The Truth about Your Content: Five steps to more persuasive writing

more persuasive writing

Introduction

Is your content ‘talking’ to your audience? Would more persuasive writing increase your content’s ROI?

The whole point of marketing is to start a one-on-one conversation between two people. Ultimately a conversation between your sales person and their CFO.

Your product is complex and technical. That’s fine.  But if your content is hard to understand the conversation may never get started.  You need to simplify the language in your content to make your complex, technical product understandable.

In this post, we look at five steps you more persuasive writing. First let’s look at how readability is assessed by most word processing software.

Readability: Flesch Kincaid (FK) Explained

The Flesch Kincaid readability assessment was developed to assess the difficulty of reading materials for upper elementary through secondary grades.  Although the FK test was developed to assess reading material for students, the FK score is basically about the readability of the text.  A scale based on a formula.

The FK score is assessed on these factors in a piece of writing:

  • # of letters per word: more letters, more difficult to read.
  • # of words per sentence: more words, more difficult to read. 
  • # of sentences per paragraph: more sentences, more difficult to read.
  • % passive sentences: more passive sentences, more difficult to read.

Most word processing software reviews documents and reports on two FK parameters:

  • Flesch reading ease, and
  • FK grade level score.

The Flesch reading ease assessment is reported as a percent and the higher the score the better. On the other hand, for persuasive content, an FK grade level score of 8 or less is best.

Although the FK score can help you improve the clarity of your writing, it does have drawbacks.  For instance, in writing water industry content, you will need to use some jargon and technical terms. Just be aware that your FK score may creep up if you rely too much on these less familiar and less used terms.

Remember too, that while bad readability scores often reflect poor writing, good readability scores do not by themselves mean the writing is good.

Now on to the five steps that will start you on your road to more persuasive writing.

Step #1: Find one emotionally compelling idea

The most powerful aid to more persuasive writing is to identify one emotionally compelling idea.  One that engages the reader both emotionally and rationally. When you try to write about many things your message becomes diluted.

more persuasive writing

It doesn’t have to be factual. But it does need to feel like it is or should be true. It must be so emotionally attractive the reader will want to believe it.

An emotionally compelling idea should generate a feeling of discovering something new and useful.  Something new to think about and share.

How to find that emotionally compelling idea.

There is no substitute for research.  You need to know the topic – your product or service – and its features and benefits. You need to know your audience and their needs. 

It always helps to start with a brainstorming session.  Whether alone or with your team, think about all the features and benefits of your product or service.  If an emotionally compelling idea doesn’t jump off the page, which it most likely won’t, more research is required.

more persuasive writing

Keyword research identifies topics that people are searching for. Keep and maintain a list of keywords and keyword phrases. Find out what your audience is interested in, what they want to learn about.

After further research into features and benefits and your audience’s needs, you then repeat the brainstorming activity. Itemize the benefits and turn each into one emotionally compelling idea.

Put that emotionally compelling idea right up front

Studies have shown that people like to know what they’re in for right from the start.  Put your emotionally compelling idea right up front.  In primary school, they taught us that when writing a report, you should:

Tell them what you are going to tell them,

tell them,

then tell them what you told them.

It still applies today.  Put the emotionally compelling idea up front and draw your audience through to the call-to-action. You can help your reader by:

  • Stating the subject of an email in the subject line.
  • Including an executive summary with a white paper.
  • Stating the basic facts about a news item in the first sentence or two of a news release.
  • Providing an introduction, regardless of the length of your document.

Step #2: Use an easy-to-read style

More persuasive writing uses an easy-to-read style. Your reader can then focus on your message rather than muddling through dense text.  These three tricks will help you develop that easy-to-read style.

Trick #1: Use personal pronouns

Using personal pronouns gives your writing a conversational tone.  Personal pronouns seem to connect the reader to the writer.  A conversational tone helps your reader focus on your message rather than your language. 

Just be sure that personal pronouns are right for the content.  It may not be appropriate in every situation.

Trick #2: Avoid jargon

It’s easy to be drawn to words that are common in your industry. But are they common to your audience?  When writing for non-specialists and you have a choice between words, use the common, everyday word.

more persuasive writing

A couple further pointers on word choice:

  • Use positive words. Negatives like don’t in front of a verb can make some readers stumble.
  • Avoid long strings of nouns. Sentences with several nouns in a row can be difficult to navigate.
  • Use inclusive language. Unless your document is about men, don’t use only male pronouns (he, his).

Sometimes you may have to use a technical term, even when you’re writing for non-specialists. In that case, choose words that will help your readers. 

Trick #3: Avoid padding with words like very, really, actually, or carefully

These words don’t serve any purpose.  Keep in simple, keep it easy to understand.

Step #3: Keep it concise and to the point

When writing about complex technical subjects, you need to construct your sentences carefully. More persuasive writing uses direct, simple sentences.  In fact, long sentences almost always have complex grammatical structures.  This puts a strain on the reader’s immediate memory.  The reader has to retain several parts of each sentence before he can combine them into a meaningful whole.

Here are a few tricks to help you keep concise and to the point:

Trick #1: Keep sentences and paragraphs short.

The average length of your sentences should be 20 words or fewer.

Trick #2: Sentences should focus on one idea

Keep it simple. Cover only one idea per sentence and one theme per paragraph. Get to the point; don’t wander around first.  Find one emotionally compelling idea, as we discussed in the earlier in this post.

Trick #3: Use the active voice

Use the active voice.  The passive voice tends to seem evasive:

The standards were breached.

Who breached the standards? As a reader, you might think: Is the writer trying to hide something from me? If you don’t want to appear to be hiding something, you should use an active voice:

The refinery breached a water quality standard.

Step #4: Make it skim-able

You can make your document more persuasive by providing cues that promote skimming.  There are a couple tricks you can use to help these readers out.

more persuasive writing

Trick #1: Use headings

Headings show your readers how your document is organized.  And they let your reader skim the text to find the information they’re looking for.  Readers on the Internet tend to move on to something else if they don’t find what they’re looking for quickly.  In longer documents, add a table of contents at the beginning, too.

There are several ways to write a heading.  You can state it as a question, as a phrase, or as a declarative sentence:

  • Question. “Are there two kinds of people in the world?”
  • Phrase. “Two kinds of people in the world”
  • Declarative sentence. “There are two kinds of people in the world.”

Trick #2: Break up blocks of text with bulleted/numbered lists

Lists are easy for readers to skim. Choose numbers when presenting a list with items in a specific sequence or rank order. Use bullets when the items listed are equivalent in importance.

These tricks improve readability because:

  • They make it easier for readers to find what they want.
  • They make your content less intimidating by breaking it up visually.

Step #5: Structure it to soothe the reader’s eye

Long blocks of text can intimidate readers.  Persuasive writing is easy to read in a visual sense, making it easier for the reader to understand your key message.

You can soothe the reader’s eye by using white space. Use adequate margins and space between sections. Keep paragraphs short.  The lists help break up text and provide relief to the eye as well as enhancing its skim-ability.

Visual tools can help explain your content.

  • Infographics provide a clear visual representation of data, relationships, or ideas.
  • Tables can help comparisons and show relationships without using a lot of text.
  • Lists group similar items. Numbered lists are ideal for items that are sequenced or ranked; other lists may be bulleted.
  • Other visual tools include inserts, charts, maps, and checklists.

Make sure the tool you use matches your content and the needs of your audience. You can’t explain everything with a pie chart!

Conclusion

In this post we see how plain language improves understanding.  Understanding leads to trust, and ultimately to action from your prospect. Action that can lead to a one-on-one conversation between two people.

Your product is complex and technical. Simplify the language in your content to make your complex, technical product more easily understood. Take these five steps to more persuasive writing:

  1. Find one compelling idea
  2. Use an easy-to-read style
  3. Keep it concise and to the point
  4. Make it skim-able
  5. Structure it to soothe the reader’s eye

To keep these five steps in mind while writing, download and print the handy checklist:

Five Steps to More Persuasive Writing – A plain language checklist to simplify your writing

GET YOUR FREE CHECKLIST HERE!

Contact WaterCopy for all your content writing requirements.

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Get that company blog up and running in 4 weeks: Week 4: Awareness: Put up a more effective company blog

effective company blog


4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog

Introduction

Do you have an effective company blog?  What makes a blog effective anyway? 

You established your company blog to reap the benefits of blogging.  You want to establish thought leadership, build trust, and generate leads. You’ve made a plan and written your first post and put it up on the blog page of your website. Now what? It’s time to get it out there; get it liked, and shared. An effective company blog achieves its goal of building your list, increasing traffic to your website, or generating awareness of your solutions.

There are seven actions you can take today to make your company blog more effective.  Each one is just a small action, but they add up to a more effective company blog. In this last post of the series: Get that Company Blog Up and Running in Four Weeks – 4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog, Week 4 we look at each action that makes for an effective company blog.

Week 4: Awareness: Put up a more effective company blog

An effective company blog helps build awareness of your solutions, your unique value proposition. Once your blog is up and running, there are seven actions you can take to increase the effectiveness of your blog. Let’s check them out, in no particular order.

Action #1. Name your author(s)

effective company blog

Naming a blog author establishes credibility and builds trust.  You can work on developing a unique voice in your industry.  Because your audience changes through the sales funnel, your content should too.  You might establish several blog authors, that address different aspects of your buyers’ journey. Even when working with a freelancer, make sure your writer understands the persona of the published author.

Blogging is a key element in establishing your company as thought leaders. Naming your authors provides a sound foundation to build on. Provide a short bio for each author, establishing their expertise.

Action #2. Keep the same domain name

A major benefit of a company blog is moving your company page up in the rankings of major search engines. Each time you post a blog, a page is added to your website.  That’s another page for search engines to investigate and rank.  But it only works if your blog is on the same domain as your company website – blog.companydomain.com or companydomain.com/blog.

Action #3. Enable subscribers with an RSS feed

Don’t miss the value of building up a following of loyal blog readers. The more readers that subscribe to your blog, the more opportunities you have to fill the top of your sales funnel.   You also increase the number of visitors coming to your website regularly.

By enabling RSS feeds on your site, readers can subscribe to be notified when a new post goes up. Every time you post a blog, a message goes out to your list, letting them know it’s up.  Your subscribers may share that email with friends and colleagues, who then may subscribe themselves.  Every new subscriber is a potential new lead.

Action #4. Maintain consistency and quality

effective company blog

An effective blog provides its readers with quality content on a consistent basis.  This is where your blog planning pays off.  An important part of a blog plan is the publishing schedule.  With a publishing schedule in place, it is much easier to post regularly.  Whether you blog monthly, weekly, daily, or multiple times a day, you want to keep it consistent.

A corollary to blogging consistently is providing quality content in each post.  Without quality content your blog may not achieve the traffic goals as planned.  You should monitor responses to each blog and how they impact site traffic on a monthly basis.  You may need to up the frequency to achieve your traffic goals.

Action #5. Encourage action with a CTA

Encourage your audience to take an action in every post.  A clear Call to Action (CTA) will pull them further into your site.  After reading quality content, your reader is primed for more valuable content.  Be sure it is relevant to the topic of each post. 

For example, a powerful CTA:

  • is concise, and
  • action-oriented (maybe a short phrase using an action verb),
  • that plays on a visitor’s fear of missing out, or
  • evokes excitement and enthusiasm to stimulate action.

You might add an incentive to convert, some added bonus for acting.  Just be sure to encourage action in every post.

Action #6. Facilitate sharing on social media

Your blog should facilitate sharing with social share buttons. That way your readers can share that fantastic article you recently posted.  The success of your blog depends on how many people read it.  As a matter of fact, social sharing buttons can increase click-through rates by an astounding 55%!

There are several plug-ins that allow social sharing.  Be sure to include links to all your social media sites on your blog.

Action #7. Optimize for speed, mobile, and SEO

Speed

Optimize your blog so that it loads quickly on all devices.  There are online tools you can use to check loading speeds and identify areas for improvement.  One thing to check first is the size of images on the page.

Mobile

Given the increasing use of mobile phones for internet searching, be sure to optimize your blog for smartphones and tablets.

SEO

You want to ensure readers can find you through search engines.  Part of optimizing your blog is in optimizing your content.  Planning your blog topics around keywords makes it easier to optimize them for SEO.  Your focus keyword should feature prominently featured in page titles, headers, alt tags, and images.

effective company blog

Another trick is to link other relevant content within your website.  Perhaps you have white papers or case studies on a related topic.  Where appropriate link to your product or services pages.  Search engines love this sort of linking and it will help move you up the ranks.

Ranking high on searches is incredibly important.  In fact, Marketshare found that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results.

Conclusion

In Week 4 of building your company blog consider these seven actions you can take to increase the effectiveness of your company blog:

  1. Name your author(s)
  2. Keep the same domain name
  3. Enable subscribers with an RSS feed
  4. Encourage action with a CTA
  5. Maintain consistency and quality
  6. Facilitate sharing on social media
  7. Optimize for speed, mobile, and SEO

By taking these actions you will find your blog effectively:

  • increasing site traffic,
  • establishing your thought leadership and building awareness,
  • moving you up in the search rankings, and
  • helping convert leads.

Is your company blog doing what you thought it would?  How do you ensure your blog is effective?

If your team is already working to capacity delivering quality services to your clients, how do you manage to produce and consistently deliver a quality blog every week?  WATER COPY can help!  I provide blog writing services that will keep your content machine running smoothly.  Contact me to discuss your blogging needs.

CONTACT A BLOG PLANNER/WRITER

Get that Company Blog Up and Running in 4 Weeks – Week 3: How to write that company blog – 3 things about 3 things

write that company blog

4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog

Introduction

You’ve convinced management of the benefits of a consistent, quality company blog. You’ve written the blog plan. You have a production schedule, a list of topics, and a goal for each post. Now you need to write.  This can present a challenge, whether you like writing or not.  How does one go about writing a blog post?

Check out these 3 things about 3 things on how to write a post that gets clicked, read, and shared.

Week 3: How to write a blog – 3 things about 3 things

Thing 1: Get the basics right

There is a basic structure to any piece of quality content.  Get the basics right and your blog is that much more likely to get read.

1. Title/headline

The headline presents the first impression of post.  It’s important to get it right or readers won’t click through to read the content.  A headline should be actionable and keyword-focused.  Try to keep it brief.  Be clear and definitive, maybe even intriguing.

write that company blog

Research shows certain headlines catch readers’ attention better than others. The ever-popular How to…, is popular for a reason. It works! Other phrases work too:

  • The truth about… (e.g. The truth about clarifiers)
  • Facts you should know… (e.g. Seven facts you should know about aerators)

There are lots of guides out there on how to write a great headline.  Most agree that you can spruce up a mediocre headline by:

  • including numbers,
  • adding an intriguing adjective, or
  • using action verbs.

Make sure the headline is specific. Your post is about a specific and emotionally-compelling idea. Keep the title specific too.

Keep the headline as short as possible. It’s best if it will fit in search results displays. Even before the internet, research proved a title of 8 words or less is most effective.

2. The body copy

Now it’s time to write the post. It helps to start with an outline, even for a short piece of content like a blog post.  Organize all the information that supports the one big idea and make sure it follows a logical flow. Use headings and subheadings to divide the supporting information into sections.

Two critical headings to use are the Introduction and the Conclusion. As with a good story, in the introduction you set the scene. You tell the reader what you’re going to tell them.  Follow with the body copy, subdivided into sections with headings and subheadings relevant to the topic.  This is where you tell them about the one big idea and the problem it solves. Finish with a conclusion that tells them what you told them.

Unique to blogs is the chance to get a conversation started. Find a way to invite your readers to comment. Ask a question. Follow the discussion and contribute solutions.

3. The call-to-action

write that company blog

Finish every post with a call-to-action (CTA).  As a powerful top-of-the-funnel tactic, your blog is the perfect place to pull prospects further into the funnel. Tell your readers what to do next:

  • subscribe to your blog,
  • contact you, or
  • read about your product and services on your website.

Go back to your blog plan and check the goal for your blog. Make sure your CTA will help you achieve that goal.

Thing 2: Readability IS the new SEO

write that company blog

Although keywords and keyword phrases remain important, search engines are increasingly focused on readability. Search engines want to be sure your content will fulfill the reader’s intent. Most readers prefer easy-to-read text. Here are some ways to make your text easy-to-read:

1. Keep it concise and to the point

When writing about complex technical subjects, you need to construct your sentences carefully.  Direct, simple sentences will help get your point across.  In fact, long sentences almost always have complex grammatical structures.  This puts a strain on the reader’s immediate memory.  The reader has to retain several parts of each sentence before he can combine them into a meaningful whole.

Here are a few tricks to help you keep concise and to the point:

  • Trick #1: Keep sentences and paragraphs short.

The average length of your sentences should be 20 words or fewer

  • Trick #2: Sentences should focus on one idea

Keep it simple. Cover only one idea per sentence and one theme per paragraph. Get to the point; don’t wander around first.  Find one emotionally compelling idea and stick to it. 

  • Trick #3: Use the active voice

Use the active voice.  The passive voice tends to seem evasive:

The standards were breached.

Who breached the standards? As a reader, you might think: Is the writer trying to hide something from me? If you don’t want to appear to be hiding something, you should use active voice:

The refinery breached a water quality standard.

2. Use personal pronouns

Using personal pronouns gives your writing a conversational tone.  Personal pronouns seem to connect the reader to the writer. A conversational tone helps your reader focus on your message rather than your language.

Just be sure that they’re are right for the content. Using personal pronouns may not be appropriate in every situation.

3. Avoid jargon

It’s easy to be drawn to words that are common in your industry – jargon. But are they common to your audience?  When writing for non-specialists and you have a choice between words, use the common, everyday word.

A couple further pointers on word choice:

  • Use positive words. Negatives like don’t in front of a verb can make some readers stumble.
  • Avoid long strings of nouns. Sentences with several nouns in a row can be difficult to navigate.
  • Use inclusive language. Unless your document is about men, don’t use only male pronouns (he, his).

Sometimes you may have to use a technical term, even when you’re writing for non-specialists. In that case, choose words that will help your readers.

Be careful about words like very, really, actually, or carefully that don’t serve any purpose.  Keep in simple, keep it easy to understand.

By adopting an easy-to-read style, you can start engaging your audience.  Use personal pronouns, where appropriate.  Avoid jargon by choosing the right word and avoid padding your text with words that serve no purpose.

Need help with readability? I’ve designed a plain language checklist that will help you write more readable content. You can download the checklist for free here: https://www.watercopy.com/checklist-readability/

Thing 3: Design it so readers will move right through to the CTA

You may not want to know this but not all your readers will read your entire blog.  Many blog readers (43%, according to Hubspot) admit to skimming content.  Rather than being offended by this, play to those readers.  Cater to all readers with the design of each blog.

1. White space

Dense blocks of text can intimidate readers.  Clever use of white space – areas with no text or graphics – will lessen the stress. Keep paragraphs short and use line spacing to add a little white space between paragraphs.

Putting in a pull quotes add variety to the blog’s visual flow. Photos, graphs, charts, and tables add visual appeal while providing in-depth information in an eye-catching format.  Keep graphs and charts relatively simple.

2. Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings not only help with the flow of logic of the post, they provide a break from the text.  They allow skimmers to get the gist of the blog without having to read the entire article.  It helps with SEO to optimize headings for keywords, where possible.

3. Bulleted or numbered lists

Anytime your information allows, break up blocks of text with bulleted or numbered lists.  Again, they cater to skimmers, but they also help organize information into short concise portions.

Conclusion

After all the meetings, the brainstorming, the planning, it’s time to write.  Writing posts for the company blog may never be your favorite thing to do but with these 3 things about 3 things you can help to ensure your post will get clicked, read, and shared.

Do you have any tricks for writing great blog posts that readers love to read? Please share them here!

If your team is already working to capacity delivering quality services to your clients, how do you manage to produce and consistently deliver a quality blog?  WATER COPY can help!  I provide blog writing services that will keep your content machine running smoothly.  Contact me to discuss your blogging needs.


CONTACT A BLOG PLANNER/WRITER

Get that Company Blog Up and Running in 4 Weeks – Week 2: Consistency: A company blog plan ensures success

company blog plan

4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog

Introduction

Although by nature blogs have a certain spontaneity about them, an effective company blog is meticulously planned and consistently executed.  Planning ensures you meet your marketing goals by publishing quality content on a regular schedule.  Your subscribers and interested readers want to know when they can expect new content from a source they have come to trust. 

company blog plan

The company blog plan sits within and supports your greater content marketing strategy.  However, a company blog is such a valuable marketing asset that it needs a plan of its own.  A plan that describes:

  • Why you blog – Goals
  • Who you blog to – Audience
  • What you blog about – Content
  • When you blog – Schedule
  • How you blog – Promotion

This post will examine each step in building a company blog plan that ensures success.

Week 2: Consistency: A company blog plan ensures success

Why you blog – Goals

The first step in any plan is to set goals.  In a blog plan, goals for the blog should support the company’s business goals as well as the goals of your strategic content marketing plan.  Goals like building your list, increasing traffic to your website, or establishing thought leadership.  By establishing goals and objectives for your blog in general, and for each individual blog, allows you to understand what success looks like.

Who you blog to – Audience

To be effective at generating awareness, you need to understand your audience. Market research helps you define your audience and assess your competitors.  The more you learn about your audience, the better able you’ll be to provide the content they want.  By understanding your competitors, you can craft better content to gain that critical edge.

Audience research

Getting to know your target audience is key to crafting relevant content.  You need to learn what:

  • people expect from blogs in your niche;
  • kind of content do they find useful and exciting;
  • benefits do they expect to receive from your blogs; and
  • makes them tick and compels them to keep coming back for more.

It may not be easy to define your target audience when you have no blog subscribers.  One way to get an idea of what your audience wants is to conduct a survey.  Ask what your audience wants more information about.  Ask what they like about your blog and what other blogs they like.

Competitive analysis

As well as understanding your audience you need to understand your competition.  How are they promoting their content?  What are they blogging about?  By having an insight into their content strategy, you can fine-tune your own.  Find your own unique voice in your niche.  You can only do that if you know the competition.

What you blog about – Content

While there are many sources of ideas for topics to blog about, you can boost your search results by using keywords to come up with topics.  That means carrying out keyword research.

Keyword analyzers

Start with your main keyword.  Keyword analyzers, such as Google AdWords, suggest keyword combinations and then rank them on the number of searches a month that used that combo.  You then check out related words and terms.  Search on semantically-related words as well, such as the individual components of water treatment systems.

company blog plan

Long-tail keywords – 3 to 4-word phrases, will get you less traffic but more targeted searchers.  When they find your page, they are more likely to become a lead because the search was more focused.

Search engines

You can also find keywords and phrases through the auto suggest from a Google search.  When you type in a keyword or phrase, a dropdown list will display previous search phrases. 

At the bottom of the Google search page is another source of keywords.  Google provides a list of other search terms and phrases that are similar to the current one.

By basing the topics on keywords and featuring the focus keyword in page titles, headers, alt tags, and images you can optimize your blog for search engines.  Be sure to provide links back to your power pages – products and services, and a call-to-action that encourages further engagement.

Your team

Another important resource for topics is your sales team. Find out what questions customers and leads are being asking, what problems they are facing? Join and follow forums in your niche, paying attention to problems being discussed. Check these against your keyword phrases. You may find many parallels.

When you blog – Scheduling

company blog plan

The production schedule for your company blog fits into content calendar of your greater strategic content marketing plan. Plan to post weekly to start but that is really a minimum.  Hubspot found that B2B businesses who blog at least 20 times per month have five times more traffic than those who blog less than four times per month.  Just keep it at a frequency you can maintain consistently.

You may want to plan posts in a series with a contextual lead magnet at end of each.  Be sure each post is based on one compelling idea, and that all posts compel your audience to read the next post, and to ultimately to download the lead magnet.

How you blog – Promotion

The whole point of a blog is to get your posts read by as many people as possible.  That requires promotion.  The first place to post you blogs is on your company website, of course.  But there are other ways to get your information out to your audience. 

Share each post on all your social media channels with a link back to your website.  Have your employees send it out to their networks.  Send updates out to your email list with links to your recent post.

Consistently publishing quality content is important. Be sure to get it read by as many people as possible by promoting it effectively.

Conclusion

An effective company blog is meticulously planned and consistently executed. To make it work, you need a company blog plan. A plan that describes:

  • Why you blog – Goals
  • Who you blog to – Audience
  • What you blog about – Content
  • When you blog – Schedule
  • How you blog – Promotion

Implement this plan consistently and reap the rewards!

The next post in the series: Get that Company Blog Up and Running in Four Weeks – 4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blogWeek 3: How to write your blog with your reader in mind – 3 tips, explains how to write a blog that gets read and shared.

Do you have a blog plan? Is it documented and implemented?

If your team is already working to capacity delivering quality services to your clients, how do you manage to produce and consistently deliver a quality blog every week?  WATER COPY can help!  I provide blog writing services that will keep your content machine running smoothly.  Contact me to discuss your blogging needs.

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Get that Company Blog Up and Running in Four Weeks: Week 1: Benefits: How to sell it to management

company blog benefits

4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog

Introduction

Why bother with a company blog?  Is it that important in the water industry?

Let’s think about marketing in the water industry.  What are you selling?  Highly specialized and often complex technology that has a long operational life and a hefty price tag.  These kinds of systems don’t sell themselves nor will the hard sell impress the people who buy them.

How will a company blog help you sell your water treatment systems and services?  What your audience needs is information.  Not about your products but about the problems they are facing.  Once they figure out the problem, they need information about available solutions. 

company blog benefits

In fact, a typical B2B buyer is more than half way through the buyer’s journey before they engage directly with a supplier.  You gain trust by giving your audience quality information without a hard sell.  An important channel for publishing this information is your company blog.

The first step in establishing an effective company blog is to sell it to management. It is essential that the blog is adequately resourced so consistency and quality is maintained. In this first port in the series: How to Get that Company Blog Up and Running in Four Weeks – 4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blog, we identify four key benefits that will sell your blog idea to management.

Week 1: Benefits: How to sell it to management

Your company blog is a long-term marketing asset – a critical part of any inbound marketing program.  And although there are many direct benefits to the water industry from maintaining a company blog, four stand out:

  1. Increasing traffic to your website
  2. Building awareness of your solutions
  3. Moving your company website up the search engine list
  4. Converting leads through Call-to-Actions.

Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

1:      Increasing traffic to your website

A water industry website tends to be static.  You may occasionally publish product updates or refresh some text, but the content mostly stays the same. With a blog, subscribers and new readers come to your site regularly for the fresh content.  Once they are there, they may browse other pages and find further value.

Your products and services pages are important.  Putting in-links from keyword-optimized hyperlinks in the blog will increase traffic to these critical pages.  In-links help boost your site’s status with search engines too.

2:      Building awareness of your solutions

By sharing information, you to build awareness of your company, your solutions.  A blog is the perfect place to do just that.  Think about what problems your target audience is facing and the solutions available.  With a consistent, engaging blog, your company is more likely to come to mind when a solution is required. 

A key aspect of content marketing in general, and blogs in particular, is to avoid the hard sell.  Your posts should inform and entertain, not constantly blast your audience with ads, brochures, or technical fact sheets. 

Convince prospects that you’re an involved and informed industry player.  Sharing information on your blog gives your readers insight into the value you offer.  Guide your audience and educate them in how to solve their problems.  But make sure they understand the complexity of the problem and its solution.  Let them know how your company can solve their problem seamlessly.

3:      Moving your company website up the search engine list

Search engines love blogs.  If you blog frequently – and frequency counts – you create more pages and more content for indexing.  This enhances organic traffic to your site when you blog consistently.

company blog benefits

Optimize each blog for keywords by developing blog topics around industry-specific keywords.  Be aware though, ‘stuffing’ content with dozens of mentions of keywords is not optimizing.  In fact, search engines frown on the practice, which could lead to your site never appearing on the first page of Google.  Used strategically, however, keywords will bring more traffic to your blog and help to generate leads.

Remember that SEO is not limited to keywords anymore.  Search engines now assess the readability of content.  The idea is that readers prefer content that is easy to read.  You can improve the readability and visual appeal of your company blog with a few simple tricks. Writing a readable blog will be covered in Week 3: How to Write a Blog with Your Reader in Mind – 3 tips.

4:      Converting leads through Call-to-Actions

Blogs are a classic example of a top-of-sales-funnel tactic.  Prospects who come to your blog for the quality content can quickly become leads.  Bring them further into the funnel with a clear, compelling call-to-action (CTA) each time you post.  Make the CTA relevant to the topic of the blog.  Invite the prospect to download educational or useful content in exchange for contact information.

company blog benefits

An effective CTA leads to an offer that a prospect is willing to trade their contact information for.  What to offer, the lead magnet, will be covered in an upcoming series of blogs.

Conclusion

Clearly, there are many benefits for the water industry in maintaining an effective company blog.  The problems your clients are facing are complex.  The benefits your solutions provide can be difficult to quantify.  Your prospects want information.  A blog provides a powerful platform to publish that information.

In the water industry there are many reasons to love your company blog.  The big four are:

1:    Increasing traffic to your website

2:    Building awareness of your solutions

3:    Moving your company website up the search engine list

4:    Converting leads through Call-to-Actions

A company blog is a cost-effective way to raise awareness at the top of the sales funnel. The trick, of course, is to post informative and interesting content consistently.  The second post in the series: How to Get that Company Blog Up and Running in Four Weeks – 4 weeks to an awareness-generating company blogWeek 2: Consistency: How to plan a company blog that works, is all about blog planning, and how to develop a production schedule that will keep your blog on track.

What benefits do you reap from your company blog? 

If your team is already working to capacity delivering quality services to your clients, how do you manage to produce and consistently deliver a quality blog? 

WATER COPY can help!  I provide blog planning and writing services that will keep your content machine running smoothly.  Contact me to discuss all your blogging needs!


CONTACT A BLOG PLANNER/WRITER

Marketing with White Papers: Secret #4: Six Essential Channels to Promote your White Paper

promote your white paper

Four secrets that guarantee white paper success

Introduction

Is your white paper being downloaded, read, shared? No? You need to promote your white paper to ensure its success. As content marketing tactics go, white papers are a sizable investment.  You want to make sure your white paper does its job.  That means you need to actively promote your white paper.

Promote your white paper

It is important that the marketing team understands that the more effort they invest in promoting a white paper, the more likely it is that it will succeed. Make sure the marketing team is in on the white paper planning process from the start. Make sure the team is thinking about promotion all the way through the white paper process.

There are many ways to promote your white paper but the six we discuss here are essential for a credible Return-on-Investment. In this fourth post in the series: Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, Secret #4 describes six essential channels to promote your white paper.

Secret #4: 6 Six Essential Channels to Promote your White Paper

Essential to marketing your white paper is a landing page. A landing page is a page on your website to send interested readers to when they want to download your white paper. The landing page advertises the white paper and has a contact form for the prospect to fill in. With a first name and email address you can start the conversation.

Once the landing page is in place it’s time to promote your white paper. There are many ways to get the paper out there but six stand out as essential channels. To ensure white paper success, use all six essential channels to promote your white paper.

1.    Promote it on your company website

The obvious place to start to promote your white paper is on your company website.  Feature the white paper prominently on the home page with a call-to-action button that links to the white paper landing page.

Your company blog is another powerful way to advertise the white paper.  Write a series of posts about your white paper, ready to send out, weekly, at a minimum. You might blog about:

  • the upcoming white paper launch, then
  • a brief summary of the problem the white paper addresses, then
  • a post about the innovative solution the white paper presents, then
  • a summary of the entire paper.

Always include a CTA that ends up on the white paper landing page. Write the posts in a way that will entice prospects to download the whole paper. Remember, though, that even if only the blogs are read, it will continue to build awareness of your brand, your solution.

2.    Promote it in your regular newsletter

Another excellent channel to promote your white paper on is your company newsletters.  Place an ‘ad’ in the sidebar of the first page of the newsletter.  Have a compelling button that again links to that all-important landing page.

Promote your white paper

You could write a small article that summarizes the white paper and place it in the newsletter. It is also a good idea to arrange for your white paper to be mentioned in your channel partners’ newsletters.

3.    Promote it via email

Email is a cost-effective way of promoting your white paper.  You can:

  • e-mail it to your sales force to educate them in the key benefits.
  • e-mail it to your channel partners – your distributors and dealers.  They too will benefit from understanding all the features and benefits of the new product or service.
  • e-mail it to your house list of prospects and clients. 

When emailing through your channel partners, send a link to the white paper landing page so you can collect new leads. When you email your inhouse list, send the pdf as an attachment to keep your solution top of mind.

4.    Promote it on social media

Speaking of sharing, social media is another essential promotion for your white paper.  Post a link to your landing page on LinkedIn and announce it to any appropriate LinkedIn groups. Tweet about it on Twitter! Place links on all your social media sites, always linking back to the landing page on your website. 

Every time you blog about your white paper (see # 1 above), post a link to the blog on all social media channels. Include an enticing tidbit to get readers to your blog and the CTA.

5.    Promote it externally

There is nothing wrong with the old favorites.  Press releases are still effective at spreading the word.  Go ahead, publish a press release about it. 

  • Send the press release, along with a copy of the white paper, to journalists who cover your space.
  • Send the press release, along with a copy of the white paper, to bloggers who cover your space.

Don’t forget, there are sites where you can post your white paper for free.  Use all available channels.

6.    Promote it through internal and personal networking

Promoted internally, white papers can educate your sales team.  That sales team is then better able to promote the white paper! Beautiful.

A slide deck and presentation based on white paper content is effective for educating and networking. The same presentation given to the sales team can be presented at networking events, like association meetings, conferences, workshops.  All great places to promote the white paper.

Conclusion

Your white paper won’t achieve its goals if it is not actively promoted.  In this post in the series: Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, Secret #6 identifies six essential channels to promote your white paper:

1.    Promote it on your company website

2.    Promote it in your regular newsletter

3.    Promote it via email

4.    Promote it on social media

5.    Promote it externally

6.    Promote it through internal and personal networking

For a successful white paper, you need to maintain the push.  You must promote for months to get full value out of your white paper.  Promote strongly right up to when the next white paper is released.

This series, Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, will help you ensure your next white paper is a resounding success:

Secret #1: The right white paper at the right time

Secret #2: The white paper plan

Secret #3: How to write a white paper

Secret #4: Six Essential Channels to Promote your White Paper

Are you looking for a white paper writer for your next product launch? Why not hire an expert?

A persuasive white paper, special report, or e-book uses simple language to explain complex solutions.  I understand the science and technology behind your product, your services.  I can translate that complexity into easy-to-read content for a lay audience.

I know when to leave the jargon in and when to take it out.

Contact me to plan your next successful white paper!

CONTACT A WHITE PAPER WRITER

Marketing with White Papers: Secret #3: How to Write a White Paper in 4 Steps

write a white paper

Four secrets that guarantee white paper success

Introduction

The 3rd secret to white paper success is how to actually write a white paper.  Seems obvious, right? You’re a white paper writer and this should be a breeze. But maybe you struggle to get the work done efficiently and effectively. It always seems to be far too much work.

So how do you write a successful white paper efficiently and effectively? Defining a process makes writing white paper a more manageable task.

What is the process to write a successful white paper? The third post in the series Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, focuses on Secret #3: How to write a white paper in 4 steps.

Secret #3: How to write a white paper in 4 steps

As we learned in last week’s post, a white paper plan is a key secret in ultimate white paper success. As a writer, the white paper plan provides valuable information and direction. Refer to the plan often to keep on track and on theme.

Read on to discover a step-by-step process for writing a white paper, based on a white paper plan.

Step 1: Research the problem and the solution before you write

The first step is to completely familiarize yourself with the solution to be showcased in the white paper. Although you will have produced the high-level outline as part of developing the white paper plan, go back and drill deeper into the information. Start adding details to the outline.

Talk to the SMEs

At this point you will have questions that the written material did not answer. It’s time to talk to the client’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Depending on the product and the client, there may be more that one SME you need to interview. Organise a time to talk to each expert. Respect that they are busy and have your questions ready. It is a good idea to send through the questions beforehand.

Carry out further research

Discussions with the SMEs should lead to further research. Using the sources supplied by the client, look for competitors’ solutions on their website, industry-specific forums discussing the problems faced by your client’s customers, and referenced-journal articles documenting the problem and proving the solution.

Keep track of sources. You will you need to cite any information you use that is not public knowledge. Citations add to the credibility of the white paper as well.

Step 2: Draft a title to provide focus while you write

Now that you understand the problem and the solution, it’s time to nail down the title. The title is the headline when promoting the paper so its important to get it right. The headline must, first and foremost, establish a clear benefit to the reader.

Grab interest, be specific, be brief

Research shows certain headlines catch readers’ attention better than others. The ever-popular How to…, is popular for a reason. It works! Other phrases work too:

  • The truth about… (e.g. The truth about clarifiers)
  • Facts you should know… (e.g. Seven facts you should know about aerators)

The headline should be specific. The white paper is about a specific solution with a specific benefit to the reader. Keep the title specific too.

Keep the headline as short as possible. It’s best if it will fit in search results displays. Even before the internet, research proved a title of 8 words or less is most effective.

Establish a clear benefit

This is important enough to say again. The headline must establish a specific benefit to the reader. Inspire your prospects to download the white paper.

Step 3: Create content with the audience in mind

Marketing with white papers is NOT about the hard sell.  A successful white paper persuades using simple language and a logical flow. Logical flow starts with picking the right structure and then filling it in with quality content.

Write the white paper in a professional tone, using a formal, almost academic-style of writing. Don’t take that too far by relying on industry-specific jargon and techno-speak. Keep the language simple. You can download an article about writing using plain language here: Five simple steps to start the conversation: How plain language benefits the water industry .

Structure the white paper

How you structure your white paper depends on which type of white paper you are writing.  Go back to the white paper plan and make sure you’re on track.

At the top of the sales funnel you most likely want a Problem/solution white paper. That structure would look like this:

  • Executive Summary
    • Introduction
    • Problem
    • Available solutions
    • Your new and innovative solution
    • Conclusion
    • Call-to-Action

At the bottom of the funnel your readers are looking for details.  In that case you want to use a Technical backgrounder-type white paper. The structure changes slightly:

  • Executive Summary
    • Introduction – Problem and available solutions summarized
    • Key features of your new and innovative solution
    • Technical specifications of your solution
    • Conclusion
    • Call-to-Action

In the middle of the funnel, create controversy and maintain interest with a Numbered list white paper. The structure is just about the list. After the Introduction, order the sections in a logical way.  Put the more important or controversial information up front in the first couple of numbered sections.

Content for a white paper

The content of a white paper needs to do four things:

  1. attract the right audience,
  2. engage the reader
  3. inform your prospects, and
  4. persuade readers to take action.

Start by maintaining a logical flow through the paper. Start with the high-level outline developed for the white paper plan. Copy that outline into a new document and start filling in each section. This keeps you on track with the approved outline for the paper.

As you research your topic, put relevant information and its source in the appropriate section of the outline. Keep fleshing out the outline until you have summarized all available information.

Once your research is complete, transform your notes into a compelling story.

Visuals improve understanding

It is important to demonstrate your solution through data visualization. Did you know people process visuals 60,0000 times faster than text? By visualizing your data, you showcase your results and prove your solution. By understanding your data and data relationships you can pick the chart that will let your data sell the story.  Find out more about data visualization in the post: Case Study to Success Story – Building Trust in the Water Industry: Thing 4: Let Your Data Sell the Story

Add credibility and trust

A critical task of the content of the white paper is to establish credibility and build trust. Not through the hard sell but through robust research and compelling case studies. People love a story so make sure the case study is written as a success story. Keep the story brief in the white paper. Showcase it in a sidebar or call-out.

Discussed above, visualised data help demonstrate the credibility of your solution.

Pictures are powerful too. Better than just shots of your product, incorporate images of the solution in use, with a happy customer, if possible.

Step 4: Format the white paper for easy reading

Now that the white paper is drafted, think about formatting. You may not want to know this but not all your readers will read your entire white paper.  Many readers (43%, according to Hubspot) admit to skimming content.  Rather than being offended by this, play to those readers.  Cater to all readers with the design of the paper.

White space

Dense blocks of text can intimidate readers. Clever use of white space – areas with no text or graphics – will lessen the stress. Put in a few pull quotes to add variety to the blog’s visual flow. 

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings help maintain the logical flow of the paper as well as providing a break from blocks of text. Skimmers can get the gist of the topic without having to read the entire paper. Optimize headings for keywords where possible.

Bulleted or numbered lists

Break up blocks of text with bulleted or numbered lists.  They cater to skimmers and help organize information into short concise portions.

write a white paper

Images

Photos, graphs, charts, and tables add visual appeal while providing in-depth.  Keep graphs and charts relatively simple.

Conclusion

White papers are complex documents. Even with a white paper plan, a writer can get lost in the complexity of the problem and its solution. The way to avoid this is to make writing a white paper a step-by-step process.  This post laid out a 4-step process for how to write a white paper based on a white paper plan:

Step 1: Research the problem and the solution before you write

Step 2: Draft a title to provide focus while you write

Step 3: Create content with the audience in mind

Step 4: Format the white paper for easy reading

Next week the final of post in the series Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, looks at the importance of promotion to white paper success: Secret #4: Six Essential Channels to Promote your White Paper.

Are you looking for a white paper writer for your next product launch? Why not hire an expert?

A persuasive white paper, special report, or e-book uses simple language to explain complex solutions.  I understand the science and technology behind your product, your services.  I can translate that complexity into easy-to-read content for a lay audience.

I know when to leave the jargon in and when to take it out.

Contact me to plan your next successful white paper!


CONTACT A WHITE PAPER WRITER

Marketing with White Papers: Secret #2: The White Paper Plan

white paper plan


Four secrets that guarantee white paper success

Introduction

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.

white paper plan

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

Goals

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.

white paper plan

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.

Audience

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!

white paper plan

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.

Review team

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

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.

Working titles

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.

Call-to-action

white paper plan

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.

Conclusion

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. 

Are you looking for a white paper writer for your next product launch? Why not hire an expert?

A persuasive white paper, special report, or e-book uses simple language to explain complex solutions.  I understand the science and technology behind your product, your services.  I can translate that complexity into easy-to-read content for a lay audience.

I know when to leave the jargon in and when to take it out.

Contact me to plan your next successful white paper

CONTACT A WHITE PAPER WRITER

Marketing with White Papers: Secret #1: The Right White Paper at the Right Time

marketing white papers

Four secrets that guarantee white paper success

Introduction

How successful was your last white paper? Did it accomplish its goal? Not all white papers do.  There are a host of pitfalls in the process of producing a white paper.

This series of posts, Marketing with White Papers: Four secrets that guarantee white paper success, presents four secrets that guarantee white paper success. Secrets that can help ensure your next white paper is a resounding success. Secret #1 is about picking the right kind of white paper at the right time.

Secret #1: The Right White Paper at the Right Time

There is a misconception in B2B marketing that white papers are only appropriate at a certain point in the water industry sales funnel.  Usually it is assigned to the middle of the funnel to generate leads. That way of thinking is really missing the true power of white papers. White papers, when the right kind is chosen, draw your prospects through your sales funnel and beyond.

So, what kind of white paper?  When?

By understanding the sales funnel and how decisions are made when the problem is complex and the solution expensive, the right type of white paper can be chosen for each point in the buyer’s journey.

At the top of the funnel you want to generate leads

B2B customers need time and information to make decisions.  And decisions in the water industry are about complex problems that require expensive solutions.

At the top of the sales funnel, the object is to get the attention of potential customers.  Build awareness. Generate leads. 

At this point in the funnel, a problem/solution white paper can help generate leads.  In this type of paper, you first define the problem your prospects are trying to solve.  You provide quality information about the solutions already in the marketplace.  You then introduce the new type of solution your company provides.

The idea is to provide information upon which a buyer can base a business case – never use the hard sales pitch at the top of the funnel.  Never mention specific products in a problem/solution white paper.

A problem solution white paper is used:

  • To generate leads at the top of the funnel.
  • To educate salespeople and channel partners.
  • To educate analysts, bloggers, and journalists.
  • To redefine a market space.
  • To build thought leadership.

In the middle of the funnel you must maintain interest

The middle of the sales funnel can be excruciatingly long.  You need to be able to maintain interest without exerting pressure.  Do it by providing controversial, educational, and possibly even entertaining information in a numbered list format. 

marketing water papers

A numbered list white paper might be a set of tips, points, questions, or answers about an issue.  They tend to provide quick summaries in an easy to read format.

People love numbered lists because:

  • They are easy to scan.
  • You always know where you are.
  • They are an easy read.
  • The structure is clear.
  • You’ve been reading them for years.

Numbered list white papers are relatively quick to produce since they tend to present highlights rather than deep analysis.  The points presented can almost be random with the numbering system holding them together.

A numbered list is especially powerful:

  • To get attention with provocative views
  • To help prospects along that are already in the funnel
  • To cast doubt on your competitors.

A numbered list keeps the information flowing into the middle of the sales funnel.  At its best, a numbered list white paper encourages discussion by introducing sometimes controversial ideas about the problem or about solutions currently available.

At the bottom of the funnel you pull in the sale

At the bottom of the funnel you want to pull in the sale.  A technical backgrounder white paper provides detailed technical information about the features and benefits of yourproduct, process, or service.

A backgrounder has a tight focus on one offering from one vendor.  This type of white paper is also referred to as an evaluator’s guide or a product briefing.  It tends to do one of the following:

  • Explains key features, functions and benefits in more detail than a brochure or data sheet.
  • Explains new, unfamiliar or misunderstood technology to a technical audience.
  • Supports a product launch by explaining the product in technically detailed terms.

A backgrounder-style white paper is powerful in the late stages of a buying decision. It can help the buyer or buying committee make a final decision.  The white paper needs to provide specific details of how the features of your product, process, or service will benefit the buyer.  And how those features will solve their problem.

At this point features are as important as benefits, sometimes even more important.  The buyer needs to know that your product/process/service will solve their problem.

Post-sale, maintain interest and relationships by re-purposing white paper content

After the sale, your content can help build stronger customer relationships. Relationships that can lead to future sales.  After publishing an effective white paper, the content can and should be used to feed other channels. 

marketing white papers

To establish thought leadership, you must provide new and engaging content continually.  Search engines like Google assess content as well as keywords.  Because white papers are expensive, re-purposing their content makes good business sense.

Each section of a numbered list could become a post on your blog.  They could each be re-reworked into an article in your newsletter. Both the blog post and the article should contain a link to the full white paper on your website. 

A problem/solution white paper could be presented at a conference with a PowerPoint slide show.  Several white papers could be tied together and published as an e-book.

Conclusion

White papers can engage and educate your prospects all the way through the sales funnel. They make an excellent call to action in a strategic content marketing campaign.  Prospects who download the white paper are expressing an interest in the solutions offered.  Be sure to collect information when they do.  Then follow up. Follow up. Follow up.

In next week’s post we’ll find out in Secret #2: the white paper plan, how important it is to plan your white paper.  A white paper plan dramatically increases the chances of your white paper being a success.

Are you looking for a white paper writer for your next product launch? Why not hire an expert?

A persuasive white paper, special report, or e-book uses simple language to explain complex solutions.  I understand the science and technology behind your product, your services.  I can translate that complexity into easy-to-read content for a lay audience.

I know when to leave the jargon in and when to take it out.

Contact me to plan your next successful white paper

CONTACT A WHITE PAPER WRITER

Four Things about Case Studies: Thing 4: Let Your Data Sell the Story

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From Case Study to Success Story – Building Trust in the Water Industry

Introduction

Your Hero saved the day!  By picking your solution, your case study candidate was able to solve their problem and save the ‘world’.  The next challenge in writing the success story is being able to prove your solution worked.  Prove it with your case study results. Prove it in a way that is easy to assess and digest.

By showcasing the case study results graphically, your success story is that much more believable. In this final post in the series: Four Things about Case Studies: From Case Study to Success Story – Building Trust in the Water Industry we examine the importance of data visualization in turning a water industry case study into a brilliant success story.

Thing 4: Let Your Data Sell the Story

In the Results section of a water industry case study you have the opportunity to prove the benefits of your Solution.  Your Hero’s testimonial is even more powerful when backed by data.  Because people better understand data shown visually, presenting your data in charts and graphs improves the impact and recall of your story.  Data visualization is a powerful tool for persuading your audience and engendering trust.

Hubspot defines data visualization as showcasing data, numbers, and statistics through images and charts. Data visualization is most important in:

  • identifying trends;
  • answering questions;
  • proving theories;

and, when used in B2B marketing,

  • showcasing your brand.

Data visualization

Data types

The Oxford English dictionary defines data as: facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.  But, having large tables full of numbers, no matter how great, will not help the reader.  You need to present the data in a way the allows analysis.  You need a graph!

What graph, you may be wondering?  That depends on your data. Understanding what type of data and data relationships you have allows you to pick the most effective graph to display the data.

Most data fall into one of two groups: numerical or categorical:

Numerical data, also known as quantitative data, have meaning as a measurement.  Numerical data is either discrete or continuous:

  • Discrete data can’t be measured but can be counted. Data take on possible values that can be listed out.
  • Continuous data can’t be counted but can be measured. Their possible values cannot be counted and can only be described using intervals on the real number line.

Categorical data represent characteristics and can be sorted by group or category.

Data relationships

Before you can pick the best visual for a given data set, you need to understand data relationships.  There are seven important data relationships. The table below defines each type of relationship and gives an example of each.

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Charts to visualize data types and relationships

Now to pick the chart. Each different data and data relationship can be represented by at least one chart type.  The trick is to pick the chart that will optimize analysis.  There may be more than one chart that allows you to visualize the data accurately. In this case, consider what you’re trying to achieve, the message you’re communicating, and who you’re trying to reach.

Bar charts

Bar charts are best used to show change over time, compare different categories, or compare parts of a whole.  Bars can be shown vertically, effective for chronological data, or horizontally, grouped or stacked, effective for comparing multiple parts-to-whole relationships.

Pie charts

Pie charts are best for making part-to-whole comparisons, with either discrete or continuous data.  They work best with small data sets.  Limit your slices to 6 at a maximum. 

Line charts

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Line charts show time-series relationships with continuous data.  Use line charts to illustrate trend, acceleration, deceleration, and volatility.

Area charts

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Area charts also describe time-series relationships, but they differ in that they can represent volume as well.  A standard area chart is used to show or compare progression over time.  A stacked area chart visualizes part-to-whole relationships, helping show how each category contributes to the cumulative total.

Scatter plots

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Scatter plots are used to show the relationship between items based on two sets of variables.  They demonstrate correlation in a large amount of data.

Bubble charts

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Bubble charts are excellent for displaying nominal comparisons or ranking relationships.  The bubble plot is basically a scatter plot with bubbles, good for displaying an additional variable.  A bubble map is used to visualize values over specific geographic regions.

Heat maps

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Heat maps display categorical data.  The intensity of color represents values of geographical areas or data tables.

Chart format

Once you have determined which type of chart best visualizes your data set, there are some formatting tips that improve the impact and comprehensibility of your chart. 

Tip #1: Label intuitively

Labels help your reader to interpret the data.  Double-check every chart to make sure the labels are there and correct, but don’t overdo it. Label data points directly so the reader doesn’t have to search for the legend.  Keep labels on the x-axis horizontal not tilted. 

Tip # 2: Call out or highlight important information

Rather than relying on a legend alone, use arrows and text, circles or rectangles, or use a contrasting color to aid interpretation.  Use callouts to highlight relevant information or provide additional context.

Tip #3: Choose attractive and consistent colors

Choosing the right color scheme is very important.  There are lots of rules about using color in data visualization.  A couple worth noting here include:

  • Use a single color to represent the same type of data.  For instance, if you are depicting a single water quality parameter month by month with a bar chart, use a single color.  If you are comparing values between years in a grouped bar chart, use a different color for each year.
  • Make sure there is enough contrast between colors.  If the colors are too similar it can be hard to tell the difference.
  • Avoid patterns. Patterns can be incredibly distracting. Instead, if, for instance, you are trying to differentiate values on a heatmap, use different saturations of the same color. In the same way, use solid lines rather than dashed lines.
  • As a rule, don’t use more than 6 colors in a single layout.

Tip # 4: Order the data set

A visualization is much easier to understand when the data is ordered intuitively.  In a bar chart, for example, make sure the larger values are at the top for horizontal bars, and from left-to-right for vertical bars.

  • Order data intuitively. There will be a logical hierarchy in the data. Order categories alphabetically, sequentially, or by value.
  • Order consistently. The ordering of items in your legend should reflect the order of your chart.
  • Order evenly. Use natural increments on your axes (0, 5, 10, 15, 20) instead of awkward or uneven increments (0, 3, 5, 16, 50).

Tip #5: Avoid 3D graphs

The nature of these graphs makes them hard to assess.  The tilt required to create the effect skews the reader’s view of the data.

Tip #6: Choose appropriate data ranges

The range of your data set is the difference between the highest and the lowest values.  In visualizing data, you may need to consolidate data into groups.  When grouping data, be sure to use consistent ranges.  Select three to five numerical ranges that allow an even distribution of data between them and use +/- signs to extend the high and low ranges.

Conclusion

Data visualization allows you to showcase your case study results and prove your solution. By understanding your data and data relationships you can pick the chart that will let your data sell the story. 

This series has highlighted four things about case studies that help you tell your success story.  By turning a case study into a success story, you build trust in the water industry:

  1. Build it as a Success Story
  2. Finding your Hero
  3. Your Hero may need Help…
  4. Let Your Data Sell the Story

Are you so busy making a difference to your clients that you don’t have time to tell your good news stories?  Have you solved a wastewater problem for a client, a community, a country? Then get that story out there!  Let the world know how your company solves problems and makes a difference.

That’s where WATER COPY comes in.  I research and write top quality science-based ‘good news stories’.

Contact me to discuss your next case study project.

CONTACT A WHITE PAPER WRITER