Friday, February 11, 2011

Grabbing Your Prospect: The White Paper Writing Guide

The first consideration: Make your white papers readable. The title of the paper has to be catchy. Spend several hours researching and downloading relevant white papers in your target market segment. Be sure to review top technology and media sites that post white papers. See if your media rep or a contact at the site will tell you the top ten downloads. Check out what makes them eye-catching at first glance.

Every reader who picks up your white paper will be asking, "What's in it for me?" or a similar question. If your paper doesn't answer that question successfully in the title and the first few lines, then you've lost the reader. So make sure your paper addresses how to solve a problem you know is a real pain point for your targeted reader.

The audience for the white paper is likely composed of mid- to high-level technical and/or business managers, usually pressed for time. I'd therefore recommend that you keep your white paper scaled to a readable length -- 4-6 pages maximum.

White Paper:
1. Preliminary: Paper objective. A white paper "leads the reader's mind" to a positive conclusion about solving their problem and thus, selecting your product and/or service. So put yourself in your reader's position and then ask yourself this question (which every reader is going to ask one way or another): What's in it for me?

Some of the questions that will help you produce a strong positive response in your reader are:
-- What's the end result we would like to achieve?
-- Who's the audience?
-- Why is the topic important? How does the topic connect to your product and/or service (if not immediately self-evident)?
-- How do you plan to use the paper?
-- Is there a competitive niche overlooked by other players in the industry?

2. Research:
-- Identify available resources in house -- key contact(s) and/or internal documents (includes PowerPoints, internal product/service description docs, emails, etc.)
-- Competitor site research: Is there a competitive niche overlooked by other players in the industry?
-- Industry research: What do the industry analysts (Gartners, Forresters, etc.) have to say, recent and/or hot topics in the field, and related trade articles, blogs, etc.
-- Contact information for any appropriate outside resources for the paper such as:
  • -- Keyword research -- Often, the site's weblog will help help to identify keyword search terms people use to find your site
  • -- Customers and/or channel partners

Takeaway for #1 & #2: Every minute spent in the planning and research cycle, the stronger your white paper.

3. Interview the Key Resource people for the White Paper.

4. Detailed Outline: This crucial step dramatically simplifies writing and approval of the final draft.
-- All stakeholders must review and approve the detailed outline. The purpose of this step is to present the proposed title, the first 2-3 paragraphs, and a detailed outline of the remaining content. This step usually requires at least two iterations, occasionally three. The first draft of the outline often triggers responses such as, "Oh we forgot to include this." Other changes and corrections may include upgrading the writer's understanding of the subject matter, correct technical phrases for the field (though we usually research this extensively), and other deletions or corrections.
-- The outline establishes alignment on the project and makes final approval very easy for both the writer and the reviewers with only minor edits needed.
-- Approving the detailed outline:
It's critical for all stakeholders to actually review and approve the detailed outline. Otherwise, it's too easy to "wave a hand" and say, "Oh, it's fine," and then have a senior manager find serious issues when reviewing the draft. Fortunately, this scenario is 100% preventable by the outline review.

5. Draft:
-- We write the paper soon after the detailed outline is approved.
-- Reviewed by all relevant parties.
-- Normally, if all parties signed off on the outline, only minor tweaks are needed for the first draft.

The Result: The client team easily agrees on the final draft (as vs. multiple rewrites and endless wordsmithing).
Summary: By applying this guide to developing a white paper, you'll achieve all of your content creation objectives with a minimum of effort and time. You'll achieve a catchy title, meaty SEO optimized content, and a meaningful solution for your audience's most pressing challenges.

My goal for you is that by using this guide, whether you use me as your writer or not, is that your next white paper is the smoothest experience you've ever had.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

12 Ways to Leverage Your White Paper to Generate High-Quality Leads

12 Ways to Leverage Your White Paper to Generate High-Quality Leads

A well-written white paper captivates your audience in the title and the first few lines on a subject that is near and dear to your reader’s heart. The paper makes the case that your technology solves a major problem, in time and/or dollar savings or other benefit meaningful to your ideal prospect.

When completed, most companies do a few standard things with their white paper: post it on their website, send it to their prospect list, and get it to their sales team. Some companies print their white papers and distribute at trade shows. Beyond those actions, few companies do much else.

The question is: If you’re going to allocate marketing budget to promotion, why focus on white papers vs. media spends or company ads, etc. The reason is that each white paper campaign is highly focused on an ideal audience and thus provides you rifle-shot marketing accuracy. The leads generated from a well-implemented campaign will be on target and likely accelerate your typical sales cycle. Focusing budget on company ads results in a shot gun approach that’s much more hit-or-miss.

So without further ado, here’s our Top 12 Ways to Leverage a White Paper:

1. ID industry newsletters that target your ideal customers. These are usually available through existing media such as trade journals that often publish multiple newsletters targeting discrete segments of their readership. Sponsoring these newsletters is often very low cost as vs. a full-page ad in the parent publication. By doing a text-only ad that matches the font and spacing of the newsletter, you will achieve high responses and an excellent ROI. Some newsletters provide you with both a banner and a text ad. According to a recent newsletter advertiser, the text ad pulls far more leads than the banner ad!

2. Do a keyword and SEO optimized press release for the White Paper. Editors of many pubs often will publish an announcement of a new white paper. Be sure to include a .jpg image of the white paper including a caption and link to your website in the caption. Important: Be sure to copy the publisher and especially the publisher's rep. They do have sway with the editor and you will usually find reps a little more receptive than the editors. Ditto on all materials sent to editors, copy the reps and/or publishers.

3. A few weeks to a month or so after initial release of the paper, re-date and edit the title in a minor way and post on my Top Ten free PR sites - see attached article/blog post.

4. Check and see if one or more of your trade pubs have a White Paper section on their website where you can upload the White Paper at n/c. Some tech pubs do! Upload accordingly.

5. Post on one or more syndication sites, which unfortunately often prove to be very expensive.

6. Generate a "micro site" with carefully researched site URLs that will benefit your URL, eg., You will still use your same company branding, but each white paper will have a unique, dedicated site. It will contain a specific amount of text for optimized SEO extracted from the WP, then a download button to a standard sign-in page with limited info: Name, Co, Email, phone to reduce user "friction." This will also give you great insight into monitoring results from two perspectives:

a) actual leads, which you can hopefully track through your internal CRM, thereby generating an ROI and

b) review the webmaster's log to see the sources of your hits to the site. This is very crucial to ID heavy traffic from one domain, e.g., Fujitsu which may have an engineer who downloaded your paper and circulated it within the company and multiple team members are clicking to the site, indicating a high-level sales alert to your team. It's also crucial to review sources of traffic from search engines that will also provide you with the key word(s) or phrase(s) used by the searcher. This resource is also highly informative to ID the most important keywords.

7. Google Adwords, a modest pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Although Google denies it, my design partner and I have both independently confirmed with client campaigns that a Google Adwords campaign really boosts your SEO. Many search engine folks have also confirmed this to us. So instead of attempting to market your company via Adwords, focus on the white paper. It's easy to develop one or more compelling value propositions to test and Adwords has an extremely easy A/B ad testing tool to see which one is drawing the most clicks. Because the URL will be a generic title, such as, you gain an extra marketing boost to support the reader’s urge to click. This campaign need not be expensive and can be adjusted according to response.

8. As we've already done with multiple papers, be sure to follow up with editors to leverage any of the content into articles.

9. Although many technology companies have not engaged in Social Media to date, I'm hearing more and more about companies who are. So the easy thing to do is post an announcement on your company Facebook page.

10. You can also engage on Twitter and/or other social media. There are automated tweet tools that will allow you to program a repeating tweet every xxx # of minutes or hours.

11. Convert the WP to a PPT presentation and post on one of the PPT posting sites. You can even go so far as to then modify your prior press release as a new press release about the availability of the PPT, gaining you more visibility.

12. In the PPT menu, one can convert the PPT to a video file. We can add a voice over and post on our list of 20 video sites. Again, post a new press release announcing the availability of the video.

Click to view writing samples and feel free to email or call for your custom lead generation program.