I’ve worked on 273 white papers for all sorts of companies, large and small.
When I analyze what makes a good client/writer relationship, a lot comes down to this:
Everyone should stick to the areas where they make the best contribution.
There are three main phases of any white paper project:
#1: Planning the project
#2: Creating the actual content
#3: Promoting the finished document.
In my experience over the past decade, marketing teams usually get the best results when they focus their efforts on phases #1 and #3, and outsource phase #2 to a reliable white paper writer.
Otherwise, a white paper can suffer from inadequate planning and insufficient promotion… and never generate much return on all the effort and expense poured into it.
Phase #1. Planning a white paper involves defining the purpose, audience and call to action
Purpose: Why do you want a white paper? What are you trying to achieve? How does the white paper fit into your sales cycle?
Audience: Who is your ideal reader? What’s the size, sector and location of their company? What role(s) and title(s) do they have? How can you reach them? What big problems are they wrestling with? How can you help them?
Call to action: What do you want your ideal readers to do after they finish the white paper? Can you encourage them to interact further with your company? Can you create some follow-up content, like an online ROI calculator or a survey that shows how they stack up in their industry?
For best results, the in-house marketing team should know these answers before they approach a writer.
Phase #2. Creating a white paper covers researching, writing and designing the content
I firmly believe that the best results come from outsourcing this to a seasoned white paper writer who understands your industry, and a designer familiar with the look of the problem/solution white paper.
They will get more professional results in less time for a lower overall cost.
Why? How? Because they’ve done it all before, dozens of times. They won’t get blocked or run out of steam or be stumped by the typical problems that pop up.
When clients dabble too deeply in the creative process, they tend to neglect the other two phases.
Efficient reviewers stay focused on the big picture, and give insightful high-level comments. They don’t try to rewrite content the way their Grade Four teacher would have said it.
In the worst-case scenario, when a firm commits a developer, product manager or VP to produce a white paper, they often waste hours making false starts and struggling with writer’s block. That energy would be better devoted to another project more within their expertise.
Phase #3. Promoting a white paper involves everything you do to tell people about it
The list of possible ways to promote a white paper gets longer all the time.
There’s advertising, analyst relations, blogs and bloggers, Digg, e-mail, Facebook, landing pages, online communities, placed articles, postcards, PPC, press releases, RSS, SEO, sig lines, Twitter, webinars… whew!
This is a pure marketing phase, where the client’s team can really make a difference. If they don’t, a powerful white paper can fall on deaf ears because no one bothered to get the word out.
Don’t let that happen to you. Let the writer write, the designer design, the developer develop, the sales person sell, and the marketer market.
Get everyone doing what they do best, and your white paper project will be a cost-effective, low-stress project that generates great results.