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7 Tips For Writing Effective White Papers
White papers are an excellent way to showcase your company’s abilities and to prove to prospective clients that you can solve their problems. These documents – first used by governments to argue for policy decisions – are natural vehicles for businesses who want to foster trust and introduce themselves to prospective clients.
Why? Because a white paper is not an overt sales tool. It seeks to educate and persuade. By making a case for a company’s strategies, it supports and validates them. An effective white paper can help a company establish itself as a “thought leader.”
The development of a white paper is a demanding and time-consuming process. Specialized knowledge and writing ability are essential. For these reasons, many of my financial services clients – pressed for time and short of internal resources – are asking me for help.
Here are seven guidelines to bear in mind when formulating a white paper:
1. Know the audience. Who is going to read your white paper? What are their key concerns? White papers should help people make decisions, so it is critical to know as much as you can about your audience so you can focus on what’s most meaningful to them.
2. Do the research. Preparation is essential to effective white-paper writing. Conduct detailed interviews with the experts and read everything you can on the topic, including technical data.
3. Keep it short. An effective white paper can be as short as four or five pages, but it should never exceed 12 pages. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to wear out your welcome with your target audience.
4. Identify problems, offer solutions. Your white paper should lay out the problem faced by your target audience and demonstrate how you can help with it. That means you must take a position, argue for it, and present compelling evidence that you can do what you say you can.
5. Focus on the benefits. Your readers don’t care how great your firm is or how smart your people are. They want to know how you can help them solve problems or address challenges. Make sure your readers see how they will benefit from working with you.
6. Provide an executive summary. Put an abstract at the beginning of your white paper. Your readers may not have the time to read the entire document and will appreciate having you hit the high points in an executive summary.
7. Be realistic about the time commitment. Build time into your schedule for fact-finding and research, as well as interviews with subject-matter experts. Remember, the white paper will have to make a case for your strategies or solutions, so it pays to invest time in good writing.
Use white papers to demonstrate your depth of knowledge and expertise. In the process, you can win new business and strengthen your existing relationships. Take advantage of the opportunity to leverage this powerful marketing tool.
© Eve B. Rose, ABC, CIMA®
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