How to Craft a Killer White Paper

Can your company solve a problem for other businesses or individuals? If so, publishing a white paper can demonstrate your expertise to potential customers — without giving them the hard sell.

White papers are authoritative documents that describe solutions that may help other business owners or consumers. Typically, they don’t discuss products by name, but they do demonstrate how specific types of products or their underlying technologies can be deployed. For instance, AT&T offers a white paper on how enterprise companies can use quality-of-service tools to protect their operations on a wireless network.

Here are some tips for crafting a killer white paper:

  • Be helpful. Provide genuine value by including clear instructions and examples. Whether you’re a web-development agency explaining the benefits of Drupal for enterprise companies, or a grant writer explaining how to apply for government monies, always keep your target audience’s needs in mind and describe your solution in detail.
  • Use existing resources for guidance. Let’s say you’ve never written a white paper before. No problem. If you write an industry-related blog or give webinars or online classes, you have resources to work from. Use your existing materials to create an outline of the topics you aim to cover in your white paper.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Who says you have to write the entire white paper on your own? If the task seems daunting, hire a professional writer or editor who has experience in business communications. Mediabistro’s Freelance Marketplace offers an extensive directory of potential collaborators.
  • Don’t oversell. White papers may serve as marketing vehicles, but their sole purpose shouldn’t be promoting your company: Taking this approach will hurt your credibility. If you wish to mention your products in the document, write a case study (which you can feature as a “sidebar”) that illustrates how your company solved the problem at hand for one of your clients. It’s also customary to conclude a white paper with a paragraph about your company and what you offer.
  • Promote your paper. When your white paper is complete, offer it as a free resource through your website, emailing list, and elsewhere. If your contacts find its information valuable, they will likely pass it along to others — and help you to reach new business prospects.

About Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is a principal at the content marketing agency Eucalypt Media. She's written about business, marketing, and entrepreneurship for publications including BNET, TheAtlantic.com, Inc.com, and owns and operates the positive news site Gimundo. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynhawkins.
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