B2B marketers love whitepapers.
It’s the ultimate objective information source that helps your readers and enhances your business’s thought leadership. Best of all, it can be reused over and over, again and again – just email to a mailing list, direct to landing page and download whitepaper.
That’s great…until I open the whitepaper.
Too often, it’s a collection of drivel lashed by jargon – in short, useless.
And it could lead to mailing list un-subscriptions. Now that’s a shame if that happens to you, isn’t it?
How Do I Make a Whitepaper?
It’s really not that tough. All you need is purpose, facts, organisation and storytelling; mix them up; and serve whole. To make things easier, I’ve distilled them down into five distinct areas:
- Whitepaper Purpose & Topics
- Get Your Facts & Proofs
- Organise Your Whitepaper
- Write, Revise & Edit
- Graphics & Diagrams
For graphically-minded people, here's the process
1. Whitepaper Purpose & Topics
Without Purpose, we’ll be sprinting without moving an inch – just look where it got the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Definitely not past the tree.
Purpose gives the whitepaper direction, and what needs to be done.
But what is the purpose of a whitepaper, particularly for B2B marketers?
“Whitepapers…help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”
Keep that in mind. Carve it onto your table. Remember: whatever your whitepaper, it has to fulfill one of the above three points for your readers.
Example: You sell and implement cloud-based ERP software to F&B distributors.
You might create whitepapers on these topics:
- Cloud-based ERP Software and What It Means for F&B distributors (Understand an issue)
- How Mobile Tracking Reduces Excess Inventory in Real Time (Solve a problem)
- 7 Tough Questions to Ask Your ERP Vendor (Make a decision)
As you can see, each whitepaper topic is directed and helpful to your readers. It just takes a little thinking from their point of view before you get down to writing it.
2. Get Your Facts
Whitepapers trade on credibility. Hence you’ll need facts to support your claims, theories and methods. Easy enough.
The hard part: finding the facts. After all, how do we decide what’s good, what’s not, and importantly – where to get them?
Where to Get Facts?
Wikipedia! Seriously, we categorise fact sources in two ways: primary and secondary
- Primary sources such as interviews, surveys, commercial databases
Tip: Running surveys can be time-consuming and expensive. Online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey are usually cheaper and faster
- Secondary sources such as research papers, reports
Tip: Analyst firms such as Gartner, IDC & EIU regularly release reports on industry and – increasingly – digital trends. Country specific reports are usually available from their census/statistics bureaus.
What’s Good, What’s Not?
We judge the good from bad facts by using authority and methodology.
- Authority refers to how widely recognised it is by experts in the field. For example: A report on the State of The Internet from reputable agencies (Forrester) or a person (e.g. Timothy Berners-Lee) are far more recognised/authoritative than a similar report from Baptist Church.
- Methodology refers to how you collect, transform and analyse data. It’s commonly used in conjunction with Primary Sources to validate that data. A discussion on this can go quite deep – instead I’ll refer you to Methodology for Validation Google search.
Hopefully, these approaches will help you find and verify the facts that you’ll need for your whitepaper. And when in doubt, remember:
"Just the facts, m’am” – Sgt Joe Friday
As you can see it’s really not too difficult to get started on a whitepaper. Next post, I’ll go into the nuts and bolts of making a whitepaper – from organising facts to graphics.
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