As a white paper specialist, I am often contacted by clients who have a white paper written but for some reason, it isn’t effective. I usually don’t need to read much more then the first page when the question arises, “Who is this paper written for?”
If your paper doesn’t connect with the reader in the first paragraph, the reader isn’t going to read much further and the white paper fails.
This is especially problematic in highly technical papers. The paper gets tangled in the details of the process and quickly becomes hard to read or just plain boring. Although I’m not the first to say it, always remember that it’s about benefits, not bits.
With that in mind, it is crucial in to clearly identify your target audience in the early stages of any copy driven project.
Identifying your target audience
One of the first questions to ask in the white paper process is, “Who do you want to read this paper?” That one question will ultimately drive the content of your project. If you can’t clearly identify this person from the outset, it will be difficult to make the connection needed for a successful white paper.
Consider the following when identifying your target audience:
- What is his/her role or title in the company?
- Does he/she work for a large or small company?
- What is his/her training? Does he/she have a technical background?
- What are his/her biggest concerns or problems?
- How does your product solve these problems?
- Will he/she be making the purchasing decision or will he/she be advising someone else?
- Where is he/she in the buying process (casual reader, actively researching, making final decision?)
- Is he/she very busy or overwhelmed? How will you get him/her to take time to read your paper?
While this is just a start, by answering these questions early in the process of developing your white paper, you can develop a plan to connect with the reader in the first paragraph. Failure to do so and the reader stop reading and move on.
You may want to narrow these questions even further depending on your product or the problem you solve.
Once you’ve clearly identified your target audience, the language, tone and information presented in your paper will become obvious. However, leave out this crucial step and your white paper will fly right past them and fail to meet the intended objectives.