In Part One, we talked about planning for your white paper. You need to understand your purpose. White papers require a fair amount of effort, so you should be clear on what you expect to achieve. You also need a well-defined topic. Did you do your homework from last week? Great, let’s get started.
I find it’s easiest to begin with an outline. The outline I like best is the one I learned from white paper guru—Mike Stelzner, author of the book “Writing White Papers.” It goes like this:
Introduction – Open with a compelling fact, statistic or story that draws the reader in. You want the reader to be quickly interested. This is probably 100-200 words.
Problem statement – Here’s where you get into the meat of the paper and it’s the basis for your topic. You want to delve down into a clearly-defined problem—one that your product or service will solve. Describe it in detail and include examples. Include the impact of the problem, meaning the financial costs, extra resources needed, time wasted, other inefficiencies, harmed reputation, etc. This section will likely be one to two written pages.
Market drivers – Are there changes in the market that have created a new problem. These might be new technologies, social changes, economic changes, or even new regulations. For example, Sarbanes-Oxley created many new challenges for companies when they were introduced. This section is probably about a half page or 200 words.
History – This section is interesting as it gives you a chance to educate the reader on what led up to this problem. Using the same Sarbanes-Oxley example, you might talk about the events that led up to this regulation being introduced. This section can also be about 200 words.
High-level solution – This is the turning point in your paper. You finally get to talk about solving this problem. The only catch is, you’re not going to say a word about your own product just yet. Educate the reader using a generic and high-level solution to the problem. For example, if your paper is targeted towards the supply chain management area, talk about how detailed reporting from supply chain software would help address Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. Include a list of benefits that would result, such as reduced risk, improved accuracy in management reporting, and less manual time needed to pull and format data. This section is also probably two to three written pages.
Your solution – Now it’s time to introduce your company and your product. Do not insert your brochure content here! It’s important that you continue in your educational tone and explain how your product specifically solves the issue. Talk about features only briefly. You just want to whet the appetite and get the reader to take the next step. This may be as short as a half page, but not more than a whole written page.
Conclusion – This is the time to wrap things up. Briefly remind the reader about the problem, perhaps one of the major impacts, and the solution. Again, mention your solution. And, finish with your call to action – which might be reading a case study on your website, downloading an e-book, or even contacting a sales rep for more info.
Gather up your content for each of these areas and we’ll talk next about “shaping the dough.”