How to write a white paper
27th October 2011
You may have heard of ‘white papers’ in the realms of government, and they’re generally used to articulate policy on everything from health to education. However, they also serve a useful purpose in the sphere of sales and marketing. A white paper, in commercial terms, is used to outline the benefits of your product or service, and effectively make a logical case for what you can offer as a business.
Whilst we use the term ‘white paper’ in this blog, these documents could be referred to as ‘guide’, ‘report’ or something more creative like ‘Marketing Viewpoints’.
Why are white papers important?
A white paper isn’t so much about emotive platitudes and sales clichés; it’s more about establishing the effectiveness of your product, or your expertise on a subject, and how they can be applied to the wider world. The important thing is to educate your customers and potential customers, giving an impartial analysis of how your business can provide solutions and why they’re needed. By communicating your knowledge and understanding of your target market, as well as your ability to achieve success in it, your customers will hopefully feel sufficiently informed and impressed that they want to find out more.
What should you write about?
A well-written white paper should be:
- Informative: leave the reader knowing more about your subject than they did before they picked it up.
- Original: make your business stand out against your competitors. Try to work an angle that the customer hadn’t necessarily considered, as otherwise you won’t be telling them anything they didn’t already know.
- Structured: clearly set out the issues, how your business can help solve them, and why a customer should want you to, even if they weren’t aware that they faced these issues in the first place.
- Engaging: academic research and statistical analyses are a great way of lending an air of authority to your white paper, but if it’s too dry you run the risk of losing the reader’s interest.
- Accurate: this is supposed to be a factual document; don’t make anything up, or make promises you can’t necessarily keep.
Remember that the idea is not to overwhelm or scaremonger. Ideally you should be looking to subtly plant a seed in the customer’s mind, backed up with evidence that will hopefully result in leads for your business.
What NOT to write about
As mentioned before, a white paper isn’t about sales and marketing spiel. It’s about demonstrating your knowledge, and putting forward a compelling argument for a customer requiring your services. Ideally this should be done discreetly, so that your customers feel that you’re trying to convey helpful knowledge to them, and more importantly that there’s more helpful knowledge where that came from. As opposed to just conspicuously promoting your brand, which won’t necessarily tell the customer anything, and could even turn them away. By all means have a paragraph on your business at the end of the paper, but otherwise keep the sales messages to a minimum.
So there we are. As part of a wider marketing strategy, a white paper is an excellent way to engage your customers and offer them an insight into your services and why they’re necessary. It should be helpful, engaging and impart useful knowledge, ultimately persuading the customer to place their business with your company.
Did you know Xander Marketing writes white papers for SaaS businesses of all shapes and sizes? Find out more here or give us a call on +44 (0)330 223 2770.