*Need a quick understanding of white papers? Read White Paper Fast Facts
Step One: What, Who, and How
Your first step is to figure out the basics.
What format for your white paper? Will it be a backgrounder on a particular product or service? A bullet list or Q&A? A traditional problem/solution paper?
Who is the white paper’s audience? Are they technical, an influencer or a decision-maker? What is the pain you are trying to take away?
How will the white paper be used? Is this part of a sales cycle? A thought leadership piece?
Step Two: Outline
Really…don’t skip this step because you feel like you’re back in sixth grade English class. Creating the outline will fast-track your project.
With your answers from Step One, start sketching out the format and content for the white paper. The outline will help you determine the resources you need to complete the paper. Get the whole team (marketing, sales, technical, management) involved and signing off. It is FAR easier to make corrections and changes at the outline stage than when you are through the first written draft.
Step Three: Research, Review, and Interview
With your outline approved, now it’s time to fill in the information holes. Don’t rely on Google searches for all your research. Contact SMEs (subject matter experts) in the industry. Interview internal engineers and developers. Talk to clients. Make your research as in-depth and interesting as possible.
Step Four: Writing
Grab your audience’s attention immediately – you may only have a few seconds before they decide to keep reading or move on to the next information source. Tell an interesting story about how someone just like them had a similar problem and promise that you will reveal a solution.
Using your outline, fill in the research that you uncovered and follow the format. This is where your groundwork with the outline and having completed the research pays off.
Are there changes in the market? Is your product or service a completely new category? Define how you are solving a problem and how the current solutions do not deliver a complete solution.
Step Five: Call to Action
This step is the whole reason you’ve written the white paper, right?
You’ve connected with the audience. You’ve delivered solid, actionable research. You’ve shown how your solution is superior. You are now ready to ask something from your reader.
This is where you ask them to pick up a phone, download a brochure, visit your office, or whatever makes sense at this point.
If you’ve made your case, you have an obligation to give the reader a way to solve their problem. Give them a way to do that.
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