Savvy Speaks: White Paper Writing Best Practices

Savvy Speaks: White Paper Writing Best Practices
Savvy Sisters - Wed May 25, 2011 @ 12:00AM
Comments: 17

These days everyone has a white paper or an ebook they'd like you to download. What makes a white paper stand out from the crowd? The Savvy Sisters have some ideas...




It solves my problem.

... not your lead gen problem - but my problem. 

This may seem obvious in the we-all-know-it's-not-about-us vein, but there are plenty of white papers and E-books out there that are a testament to the fact that lots of brands are still getting it wrong. They see these content marketing pieces as glorified sales brochures where they get to beat their chests and talk about all their gnarly features. Blah-blah-blah.

Your download needs to clearly and plainly state it's "promise." In other words, what will the prospect learn if he takes the time to register for the goods? How are you going to make his life better/easier/more fun? That's what he cares about. That's what will make you stand out.



Tie features to benefits

Yes, white papers are technically, well, technical documents. But that doesn't mean you can get away with listing a bunch of features and calling it a day. You identified the reader's business problem right? Now draw a straightl line between how your product's features solve them and what the result will be.



Respect Your Reader's Time

One of the things that helps a white paper stand out is design. Readers love to skim, and the white paper is certainly no exception. Here are some ideas:

  • Use use call outs to highlight key points, such as snippets of text or quotes.
  • Use descriptive headers to tell a story.
  • Include bulleted lists for key points.
  • Bold key phrases throughout.
  • Use a font that is very easy to read and scan. Increase the spacing between your lines for even more readability.
  • Use infographics and other graphics that tell a story. These can be repurposed in all sorts of places, so it's a good investment.

Wendy Thomas


Do your homework as an advocate for your reader

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can do in a white paper is to include material that "she" thinks is the most important (forget what the client or audience feels). You know, the nice to know stuff that a writer mistakenly feels captivates her audience. Often times what you are left with is a paper that although may read well, doesn't solve the proposed problem and doesn't give that all important aspect of value to the customer.

The bottom line is that in the end the reader dosen't care about the nice-to-knows they just want to know what's in it for them. 

Do your research before you even set your fingers to the keyboard. Find out what the problem is and why your solution will benefit your audience. If the readers can't figure out why it is they should be reading your paper then everyone loses.  



What's In it for the Audience?

  • Cover topics of interest to your audience -- believe it or not, that won't always be about your product or service.
  • Write titles and executive summaries that incorporate the keywords your prospects are using so your paper rises to the top in the search results.
  • Design your cover to be visually arresting...otherwise it'll get lost in the sea of white covers out there.
  • Give readers a taste of what's inside so they can decide whether or not the paper is worth downloading.
  • Use an interactive design that allows readers to easily navigate to areas of interest.
  • Embed multimedia -- such as a video clip that dives deeper into an important point -- to break up the monotony of reading.

What are your best practices for white papers?

Share them here!

Comments: 17


1. Ivan  |  my website   |   Wed May 25, 2011 @ 04:20PM

and write the content around their respective pain points.


2. Basi   |   Tue Apr 22, 2014 @ 05:27AM

I would like to give some helpful tips. Try to identify your audience's level of expertise. There by you can also analyze their attention span. Later decide on a sufficient length for the white paper. Thank you so much for the update.

3. Rodg Okoye   |   Wed Jul 23, 2014 @ 06:46AM

One thing I've learnt is that when it comes to the internet, ones ability to write is the most important attribute to success online. If you want to produce anything of note online, you need to be able to effectively express yourself or you need the money to pay someone to do it for you.


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