What Makes a Good White Paper

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What Makes a Good White Paper

Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions (ECS) interviewed me for a podcast on white paper best practices. Check out the second entry in the Marketing Best Practices section of the ECS website. Or read the transcript.

JEFF: In your opinion when should our listeners utilize a whitepaper as part of a go to market strategy.
COLLIN: A white paper in the purest form is a policy document with background documentation. The best time to use a white paper is when there is a new technology to introduce or when there are updates to existing technologies. Anytime there is confusion or controversy in the market around technology, a white paper can be of assistance.

White papers are sale tools, it’s a general presentation of a whole series of technology considerations, but it makes the case and has data to back it up. Any time research, a technique or methodology has to be defined, a white paper can be used.

JEFF: What are the key factors that make the whitepaper successful in the eyes of the intended recipients.
COLLIN: The key factors that make the white paper successful and invaluable is that they, advocate a position, report results and present an argument, and most of all educate. White papers will give the reader valuable information so that they can make informed decisions. The main reason why a successful white paper works is because it allows a decision maker to go to it and make a better decision as a result of what they have read.

The goal of a white paper is not only to present the solution you have to offer. Instead a discussion of a technology, methodology or issue that will help people make their companies work better.

JEFF: On your website you identify several types of white papers and when one should be utilized versus another, could you take our audience through each one of those?
COLLIN: The technical white paper will explain how something works. This is specifically geared toward engineers. They can be very technical and long. The business benefit white paper is a problem solution kind a white paper. They give a good picture of a challenge and provide a solution. Best practices and how to’s fall into this category. The third kind of white paper strikes a balance between business and technical white papers. These white papers are aimed at higher level technical executives as opposed to engineers and strikes a balance between technological information and business decision making, trying to bridge the gap. The classic white paper is the government white paper. This will advocate public policy, explain the current state of the situation and then explain the ideal state of the situation and how to get there.

One good way to structure a white paper is to think of the current state, the ideal state, and how to move from one to the other.

JEFF: How do you get white papers to its intended recipient.
COLLIN: Posting white papers on a website simply isn’t enough. The most effective way to get white papers out to your recipients is to do it both electronically and have copies of it on hand, whether at a conference or networking event. Following up is a great opportunity to send a link of the white paper in an email.