Sooner or later if you do any marketing online, you will hear about using whitepapers. But I wonder how many of the people who talk or write about them really know what a white paper is.
The term has been around for at least 100 years and was first used to describe deep background documents or position papers published by the British government. They were called white papers because they were printed on white paper with plain white paper covers.
The job of a marketing white paper is to position you or your company experts in a particular area. You do that by examining a common problem in a way that clearly shows you have the answer.
If your company deals in online security, find a single topic within that subject and address it in some detail. The same applies if you offer distributed software solutions, say, or cloud computing technology and applications.
Note that a white paper is a serious look at a topic, not a quick overview (overviews may be presented as special reports, which I’ll deal with in my next blog). It’s somewhat like writing a term paper. The best ones spell out in the beginning what they are about, then follow a format that leads you inexorably to your conclusion. Remember, however, that this paper isn’t just a place for you to show you know your stuff – it’s also a place to convince the readers that they want your stuff, without being an obvious sales pitch. In other words, you need to pack your white paper with examples and benefits.
In gathering a little background for this item, I happened upon a white paper presented by Trumba, who offer Trumba Connect, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) calendar. Let me quickly say that although I had heard the name Trumba, we don’t work with them or, as yet, use their calendar, but I did find an excellent example of a white paper on their website. I’ve put a link at the end if you’d like to see it.
Trumba’s white paper is Five Benefits of Software as a Service. It begins with the clever analogy that all businesses use power, but don’t generate their own; they buy it from the electric company. It can work just the same for software applications. That’s a strong, grabber of an opening – which every white paper needs, or most people won’t get beyond your first paragraph.
The paper then briefly sets up the justification for SaaS, and describes the two main things their white paper will do: First, describe the five major benefits of SaaS; second, address several of the main concerns companies have about subscribing to web-hosted applications.
The paper then goes on to do those two things fairly thoroughly, and objectively, referring to its own services only in a brief appendix. In other words, it writes to the interests of the readers, first and foremost. Read their white paper yourself and you’ll have an excellent model for your own white papers.