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In Review: The White Paper Marketing Handbook

Posted on April 26, 2006 by Kathryn Regina.

lRobert Bly’s The White Paper Marketing Handbook gives a comprehensive look at its subject’s history and current applications.  The term white paper has always denoted valuable information.  As a derivative of the white book, an official publication of a national government, white paper was a term used during World War II to describe high-level classified information.  Now the precedence of using this term to signify highly-valued information has carried over into marketing.

So what is a white paper, exactly?  Robert Bly gives this simple definition: “A white paper is a promotional piece in the guise of an informational article or report.”  A white paper, then, serves the same purpose as a sales brochure or pamphlet, but “reads and looks like an article or other important piece of authoritative, objective information.” 

The Secret to Their Success

Bly states that a white paper is an effective marketing tool for several reasons.  First, it begins a relationship with an act of perceived generosity.  When white papers are done well they give valuable information to the reader with very few or no strings attached, in order to grow a business relationship.  Here at BeTuitive, Todd Smart calls this “making a deposit in the relationship bank account.”  Just like an actual bank account, you have to make a deposit before you can make a withdrawal.

White papers also acknowledge the prospect as an intelligent, thoughtful person capable of making an informed decision.  Advertisements that blindly trumpet a product’s virtues aren’t fooling anyone anymore.  Today’s consumer demands that claims be supported by proof.  A company white paper meets that demand while projecting an image of leadership and credibility. 

A Solution-Based Marketing Plan

Before writing a white paper, a solid marketing plan should be established.  Bly gives these tips:

1. Determine your target market.  Bly recommends that you ask yourself, “What do my prospects believe, desire, and feel?”  Or as an alternative, BeTuitive’s client Miller Heiman asks: “What are my prospects trying to fix, accomplish or avoid?”
2. Identify a problem.  What is your prospect’s biggest challenge?  Or as Bly puts it, what is keeping them up at night?
3. Identify a solution.  How do your services present the best possible solution to your prospect’s challenges?
4. Content—narrow the focus.  The best white papers have a narrow focus.  A topic that is too broad in scope will result in vague, useless writing.  You should be able to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the topic in ten pages or less. 

In addition, a marketing plan should include a schedule, a budget, a list of objectives, and a means of measuring success.

Don’t Go It Alone

Some white papers never see the light of day because a stall in production leads to the death of the project.  Building a strong white paper team is tantamount to the timely production and success of your white paper.  Team members needed include a production manager, several subject matter experts, a professional writer, a copy editor, a proofreader and a designer.

What You Need to Succeed

While an effective white paper will vary according to industry, Bly gives some standards for white paper success:

1. A good title.  Draw readers in with a title that is both creative and significant. 
2. A clear story line.  Careful attention should be given to the clarity and flow of a white paper, especially if a lot of people are lending their voice to the project.
3. Competitive positioning.  It will do no good to pretend your competition does not exist.  Acknowledge the competition’s advantages and show why your solution is a better fit.
4. Visuals that support content.  Charts and diagrams that support your content can lend credibility to your white paper and increase reader comprehension.
5. Third-Party references.  Demonstrate your objectivity by quoting other experts in your field.
6. Case studies.  Support your claims with proof.  Case studies are a credible way to demonstrate the viability of your solution.
7. Author’s biography.  If the author is a subject matter expert, a biography will lend authority to the white paper. 

How Does It Look?

Bly states that there are three important things to remember in regards to the design of a white paper.  First, you should have a “bold, visually arresting cover that grabs their eye and gets their attention.”  Next, design a clean layout.  Use a readable font like Times New Roman or Garamond.  Type size should range somewhere between a 10 and 12 point (or 40-45 characters per line). White space between lines should correspond to an increase in line length or type size.  Use bold headers to “chunk” the content and grab the reader’s attention. Most importantly, the design should make the white paper look like valuable information, not marketing material.  A design that is too slick or intentional will give away the white paper’s true nature.  Keep the design subtle and organized.

In Review

If you’re looking for information on white papers, Robert Bly’s book is the place to turn to.  Each chapter is thorough and concise.  Whether you want to learn general information about white papers or are seeking advice about a particular step in the process, this book is a valuable resource. 

And when in need of a professional, turn to BeTuitive. We create expert-level white papers that offer solution-based valuable content.  And with BeTuitive you can be sure that each white paper is professionally written and designed. To learn more about BeTuitive’s white paper solutions call us at 312-832-1500 and ask for Sarah, or email her at [email protected].

Related Links:

View a BeTuitive white paper created for Miller Heiman

Visit Robert Bly's website

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April 26, 2006 in award winning blog, award winning design, award winning magazine, Blogging Tools, Brand enhancement, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, bulk email marketing, business credibility, Business editorial, business magazine, Business publications, Business relationships, CMO, company newsletter, Corporate publications | Permalink


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