Just as business executives donâ€™t have time to read a white paper that is over 12 pages long, is there a mandatory minimum for a white paper?
The answer is yes!
I often hear from clients, â€œWell, weâ€™re just looking for a four page white paper to tell our customers about our strategy and product offeringâ€œ.
This approach is flawed for two primary reasons:
1. Incomplete Story Telling - A good white paper is more than just a dissertation about your vision or solution. Before you can get to that point, you need to educate them and bring them up to speed on all aspects of the topic.
Imagine if I produced a white paper on clean coal technologies, and jumped right into the benefits associated with it? Wouldnâ€™t you want to know what was wrong with conventional approaches? What was coal doing to the atmosphere? What is the chemical makeup of coal? Which chemicals cause pollution? If all I wrote about was the benefits, how would you know there is a dramatic difference with the new technology?
2. Overselling - One of the biggest complaints that business executives have with most white papers is that there is too much selling and not enough educating. A white paper that only tells a benefit or attribute story increases the likelihood that it will be perceived as â€œmarketing fluffâ€.
When this happens, the time, work, and money that went into that white paper are lost.
As a general rule, a white paper should be a minimum of six to eight pages. Here is an outline for how that minimum size breaks down:
- Executive Summary (Optional) - One Page
- Introduction - One Page
- Business Challenges - Two Pages
- History Discussion - (Optional) - One Page
- Solution Presentation - Two to Three Pages
- Concluding Summary - One Page
As you can see, you can get to six pages very easily. The effort you put into telling the complete story and adding those extra pages up front, will result in a more informed customer and increase your chances of having them appreciate the benefits associated with your solution.
About This Guest Blogger: Jonathan Kantor is a 23-year tech industry veteran and the founder of The White Paper Pundit, a blog dedicated to business and technical white papers.Receive email updates when new articles are posted.