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.
I'm Anne Watkins, a freelance medical writer here to help you use medical white papers to boost your sales.