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For best results, don’t rush a white paper

The day before starting my holidays last summer, I got an urgent call from the owner of a Toronto software firm.

He was desperately seeking white papers.

It turned out his firm was looking for six technical white papers (~65 pages) for an upcoming trade show.

And that’s not all. He wanted all these papers done in three to five weeks?!

mad rush to get white papers doneI told him that didn’t sound possible.But I took the time to join forces with another tech writer in Toronto.We proposed doing his two most important white papers, up to 30 pages, in time for the trade show in two months.

That wasn’t what he wanted to hear. So I didn’t get that project… and I’m glad.

I figure it was doomed to fail.

The whole experience got me thinking about white papers and time.

Here are some tips for what to do about white papers when you’re really pressed for time.

Be realistic: a white paper takes 6 to 8 weeks

Don’t scramble to throw together a whole pile of white papers just a few weeks before a trade show.

I’ve done white papers that way and it’s not recommended.

White papers are supposed to be well-reasoned, thoughtful documents.

Working in a rush usually leads to dull titles, weak logic, poor graphics, typos and sloppy design. That’s not the image your company wants to convey.

Focus your efforts

If you have to scramble, focus on one or two key documents, not a whole clutch of them.

That gives you time to review drafts, prepare illustrations and publish these documents properly.

Any less and you’re really going to be cutting corners… unless you have a huge team to delegate to, or a huge budget.

Of course, my prospect had neither.

Take requests at the event to fulfil later

Sure, trade shows, user group meetings and other events are important.

But you don’t need all your white papers ready to hand out at your event. Just create a good set of titles and a dummy cover for each one.

Then take requests for a selection of white papers your visitors can get over the next few weeks.

After the event, create the most-requested white papers first. And reconsider doing the papers nobody requested.

Next year, plan better

If this is a recurring crunch in your calendar, plan a few more months in advance next time.

If your crunch was caused by a repeatable event like a new software release, work back from the release date for your white papers next time.

Build your white papers into your checklists or schedules for new product releases or updates.

Remember, the more times you “touch” a prospect by sending them another white paper, the more chances to draw them into your sales funnel.

And that’s especially if each of your white papers has been done with care… and not in a mad rush.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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