How to Convey Technical Information to the Non-Initiated?

From the vast amount of white papers available on the net, one will be faced with a great deal of technology-driven documents. Some creative, some brilliant, others opaque and sometimes impenetrable for the non-initiated. A white paper conveys information and educates peers while aiming for great lead generation. But what happens when your target audience can’t make sense of your documents? Do you write your white papers with your target audience in mind?

Being able to convey technical information in meaningful ways is key in gaining visibility and traction. Decision makers most often have a background in business, not engineering, so it is important for lead-generation purposes that they understand how brilliant your ideas are. We have gathered for you tips and techniques to improve the understandability of your documents and help you gain traction.

Building an Influencer Map to Grasp your Target Audience

Before you start writing your paper, it is important to know who your target audience might be and the channels you can use to publicize your documents. Start by researching existing white papers in your field. Where are they hosted? Which ones seem to be getting more exposure? Do they make use of specific layouts? How do they convey the technological jargon?

An influencer map is basically a list of people, companies and sites within your field that have an influence, either as thinkers, decision makers, writers, peers or through their publicity channels (think of blogs like TechCrunch for instance). Map out these blogs, sites, forums and social networks. You can use tools such asGoogle Blog Search, Technorati, LinkedIn and Twitter to start with. Pinpoint influencers within these channels and try finding out what their backgrounds are. A lot of these influencers have profiles on LinkedIn, which makes it easier to look them up and see where they are coming from. Once you have gathered a substantial influencer map, you’ll have a better idea of what your target audience might be like.

Write a Plan. Then Simplify.

In Reality Check, Guy Kawasaki talks about the 10/20/30 rule of pitching: 10 slides in 20 minutes using a 30-points font. According to this venture-capital expert, if you can’t have your concept understood within these constraints, you’ll lose their attention and focus. A white paper is no different – talk for too long in complex terms and you risk losing your readers’ focus.

To remain on target, start by writing a plan. Lay down your ideas, your stats and solutions, then simplify them. The essence of your concept should fit in the 10/20/30 rule since this is what you are pitching. Make it explicit. Your readers should be able to understand rapidly why your idea is so good and exciting!

Explain with Visuals.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Graphs are a great way to convert complex information into meaningful data, that is if the graph is expertly constructed. Edward Tufte is a well-known professor and interaction designer expert. In The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information, you’ll find valuable information on how to construct meaning through the use of data. Alternately, you could ask a usability-expert to produce graphs for your white paper. Do not underestimate the conveying power of visual representation – Learn how to make use of it in your documents.

Start Writing. Then Edit.

Now that you have a plan, a target audience and meaningful representation of data, it is time to start writing your white paper. Avoid using technical jargon when possible, keep your focus tight and to the point. Make sure the essence of your concept can be understood early on in the document.

Once you’re done, have a well-deserved break and clear-up your thoughts before going over your paper again. It is hard to distance yourself from your work once you are immersed in it, but this distance is essential to objectively edit your writing. A first draft is never perfect. Bear in mind there is always place for improvement.

Ask people in your target audience to read your draft. Question them, see if they’ve understood your core concept. Address their criticisms and adjust your document accordingly. By now, you should have a fairly strong white paper in your hands. Congratulations!

Proofread Your White Paper.

Typos and errors won’t make you sound smart. They are distracting to say the least and scream unprofessionalism. If you can afford to have an expert proofread your paper then go for it. If you can’t, ask people in your network to scan your paper for typos and other semantic errors. Don’t let those spelling mistakes overcome your brilliant ideas!

Work On your Layout.

Just as graphics can simplify the understanding of complex data, a good layout can enable a meaningful flow of information to your readers. Alternately, a cluttered, dense layout makes readability more challenging. Look for instance at the manifestos on Change This. Their layouts make use of negative space (“blank” elements on a page), which de-clutter the page in order to focus attention. The use of descriptive header give cues to readers as to what they are about to read. It also breaks up information into manageable chunks of data.

Notice how the use of fonts also helps to convey a good flow of information. Serif fonts are easier to read on paper and as headers. Sans-serif fonts are great for on-screen reading. Is your target audience more likely to print your white papers or to read them on-screen? Also, use a font point that is big enough to be read easily.

Print layouts and on-screen layouts are fundamentally different. For instance, it is easier to read a printed document in “portrait” mode. “Landscape” layouts are best suited for screen viewing since they can make full use of the display. While these layouts decision won’t turn a bad concept into a great one, they can certainly improve the understanding and readability of your ideas. If you don’t have any layout skills, consider hiring a professional to construct it for you. Otherwise, check out these resources to understand the basis of layout design:

If you would like to add to these tips and techniques, we encourage you to do so in the comments. Do you agree/disagree with this post? We would also like to know!

 

How Do Technical Decision Makers Utilize White Papers?

White papers are one of the primary educational tools for technology decision makers throughout the buying process. Technology marketers have a unique way to provide crucial information and directly influence purchase outcomes by providing informative white papers to technology decision makers.

Busy professional IT(Information Technology) buyers are under constant pressure to learn about new technologies, solutions, and to implement and integrate products and services in the most effective way possible. White papers play a critical role in filling this educational need.

Information Week Business Technology Network’s latest study shows the important role white papers play in purchase decisions.

The study is titled ‘How to Maximize the Use of White Papers In Your B2B Marketing and Sales Process’. There is a wealth of information in the study. I have summarized some of the most interesting findings below.

What are white papers used for?

According to the study, IT buyers use white paper to:

  • Investigate tech solutions – problem solving
  • Learn about specific vendor & solutions – create and/or build awareness
  • Evaluate and identify benefits/limitations of proposed technology or platform – will it work for us?
  • Research potential vendors – create vendor short list
  • 76.3% use white papers for general education on specific technology topic or issue
  • 73.8% use white papers to investigate possible technology solutions for the business/technology need
  • 68.0% use white papers to learn about a specific vendor and their solution technology
  • Case studies and tech category overviews represented 35% of the white papers read

What is the right length of a white paper?

86% say to keep white papers under 10 pages with, 50% wanting even shorter ones at under 5 pages.

What are components of a great white paper?

Top components of a great white paper (in rank order) are as follows:

  • Tight abstract
  • Minimal marketing
  • Technology use case studies
  • Product information and specifications
  • Technical Diagrams
  • Downloadable PDF versus digital format

Where are white papers searched for?

Source for finding valuable white papers are as follows:

  • 51% visit vendor websites to find white papers
  • 43% find them at IT Professional Organizations
  • 33% said they find white papers on B2B media brand sites and libraries

Marketing to-do’s based on the study

  • Hit each stage of the buying process with a relevant white paper
  • Educate don’t sell and bring in a 3rd party to validate this effort
  • Distribute through a variety of sources to maximize your investment
  • Content value will drive performance of lead generation campaigns

5 key take aways for writing and marketing whitepapers from this study

  1. Make it easily accessible. Your own website is a gold mine to educate your customer and attract prospects. Ensure that your whitepaper and other marketing collateral are easily findable on your webpage and other related sites.
  2. Spread the message. Syndication is one of the best ways to get increased viewership of your content (whitepapers or marketing documents) and grow your business.
  3. Educate and inform. Don’t tout your product or solution and its benefits. Look at your customer’s problem and present the solution from their perspective.
  4. Show instead of tell. Get a 3rd party to validate or recommend your product or service. Who better to sell your story than a happy customer? Use customer success stories to show case your product or service benefits.
  5. Quality not quantity. Write a shorter white paper packed with useful information for your customer rather than a lengthy one which will lose their attention.

You can read white paper guru Michael Stelzner’s summary of the study at New Research Reveals Marketing Role of White Papers.

Over to you:

What sort of white papers have you had most traction with? Product or Solution Overviews, case studies, third party analyst reports?

5 Marketing eBooks by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of the most prominent figure of internet marketing and social media. He is also a prolific bestselling author, the mastermind behind Squidoo andChangeThis, a guru and, we suspect, connected to some form of higher extra-terrestrial intelligence.

So we mere mortals have selected 5 eBooks out of Seth Godin’s impressive whitepaper collection and are presenting them to you, our awesome readers. The papers cover diverse aspects of internet marketing, from going viral to selling a book. Read below for a recap and download links. Oh, and they are all free! Isn’t the internet great?

1- Unleashing the Idea Virus

According to Godin, “Marketing by interrupting people isn’t cost-effective anymore. You can’t afford to seek out people and send them unwanted marketing messages, in large groups, and hope that some will send you money. Instead, the future belongs to marketers who establish a foundation and process where interested people can market to each other. Ignite consumer networks and then get out of the way and let them talk.”

Your consumers are ready to promote your products. This book will teach you how to harness that marketing power.

DOWNLOAD Unleashing the Idea Virus HERE!

2- Marketing Mismatch – When New Won’t Work with Old

There’s been a lot of press around old and new marketing. Social media, brand monitoring and “joining the conversation” are all key phrases being thrown around these days, but how to apply them to your business model? How can you make it work? Marketing Mismatch approaches this dilemma in ten points that could change the way you do business.

DOWNLOAD Marketing Mismatch HERE!

3- The Tribes Casebook

The Tribes Casebook supports Godin’s bestselling Tribes book (amazon link) and is all about communities. Aah, the mysterious power of communities, packed with potential customers, the 21st Century gold mine. Harnessing and contributing to communities is a daunting prospect for many companies. Here Godin attempts to shine some light on these tribes by covering and describing in details the constructive aspects underlying them.

DOWNLOAD The Tribes Casebook HERE!

4- Everyone’s an Expert (About Something)

“This book is for anyone who wants more online traffic, more revenue, more followers, more attention, more interest, more donations or more influence. The paradox, of course, is that the best way to get all these things is by delivering less.”

Do we need to say more?

DOWNLOAD Everyone’s an Expert HERE!

5- How to Sell a Book (or Any New Idea)

This great eBook builds upon the concept of the Tribes paper (listed above) but applies it specifically to the book industry. The basis of this eBook is quite simple: Sell one book to someone who will love it. Not because he’s a friend, but because he loved your writing. If he loved it, his tribe will pick up on it and your audience will grow. According to Godin, “if you don’t have a book that can galvanize a tribe, if you don’t have a product that will spread, if you don’t have a service that will generate passion among a group of people, you must stop what you’re doing and start over.” You want to know why?

DOWNLOAD How to Sell a Book HERE!

Have you read any of these eBooks by Seth Godin? We would love to read your reviews! You’re all welcomed to contribute in the comments.

Seven Creative Guerilla Marketing Tips

Traditional marketing techniques have proven their efficiency over time. But what to do when your competitors are using the same promotional tools as yourself? How can you distinguish your company and products?

Be creative!

Jay Conrad Levinson is a prolific author that has quite a few best-sellers under his belt. In the Guerilla Marketing eBook, Levinson shares 93 unusual marketing tips and techniques to help promote your business, local or not. We have pulled out 7 points that we thought were clever and original ways to distinguish yourself from the competition! Don’t forget to download your free copy if you’re interested in reading more – the eBook is hosted on ChangeThis.com.

1- A Sticky Success Story – Using Post-It to Leverage Lead Generation

Guerrilla Mike Cohen informs us that no one ignores coupons from Captain Tony’s Pizza in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s because they are printed on Post-It notes and placed each month on every door in their delivery area. The typical response rate is 30%. Cohen honors us by calling this promotional concept, Guerrilla Mail. He attributes the program’s success to both the look and the feel of the coupon. It resembles the familiar UPS delivery notice and because it is sticky, recipients tend to post it on the fridge or by the phone where it acts as a constant reminder.

2- Retail Marketing Fusion

Looking for a free way to get people to step into your store? Guerrilla Gary Brummond came across this idea recently at a local mall. Gary noticed a collection of pet portraits in a portrait studios window with a little card in the corner that said the actual pets could be found in the pet shop opposite the studio. The portrait studio got some fun subjects for their window and the pet store got a little virtual window space. We bet their business relationship has grown beyond this elegant cooperation.

3- How Volunteer Work Can Make You Rich and Famous

If you’d rather be rich than famous, Guerrilla Marc-André Rampon has a tip to build response to you newsletters and websites. Marc-André knows that great content makes for great newsletters and websites but he also knows that great content takes time or money that cuts into profitability. His solution is to get volunteers to write his content in exchange for building their visibility and popularity. Make them famous while you make you richer! Be sure to make all submissions your property if used and gain all appropriate publishing rights.

4- Targeted and Free Ads?

Everyone would love to have an unlimited ad budget but most of us struggle with how to stretch our marketing dollars. Guerrilla James Bond has a tip for getting free ads any secret agent would love. James’ company provides investigative services to law firms. He found it hard to reach lawyers with his promotional message until he decided to try putting his card in law books at a local law library! Attorneys, paralegals and law students would find the cards and assume that other law firms used James’ company. This gave him both recognition and credibility and resulted in some nice new clients. We have also heard of another Guerrilla who puts his card into bookstore books to generate programming jobs.

5- Give a Web Page for Free

Seems everybody with a website is either trying to get people to visit it or trying to make more money with it. Guerrilla Thaddeus Frick did both when he started giving away web pages. Thaddeus gave away personal pages on his site to his clients to promote themselves and this in turn brought traffic to his site and loyalty to his consulting practice.

6- How Charity Work Can Help Grow your Business

Guerrilla Charles Larsen gave blood instead marketing and got plenty of attention. Charles hosted a blood drive for his community and alerted the media about the event. He got all kinds of attention from the local TV and radio stations. The blood drive was a success for both the blood bank and Charles. Now lots of people know about his business. You could also try the same approach with many other charitable acts and get the same result. You’ll do yourself and your community a favor.

7- Trouble Setting Prices? Let your Customer Fix Them for You

Guerrilla Marvin Mansky tried letting his customers do it for him in an unusual promotion! Marvin ran a promotion from Thanksgiving to New Years Day and let patients set their own prices for his dental services. Patients got a complete basic exam and cleaning and then paid what they thought it was worth. Most patients paid close to the regular rate. A few paid very little, but had been putting off dental care. And, some even paid higher-than-normal rates, because they so liked the whole idea. Marvin’s dental practice was totally booked, and they had more new patient referrals than ever before!

Have you ever used guerilla marketing tactics to promote your business? We would love to know if they were successful or not, and if the return on investment made it a worthwhile effort.

Five Useful Resources for the Whitepaper Community

1- Connect with the White Paper Community

Even though there is not much of a cohesive and defined white paper community, there are discussions happening all over the web. One channel in particular that is available for people to connect is on the WhitePaperSource forums. There’s an active community there that is both open and helpful. You’ll be able to find advices on writing your papers, generating leads and marketing yourself. It’s a great space to develop contacts and get support.

Twitter has been receiving a lot of press lately. This open network enables people to discuss and promote their white papers freely with the whole micro-blogging community. A great way to start conversing on Twitter is to first listen to existing conversations. A search for white papers will show you who is interested by these documents (try also these searches here, here and here). Start following people with similar interests and get the discussion going. When used properly, Twitter can enable new and interesting contacts. Don’t forget that these connections can open up leads and new opportunities.

If you would like more tips on using Twitter to promote your brand, this white paper will get you some of the basics you should know (free, but registration required). We will cover this topic with more depth in the following weeks. Stay tuned!

2- Stay Informed by Reading Blogs

There are very few blogs that cater to the white paper community. Nonetheless, we feel it is important to be well informed and on top of things. The more you know, the more competitive you will be. Mike Stelzner is a prominent figure within this industry and his blog, Writing White Papers, is a must-read.

Another blog that is specifically about white papers is called the White Paper Pundit. Jonathan Kantor has been blogging for years now, which means he accumulated an impressive back catalog of posts. Well worth adding to your RSS reader.

These two blogs are mainly about the white paper industry. Of course, more specific niche blogs (like marketing, cloud computing, IT and business blogs for instance) can be found around the web. Move on to point 4 to learn how to search efficiently for content on the web.

3- Start Blogging

Reading blogs is great to keep yourself informed, but not so much for self-promotion. A blog enables you to build a body of work. It opens up a dialog with people within your industry, but also with other bloggers. It’s a great way to connect with people and to gain visibility. You can bounce ideas off in the comments or react to someone’s post (blog-to-blog discussion) on your own space. Also, employers and investors might find your blog and get to know yourself, which can open up doors to new leads and possibilities.

If you are not already blogging, it would be wise to consider getting your own space on the web. There are many free blogging services available that are easy to setup and maintain. Look at Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress for instance.

That being said, we recommend that you setup your own blog on a hosting service, with a domain of your choice. This has many advantages over free blogging services. For instance, you will have complete control over your setup – you’ll choose your own URL, you’ll be able to setup plugins, themes and upload content freely, your domain will benefit directly from your marketing efforts, but most of all, you will be the sole owner of your content. Before subscribing to a free blogging service, read their Terms and Conditions properly – you might find out that you lose rights over your content by hosting it on their platforms.

To start your own blog, you will need the following:
– A hosting service (check out those reviews by Web Hosting Geeks and CNET). Make sure your host provides you with a database, preferably MySQL. Most professional hosting services can provide you with a WordPress intall on their servers.
– A domain name (GoDaddy has cheap domain names for sale).
– A blogging platform. There are many choices available to you. WordPress and Drupal are both popular and supported by the open-source community. Both are free, relatively easy to install and allow many features to be added (in the form of plugins).
– Once this is setup, you can choose a theme for your blog. Have a look around, many different looks and styles are available. If you are looking to get support with your theme, it would be good to consider getting a professional theme. These cost money (usually under 100$) but usually come fully suppported.

Once your blog is up and running, you need to fill it with content. Look at this awesome white paper to learn more about the blogging process.

4- Create Unique, Quality Content

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a blog, a book, a white paper, an essay or a website – your main priority should be to write unique, quality content. You just had the most amazing idea? Great! First, make sure no one else covers the subject matter. If that’s the case, make sure you can write a better proposal. This means you need to work those research skills. Mike Stelzner explains this appropriately in this article.

A good way to start is through Google. Start by listing keywords and phrases that encapsulates your idea. Perform searches and look deep into Google’s results. Do the same on Google Blog Search and Google Book Search. As you’ll see, results vary greatly from one platform to the other.

It would be wise to cover Twitter as well. Go on Twitter search and try your sets of keywords. You might find competitors, but also meet new contacts or investors.

PDFgeni is a PDF search engine. Again, try out your keywords and look at the existing documents.

Now that you’ve examined your surroundings, it’s time to create quality content that people will want to read and that will get them excited!

5- Learn the Basics of SEO

If Google doesn’t know you exist, no one else will. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. By applying a few basic principles to your blog, your white papers and website, you’ll make sure that your content gets indexed properly so that people can find you through Google. Check out this article on SEOmoz – it will teach the basics you should absolutely be aware of.