Whitepapers have long been a popular way to communicate with potential buyers of packaging machinery, materials, and services. Now, with the internet’s ease of reaching huge audiences, these proven tools are more powerful than ever.
One of the great things about whitepapers is that they’re not tremendously difficult to create. If your company has enough expertise to be in business (one sure hopes so!) then you surely have enough information to create a compelling whitepaper.
But despite whitepapers being relatively simple to craft, there are some important techniques that can significantly improve the effectiveness of them. Follow these steps to creating a better whitepaper:
1. Provide Value
Whitepapers tend to originate in the marketing department. And so the temptation oftentimes is to do what marketing folks are really good at – selling stuff. But when writing a whitepaper, that can be the worst thing you can do. Whitepapers aren’t a sales pitch. People are downloading them in the hopes of getting solid information on a particular subject. Your opportunity to sell is several steps beyond when the whitepaper is downloaded -- after the reader is more familiar with your company, its position, and its products. Rushing things can turn the prospect off and shut the whole process down before it even starts. Instead, this is the time to give freely to readers and let them digest the information. When they’re hungry for more, there’s a good chance they’ll come back to you. And even if they don’t, a truly useful whitepaper has a better chance of being forwarded to someone else.
2. Respect the reader
Who are your readers? Are they very technical specialists who are used to reading dense, fact-filled communications? Or are they more general in their expertise, and perhaps need more introductory information and longer explanations? Getting it wrong in either case can offend readers. And make sure the lingo is exactly correct for the audience. Every industry has its own terms, shorthand, and abbreviations. If you miss the mark, it’s like a billboard saying you’re an outsider, which dents your credibility. Pay particular attention if your whitepaper is being created by writers outside the company or by departments that aren’t entirely integrated with your division.
3. Make it as long as it needs to be
There’s no “right” length for a whitepaper, so make it as long or as short as it needs to be – nothing more and not a bit less. If you try to stretch a small amount of information into a long whitepaper, you’ll pump up the writing into meaningless fluff and lose readers’ interest. And if you try to cram a lot of good information into too short of a whitepaper, you’ll end up making it too dense or skipping important parts. People will read long whitepapers if the information is valuable and presented well. Likewise, they won’t frown on a short one that’s done well.
4. Give it a solid title
Creating a whitepaper title isn’t really the time to be clever. Your potential readers aren’t looking for entertainment. They want to know what’s in the document, how it will benefit them, and why they should bother with the effort of filling out a form to get it. Don’t feel compelled to shorten the title too much. People want to know exactly what’s in it for them. Stretch out and give details that will attract the right people in your exact market.
5. Make the whitepaper visually polished
Although the name “whitepaper” implies a stripped-down, raw presentation of information, that’s not really the case anymore. All media are more visual than ever. It’s expected these days. So even though it’s really the information and ideas that people are after, it’s still a good idea to make whitepapers visually strong. No, you don’t want to go way over-the-top with flashy fonts and cutting edge design. That can be a turnoff too, especially with technical subjects. But making good use of color, photos, and charts can be a tremendous help. And, going back to point number one, it can also make it quicker and easier to understand – providing good value to the reader.
Whitepapers are a terrific way to establish credibility with your audience and introduce them to your company. With just a few simple steps, you can get even more out of this powerful marketing tool.
Packaging Digest offers a range of highly effective marketing communications services, including whitepapers, custom publishing, and webcasts. For more information contact us at 630-288-8000.