White paper templates | Authoring guidelines

White papers are a fundamental part of your marketing arsenal. And if you think technical writers don't need to worry about marketing, read on to see why white paper writing is an essential skill, and how to turn a ho-hum paper into a killer communications tool.

If you are a freelance or contract technical writer, a strong white paper can help you land new clients. If you can't explain to clients why your services are better than those of your competitors, you'll be a broke technical writer. And if you work 9 to 5 in a high-tech industry, don't think you're off the hook. Chances are a white paper will end up on your desk at some point. Why? Because you have the technical editing skills to be an effective reviewer of IT-related marketing documents.

To get started, you'll need a White Paper Template (click here).

Know your audience

But I already know them. No, I'm not talking about knowing that your potential customers are mid-level managers with purchasing authority at corporations with 1,000+ employees.

I'm talking about really knowing them.

What problems are they struggling with that give them headaches or keep them up at night? What challenges stand in the way of them meeting upcoming deadlines?

And most of all, what can you do about it?

If you can answer those basic questions, you have the makings of a killer white paper.

Know what distinguishes you from your competition

Chances are your sales pitch won't be the first to come across the desk of your potential client. So, why should you get the sale?

If you can't clearly spell out what makes your services or products different, you'll watch sales slip away into the hands of your competitors.

Make sure your white paper clearly points out why your company is the best fit for the client. If you don't have a point of distinction, get one. In a competitive market, you have to distinguish yourself to consistently win clients and sales.

Show your mastery of the technical details

Bring your technical knowledge and research skills into play. If your paper displays even a hint of ignorance about the technical details of the client's problems, it won't make a great impression.

Nail the details, however, and you may win the client's trust. Use all of the resources at your disposal to verify that you are communicating a clear understanding of the technical issues your client faces. Talk to engineers and developers at your firm and find out what they know that might help solve the client's problems.

Master basic copywriting principles

Remember, writing white papers is about selling. If your potential client never reads past the headline, you won't get the contract.

Hook the reader early. Make the headline scream "I understand your problem; here is the solution..."

Every sentence carries the same burden. Keep the potential client reading, while at the same time communicating how essential it is that they contact you for the solution to all of their concerns.

Back up your pitch with proof

Can you find studies that add credibility to the solution you propose?

Do you have testimonials from past clients that demonstrate how wonderfully you solved their problems?

Don't just talk the talk; show clients that you can back up your claims with some solid evidence. The more leverage you can add to your argument, the more confident your new client will feel about signing a contract or making a purchase.

Evidence helps build trust, and trust makes the sale.

Make contacting you a no-brainer

Ok, so you've written a killer white paper that demonstrates how your product answers all of the client's needs. After reading it, they are imagining how successful they will be after partnering with you.

But then the phone rings, and the paper ends up at the bottom of their To Do pile. Later, the vision has faded, and they have forgotten what it was they were so excited about.

Don't let this happen. Instead, end your white paper with a clear call to action, including contact information for a sales person who can follow up with the client. The white paper will hook the client, but it often takes some hand holding to close the deal and form a mutually beneficial relationship.

With these tips, you should find yourself better prepared for writing white papers that win clients and sales. Good luck!