© February 2004 Christine Taylor
Writing a White Paper
(link dead, sorry)
A white paper supports PR, marketing and sales because it works
for all levels of decision makers. Engineers and executives may not
be too impressed by brochures, but they are impressed by
well-written white papers. (The same thing goes for trade journal
articles - more about that in a subsequent piece.)
Good white papers sell products because they pack a lot of
useful information into a clear and readable structure. Warning --
don't take any old brochure or product brief, print it on 8-1/2x11"
paper and call it a white paper. Decision-makers hate that, don't
let this be you! Good marketing white papers contain both
technical and marketing sections in a balanced format, and then
throw in some other great stuff. A good white paper may start with
an executive summary - - my general rule is a 5+ page paper needs
one - but it will follow the same structure as below, abbreviated
to one page.
White papers should include:
- Throw down the challenge glove. Describe the pain the
prospect is experiencing. (That you can help with, anyway!)
Describe the problem from their standpoint, and be sure you know
what that problem is.
- Talk about how your technology will solve their problem.
Bore in on the technology behind the product and how it will make
their lives easier. Be sure to include some technical detail for
the engineers and technology journalists who are sure to read it.
(And who are sure to be annoyed if it lacks detail.) Many marketing
white papers fail because they don't include technical sections,
usually due to one of two reasons:
- Extreme paranoia regarding proprietary knowledge. Shoot,
no one is asking you to include the blueprints. But if you won't
tell your customers what you are selling because you're afraid your
competitors will find out, I suggest that you are not ready for the
- Uncertain writer. If the writer doesn't know the
background technology, they can't write about it. Find an
experienced technology writer and give them the information they
need. (If necessary, professionals will understand the need for
signing an NDA. Just don't try to get them to dump their other
- Get specific on product benefits. This section combines
with the technology section and includes ways that the product
meets the challenge. You can also use this section to contrast your
approach with other technologies, especially if your product is
innovative. We all know the sad fate of disruptive technologies,
but readers do want to know what your product does differently, how
it does it, and why it does it better.
- Push a positive return on investment. ROI has always
been a big deal, and with reason. If you have great hard cost
numbers, terrific - don't hesitate to use them. Longer white papers
have room for graphs and charts, but even shorter ones can refer to
positive ROI. Newer ROI analysis methods factor in "soft costs" -
employee time, improved infrastructure, etc. - so don't hesitate to
talk about those too.
- Add some case studies. Actual case studies with actual
customers are ideal, but if you can't mention customer names
(common in the financial world), its fine to speak more generally
"A Fortune 100 finance company recently deployed.."
- Conclude with how great your product is and contact
information. Here's where you can use the marketing mottoes,
just keep it to 1-2 paragraphs. And include your contact
Well-written white papers have lots of good uses. Heres a
- Sell a product - its ultimate purpose, of course
- Differentiate product from competitors
- Place company in leadership role
- Promote bylined author as a subject matter expert. (Which they
should be, even if a professional writer actually wrote the
- Help journalists research their stories (note: journalists are
not helped by sales brochures)
Theres a lot that goes into creating a useful white paper. For
your next project, consider hiring an experienced writer to create
a marketing white paper that just keeps on selling. Talk about good
Call Christine Taylor today at 760-249-6071 or e-mail her at
and start that white paper selling!
Christine Taylor Keyword Writing
P.O. Box 3499
Wrightwood, CA 92397
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