If you want to grow your reader base, that is, if you want to get found and get known online, small businesses and entrepreneurs will offer prospects and clients online information for free, such as a white paper, a report or a compelling article. This is part of the CAST acronym for ways to grow readership.
CAST Your Net: A is for Assets
I’ve been blogging about ways to grow your reader base using this memory device:
- Some information for free, immediate download, no strings
- Some information for an email address, which will prove you can be trusted to deliver good stuff and not abuse their email
- Some valuable information worth paying for, even if it’s only a few dollars
- Excellent products and services that deliver much more than expected, worth the price.
To use myself as an example, I’ve created a range of assets for readers to get to know, like and trust me. Since nothing is required in exchange, a sample at the top of the list is the Content Marketing with Blogs Guidelines to Save Time & Get Better Results.
At the other end of the list would be a customized white paper. In my case a specific example would be a white paper for one of my executive coaching clients. She needs to impress the top leaders who give the go-ahead to corporate coaching programs. It needs to be something tangible, printed, that she can leave behind after a meeting, or send before a meeting.
A white paper is like a combination of interviews, background research (specific to industry), and persuasive stories. It’s a crucial piece of content marketing.
If you are writing your own paper, you should start by finding out what others have written in your field.
How to Create Your Whitepaper
The first thing I did was a Google search for white papers about executive coaching. In this field, there are already a lot of published papers, many of them covering the topic from soup to nuts. Very few of them are easy to read, or written in a way that is compellingly interesting. This inspired me to not write like that.
The problem with writing a paper designed to persuade is that you don’t have specific knowledge of who your reading audience is, just a vague assumption that they’re in the field and are busy professionals. Using that assumption, you must make your writing concise and to the point. Don’t waste anybody’s time.
Most white papers about executive coaching have been written by academics: they’re full of research and references to the “literature.” They go way into the background; the who, what and why the coaching field has developed. While they may be full of facts, there is little to appeal to emotions.
Busy executives want the bottom line. They don’t care about the research literature as much as they care about stories from real people who experience coaching and companies who get bottom line profitable results.
I followed this outline:
- Grab the readers’ attention using a negative story of a typical problem
- Stimulate desire using positive stories of good results
- Reinforce with reasons: facts, statistics, and logic
- Close with an appeal to heart as well as head, and a call to take a specific action.
I used stories from my client’s own experiences to illustrate clearly what it is they do, and what results they get. There are plenty of quotes from their clients. I wrote it in a neutral tone, much like a newspaper interview so that it does not read like marketing hype.
In white papers I’ve read in other fields there is often too much “marketing speak,” too much that is complimentary, which destroys credibility. I observe that there’s not enough appeal to “what’s in it for the reader,” and nothing to address possible objections that readers’ will be thinking.
Maybe companies should hire more journalists to write their white papers, rather than give the task to their marketing people. What do you think? Do you see a white paper as being an important content marketing piece to have? What do you send or leave behind? Send me an email or connect with me on LinkedIn.