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4 8 Tips for Writing White Papers (Hint: Don't Call It a White Paper)

Today is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Gordon Graham – Enjoy!

Ever seen a “white paper” on the web… and figured those are only for the big guys?

Think again. A white paper is a 6- to 8-page marketing document that helps a prospective customer understand an issue or solve a problem. Producing one can help your small business generate leads, build buzz, and level the playing field with much larger companies.

I know, I’ve done it. And I’ve helped dozens of other companies do it.

If you’d like to put this high-powered marketing device to work, here are eight tips on writing effective white papers.

Tip 1: Provide information your prospects can use.

Wondering what you could possible say in a white paper? You already know more than you realize.

To help find a likely topic, ask yourself:

  • What pains do your customers experience?
  • What problems do you help with?
  • What advice do you give them?

For example, consider Tom the plumber. The problems he finds include leaky pipes, clogged drains and plugged toilets. And what sometimes causes them? A DIY job gone wrong.

What if Tom publishes a little report called “5 Home Plumbing Jobs You Can Do Yourself—And 3 You Should Leave to a Pro”? What if he mentions that report on his business cards, on Facebook, even on the side of his truck? Wouldn’t that help Tom stand out from every other plumber in town? Wouldn’t that make him seem like the kind of guy they can trust?

Tip 2: Don’t make your white paper a sales pitch.

The #1 mistake people make is turning a white paper into a sales pitch. Don’t do it! An effective white paper provides answers to questions that many prospects ask. If you dish out a sales pitch, you’ll waste this opportunity to get known and trusted.

Tip 3: Write in a conversational tone.

Many business owners are scared of writing. You don’t need to be. Just write in a friendly, conversational tone, something like this article. You want to sound authentic, helpful, and trustworthy. No need for big words and fancy sentences. You may want to hire an editor to smooth out your final draft: You can quickly find one by Googling “find an editor”.

Tip 4: Present proof for your claims.

If you make a claim, be prepared to back it up. Dig up facts, figures, and quotes from experts and reliable sources. If Joe says homeowners can save half their plumbing bills by following his list, he should have an article in Time magazine or USA Today for proof.

Tip 5: Get it designed properly.

Your white paper should be attractive and easy to read, and that may call for a professional designer. Author/designer Roger C Parker has great tips available at his site Design To Sell. A cover photo helps too, and your designer can find one for about $20 on a site like www.istockphoto.com

Tip 6: Develop a snappy title.

The title is what people see when your paper comes up in a list of search results. So if your title doesn’t “pop” right out of the screen, prospects may skip right past it.

You can make a title interesting with a bold statement, a number, a question, a looming deadline, or a promise. Write lots of different titles, combine the best, then test your favorites on some actual customers.

Tip 7: But don’t call it a white paper.

In some sectors, the term “white paper” is valued, but in others it’s over-used or unknown. You may get more traction calling your document a “special report.” To make the intended audience clear, create a subtitle that names a specific job role or challenge, such as “A special report for home-owners wondering about DIY plumbing.”

Tip 8: Promote it like a madman.

It’s not enough to stick a white paper on your website. You’ve got to promote it. Mention it on your blog, newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter, and LinkedIn groups. Send it any relevant journalists, analysts or bloggers. Consider publishing a press release through a channel like PRWeb. Your goal is to get your white paper in front of everyone who could possibly benefit from it. Good luck!

photo credit: pamhule via photopin cc

Gordon-Graham-150x150Gordon Graham—also known as That White Paper Guy—is an award-winning writer who has created more than 175 white papers for clients from New York to Australia, for everyone from one-person start-ups to Google. His book “White Papers For Dummies” was just published in spring of 2013.



25 5 Ways to Share Content to Create Referrals

Creating valuable, education based content is half the ticket to selling these days. The other half, of course, is getting that content read and in the hands of prospects.

Share contentWriting a blog, hosting content on your website and spreading the word on you social networks are all great places to start, but another great way to use and amplify content is to attract partners that you can share content with and help you turn that content into referrals.

Below is a list of five ways to start thinking about doing just that.

1) Guest post – It used to be that writing articles and publishing them to article directories was sound advice. It’s still not a bad way to get some exposure, but writing as a guest author for blogs read by your prospective market is a far stronger play these days. Blogs generally have a following developed by the publisher and therefor an audience that comes back and reads or content that search engines find highly indexable.

By approaching blogs that seem to have the kind of topics and readers relevant to your market and offering up valuable content you can potentially borrow the trust, also known as being referred, built by that blogger to gain added exposure to your message or expertise.

A couple of thoughts on finding blogs. Use search tools like Bloglines or Placeblogger to find related or local bloggers. While it would be great to get a guest post on the highest traffic blogs you might want to focus on blogs that are smaller and perhaps in the end, more relevant to your subject. Scan past posts to see if they appear to want guest posts and offer up original content either in the form of a full post or by way of an email outlining what you could write about. Make sure you add very brief contact information, but don’t sell in the post.

2) Host a group – Social networking platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare and Flickr all allow members to create groups. A group can be gathered around a single niche topic or even a location. By forming a group around content, community events or how to do something specific, you have the opportunity to create a place where prospects and partners might want to gather and refer others.

The key to this play is that the group needs to be all about something valuable, a what’s in it for the members only approach, or it won’t garner any attention. You don’t have to think strictly in terms of a group topic that is related to your business either. If you are trying to attract locals, a group that appeals to locals might be a group way to turn content into referrals. This Boston Networking Group on LinkedIn was founded by Jeff Popin, owner of BostonEventGuide.com. With over 3,000 members, there’s a pretty good bet this group serves as a conduit for Popin’s main business locally.

3) Bring a friend – People love free content events such as workshops and webinars. They are great ways to deliver content and great ways for people looking for information to learn from an expert. One way to build audience and generate referrals is to create “bring a friend” events. The idea here is that you can come for free, but you must bring a friend as the price of admission. You can automate the process of sign-up using tools like MeetUp or Eventbrite.

Bring a friend is a great way to expand your referral base and, as long as we’ve got the audience, make a referral oriented offer to all in attendance. If you sell a product or service make them a two for one deal today only. They get to buy today’s incredible program and get a second one free to give a friend.

4) Offer content co-branding – You’ve worked and slaved over the perfect white paper, “how to” series of articles, or video tutorials and people seem to really like them. Why not take that content to potential strategic partners (really any non-competing business that also targets your same ideal customer) and offer to let them use it. Most businesses these days realize they should be producing content like this, but hey, who has the time. Then you show up with a great little package of information all ready to go and you even let them put there logo and contact information inside when they offer it up their prospects, customers and network.

This is a great way to get in front of very large audiences as a referral. Making it very easy for people to do something they know they should is a great way to get the attention of a potential big referral fish.

5) Create an event – This one is pretty closely related to the last two, but once you’ve created a workshop or seminar, you can always take it to potential strategic partners and offer to provide it at no cost to their customer base (you get referred as the expert) – of course, don’t forget to tell them about the bring a friend approach.

To amp this approach up even more round-up four or five of the partners that you worked with in number four above and come up with an entire day or half day of great topics that your target market will find irresistible. Then each of you promote the event to your customer and prospect bases (bring a friend) and fill up the event. You can do this for free or low cost, but the goal is to get exposure and referrals from your partners while providing content that can be re-purposed in any number of ways. You can do this online off and don’t forget to record so you can use the archives in new ways too!

Image credit: miss rogue