Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

Carolyn Goodman, president and creative director of Goodman Marketing Partners, Inc, defines content marketing as “creation and distribution of original content that has perceived value in order to positively position your brand in the minds of your prospects and customers.”

Along with Cyndie Shaffstall, the founder and CEM of SpiderTrainers, Goodman recently presented an Act-On-sponsored webinar, “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, Part 2: Content Marketing” providing guidelines for white papers, case studies and other content; today, I’m going to be recapping her half. My post about Shaffstall’s discussion of content promotion will be coming to you next week.

The first part of content marketing is, of course, the content itself. For any marketing campaign to work, you have to create outstanding content, or at least somehow provide something to distract readers from all the less-than-outstanding content on the web.

Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies image guinea pig hat 1Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

In unrelated news, look! A guinea pig in a crocheted hat! Now back to the COMPLETELY OUTSTANDING CONTENT.

First, a quick look at the history of content creation

  • Initially, the majority of content generated by businesses was research.
  • This was often difficult to read and interpret, and soon evolved into the white paper, which simplifies research findings and states benefits backed by facts.
  • White papers were named so because their selling point was the fact that there were no logos or sponsorships on the page – they were designed to look non-partisan and factual, existing solely for the purpose of helping readers.
  • To lend credibility to white papers, businesses started implementing case studies, which are proprietary to a company and demonstrate proof of concept.

Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies image research dog 2 700x484Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

Gosh, this dog sure is tired after reading so much HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT.

Guidelines for white papers

Let’s look at some tips for making sure your white papers are the best that they can be.

  • Make sure the writing is in third-person narrative form.
  • Focus on a timely and relevant topic, and possibly create a series of white papers so as not to make one drag on too long. A few typical white paper topics are:
    -Introductory information about new technology
    -Best practices or how-to guides
    -Opinions on industry changes
    -Analysis from research
  • Make sure your white paper has clean graphics and is well broken-up, easy to read, and quickly summarized at the beginning.
  • Don’t show readers who the sponsor is before the very last page. Remember, a white paper’s goal is to inform the reader, not sell to them.
  • Try to include a subtle call to action, such as a phone number or website suggestion.
  • Be scrupulous about ensuring your paper is factual and professionally written. Don’t skimp on this – hire a professional writer as well as a professional graphic designer.

Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies image dog professional 3 700x701Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

An actual picture of a professional graphic artist. Incidentally, I too happen to be a professional creator of GREAT CONTENT.

And here are some tips on what NOT to do:

  • Don’t have a first page that lacks information and a hook.
  • Don’t include less information in the white paper than you advertised was going to be in it, e.g., calling a white paper “10 Tips for SEO Optimization” and including only four.
  • Don’t try to masquerade a sales pitch as a white paper. It’s annoying and easy to spot.

Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies image grumpy cat 4Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

Grumpy Cat sees right through your “white paper” and is highly un-amused. Though I hope you’re amused by all the TRULY EXCELLENT CONTENT on this page.

Guidelines for case studies

Case studies are part of your branding efforts, and have different rules.

  • Establish a problem, lay out the solution, and highlight the results.
  • Include at least one quote from a named source, but preferably more. This increases credibility and provides readers with outside sources.
  • Include an executive summary or abstract of the case study.
  • Hire professionals to create the content and layout.
  • Think about how people will be reading it – digital? Printed? – and format it accordingly.
  • Use your brand colors and style; case studies are part of your brand story, and as such should use brand colors and style.
  • Write all case studies in third person.
  • Make sure the front page includes a summary, a pull quote giving credibility, a few statistics, and a visual.
  • Break up paragraphs, and avoid huge chunks of text.

Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies image tldr cat 5Guidelines for White Papers and Case Studies

Fun fact: cats as a species quickly grow bored with paragraphs that exceed four inches. I hope you never got bored with any of this AMAZING CONTENT. Unless you’re a cat. Then it’s okay.

The purpose of content marketing is to deliver information that makes your buyer more knowledgeable. This is based on the belief that if you deliver consistent, ongoing, valuable information to potential buyers, you will be rewarded with their business and loyalty. It’s to your benefit to create the best content you possibly can to inform your prospects and customers.

We invite you to watch the on-demand recording of Goodman and Shaffstall’s “Direct Marketing on a Shoestring Budget, Part 2: Content Marketing” webinar, and I’ll be back next week with Shaffstall’s advice for marketing your content – and many more puppies.

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