Unfortunately, not all whitepapers are thorough, persuasive, or written well. While there is no “right” way to write them, there are some definite tips you need to be aware of if you want your message to come across loud and clear.
Target Your Audience
You must know your audience. Avoid writing a highly technical paper if your audience is not techies. Sounds simple, but some authors of whitepapers do not consider the education, experience or sophistication level of their audience. As a result, the paper can be overly technical, use unfamiliar terminology and be an instant turn-off. Nobody will read it.
Likewise, the paper must capture your reader’s attention in just a few short seconds by identifying solutions to problems or issues that readers face. Keep in mind that readers share different opinions or perspectives so the whitepaper must present different viewpoints from multiple angles. Otherwise, your whitepaper may end up in the recycling bin. The key is to value your reader’s intelligence and time by offering them “must-know” content.
Some refer to this tip as the 3-30-3 rule. Simply put, your paper must attract the readers’ attention within three seconds. If it does, then readers will spend another 30 seconds reading more. If your message is relevant, interesting, and timely, they will spend an additional three minutes reading your whitepaper.
So make sure your words do not drag on and on. Cover key points quickly and thoroughly, offering back up documents or research studies as needed. One way to accomplish this is to divide your paper into multiple subheads or sections, making the content easier to read or skim. Just make sure the title and subheads are clear, not cute.
Skip the Sales Pitch and Try Educating
White papers should never serve as a blatant promotion for your company’s product or services. In fact, you will lose credibility if you hype it as the only available industry solution. Readers will immediately lose interest if your first sentence proclaims how wonderful your company is or that your product or service is the best in the industry. Consider white papers as a soft sell, not an advertisement. Save the “rah, rah” for a press release or product brief.
Identify the Problem
Keep in mind that the goal of your whitepaper is to educate and gently lead people over to your way of thinking. Start the paper by explaining a specific industry challenge that readers chronically face. Offer statistics from research surveys that show how widespread it is and support your claim. Mention each survey’s name, the date conducted and the number of people who responded. The higher percentage of respondents, the better. You must show some evidence that your message is realistic, current and valid. Also address additional fallout or indirect problems caused by the challenge you are addressing.
Consider this example: your company will begin manufacturing a safe and inexpensive motorbike that will be sold to US college students. The ultimate goal of your whitepaper is to convince retailers to sell the bike in their stores.
You must first educate retailers about the overall challenge that your product solves - without mentioning your product. In this example, you could state that major universities have severe parking shortages and some campuses are so large that classrooms can be over a mile away from each other, making it difficult for students to attend class on time. Riding the bus is also inconvenient and bus stops can be far from the student’s home.
Then explain what is driving the problem. There are several factors: Rising tuition, soaring gas prices, high unemployment and lack of jobs all contribute to why students cannot afford to purchase or maintain cars or motorcycles. Introduce recent surveys or reports that back up this claim and reveal how many students are impacted by this problem. What are the consequences and associated problems related to this challenge? Perhaps college attendance rates have dropped and local employers are complaining about a talent shortage.
Offer a Generic Solution
Once the groundwork is laid, now is the time to shift gears and focus on how the problem can be resolved. Without mentioning your product or service, talk about what the solution needs to look and feel like and mention its overall benefits for readers. If applicable, offer more than one solution. Consider offering a checklist of what the solution should have and enable readers to do or accomplish. If a product, what features should it include? If a service, what should be offered? What should readers watch out for?
Let us use the same example as above. Mention that one solution is an inexpensive, but safe motorized bike. Suggest that it should be below a certain price point, get at least 40 miles per gallon, and include a series of safety features. At this point, you are setting the stage to introduce your product. By using this altruistic approach, your readers will perceive your information as helpful, even valuable. However, most importantly, they will keep reading.
Now Introduce Your Product or Service
By now, you should have convinced readers that your basic solution is the way to go. Briefly introduce your product or service as an effective solution to the challenge you have described in the white paper.
But do not go overboard. In one paragraph or less, offer the highlights, key benefits, and distinguishing features between your product or service and those offered by the competition. If readers have come this far, you do not want to blow it with a hard sell.
Still, you need to encourage readers to call a sales representative or visit your company’s website, which is referred to as a “call to action”. Provide clear instructions on how they can contact your company. Otherwise, there is no point to writing the whitepaper. Some papers fail to do this, which leaves both the reader and company hanging out to dry.
Now you have learned the basics of writing a whitepaper. It is a great marketing tactic that can position yourself, your company and its products or services to a wider audience and ultimately, boost your organization’s bottom line.
How to Get Your Whitepaper Published
Writing a whitepaper as an assignment or for submission to trade journals, blogs and other print or electronic media is a very effective way to gain exposure to new audiences, establish your expertise, and give prospective clients a way to sample your knowledge.
In order to identify the right publications, you may need to consult a media directory such as Cision (formerly known as Bacon) Such directories, found online or at most reference libraries, provide a comprehensive list of trade magazines along with details such as each magazine's editorial focus, circulation, and contact information.
Services such as BusinessWire.Com, PRWeb, eReleases.Com and others are great resources for submitting your paper to targeted audiences by city, state, nationally or for multinational distribution with translation services through many services. How broadly you want your press release distributed is based on your communications needs and budget. While the typical price is several hundred dollars and more per submission, attachments such as photos or graphics, the number of markets targeted and quantity sent may increase your cost.
Most advertising agencies and public relation firms also offer additional services like writing, ghostwriting, editing and submission of your papers or news. Make sure you shop around—the pricing from agency to agency will vary significantly.
Every company is looking for ROI. Look for measurement or tracking tools that provide insight into your audiences and readership. Effective tracking reports can provide a guide to measuring and refining your marketing messaging.
Online publications, such as the one you are reading, (MFRTech.Com), offer an added benefit, providing reader tracking capabilities and detail as to who has been reading your whitepaper and can include names, job titles, company name and descriptions, contact information and all in real-time. Online publications are capable of publishing your original whitepaper or news as it is happens and are looking for your submissions. (MFRTech.Com) has over 53,000 subscribers and readers every week and is growing.
Remember, editors receive hundreds of news releases and whitepapers every day. Do your homework. What are the interests of the publication and who are its readers or subscribers? Each publication will have editorial guidelines, such as required word length. Learn them before submitting your whitepaper or news.
Written by Eric Zaluski, Vice President at MFRTech.Com in Lexington, Ky. MFRTech.Com is an online publication that features manufacturing whitepapers, feature articles and news, product releases, business forecasts and more. Mfrtech.com provides complete b-to-b online marketing solutions for manufacturers/suppliers including targeted online advertising, sales lead generation, whitepaper production/distribution, enhanced website tracking, website development, direct email marketing solutions and more.
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