Among the many tools that a company has in their arsenal to make their case to prospective customers, the white paper can be one of the most potent when it is used effectively. It is content that easily makes the transition from the web to physical handout while retaining its effect in the marketplace. Most importantly, the format communicates a seriousness about the brand and/or the product that an online article, video or image cannot easily do. Because the white paper is a sober, well researched and factual presentation of your company’s assessment of how to solve a real-life business problem, the document is considered to be a more trustworthy marketing piece than a standard brochure or presentation.
What Is a White Paper and Why Is It Trusted
The white paper originated in governance and was a way for proposals to be made to start new projects, request funding and most importantly to consider new legislation. Because of this the structure of the communication needed to be objective, with depth that indicated that the research had been done to cover contingencies. Because the form was effective in governance to ‘sell’ new ideas and concepts, it eventually evolved into a marketing tool.
Current Evolution of White Papers
White papers are used by companies to educate prospects and clients as well as the general public on what is required to solve certain problems. The research involved in assessing solutions is also used by successful companies to boost their image and brand in a new or experimental niche. Moreover, white papers are now used to position companies as a ‘thought leaders’ in mitigating the effects of new problems that don’t have commonly known and practiced solutions.
A Good White paper Educates to Sell
Part of what any good white paper does is to bring the knowledge of the prospect or client up concerning the depth and impact of a particular problem. In some cases, this part of the education process is critical because those to whom you are presenting may not know or understand how a particular issue is affecting them or their marketplace. The objective presentation of both the problem as well as the negative consequences of allowing it to go unresolved is often the key to making a deeper impact on decision makers who make purchase commitments.
White Paper Topics Solve Problems
When a company decides to commit to write a white paper, it should consider what the most confounding problems in its industry are. Typically these problems are going to revolve around those things that affect costs and/or revenues in some sense. However, the problem being analyzed could also have a more indirect linkage to costs and revenues. Regardless, it should be one that a prospect has a need or desire to resolve as soon as possible.
How Long Should a Good White Paper Be?
The way to approach this piece of research is not to work toward a pre-determined length. The most important issue is that it flows to the right amount of depth in communicating the nature and effect of the problem. Because every niche is different and the nature of its problems is different, it is difficult to speak to what the “right amount” of content in a white paper should be. The question that every company should ask before completing the process is about what it takes to achieve the educational goal. Is the prospect or customer aware of the depth of the issue you are writing about? Do they recognize what not solving the problem could mean to their revenues and/or costs? Are they calculating potential strain that the issue could be placing on their human resources? The education process needs to be long enough for the reader to have credible and reliable information on which to make a good purchase decisions.
What Is the Structure of the White Paper?
A.) The structure of a good white paper is very basic, but the critical factor is that each stage should engage as well as prepare the buyer for a soft sales pitch at the end.
- Discussion of the Problem
- Nature of the Solution
- Conclusion or Sales Pitch
B.) The appearance of the white paper should be very easy to read with copious graphics and photos to make the information clear.
C.) Although a call to action is necessary, the text should be void of a sales pitch until the conclusion. A white paper is a soft-sell piece, not a hard sell letter.
D.) The document is a researched proof piece of the depth of your understanding of a prospect’s market and what a solution can actually do for them.
Because a completed white paper has inherent in it, significant resources in research and writing, a company should repurpose the content many times. While it should be posted to the company’s web properties, it should also be viewed as worthy to be re-contextualized in local, regional and national trade publications. Moreover, the content can also be used in e-mail/e-courses as well as press releases and high level sales presentations to senior executives.
A white paper, in effect is serious minded content that states to the marketplace that you are a leader and problem solver. Good marketing messages communicate a unique position in the marketplace. That message can be made superior with proof that a company understands its prospect’s needs and constraints, and that that where the white paper shines.
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