12/28/2011 5:33 PM
As I have been writing white papers for a while, I decided that to write a white paper about how to write a white paper. This may help Marketing Managers and Sales people to help their sales efforts. Please note that in this specific article I do not follow my own guidelines on how to write a white paper as this article is not meant to sell and convince but rather to educate and guide. I hope you will forgive me for that.
What is a white paper?
A white paper is nothing but a glorified report with two distinct purposes
1. inform and educate
Let’s illustrate this with an example. Let's say a small company is doing business with large corporate clients. In this case they are not targeting consumers about Iran the executive level professionals who can make purchase decisions. Let's take a software as an example and let's say that this software is quite costly and because there is a significant cost involved this is not an easy decision the purchaser wants to be educated they want to know why they should buy a software like yours and why it would be the right choice.
As we normal sales are all about educating that profs back about the benefits of the product if you are not able to do this you will not close any sales. Brochures are quite often used for this purpose however, they do not offer enough content and detail to convince a possible buyer. Whitepapers can get around this because they are for a lot of and more detailed information and arguments for a certain product.
Whitepapers can be categorized into types: marketing white papers and technical white papers. Technical white papers are geared towards a technical audience like engineers and they usually include specs and other technical details. Marketing white papers on the other hand are used to promote just about any product. As WSI ICs mostly deal with products and services rather than technical details we will focus on Marketing White Papers.
How to write a white paper.
Now that we know what the purpose of a white paper is -selling- we need to look at the process of writing it. How does a white paper help you sell?
1. Point out obvious problem
2. get the reader to acknowledge problem
3. showing relationships to other problems
4. create desire to find solution
5. present a general solution
6. create the need to solve solution now
7. present your solution (Marketing Message)
These seven points pretty much cover most whitepapers although additional portions may be added. Now let us look at each of these points in more detail.
1. The problem
the title of your white paper should clearly identify the problem being addressed. The problem may also be an opportunity, something that is holding back their business or could drastically increase their sales or product. This introduction should and not the longer than one page.
2. Provide Proof that the problem exists.
When you tell the reader that there is a problem, you have to make sure they believe you. Once you explain the primary problem, you will have to back it up with research and statistics.
3. Show related problems
The initial problem may sometimes just not be enough to get the readers full interest but it is necessary that the reader feels action is required. Highlight additional problems that could be addressed with the same solution.
4. Create desire to find solution
This may be a small yet very important part of the white paper. Once the reader acknowledges that the problem exists for them it is important to outline how the situation would change if a proper solution had been implemented.
5. Present general solution
It is important that you do not jump into talking about your own product or service at this time. You are still educating the reader and you must focus on describing the basic solution that the reader must consider. In the example of the software as used before it should cover the benefits of the type of software and not of your company's software. You also need to reinforce the benefits of the solution to the reader. As per general rules of sales and marketing, this area needs to focus on benefits to the reader rather than features of the product or service.
6. Create the need to solve solution now
As we all know from basic saves training, fear sells. Explain the implications of not implementing the solution or delay implementation of the solution.
7. Present your solution
now is the time to talk about your product or service and how it can be the best solution for the problem. You need to tell your readers why they should choose you and select your product and service. Try not to exceed one page. This is almost like a flyer for your product or service and should include your call to action as well as possible testimonials for your product or service. This part must also include instructions on how to purchase your product or service. In many cases this will be a website address or a phone number. Remember, if there is no call to action why would you let them read through this white paper.
Presentation and formatting
Now that we have determined how to get content from white paper we also need to look at the presentation. While there really is no right or wrong way to do it, there are some considerations. If your white paper contains pictures, graphs or other illustrations you may be better off choosing a full page format for your white paper. If your paper has few graphics you can pull quotes for more visual interest and create a two column format where the coats and charts are sitting in a sidebar area. You may also write in two columns to have the appearance of a magazine article.
Some whitepapers include a title page and abstract or short summary of the content. If you do, remember that your reader may not read the whole white paper after reading the summary or abstract and that is not the purpose of writing a white paper.
A title page is not always necessary but I do recommend to include one if your company releases several whitepapers over a period of time. Keep it consistent and make sure that all title pages include your company logo and contact information. It is also possible to keep your title page white as to not taint the impression of the reader that this document may be biased.
The presentation of the title is important. It has to get the reader's attention but more importantly has to tell the reader what's coming. The title should always include the basic problem and the target market it essentially has to say “there is a problem and you have it. Deal with it.”
One question I always hear is “how long should a white paper be?” Again, I do not think there is a right answer. It may be 4 pages or it may be 40 pages. I found that many people prefer whitepapers to be 5 to 10 pages long. However if the material gets more technical and information more difficult quite often whitepapers get longer. There is nothing wrong with a long white paper as long as your target group has the time to read a long white paper. If you are targeting executives, you know that you have to keep it short and get to the point quickly. Technical professionals are usually willing to go into more detail and spend more time with your arguments.
Hiring a professional white paper writer
If you search on the Internet you will be able to find professional writers for white papers. Be aware that this service may not be cheap as it could cost you a dollar per word. So this white paper on would have cost you about $1400.
Whitepapers and especially original white papers written by you on a relevant topic are a very good and effective marketing tool. One of the best examples of how to use whitepapers is given almost daily by HubSpot.com. HubSpot.com provides whitepapers and a variety of digital marketing topics. These papers are not only well researched, but provide high educational value. Every time you download a white paper from HubSpot.com you will be included in their mailing list informing you when a new white paper has been released. Every time a new white paper is released and you check it out you will be exposed to their product and service. When you read the white paper you will be educated about a certain topic but also at the end you will be presented with a HubSpot.com solution. If you have not yet signed up to a white paper hubSpot.com you might want to try this and learn from it. Now put your thinking cap on and figure out which of your products and services you can write about and make the white paper available to your prospects. Once you have the paper written you need to find a way of getting the information out. How to do this is a topic of another educational white paper.
This white paper on writing white papers could be very interesting to WSI clients. These are businesses with websites selling services and products. A whitepaper strategy would be very valuable to them and you can educate them. This is the first stop to your successful white paper marketing campaign.