By Jonathan Kranz
By now, you should know the drill: brochures may describe features and benefits, but if you’re going to create any traction with your ebook or white paper, you must focus on ideas and insights of value to your audience.
But overt self-promotion is more easily denied in theory than eliminated in practice. Run a draft by a salesperson, for example, and chances are you’ll find a comment (scrawled in crayon, in capital letters) along the lines of, “WHAT ABOUT OUR ZINGLEPOODLE FLAMMEL CAPABILITIES? WE HAVE THE ONLY WHOOSIWAFFLE WITH A JINGLEJANGLE OF THIS KIND IN THE ROFORMEX INDUSTRY!”
Worse, maybe features are really the essence of your knowledge. Or, deadline looming, they’re the only things you can think of to write about.
Fear not. The following steps will help transform product and service features into viable topic ideas that have meaning for your readers.
For the purposes of clarity and continuity, we’ll exemplify the steps with the following hypothetical examples:
* A B2C lawn products company selling a fungus-resistant grass seed blend
* A B2B technology company with a packet-shaping appliance for controlling WAN traffic
* A B2B services company that offers keyword audits for search engine optimization
1. Identify the benefit.
Yeah, I know, this is another thing you already knew, but it’s the necessary first step in this process: identify the benefit (the positive influence or outcome) the consumer/customer/client gets by obtaining your feature. To wit:
* Fungus-resistant grass seed: grows in adverse, fungus-prone conditions
* Packet-shaping technology: gives IT the power to control/allocate bandwidth to selected network activities
* Keyword audit: identifies most effective words for efficient SEO
2. Put the benefit in context.
In other words, why is this benefit important to the reader (or to customers)? In what conditions, situations and/or environments does the benefit have meaning? When or how does this benefit matter? For example:
* Fungus-resistant grass seed: works well in shaded and/or waterlogged lawn areas
* Packet-shaping technology: accelerates traffic and improves networking performance without having to buy more raw bandwidth
* Keyword audit: helps companies drive more (and more precisely targeted) traffic to their sites
3. Place the benefit/context within a reader-centric theme.
As the creator of content, your motives are clear: you’re building credibility as a trustworthy authority, a resource to whom money may be reasonably transferred (i.e., ultimately, you’re moving toward a sale). But to motivate potential customers to read your content, you have to speak to their interests.
The theme of your ebook/white paper must address an audience concern—the more urgent, the better. Any feature, transformed into a benefit and placed into context, should be flipped into a supporting point or idea that reinforces the theme. It looks like this:
* Fungus-resistant grass seed:
Theme: 10 Turf-Building Ideas for Tough Lawns
Specific supporting point: “For wet lawns, apply fungus-resistant seed blends.”
* Packet-shaping technology:
Theme: Winning with WAN: How to Boost Performance Without Busting Budgets
Specific supporting point: “Allocate resources by activity and priority.”
* Keyword audit:
Theme: S.O.S. for SEO—Getting the Traffic You Deserve
Specific supporting point: “Review keywords for relevance and popularity.”
Let your customers flip over you
Notice what the examples didn’t do: name the product or service behind the topic idea. Successful trappers don’t go into the woods shouting, “Yoo-hoo! The net’s over here!” Your white paper’s job is to build a connection in readers’ minds between the things they want and your company or brand. Anything that stinks of “commercial” will break that connection.
Instead, let your ideas speak for themselves. If you work your flips correctly, they will automatically point to the unique virtues of your enterprise. To complete the connection, be sure that your ebook or white paper includes a call to action—a demo, a sample, a webinar invitation, etc.—that draws readers another step closer to your company. Make the right flips and your readers are more likely to become customers who’ll flip over you.
About the Author: Jonathan Kranz is the principal of Kranz Communications and the author of Writing Copy for Dummies. You may download his ebook about ebooks (for free and without registration): The eBook eBook: How to Turn Your Expertise Into Magnetic Marketing Material.