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An idea-generating machine for white papers

Marketing with content is great.

Search engines love it, prospects use it, and it’s highly cost-effective.

And white papers are the “king of content.”

The only problem: Coming up with the ideas for your next white paper!

cover of Content Catalyst bookHere’s an idea-generating machine from author and design guru Roger C Parker.

He’s worked for clients like Apple, HP and Microsoft, and sold millions of books on design and typography.


His “Content Catalyst” is an e-book you can use to come up with a never-ending stream of ideas for your white papers.

It costs $99 from his website. And it’s so good, it just might save your job… or your company.

“I think the hardest part of writing anything is the premise: What am I going to write about?” says Parker.

So he created the Content Catalyst “to provide a simple way of jogging your ideas.”

It’s simple but amazingly effective: a set of more than 400 terms and ideas you can go through to generate ideas.

You just can’t fail to come up with ideas

“The idea is that you just leaf through and you realize, ‘Oh, I never thought of killer apps, or touchstones, or profiling authorities in my field,’ ” he says. That jogs those ideas into play.

Parker is a fan of the numbered list, and so am I.

Any white paper structured as “Five Ways to…” or “Six Must-Have Features of …” enables busy readers to skim, scan and skip through the text and get to the end quickly.

Let’s face it, that’s how most people read when they’re at work or on the web.

Parker says the easiest way to come up with this popular approach is to combine a number with a basic idea.

“You take a number and a concept and you just brainstorm. The number provides a framework for you to complete. Once you know you need six steps, all of a sudden your brain will help you get to those six.

“This really helps you set up a factory of ideas.”

Looking a little deeper, Parker says there are only four basic parts to any B2B white paper.

Part 1: Premise

Let’s say this is “Six Questions to Ask Before You Sign Up for Web-based CRM.” So the premise becomes the title, the first few lines and the overall structure of the white paper.

Part 2: Relevance

The second part describes why you should care. What are the penalties for not asking the right questions?

Could you end up picking the wrong CRM? What would that mean for your career and your company?

Part 3: List of key points

The main body completes the idea with three to seven main points, each described in one or more paragraphs.

In this case, each point is a question, why you need to get an answer and the ideal kind of answers you want to hear.

That gives the whole body a strong backbone, so you don’t have to flop around like a jellyfish looking for your next point.

Part 4: Call to action

The conclusion is a call to action—what you want a reader to do next—or where they can go to learn more. This should be as specific as possible.

Presto: Another numbered list white papers, all planned and ready to start.

Now take some time to do enough research, polish up the ideas, and get this written up and reviewed.

Parker has some advice here too.

“Write as fast as possible, so you can rewrite at leisure,” he advises. “The rewriting will separate the unnecessary, the redundant and the verbose from the concise and helpful.”

Thank you, Content Catalyst.

I wish I’d had it years ago.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 300 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, from household names like Google and Verizon to tiny startups with big ideas. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned more than 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. And named 2019 Copywriter of the Year by AWAI, the world's leading training organization for professional copywriters.

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