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How to "clone" a white paper for multiple audiences

Most white paper readers want content directed right to them.

Fair enough.

But what if you have two or three different audiences, in different roles or sectors? How can you engage them all?

Sure, you can always write a separate white paper for each audience.

But what if your company (or client) can’t afford that?

Well, you can provide information for different audiences in the same document through:

  • Sidebars (mini-articles within the same piece)
  • In-line definitions (like the one above for sidebars)
  • A glossary of terms

But this may look clunky and interfere with your message.

Why not “clone” one basic white paper?

This means creating a slightly different version of the same base document for each different audience.

This strategy can be a win-win-win for everyone.

For a B2B white paper sponsor, cloning generates much better-targeted content at an attractive discount.

For a white paper writer, cloning gives you a competitive advantage over other writers who don’t know how. You can supply two or more white papers for only a little more work, and a slightly higher fee.

For a white paper reader, cloning creates content aimed right at them.

So “cloning” can make everybody happy: reader, writer and sponsor. And it’s not hard to do if you plan it from the start.

A quick case study of cloning in action

I once prepared a set of white papers for a point-of-sale software maker.

This company has three audiences:

  • Fast-food outlets
  • Independent, sit-down restaurants
  • Small restaurant chains

Here’s how we cloned one white paper to generate a different version for each different segment.

Step 1: Develop an idea that works for every audience

My client and I came up with the title “Seven Tips to Build Better Profits with Today’s Integrated Point-of-Sale.”

Since most restaurants struggle to be profitable, this headline appeals to everyone in that space.

Step 2. Research the idea for each audience

We brainstormed ideas, I did some further research, and we ended up with seven concrete suggestions that fit this topic.

Then we realized that six out of seven suggestions applied to all three audience segments, but one didn’t.

A typical restaurant bar suffers 25 percent loss through over-pours, giveaways and theft. So the two white papers for table-service restaurants would cover alcohol costs.

But fast-food outlets don’t serve alcohol.

For those readers, I researched kitchen video monitors that help cooks save time. These are little screens that can show six orders at a time, so, for example, the cook can add ketchup to three burgers in one go and save a few seconds.

That became our seventh tip for that version of the white paper.

three cloned covers

Step 3. Write one white paper, then “clone” it

Draft your white paper, remembering each audience as you write.

Ideally, you can create a set of alternate phrases that work in any version.

For example, in these three white papers I wrote “You should” for the independents, and “Your managers should” for the chains.

To do that, I just typed in both versions of that text: “You/your managers should”.

Later, I deleted one reference and left in the other one, all in one relatively quick pass through the text.

But 85% of the text was the same in all three versions. This deliberate approach made all further steps faster and easier.

You could call my alternatives shown above the “roles” of the reader, either a restaurant owner or manager.

Some other possible alternatives could be:

—Product A / product B

—Region 1 / region 2

—User role A / user role B

—Vertical market A / vertical market B


Hint: Try to constrain any differences to as few places as possible. You can easily highlight any differences in yellow to spot them quickly in any pass.

When you’re ready, break your original document into the required number of “clones,” save it under three different filenames, then remove the bits of text that don’t apply to that version.

Step 4. Make your “clones” easy to review

With publishing software like Adobe FrameMaker, you can set up “conditional text” that you turn on or off to generate different versions of a document.

This is great for a 300-page technical manual. But it’s overkill for a 10-page white paper.

For example, with this set of three white papers, I sent my client three separate documents in Word, with any alternate text highlighted in yellow.

All the reviewers marked up one version and then checked for yellow highlights in the other “clones.”

That was simple and idiot-proof, for all of us.

Step 5. Tweak the titles to be more engaging for each audience

For instance, we explicitly named each different audience with a different subtitle in the format: “a special report for [audience].”

In full, those three titles were:

  • A special report for quick-service restaurant executives
  • A special report for independent restaurant owners
  • A special report for table-service restaurant executives

Step 6. Give each “clone” a different cover

Make your “clones” easy to differentiate at a glance.

My client has a different graphic for each audience, so we used those on the covers, as shown above.

For even more contrast, I suggested using a different color for each cover. That way a sales or marketing person could quickly grab “the orange one” for the fast-food audience.

But my client wanted to use the same corporate colors on each cover. So be it.

Step 7. Promote to each audience

The whole point of having multiple white papers is to reach multiple audiences. So don’t line up all three on the same web page.

Create a separate landing page for each audience and promote each “clone” to its own audience.

This is what my client did, and they reported that those white papers worked well.

I’ve used this same approach several times, and it’s always been a win-win-win for everyone.

My client gets two or three papers for about the same price as one. As the writer, I deliver 2X or 3X the value for just a little extra effort. And readers get content aimed specifically at them. Try it, you’ll like it!


What do you think? Have you ever “cloned” a white paper? How did it turn out? Please leave your comment below. 

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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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  1. […] In a previous article, I described how to “clone” one basic document for various segments of an audience. […]

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