5 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Whitepapers

In this article, Contentworks, a content marketing agency working in the tech sector, looks at 5 mistakes you are making with your whitepapers. The name “whitepaper” originates from the world of politics, where it means a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution. In the tech world, the term whitepaper is usually used to describe a theory behind a new piece of technology. Whitepapers vary from industry to industry and marketers can often end up in a spin about how to create one.

#1 Don’t make your white paper a sales pitch

The #1 mistake marketers make when writing a whitepaper is to turn it into a sales pitch. It isn’t.  An effective white paper should be providing answers to the questions your prospects may have. They have downloaded or requested your white paper to learn more about how your technology works. An overly aggressive sales pitch will simply be a wasted opportunity and will leave your readers cold.

#2 Don’t try to be complicated

We know the tech world is filled with abbreviations and industry specific terms. This is why you need super skilled writers. Your writer needs to be able to unravel a difficult subject and make it authentic, helpful and trustworthy. The aim of a white paper is not to make your brand sound intelligent, it is to explain your product.  If you must include technical terms then explain them properly so you don’t leave your reader confused. No big words, no fancy sentences and no boring corporate blah blah blah.

#3 Don’t make false claims

“Our technology was voted number 1 by Tech Weekly”. Awesome. If it’s true. A whitepaper is supposed to add credibility to your product and brand and making false claims will do exactly the opposite. If you make a claim, be prepared to back it up. Dig up facts, figures, statistics and quotes from reliable sources and cite them at the foot of your document. If you don’t have any then don’t include the claim in your whitepaper. Simple.

#4 Don’t confuse a whitepaper with a blog post

Whitepapers are essentially academic papers filled with marketing content. Whilst an eBook or blog post may take a few hours to write, a whitepaper should take significantly longer. Readers will expect a high degree of expertise backed up by solid, factual research and this takes time to produce.  Whitepapers are more research heavy and less flashy/promotional than an eBook. Similarly, the design or your whitepaper will be a lot less busy than the colourful and impactful look of your eBook.

#5 Don’t forget your reader

Your whitepaper should be an informative and useful document which addresses the questions your reader has. To find a useful topic think about the pains your customer experiences, how your product addresses these, the workings of your product, its development and any feedback it has received from industry experts. If your whitepaper meets the needs of your readers then it will be a great selling tool. Without actually selling.

What Are the Industry Whitepaper Standards?

There are no set rules for producing the content for your whitepaper, however, there are some industry standards or norms which you may want to stick to. Here are some of the main defining qualities of a great whitepaper.

  • Structure: A solid structure is important as it presents an organised, clear and concise piece of content to your reader. There is usually a title page, table of contents, short summary and introduction. You should then include several pages educating the reader about the problem followed by a solution. You may wish to include a case study at this point. If you have added claims or quotes then you may wish to include a sources page in addition to a glossary to explain any technical terms.
  •  Length: Remember, this is not an eBook however it isn’t War & Peace either. No fewer than six pages, including illustrations, charts, and references. Whitepapers can be well over 50 pages depending on the topic. This is fine as long as the information is necessary, useful and well-constructed.
  • Format: Most whitepapers are presented in PDF format using portrait orientation.
  • Style: The style should be professional, serious, well written, and well edited. If you intend to use charts, images or alternative layouts then a graphic designer should be involved after the content is written.

Whitepapers are still a critical component in the world of tech marketing. Contact the team at Contentworks to discuss your next project.

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