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Is a white paper in your future?

As a business pro, you know that positioning your company as an industry leader is critical for building solid relationships, attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.

One of the most effective ways to do that is by crafting white papers that help your customers solve specific problems and showcase your company as a credible and approachable industry resource.

What's a white paper? 
First, let's start with what it's not:

  • A white paper is not a traditional sales piece.
  • It doesn't pitch your company, product or service.
  • And it isn't slapped together in a matter of hours or days.
Here's what it is:
  • A white paper is akin to an academic document.
  • It provides detailed and authoritative information designed to answer questions and solve problems that are relevant to your readers.
  • A white paper is a long document that typically ranges in length from five pages to upwards of 50 pages.
  • A white paper is serious in tone.
  • The information included is factual and well documented with appropriate research and other credible backup.
  • A white paper requires significant time and energy to research and write.

Why go to all the trouble to create a white paper?
After all, it sounds complicated, way too academic, and frankly, not all that exciting, right? Perhaps. But here's the thing: A white paper is a proven relationship-builder and a great asset to add to your customer-relations arsenal. Again, the goal of a white paper is to answer questions and solve problems that are relevant to the reader. It's a sure-fire way to position your company as a credible information resource. And it shows that you're serious about your industry and helping your customers.

Where do you begin?
So let's say you're on board and ready to roll. How do you create a white paper that'll grab your readers, keep them interested, and leave them with useful and relevant information?  It begins by assembling a team that's committed to the entire process -- from identifying the goals of the paper through research, and finally writing and editing. When assembling your team, look for members who possess the following:

  • a penchant for researching, digging deep, and asking lots of questions;
  • the ability to craft in-depth articles designed to teach and solve problems;
  • a genuine curiosity for learning about and passing along useful information; and
  • critical editing skills to ensure content accuracy, proper grammar and readability.
Okay, the paper's done. Now what?
Sitting in the marketing director's in-box isn't going to cut it. You need to get your white paper into the hands (electronically or otherwise) of your current and potential customers. Here's how:
  • Post it prominently on your website in an easy-to-download or print format.
  • Spotlight the paper on your social media posts.
  • Create a series of press briefings highlighting different sections of the paper and distribute them to online news and features outlets, industry trade publications or websites, and traditional media outlets.
  • Create a series of short videos highlighting various sections of the paper. Post them on your website or spotlight them in your trade show exhibit.
  • Use your white paper as subject matter for speeches and presentations at industry events.

Is there a white paper in your future?  There ought to be.

Cindy Ritter is a Seattle-based freelance writer and publicist.