Why and How to Write White Papers
How to Promote my Software Business with White Papers?
White papers have become a popular marketing tool especially in the field of business and politics. Corporations aim to sell information or new products as solutions to their customers by posting a white paper online.
The purpose of a white paper is to educate readers and help them make decisions in choosing the software that suits their needs best. In this case the document in question can quickly turn into a commercial tool that advertises the company's products or services.
Perry Marshall, authority in online-marketing at Google AdWords considers white papers as the most effective marketing tools and gives us the trivial example of the "drill". When buying a drill, what do we consider first? The drill or the hole after drilling? This is the logic one we should focus on if we want to increase our sales.
Benefits of Writing White Papers
- It generates more sales, credibility and trust
- Your paper gets to be known by IT directors and corporate executives, so if your paper gets read, you win a lot out of it provided your paper is well-written;
- It makes readers curious also about what you have to offer
- Readers respond positively when advertising a problem-solving information
- Online users are searching for quality content.
From the creator's point of view, it is good to know that sales can be much increased provided that the paper is professionally written. Elaborating such a paper is not supposed to be overwhelming nor cause burnout effects, and given that you keep your focus, then you'll have the best out of it.
When writing a white paper you should mainly concentrate on the problems your customers may have and only later provide them with solutions. This is when your audience is likely to read the white paper. If you give solutions first, the audience is prone to turn away from the very beginning. Thus, it is vital to emphasize on the reader's interests and desires above your own.
Why it is Important
A white paper is effective no matter what kind of business you have, i.e. business-to-business or business-to-consumer.
- A White Paper offers solutions to your prospects' problems;
- It doesn't try to praise your company or products;
- It makes the reader curious when reading it;
- It urges the reader to take action and search more for the problem solving product.
How to Write a White Paper
Writing a white paper is not an easy task and it can definitely be a challenge. First of all you have to think about how to make it short and concise, but still convey the right ideas to the prospect. Then you need to pay attention on the language you use. Don't sound too complicated, avoid technical expressions as much as possible and try to provide real information in order to be credible. Make the headlines clear and specific.
Here are some guidelines on how to organize your white paper:
- Introduction - gives you an insight of the paper without stating the whole conclusion. It should be not longer than one paragraph. Sometimes customers read only the introductory part and the conclusion, so better provide material that gives them a reason to keep on reading.
- Problem - provide readers with general information that helps them understand facts about certain issues and to identify themselves with the problem described.
- Solution; propose your solution to the problems in question, explain how the software works in general. Given enough details, readers can make their own decisions about the usefulness of the proposed solution.
- Advertisement - tell the readers about your product or services but ONLY after you have convinced them of the truths of your argument. Explain them why your solution is the best available. Talk about the benefits and provide supporting evidence.
- Conclusion - write a one paragraph summary of why your solution is the best. Emphasize the advantage of using this product as well as the disadvantage of not using it. Also, don't forget to mention the works cited and the hyperlink sources you used. Give the reader details about how you can be contacted. Visit your site? Contact your company?
Michael Stelzner presents in his book, Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged some tips about how to make a white paper a successful marketing tool. Here are some outlines on how to write your white paper:
- Use graphics, charts, diagrams, tables and photos. They make a white paper more appealing and convincing and they are likely to increase its credibility.
- Give examples and study cases, they are much sought after. Readers want to see facts, real cases, inspiring stories.
- Use casual, easy-understandable language.
- Stick to no more than 25 pages. The length of a white paper usually varies between 4 and 25 pages. Writing more than that becomes risky, as you may lose the audience.
- Cite third-party sources (analyst research or industry reports) whenever is possible.
- Avoid direct selling. People hate the idea of knowing that they are offered something for money. Write in a positive "non-salesy" style.
- Focus on benefits more than features. This is how they'll know that you are not trying to sell them something they don't want. They have the opportunity to see what the service is for. Just as simple.
- Use new and practical information. It would be a pity to pass on information that is maybe out-of-date. So, a deep research on the topic is more than recommended before starting writing a white paper.
- Use concrete hints or "How tos"
- Avoid such as "revolutionary", "cutting edge" etc. If your product is any of these things, buyers will definitely recognize that.
You should also check out the answer to the question why sometimes white papers don't work.
But let's take a concrete example - the eXtensible Metadata Platform white paper (PDF) from Adobe which is a good example of how a white paper should be like. You can see below exactly the main advantages that this white paper has:
- Clear headlines, chapters, layout and design;
- PDF format;
- Readable font size; not everybody has a perfect eyesight;
- Friendly tone, plain English;
- Visual auxiliary material to help readers understand the topic better and break the monotony of reading plain text;
- Real information provided with the description of the technology. These are meant to convince the prospects about the features and functionality of the application.
- Purpose of the service clearly explained and shown: the phrase "computers can read and understand the labels" is spread over five lines and is highlighted;
- Footnotes for auxiliary explanations;
- Abbreviations given from the beginning: XMP stands for eXtensible Metadata Platform;
- Creative subheads that are playful (Bean Data Analogy is the title given to the 2nd chapter);
- Content divided into digestible chunks with use of bullets in order to make the text readable;
- Benefits, application, case studies (companies wanting to label reports, documents etc.; newspaper publishers wishing to label the contents of each day's paper; hardware manufacturers who need a labeling system for the manual for each product and so on)
- Not a boring content;
- Summary and conclusion concentrated and easily understandable.
We also developed a white paper section on our site. We use white papers in order to catch as many email addresses as possible in order to have more subscribers for our newsletter; of course we ask for their permission first :). This is a common use of the white papers: to gather leads details and generate awareness.
Here's our latest white paper: 9 Tips on How to Help your Reseller - Based Software Business Move!, you will notice the very easy sign up procedure; the interested people just write down their email address and that’s all.
How to Promote a White Paper
Writing a white paper is not all. You need to pass it over to your targeted audience. People have to read it.
Here are some ideas on how to do it:
- Offer the paper on websites/blogs that your target audience visits;
- Auto responder or newsletters;
- Distribute printed copies on trade shows;
- Offer free copies through pay-per-click advertising;
- Buy banners or sponsored links;
- Create a special area on your website and promote the white paper on related pages.
White papers are effective tools in selling your products without actually focusing on sales. If your product or service is reliable and you know its worth, then this is the answer for you. Many companies have tried it and statistics prove its functionality. Read the testimonials of some important business people and convince yourself!
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