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White Papers: Infomercials That Work in IT and Beyond
(Marketing Memo April, 2004)

White papers play a "critical role in the buying cycle," according to the 1,000 information technology (IT) professionals who responded to a recent Bitpipe Network User Study.(1)

HOW DO IT PROFESSIONALS USE WHITE PAPERS?

  • IT professionals download about 30 white papers per year on average.
  • They use white papers to learn more about products or technology, or to "specify and recommend" particular companies, products, and services (52%).
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) seek more information from vendors or distributors, or they give the white paper to others to read.
  • More than half (57%) claim that white papers influence their buying decisions.
  • Eighty-six percent say the "availability of high quality white papers raised their opinions of that particular company and/or their products and services."(1)

The white paper is a popular mechanism in many industries for educating customers and internal staff and for giving companies and their products or services credibility. Regardless of the industry you are addressing in your white papers, klariti.com advises that you treat your customers as both "prospective investors" and a "judicious audience."(2 )

Here are other tips for writing white papers:

TEN TIPS FOR WRITING PERSUASIVE WHITE PAPERS

  1. Identify your audience, your purpose, and formulate your main point(s). For readers who only read the introduction, summarize your main point(s) at the beginning, as well as in the conclusion.(2) Add an executive summary and table of contents to longer white papers.
  2. Develop a logical structure, and add headings and subheadings that indicate the structure.
  3. Describe the context and your solution. What are the business or technical problems that your product or service addresses? Alternative solutions? Your solution and its advantages?
  4. Provide enough concrete details to engage and convince readers, but not so much technical detail that you overwhelm readers. Explain your assumptions.(2)
  5. If possible, include a brief case study that shows how customers use the product or service.
  6. Use an engaging tone and straightforward language. Avoid "technobabble" and sales jargon. Define unfamiliar terminology in the text and/or in a short glossary.
  7. Eliminate superfluous paragraphs, phrases, and words.
  8. Use graphics to illustrate complex points and make the white paper more compelling.
  9. Make downloading easy. Simplify request forms.
  10. Check if printed versions of the white paper are readable, especially the charts and tables.

Winett Associates can write a white paper or case study for you that will convince customers, inform staff, and enhance your Web site.

(1) "Bitpipe Network User Study: Readership and Usage of White Papers in the IT Buying Process." InsightExpress conducted this online survey for Bitpipe in January, 2004.

(2) www.klariti.com/business-writing/What-are-White-Papers.shtml and other klariti.com links.

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