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Businessman Keeping Protective CaseDragging real insights out of subject matter experts (SMEs) for white papers can sometimes seem like pulling teeth. One of the most common excuses I get is some variation on “We don’t want to give too much of our solution away.”

In other words, if you share too much of your intellectual property (IP) with the customer about how you can solve their problem, they won’t call because there’s nothing left to talk about. That never made much sense to me. When it comes to software, the more completely you describe the problem and your solution to it, the more likely a customer is to buy. (Are they going to go off and re-code your software themselves?) And if you’re selling services, every customer is unique enough that even the longest white paper won’t teach them how to do what you do.

I’ve always urged my clients to go big with the details describing how they’re so smart and their competitors are clueless. Here’s how a recent white paper from security vendor Cybereason (no, not written by me) did a brilliant job of promoting their expertise by going deep into the details.

Dirty Rotten DGAs

Cybereason provides a “real-time attack detection and response platform that uses endpoint data to detect and remediate simple and complex threats.” To showcase the specific skills they bring to this somewhat generic area, a recent white paper shared what they learned about a specific type of attack called Domain Generation Algorithms (DGAs.)

DGAs get around conventional security software that blocks down malicious domains by, as the name implies, generating as many as a thousand fake domains per day. Here, in my view, is what Cybereason did right in educating its prospects about them.

If You Know It, Flaunt It

If your internal experts are good at their jobs, they’re the best source for compelling content. In this white paper, Cybereason relied heavily on its own work finding and fighting DGAs. You may not have an in-house security lab, but you probably have:
Field engineers who see common configuration errors customers make with your hardware or software.
Salespeople with insights into what tools, technologies or issues are most important to customers and why.
Your own engineers who have creative ideas about what new capabilities customers might like and could use a reality check by blogging about them and asking for feedback.

Lesson: Don’t underestimate the amount of valuable insights within your own organization and don’t be afraid to share them.

Grisly Details, Please

Just like in a movie or book, it’s the details that make your story real. Rather than cower in fear it was giving away proprietary goodies, Cybereason dove deep into the workings of eight DGAs ranging from “Necurs” to “Pykspa” to “Unknown Punycode-like.” It shared everything from screenshots to examples of fake domains and the associated country codes, including .ga (Gabon), .im (Isle of Man) and .sc (Seychelles). Note this is detailed information you could argue a customer could use without buying their product. But in reality, this level of detail does more to describe the urgent need for a solution like Cybereason’s than eliminate the need for it.

Lesson: Share the real-world details that show you know your stuff.

Don’t Forget the Newbies

Before the deep technical details, Cybereason set the stage with a review of where DGAs fit in the overall security picture (by establishing command and control over the affected system.) It also explained why DGAs are so hard to detect with traditional security methods.

This context and background is essential because not all of your prospects (or everyone involved in the purchase) will have a deep background in security. SMEs are often so close to their subject matter that they dive right in with acronyms, formulae and frameworks before telling the reader why they should care.

Lesson: Write the white paper so your significant other, spouse or parent could get the point.

A Real Screen Turner

Overall, this white paper felt almost like a news story and kept me reading. If anything, it could have been a bit more promotional with more details on how Cybereason fights these pests. But that can be the hook for the next white paper.

Have you found “more is better” in sharing your smarts or did you get more follow-ups by leaving prospects wanting more?

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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