Getting a clear picture of your ideal reader is one of the most important things you can do when crafting a white paper. You may think, "I know my target audience. It's the VP of operations at Fortune 100 companies." While these types of details are a start, to truly create an effective white paper, there is a lot more information you need to know.
Many writing and marketing experts suggest developing a persona of your ideal reader and then writing directly to that person. This may sound silly, but taking this approach helps the white paper be more persuasive because you can always answer the question, "Does this person care about this information?"
There are lots of questions you (hopefully) already know the answer to:
- What is the person's title?
- What industry does he work in?
- What size company does he work for?
- Does he reside in a specific geography?
But you also want to understand what makes this person tick:
- Is he very busy and likes only high-level detail, or is he curious and likes lots of facts?
- What keeps him up at night?
- What challenges does he wish you could fix?
- What gets him really excited?
- Who does he trust? Who influences his decisions?
- What motivates him to take action?
Create a mental image of this person by asking these types of questions:
- Is the reader typically male or female?
- What is his general age?
It's also helpful to learn about his familiarity with the subject:
- How technical is he?
- How familiar is he with the general solution you are writing about?
- What word or phrases does he use to describe the issues he's facing?
- What is his role in the buying process? Is he a decision maker, champion or influencer?
Lastly, it's useful to understand his online behavior:
- Where does he search for information?
- Does he interact on certain forums?
- What blogs does he follow?
- Which social media tools does he use (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc)?
Note: For eight ideas on discovering where your B2B customers and prospects go for information check out Stacy Whisel's post on B2B Insights Blog.
The more time you take to understand your ideal reader, the more focused and engaging your white paper will be. Defining your reader will also help define where and how you should promote your white paper.
As a reader, what makes the difference for you between pieces that deliver their message successfully and pieces that miss the mark? How did the successful authors connect with you?