Tip #1: Provide Answers and Solutions
Don’t turn your reader off by focusing on your company’s product or service. A white paper is an educational document – not a sales pitch. People who read white papers are looking for answers and solutions to the challenges and opportunities they are facing. Deliver that information in a respectful and helpful way.
Tip #2: Use Clear Language
Use language that is conversational, clear and results-focused. More and more frequently, decision-makers are not technical people. Even at small companies, several or many people may be involved in the buying decision. Your communications must be understandable to all of them.
Tip #3: Build Relationships
Companies don’t buy – people buy from people. People crave interactions with others who know them. When you develop content with that in mind, you begin to build relationships with people before you’ve even met them. Understand your buyer profiles before beginning to write.
Tip #4: Be Honest
Don’t be a Pollyanna and talk only about the good stuff. Be honest. Discuss the warts. Even the solution your company provides has limitations. What are they? What is your company doing to address them?
Tip #5: Recognize Emotions
A proper discussion makes an emotional connection, not just a technical one. An emotional connection is engaging, and it clearly demonstrates that you get the problems and challenges your reader is dealing with. White papers are useful for complex buying decisions because they help with problem solving, learning and discovery. The more expensive and complex a purchase, the larger the role of emotions in the decision. By building credibility and trust, you reduce the feelings of fear and risk that are naturally associated with a complex buying decision.
Tip #6: Match Content to Buying Stage
White papers are generally most useful for people in the awareness stage of buying. The Internet has changed the buying process. Buyers are more actively involved in purchase decisions: they reach out for information, they research and investigate. In the early stage of the buying process, buyers want relevant, high-quality content – generally, they are not ready to engage with sales reps. White papers play an important role in building your brand by building thought leadership and demonstrating to prospects how your company can help them achieve their objectives.
Tip #7: Present a Consistent Brand Experience
Like all your communication materials, your white papers should be in alignment with your brand experience. Your business has to present a consistent face/impression to the potential client. Prospect empowerment means that companies often don’t get second chances.
Tip #8: Write From an Outsider’s Perspective
Every company has its own culture and lingo. You notice it when you start working at a new place, but then you get used to it. When you write company communication materials, write like an outsider to the company. Don’t make assumptions about what your readers know. Fully explain the benefits of your solution. Provide objective and referenced industry information.
Tip #9: Include an Executive Summary
An executive summary is essential in attracting the attention of readers. Without a summary, your target readers are much less likely to invest their valuable reading time into the document. An executive summary provides an idea of the entire paper at a glance to someone skimming the paper. If the ideas resonate, the person may read the paper in full or forward the paper to other decision-makers for a full read.
The shorter, the better is the rule with executive summaries: they range in length from a paragraph to a maximum of one page for most documents.
Tip #10: Sum It Up and Call to Action
Your white paper needs to have a conclusion that clearly summarizes the most important points you want the reader to remember. Conclusions are particularly important for two reasons:
1) Readers skimming a document will often jump to the end before they commit to reading in greater detail.
2) Conclusions increase the likelihood of a call-to-action response.