A person who buys a hammer doesn’t really want a hammer, what they want is a nail in a wall. The theory is that the person trying to sell a hammer should advise people about nails – by showing authority on this, they put themselves in the position of expertise on hammers. The author of a whitepaper discussing nails puts himself in the position of being the authority on nails, in order to place his company or philosophy at the centre of the market for hammers.
What is a whitepaper?
A whitepaper is an article stating the author’s authority, philosophy, or position on a particular subject. It has one of two main purposes:
- Sharing technical knowledge or business information
- Generating publicity and attracting prospects, readers, or followers
In short, in one of two ways a white paper is a marketing tool.
Why write a whitepaper?
Clients have asked me to write both types of white paper.
The first, specific industry/ subject knowledge white paper presents an objective overview of subject area. There will be a lot of information included within from a variety of sources, even quoting other subject experts and analysts. Such a paper aids the reader to understand the subject area, though is unlikely to be overly technical in nature. They will help the reader discover possibilities, pitfalls and disadvantages, as well as discuss possible solutions.
This paper uses soft sell techniques, for example, simply positioning a company as a solution provider and reaching out to a new audience. It’s great to send to prospective clients as a pitch for a sales meeting.
A more targeted white paper is the specific product white paper. Sometimes these are offered as companion pieces to the general white paper mentioned above, with particular focus on product features and benefits. This white paper usually summarises issues which the product addresses. Unlike generally recognised marketing materials, a product specific white paper doesn’t contain direct marketing statements or catchphrases, but rather introduces the product with real world information about the product.
The product specific white paper is often used as a marketing tool to leave behind after a sales meeting, allowing the prospective clients to better acquaint themselves with the product and its value to them.
What are the elements of a good whitepaper?
A whitepaper should identify the target audience’s main problem – the one to which the author is proposing a solution. This could be decreasing sales, or real-time budgeting issues, or even continually peeling paint.
It should also be written in appropriate language to reach out to the target audience. Language that is too simplistic, or too complex, will turn the reader away. White papers for technical staff will require technical details and possibly long product and industry descriptions. Board directors prefer more direct and non-time consuming work, with more accessible language.
This applies to length of the white paper, also. Most white papers fall within the 5 to 8 page range, though some we have worked on have been brief one page affairs while others have required up to 80 or even 100 pages.
Often, the term whitepaper will be included in the title, for example ‘Whitepaper on the Effects of Peeling Paint on Household Maintenance Costs’ or ‘Issues Involving Real Time Budgeting Requirements in the Modern World: a Whitepaper.’
The whitepaper will begin by defining the problems to be addressed, though this may be just one paragraph or so, before moving onto a more detailed analysis of the issues. It is at this stage that research is likely to be introduced, using facts and figures, data tables and graphs or charts.
This information will be expanded with further background knowledge, for example detailing market size, recent developments in technology, etc.
Before closing with a summary, reviewing the problem, the solution, and potential results, a full description of the solution must be given. This may be by way of product description, or a step-by-step guide to the business approach needed to create the solution (this is why a product specific whitepaper often accompanies the more general industry/subject white paper).
The white paper is yours, not the writer’s
When contracting a white paper writer, it is important to bear all the elements of the white paper in mind. You’ll need to impart your knowledge to the writer, and he may require access to staff or others that will help him put together the white paper.
You’ll need to clearly define the audience, and the approach you wish to take – is the white paper to be written for CEOs, technicians or engineers, sales or buying managers, etc? Do you want an industry white paper or a product specific white paper?
You should also consider the length of your whitepaper, as well as the type of graphics you wish to have included (data tables/ graphs or charts, etc). On top of this, you will need to make a rough outline of what is to be covered (remember, you are the industry expert and so your guidance is crucial)
Finally, you’ll need to consider your marketing plan. Will you be printing the whitepaper for hard copy distribution, or will you be emailing (perhaps an email campaign) it or posting to your website? If you want some tips on promoting white papers, then feel free to email me.
Your writer should then go through a period of information gathering from sources you have given him and other sources that he sees fit (obviously with no contact to competition).
From this point the writer will draw up a rough draft. This will highlight the data the writer proposes to use and commit you to a final ‘running order’ of your white paper.
A first draft is then written and presented to you for review and comments leading to a final draft copy. This is usually all that is needed, though you may still have a need for one or two minor tweaks and revisions (things can change very quickly in business).
Writing a whitepaper is extremely labour intensive, often requiring high level research and time consuming contact with contacts given by the client. Many white paper companies limit their work to production of the written content, and expect the white paper author to then add in necessary graphics, charts and data tables.
My whitepaper writing service includes all this work, so you end with a finished product that is distribution ready. White papers used to be completely white (hence the term), bland affairs. Now it is more usual to add some colour, particularly company logos and with a corporate colour scheme. Again, all this is included in my whitepaper writing service.
We charge £75 per page (US$110), with a minimum of £750 ($1,100) for whitepapers. When calculating page count, we don’t include the Front Page and Table of Contents page(s).
To find out more, hire our writing services, or request a free content consultation, click here to contact us today.