White Papers For Dummies
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White papers are the “king of content” that can help any B2B company build mindshare, generate leads, engage prospects, and undercut competitors. But to get powerful results, you need to use white papers effectively. Make sure to provide useful information that can help a business person understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

Defining the three main types of white papers

Use the right type of white paper for the right challenge: either a backgrounder, a numbered list, or a problem/solution. The following table outlines the features of each type of white paper and gives you an idea of when to use each one.

Characteristic Backgrounder Numbered List Problem/Solution
Definition An in-depth look at the features and benefits of a certain
product or service
A numbered set of tips, questions, answers, or points about
some issue
A persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to present a new
solution to a problem
Audience B2B buyers near the bottom of the sales funnel Anyone interested in the issue B2B buyers near the top of the sales funnel; also analysts,
bloggers, channel partners, and journalists
Approach A factual description of the technical or business benefits of
a product or service
A light and lively roundup of points or highlights about some
Useful information about an industry-wide problem that educates
readers and positions your company as a trusted advisor
When to use To support your firm’s position as an undisputed leader
in the field
To support technical evaluations
To support a product launch
To get attention with provocative views
To cast FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) on competitors
To nurture prospects through a complex sale
To generate leads
To educate your market
To build recognition for your company
Length 8+ pages plus cover 5 to 7+ pages plus cover 8 to 12 pages plus cover
Typical contents Introduction
Features and benefits of each feature
Conclusions and call to action
About the company
Numbered points (between 3 and 9)
Conclusions and call to action (optional)
About the company (optional)
Executive summary
Industry-wide problem
Existing solutions and drawbacks
New, improved solution
Case study (optional)
Buyer’s guide
Conclusions and call to action
About the company

Jazzing up the appearance of a white paper

Few people will read a text-only white paper. You can provide visual relief by using at least one of these text enhancements on every page:

  • Bullets: Use a small amount of text after each bullet; avoid lists of 20 or more bullets or several paragraphs of text after each bullet.

  • Headings: Use two sets of headings, big and bold; write active headings to help people skim, scan, and skip.

  • Pull quotes: Extract up to 20 words that give the key point from a page; format these quotes larger at the side; check magazines to see how it’s done.

  • Sidebars: Pull out nonessential side issues or lists and put them in a tinted box to keep readers focused on the main thread.

  • Tables: Present numbers, options, or lists in a table to save words and make information easier to digest.

  • White space: Leave breathing room at the top, bottom, and sides of each page; run text no more than 60 characters wide to make reading easier.

Promoting a white paper for maximum impact

To get your target audience to notice your new white paper, you need to unveil it like a mini-product launch. Try different promotional tactics and repeat as long as they keep working. Don’t abandon promotions too soon, and use all these must-do tactics:

  • Create a landing page with an abstract

  • Feature the white paper prominently on your website

  • Mention it in company newsletters

  • E-mail your sales force and channel partners (if any)

  • E-mail your house opt-in list

  • Tweet it on Twitter

  • Blog about it

  • Announce it to relevant LinkedIn groups

  • Publish a press release

  • Send it to relevant journalists

  • Send it to relevant bloggers

  • Get it mentioned in channel partner newsletters

  • Post it on free white paper sites

  • Create a slide deck

  • Send your slide deck to your sales force and channel partners (if any)

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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