A white paper supports PR, marketing and sales because it works for all levels of decision makers. Engineers and executives may not be too impressed by brochures, but they are impressed by well-written white papers. (The same thing goes for trade journal articles more about that in a subsequent piece.)
Good white papers sell products because they pack a lot of useful information into a clear and readable structure. Warning — dont take any old brochure or product brief, print it on 8-1/2×11″ paper and call it a white paper. Decision-makers hate that, dont let this be you! Good marketing white papers contain both technical and marketing sections in a balanced format, and then throw in some other great stuff. A good white paper may start with an executive summary my general rule is a 5+ page paper needs one but it will follow the same structure as below, abbreviated to one page.
White papers should include:
1) Throw down the challenge glove. Describe the pain the prospect is experiencing. (That you can help with, anyway!) Describe the problem from their standpoint, and be sure you know what that problem is.
2) Talk about how your technology will solve their problem. Bore in on the technology behind the product and how it will make their lives easier. Be sure to include some technical detail for the engineers and technology journalists who are sure to read it. (And who are sure to be annoyed if it lacks detail.) Many marketing white papers fail because they dont include technical sections, usually due to one of two reasons:
Extreme paranoia regarding proprietary knowledge. Shoot, no one is asking you to include the blueprints. But if you wont tell your customers what youre selling because youre afraid your competitors will find out, I suggest that you are not ready for the marketplace.
Uncertain writer. If the writer doesnt know the background technology, they cant write about it. Find an experienced technology writer and give them the information they need. (If necessary, professionals will understand the need for signing an NDA. Just dont try to get them to dump their other clients.)
3) Get specific on product benefits. This section combines with the technology section and includes ways that the product meets the challenge. You can also use this section to contrast your approach with other technologies, especially if your product is innovative. We all know the sad fate of disruptive technologies, but readers do want to know what your product does differently, how it does it, and why it does it better.
4) Push a positive return on investment. ROI has always been a big deal, and with reason. If you have great hard cost numbers, terrific dont hesitate to use them. Longer white papers have room for graphs and charts, but even shorter ones can refer to positive ROI. Newer ROI analysis methods factor in soft costs employee time, improved infrastructure, etc. so dont hesitate to talk about those too.
5) Add some case studies. Actual case studies with actual customers are ideal, but if you cant mention customer names (common in the financial world), its fine to speak more generally. A Fortune 100 finance company recently deployed
6) Conclude with how great your product is and contact information. Heres where you can use the marketing mottoes, just keep it to 1-2 paragraphs. And include your contact information!
Well-written white papers have lots of good uses. Heres a run-down:
Sell a product its ultimate purpose, of course
Differentiate product from competitors
Place company in leadership role
Promote bylined author as a subject matter expert. (Which they should be, even if a professional writer actually wrote the thing.)
Help journalists research their stories (note: journalists are not helped by sales brochures)
Theres a lot that goes into creating a useful white paper. For your next project, consider hiring an experienced writer to create a marketing white paper that just keeps on selling. Talk about good ROI!
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