Continuous education. In this competitive world that is one way to stay ahead of the competition. But continuing ed doesn’t have to be in a classroom and you certainly don’t need to receive a grade or take final exams (although putting your new found knowledge to the test might indirectly do that for you anyway). Most likely, if you’re trying to stay ahead of the curve, you’re searching for new and innovative ways to do things, looking for the latest trends to capitalize on and simply want to be better than the competition. Thanks to the World Wide Web, we now have a bottomless bucket of ideas just waiting to be read, thought about, and acted upon. These ideas come from thought leaders and business executives in various aspects of the industry. But they can also come from you!
Today, white papers are one of the instrumental ways you can position yourself as a thought leader. The benefits are two-fold. White papers, which are informative reports, are being used more and more to “sell” information, products. and services by providing more in-depth information about a topic or issue. In addition, featuring white papers on your website helps to optimize your site – search engines today are crawling through white papers just like they crawl through your blogs and other “alive” information.
White papers are an excellent way to dig deeply into a subject of interest to a market segment. You explain the importance of this information and how the reader can put it to use within their business model or marketing mix. Where does your expertise lie? On what topics can you provide insight for your customers? Do they need to better understand a new technology and how it can benefit them? If you were a prospective customer, what types of information would you need to know in order to do business with a particular VAR? By presenting well-thought out and well-written content, you will build your brand, but, more importantly, position yourself as a thought leader among your peers and your customers. People will expect you to have the answer (or at least ideas), becoming the ultimate solutions provider.
White papers can be tricky to write at times so don’t be afraid to have someone help you with collecting your thoughts and putting them on paper. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
– Pick your subject. Are you going to write an in-depth story on the latest piece of software, still in the prototype phase, that you just tested? Do you have a marketing promotion that worked well for you and you’re willing to share that success with others? Whatever the subject, do your research and gather as much information as you can. Find facts to back up your statements and use knowledge and research from other thought leaders to support your position on the subject (just remember to attribute their ideas within your white paper). Of course, with the Web, there is a never-ending supply of information.
– Deliver relevant information. Doing a search on Google for your topic could deliver you hundreds, if not thousands, of hits with information to use as part of your research model in the white paper. However, the facts and statistics that you do use must be relevant to the topic at hand. Don’t just throw in a bunch of information to “fatten” up the white paper. Doing so will confuse your reader and they’ll miss the point. Instead, hone in on two or three areas of information that specifically tie back to the point you’re trying to make. To determine what belongs and what doesn’t, start by defining the goal for the white paper. Make sure all of your information relates back to that goal.
– Include useful tips and tricks. Everyone loves ideas, especially when they are free. By sharing the tricks and tips that worked for you, you are offering an inside look at how you solve problems and giving away a bit of free advice at the same time. This compounds your ability to be a thought leader. Customers and leads will return to you for more if they implement your tips – and they work!
– Offer up problems; then solve them using your approach. White papers should be designed to give real-life examples and situations that might happen. As the solution provider writing the white paper, you then must tailor your answers for solving the situations, giving various examples of what works, but steering the reader in the direction of how you would solve the situation.
– Embed keywords. Here’s the SEO portion of why white papers work today. By utilizing keywords that will appear in a search engine search, you can draw readers from outside of your existing customer base to visit your website. White papers help optimize your site. Think of keywords and keyword phrases that potential customers might use in order to find information they need. Then incorporate those into your white paper (as long as they stay on the topic at hand), which will direct them to your website.
When writing white papers, it is easy to get long winded or sometimes fall short. Keep your papers to about 3,000 to 4,000 words. Each sentence should focus on the topic at hand and be relevant to the overall theme. Papers that are 2,000 words or less may not have the substance that someone is looking for, while a paper that is longer than 5,000 words is simply too cumbersome and may be better suited as an in-depth ebook. But as long as the text supports your original objective for writing the paper in the first place, then you should be well on your way to being the next greatest thought leader.