Processes save time and money by guiding experienced professionals through a series of time-proven best practices to reliably create something of value. By not following a process, you make things up along the way, reinventing the wheel for each project.
The primary advantage of a process is that it manages a number of common but potentially vexing problems and pitfalls early in the game. This saves time, money and frustration down the road and positions the project for success. Processes are all about success.
A winning white paper comes from a smooth process.
Winning white papers come from writers who follow established best practices for persuasive writing and project management. My process for white papers is a product of hundreds of years of publishing tradition and my own 30+ years in the trenches managing communications projects of all sizes. The process maps the journey and is flexible to the needs of each project and client.
Interestingly, many marketing operations don’t follow a process to produce their materials. A 2010 study by MarketingSherpa found that 60 percent of small companies and 47 percent of medium-sized companies with up to 1,000 employees have no formal process that they follow for marketing projects.
As long as the projects aren’t numerous or complex, you can get by this way. But add a complex project like a white paper, and you can get into real trouble with chaotic and unpredictable results. Your white paper project should advance your mission, not turn into a bewildering time and energy drain, or worse, a project that simply doesn’t work out — a real bummer in the office.
Don’t fall into a trap that you can easily avoid. Follow a process or hire an expert. Or both, if you want to experience how it’s done.
Steps to white paper success
Within the standard framework of the traditional publishing process, I have created customized steps that drive success in project management and in optimizing the white paper’s content for lead generation.
- Create a working title to give the project a name.
- Assemble the development team, including subject matter experts and all reviewers. One of the biggest setbacks to white paper projects is having someone appear late in the game with new challenges and expectations. It’s helpful to get these voices involved at the beginning of the project.
- Kick-off the project with a conference call to set a solid direction for a successful project. By beginning with the end in mind, the team can eliminate or minimize surprises that can stall or subvert the project.
- Create a schedule with deadlines for each milestone. Build in a reasonable amount of time for reviews and get your development team to sign off on the schedule, if practical. Four to six weeks is a reasonable time frame for the whole project, but it can be done faster if there’s a good process in place and you have attentive cooperation in the review process.
- Develop a winning topic to maximize your lead generation potential. If you’re not clear on your white paper topic, you’re not alone. Many struggle to get real clarity. A strong topic is not always obvious. Topic relevance, simplicity and clarity are vital to attracting qualified leads. Read more about how to develop a winning topic.
- Write a creative brief, treatment or rough outline to define the scope of the content and project. This step is optional with a small team, but to be crystal clear about the content before writing, lay out all the elements of fact on paper and get the development team’s buy in.
- Do research and interview subject matter experts to get the facts straight. The goal of the research is to make a strong, fact-based case for your solution.
- Write, revise and produce the final text and title. Structure the text for clarity and write in an engaging, business casual voice. A smooth process generally entails two drafts and a final version for publishing. Place emphasis on a title that’s clear about a specific solution and who benefits. This will help you target your best audience.
Maximize your white paper investment
White papers are big projects that thrive on collaboration. A good process minimizes project problems so you can maximize your investment of time and money, and keep white paper projects relatively trouble free and on schedule.