Four secrets that guarantee white paper success
Content marketers understand that successful white papers build thought leadership, offer solutions, provide smart analysis, and illustrate product benefits. A white paper plan can guarantee your next white paper achieves its objectives.
Because white papers are complex documents, producing a quality paper requires careful planning. By going through the process of producing a white paper plan, you avoid many of the pitfalls that can highjack the process. Once the plan is approved, it ensures resources are available and helps you keep the project on track.
In this week’s post in the series Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, we explore the value of a plan, a white paper plan, in Secret #2: The White Paper Plan.
Secret #2: The White Paper Plan
It all starts with a plan. So, you’ve established you need a white paper and have found a professional white paper writer. Now it’s time to develop your white paper plan.
The planning process begins in-house. Before you bring the writer on board you need to sort out a few things internally:
- the goal for the white paper;
- your target audience;
- internal human resources;
- review team members
- subject matter experts (SMEs)
- information sources and research direction; and
- style guidelines, software etc.
You then get together with your writer and ensure that the writer takes care of the following:
- helping you decide which type of white paper that will achieve the goal;
- coming up with a couple working titles and bylines;
- developing high-level outline of recommended content;
- the desired call-to-action; and
- a schedule for completion of white paper.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail, starting with the internal resources.
Required internal resources for the white paper plan
Internally, having a white paper plan in place ensures that all members of the team understand the scope of the project and their role in it. Get the team together to start the process.
Goal for the white paper
Setting a goal for your white paper is crucial for its success. This is something you want to agree on internally, although your writer should be able to help establish which goal you want to achieve.
Goals for a white paper can be to:
- Generate interest and leads
- Build thought leadership
- Nurture leads through a long sales funnel
- Support product launches
- Cast doubt on competitors, or respond to their assertions
Keywords/phrases for SEO
Although white papers are not about the hard sell, you still need to get it out there and search engines still rely on keywords and phrases to rank search results. When the white paper plan lists keywords and keyword phrase, your writer can then sprinkle them into the content to optimize SEO.
Content marketers are well aware of the importance of knowing their audience. You most likely have information about your audience’s demographics, psychographics, and technographics. Or perhaps you have a set of personas that you and the team have developed. That’s fantastic!
For the white paper, it is important to understand where audience sits in sales funnel. If you are generating interest and pulling in leads at the top of the funnel you will be addressing strategic stakeholders. At the bottom of the funnel, it will be technical stakeholders downloading and reading your paper.
Internal human resources
By stating the required internal resources in the white paper plan, you allow time to be allocated to the project to ensure success. An important relationship to establish and maintain is that between you, the project manager, and the white paper writer. Keep this channel open and success is far more likely.
Establish who will be on the review team. Include people to review the technical aspects of the paper as well as people from the sales and marketing teams. Ensure all members are involved in the planning process so they understand the goals and objectives of the paper.
Bringing new members of the review team in late in the process will only complicate the process. Keep to the plan!
SMEs, Subject Matter Experts, are another key resource to put into the plan. SMEs will assist the writer in understanding the science behind your solution. By understanding the science and technology behind your product, your writer can better describe the benefits of your solution.
Information sources and research direction
Your writer will need both information from your company but also other likely sources of information for further research.
In-house style guidelines and software
The white paper plan should reference any in-house style guidelines for design, formatting, and language. Include details of the preferred software for writing, page design, etc.
The writer’s commitments to the white paper plan
Of course, the writer is responsible for drawing up the actual plan. As with your internal tasks, there are tasks for the writer as well. After initial internal discussions, organize a time to talk with your writer about what your goals are for the white paper.
Type and structure
By understanding the goals of the white paper and your audience, your writer will help you choose the right white paper at the right time. The plan must clearly state the type of white paper to be produced.
Picking the right title for a white paper is very important. The title needs to attract prospects, get them interested. The best title may not become obvious until the white paper is done but having working titles in the white paper plan gives the process direction.
What you want from your writer at the planning stage are some working titles and accompanying bylines. Look for titles that attract interest, are specific, and are brief.
High-level outline of recommended content
After discussions with you and perusal of the information you supply, your writer will develop a high-level outline of recommended content. The outline should be circulated to the review team, with review timelines strictly adhered to. After the writer incorporates review panel changes, the outline goes into the plan. The outline forms to basic structure of the paper as well as being a reference during the review process.
Make sure you know what you want your readers to do next. Do you want them to call you? To fill out a contact form? Watch a demo? Whatever it is, spell it out and make taking action easy. Add a button and a link.
Schedule for completion of white paper
The white paper plan must specify important milestones. Critical dates to chronicle are:
- The white paper plan
- The high-level outline of recommended content
- The first draft submitted for review and approval
- Timing of revisions requested following 1st and 2nd review
- Final layout and illustration
The success of a white paper can hinge on keeping to the schedule. Allowing extended review times will impact the project negatively.
Marketing and promotion
Promoting your white paper is critical to its success. As content marketing tactics go, white papers are a sizable investment. You want to make sure it does its job. That means promotion. Again, by stating your promotion strategy in the white paper plan, you guarantee buy-in with your sales and marketing teams.
You need to establish what additional content you need for the launch. You will need:
- a landing page,
- press releases,
- blog posts
- tweets and
- email autoresponders.
Your writer may offer a package price for the white paper and associated marketing materials.
How you use these assets to promote the white paper is the subject of the final post in this series, in two weeks’ time.
A white paper plan improves the chances that your white paper will be a success. By establishing the goals, intended audience, and keyword phrases, you can pick the best type of white paper to achieve your goal. A good plan establishes required internal resources, including the review team, SMEs, and information sources. Working titles, a high-level outline, and the call-to-action all help provide direction throughout the project. The schedule in the plan will ensure timelines are specified and met.
With a white paper plan success is ensured.
In next week’s post we’ll find out in Secret #3: How to write a white paper, you’ll get some insight into what your writer is up to when she goes off to write your white paper.