By Gordon Graham
Most white paper readers want content directed right to them. But what if you have two or three different audiences in different roles or sectors? How can you engage them all?Of course, you can write a separate white paper for each audience. But what if your company or client can’t afford that?
You can provide information for different audiences in the same document through sidebars (separate mini-articles in the same piece), in-line definitions, and a glossary of terms. But this may look clunky and interfere with your message.
Another approach is to “clone” one white paper: create multiple near-copies of the same document for different audiences. It’s not hard to do if you plan it from the start. And this approach can work out better for everyone: reader, writer and publisher.
I recently prepared a set of white papers for a vendor of point-of-sale software. This company has three audiences: fast-food outlets, independent sit-down restaurants, and small restaurant chains. Here’s how we did it.
1. Develop an idea that works for every audience.
We came up with the title “Seven Ways to Build Better Profits: a Special Report for [audience].” Since almost every restaurant has been hit with a drop in sales, that appeals to everyone.
2. Research the idea for each audience.
We realized that six out of seven suggestions contained in the white paper applied to all audiences, but one didn’t. A typical restaurant bar suffers 25% loss through over-pours, giveaways, and theft. So the two white papers for table-service restaurants would cover alcohol costs. But fast-food outlets don’t serve alcohol. For those readers, I researched kitchen video monitors that help cooks save time.
3. Write one white paper, then “clone” it.
Draft your white paper, remembering each audience as you write. In my white papers, I wrote “You should” for the independents, and “Your managers should” for the chains. I just typed in both versions of that text: “You/your managers should…”
But 85% of the text was the same in all three versions.
Try to contain any differences to as few places as possible, and remember exactly where those are. In Word, I highlight any words or passages that are different, so they’re easy to find. At some point, break your original document into the required number of “clones.”
4. Make your “clones” easy to review.
With software like FrameMaker, you can set up “conditional text” and turn it on or off to generate different versions of a document. But I believe this is overkill for white papers. For my white papers, I submitted all three as separate documents in Word. My reviewers simply marked up one version, and then checked for highlights in the other “clones.”
5. Tweak the titles, if needed, to be more engaging for each audience.
6. Design each “clone” with a different cover.
Make your “clones” easy to differentiate at a glance. My client has a different graphic for each audience, so we used those on the covers. And I suggested a different color for each cover, so a salesperson could quickly grab “the orange one” for the fast-food audience.
7. Publish and promote to each audience.
The whole point of having multiple white papers is to reach multiple audiences. So don’t line up all three on the same web page. Have a separate landing page for each audience, and promote each “clone” to its own audience.
Why should you bother to think about “cloning” white papers?
For a white paper writer, cloning means you can afford to supply two or more white papers for much less than double or triple your normal fees… but you can certainly charge a little extra. For the client, this method results in much better-targeted content at an attractive discount. So “cloning” can make everybody happy: reader, writer and publisher.
About the Author: Gordon Graham helps B2B software firms tell their story with persuasive white papers. He’s the founder of www.thatwhitepaperguy.com and a frequent poster on the WhitePaperSource Forum.