Let’s face it, we all have more to read than we can manage, right?
So how can we expect time-starved execs in our target firms to read a 10-page white paper?
Well, we can’t.
“Executives know that white papers provide them with valuable information,” writes white paper expert Jonathan Kantor in his book Crafting White Paper 2.0.
“To gain the attention of the time-and-attention-challenged business reader, new formats must be incorporated into white paper content.”
We certainly can’t argue with that.
Over the past 15 years, white papers have been getting shorter, more colorful and better designed.
Kantor’s book encourages white paper creators to carry on these trends, with careful use of design and content to make these documents more accessible to time-pressured executives.
He knows B2B white papers inside-out, after working with tech companies like Adobe, Apple, intel, J. D. Edwards (now Oracle) and Microsoft.
Here’s a few tips from Kantor for anyone planning white papers for their company.
White paper 2.0 tip 1: Update your thinking
Every white paper needs to be fact-driven and take a dignified tone. But yesterday’s “wall of text” doesn’t cut it any more.
Here’s what Kantor says the white paper 2.0 is about:
- Concise size (12 pages max)
- Suitable for reading off the screen
- More color
- Better layout and design
- Attention-oriented text enhancements, such as callouts, graphics, bullets and text boxes
- Designed for online sharing through social media.
If your white papers still look like something dumped out of Word 1.0, it’s time for an update.
White paper 2.0 tip 2: Use summaries
The oldest trick in the book for any communicator is to “tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ‘ em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.”
These three chunks map perfectly to a white paper’s executive summary, main body, and conclusions.
If you’re leaving out the start or the end, you’re missing a critical chance to get your message through.
“The executive summary assumes that readers know nothing about the white paper topic and provides them with introductory and background information that create an incentive to read the rest,” says Kantor.
There are two types of executive summaries, he notes, and each has their place:
- A preview creates interest, like a movie trailer
- A synopsis sums up the document, like an abstract
On the other hand, “the concluding summary assumes readers have read the entire white paper and as a result, reinforces essential ‘take-away’ messages.”
Skimmers often flip through the whole document and immediately notice the conclusions at the end.
This is where to place another must-have element, the call to action.
Not sure what to use for your call to action?
Well, what do you want readers to do after they finish your white paper? That’s your call to action.
White paper 2.0 tip 3: Use a pull-quote on every page without a graphic
Pull-quotes are those mini-sentences in larger print that you often see on magazine pages. These make a great visual breaker in an otherwise plain page.
There’s no reason not to use these in white papers.
Keep these short, just one sentence from 10 to 20 words, says Kantor, and you can count on your pull quotes getting noticed by anyone flipping through.
Use a pull-quote on every page, advises Kantor, especially if that page contains nothing but text.
These break up the monotony of the text, and give you an ideal way to highlight the most important message on that page.
That’s just a small sample of the detailed discussion and excellent tips in Kantor’s work.
If your firm is using white papers to generate business, you owe it yourself to get his book Crafting White Paper 2.0 and use these techniques to capture the attention of today’s crazy-busy decision-makers.
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