Skip to content

White Paper World 11: October 27, 2022


  • Classic content: White papers and… Halloween?!
  • Quick tip: Don’t ask dumb questions
  • This just in: Where do you find clients, again?
  • October Book Giveaway: Writers, level up your marketing!

Halloween pumpkin on chair on porch

Classic content: White papers and… Halloween?!

If you didn’t see my post last year, you’re in for a treat.

That’s when I realized that getting ready for Halloween is a lot like sponsoring a white paper.

And kids dashing house to house looking for goodies are a lot like B2B prospects.

So I invite you, if you dare… ring my doorbell to discover five things white papers have in common with Halloween.


Check out this classic Halloween article here.

a SME disturbed by the dumb questions a writer is asking on a Zoom

Quick tip: Don’t ask dumb questions

Some people say, “There’s so such thing as a dumb question.”

I disagree. Here’s why.

Say you’ve lined up an interview with the VP of R&D for a white paper you’re working on.

There are plenty of dumb questions you could ask a busy manager like that.

Here are the three main types.

Dumb question #1: Anything way too open-ended

—”What does the company do?”

Check the website in advance and get a clue.

—”What does your team do?”

If their team has a common business name like HR, IT, Marketing, R&D, Sales, or Technical Support, it’s obvious what they do.

Dumb question #2: Anything you can easily find on the web

—”How long have you been with the company?”

Check LinkedIn before your interview.

—”When was the company founded?”

Check About Us on their website.

—”Where are you located?”

Unless LinkedIn doesn’t show the answer, you might get away with this for an ice-breaker.

But most Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) don’t have a lot of time for chitchat.

Dumb question #3: Any basic info you should know before your interview

—”How do you spell your name?”

—”What’s your job title there?”

—”What’s your e-mail?”

—”What time zone are you in?”

The worst thing you can do with an SME is waste their time. So don’t do it.

Do your homework before your interview starts. If you can’t find the answers online, ask the white paper sponsor.

The best possible question to ask

One of the highest compliments any SME can pay an interviewer is to say, “That’s a good question!”

That means your question made them stop and pause.

You may have asked about:

  • Something they’re still struggling to work out
  • Some trade-off not everyone notices
  • Some contradiction at the heart of the company

If a SME says that once or twice during your interview, you’re doing very well.

So ask smart questions and make the most of your time with your SMEs.

man holding magnifying glass up to his face enlarging one eye

This just in: Where do you find clients, again?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I really dislike the question, “Where do you find clients?”

For starters, it’s the wrong question.

Linda Formechelli creator of Brainstorm Buddy

And here’s a fresh take on why from my colleague Linda Formichelli.

I wrote earlier about her wonderful app, The Brainstorm Buddy, the world’s first tool that verifies your content ideas—and offers customized tips on how to improve them.

I’m using The Brainstorm Buddy to evaluate ideas for blog posts and newsletter topics.

Believe me, it works… and it would work for a white paper too.

Her related blog features many helpful articles.

So with Linda’s permission, here is a chunk of her post “The 1990s-Era Strategy for Getting More Freelance Writing Work in 2023” that I found most illuminating.

I love how she describes pitching and prospecting the way we did it in the 90s.

Then she sums up the two big problems that prevent writers from doing the work they should to find new clients. Read on to see two marketing misconceptions that Linda points out can hurt you, a lot…

Writers don't waste your time

Problem #1: Writers believe clients are “out there somewhere”

Writers have been trained to believe that the best freelance writing jobs are out there somewhere, lying around in a forum, on a job board, or on social media.

And all they have to do is find out where those jobs are hiding and pick them up.

So instead of finding, qualifying, and pitching to great clients, writers get sucked into spending all their time scouring:

  • Free freelance job boards
  • Content mills like Upwork and Fiverr
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter

Problem #2: Writers feel they can rely on inbound only

“Inbound” is the strategy of attracting clients to you. That’s what all the fuss over SEO is all about: It gets people to come to your website.

There’s nothing wrong with inbound marketing… except that it gives shy, scared, rejection-phobe writers an excuse to not put themselves out there.

After all, why reach out to prospects via e-mail, LinkedIn, postal mail, or phone when you can obsessively tweak your website all day?

Why risk rejection when you can spend hours creating a lead magnet?

The problem is, inbound marketing is a long game.

It can take many, many months to build up your online presence, authority, and reputation enough to start attracting clients to you. 

Thank you, Linda, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

If you look in all the wrong places, and you never approach any prospects directly, you won’t likely have enough clients.

The rest of Linda’s article has some great inspiration on how writers can get moving with marketing. Check it out here.

Free help to level up your marketing

To me, the right question is not “where” to find clients. It’s “how” to find clients.

I have some advice on that. Here’s a free checklist I developed that shows the most useful outbound and inbound marketing tactics for any B2B content writer.

Checklist of marketing tactics thumbnail

Remember, outbound means you call them.
Inbound means they call you.

My advice is to choose three tactics you can see yourself doing, with at least one from outbound and one from inbound.

The second page of this checklist shows a practical example of how Sally gets to work building her client list.

That link again is Checklist of Marketing Tactics for B2B Content Writers

Book Giveaway logo

October Book Giveaway:
Writers, level up your marketing!

To help inspire you to use that checklist, you can win a free book.

Go through the checklist, and send me the three tactics you will use for the next three months: November, December, and January.

Ideally, I’d like to see a plan like Sally’s.

E-mail your answer to me at Gordon AT

handbook of Content Marketing book cover

Our dedicated accounting team (plus our two cats) will select one answer at random.

Then we’ll send the selected entrant a free copy of The Content Marketing Handbook by Bob Bly… an excellent guide packed with tips on writing different types of content. (See my full review here.)

And even if you don’t win the book, you will be a big winner by taking a more practical and realistic look at your own marketing.

Think about the next three months…

November is a great month to get rolling with some new marketing, while there’s still time to catch the tail end of “the fall rush.”

December is a great time to say “Happy holidays.”

And January is an excellent time to pick up new clients looking to create some ambitious content for the coming year.

So give this checklist a try and see what happens.

You have nothing to lose and many new clients to gain!

That’s all for this time

If you liked this e-newsletter, please forward it to a colleague interested in white papers.

You can see all the previous issues here:

And if you have any comments or questions about white papers, please send them to Gordon AT and I’ll do my best to answer… maybe in my next article!

Good luck with all your projects!

Gordon Graham
That White Paper Guy

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.

If you liked this post...

White Paper World logo Feb-2024

White Paper World 42: June 14, 2024

Quick tip: Use AI for tech support Big idea: How to de-position the competition [includes...
White Paper World logo Feb-2024

White Paper World 41: May 9, 2024

Quick tip: Get to the point Fresh content: White papers and... pickleball?! April Book Winner:...
White Paper World llogo new Oct 2023

White Paper World 40: April 25, 2024

Shun the TIONs: Part deux Guest tip: Excise the IZEs! Mini-review: The Elements of Technical...

Leave a Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.