Whitepapers and reports are a great way to demonstrate authoritativeness in your prospects’ minds. They help to position you as an expert and they also let you talk about yourself (within reason, of course) in a way that articles and other forms of marketing do not.
Not sure what to write your next whitepaper or report about? Here are my suggestions:
1. Describe a common problem that your customers face and then describe the solution (which is your offering, of course). This problem/solution format is one of the most frequently used whitepaper formats because it works. And, since your customers often have more than one problem that needs solving, it’s a great way to create several different whitepapers.
2. Outline the steps someone has to take to do something better. Unlike the format mentioned above, this is less about “what the solution is” but rather “how to move forward”. You could focus on how to use your products in different ways or you can talk about a number of steps in which your products are one step. The format is simple: introduction and then the steps to take, followed up by a call to action/wrap-up/conclusion.
3. Give people a basic overview of the information or situation. If you have a complex industry, this is perfect. I’ve written several whitepapers on real estate investing for exactly this reason: Because many of my client’s prospects found the concepts on his website far too advance and he needed something to introduce them to his industry. You might also write reports that may not introduce complex ideas but introduce ideas that are unique to your business. For example, I might write about the Business Diamond Framework using this kind of report.
4. Create a detailed case study of one client. Identify a client you have who is using your product successfully. This is a simple 5-part format: (1) Start by taking about their problems before they started working with you, (2) talk about their reasons for choosing you over your competition, (3) talk about the implementation of your products, (4) talk about their successes after using your products, and then (5) talk about how they plan to grow their business using your products in the future.
5. Create a big-picture view of a business. This one is unusual but it’s one of my favorites. I used this format when I wrote a whitepaper for SAP BusinessObjects about a year ago. Write a report in which you peer into different departments in a larger organization to see how they are impacted by your product. For example, (if applicable) spend a couple of paragraphs looking at the CEO’s office and describing how things changed for them thanks to you; spend a couple of paragraphs looking at the Finance department and describing how things changed for them thanks to you; and work your way down through whatever departments are applicable: middle management, administrative, warehouse, sales, etc. This works well if you use a “fictionalized” approach (in which you create an fake company based on the collected results of real clients).