Quality Writing Makes White Papers More Influential

November 5, 2018 by

Do you think the quality of the writing in white papers and other marketing content doesn’t affect purchasing decisions?

Think again.

In a recent study by Eccolo Media, 86% of respondents considered high-quality writing in marketing collateral to be at least moderately influential in their purchasing decisions. And 51% rated high-quality writing either very influential or extremely influential (Figure 1).[i]

The same study found high-quality writing is especially appreciated by business decision-makers. Of that group, 55% rated high-quality writing as very to extremely influential, compared to 45% amongst purchasing influencers (Figure 2).[i]

Marketers failing to provide high-quality writing

KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa recorded similar data from technology buyers in their survey. They also found technology marketers failing to keep up in this area. Of the buyers in their survey, 76% rated quality of writing to be very to extremely important. In contrast, only 59% of the marketers considered the quality of writing in their own marketing materials to be very good or excellent (Figure 3).[ii]

And that may be an optimistic assessment.

In a survey of tech industry white papers conducted by CopyEngineer, nearly half (49.7%) suffered from unprofessional writing.[iii] Symptoms observed included:

  • Long, cumbersome, non-conversational paragraphs
  • Sentences that were poorly constructed or lacking in variation
  • Poor rhetorical structure (interruptions in the logical flow of ideas, etc.)
  • Gaps or inconsistencies in logic
  • Undefined technical terms
  • Poor or missing sources

Why do so many tech industry white papers suffer from these problems?

Well, many marketing managers seem to believe it will take too much time and effort to bring an outside writer up to speed on their technology. Those without in-house writing staff often enlist the help of an engineer, scientist or product manager. Their thinking may be that thought leadership pieces ought to come directly from the thought leaders themselves.

But asking a subject matter expert (SME) to a write white paper is usually a mistake – for three reasons.

Why SMEs normally make poor white paper authors

First, many SMEs don’t write well. Those who do, while they may be accustomed to writing specifications, proposals and conference papers, are generally unfamiliar with writing marketing white papers. The dry, dense style normally found in the former is poorly suited to the latter. It takes practice – and a strong familiarity with best practices – to style an effective white paper.

Second, SMEs are usually too close to the subject they’re writing about. They tend to include too many details that are unimportant and possibly confusing to the reader.

Graphic designer and copywriter Roger C. Parker, author of Looking Good in Print and Design to Sell calls this “the curse of knowledge.”

“Those associated with developing and selling breakthrough products may not be able to write about them from the prospect’s point of view. A better solution is to have someone outside the firm interview those involved in creating the new product.” [iv]

Finally, most SMEs simply don’t have enough time to devote to a white paper project. They have their own work to do, and plenty of it. They must give those tasks top priority. That tends to delay white paper projects, which require time, patience and a lot of work.

There’s an adage among writers that great writing is largely the product of rewriting. I believe that’s especially true of white papers. Most of the poorly written white papers I observed in my survey suffered from a lack of time put in on editing and revision.

The cure for low-quality white paper writing

How do you cure unprofessional writing? Hire a professional writer with white paper experience.

White paper writers with good interview skills will be able to draw from your experts everything they need to put together an effective white paper for your target audience. And they can produce it in far less time than it would take your SMEs to do it themselves.

Plus, professional writing and editing of your white paper will result in:

  • A shorter review cycle
  • Earlier distribution
  • Better prospect response
  • More leads and sales

All of which means higher ROI from your white paper campaign.

Take-Away Points

  1. Surveys have shown that high-quality writing in marketing content has a noteworthy influence on purchasing decisions, especially among executive decision makers.
  2. Marketers frequently fail to provide quality writing in technology marketing content, often because of an over-reliance on technical SMEs.
  3. Technical SMEs tend to make poor white paper authors for three reasons:
    • Unaccustomed to crafting modern marketing white papers
    • Too close to the subject to write effectively for a less technical audience
    • Too busy with their normal work
  4. Hiring an outside professional with white paper writing experience will usually result in:
    • A shorter review cycle for your white paper
    • Earlier distribution
    • Better prospect response
    • More leads and sales
    • Higher ROI for your white paper project

Next Steps

This month’s article is an excerpt from CopyEngineer’s newly updated special report, 10 Common Mistakes that Kill White Paper ROI: How to Avoid Them and Generate More Leads. To get your free copy, click here.

Need expert help with planning and developing a new white paper for your company? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or drop me an email at info@copyengineer.com. I’ll be happy to schedule a call and discuss your project with you.

References

[i]   Eccolo Media 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey, www.eccolomedia.com, September 2009.

[ii]   Connecting Through Content Survey, Issue 1: How Technology Marketers Meet Buyers’ Appetite for Content, KnowledgeStorm/MarketingSherpa, March 2007.

[iii] Cole, John, 10 Mistakes that Kill White Paper ROI: How to Avoid Them and Generate More Leads (Revised Edition), CopyEngineer, September 2018.

[iv] Parker, Roger C., White Paper Design that Sells, www.designtosellonline.com, 2007.

 

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