The Manufacturing Industry is great for white papers. This was the topic of my last post. It seems natural to do a follow-up post on white paper best practices. I will describe the process from outline to finish and include insights on particular areas of content.
There are many examples of white paper outlines or processes that are out there. Many examples are just too simple. You don’t want to have any confusion that extends the production process. Normally, a few people from your company would oversee the project. One person is responsible for planning while the other person helps them to plan. Depending on the topic or size of the company they might also need to interview or brainstorm with others for information and feedback. The third person is the writer. This should be a professional copy writer with experience with white papers and other projects.
With the proper pre-planning the project can run smoothly. The goal is to plan well so that there are no surprises and extra production time.
White Paper Best Practices
A best-practice is to put the marketing of your white paper first. Start with SEO research. If you are going to put all this time (Average of two weeks full time) into the white paper, why not give it your best? Keyword research will give you your keyword options for targeting your audience online. You then see what keywords work well with the content. The target audience should be finding the white paper on your website because they found you in a keyword related search.
Planning the Work
With keyword options in hand, now is a good time to brainstorm. The two major parts of planning are topic selection and audience selection. Defining the audience may be easy or you may have more options. Some companies have specific segments that buy specific products or services. Your first job with brainstorming is to get as many ideas out on the table. This could just be a good first meeting. A second brainstorming meeting could include weighing the pros and cons of each idea.
It can be better to start with a larger group to do the brainstorming. With more people in the room, there can be more ideas, better questions, and different insights. Make sure that you go through several drafts of your white paper outline. You do not want the writer to start and then figure out that the outline needs adjustment. Any problem areas should be visible before the writing starts so that a solution can be found.
White Paper Research
Research information and sources may be on the top of your mind. It is essential to give prof that you are correct and objective. The path of the outline must include detailed evidence of why your findings.
Always play devil’s advocate. If you think you are correct or even know you are correct, try to find the opposite information. In doing this, you can also prove your case to a higher degree by debunking false facts.
White Paper Outline
Your white paper outline will be specific to your topic or audience segmentation goals. It is all about educating and selling! Choose the points that get the job done, cut everything else. A very general outline template:
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3 (As many points as you need)
- Conclusion (With call-to-action)
This may look simple, but let me describe some options.
A Solid Introduction
A solid introduction will cover three things: topic/challenge, audience, and overview. You can start by addressing the topic as a challenge. Make clear that you understand the pain points of this issue. Be empathetic towards your audience. By addressing who your audience is, you do something tactical. The more specific your audience is, the more you leave out who your audience is not. It’s a good way to not attract unwanted leads for a solution that does not fit them.
Your overview can be as detailed as you want it to be. Work with your writer to make sure the flow of the white paper holds the attention of your readers. Ask the question of what the chosen level of detail provides in your overview. Does it provide a greater reason to continue reading or does it break the flow of the content.
Sections of Content
These are the “Points” in the example above. For white papers, I like the idea of sticking to the pain points and proving the facts. It could look like this:
Aspect of Pain Point – Solution for this Aspect – Evidence
You go from the understanding of the overall problem-to breaking the problem down into aspects. Next, how your solution saves the day! Then, provide evidence for why this is true. It will most likely get more complicated than this, but this is where your writer comes in.
Call to Action (CTA)
In the conclusion there should be a call to action. This is the most important reason for developing a white paper in the first place. You want sales! Think about the steps that the reader would have to take to make to buy. Your white paper content leads up to why they should take the next step. Take a look at your sales funnel and see what the best step would be for them to take. The content of the white paper may allow for the reader to skip a few steps in the funnel towards making the buy.
Here are a few other details to keep in mind:
- Use the appropriate language for your target audience
- Write for full understanding (Describing industry language when needed)
- Explain all graphs or visual data examples
- Use images and graphic design
- Focus more on education than pitching
- Relate abstract ideas/data back to the current situation of the reader (Show them you understand)
- Consider the emotional impact of the reader’s pain points
- Consider the financial impact of the current problem
- Consider the financial impact of your solution
It’s a lot to think about, but well worth the outcome of gaining more leads and sales.
Here is my summary of this process:
- Start with SEO research (Use keyword options to inform your planning)
- Use a professional copy writer
- Brainstorm with a larger group having the goal to get as many ideas on the table
- Have a second brainstorming time to weigh the pros and cons of each direction
- Make sure to include marketing and SEO professionals from start to finish
- Do research and play devil’s advocate to make a stronger case
- Be objective by using data findings and correct logic
- Turn your outline turned inside and out before you start writing
- Think about content you may already have
- Use images and graphic design
- Be empathetic to pain points
- Your CTA is the whole reason for making a white paper
I hope that this helps you when considering a white paper. We covered a lot, but hopefully the detail here will guide and inform your decision making process.