How to Write a White Paper Using the WHITE Method

Ok, I agree it’s not a very original name for a method, but this WHITE method works to plan a white paper!

White paper copywriting is walking a fine line between educating and selling. Hard selling in a white paper will ruin the mood!
White paper copywriting is walking a fine line between educating and selling. Hard selling in a white paper will ruin the mood!

Let’s first agree on what a white paper is…

  1.  A white paper is primarily a persuasive piece of commercial writing that does not do hard selling.  A white paper informs and educates about a problem and possible solutions, but only mentions you in passing at the end of the paper.
  1.  White papers are often used as lead generating pieces, meaning that you ask someone for their email address before giving them a link to the PDF white paper.  They can be very powerful selling pieces, even though there is no “hard selling” in them.
  1. Some additional features of white papers:
  • Use facts, logic, and proof to back up the problems and solutions
  • Prospects will read a white paper before a purchase is made, during the research phase
  • 6-8 pages (generally) is the average (effective) white paper length
  1. White papers work because they educate, and white papers are especially useful when selling complex products or services, that fix complex problems.  The prospect figures that if you know so much about the problem, you must also know how to fix it!
  1. For most white papers, think: problem –> solution.  A case study (different type of commercial writing genre) is more before –> after.

Ok, so now that we have defined a white paper (by my exacting standards, ha!), let’s start hammering out the WHITE method!  Each step in the WHITE method helps develop a key ingredient that you should incorporate into your white paper.  Except for the “E-End” section, you could interchange these features, such as telling several stories throughout the white paper, or showing illustrations in the problem AND solution sections.

Here we go…

* W *  – What is the main problem?  Use facts, logic, proof to describe the problem in great detail.  Try to really get into the mind of a prospect that might come across your white paper.  Their business has a nasty itch, and they want to learn more about how to soothe that itch.  Teach them, professor, about their itch!

* H * – How do you fix the problem?  Be careful here — you don’t want to now start blabbing about how good your product and service is.  This is time to talk about a solution – in general – to the problem discussed above.  Think “flux capacitor” instead of “our newly reconfigured Flux-O 7000A with wi-fi.”

* I * – Illustration.  Use pictures to help explain the problem.  Whether you use a graph, infographic, picture (with captions and maybe callouts), add some interesting visuals to the discussion.  Many technical people are helped by crisp, clear graphics, and you can reach people that think visually.  If the problem has an equipment picture or a diagram that can help explain it, I recommend using callouts with arrows.  

* T * – Tell a story – and/or – Testimonial.  Do you have a client that can describe the problem in exquisite detail before they fixed it using your product or service?  Get their experience or testimonial into your white paper, just be careful to sanitize mentions of your specific product and service, use the general term for the solution.  

Be very careful with talking about your business, products, and services in a white paper. White papers are not brochures!
Be very careful with talking about your business, products, and services in a white paper. White papers are not brochures!

* E * – End with just a bit of information regarding your business.  Hard selling in a white paper can ruin the mood!  Delicately — like a beekeeper using that smoke can to calm the bees — use a separation line and give a brief 1-2 sentence description of what your business does.  This is why it’s nice to get the prospect’s contact info before sending them the white paper, so you can follow up.

There you have it – the WHITE method for writing a white paper!

If you would like to hire the guy that created the WHITE method, for writing your white paper, or any commercial writing for that matter, go here.

Creative Slang in my Town

Butte, Montana - home of great miner slang still in use today!
Butte, Montana – home of great miner slang still in use today!

The town of Butte, Montana has an amazing history of mining, and the colorful past made a lasting influence here.

The copper that was pulled out of the mountains helped to electrify the country, and improve the world.  But there was a dark side to progress — in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many miners died and were badly injured just doing their every day job.  

Many of the immigrant miners were from Ireland, and the city of Butte was legendary in Ireland.  There was even a song in Ireland about Butte back then, with a verse saying “Butte was paved with Irish bones”!

As people do, whether a mile below ground in a hard rock mine, or in the battle field trench, they often resort to “gallows humor” to help deal with the situation.

Slang is one way they did that here, and some of the phrases and words are still with us:

Tap 'er light, when used today, means "take it easy!"
Tap ‘er light, when used today, means “take it easy!”

* Tap ‘er light

When drilling a hole in a mine, and then packing the dynamite into the hole, the miners told the guy doing the tapping “tap ‘er light,” which means “hey, take it easy!”  

One wrong move – or a tap too hard! – and the entire mountain could come down on their heads.

Now, when you hear the phrase “tap ‘er light” in these parts, it means “take it easy,” but whenever I hear it, I think of those miners and imagine the moment in the mine when he first started his tapping!    

* Duggan

Big rocks and rubble in these parts are called “Duggans”  (pronounced ‘doo-gins’), as that was the name of the undertaker, Larry Duggan!  

As in, “hey that rock is so big, it’s a Duggan – if she falls on your head, it’s over!”

* You’se

This is kind of a weird contraction, like a plural ‘you’, combining “you” and “all,” except “y’all” was already taken by the southerners!

You’se is pronounced ‘yoose’.  Many natives of Butte, when they are trying to address a group of people, instead of saying “you guys,” they will say “you’se”!

And almost every time one hears “you’se,” it’s in a farewell.  Such as, “see you’se later!”

For commercial writing that won’t be a “Duggan” to your business, go here.

Tap ‘er light!

Monkey Fist Marketing and Sales

The same tactics used to moor a heavy ship to pier can be used in marketing and sales writing.
The same tactics used to moor a heavy ship to pier can be used in marketing and sales writing.

When a ship is preparing to dock at the pier, or alongside another vessel, the lines needed to secure the ship are thick and heavy.

These lines need to hold the ship that weighs thousands of tons securely to the pier, under heavy winds and waves.  Even the biggest, toughest sailor would have a hard time throwing these heavy lines!

So, when the ship approaches the pier, the crew on the pier use a great tactic to get these heavy lines to the ship so they can secure it.

This is a monkey fist, a knot in the shape of a ball, that is used to first make contact between a ship and the pier crew.
This is a monkey fist, a knot in the shape of a ball, that is used to first make contact between a ship and the pier crew.

They use a “monkey fist,” which is a ball (actually it’s a knot that resembles a ball) that has a lightweight rope tied to it.  

In turn, that lightweight rope is tied to the heavy mooring line.  The pier crew then throw these monkey fists to the ship, and the line handling crew on the incoming ship catch the monkey fists, and then start pulling the lightweight ropes.  

Because the lightweight ropes are tied to the heavy lines, the crews pull and pull, and eventually get the heavy lines up on deck and around the cleats.  The ship is quickly and safely moored to the pier, in a 2 step process.

That’s what “monkey fist marketing” is – a 2 step marketing plan that makes initial contact first using a marketing “monkey fist,” such as a white paper, or case study, or free ebook.  Then, if the prospect’s information is captured, you can start delivering the “heavy lines” of marketing.

The “heavy lines” of your marketing might be a follow up phone call, direct mail letter, newsletter, or an email series.

This way, you avoid heavy lifting (for you and the prospect) when being introduced to each other!

If you need the services of an excellent commercial writer to help you build your “monkey fists” or even your “heavy lines” of marketing and sales, go here.

Old school copywriting still works for them

There is a lot of noise these days about what makes for good sales copy.  The whole discussion is probably confused by the shocking number of ways to get your selling messages across.  Most people are trying to figure out the best way to write for:

  • Book-Face
  • Twitta
  • Email
  • LinkedIn
  • e-newsletters, etc. (you get the point)

So many channels, and only so much time and money to spend on all this advertising.  BUT – with all the new media, it still appears the old media is working just fine!

Take for instance…

  • ValueLine
Value Line uses effective sales methods.  Direct mail, product with lots of value, endorsements from investors.
Value Line uses effective sales methods. Direct mail, product with lots of value, endorsements from investors.

This is the old and famous investing newsletter that Warren Buffett loves.  He keeps their issues for decades.

ValueLine’s flagship product is a black and white, 3-hole punched newsletter that they print on thin newspaper.  They send these issues out, and they are very expensive (I know, I’m a subscriber!)

ValueLine still sells lots and lots of newsletters through their direct mail campaigns, combined with plain old follow up by phone.

And also…

  • Fisher Investments

The leader of this company (Ken Fisher) once said at a conference I listened to, “at Fisher Investments, we send out so much junk mail it’s unbelievable!  We’re one of the biggest junk mailers in the country!”

What he meant was that they just pounded their mailing lists with direct mailers over and over and over again.  What they are doing is working, because their money under management keeps growing and growing.

This long running ad uses the classic -- and every effective -- tools of persuasive copywriting.  Headline - Client Qualifying - Free report - Instant gratification
This long running ad uses the classic — and very effective — tools of persuasive copywriting. Headline – Client Qualifying – Free report – Instant gratification.  Great profitable ad!

What I love about Fisher Investments is they have been running the same message for years and years, and that’s because it works.  Here is their simple ad (you have probably seen this on a website somewhere):

“10 Ways To Generate Income in Retirement:  If you have a $500,000+ portfolio, download this must-read guide by Forbes columnist and money manager Ken Fisher’s firm. It’s called The Definitive Guide to Retirement Income. Even if you have something else in place right now, it still makes sense to request your guide! <click here to get your guide>”

The simple formula for Fisher Investments is just a free report, as well as direct mail to those people that would make good clients.  They keep mailing and e-mailing those reports, and the client money keeps pouring in!

  • Your business

You might try a white paper or case study, showing how your products and services can help solve problems for clients.  And then give those away and use them for lead generation.  It’s the same model as Fisher Investments, and it just might work for you!

If you would like us to go to work on a white paper, case study, direct mail letter, or another piece of excellent sales copy for you, we stand ready!

Secret to Selling the Schlitz

This ad shows the "cooling room" with chilled pipes and filtered air at the Schlitz Beer brewhouse.  Claude Hopkins used story telling and scientifically proven advertising methods to help Schlitz sell more beer.
This ad shows the “cooling room” with chilled pipes and filtered air at the Schlitz Beer brewhouse. Claude Hopkins used story telling and scientifically proven advertising methods to help Schlitz sell more beer.

“Welcome to our cooling room,” said the brewer as he brought his guest Claude Hopkins into the room.  “Wow!” said Claude Hopkins, the advertising copywriter, as he looked at the amazing cooling room.

Claude Hopkins was trying to get some on-site inspiration on how to help Schlitz sell more beer.

In the cooling room was a large aquarium-like structure with glass plate walls.  Inside were chilled pipes, and beer dripped down from the top of the room, onto the pipes, and cooled beer was collected in the bottom of the aquarium.  The air inside the aquarium was filtered.

“It’s very neat, but most of the other brewers have those cooling rooms,” said the brewer.  “Cleanliness is key to our brewing process.  Here we clean every pump and pipe – two times daily! – and we actually clean every single beer bottle four times,” the brewer explained.

“Impressive!” said Claude Hopkins.

“Yes, but most of the other brewers do the same things,” said the brewer.  “Here is water flowing in from our 4,000 feet deep artesian wells.  Even though we are located next to Lake Michigan, we choose to get more pure water from these deep wells.  But, most of the other brewers do this too,” the brewer said.

“Next, we have what we call our yeast cell here in this lab.  This yeast has evolved over 1,200 experiments so that we have the perfect flavor.  But, again, most brewers have their own yeasts as well,” the brewer said.

Great examples of how to use easy to read chunks of text to sell!  In the center of this ad are small, easy to read bullets about the product.  We use this method all the time.
Great examples of how to use easy to read chunks of text to sell! In the center of this ad are small, easy to read bullets about the product. We use this method all the time.

“Ok, but no other brewer is telling these stories!” Claude Hopkins explained.  “You are all battling each other by calling your beers ‘pure,’ but how about we describe exactly how pure your beer is!” Claude Hopkins said.

Later that day, Claude Hopkins wrote up his notes from the experience.  He used those notes and the experience of that tour to pen a variety of advertisements for Schlitz Beer.

Because those advertisements educated — and entertained! — people were very eager to try Schlitz Beer because they were amazed with how it was made.  Schlitz shot up from fifth place in beer sales to first place in just a few months!

That shows you the power of a story.  The power of explaining what it is you do, and how you do it.  “The more you tell, the more you sell,” goes the saying inside the copywriting world.

And, it shows the magic that can happen when an outsider comes in, and tells the whole world about what it is you do!

Claude Hopkins would later go on to write the book Scientific Advertising, which explains how to sell using scientifically proven methods.  These methods still work today, even in the so called “new media” and social media age!

At Connect Copywriting, we know about these scientifically proven methods to sell, and we use them when we write our copy.  To put our “outsider” writing services to work for you, go here.

Copywriter’s Every Day Carry

There is a great site Every Day Carry where people upload and show the things that they carry on their person (and maybe a small pack) every single day.

They also supply information about their occupation, and sometimes that drives the sorts of things they carry.

The neat thing about the site is it also links to Amazon so that you can buy the item if you so desire.

I haven’t yet posted on that Every Day Carry site, but here’s an attempt to do kinda the same thing here.

Here's a picture of my copywriting every day carry
Here’s a picture of my copywriting every day carry

Some of the things that I carry as a copywriter:

* Yellow legal pad – nothing beats getting the pad out to write a paragraph for a white paper, a headline for a brochure or advertisement, or a bulleted list of selling points for a sales letter

* Pen – I carry a variety of pens, including a Parker fountain pen that I sometimes use for personal letters.  My favorite pen is the Pilot Precise V5, extra fine, an excellent pen

* Small notebook – I carry a small journal notebook, the Mead Memo 6 inches by 4 inches size with 40 pages.  In this notebook, I keep a list of tasks in the front, and then I keep notes from phone calls and meetings starting in the back.  So, as I work through this notebook, I will finally meet in the middle and then move on to a fresh notebook!

If you would like me to put these items to work for you, providing copywriting services in any of my specialties, contact me here.

5 Elements of Old School Copywriting

This is David Ogilvy
This is David Ogilvy.

I just love the old school copywriters, my favorite being David Ogilvy.  Suave, interesting, successful (he lived in a European castle when he wasn’t working in NYC on Madison Avenue!).

The old school copywriters teach us about several “must have items” if you are looking to sell anything:

*  Headline – David Ogilvy called it “the ticket on the meat,” it is a must have item.  Just putting a headline on your selling literature will set you apart and grab attention.  There’s a whole lotta science and experimentation to figure out the best headlines.  At the very least, make sure that every piece of marketing and advertising that you have has a headline!

This is a picture of a face looking at you. I bet you looked at that picture. I also bet that you are reading this caption, right after looking at the picture. Ha!
This is a picture of a face looking at you. I bet you looked at that picture. I also bet that you are reading this caption, right after looking at the picture. Ha!

* Pictures – People love pictures!  We are a visually stimulated bunch.  Our eyes go the picture first.  Pictures of people’s faces tend to be irresistible to the eye.

* Captions – People also love reading captions.  It dates back to when we first started reading, those old school reading books with lots of readers and captions.  Captions are generally shorter, often just 1 sentence, and our eyes like those easy to accomplish tasks of just reading one sentence.  Make sure your pictures have informative captions.

*  Bullets – Break your information into bite-sized pieces through bullets and numbered lists.  I would have a tough time getting a guy to swallow a whole golf ball, but if I give it to him in little pieces, he just might eat it!

*  Call to Action – each piece of sales material that you have should have a Call to Action!  You and the prospect are there for a reason!  It’s your duty to give them a chance to buy from you!

Speaking of calls to action, if you want to hire someone that uses old school copywriting principles in everything we produce, go here.