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

case study results

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.

case study results

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

case study results

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

Area charts

case study results

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

case study results

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

case study results

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

case study results

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

Four Things about Case Studies: Thing 3: Your Hero may need Help…

case study interview

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

Introduction

Once you find your hero, the next thing to think about as you move through the process of turning your case study into a success story is the case study interview. 

Your hero may need help!  Your case study candidate may not be a storyteller.  That’s okay because you ARE!  The trick is getting all the relevant information out of your Hero with out wasting their (or your) time.  Planning the interview will ensure your success.

case study interview

In the series of posts, Four Things about Case Studies: From Case Study to Success Story – Building Trust in the Water Industry, Thing 3 considers the importance of the interview in shaping your success story.

The Interview

Once you have your Hero, you need to get their story out of them.  The interview is crucial.  Be ready, and get the Hero prepared as well. The goal of the interview is to gather emotions, quotes, anecdotes, and results.

The time

This is important.  Your Hero is busy.  Don’t waste their time playing phone tag.  Contact the case study candidate and schedule a convenient time for the interview.  Also, don’t waste time during the interview.  Properly planned and executed, it should take less than an hour. 

The interview will also go much smoother if, when you schedule the interview, you also send your Hero a copy of the questions you intend to ask.

The questions

Sending your case study candidate a copy of the questions serves several purposes.  Possibly the most important reason to use a questionnaire is that it makes it that much easier to keep the interview on track.  Keeping the questions in the same order as the case study, makes the writing up that much easier.

Background

This short section gives a brief description of your Hero, the company., and the industry. Starting with this section eases the candidate into the interview with the easy stuff.  It also gives you an idea of how the Hero sees his role in the story.

Challenge

In this section you want to find out what challenge they were facing that made them start looking for a new solution.  For instance, did they need to reduce costs? Increase compliance?

Your questions should identify whether they had been using a solution from another provider before they implemented your solution.  If they had been, ask why they decided it was time for a change?

Solution

The Solution section is really the marketing meat of the interview.  You need to find out how they decided on a solution and why did they pick yours.

You might want to ask questions like:

  • How did you hear about our company and/or solutions?
  • Did you evaluate any other solutions before selecting our product/service? If yes, please describe that process.
  • What specific aspects of our product/service appealed to you? Was there a deciding factor that tipped the scales in our favor?
  • How did you implement the product/service across your company? Was the process fast and easy, or did you run into some bumps along the way?

Results

You need to find out the benefits did your solution provided. 

case study interview
  • Can your Hero provide data that measures the impact (hard or soft metrics) of implementing your solution?
  • Do they have quantitative data about the performance of your solution in practice? 
  • Will they let you use it in the case study? 

Graphs and charts can be an excellent way of demonstrating your solution.  Figures also serve to break up blocks of text, increasing the readability of the document.

Next week’s post explains how to structure your success story and present data that demonstrates how your solution saved the day.

Future steps – how the solution will continue to provide benefits into the future.

Since the customer has had a chance to consider the questions before the interview, you should be able to draw out details of benefits that maybe were unexpected.  Listen carefully and ask for details of key features and benefits of your solution that really resonated with the customer.

The person

Now this may seem obvious but be sure to interview a real, live person.  A case study based on testimonial videos and notes from the sales team won’t come across as an engaging success story.  You want to be able to draw out details that the customer hadn’t anticipated, just by listening and interacting with a real person.

The record

case study interview

Whenever possible, and only with the customer’s consent, you should record the interview.  This allows you to focus on the interview and not worry so much about note-taking.  You won’t have to go back to the customer to clarify things you didn’t write down.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take notes during the interview.  Technology does sometimes let us down and the physical action of writing notes tags that information in our brains.

Next steps

Before concluding the interview, you should let the Hero know what happens next.  You may need to ask follow-up questions (hopefully not if you were prepared for the interview…).  Let them know when they can expect a copy of the draft case study for review.  A review by the Hero at this time ensures all product and personnel names are correct and that the Hero is pleased with the content.

When your success story is finalized, make sure the Hero has a chance to review the document again, in its final format.  Always get formal approval before publishing the success story.

Conclusion

Interviewing effectively is another key thing to master for case study success.  With preparation and planning your success story will almost write itself.

In the final post of the series: Four things about case studies: From Case Study to Success Story. Building Trust in the Water Industry next week’s post will look at how visualization can help your data sell the story.  Thing 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 success stories.

Contact me to discuss your next case study project.

CONTACT A CASE STUDY WRITER

Four Things about Case Studies: Thing 2: Finding your Hero

case study candidates

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

Introduction

We’ve seen how to build a success story from a water industry case study. Another key thing you need to turn your case study into a compelling success story is a Hero.  A critical part of the story is selecting the right case study candidate to interview.  You want someone who is happily using your product, but they also need to be able to talk about how your product solved their problem. 

Thing 2, when moving from a case study to a success story, is about how to find the Hero of your success story.

Thing 2: Finding your Hero

Who is a Hero?

It is important to find a case study candidate that qualifies as a hero for your success story.  You want a smart business leader who identified a challenge or just a better way to solve a problem.  Someone who checked out the different options and picked your solution.  So, you want someone who has:

  • an in-depth product knowledge;
  • experienced remarkable or even unexpected results;
  • a recognizable brand name; and/or
  • switched from a competitor’s product to yours.

Your Hero should know your product or service well.  That product knowledge will come through during the interview.

Where is your Hero?

So, how do you find your Hero?  You can look for people who are already talking about your product or you can start by canvassing customers.

Find people who already love your product/service.

Check with your sales and service teams.  They hear directly from clients and customers and may know of specific customers that had outstanding results and are happy to talk about it.

Check on review sites on the internet.  Your customers may be posting reviews of your products.  Customers may be talking about you on social media sites. 

Send out emails to a list of customers

Customers on your email list are another source of potential candidates.

When using email for reach out to case study candidates, you need to follow a few simple rules:

  • Keep your first, introductory email short and to the point. Suggest a time and date to chat further but no specific details.
  • Mention them by name in the email.  Don’t send out generic emails; make it personal.
  • Include your own name, too.  Let them know who they are dealing with.
  • Be complimentary. Boost their ego and make them feel special for being asked to participate.  It may make them more likely to agree to participate.
  • Attach the questions you’d like to ask. This will help them decide whether they want to work with you on your success story.

Will the Hero participate?

You may need to convince your Hero to participate.  Emphasize the benefits of being a Hero.  You could offer a monetary incentive, but this tends to come off as a bit dubious.  Convince your case study candidate that participating in a case study is really about free publicity and thought leadership. 

Your Hero should understand that being part of this success story is a win-win situation.  You get to tell your good news story and it gets the Hero’s company out on your channels as well as theirs.

Is the Hero right for the job?

Once you have a short list of case study candidates you need to decide which hero is right for the job.  Conduct a brief interview with each candidate and ask these three questions to reveal all:

  1. Tell me about your company.
  2. Which of our products do you use?
  3. What benefits have you gotten from our products?

You want someone you will give you complete answers.  It would be even better if they volunteer information.

Avoid those who give vague, and/or short, answers.  If they can’t define the benefits they have enjoyed, move on.  While chatting, make sure your Hero is going to be easy to work with.  You will be connecting with them several times over the course of the project.

Let the runners-up down easy

After you decide on the hero for your success story, be sure to let the runners-up down easy.  Let them know that you appreciate their time, but their story is not in line with current marketing strategies.  You may want to use their story in future.

Conclusion

Your case study candidate is the hero of your success story.  By picking the right hero and interviewing effectively, your case study will almost write itself.

In next week’s post we look at to conduct the interview to get the most out of your time with the client in Thing 3: Your Hero may need help….

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 success stories.

Contact me to discuss your next case study project.

CONTACT A CASE STUDY WRITER

Four Things about Case Studies: Thing 1: Build it as a Success Story

case study writer


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

Introduction

In the water industry, trust is everything.  Building trust with your customers and prospects is critical to improving sales.  In the water industry, case studies are unbeatable at building trust. 

Unfortunately, case studies about water industry products and services are often dense, difficult to read, and, frankly, a bit dull.  Used to convey complex technical information about a solution to someone’s problem.  Written to a strict formula. No pizazz.

As a powerful bottom-of-funnel tactic, you want your case study to resonate with your audience.  To do that, you need to present it as a success story.  A compelling story of how your solution solved a client’s problem. 

case study sriter

In this first post in the series Four Things about Case Studies: From Case Study to Success Story – Building Trust in the Water Industry we look at Thing 1: Build it as a Success story.  Use these 5 key blocks to build a case study that is also a compelling success story. 

Match the story to your audience

The goal of a case study is to build trust in your product and in your brand.  This makes them an excellent tactic for the bottom of your sales funnel.  After reading your case study, you want your ideal customer to feel that:

  • you are experienced in their industry;
  • you understand their industry’s specific needs; and
  • you know how to get industry-targeted results.

To do that you need to know your audience. If your system applies across verticals, target that part of your audience that will appreciate the challenges faced by your Hero.

Be sure to consider the ‘skimmers’

With so much content out there, many of us have become ‘skimmers’.  We skim headlines and section headings to see if the content is relevant to our needs.  For skimmers, you should include an executive summary.  Craft a mini-headline to capture attention and then, in a couple of sentences, or better yet dot points, summarize the case.  Highlight the relevant aspects that made it a success story. 

Thing 1: Build it as a Success story

Stories have a beginning, where a hero is faced with a challenge.  Stories have a middle, where a solution is presented.  And they have an end, where the results of the solution provide benefits to the hero.

Case studies should follow this same progression.  Thus, there are 5 basic blocks needed to build a case study into a success story:

  1. The Customer (Hero) block
  2. The Challenge block
  3. The Solution block
  4. The Results block
  5. The Future block

Let’s break down each block and see how the facts and details of your case study can be crafted into a success story.

Block 1:     The Hero

This first block is like the prologue to a novel.  This is where you set the scene for your story.  Tell us about your featured customer – the Hero of the success story:

  • what do they do;
  • what they want; and
  • what they need.

Describe the customer as an industry leader and innovator who found creative ways to solve a business problem, using your product, of course.  Describe them as your Hero.

Remember, although it was your product or service that saved the day, the customer is always the Hero of your success story.  Always treat your product as a supporting character.  [Next week’s post looks in more detail at how to find a Hero for your success story.]

Block 2:     The Challenge

case study writer

In the Challenge section you describe the obstacles your Hero was facing before he found your solution.  It is important to provide the context right up front.  The key here is to make the challenge universal to the industry, to engage your chosen audience.  Explain how the customer’s business challenge sits within their industry.  You want your readers to be able to relate to the Hero’s problem.

Block 3:     The Solution

Here in the middle of the success story comes the solution.  This is where the Hero decides to implement a solution to their challenge. 

Take your readers on a journey as the Hero searches for a solution.  Explain how your solution compares to any others on the market.  And, of course, your solution proves to be the one that can save the day.

In this section you explain:

  • how your Hero found your solution;
  • how and why they picked your solution; and
  • how the solution was rolled out.

Be sure to highlight specific features that appealed to that customer.

You can also provide details of the implementation of the solution.  However, if there were major complications with this stage, you may want to leave that out.

Block 4:     The Results

The results section is where the data and technical details come in.  This is where you provide proof that your product solved the problem presented in the challenge section.  Charts and graphs describe the data visually.  This not only helps your reader understand your solution, but also breaks up blocks of texts.

Use data relevant to the story.  Summarize large data sets where appropriate and use colors in graphs to highlight trends.  The last post in this series helps you pick the best visual for your data.

When describing the benefits of your solution, hard numbers are always better.  Numbers like: ‘boosted revenue by 63%’.  However, if all you have is soft benefits, like ‘saved time’ these can also work.

Block 5:     Into the Future

As with an epilogue to a novel, this section is often missing from case studies. But describing the Hero’s use of your solution into the future can be powerful in generating trust.  Tell how your products will be an essential part of their operations moving forward. 

You should explain how your support services provide benefits over the long term.  It demonstrates your commitment to your customers’ on-going success.

One more thing…

In the water industry, the impacts of your solutions can roll out over time.  Positive business and environmental impacts take time to develop.  Consider keeping up with your customers and chronicle how your solutions continue to provide benefits.  This lets readers see that your goal is not only to help with immediate needs, but also to ensure long term results

This is particularly effective in the water industry as your solutions often provide benefits beyond your immediate customer.  Managing water resources sustainably provides benefits to the community and the environment.  Tell that story, too.

Conclusion

For your case study to resonate with your audience, bring in leads, or close a sale, you need to present it as a success story.  A compelling story of how your solution solved a client’s problem. 

In this post we looked at the key building blocks to a successful case study.  How to write your case study as a compelling success story. 

Come back next week to find out how to find the perfect Hero for your success story in Thing 2: Finding your Hero.

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 success stories.

Contact me to discuss your next case study project.


CONTACT A CASE STUDY WRITER

How to plan your content to generate leads and boost sales: Step 5: Document, implement, and review your plan

content marketing plan

A strategic content marketing plan in 5 easy steps

Introduction

CMI research shows that a documented content marketing strategy is far more effective than one that isn’t written down. Yet, only 48% of B2B marketers have developed and documented a plan.  

In the last post of the series: How to plan your content to generate leads and boost sales Step 5: Document, implement, and review your plan, we discuss the importance of documenting, implementing (yes you do need to implement it!), and reviewing your strategic content marketing plan.

Step 5:     Document, implement, and review your plan

You’ve spent a lot of time (yours and others on the team, hopefully), pulled together a lot of information, and identified a lot of actions going through this planning process. Now document it!  You will generate a powerful statement about your intentions.  About how content marketing will achieve your desired business outcomes.

A documented strategy helps you gain support from the executive team.  A plan keeps content producers strategically aligned.  However, it doesn’t have to be complex or overly long.  In fact, with a short, sharp targeted plan it may be easier to gain traction with management.

Document it: A simple, 5-step plan template

A simple plan is a great place to begin if you have no documented strategy at all. If you have a detailed strategy but struggle to gain traction, boiling it down to a simpler format may make it easier to implement. A documented strategy can help you:

  • crystalize your content marketing strategy,
  • gain stronger buy-in more quickly from executives or clients, and
  • keep content producers strategically aligned.

Regardless of the format, the point is to get it down on paper and get everyone to agree to its resourcing and implementation.

I have developed a template for a Strategic Content Marketing Plan based on these 5 steps.  You can download a free copy of the template here.

Implement it

Effective implementation is about developing and delivering tactics that support the strategy.  Three powerful tactics are whitepapers, case studies, and newsletters. 

Whitepapers

White papers, being persuasive essays, are a powerful way to market your product, process, or service.  They pull in potential buyers by providing rich, substantive content that educates, rather than sells.  Like an academic paper, an effective white paper is well-researched and based on established facts and logical arguments.

content marketing plan

An effective white paper is persuasive without the hard sell (Fig.1).  By avoiding fluff and the heavy sales pitch, your white papers will have a lasting, lucrative value that can have a measurable impact on your brand’s bottom line.

As well as engaging and educating your clients, white papers make an excellent call to action in a strategic content marketing campaign.  Downloading the white paper indicates an interest and should be followed up.  Collect email and names when they request the download, providing valuable contacts to add to your list.

Case Studies

Case studies, also known as ‘good news stories’, are powerful lead generators and should be part of the mix of tactics in your strategic content marketing plan.  This is of particular importance for the professional service firms.  Competition is fierce in the water world and keeping your brand relevant by telling your success stories is an effective tactic (see Figure 2). 

content marketing plan

A good marketing case study not only highlights your outstanding work, it can also serve as a teaching tool that gives readers a better understanding of the ways your products, processes, or services can help them solve their problem.  Case studies can be published on social media, on your website, and in your periodic newsletter. 

Newsletters

In the competitive world of water and wastewater treatment, maintaining strong relationships with current and potential clients is critical.  Newsletters, delivered to your email list, are a cost-effective tactic to build relationships and to position your firm as thought leaders in your field (fig. 3). 

content marketing plan

Content for your newsletter can come from all areas of your firm and can really tie the various parts of your content marketing strategy together.  By re-purposing content from case studies and white papers you not only leverage these content assets in new channels but also keep you top of mind with your clients.

Whatever your goals, however many tactics you have identified, your audience will not benefit if you don’t implement your content marketing plan.

Review it

content marketing plan

Your strategic content marketing strategy is a living document.  You need to review the plan regularly to ensure it remains relevant.  Within the plan itself, specify review periods for all sections of the plan.  Review periods will be different for each section of the plan:

  • Goals – 5-yearly
  • Content Calendar – annually
  • Audience – annually and/or event-based
  • Metrics – quarterly

Conclusion

Content is here to stay.  If your company wants to stay on the top pages of Google, it is going to have to use content marketing.  And effective content marketing is only possible with strategic planning. 

Go through the process.  Document it.  Implement it. Review it.  Your success is guaranteed!

If you don’t document your plan, it won’t be effective. 

Download a free template that allows you to develop your strategic content marketing plan in 5 easy steps!

GET YOUR FREE TEMPLATE HERE!

WaterCopy: Expert and professional B2B content writer for the water and environmental industries

Do you have need high-quality content to satisfy your audience?  Do you struggle producing enough white papers and case studies? Lack the time to write those blogs, that newsletter article?

That’s where WaterCopy comes in!

I am a highly-qualified environmental scientist, an expert in researching and writing top quality science-based content. Given the opportunity I will produce a quality content asset that will continue to bring value long after the investment is made. Contact me to discuss your next content project.

content marketing plan

How to plan your content to generate leads and boost sales: Step 4: Metrics that mean something

content marketing metrics


A strategic content marketing plan in 5 easy steps


Introduction

How do you know if your content is ‘working’? 

Over the past weeks we’ve seen how goals, audience, and tactics for your content marketing change through the sales funnel.  But you will never know if your content achieved the intended goal if you don’t track metrics. 

It is important to tie the metrics to the goals of your content marketing strategy.  You must also make sure that systems are in place to track the chosen metric.  Develop procedures to make sure all metrics are monitored.  Ensure that both positive and negative results are actioned.

content marketing metrics

In this week’s post we align metrics to your goals, the audience, and tactics as they change through the sales funnel.:

  • Did your content build AWARENESS at the top of the funnel?
  • Did your content enable EVALUATION in the middle of the funnel?
  • Did your content CONVERT leads into customers at the bottom of the funnel?

Step 4:     Metrics that mean something

Top-of-funnel metrics

Top-of-the-funnel goals aim to build awareness of your brand and your solution.  Your metrics need to tell you if the tactics you use are achieving those goals.

Although site engagement rates are fun to watch, they are little more than vanity metrics.  Metrics for site engagement include:

  • bounce rates,
  • number of site visits and
  • average session length.

When another website links to a page on your website, like your blog, it increases your number of inbound links.  Search engines use the number of inbound links to rank your site. The more the better!

Monitoring traffic by channel will help you focus appropriate tactics on all channels.

When visitors don’t respond to your call-to-action, you move them to your retargeting list. You then segment the retargeting list and retarget them based on their site activities.

Middle-of-funnel metrics

In the middle of the funnel you are trying to keep prospects moving through the sales funnel.  You are offering lead magnets to increase leads and email list growth.  Metrics that will help in the middle of the funnel include:

  • Number of leads generated and email list growth are direct measures of an asset’s success.  You can track lead growth through a CRM and email list growth through email service providers like MailChimp.
  • Offer conversion rate tells you how many visitors opted in to your lead magnet offer.  It is quoted as a percent of total visitors to your landing page.
  • Retargeting list growth allows you to try other engagement options with visitors that didn’t take up the original offer.
  • Newsletter email open/click-through-rate helps you learn what interests your list; what headlines and content are working.

Bottom-of-funnel metrics

At the bottom of the funnel you want to keep your list happy.  You don’t want to bombard them with offers.  You want to keep upselling and cross-selling.  You may want to retain customers on any pay services you offer. So, what metrics will tell you if your prospects are happy?  Of course, the number of sales-qualified leads is the important metric at the bottom of the funnel.  However, other metrics are worth considering:

  • Offer conversion rate is determined by dividing the number of purchases by the number of sales page visits. 
  • Promo email open/click-through-rates can be monitored by your list manager. 
  • Retargeting list growth represents another opportunity to target leads with alternate offers to spark their interest.
  • By determining your average customer value, you can decide how much you can spend to acquire customers.
  • Retention rate will tell you how many customers stayed with you during a given period.  To calculate, subtract the number of customers acquired during the period from the number you have at the end of the period.  Then divide that number by the number of customers you had at the start of the period.
  • By monitoring buyer recency/frequency rates, you can keep your brand and messaging in front with quality content.

Conclusion

Over the past few weeks we have seen how goals, audience, tactics, and metrics for your content marketing change through the sales funnel:

content marketing metrics
  • At the top of the funnel your goals, tactics and metrics focus on building AWARENESS of your brand, your solution.
  • In the middle of the funnel your goals, tactics and metrics aim to provide information that encourages EVALUATION of your solution.
  • At the bottom, your goals, tactics and metrics need to CONVERT leads into customers.

The final step, Step 5, in the process is to make sure you document you plan and incorporate regular reviews to keep the document live.

WaterCopy: Expert and professional B2B content writer for the water and environmental industries

Do you have need high-quality content to satisfy your audience?  Do you struggle producing enough white papers and case studies? Lack the time to write those blogs, that newsletter article?

That’s where WaterCopy comes in!

I am a highly-qualified environmental scientist, an expert in researching and writing top quality science-based content. Given the opportunity I will produce a quality content asset that will continue to bring value long after the investment is made. Contact me to discuss your next content project.

content marketing metrics