The white paper, among the marketing tools, is the document that analyzes a specific problem to promote or highlight the characteristics of the business solution, product, or service. In this article, we will give you a complete guide about what is white paper. Although it is a marketing document, its content is exclusively informative/technical. Its objective is not to “sell the product” but to inform the reference interlocutor so that he or she is interested in the company. Therefore, creating a white paper means abandoning any, so to speak, commercial way of writing. There are other marketing tools for product promotion, do not use the white paper at all.
What is white paper?
A white paper is a document intended to inform the reader about a particular topic. Its content is specific and technical, and allows the reader to frame a particular problem, understand its scope, approach the solution. Therefore, the focus of a white paper is not the product but a problem and its solution. Absurdly, as happens in the Servotecnica document, the company’s products and the company’s own brand are not even mentioned.
What is a white paper: Marketing tools
Being dedicated to a specific topic, the document’s audience is well defined. There are no generic white papers that can cover a broad audience with different characteristics. If you find one, it means that whoever wrote it made a huge mistake. Although its feature is purely technical, what is a white paper, it still has the aim of attracting potential customers to the company, highlighting its internal skills.
In terms of the content marketing strategy, we can classify it among the lead-magnets; that is, those marketing tools used to attract a specific audience’s attention by offering valuable content, which the reader receives for free after registering the company website or landing page.
Where to start to create a white paper
From what has been said so far, it is perhaps evident how the document should be carefully designed. Equal attention must be paid to the right topic or the issue that can attract the public’s attention to which it is addressed.
Who are you writing this for? Does your audience have technical characteristics? For example, who works in the technical offices of the companies in your target market? Or organizational, and then you turn to buyers? You will understand that the two company figures have different problems and are equally sensitive to other topics. Also, are you writing it for Lead Generation purposes or customer loyalty? Also, in this case, the two types of public have different characteristics. And, above all, other information needs. Although, to be honest, from a technical point of view, they could have the same problem.
What expertise do you bring in?
Your white paper must highlight your company’s expertise and experience about the issue covered by the document.
The fundamental elements of the text will, therefore, be:
- an analysis of the problem.
- A description of the solution.
- Highlight the company’s knowledge of the subject of the document.
- Integrate internal knowledge with qualified external sources.
- Using suitable external sources serves to complete the internal experience giving it greater authority.
What is white paper? What solution do you propose?
We said that the white paper is a technical document and must identify and address a specific problem. Well, however, you must not forget that it is still part of the corporate marketing tools and that its final goal is to interest your reference interlocutor for lead generation or customer loyalty. For your White Paper to be successful, the issue must be topical to your interlocutor.
I’ll give you a trivial example. I am writing this article while we are still in full Covid-19 emergency. Today I could write a white paper on sterilising aligners, as it is a very topical topic in this period. However, three months ago, this topic was of no interest, and my white paper would soon fall into oblivion.
Let’s analyze the Servotecnica White Paper.
As we have seen, the white paper is the best to generate credibility towards the company among the marketing tools. But to do this, it must be carefully thought out and organized to create a real interest in business skills. We then analyze the various parts of a white paper with the help of our Servotecnica Case Study.
Where to place the focal point?
The white paper should be seen as a journey in which the reader gains more information than the reading. Since the content is purely technical and of a formative nature, in this case, we do not need to place the focal point of the document at the beginning, as happens in other marketing tools. Instead, it must be placed at the end where a natural path reaches it.
This text contains a series of characteristics, let’s say keywords, which are very important for corporate marketing purposes:
- easier installation.
- Standard interfaces.
- Highly automated setup
- quick and comfortable design, operation, and maintenance.
We know, in fact, that for our customers, anything that simplifies the adoption of a product is a significant advantage. It is clear that in other marketing tools, we would have put these positive features at the beginning to immediately grab the reader’s attention in our case study, about halfway through the text.
A title that goes straight to the point
The title must clearly state what the reader will find in the white paper. If we can write a captivating title without losing technical precision, so be it. Otherwise, we remain relevant to the subject of the document.
The table of contents or abstract gives the reader a brief overview of the white paper’s main points. It is essential to insert it because it allows the reader to be sure that they have the right document for their needs. So it is hazardous to stay fuzzy thinking of making a few more contacts.
It is far worse to create expectations that are not met by the document than to have one less contact. In the first case, in fact, we have betrayed the trust that the reader has placed in the company.
Statement of the problem and/or scope of operation
The declaration of the problem or the operational area is equally important because it is necessary to define the boundaries within which one moves. As we have said, what is a white paper, cannot and must not have generalized but always a particular topic.
Institutional references, other research, sources
A white paper is always the result of research and particular expertise. Therefore, it is essential to indicate the sources, the studies to which we refer, in short, the origin of all non-company information included in the document. For example:
Conclude with the solution of the problem and operational indications
The white paper should conclude with a solution description if we have reviewed a problem or operational guidance if we have presented a topic other than a question. This is where maximum technical concreteness is expected. The solution cannot be “buy our product” but must be described precisely. Conclusions are also the time when many backs out. The fear, in fact, is to give information that the competition can use. Between revealing industrial secrets and remaining generic, there is a large space where, with the white paper, one can be technically concrete among the marketing tools.
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You must evaluate this aspect well with the technical office, and if you encounter resistance (and you will meet them), be prepared. For example, you can analyze your competitors’ documents or large companies in your sector, even if they are not direct competitors. If done well and promoted just as well, it could become a point of reference for the market you are targeting.
What is a white paper: Main objectives
- Describe a product/solution in an exhaustive and detailed way and underline its advantages over competing products.
- To draw attention to an emerging topic, which customers themselves know little.
- To affirm authority and competence in a given sector.
- Raise awareness of a product to the sales force.
- Providing more detailed information to journalists.
- To prove that we fully understand the customer’s problems.
Therefore, a white paper is intended for a very selected target, a shrewd and motivated reader, who does not allow himself to be easily convinced, who above all wants objective information, facts, numbers. For this reason, it is better to avoid lengthy introductions, perhaps describing in detail a problem that the reader already knows very well because it is his problem, the one to which he would like to find a solution precisely by reading the white paper.
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For the same reason, it is good to use a writing style that is as dry as possible, which aims to convince through facts and not through slogans, which makes use of graphs, diagrams, and tables, which strongly structures the contents according to the customer’s perspective and needs. It is a simple but straightforward layout, without unnecessary images that weigh down the document if sent by e-mail or distributed through the company website.
How to improve the appearance of your white paper
Few of your clients can handle even ten pages of dry text. What can we say about more severe volumes? However, you can make it easier for them to read by using one of the following suggestions to improve your text on each page:
- Key points (bullets). Give a short description after each key point. Avoid lists of 20 or more paragraphs in a row or multiple paragraphs of text after each section.
- Headings. Use 2 types of titles: use a larger font for the main headings, and use bold subheadings. Let your readers skim through them and read on.
- Quotes. Format the key message of each page in a separate section (no more than 20 words). Make this text larger. You can see how this is done in magazines.
- Side margins. Remove all subtopics or enumerations from the text, put them in the margins so that the reader can delve into the main topic.
- Tables. Present numbers, opinions, or lists in tabular form to reduce text size and make the information easier to view.
- Spaces and empty spaces. Leave white space at the top, bottom, and sides of the page and text no more than 60 characters in width to make it easier to read.
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What is a white paper: Promotion Methods
To get your target audience to notice your new white paper, you need to play around with your release like a mini new product launch. Use different promotion tactics and follow them until they bring results. Don’t give up on ads too quickly, and be sure to use the following effective tactics:
- Create a landing page with an excerpt from your book.
- Advertise your book on the website.
- Tell about it in your corporate newspaper (if any).
- Distribute it to your sales force and partners (if any).
- Could you send it to your subscriber base?
- Write about her on social networks, in groups with similar topics.
- Submit your press release.
- Please send it to famous journalists in your industry.
- Please send it to famous bloggers in your industry.
- Create a presentation.
- Send the production to your sales managers and partners.
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How do you know if your company needs white papers?
To do this, you need to answer 3 simple questions:
- Are you selling something new?
- Something difficult to understand?
- Something expensive?
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Any B2B entrepreneur selling something relatively new or innovative, as well as something complicated or expensive, can lead the market, drive leads, or close a big deal using a white paper. It doesn’t matter if you are selling a product, service, technology, or methodology. You need white paper. And that’s why.
FAQ: Question Answer
Are you selling something new?
When you bring a completely new product to the market, it is not easy to understand. There are no articles in trade or scientific journals for this product, no books about it. No information on forums or internet sites. And no one is promoting it yet. You need to provide as much useful and detailed information as possible. You are in luck if you are a Google employee – you can shoot a colourful viral video, tell the whole world about Google Glass and show its application in 2 minutes.
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However, if you have developed a new product or technology in agriculture, programming, or online exam grading, you are better off using the detailed specifications and benefits. Once your information and product are publicly available, and your offering is easily recognizable, the white papers’ value will diminish significantly.
Are you selling something difficult to understand?
When offering something complex, potential buyers need explanation and help. There is no way to understand a service, product, technology, or methodology just by looking at it. Over time, if the supply becomes every day and adapts to the general consumer level, there is no need for white papers.
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In 1981, IBM introduced its first personal computer. It took a team of experts to revolutionize the computer market at that time, and then it took a lot of technical clarification. Without a doubt, the company that created the first personal computer used many technical documents and reports to present its product. Today, you can buy a laptop or PC at any specialty store. Of course, there is an instruction there, but you are unlikely to need it to figure out how to turn it on, off, or log into a social network.