How to Turn Your White Paper Into Your Prospect’s Buying Specification

March 13, 2013 by

How do we give white paper readers what they want…

AND tell them what we need to tell them?

In a recent TechTarget/CMO Council survey [1], when respondents were asked what factors had caused them to be disappointed in a white paper, the three most common responses were:

  • Was expecting technology discussion, not product info (47.7%)
  • Not problem-solving focused (39.0%)
  • Too product oriented (36.9%)

When Eccolo Media asked a similar question, the most frequent responses included "Not technical enough" and "Too much product/vendor info". [2]

In other words, technology buyers have told us they're looking for technology discussion and solid problem-solving information – NOT product information – when they turn to white papers.

But often, the purpose of our white paper is to show why our solution is best for solving a particular problem, and to differentiate it from the competition.

So, how can we provide our prospects with the objective technology discussion they want, and still convince them that our specific solution is the one they need?

Well, with the simple, three-step process I'm about to show you, not only can you pre-sell your prospect on your product or service without mentioning it by name. You can also turn your white paper into your prospect's buying specification.

Step 1: Introduce Your Solution in Generic Terms

After you've thoroughly discussed your prospect’s problem in your white paper, it’s time to talk about your solution. But NOT your specific product or service.

In other words, don’t lead with your brand. Instead, introduce your solution in generic terms – as a category or solution class.

How do you do this? Well, it depends on how different your product is from the competition.

If yours is a highly innovative, one-of-a-kind product, define a new class of solutions based on your product’s essential attributes. Give your new solution class a descriptive, generic name (i.e., NOT your brand name). Then, make the best case you can for why this new solution class is the best possible solution to your prospect’s problem.

If, on the other hand, your product is one of many in a crowded market, your product-level solution class probably already has a generic name. But if you have an innovative feature set that gives you an edge in certain applications, you may want to define that capability as your generic solution class, depending on the topic of your white paper.

In either case, it doesn’t matter if your product is the only member (at least for the moment) of this new solution class. What matters is that you are discussing the solution from an apparently unbiased vantage point. Remember, white paper readers want objective technology discussion. They don’t want to be sold. So, avoid any use of your brand name during this step. Keep the discussion in generic terms.

Step 2: Include a “What to Look For” List

After you’ve described your generic solution class and convinced your readers of its benefits, provide them with a “what to look for” list.

A “what to look for” or “key considerations” list is simply a list of key features the prospect should look for when shopping for a specific product or service within the generic solution class you’ve just described. Including a "what to look for" list gives you a way to drill down to specifics and provide further proof that your solution will solve the reader's problem. It also gives you an opportunity to eliminate the competition from your prospect's consideration.

Michael Stelzner, author of Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged points out that this section is a very valuable service to readers and critical to white papers that are business benefits focused. “In reality, this section is the most powerful and persuasive element of the entire white paper,” Stelzner says, “because you have the opportunity to set the bar against which your competition will be judged.” [3]

Your “what to look for” list should not be all-encompassing – ten items at the most. Remember your ideal reader. Tailor the list to his or her needs. And most importantly, emphasize differentiators. Call out your product’s strengths (again, in a generic way), and show why they’re necessary and important. Turn your unique features into ‘must-haves.”

Essentially, you’re handing your prospects a “spec” or “buyer’s guide” for choosing their specific solution. And it's a spec they’re likely to use – if you’ve convinced them of their need. In most cases, they won’t have anything else. This gives you a huge advantage, because you’ve tailored the spec so that only your solution will meet it.

Step 3: Introduce Your Specific Solution at the End

Only after you’ve convinced your readers of their need for your generic solution, and shown them what to look when buying, is it time to reveal your own, specific solution. This should be a brief section at the end of your white paper.

My preference is to introduce the specific solution after the conclusion of the discussion, in the “About the Company” section of the paper. The advantages of this position are:

  1. It maintains the "soft sell" tone of your white paper, and
  2. It dovetails nicely with the call to action which follows.

After giving a brief, general overview of your company's business, point out immediately that you are "makers of (your product brand name)," an example of the solution you've recommended. Then, mention some of your solution's top features and benefits. Show, in as few words as possible, that your specific solution fits the generic solution class you've defined and includes the important elements of your "what to look for" list.

Don't rehash points you've already made in the body of your white paper. Just make it clear that your offering fills the bill. Because, in your call to action, you're going to urge your reader to find out more about your specific solution.

Conclusion

Using the 3-step process just described, you'll not only give your white paper readers the objective technical discussion they crave. You'll also guide them down a path which leads directly to your solution – and only your solution – without creating a perception of bias.

Take-away Points

White paper readers have spoken;

  1. They don’t want a sales pitch or specific product information.
  2. They want problem-solving information and solid technical discussion.

To give white paper readers what they want, but also educate them on your product or service, use this 3-step process for discussing your solution:

  1. Introduce you solution and its benefits in generic terms.
  2. Include a "what to look for" section.
  3. Introduce your specific solution at the very end.

Need help creating a white paper that provides technology buyers the solid, problem-solving information they're seeking, while subtly pre-selling them on your product or service?
Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or email me at info@copyengineer.com.

Footnotes

[1] Technology Buying and Media Consumption Benchmarking Survey, TechTarget & CMO Council, 2007.

[2] Eccolo Media 2010 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report, www.eccolomedia.com, 2010.

[3] Stelzner, Michael A., Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Then Engaged, Whitepapersource Publishing, 2007.

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