A white paper is usually thought of as a technical document accompanying a product. White papers are created with the purpose of selling a product to another company by educating the buyer about the item's details. This paper defines what problem the product intends to fix and what additional applications it has to offer. Most of these reports are designed for an audience with technical know how, including engineers, software programmers, and other professionals.
Writing a white paper is usually the domain of technical writers, but in some cases, the developer of a product will want to write his or her own document for marketing or proposal purposes. Learning to write a white paper can be a challenge, as it does involve several very specific formats and criteria.
To Write a White Paper:
- Focus on the intended readers. This will usually be a very specific demographic, such as mid-level engineers or amateur web designers. The paper has to address the problem specific to that group. It also has to be written with the level of language that the audience will be comfortable using. Amateurs or laymen will not understand highly technical jargon or acronyms. Conversely, the more experienced reader, when faced with highly simplistic language, may feel the product will not be at his level of aptitude.
- Know exactly what you are selling. This report should give clear and concise details about the problem the company is facing. Then, the writer should describe the product perfectly as well as all the functions that it performs. Not knowing the product in detail will lead to a poorly written paper and as a result, no sales. That is why it may be necessary to get help with the product. You can ask the engineers, your supervisor, and the designers questions about how it works and its uses.
- Describe the problems your product will fix. This is the main marketing and education application, and the problem should be described in detail. Let the reader know why the issue cannot be overlooked and illustrate how it is having a negative effect on their business and the new problems that will come along as a result.
- Show them the solution. At this point, the paper should give the reader the answer to the problem. This is the persuasion part of the paper - the selling points. Incorporate language to convince the customer that your product is the answer.
- Focus on the recipient. A white paper can be changed to extol the benefits of the product to each specific company based on the market that business serves. Even very similar companies will have different ranges of problems they are facing. If you can tailor your paper, you will garner more trust from the reader.
- Use real-world examples. Describe how other companies have benefited from using your product and how that success could be theirs.
How the White Paper Should Look
Title Page (Optional):
Summary Page (Optional):
Short summary of information. This page should be engaging, leaving the reader wanting to learn more.
*If no title page: “Catchy Title”
State the problem that exists within the company. This information should be written in a serious tone.
This portion should also introduce your company's product. It should use an upbeat tone. All the uses, applications and benefits of the product should be explained in this section.
Put the two sections above together. This section of text will need to be written as a sales page. You will now detail the ways that your product will solve the problem presented.
Write a conclusion. Wrap up the report with an authoritative tone. Use the ending, "To complete the purchase you can contact me anytime at [Your Contact Details]."
It's All in the Details
The above outlines the bare bones structure of a white paper. You will provide the details for the customer. Yet reading pages and pages of type can become monotonous. There are ways to liven up your paper. Just follow the steps below to add the perfect finishing touches:
- Break up the gray space. Use examples and statistics in the form of graphs and charts. Breaking up long blocks of text is one of the best ways to ensure that people will continue reading. Also, remember that some people process information differently from others. While a paragraph block of facts and figures will work with some, others will have to see information visually.
- Make it look more professional. To add a little more class, it is a good idea to create an introduction. This will ease the reader into the body of the report report by letting them know what is to come. This information should be upbeat and engaging.
- Stay consistent. Has your company provided white papers in the past? If so, they may have a template for you to follow. This gives a cohesive and professional appearance, showing the consumer that your company is detail oriented and produces a high-quality product.
- Think quality, not quantity. The conundrum of every writer is length. But in a white paper the word count is not where your focus should be. You want to describe the problem, its effects and how your product can bring about positive change. This can be done in just 2 pages or take more than 20 for more technical products.
- Summarize the information. This can be accomplished with a numbered or bulleted list of the major points, or it can be a mixture of text and numbers or bullets.
Outsourcing the Project
A white paper is usually written about high-tech products. For this reason many companies choose to hire a technical writer to compose the documentation. This is an excellent choice due to the fact that technical writing is their sole focus. The hiring of a professional writer, however, will bring an added expense.
That is why many companies choose to compose these sales sheets in house. The individuals who create white papers will have intimate knowledge of the product being sold, hopefully resulting in a paper that is more accurate and cohesive.
A white paper can be written about any product that has been created to fix problems companies face, making the art of writing one a valuable skill for an employee to gain.