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Creating effective white papers and industry reports


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An easy 7-step guide to creating lead-generating white papers. This guide is designed for marketers working in small to mid-sized B2B companies or nonprofits that need to communicate complex topics to influence and inform their audiences.

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Creating effective white papers and industry reports

  1. 1. The Mind Blowing White Paper (A How-To Guide) Sonia M. Quiñones
  2. 2. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking. A mind- blowing white paper? Is there even such a thing? Aren’t white papers supposed to be boring?
  3. 3. Um, no.
  4. 4. In fact, white papers can be awesome. And here’s why.
  5. 5. A well-conceived, well written white paper can get you the kind of results that nothing else in your marketing toolkit can provide.
  6. 6. Like what, you ask?
  7. 7. ✓ Show business executives different approaches for solving a complex problem. Well, let’s see. A good white paper can . . .
  8. 8. ✓ Show business executives different approaches for solving a complex problem. ✓ Help a procurement officer identify potential vendors. Well, let’s see. A good white paper can . . .
  9. 9. ✓ Show business executives different approaches for solving a complex problem. ✓ Help a procurement officer identify potential vendors. ✓ Bring a potential ally up to speed on emerging issues and industry trends. Well, let’s see. A good white paper can . . .
  10. 10. ✓ Show business executives different approaches for solving a complex problem. ✓ Help a procurement officer identify potential vendors. ✓ Bring a potential ally up to speed on emerging issues and industry trends. ✓ Position you as a thought leader within your niche, allowing you to influence and inform your audience 24/7. Well, let’s see. A good white paper can . . .
  11. 11. ✓ Show business executives different approaches for solving a complex problem. ✓ Help a procurement officer identify potential vendors. ✓ Bring a potential ally up to speed on emerging issues and industry trends. ✓ Position you as a thought leader within your niche, allowing you to influence and inform your audience 24/7. ✓ Provide a journalist with the background information they need to write an in-depth article about your company. Well, let’s see. A good white paper can . . .
  12. 12. Not boring reasons at all, are they? Nope.
  13. 13. In B2B situations, a well-done white paper can significantly increase trust and facilitate the sales process.
  14. 14. In fact, in a 2015 Eccolo Media survey, 84% of respondents rated white papers either moderately or extremely useful in their purchasing decisions.
  15. 15. So who creates white papers?
  16. 16. Scientific organizations Government/public agencies Nonprofits and NGOs Trade organizations Technology companies Financial services firms Think tanks Consulting firms
  17. 17. Very different types of companies with one major thing in common.
  19. 19. Whether they sell widgets or services, these research- intensive organizations have access to a great deal of information that their audiences find valuable.
  20. 20. Yeah, yeah. Let’s get to the good stuff. How can you create a mind-blowing white paper?
  21. 21. Clear target audience Specific goals A narrow topic Well-chosen content You will need:
  23. 23. Identify a clear target audience. Most organizations communicate with a variety of audiences. Each one has their own set of needs, so what they want from you will vary from group to group. A mind-blowing white paper focuses on serving the needs of a specific audience.
  24. 24. Front line employees Donors Current customers Peer organizations Activists Board members Journalists Public officials Leads and prospects Your sales force Peer organizations Examples of audience types
  25. 25. Set a clear goal. Whether you’re writing for an internal or external audience, get clear about the specific goal you hope to achieve through the white paper you’re putting together.
  26. 26. Is your prospect early in their information gathering process or are they ready to take a deep dive into an issue? Do you want to increase the number of people that sign up to receive your newsletter? Are you hoping to generate sales leads? Do you want to share your lessons learned? Potential Goals
  27. 27. Do you want to comment on an important trend or change affecting your industry? Do you want to establish or grow your credibility as a thought leader? Is your company under siege, requiring you to address myths or rumors impacting your industry or company? Maybe you need to highlight an industry- wide problem affecting your stakeholders?
  28. 28. Put your ideas together. A mind-blowing white paper is designed to: by communicating highly targeted information achieve specific strategic goals that a specific audience will appreciate
  29. 29. The #1 mistake people make is turning a white paper into a sales pitch. Don’t do it! An effective white paper provides answers questions that many prospects ask. If you dish out a sales pitch, you’ll waste this opportunity to get known and trusted. Gordon Graham, also known as That White Paper Guy “
  30. 30. A white paper by another other name is still . . . a long ass document. Specialreport Industryreport Positionpaper
  31. 31. But not that long. Typical white papers are between five to ten pages but they can run as long as 24 to 30 pages. In other words, if you want to write a mind-blowing white paper, set clear limits on what your report will (and won’t) cover.
  32. 32. White papers are text-heavy documents meant to convey detailed, in-depth information your audience wants to read and may not be able to locate anywhere else. But keep in mind . . .
  33. 33. Today’s readers are crazy-busy, with multiple demands for their attention.
  34. 34. They have short attention spans. The average person has an attention span that only lasts between 2 to 8 seconds. Either way, it’s shorter than the attention span of the average goldfish, which in case you’re wondering is 9 seconds long.
  35. 35. Focus on one idea per page or section at a time. Use lists. White space is more inviting. Increase margins and spacing. Use headings and subheadings. Rents Rebound: A Post-Recession Analysis One-Year Review Tenancies begun in 2012 had rents that on average were 13 percent higher than tenancies begun  in  2011.  This  number,  however,  doesn’t   tell the whole story. The median market-rate rent for three-bedroom units increased 26 percent from 2011, very likely a result of demand for a scarce commodity: three-bedroom units are rare in Santa Monica, totaling only 7 percent of the overall rent-controlled housing stock. The 1-year figures are based on 2,554 units rented in 2012. Increases in market-rate rents from 2011 to 2012 by bedroom size: o 3% for zero-bedroom units (291 units) o 6% for one-bedroom units (1,380 units) o 5% for two-bedroom units (785 units) o 26% for 3-bedroom units (98 units) In contrast, the General Adjustment (GA) approved by the Rent Control Board in 2012 was 1.54 percent with a maximum increase of $26 per month. 11% 47% 35% 7% 1-bedroom 0-bedroom 2-bedrooms 3-bedrooms 3,141 units 13,220 units 2,084 units 9,735 units 28,180 Units Breakdown of Rent-Controlled Units in Santa Monica, by Bedroom Size The solution is to break down your data into bite-size chunks.
  36. 36. Why this works: Good design helps your readers quickly identify the concepts you want them to focus on.
  37. 37. Always highlight your key points
  38. 38. Make it drop dead easy for your audience to remember your key ideas.
  39. 39. ✓Graphics ✓Captions of photos or tables ✓Headings ✓Sub-headings ✓Text (Yes, in that order.) What People Read (or Notice) First
  40. 40. Use Shapes. You can use all kinds of shapes to make your data stand out. Pick one main style and stick with it. Santa Monica City Council. They also update the Agency’s  website  and  social  media  presence,  and   present seminars for tenants, landlords, realtors and other interested members of the public. Leg The L rega repre the B staff adm perm regu Who We Help 14 BOARD MEETINGS (INCLUDES 3 PUBLIC HEARINGS) Questions from the Public Tenants 53% Others 4% Owners 42% 22 | P a g e as state and city laws that affect tenants and owners of residential rental property in Santa Monica. In 2012, articles included information regarding the  State’s carbon monoxide alarm requirement, as  well  as  the  State’s  “zero  waste”  statute,  which requires recycling in 5-unit and larger buildings. The  City’s  new  smoking  law, which requires a smoking or non-smoking designation for units in multi-family developments, was highlighted. Also included was an article covering the Santa Monica voter-approved Measure GA, which simplified determination of the annual rent increase (general adjustment) for rent-controlled units in the city. outgoing roommates. Notice of upcoming seminars and inter-agency events were also in the newsletters, as well as a welcome to newly elected Rent Control Board Commissioners and thanks to those whose terms had ended. Newsletters mailed to tenants included the current Maximum Allowable Rent (MAR) for the unit  according  to  the  Agency’s  records. BILINGUAL WEBSITE ACTIVITY Number of total visits: 32,760 Number of first-time visits: 18,194
  41. 41. Use effective charts. A carefully designed chart or table can make your point more powerfully than several paragraphs of text. 4 | P a g e DQuestions from the Public Tenants 53% Others 4% Owners 42% Tenan A S
  42. 42. Use callouts. Bring attention to a great quote or a sentence that sums up your point well. To be middle class means different things to different people. The classification is subjective, reflecting not just a level of income but a mindset. “
  43. 43. Remember to watch your language
  44. 44. Incomprehensible jargon is the hallmark of a profession. Kingman Brewster, Jr. “
  45. 45. Interested Parties Play it safe. Use straightforward language. The further away your target audience is from direct involvement with your company or industry, the more critical it becomes to use simpler language. Insiders Let the buzzwords fly! These guys know what you mean.
  46. 46. If your mom wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, then rewrite your text until she would. A mind-blowing white paper passes the mom test.
  47. 47. So what are you going to name your report? Hmmm . . .
  48. 48. First, you should aim for a title that is clear and straightforward.
  49. 49. You also want a title that’s short. (Remember, people are busy.) If you need to use a longer title, then consider separating your title into two parts: a short main title and a longer, more descriptive subtitle.
  50. 50. It’s time to do a little brainstorming! Let’s get started.
  51. 51. ✓Key trends in _____________________ ✓Top 5 trends in ___________________ ✓_________________ : Ideal Use Cases ✓_____ years of ___________________ (For example, the anniversary issue recognizing your company or the impact of an event.) ✓A case for _______________________ ✓Assessing _______________________ Performance
  52. 52. Users searching for help on a particular topic will often use an “ing” verb construction. For example: ✓Understanding ___________________ ✓Assessing _______________________ ✓Examining (the role of) ____________ ✓Quantifying (the impact of) _________
  53. 53. And last but certainly not least, add some eye candy.
  54. 54. While we’re taught not to judge a book by its cover, we do. It’s human nature to use our senses to predict whether something will likely cause us pain or pleasure, and because of this having a good cover design is important. Marcus Taylor, Venture Harbour “
  55. 55. A great cover inspires curiosity. After all your hard work, you want your audience to read your white paper.
  56. 56. A great cover also inspires confidence that the content will be worth reading.
  57. 57. So let’s recap what we’ve covered.
  58. 58. ✓Selecting the right topic ✓Keeping your concept simple enough to cover in a short report ✓Highlighting your key points ✓Watching your language to avoid jargon and undue complexity ✓Giving your report a great title ✓Adding some eye candy A mind-blowing white paper involves:
  59. 59. If people like you, they will listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. Zig Ziglar “
  60. 60. Want advice about how you can create powerful reports for your business? Don’t hesitate to give me a shout. You can find me at:
  61. 61. Questions or comments? Visit me on my website or say hi on Twitter. Thanks! Sonia M. Quiñones Content Marketing Writer & Editor For even more tips on creating a mind-blowing white paper, download my free guide: 7 Steps to White Papers That Get Results