How to write a good white paper


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A white paper (or "whitepaper") is an authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them.

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How to write a good white paper

  1. 1. How to Write White Papers A closer look at the benefits and techniques of writing a good white paper
  2. 2. Table of Contents 1. Who should read this document? ....................... 3 2. What is a white paper? ...................................... 4 3. Benefits of white papers..................................... 4 4. How to write a white paper ................................. 5 5. Typical structure of a white paper ...................... 7 6. The team ........................................................... 7 7. Common mistakes to avoid ................................ 9 8. Conclusion....................................................... 10 9. Main points to remember ................................. 10 10. About Decision News Media ............................ 11 © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 2 of 11
  3. 3. How to write white papers: a closer look at the benefits and method to write a good white paper In a recent study of B2B purchasing decision makers conducted by the CMO Council1, 72% of respondents contacted a vendor after reading a white paper. Also, 57% of respondents said that reading a white paper influenced a buying decision. The same study showed white papers were the most popular type of White papers technology content downloaded and shared with peers according to 58% of are the most respondents. popular type White papers (also referred to as Technical Papers or Scientific Papers) offer of content decision-making information that more glamorous advertising and marketing downloaded materials cannot provide. and shared with peers. Your company can achieve sustained growth and recognition using these solution-driven documents. But only if you avoid a few common mistakes when writing your white papers. 1. Who should read this document? This document is designed to guide everyone who contributes towards the creation of a white paper: 1) Marketers: Together with data sheets and product brochures, white papers are a key tool in any marketer’s portfolio of promotional material. By reading this paper, marketers will understand the reason white papers can make a powerful contribution to their businesses. 2) Product developers and engineers: As a technician or engineer, you are the main contributors to the technical information decision-makers are looking for. Knowing how to write that information is critical in the preparation of an effective white paper. 3) Sales/Product managers: White papers are one of the most effective tools to generate sales leads. However, sales and product managers need to clearly understand the difference between white papers and brochures or advertisements. 1 CMO Council – Technology buying and media consumption survey report - 2008 © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 3 of 11
  4. 4. 2. What is a white paper? A white paper is a document that provides objective, useful information to a defined audience of prospective buyers about a particular business problem and potential solutions. White papers offer meaning and unique value to potential customers by providing unbiased information and analysis regarding a business problem that they may be facing. A good white paper will respect the following points: • Discuss a relevant topic for the targeted reader • Include unbiased and objective reasoning • Contain adequate technical details and illustrations • Quote credible and verified references 3. Benefits of white papers The 5 key benefits of white papers are: Decision- 1) Reach decision-makers makers are more likely to Decision-makers are more likely to read a high-quality white paper in read a high detail than a brochure that simply pitches a product’s features and quality white benefits, even if the white paper is several pages longer than the paper in detail brochure. than a brochure. 2) Educate prospects before they talk to your sales person White papers help prospects determine whether a product meets their needs before they talk to a sales representative. It’s easier to close a deal with an educated prospect. 3) Generate sales leads Because decision-makers value the information provided by white papers, they are much more likely to provide their contact details to access this type of content. This practice delivers interested prospects directly to the sales force. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 4 of 11
  5. 5. 4) Dissemination beyond the first reader A well-written white paper that contains business-case information as well as technical material is likely to be disseminated within a company - sometimes beyond department boundaries - as different divisions seek each other’s support for new initiatives. 5) Internal communication White papers also serve to educate your own sales force with the real- world technical and business case details. It gives them the added wisdom needed to close deals effectively. Reach decision makers Generate sales leads Educate prospects GROW YOUR White BUSINESS Paper Extended Raise dissemination awareness and create expert reputation Communicate expertise 4. How to write a white paper Writing a white paper can seem challenging at first. But with a little planning and methodology, it can be achieved in a short time and without compromising quality. 1) Identify your target audience You must define precisely your target audience. At this stage, marketing and sales should be strongly involved. If you write a good white paper that addresses the wrong audience, you will fail. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 5 of 11
  6. 6. 2) Goals for the white paper What do you wish to achieve with this white paper? • Generate sales leads for new products Development work flow • Differentiate products and services from competitors’ offerings • Demonstrate market leadership • Promote your technical staff as subject-matter experts Identify target audience • Educate your clients/prospects about new technologies • A mix of all the above 3) Put together the content Define goal of the white • Put "the bottom line" at the top. Attention is greatest at the paper beginning – that’s where you should put a summary, including the conclusions. • Use headlines and paragraph summaries to hold reader interest. • Build trust by supporting factual claims. Provide track Gather technical and records of the companies or people involved. Provide market data supporting details to all claims. Be specific; avoid generalities. Generalities or descriptions of common knowledge drive intelligent readers away. Differentiate your solution. Describe why the company’s Compose solution best solves a problem. content Cite credible, objective third-party evidence to substantiate claims by self-interested parties. Providing evidence buys credibility. • Avoid hidden assumptions. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Use simple language. Apply • Use pictures to reinforce your written message. They will corporate help readers identify named objects and the relations design between those objects. 4) Fine tune the content flow and apply your style • Writing style should be balanced: not too technical and not overly marketing. • Use plain English where possible. The objective is to educate and convince. • Proof reading: Hunt typographical errors, spelling mistakes and check for clarity and continuity. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 6 of 11
  7. 7. 5. Typical structure of a white paper Readers expect a predictable organization. Adherence to the expected organization helps get your message across. 1) Abstract One paragraph description of the purpose of the white paper. Decision-makers frequently read only the abstract and conclusion of white papers. 2) The challenge Two-to-three paragraphs describing the challenge. (If needed, include background). 3) Understanding the product's design Use a Explain how the product works in general. Provide just enough recognised information so that in the next section the reader will be able to white paper understand how the product is able to solve the challenge. structure and your readers 4) How the product meets the challenge will find it Explain how and provide evidence that the product meets the easier to read. challenge. Explain why the product is the best available solution. 5) Conclusion One-paragraph summary of why the product is the best solution to the challenge. Include a short review of the main elements to remember. 6. The team Here are some typical roles involved in developing a white paper. The same person may assume more than one set of responsibilities - for example, the project manager may also be a content provider - but no roles should be omitted. 1) Project manager As in any development process, the project manager is the “glue” that holds the project together. The project manager’s responsibilities include setting the schedule; arranging meetings; locating and delivering background documents; co-ordinating document review, design, and production; and more. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 7 of 11
  8. 8. 2) Technical and marketing content providers Technical content providers should be willing to deliver existing documents (such as specifications or presentations), including internal documents, and should be available to answer questions that arise. Marketing content providers should be able to communicate key product messages as well as the business case for the product, including information about return on investment and other factors that influence decision-makers. 3) Writer A white paper is doomed to failure if the writer is not experienced at writing the concise, convincing prose that this unique document requires. Ideally, the writer of the white paper possesses strong writing skills, technical understanding, and marketing experience, as well as In the white the ability to extract meaningful information from a variety of sources paper creation and translate it into coherent, compelling prose. process, the same person 4) Copy editor and proof reader may assume Skilled copy editors almost always improve a white paper. They do more than one more than check spelling and punctuation. They point out flaws in logic, role. But no identify ineffectively developed concepts, and ensure clarity and role should be continuity within the document. omitted. 5) Illustration, design, and production staff Visual appeal is as crucial for white papers as for any other marketing document. Effective white papers employ illustrations and diagrams that simplify and communicate complex information in a way that complements the text. The visual design of the document as a whole should accurately reflect the company’s brand and image, and adhere to any existing guidelines. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 8 of 11
  9. 9. 7. Common mistakes to avoid Some companies that recognize the potential benefits of white papers publish documents that create more marketing damage than good. Here are the main reasons that will cause your white paper to fail: Decision- • Missing the point makers expect You can write an excellent white paper, but if it is irrelevant to your target unbiased audience, you have failed. information • Confuse white paper and brochure and objective When they choose to read your white paper, decision-makers expect unbiased references. information and objective references. Do not disappoint them. Otherwise, they will feel cheated and you will achieve a negative impact. • Not enough technical detail Readers want to be informed. You must provide figures, facts, methods, etc. In short, detailed elements that demonstrate your expertise. • Fail to make your business case Don’t neglect the business case. You must satisfy your readers’ desire to know how your technology will profit their business. This information is usually provided by the marketing/sales department. • Discourage readers with too much jargon Many purchasing decision-makers don’t possess the specific knowledge you have. Make your case in plain and simple terms and banish all jargon from your paper. • Fail to educate your own sales team It is common sense, but very often neglected. Make sure your sales team have read the white paper and know you are actively promoting it. © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 9 of 11
  10. 10. 8. Conclusion Marketing professionals realize that publishing white papers undoubtedly raises awareness of their company’s technical expertise and generate a large amount of sales leads. Communicated through appropriate channels, this resource is highly valued by decision-makers seeking knowledge about how to resolve complex issues. Based on this, white papers are effectively used to generate sales leads for your company’s products and services, providing you can track who has gained access to these documents. Indeed, contacting a decision-maker that has expressed interest in your company’s white paper will bring a definitive advantage to your sales personnel, when the time comes to drive revenue for your company’s products and services. 9. Main points to remember • Define your audience and your target • Don’t write a sales brochure • Include facts, figures, quotes, examples, charts and illustrations • Differentiate your company by demonstrating unique expertise • Don’t forget to inform your sales team about your white paper © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 10 of 11
  11. 11. 10. About Decision News Media Decision News Media is a science and industry news specialist. We deliver our news services as free-access websites and daily newsletters. All our sites are written by award-winning journalists. They scan available scientific, technical and industry sources and search out previously unpublished material, primary data and expert opinions in all areas of significance to decision-makers among our target audience. By combining market leading news content with a large qualified audience, our publications are cost-effective and powerful medium for reaching decision- makers in the industries we serve. Our Marketing Solutions Team builds personalised online communications programmes to best suit advertisers' marketing objectives. These combine branding, lead generation tools and direct email marketing to subscribers. You can contact the team using the following details: Phone: +33 4 99 52 28 70 Email: © 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 11 of 11