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.