Ineffective white papers usually fail because they don’t grab an audience’s attention or they slip into sales-speak. The title and first sentences must signal that a white paper is interesting, applicable, and offers a significant return on investment. A white paper must also maintain a balanced, informative tone: salesman-like posturing discredits content and alienates readers.
- Know the audience. A finance manager has a different set of needs and interests than an operations officer or an engineer. Effective white papers are explicitly pitched to key decision-makers.
- Accept that looks matter. Every reader skims and skips before committing to a focused read. Effective white papers deploy graphics to demonstrate key processes, use type and layout to strategically highlight key ideas, and keep branding to a minimum.
- Strike a balance. A balanced tone communicates credibility, but balance must be struck with content. Effective white papers offer detailed information and concise analysis, often with key case studies and explanations of technical terms.
- Give it legs. To reach a customer base, white papers should be sent to prospective customers, partner companies, relevant media outlets; handed out at trade shows or conferences; and used to organize webinars. Think broadly to maximize benefits.
- Hire a professional. Subject-matter experts play a crucial role in identifying topics and ensuring technical accuracy, but white papers take time, and their writers must be experienced and able to maintain a clear—and clearly interesting—voice.