Let the white paper speak
More than ever, businesses are inundated with promotional material from would-be suppliers. The promotional nature of even the more targeted mailings means that they’re perceived as ‘junk’ and end up in the virtual or actual bin.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that people prefer to read items which are more unbiased and objective. And herein lies the beauty of white papers. As reasoned, detailed treatments of products and their applications, white papers offer potential value to both writer and reader.
What is a White Paper?
A white paper is an authoritative and detailed guide or report, making use of data and detailed research to provide a depth of information about a particular subject, product or service. White papers enable readers to more fully understand the subject matter so that they can make informed decisions.
Some ways that companies use white papers:
1. To help launch new products. A detailed treatment of a symptom or problem is followed by a detailed explanation of a product or service designed to overcome that problem. If something is truly groundbreaking, people need to know about it before they can be sold to.
2. To enable readers to see familiar products in new ways. If a product has been marketed in a traditionally promotional way, its features or benefits may have been overlooked by prospective buyers who try and ‘see through’ them.
3. To underscore a USP. As conventional marketing wisdom tells us time and time again, the key challenge is to stand out from our competitors. White papers can lend the USP a much more objective focus than may have been possible with more traditional marketing communications.
How to write a white paper
Like any kind of dissertation, your white paper must be the result of careful research and assimilation of ideas. So take time to spread the net wide. Gather all relevant source material and process it with care. Then structure it carefully.
Unlike most dissertations, readers should not be expected to read white papers one way only. You must allow them to skim read certain sections and then pick up the more salient points. So break your paper up into sections and make good use of bullet points, sub-headings, diagrams and charts.
Work on making the conclusion to the white paper particularly pithy and powerful. Although, as we’ve said, this is not going to be an overtly promotional piece, it is still a subtle sales piece, so the major major benefits should match the major problems.
Outsourcing the writing
As you can imagine, white paper writing is highly demanding, in both effort and time, which is why so many companies outsource the work to a copywriter. If you go down this path, should you choose a generalist copywriter, or one with particular specialism in your industry?
If you consider it more important to use a writer who can demonstrate broad, transferable skills rather than technical knowhow, it may make more sense to choose a generalist. Whichever path you take, it is vital that your writer is able to ‘get under the skin’ not just of the product or the service, but of your company too. Let me know if you think I can help.