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

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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.




Gordon Graham, white papers

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