For the next 7 days, at Express Writers, we’re going to be blogging on 7 successful content tips, marketing ideas, and hot products for you, your company, and your online website in 2014. Time to roll out additional plans for new ways to improve company revenue this New Year! For the next 7 days, we’ll be offering a few guides in our blog to cost-effective, easy solutions for easy company growth that will be worth it for the entire year. From writing a whitepaper to SEO keyword research, our solutions won’t break the bank and will probably cost less than those holiday parties you’ve spent some dough on.
The New Year is Here! Success #1 For a Great Year: Whitepapers
Have you written a whitepaper for your company yet? This year, in 2014, whitepapers will be a great marketing tool—another content piece that will be favored by Google, downloaded by your customers, and a tool in your arsenal that will never expire. You can print a whitepaper, email it to clients who want to be further impressed, offer it as a free offer to get your leads’ names and information, etc.
Content Marketing: The Whitepaper
Content marketing is more than a great business idea, it is an essential plan you simply cannot ignore. Whitepapers are rapidly becoming an effective way to boost your content marketing efforts. DirJournal: Small Business Blog revealed these marketing gems as capable of driving both leads and sales, which makes them a marketing-must. Instead of influencing people through flamboyant sales copy, whitepapers provide the opportunity to deliver informative content to your readers—potential customers— who will flock to read. As you can imagine, learning how to write great whitepapers is an absolute must for all businesses.
What is a Whitepaper?
You might know whitepapers are trending in the world of marketing, but what exactly are these new and improved selling tools? Whitepapers are essentially publications used by a business for a specific marketing need. Most companies publish them to raise awareness of their presence in their industry and to educate consumers about their product or service. The goal is to describe the product or service in a manner people can easily understand. They are often used to spotlight the benefits to choosing a specific product or service, but what makes them incredibly useful and sought after is their provision of unbiased information to the reader. Think of a whitepaper as a persuasive, educational publication.
6 Tips to Get You Started
Let’s be blunt. Do you remember the motto, “No pain, no gain?” Well, writing a whitepaper is not the easiest task in the world. It takes preparation, motivation, determination and the drive to follow through. It just might be more painful than you anticipate, but the gain is absolutely worth any pain. According to a Contently piece on how to write a whitepaper, these documents are a very effective way to “stand out as an expert in your field.” Here’s what you need to know to get started:
- Pick a strong topic people will rush to read. Picking the perfect topic is a real challenge. It needs to be relevant to your business while current and sought after by your audience. You must be able to provide quality content minus the sales fluff. Remember, the idea is to sell through informative content, not hype. Consider your target audience and choose a topic or issue that actively concerns them.
- Know your audience. This involves more than choosing an on-topic subject. Knowing your audience means understanding the problems they experience, the language they speak, the technical details they understand and what points and sources will steer them toward purchasing your product or service. WhitePaperSource offers some excellent insights into climbing inside your audience’s head, which is a key to whitepaper writing success.
- Use an outline. Do you remember struggling with the creation of an outline years ago in a high school or college English class? You probably thought you would never guess to use it in the future. But guess what? An outline can help you create a stellar whitepaper. Use it to flesh out every point you plan to cover, dividing them into sections or chapters. Insert statistical information or case study information you plan to present. Organize the information and play with the order until it makes good sense. In essence, you are creating the skeleton of your paper. It will be your guide as you write and will keep you on course.
- Put your own spin on it. An audience is much more likely to enjoy a piece you were excited to write. As you sculpt your whitepaper, put your personal spin on it. Let your passion and excitement shine. Avoid copying other authors’ work.
- Hook your readers quickly. In sales we often use a common fishing metaphor: hook the customer and reel them in for the sale. The same basic idea applies to writing a whitepaper. It is vital to write a captivating introduction; snag the attention of the audience, keep your content interesting and preview just enough of the information to follow to make them incapable of tearing their eyes away.
- Write first, edit later. Once your outline is complete and you’re excited about the topic, it’s time to write. Get your thoughts down on paper quickly. Don’t worry about errors. Just write. Write without interruption. Attempting to edit as you write will only slow the process, it can even give writer’s block a chance to creep in! Once your first draft is complete, edit out errors and fix any lapses in the flow.
3 Tips about Style Because It Matters
Now that you have an idea of how to begin writing a whitepaper, let’s talk about something that can make it sink or swim: style. What exactly is style? It’s more than the tone of your paper; it includes formatting and design:
- Choose the proper tone. Take a moment and think back to when you were a kid. Do you remember an adult, maybe a parent, getting on your case about your tone? At the time, you thought they were crazy, but as a business-minded adult you realize that tone can make or break reputations and sales. Whitepaper writing is no exception. Write with a serious and professional tone. Your goal is to be informative and educate, never to talk down to or belittle your readers.
- Pay attention to formatting. Your whitepaper will represent you brand. It must be on the same level as your best marketing and brand material. There is no set rule for formatting a whitepaper, but you should strive to create a crisp, clean appearance. The information covered should be organized and flow from start to finish. As a general rule of thumb, start with an abstract, discuss a problem, provide a little background, introduce how your product or service works, explain your solution(s), offer factual evidence supporting your product or service and finally, explain why you are the reader’s clear choice.
- Material should be well written and finely edited. If you’ve ever taken a debate or speech class, the teacher no doubt emphasized the importance of proper pausing when speaking. For example, read the following out loud, pausing at the question mark, “What’s that on the road? Ahead.” Suddenly, “ahead” sounds like “a head!” Silly as this exercise is, it carries a relevant point regarding well written and finely edited content: a single misspelling or incorrectly used punctuation mark can dramatically change the content. In fact, it could destroy the credibility you’re seeking to build as an expert. What’s the solution? Consider using two writers and/or an editor. A second and third pair of eyes can help make the content perfect.
Avoid Information Overload
One of the most common pitfalls of whitepaper writing is overloading the reader with dull or lengthy information. The point of a whitepaper is to educate and persuade at the same time. You don’t want to smother the reader with overly technical or statistical information. It can leave them confused or discourage them from purchasing your product or service. At the same time, you don’t want to burden the reader with irrelevant information because you’re shooting for a high word count. Learning how to write great whitepapers involves mastering balance. Here are some tips to live by:
- Write for people. It’s easy to get lost in factual and statistical information that shows why our product or service is vital and well above our competition. You have to remember you’re writing for an audience of people, and people want to know how or why a product or service applies to them. Credible facts, statistics and case studies add needed weight to your paper, but be careful to balance these with why people love your product or service. Tap into the human aspect and infuse emotion into your writing.
- Less is more. Word and page counts are great, but they shouldn’t be set in stone. Chances are you’re writing for a crowd with hectic schedules. They don’t have time to read a novel. They’ll likely skim a 3 to 5 page paper, stopping to read the headings that apply to their needs or pique their interest. If you can accomplish your goal of educating and persuading the audience in 4 pages versus 5, don’t sweat it. Your reader will likely thank you for respecting their valuable time and not bogging them down with unnecessary information.
- Benefits Sell. Obviously, you need to dedicate space to explaining your product or service. What does it do? How does it do it? It’s important to state the benefits unique to your business because those sell. What makes your product or service better? What are the perks? Why should the consumer choose you over everyone else?
Infuse Authoritativeness into Your Work
A cornerstone of every well written whitepaper is the infusion of authoritative references. What exactly are they? According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, an authoritative reference is a citation “to specific authoritative accounting literature…derived from various authoritative sources…and used to help define an element.” Simply put, do your homework. Avoid using questionable sources or references. Your goal is to deliver the freshest insights as the latest expert.
Examples and illustrations are powerful tools that allow the writer to paint a picture. They can make a point while hitting a personal chord within the audience. Often the examples and illustrations woven into your writing are what stick with the reader. Be sure to infuse your paper with descriptive situations in which your solution is especially valuable. Give real life success stories and give your audience the ability to connect with customers who swear by your product or service.
Cut the Fluff
Your potential customers aren’t reading for entertainment. They have a problem. They’re looking for a viable solution. Your whitepaper isn’t a billboard to spotlight your business. Cut the fluff and focus on what your read wants:
- Facts, not opinions.
- Tangible solutions, not outlandish promises.
- Remember the fishing metaphor we discussed earlier? Hooking the reader and reeling them in is a strong strategy, especially as your writing persuades the reader to buy from your business. However, here is a sales related fishing metaphor or avoid at all cost: the bait and switch tactic. Readers are quick to pick up on this tactic, and it’s a sure fire way to lose potential customers.
Drop a Breadcrumb and Pave the Way
One of the best pieces of advice when writing a whitepaper is to treat it like a breadcrumb. This goes right alongside the strategy of breadcrumb marketing, which is a proven way to lead potential consumers back to your home base (your website or other primary hub). Simply put, your whitepaper should always lead to your next piece of content. Each morsel will lead your customers to arrive little by little to the place where the purchase will take place.
Follow ups are vital to most sales and marketing plans. When you release a whitepaper, your focus should be more on leading the read to your product or service versus finding a way to instantly follow up. The idea isn’t to apply pressure and generate a lead, but to instead let the reader know your business has more useful information for them. Encourage them to contact you.
Hire a Pro
If you find yourself uncomfortable with the basics of how to write great whitepapers, hiring a business writer is your best Plan B. Some writers and businesses specialize in nothing but whitepapers, while others handle everything from press release and brochure copy to marketing campaign copy and whitepapers.
The only disadvantage to using whitepapers is not using one at all! Regardless of how you go about creating it, the end product will be a marketing tool well worth every ounce of blood and sweat squeezed into it. Studies show customers respond to informative material more favorably than hyped advertisement campaigns or blatant ads. The trick to successfully using this tool to generate more business is creating an organized, well-planned, well-written and finely polished document that sparks a genuine interest in your product or service.