By Alan Graner
What is a white paper?
A typical white paper is four to 16 pages and gives readers a serious, in-depth explanation about a product, service, process, idea, trend, problem, findings, etc.
However, a true white paper is never, ever “salesy.” If so, it’s advertising.
Questions to ask before you write a white paper
You don’t just throw a white paper together and expect it to generate results. A successful white paper requires strategic thinking. Here are six questions you should ask (and answer) before you begin:
- Who is my reader? Define them, understand them, know their pains.
- What stresses my readers and how does my product/service help them? This positions your product or service correctly for maximum impact.
- Is my paper written for them…or for me? If there are more “we’s” instead of “you’s”, you’re not speaking to your readers.
- Where in my sales cycle does your white paper fall? Lead generation? Sales conversion? Deal closer? Product justification?
- How will I know if it’s successful? Establish what you expect your white paper to do at the beginning, then measure the results.
- What’s the next step your readers should take? Go to a special landing page? Contact a sales person? Download a trial offer?
Source: “Do you do these things with your white paper?” in whitepapersource™
The right headline drives more leads
The best white paper in the world is useless if no one reads it. Therefore, your headline’s job is to grab readers’ attention.
- Identify the problem. People buy solutions. Your white paper’s title should answer the question, What’s in it for me?
- Identify the prospect. People won’t waste time reading about solutions that aren’t relevant. Your title should say, Hey, this is for you Ms. IT Director or Mr. VP of transportation.
- Identify the solution. Identify why your solution is unique, e.g., lowest cost, higher productivity, on-time delivery, etc.
Example: “A manufacturing IT director’s guide to user-friendly software solutions that can begin increasing profit margins today.”
Source: Kate Headen, “3 Simple Title Tweaks That Can Help White Paper Marketers Drive More Leads” in Savvy B2B Marketing
Writing a compelling white paper
Once your headline attracts attention, your content must keep readers hooked.
One of the best way to hook readers is to keep your white paper informative and educational. And write for your audience. If your white paper is aimed at peers, use common industry or scientific words and concepts. If aimed at the general reader, make it non-technical.
A typical white paper structure consists of:
- The title (to capture attention).
- The abstract or executive summary (a short overview of what the white paper is about).
- The introduction (define the issue and provide background as needed).
- The problem (describe the issues and problems your readers face).
- The solution (how your product, service, process, methodology, etc., solves the problem).
- The benefits (the rewards you offer, with supporting evidence if possible).
- The conclusion (a short summary emphasizing the benefits your solution offers and the risks of not implementing it).
- The call to action (tell your readers what to do next and how to do it).
Source: Sandra Clutter, “How to Write Compelling White Papers (Your Audience Will Really Want to Read” in MarketingProfs
What suggestions do you offer for using white papers as a marketing weapon?
Image: Author unknown. Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aristotle_latin_manuscript.jpg
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For successful white papers and other marketing solutions, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit our website: www.dsprel.com.