Many white papers these days are presented in a two-column format.
What benefits does the two-column format have over a single line of text?
In short, it’s all about how your brain scans and processes information.
Research shows that the optimal amount of text for printed materials is just 60 characters per column.
More than 60 characters per column and the brain starts to have difficulty in scanning through the text easily. It’s the same principle as needing to take a visual break by adding some white space between paragraphs.
Long lines of text, just like long sentences can be harder to read. For technical and medical papers, a two-column layout also allows graphs, tables and other graphics to be clearly presented without taking up too much page space. That said many companies do prefer the clean and simple lines of a single column layout. That can work very well too, just as long as the page has wide margins and the text runs to no more than 90 characters per line.
It’s all about helping the reader to understand your message as easily as possible.
It’s no secret that white papers are amongst the most useful marketing tools you can use to influence purchasing decisions and boost customer engagement. But they need to be carefully thought through.
Well, there’s a lot that needs to go into a white paper before the first words are ever written and it’s the planning stage that is most often overlooked.
No matter if you are using your in-house writers or hiring a freelance writer, planning is essential when it comes to white paper writing. Without a good plan, or creative brief in place important information can get overlooked.
So what key questions should you be discussing at the planning stage?
Questions about teamwork.
Questions about content and structure.
Compared to other forms of marketing, creating a white paper generally takes more time, involves more people, and requires a greater overall investment, so it’s important to get the groundwork right.
Remember, once written a white paper can provide an excellent source of content to re-purpose into slide decks, blog posts and other bite sized content to attract your customers' attention
The chances are you want a white paper to help sell your product. That’s the end goal, right?
But here’s the thing. You need to be discreet. Subtle even, selling indirectly, covertly and quietly.
Too much product promotion and you will be left with nothing more than a sales brochure and you may well have lost your customers attention before the second paragraph.
Yet, done well a white paper can be hugely successful at generating leads and positioning you as a thought leader in your field.
The key is to educate. Not sell. That way you can draw your reader in, leaving them wanting to know more without overt product promotion.
Once your white paper is written, then you can use it to sell. A well written white paper provides you with exactly the right type of content for promotion, and social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook provide are all ideal platforms to share high quality content. It’s a simple, efficient and elegant way of getting your customers attention and drawing them in.
But don’t stop there.
If you have a product launch coming up all the better. White papers and product launches go hand in hand. They can help to improve your company’s reputation, boost your brand recognition, increase your SEO positioning and drive word of mouth marketing.
Worth the investment?
Most marketing experts would say yes, with over 80% of respondents in a recent marketing poll stating that white papers were a key resource for decision makers when investing in a product.
So remember, don’t sell, educate and let your white paper do the persuading for you.
White papers are precious documents for anyone selling technical equipment, or complex solutions to challenging problems. Their aim is to both educate and sell. The challenge though, is to make them visually appealing enough to keep the reader engaged from start to finish.
3 design tips to catch your customers attention
1. Make use of graphics and icons to direct your reader's attention to key points
For a white paper to be effective white space and colour can be just as important as the text you choose. Using directional cues such as arrows, bold text and icons to ‘point’ your reader's attention in a specific direction can help time pressed readers to understand your message quickly.
2. Use quotes to highlight key points
Using block quotes in a larger font, or a different colour is a simple and effective way to help your message stand out. As well as adding visual variation to your white paper, you can reinforce key takeaway messages you want your reader to remember.
3. Use white space to surround and highlight important points.
A well designed white paper should be a pleasure to read.
That means making good use of white space to support the selective use of colourful graphics and well placed text.
Visual variability is important in a medical white paper, especially when explaining complex technical data. Blending your in-house branding colours into bar charts, infographics and charts can make your paper much easier to understand. Selectively adding white space to your document will also help your key message be remembered.
White papers are a growing trend when it comes to marketing medical devices and they’re an excellent way of showing potential customers how you can meet their needs and solve some of their most pressing clinical problems.
Described as a cross between an academic essay and a sales brochure, it’s an eye-catching document that's full of educational material subtly enticing the reader to want to know more. The challenge of course, is write for both the medical staff who want to understand the science behind the device, as well as the administrative staff who are focused on the business benefits and who may have the final say over budgets.
Blending these two writing styles together is the art of white paper writing
The aim then, is to both educate and subtly sell at the same time, and it’s essential to get the balance right.
White papers are particularly useful for companies trying to market a complex technology, or service that requires potential customers do some background research before making a decision.
Here are 5 quick tips to keep your white paper uppermost in your prospective clients’ minds.
1. Know who your intended audience is and write specifically for them.
A well written white paper should help your prospective customer make a decision about your product. This makes it essential to know as much about them as possible before the writing process begins.
Consider . . .
2. Conduct a thorough literature search.
Writing a white paper for a complex medical device begins with conducting a thorough literature search. Without access to up to date, high quality research, it’s impossible to write a white paper with sufficient academic credibility to be taken seriously.
3. Make good use of colour, font size and graphics
Most readers won’t read your white paper from beginning to end on the first sitting. They need to be enticed to read more with well placed colourful graphics, pull quotes, box outs and bullet points. Do this well, and your reader will be much more likely to give your white paper the time and attention it deserves.
4. Begin with a concise executive summary
It’s likely that your reader will be pressed for time. This is why writing a concise summary at the beginning of the paper is good way of helping them understand your key points quickly. A well written executive is an excellent way of encouraging your potential customer to read more.
5. Acknowledge problems and provide solutions.
A well written white paper should always begin by acknowledging the clinical challenges that the reader cares about. Only once you have shown that you understand the readers problems, should you go on to talk about the solutions.
Last but not least don’t forget a simple call to action right at the end of the paper so your customers know how to contact you.
White papers can be one of the greatest assets in your marketing toolkit, yet they are often misused and misunderstood.
Which is a shame.
Written well, a white paper can be a powerful tool to get your customers attention, demonstrate you can solve their problems and make life easier for them.
3 good reasons to write a white paper
Helping your customers decide to buy
Not all your customers will pick up the phone or email you about your products. Most will need to be persuaded, with step by step reassurance that it’s your product or service that will best fit their needs.
This is where a white paper becomes an invaluable marketing tool. They are easy to download and can be handed out at events allowing your customers to read at their leisure away from the pressures of a sales conversation.
In short, white papers are an excellent way of getting the attention of decision makers, subtlety, effectively and persuasively.
I'm Anne Watkins, a freelance medical writer here to help you use medical white papers to boost your sales.