You know those ‘make or break’ decisions that we all face from time to time?
Those moments where one decision can spell success or disaster?
I’ve had to make several of these decisions over the years myself. Like the time when I had to decide what I wanted to do after I finished school. Go to college in Ireland and study science?… or go to college in the U.S. so I could be a fighter pilot for the U.S Navy?
I feel I made the right choice when I decided on a chemistry degree in Ireland so I could fight the war on science instead of the war on terror.
Because of that choice, I now get to help high-tech marketers in the nanotech industry write better marketing communications. So it’s win-win.
I’ve had several other major decisions like that over the years. I’m sure you’ve had some too.
And guess what? That’s what this week’s issue is all about. Those ‘make or break’ decisions.
More specifically, we’ll talk about the decisions that will ‘make or break’ your next white paper.
In my never-ending quest to help nanotechnology marketers improve their communications and copy, I find that white papers are the cause of more anxiety around the office than any other type of content.
Certainly they can be tough, but going through the following decisions will ensure you’re in the best possible position to bang out a great white paper from the get-go.
And make no mistake, these decisions are critical.
Don’t believe me?
Well take a look around at some of the white papers in the nanotechnology industry. In fact, take a look outside the industry too. Go on, I’ll wait.
You’ll see plenty examples of crappy white papers that bombed because the marketers who were responsible for them didn’t bother going through this decision making process.
Their ‘make or break’ moment went south of the border.
So let’s now look at 4 of the most important decisions any white paper writer must make in order to write a winning white paper.
1. The objective
Ask yourself and your marketing team: “what are you trying to achieve with your white paper”?
The most important thing you should remember is that a white paper can do one thing, maybe two things… but it can’t do everything. One of the easiest ways to make sure your white paper bombs is to try and write it for many different purposes.
Some of these purposes might include:
- To support a product launch
- To use as a technical evaluation guide
- To nurture prospects through the sales process by keeping them engaged
- To get attention using a provocative approach to some issue
- To generate leads
- To build recognition
- To educate your market
So figure out what you want to use your white paper for. Remember, try and narrow this down to a single objective.
2. The target audience
Probably the most important decision you need to make for any marketing communications piece (not just white papers) is the target audience. Who will be reading your white paper?
Obviously, if you only market to once specific target audience, this will be an easy decision.
But if you have several different audiences in mind, you need to narrow this down to one target audience.
We’ve already mentioned that it’s critical to decide on a single objective for a white paper. This also holds true for the audience. A jack of all trades is not gonna cut it here.
A white paper with a single objective, written for single audience works best.
Knowing this critical piece of information is necessary to get the style and language of the paper correct. It will also help you determine how easily you’ll be able to understand the audience.
For instance, if you assume the white paper you’re writing is for electron microscopy facility managers, but it’s actually meant for (and going to be read by) end-user scientists, then the language, style and content is going to be off.
3. The topic
The topic of the white paper will depend on the objective.
For example if you want to write a white paper to generate leads, your topic might about a new and better solution to a specific problem in the nanotechnology industry.
If your objective is to support a product launch, then your white paper will cover the features and benefits of a specific product.
4. The length
The length of the white paper is the easiest decision to make. It will largely depend on who you are writing to (which is another reason why deciding on the target audience is so important).
The sweet spot for most white papers is around 6-8 pages. This is typical if you’re writing to a business audience like a bunch of stiff C-level executives who want the high-level overview of how a technology solves a specific problem
If you’re writing to a technical audience looking to evaluate a product, like at the bottom of the sales funnel, then a longer white paper may be required (maybe 10-12 pages).
Taking the time to plan your white paper and go through these decisions will pay off in the long run. A well-written white paper will continue to give back for many months and sometimes even years after it was written.
These decisions are that important. So give them the time they deserve and you’ll be well rewarded.
Until next time,
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