White Papers For Dummies
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As you become more adept at developing white papers, you’ll naturally tend to look for ways to make them more persuasive and memorable. Many of these tips combine both structure and content; you must include a certain element at the proper place in the proper type of white paper (structure) and you must word it correctly to get the best possible results (content).

Position blurb in your white paper

A positioning blurb is a short sentence or two that sums up a company or an offering to help a B2B buyer understand how it fits into a broader landscape of a certain market space. A major failing of many technology companies is never providing an effective positioning blurb.

Use this simple formula to create one:

[Name of product or service] is a [down-to-earth adjective] [recognized niche, category, or genre] that [active verb, such as provides, delivers, or performs] [number-one benefit covered in white paper] to [primary target market].

If you want, you can add the following clause to the end of your blurb, as long as you don’t resort to any hype or exaggeration:

unlike other [products, services, or solutions] which [number-one failing of number-one competitor]

Here’s a blurb written to this formula, suitable for popping into the introduction to a backgrounder:

The Acme ScanOMatic 3000 is a cost-effective unattended scanning system that delivers ultra-high-resolution e-copies to office staff buried in paperwork, unlike other systems that demand frequent manual intervention.

Synopsis-style executive summary in your white paper

The two types of executive summaries are a preview and a synopsis. A preview executive summary presents selected highlights of what’s to come, trying to attract readers and entice them to read the main body. A synopsis takes a different tactic, presenting the entire argument of the document in a nutshell. The synopsis is useful for the following reasons:

  • You’re not playing peekaboo with your content, which can irritate busy readers and waste their time.

  • Getting an executive to see a one-page summary of your entire argument is better than presenting just a few scattered highlights with no chance for you to connect the dots.

  • If your company has any special fans on the selection committee, you’re giving them a self-contained piece of content that’s easy to repurpose.

Numbered lists in your white paper

Here are seven tips on using numbered points effectively, in a form that follows all these tips:

  • Tip #1: Use at least three and at most nine points. Any less than three isn’t really a list, and any more than nine can get too long and tire out your readers.

  • Tip #2: Don’t use ten points. Unless you want to sound like a David Letterman wannabe, drop your weakest point and end your list at nine.

  • Tip #3: Consider using an odd number. Some marketing experts recommend using odd numbers. They claim that odd numbers are more believable because even numbers strike some people as too “round” or “neat.”

  • Tip #4: Break a longer list in two. If you have many more than ten points and they all seem worth keeping, consider breaking your list in two. An added benefit of this approach is that it gives you two pieces of content to promote, and the call to action of the first part can be to download the second.

  • Tip #5: Express all points in parallel. Line up all your points in the same grammatical format.

  • Tip #6: Don’t scrimp on your research. The more proof you can find for each of your numbered points, the more punch each point will deliver.

  • Tip #7: Organize your points for maximum impact. Put a couple of strong points at the start, any weaker points in the middle, and another strong point at the end.

Buyer’s guide in your white paper

This unique ingredient occurs most often in the problem/solution. The buyer’s guide is a concise set of bullets, listing your competitive advantages as must-have features or characteristics that all buyers should look for.

By serving as a checklist for buyers, this section aims to tilt the playing field in favor of your offering. A buyer’s guide is usually confined to a single page or even half a page.

Case studies in your white paper

A case study is a testimonial from a happy customer who used a company’s offering and was pleased with the results. This kind of evidence is compelling proofs any B2B vendor can offer.

A case study works well in a problem/solution and perhaps in a backgrounder. You can format a case study as a full-page sidebar, a paragraph or two in the main body, or a small text box on the side of a page. Make a case study as short as possible while still delivering an effective testimonial.

Case studies don’t work so well in a numbered list because any type of sidebar tends to break the rapid flow of this format.

Conclusions in your white paper

Here, you give readers the key take-away messages from your document. The conclusions should be no more than a page and preferably shorter.

In a backgrounder, you can offer a short conclusion to emphasize how all these features and benefits add up to the best offering on the market. In a problem/solution, you can sum up the problem, the drawbacks of the traditional solutions, and your new improved solution in just a few clipped sentences.

Call to action in your white paper

Every effective piece of marketing material has some sort of call to action. The call to action can be a single sentence describing where to find more information or how to move to the next step in the buying process. Here’s a formula for writing a call to action:

To find out more about how [name of offering] can help your [business, organization, or team] [number-one product benefit covered in white paper], [do something].

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Gordon Graham — also known as That White Paper Guy — is an award-winning writer who has created more than 200 B2B white papers for clients from New York to Australia. Gordon has written white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, and for everyone from tiny start-ups to Google.

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