along to others.
  • Trial software and white papers are the most utilized, along with being the most effective, forms of content for researching IT problems and solutions.
  • More than 76% of IT buyers use white papers for general education on a specific technology topic or issue.
  • Over 73% of IT buyers use white papers to investigate possible technology solutions for the business/technology need.
  • 68% of IT buyers use white papers to learn about a specific vendor and their solution technology.
  • 93% of IT buyers pass along up to half of the white papers they read/download.
  • 36% of IT buyers made a purchase as a result of reading a white paper.
  • 32% of IT buyers included a white paper in a business case to support a purchase.

The statistics listed in Ms. Tilton’s article give all the evidence needed for arguing the case for white papers. These documents are created with an ulterior motive, but they give anyone who uses them free information. That is priceless in technological fields. In fact, it is downright altruistic of the companies who spend the time to do the research and offer it freely to any and all who would use it.

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Webinars

 Webinars are inexpensive, beneficial tools that can be found online covering a broad range of topics related to technology and its applications. They allow their host to speak directly to an audience in real time. A webinar can be offered as a one-on-one session or given to an entire virtual classroom or conference. The number of viewers is secondary in importance to the overall use of time, the participation, and the feedback afterwards.

 The number of webinars offered is growing by leaps and bounds. There is no end in sight to this unprecedented growth, and new uses for the medium are being found all the time. There are countless ways that these webinars can help users reach their goals. Below is a list of just a few of the ways in which webinars can accomplish this:

  • Raise awareness and ideas for products and services.
  • Increase productivity and connectivity with educational opportunities.
  • Build relationships and reputations based on real life interactions and experiences.
  • Develop high conversation rates benefitting income and profitability.
  • Listbuilding and creation of virtual audiences.

Webinars give the host immediate authority on their chosen topic. This is actually one of the main reasons people attend webinars. They are looking for new information and ideas from specifically targeted industry leaders. This is excellent for building lists of fans who are hungry for the knowledge offered as long as it is current, meaningful, and, above all else, valid.

 Final Thoughts

 These very different resources, white papers and webinars, offer users a direct line to all the knowledge they need to fully realize their potential in a technology-dominated world. The use of both will greatly improve a user’s understanding, efficiency, and productivity when working with technologies in their personal and professional lives.

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