White papers are still the king of content when it comes to attracting and nurturing qualified leads for complex or expensive solutions. But many white papers fail in their mission to get results.
As more and more white papers are published, getting it right has never been more important. Start with these two steps, which are covered in more detail in previous blogs.
Step one: Be aware of what white paper readers want, and avoid the two things that drive them nuts.
Step two: To attract the most qualified leads, base your white paper on a topic that’s of high importance to your best prospects. Then write the content and title to address their pain and how your solution cures the pain.
To increase readership and leads even more, follow one or more of the following tips.
1. Strive for clarity in the text
Simple terms make the paper easier to read. Excessive jargon, chewy text and SAT words slow down reading and comprehension, even for your highly educated audience. Power the reader through the text with active verbs. Avoid passive language, which is vague and not motivational.
The best voice for white papers is business casual. Not too formal. Not too chatty. State your case with conviction using evidence from respected sources. Be clear about the problem. Be clear about the solution. Position your approach as the ideal solution to the problem.
The paper’s structure is also important. Use time-proven structures for persuasive writing. If your case doesn’t flow smoothly, you’ll lose the reader’s attention and the lead.
2. Pay attention to length
White papers for lead generation should fall between 4-8 pages or 2,500-4,000 words. That’s enough space to make a detailed case for a solution without stressing the reader’s attention span. If you think you need more space, you may be trying to say too much. Say enough to attract and capture a quality lead.
3. Open with a summary, close with a conclusion
Executives have too much to read. Ease into the content with a summary of the problem and solution in one or two paragraphs — about a half page. Think of it as a collection of topic sentences.
Don’t make readers come to their own conclusions. Help the reader by stating a clear conclusion. Many executives will read the summary and then jump to the conclusion for the “bottom line.” If the summary and conclusion have similar content, then you’ve just doubled your chances of your message getting through. And, a good conclusion will power the reader into your call to action.
4. End with a call to action
In the effort to not be too “salesy,” many white papers don’t end with a call to action. But this is where you capture your lead. Readers appreciate your guidance for the next step they should take. Keep the call to action simple, short and specific. The more specific the action, the better your results will be.
Try this formula:
To learn more about how [your idea, technology, innovation or company] can help your [team, organization, company] [reap the #1 benefit in your white paper], [do something: call, email or other action].
Keep in mind that not every white paper is for lead generation. For example, a “backgrounder” can be any length because its purpose is to be a comprehensive resource for a lead already considering a purchase.
Regardless of the purpose of your white paper, clarity, readability and structure are always important. To get real clarity in your next white paper, consider hiring a writer who’s experienced in interviewing subject matter experts and translating your complex concepts into plain text. Need a white paper that resonates with your prospects and gets them to act? Contact Mark Brewer at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation. See Mark’s portfolio.