We recently finished a fairly substantial whitepaper for a client.
You can check out the finished product over here (warning: it’s very industry-focused and pretty heady) but below are the some of the factors that made this effort a roaring success, and the practices that we’ll carry forward to future whitepaper projects.
Plan a design round or two in your budget and timeline
A whitepaper may sound like it will just be text on a page, but that text needs to be easy to read (or skim) and supported with well-balanced graphics, whitespace, and callouts. There’s nothing like a skilled designer to make your paper memorable for your target reader.
Even if you’re starting with a branded template, like we did on this project, there are usually some elements that need to be created (like diagrams to explain complex concepts) that will be unique to the paper.
Start with rock solid brand guidelines
The client provided a 69-page branding guide plus a 78-page copywriting guide, which did an amazing job explaining the boundaries, requirements, and goals for us to keep in mind as we produced the deliverable. This saved us lots of trial and error and avoided extra review rounds, yet ensured we stayed on-brand.
Not everyone will need such lengthy guidelines. But if you have multiple product lines and/or audiences, or operate in an industry with lots of nuance, creating a detailed brand guidebook is critical for partners and contractors to stay on the range.
Even if you think your business is fairly straightforward, developing strategic guidelines makes life so much easier with each new marketing tactic you take on.
Provide a unique point of view or concept
Capitalize on a timely industry trend, controversial topic, or specific pain point that your audience has. Take this point of interest and lay out your perspective on it, articulately.
Starting with a lot of ideas can be a double edged sword. The more you say, the more copy there is to be written, edited, and put into layout. But its usually better for the finished product to start with a big serving of recommendations, and edit down, rather than try to whip up fluff into something of a respectable length.
Interviewing sales reps, strategy directors, and other internal experts helps identify important concepts, put meat on the bones with examples and case studies, and refine the point of view.
Organize your ideas first, but write the summary last
Start with a rough outline of the points you want to cover. Often a whitepaper flow goes something like this:
- Table of contents + executive summary
- Description of industry problem
- Existing solutions and why they are inferior
- Overview of the recommended solution
- Practical implementation tips
- Call to action
As you work through the content, the concepts can actually mature and become more structured. The last thing you want to do is continually update the executive summary as the details change, so save that section for last.
Anatomy of a Whitepaper
Finally, here are a few more practical tips, courtesy of Kapost: