Importance of Writing Whitepapers

Published on: Feb 09 2014 by Sachin
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2014 02 17 White-papers

Why Whitepapers are Important? – It is empirically proved that there is a positive correlation between publishing whitepapers and enhancing business revenues. There is a greater positive correlation between the number of whitepapers published and the number of clients interested in your product, service or offering. This means the more whitepapers you write, the more leads you generate, the more customers you convert and effectively the more revenues you make. This makes ‘writing whitepapers’ an effective strategic tool for organizations, and even more so for entrepreneurs.

No wonder, there is a lot of emphasis companies give on publishing white papers centered on their products and offerings in a bid to generate customer interest. This interest gradually translates into customer reinforcement and acceptance. Employees who along with their routine work can dish out whitepapers on their areas of expertise and interest are actively being sought by companies. Knowing the art of publishing white papers does result in greater individual and business success.

Knowing the basics of writing whitepapers is important if your organization wants you to write one on a subject you are an expert at. Knowing who would be the target audience allows you to plan the structure and the content of the whitepaper. Additionally, you should take all the help available from the communications team within the organization to make sure you are presenting facts (and not fiction or biased material) about your subject.

Knowing the basics is even more important if you are writing a whitepaper as an individual for your start-up or venture. All entrepreneurs should consider writing some blogs and articles on their expertise and nothing better than writing a whitepaper and publishing it in an effective way. Albeit late, I realized that a good whitepaper is an amazing marketing tool.

There are three aspects to a whitepaper publication:

1. Writing the Whitepaper – By definition, a whitepaper is a document that provides solution to a known stated problem or introduces a new concept/ idea or describes steps to do a certain task to achieve a certain objective. Though a whitepaper is an explanation of an idea/product/steps involved, it is first and foremost a marketing tool. It either markets your products or it markets your skills and expertise. The style of writing the whitepaper should reflect the objectives of writing it. For organizations, the objectives are very straightforward – generate customer interest in the products and services on offer. Organizational whitepapers talk about a problem and how they are able to solve it better than the competition.

The objectives change when an individual writes the whitepaper. Individuals write whitepapers for two reasons – (1) to provide more information about the capabilities of their startup or entrepreneurial venture (with a peep into the innovation being done) and (2) to enhance their employability by publishing whitepapers in areas they want to get employed in.

A white paper is not a report or an analysis and hence it is neither formal nor academic in writing style. Most whitepaper are biased to suit the writer and the conclusions are not driven by neutral arguments. Hence it is important to avoid being trapped into thinking that the whitepaper is purely a marketing document. The idea is to present some problem, make arguments and prove your point, but while doing all this, maintain a neutral approach towards problem solving. Too much emphasis on the self will be like scoring a self-goal.

A whitepaper can be anywhere from 4 to 16 pages. The most common elements of a whitepaper are presented as a TOC (Table of Contents) below. It is important to supplement the content with appropriate eye-catching illustrations, graphs, figures and diagrams. It is advisable to look at sample whitepapers within your field. Always get your whitepaper proofread by someone you trust, is your well-wishers and can provide inputs to make your whitepaper a better read.

2014 02 17 TOC Whitepapers

2. Publishing the Whitepaper – Now that the whitepaper is written, the next most important question is “Where and how do I publish it?” The answer is easy if you are employed and have written the whitepaper for your organization. You need to hand it over to the marketing and communications team and they will ensure that the white paper is proofread, edited, published and marketed to all relevant channels.

It is an issue if you are an entrepreneur or an individual wanting to publish the whitepaper for personal recognition and the topic of the whitepaper has nothing to do with your routine work. There are two ways you can handle this – (a) publishing externally and (2) publishing internally.

(a)Publishing Externally – is the easiest way to do it but also the least beneficial. You may get access to a large audience but there are certain drawbacks too – audience may not be your target audience, no control over the audience reaching techniques and the biggest disadvantage that you are giving away your whitepaper to an unknown entity in the cyber world. However if the cost-benefit analysis suits your needs, it can still be a great way to publish your whitepaper. ‘The White Paper Guy’  provides comprehensive material on how a whitepaper can be published online without having to set up your own resources.

(b)Publishing Internally – is what I recommend to my readers. It takes time, money and efforts to set it up, but it assures you – control over the channels, access to target audience as well as ownership over your whitepaper and the contents. It is not easy for anyone to hijack your ideas if you are careful on how you publish it. You should use your own website to publish the whitepaper. Provide the whitepaper as a downloadable ‘pdf’ file with your logo and details if you wish to distribute it directly. If you wish to track the users, create a landing page where a user registers with the email id, contact details etc. Once registered, you can send a copy of the pdf or a link to download it through an email. Thus, you are aware of who your audience is. You can also contact them in future with additional material or more whitepapers. This technique does limit the reach of your whitepaper, but a mass sending of your whitepaper probably reduces the importance it should get from your readers. I personally think it is better to send it to a few who are interested in what you have to say rather than sending it to a bulk audience who would anyways delete the email containing information about your whitepaper.

3. Marketing the Whitepaper – Once the whitepaper is published, do not heave a sigh of relief. It isn’t still the time to relax, sit back and be content with your efforts. You have to ensure that the whitepaper reaches the maximum possible target audience. Use the social network – facebook, linkedin, twitter and all the networking sites you are a member of, and let people know you have written a whitepaper. Provide them an interesting abstract about the whitepaper and induce them to visit the registration page. Also write blogs and articles (online as well as print) on related topics and give a reference to your whitepaper. When you write blogs and articles, the content should not be same as your whitepaper. They should talk on topics similar to what your whitepaper elaborates and should make only a passing final reference to your whitepaper. Give your readers limited but succinct information on the whitepaper that they should crave for more. Either through social networking sites or through well written blogs/articles, draw your readers to the registration landing page.

Final Thoughts – Whitepapers are a very important marketing tool, especially for entrepreneurs who are looking to make a mark early on. Do not miss the opportunities that a good whitepaper can fetch you. Do not miss the bus that is easy to get into. Many fail to understand the importance or the impact of a good whitepaper, with yours truly also included. I finally conclude with an adapted old age proverb – ‘A whitepaper in time saves nine’.

– Sachin
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