What is a White Paper?

The primary function of a good white paper is to present the solution to a general problem faced by the target reader. There are many styles, formats, and tones, depending on the industry, but the common denominator is a factual presentation of the shortcomings of existing products or methodologies, and evidence to support the new alternative. While there are no strict guidelines to limit creativity or presentation, there are certain industry standards expected by the reader, and good practices which should be taken into consideration to ensure that the core message of the document is delivered effectively by the white paper writer.

What your White Paper Writer Needs to Know

Before drafting a white paper, it is vital to clarify both the exact solution to be presented and the target audience for the document. If these are not presented to the white paper writer at the outset, you risk attempting to address the concerns of too many stakeholders simultaneously, and overloading each of them with too much detail. Is the document intended to be used as a tool for the Sales team to present to buyers, or to provide specifications and performance details for a technical department, or simply to generate authority in a particular field or be available for download from a company website? Knowing the answer to that question is the key to good white paper content writing.

What a White Paper is NOT

The second important factor to remember is that, unlike a lot of promotional business writing, a white paper is not written as an advertising brochure. Its power lies in its generic nature and in the collation of research and third party claims for the solution described.  This should provide the basis of the impartial proof to support the claims made in your company marketing materials.

That being said, it is, however, your white paper, and, since you are responsible for its distribution, it is expected that you will add a call to action, or, at least, your contact details, preferably at the conclusion of the document.

Good White Papers – How to engage the busy reader

Length: Everyone is busy these days, including the target audience for your white paper! The subject may seem fascinating to you, and there may be an overwhelming amount of convincing proof for its effectiveness, but your target reader may be inundated with similar documents, and it’s important to avoid losing the reader half-way through – especially before they reach the call to action on the last page! There are plenty of long white papers out there, but they are usually intended for a technical audience – even in that case, it’s best to minimize reader fatigue and get the point across in 6 to 8 pages, maximum.

Illustration: Even 4 pages of unbroken text can risk losing the reader and lead to the white paper going unread. In order to ensure that the message is delivered, a short, concise Executive Summary is critical, especially when the paper is likely to be passed around the company and up the decision-making chain. Pertinent bullet points and simple graphics can help to draw attention to other key information, and break up the monotony of paragraphs of print.

Tone: This is where it’s crucial to know your intended audience and be able to empathize and speak to them in the language they use. Tone can be used to reflect the voice and personality of the company and the target audience.

In conclusion, the White Paper is the backbone of your company b2b marketing.

A vital tool to establish authority and show a potential customer what you can deliver, it makes a clear statement about who you are and what you are about, without incorporating marketing hype or overt advertising. If drafted well, good white paper writing can also provide around 2,000 to 3,000 words of factual content, quotes and statistics which can be broken down and incorporated into other promotional materials, such as brochures, data sheets, web pages and social medic posts.

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