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A Non-Writers Guide to Writing a Powerful “White Paper” O ct o b e r 25, 2012 b y Je une O rt iz

You’ve most likely seen white paper, ebook and report offers on sites you visit but, you probably never gave them much thought. The truth is that a well- planned and precisely targeted white paper does more than educate your ideal prospects on your products and services. It is also a brilliant way to generate leads by collecting emails in exchange for the ebook. Chances are you’ve turned over an email address or two yourself, only to find regular follow up emails from the vendor on the topic.

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Despite the white paper’s potential, many business owners gasp at the thought of writing up a ten page paper; they thought their essay days were behind them! The following steps should help take the anxiety away.

1. Move Away from the Marketing Mindset A powerful white paper doesn’t cover product or service features and benefits nor is it focused on selling. Instead, it should be written with a laser- like focus to help your reader use your product or service to make their lives better. Helpful topics are more engaging and are more likely to be remembered and appreciated than a flat sales piece. Try searching “white papers” + “[your industry]” to find some examples. Your industry’s national association website should have some, too. A white paper writer must be more of a teacher or journalist than a salesperson, more objective than compelling.

2. Craft a Topic Your Target Audience Finds Irresistible Business owners are often surprised when comparing what they assumed ideal customers find irresistible and the reality . For the best success, you must research your ideal prospect’s biggest problems with your product or service. Spy on ideal customer conversations by: reviewing their testimonials for your company and for other companies. What are they most relieved to find? What frustrated them about other vendors before they found you? reading the relevant trade magaz ines to see what people complain about versus what thrills them. researching blogs on Google Blog Search or Technorati and find those where your customers may hang out. Technorati lets you search blog titles and subjects OR the individual posts themselves for mentions of your products or services. exploring review sites. Yelp.com, BBB.org and AngiesList.com have search bars where you can enter a company name, product or service and see what people are saying about businesses like yours. Organiz e the paper around a common complaint and help the reader avoid the issue and have a better experience. using Twitter: search your product or the careers and hobbies of your target audience. using www.forumfinder.org to locate forums, chats and message boards that your ideal prospects are most likely to use. Also, try searching “best [industry] forums” to find the most populated and robust ones. Researching your customers’ pain points is a crucial step in creating a white paper that they must have. Don’t skip this step.

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3. Determine the White Paper’s Format Your white paper’s topic and/or title will most likely help you pick a format. Would this topic be best as: A how- to (6 steps to cleaning wine from carpet; how to refinish painted furniture) A list of tips, secrets or “insider” information Survey or research results Education, also known as “The Explainer” Introduction to a new product Trend watch

4. Go Online to Find an Excellent and Similar White Paper Deep breath: you’re really halfway through at this point. Now that you have the format, go online to find white papers like it. You’re looking for a template on which to model your own white paper. Hi- Tech businesses can depend on Tech Republic’s library. Educators often turn to eSchoolNews’ white paper library for the latest on curriculum. Chances are, large competitors and national industry organiz ations will have their own archives of white papers. If you’re still having trouble, check out some of the largest white paper archives: ITPapers.com, Builder.com, ZDNet.com, and CNET News.com

5. Copy from the Outline of Your Model White Paper On a separate sheet of paper or document, write down the paper’s title and all subtitles under it. Beside each title and subtitle, write your own versions. Now you have an outline for your own white paper. But hold on. You’re not ready to write up your information yet.

6. Gather Your Illustrations or “Stories.” Put your outline aside for now. Most readers tire of dry information. Bring your “explainer” or “how- to” white paper to life with stories. What client or customer had issues similar to those you’re addressing in your white paper? On a separate document, write down some real life examples, numbering them. (Change names if that makes everyone more comfortable.) A 10- page paper should have five or six illustrations. A five page paper can get by with three. Once completed, put the illustration number under each topic on your outline.

7. Brainstorm Your Ideas Under Each Topic and Subtopic. Make a big mess of it. In other words, “free write.” Write your grammatically incorrect,

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Make a big mess of it. In other words, “free write.” Write your grammatically incorrect, disorganiz ed ideas under each topic. Finally, provide the solution. Rinse and repeat. Two to three paragraphs under each subtopic suffices. Print out this mess; staple it together; get out the highlighter.

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8. Revise Now you have to write more coherently. Look for the most important sentences and highlight them. Lead your paragraphs with those, supporting that point as you develop each paragraph. Consider starting with the problem that each subtopic presents. Define it clearly and then insert your illustration or story, starting with transitions like “for instance,” or “take Bob and Mary Jones.” The third paragraph under each section can cover how the problem is solved.

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9. Get Criticism Hand your ebook to employees, friends and family, even your web developer! Ask them if any parts are confusing or made them stop. Revise accordingly. Turn over to your web developer to insert on your home page..

The Easy Way to Get a White Paper Done If you’ve always wanted to put content marketing to work for your business, contact us. We have writers who will make your ideas irresistible, who research your target audience and discover the buttons that need pushing. C at e g o ry: Inb o und Marke t ing | 1 C o mme nt Ab o ut t he aut ho r: Jeune Ortiz is VP of Marketing and Creative Director at futureink. With more than 20 years of experience in graphic design and marketing, Jeune brings extensive knowledge and creativity to each website and internet marketing solution to grow your business. Twe e t

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1 Comment France s | October 31, 2012

This is cool!

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