Creating Effective White Papers

So, what is a white paper?  Some say that it’s a technical document; other’s that it’s a marketing tool.  I think it’s both.  In our industry, it’s a technical document that marketing uses to introduce or describe technology and explain what a product does.  I feel that a white paper that focuses on meeting someone’s need will keep their interest and do what it’s supposed to do, which is generate interest in your company’s product or service.

The key elements of a white paper should include sections on:

1)     the problem or issue that you are discussing

2)     solutions to the problem

3)     detailed description of the solution

4)     apply your solution to the problem

5)     describe the benefits of your solution

1) The problem or issue that you are discussing –

When pointing out the issue at hand, let your reader know that you understand—and are maybe even able to sympathize with—his predicament.  It is important to relate to your reader, so put yourself in his shoes.  Define the problem and discuss its effects.

2) Solutions to the problem –

Sometimes, there are multiple solutions to the problem.  Address possible solutions, briefly pointing out each solution’s pros and cons.

3) Detailed description of the solution –

After laying out possible solutions, narrow in on your solution by explaining how its strengths outweigh the strengths and weakness of the remaining solutions.

4) Apply your solution to the problem & 5) Describe the benefits of your solution –

Sometimes it’s best to discuss the solution generically, rather than by name.  By not using your product’s name (even though you’re actually describing your product), you may be able to better hold your reader’s attention (if he’s skeptical of sales/marketing ploys).  Choosing this approach or not depends on how salesy and direct you’d like your white paper to come across.

Along with these key sections, your contact information should also be included in the white paper, usually at the end.  In addition, some helpful but not-as-necessary elements include examples, charts, graphs, or tables.

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