I love smart people. I once got into a conversation with a couple of financial modelers from a major bank at a business cocktail party. I’m way more of a words person than a numbers person, so you’d think that my instinct would have been to head for the bar as fast as I could, but these guys were fascinating. Even though I could barely follow along, I was completely captivated by their grasp of their subject, their interest in sharing how their work impacted the business, and their passion.

I’m not alone – a lot of people like to be around someone who knows what the heck they’re talking about. Chances are good that your customers feel the same way.

Everyone is smart about something. My auto repair guy once talked eloquently for 20 minutes about tire choices. A salesperson yesterday gave me really interesting information about the shoes I tried on. And guess what? I ended up buying the tires and the shoes. These people knew what they were talking about, they gave me knowledge that I could use, and they provided it at a time when I wanted it. And by sharing their knowledge with me, I felt smart, too. At the very least, I felt like I was making a smart choice.

It’s great to have these kinds of interactions one-on-one, but in the B2B world we don’t always have that luxury. We need to make knowledge-sharing scalable. This is where white papers come into play. With their ability to explain a subject in-depth, white papers offer companies a chance to help prospective customers understand an issue and make a thoughtful decision. And, yes, white papers help prospective customers know that you are smart.

White papers help B2B marketers develop trust and legitimacy, overcome commoditization, help fill the sales funnel, and offer criteria for appraising competing solutions, among other things, finds a study by EMedia. These findings are not new – but they remain consistently relevant. One of the more interesting books I’ve read recently is Jonah Berger’s Contagious. In it he describes the crucial elements that make “things catch on,” including social currency and practical value.

A well-written white paper that offers interesting, helpful, and insightful information can be, well, very contagious. By offering news your prospective customers can use, people are more likely to share it – as Berger notes, people like to share things that help others. They also like to “look smart, funny, and in-the-know.” There is social currency in being smart.

White papers are great fodder for email campaigns and as giveaways to webinar participants. They are fantastic when repurposed into bylines for earned media. And they are a wonderful resource on your website to help move customers through the funnel.

I bet you’re pretty smart about something. There’s no need to be modest about it – people love people who are smart. Are you using your smarts effectively? Do your prospective customers have a way to find out just how smart you are? Maybe it’s time to consider a white paper – I think you’ll find it’s the smart thing to do. Give me a shout if you’d like to brainstorm an idea for yours.