Give your readers real value
So, you’re doing a whitepaper. First, you need to make a decision. Do you hire a writer or do it in house? My suggestion? Get an outsider. It’ll be relatively short money and you’ll thank me for it later. You need someone who’ll ask questions, someone to provide a fresh point of view. Unless your turnover is really high, you won’t be able to get that within the walls of your company. You’ll need the writer every step of the way.
It’s easy to say you need to provide real value, especially for me sitting here on my blog, two posts in. But I’ve done a few of these things and know that value is perceived by the one doing the reading–not the one doing the writing.
So, you need to put yourself in your propect’s shoes. A bit of a tight fit, sure, but you’ll get used to it.
Do you want product shoved down your throat when you’re trying to solve a business issue or figure out a solution to a thorny tech problem? Or, better yet, when you’re trying to come up to speed on an emerging issue, would you rather learn about the issue or have to wade through another patented product pitch?
So, you have your answer.
Research I’ve seen shows that readers trust whitepapers, even when they come from vendors. That’s because prospects are smart enough to know that a vendor has a point of view and they keep it in mind as they read. They’re not going to read your whitepaper alone (unless you’re very lucky), just as they’re not your prospects alone. In fact, prospects will sample everyone in the competitive pack. So it’s best to make you’re paper stand out by providing substantive information they can’t get elsewhere.
How do you do that? Ask your sales people what issues they’re coming up against with prospects (you should do this anyway; it’s a great way to help marketing help sales). Dig deep with your business and tech experts (yeah, these will be long sessions, but you’ll be happy you did them; try recording them so if one of your brainiacs gets on a roll, you’ll have every golden word). Finally, troll the message boards, social media and your feedback emails (this can be truly entertaining).
After a bit of work, you’ll see a narrative evolve. Have your writer hammer out an outline and you’ll be on your way. But how do you avoid giving the stump speech your experts are so used to giving?
We’ll cover that next time.
Update: Sept. 8, 2010
Oh, and one more thing, as Peter Falk, TVs Columbo, might have said: Do you have a paper from a year or two ago that performed well? Then update it. An annual update for a popular subject (or even every six months).
Can be a good thing. But don’t do this for everything. Not everything old can be new again. Choose carefully, and update only the papers that did land-office business.