Which white paper would YOU sooner read:
If you’re like most people, the title on the left makes your eyes glaze over…while the one on the right has a fighting chance to get your attention.
Here are 11 tips on putting together compelling titles for white papers.
Title tip #1: Understand the title is critical
Think about it: How do most prospective readers find your white paper?
In any case, what do they see?
A list of titles, with a snippet of text under each one. Your challenge is to compel prospects to pick your title out of the pack.
Title tip #2: Learn to spot tired titles
A boring title usually contains no active verbs and loads of lengthy buzzwords.
Worst of all, it sounds just like 100 other titles you’ve heard before.
It’s just too generic, too careful, too corporate-sounding, and too packed with SEO buzzwords.
Title tip #3: Consider using a number
This article could be called “11 tips on white paper titles.”
But remember: Some say David Letterman ruined the Top 10 list forever. Everyone knows he only had five or six good ones and the rest were filler.
So don’t be afraid to stop at fewer than 10… or to push it past 10, as we did here.
See this article for more on using the numbered list format (aka “listicle”).
Title tip #4: Take time to find a dynamic name
With so much at stake, don’t just grab the first title anyone suggests.
Play around with some variations of your first idea until you have the punchiest possible name.
Title tip #5: Stress the benefits for readers
Always tell your readers what your information can do for them.
What will they gain from investing their precious time to download and read it?
Title tip #6: Address prospects by job title
That would look like “6 Things Every CIO Must Know about Data Warehousing.”
That makes it harder for any CIO to pass by without pausing and wondering if they know all six things.
Maybe they should check out your white paper; they might learn something.
Title tip #7: Call it what it is
Not everything has to be called a white paper.
Perhaps you should call your document an executive overview, a technology backgrounder, an evaluator’s guide, a special report, or something else entirely.
You can slip this in as a subtitle:
“6 Things Every CIO Must Know about Data Warehousing: an Executive Overview.”
Title tip #8: Never mention a product name
Putting a product name in a white paper title makes it sound like a sales pitch. Period.
So if that’s what you’re writing, don’t try to pass if off as a white paper. Call it a “brochure” or a “product brief.”
And remember that a sales pitch is the last thing most white papers readers want.
The only exception to this rule is a backgrounder or vanilla. For that flavour, you can and should mention the product in the title.
Title tip #9: Knock a tired title down to a subtitle
What if your manager or client hands you a boring title that you must use?
One tactic is to come up with a better title, then knock down the original to the subtitle.
For example, say your manager wants to call a white paper:
Making On-Board Sensors More Effective through Information Infrastructures
What a yawn?!
Then you come up with an intriguing image: The cutesy little lap dog can become an effective watch dog.
Combining these two gives you:
From Lap Dog to Watch Dog: Making On-Board Sensors More Effective through Information Infrastructure
What an improvement… and now you’re both happy.
Title tip #10: Run possible titles past sample readers
After all, someone in your intended audience can judge better than you or I what works for them and their colleagues.
Don’t guess, test.
Title tip #11: Back up your title with lively content
A title is like a promise. Don’t tack a great title on a ho-hum document.
Use your lively title to motivate you to create an exceptionally interesting white paper.
You’ll be way ahead of the crowd when you do.
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