John O' Gorman

Do Your White Papers Read Like The Yellow Pages?

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white papers that read like yellow pages

White Papers have become the latest ‘a marketing scam’ – one to which buyers are increasingly getting wise.   The result is that white papers, while increasingly popular among marketers, are losing their appeal to buyers.

When buyers download a white paper they expect a certain level of informational value, but they are being cheated.   Ask them about the standard of white papers and here are the complaints they will make:

  • Too many white papers are simply thinly veiled commercials, or trumped up marketing brochures.
  • They are lacking in detail, insight, or revelation.  They fail to tell the buyer something that is really useful – something that he/she does not already know, or could not easily find out.
  • They lack objectivity, methodology, or science.   They have involved little, if any research or IP (intellectual property) in their preparation.  There are few statistics, or other quantifiables.
  • They don’t have the weight of credibility, or authority – the claims they make are not backed up by independent validation.
  • They are written by copywriters, not by subject matter / domain experts.
  • They often focus on technical information, relating to product functionality and feature set.  That means their appeal or interest to a senior manager is limited.
  • They quickly become dated, often not being updated to reflect product, company, or market changes.  They are not written to coincide with topical events, or key relevant dates.
  • They may be poorly written – often without a clear message, or structure.  Often there is lots of text, long paragraphs, without enough headings, diagrams, or visuals.

Writing good white papers is both expensive and time consuming.  However, it is important not to cut corners.  The lesson is don’t confuse a white paper, with a thought piece, a fact sheet or a marketing brochure.

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