By Jonathan Kantor
As a society, most of us have been skeptical about one issue or another at some point in time (that probability is dramatically increased if you live in Manhattan). Often, business executives think that no-one except their own employees can create a good white paper.
This mentality poses a strict challenge for an independent white paper writer.
You see, a white paper represents the heart and soul of an organization to its customers. So when it comes to hiring someone outside the organization to write one, that little conscience puppet sitting on the decision maker’s shoulder is whispering, “There’s no way that an outsider with zero knowledge of our culture can write an effective white paper within a few short days or weeks!”
Reality says that even though you may have a lengthy track record, lots of references, and scads of white paper examples, it’s still a difficult task to convince a business skeptic that an outsider can do the job as well as one of the organization’s own.
So how do you get that skeptic to first base in the white paper negotiation process?
The answer can be described in one word: Process. Yes, that’s right. Process.
Think of process as a verbal business plan that you provide to your prospective customer on the phone. Customers want to know how you get from point A to point B to reach their project goal. Most importantly, they want to know what benefit awaits them at the end of that process.
Every professional writer has his or her own process of turning raw thoughts into polished documents. If you haven’t organized yours yet, now is the time to formalize it and put it on paper. Once you’ve done that, you can refine it, hone it, and polish it to make it a regular part of your promotional activities.
For example, how do you prep your subject matter experts? Do you provide them with a list of questions in advance of a phone call or live meeting? If you do, then describe some of those sample questions.
Do you record your conversations? Does it help you capture essential information for your white paper? Then make it part of that process discussion and describe to your prospective customer how you go about using those recordings to develop your white paper.
What about an outline? Do you use one to form the structure of your project? If so, describe how you put it together, what it contains, where it fits in the overall process, and how it is used to develop a first draft. You get the picture at this point.
Each writer has a different approach and there are many additional steps that I have left out here. Put all the components of your process on paper and you can also illustrate it in the form of a workflow diagram. Once it’s completed, MEMORIZE IT, and use it at any point in your subsequent conversations with business prospects. Oh, and don’t forget to tell them the benefit they get when they hire you to implement this process for their white paper project.
In the end, your ability to quantify your white paper development process into a formal verbal, written, or visual presentation will go a long way to allay the fear of that skeptical customer, proving that you understand the organization’s needs and can excel with the white paper project.
About the Author: Jonathan Kantor is the principal of The Appum Group, “The White Paper Company,” an organization specializing in white papers for the business community. You can read his blog at WhitePaperPundit.com.