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May 5, 2010
A white paper (or "whitepaper") is an authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them.
How to Write
A closer look at the benefits and
techniques of writing a good white paper
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
How to write white papers: a closer look at
the benefits and method to write a good
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.
White papers (also referred to as Technical Papers or Scientific Papers) offer
decision-making information that more glamorous advertising and marketing
downloaded materials cannot provide.
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:
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.
CMO Council – Technology buying and media consumption survey report - 2008
© 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 3 of 11
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
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.
brochure. 2) Educate prospects before they talk to your sales
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
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.
dissemination awareness and
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
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
© 2009 - Decision News Media SAS Page 5 of 11
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’
• Demonstrate market leadership
• Promote your technical staff as subject-matter experts
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
beginning – that’s where you should put a summary,
including the conclusions.
• Use headlines and paragraph summaries to hold reader
• Build trust by supporting factual claims. Provide track
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
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
Apply • Use pictures to reinforce your written message. They will
corporate help readers identify named objects and the relations
between those objects.
4) Fine tune the content flow and apply your style
• Writing style should be balanced: not too technical and not
• 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
5. Typical structure of a white paper
Readers expect a predictable organization. Adherence to the expected
organization helps get your message across.
One paragraph description of the purpose of the white paper.
Decision-makers frequently read only the abstract and conclusion of
2) The challenge
Two-to-three paragraphs describing the challenge. (If needed, include
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
• Confuse white paper and brochure
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
• 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
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
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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
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