How to Produce a Successful White Paper (Part I)
White papers originated from governments in the roaring 20s as a way to share government policy preference prior to the introduction of legislation. Fast-forward to the ‘90s and marketers began using white papers as a way to communicate research findings about their products, services or technologies.
Used as marketing tools, these papers allow companies to help their customers solve problems. The big distinguisher and reason they are so popular is that the information is presented with an educational rather than sales twist. Facts opposed to propaganda. White papers work because buyers want to make up their own minds, do appropriate research and not be sold.
The proper definition of a white paper is an educational document that is approximately five pages long and written in a straight-forward manner with factual, well-sourced copy and graphs that establishes the company or person as an expert or thought leader. There are three types of white papers
- The Backgrounder. Describes the technical or business benefits of working with a vendor.
- Numbered List. Presents a number of points, questions or tips about a business issue.
- Problem/Solution. The classic case study format is used to walk a prospect through a solution to their nagging business problem.
Written correctly, white papers remain the most relied on content tool used by B2B marketers today. A good paper is laser-focused, clear, understandable and sanitized of any propaganda or sales speak.
“White papers remain the most effective piece of marketing collateral, with 86% of respondents finding them moderately to highly influential in the purchasing decision,” according to a Eccolo Media study reviewed inB2B Magazine.
Headlines and Wording for White Papers
The headline is imperative in your cross-channel marketing. Make it easy to scan and understand. Save your cleverness for your advertising pieces because a play-on-words doesn’t go over well in white papers, according to Marketing Sherpa. Five pivotal pieces of advice Marketing Sherpa offers are:
1. Use clear, but non-salesy wording
2. Shorter is better
3. If you must use a long headline, break it into a headline and sub-headline
4. Add “ing” to your titles. Prospects want to achieve something such as eliminating, preventing, defending, implementing, ect.
5. Run some marketing searches and statistics before naming your white paper
Think Like a Product Launch with your White Paper
Here is Malone’s 7-step launch process that he says will make your white paper a smashing success:
1.Create a strong landing page
2.Share your white paper in press release format on the wire
3.Distribute pitch letters to reporters
4.Get it placed in a publication as a bylined article
5.Pitch speaking opportunities
6.Syndicate your white paper (covered in Part II of this blog here)
7.Leverage social media
Make sure to read our Part II of this blog coming later this week, which goes into the pros and cons of giving your white papers away vs. gating them behind a form and what experts say about the effectiveness of a white paper compared to a blog.
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