Does it ever makes sense to give away your secrets in a white paper?
This is a question that I hear a lot—and it might be one that you’re pondering. When does it make sense to share the very secrets that make you great?
This is the essence of a question I received over email from Andy Marker.
I feel I’m dumping all my experience and thoughts about what I have done onto a piece of paper and this is theoretically quite valuable, personally if not to others.
I can’t really see the value in writing this up and then distributing to various people who basically can just say ‘thanks’ and build a program structured off of what I have written–not needing me anymore.
With this in mind, is it wise to create a document that includes the 1st page and then the table of contents with a note that basically says –’Hire me and I’ll let you read this…’?”
Andy, here’s my answer:
What I’m about to say may surprise you.
Let Lose The Ideas
You indeed do need to give away your secrets. However, you also need to hide a few.
What am I talking about? It’s a concept that I like to explain as “useful but incomplete.” And what this concept means is you need to provide content that is very valuable to your target reader while at the same time not giving away everything that that person will need to implement your ideas.
A Practical Example
I wrote a piece called “How to Write a White Paper: A White Paper on White Papers.” In that paper, I gave away some key nuggets of knowledge regarding crafting compelling white papers.
Yes the paper contained a lot of valuable information that would enable anyone to begin crafting white papers. However, my prospect wasn’t just anyone. I was actually seeking a very specific type of clientele. I knew, when I wrote the piece that indeed I would be enabling some people (even competitors) to create white papers without using my services. But I also knew that I would be convincing others that the process is too complicated and they need the assistance of an expert.
Why This Works
You see, no matter how much you reveal in your white paper, it still won’t come even close to the expertise that you bring to the table. Instead, it will convey your expertise to the reader and oftentimes compel them to want to contact you to learn more. Another case in point: my book contains hundreds of pages on how to craft white papers, yet I still am regularly contacted by businesses that want to hire me. Get the picture?
The key “take home message” is this: you must provide very valuable information to your ideal reader to prove to them that you indeed are an expert. This means sharing proprietary secrets with the hope that it will persuade prospects that you’re an expert. The typical result of a reader will be, “If they shared all this great knowledge, how much more will I gain by working with this individual?”
By the way, this entire blog post was crafted using a MacSpeech Dictate–a great little program that allows me to speak rather than type (my fingers love it).
Got a question about white papers? If so, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Ask Mike” and I may answer your question right here in my blog.Receive email updates when new articles are posted.