The White Paper “Elevator Pitch” – Part 2

December 22, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing, WP Components 

elevator_thumbnail.jpgMost business executives don’t read an entire white paper from start to finish. Instead they skim the document to quickly find key messages that stand out.

As a result, your Executive and Concluding Summaries needs to contain information that they can digest relatively quickly…essentially a written version of your elevator pitch.

To ensure they clearly understand these messages, the ones you pick must translate technical or complex information into clear business benefits. An example of a white paper elevator pitch might be:

Lower Cost of Operation – ABC Widgets efficient “function-based” design reduces operations from days to minutes incurring less manpower, and saving your organization significant operating costs.

Simple and Powerful Design – ABC Widgets is a comprehensive, efficient and sophisticated next generation solution that is easy to implement and maintain, without requiring expensive training, consulting, or additional support.

An Integrated Approach – All essential components of ABC Widgets are integrated into a single solution without the need to purchase additional, expensive add-ons.

These “elevator pitch” points would be inserted into two places within the white paper: at the end of the Executive Summary on the first page, and a the bottom of the conclusion on the last page. Using this approach, you can be assured that your reader has clearly seen and understood the critical messages that you need to deliver in your white paper.

How does this approach match up with the qualifiers from Sean Wise’s definition of an elevator pitch? Let’s compare it to that list from my previous post:

1. It must be succinct – Three short bullets taking up a half-page.

2. It must be easy to understand - Clear benefit statements listed.

3. It must be profitable - Technical features into business benefits.

4. It must be irrefutable - So easy a cave man can understand it. (My apologies to Geico).

Yes my dear Watson, it seems that the white paper elevator pitch does indeed qualify as a real elevator pitch.

The only things missing are the lights, the bing sound at each floor, and the musak.

The White Paper “Elevator Pitch” – Part 1

December 21, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing, WP Components, WP Marketing 

elevator.jpgThe well-known sales approach called “The Elevator Pitch” has been well tested over the course of the many years that it has been put into practice.

In the elevator pitch a salesman has two minutes to convince a key prospect that his sales offering has value worthy of their additional time.

Get it right and they’ll invite you into the board room. Get it wrong and they’ll call security.

According to CNBC host Sean Wise, host of the show Inside the Dragon’s Den, the classic elevator pitch needs to pass four crucial tests:

1. It must be succinct – Your prospect doesn’t have a lot of time

2. It must be easy to understand - There’s no room for tech talk in the elevator.

3. It must be profitable - Business people want to make money.

4. It must be irrefutable - Don’t leave your prospect with more questions.

Your white papers can use a written version of the elevator pitch. Tomorrow I’ll discuss how to write an elevator pitch and you can use it for greater effectiveness in your white papers.

The Importance of the Bottom Line

Executive and Concluding Summaries have become valuable white paper assets given the business realities that most executives have a limited amount of time to read business communications.

One small business consulting organization, SCORE believes that executive summaries play an important role in most business documents. They suggest that that these summaries should be no longer than two pages. As they point out that:

“If an executive summary is more than two pages, the reader will likely only skim it. A summary has to “grab” the reader immediately—you’re competing for eyeball and brain time against everyone else out there.”

SCORE goes on to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for creating summaries:

The executive summary should not be:

  • Cumbersome
  • Lengthy
  • Hard to understand

It should be:

  • Quick
  • Clear and concise
  • Focused and to the point

This same technique also works well for summarizing sections of your white paper that contain critical messages. For example, after describing all of the benefits in the advantage section your white paper, you can “bottom-line” that section with a simple shaded text box at the conclusion of the section, such as this example below (click to enlarge):


By using bottom line summaries in each section of your white paper your most important messages will be read and understood by your executive reader.

Even if they end up skimming through the entire paper, (and most will), at least you can take comfort in the thought that they have seen your bottom line message.

The Rule of 4-8-12

December 8, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing, WP Resources 

Do you print your white papers for handouts, tradeshows, direct mail or collateral purposes?

If you do then you need to understand the rule of 4-8-12 when developing your white paper. What is it?

The rule of 4-8-12 means adjusting your white paper into either 4, 8, or 12 pages to faciliate the printing process, and minimize its final cost.page3.jpg

A quick printer (such as Kinko’s or Sir Speedy) will use 11 x 17 inch sheets folded down the center to print every two pages of the white paper (see diagram).

By printing on both sides of an 11 x 17 sheet, printers can accomodate four 8.5 x 11 pages by using both the front and back sides of the broadsheet. Therefore by limiting your white paper to 4, 8, or 12 pages, you only need to use 1, 2 or 3, 11 x 17 inch sheets, dramatically lowering your printing cost.

Once folded, center staple stiching is used to bind the document. If you want to get fancy-schmancy, then you can use a heavier stock for the outside layer to give your white paper a more professional look and feel, although this will add to your final unit cost.

So when you start your white paper project, be sure to determine whether it is going to be printed, and if its length can fit into one of these three page lengths. If it’s doesn’t, you could get yourself into some expensive printing and binding options which will dramatically increase your final unit cost for your printed white paper.

The 160 Page White Paper

irg-report.jpgIs the new Iraq Study Group Report “The Way Forward – A New Approach” really a white paper masquerading as a book? Quite possibly. Other than its massive size, let look at how it compares to a typical white paper:

  • The report provides a summary of findings (a.k.a. an Executive Summary). Check. 
  • The report provides background information to the current situation with the war in Iraq. Check.
  • The report presents current situational problems within Iraq and with US foreign policy. Check.
  • The report makes 79 specific recommedations for next steps if current situations do not change. Check.
  • Finally, the report provides a conclusion of what is in store for Iraq and its people if if conditions continues to deteriorate. Check.

So, is this enormous report really a white paper? I would say so, because of its focus, flow and components, but with a great big caveat. Its size.

For those who have previously seen a government white paper, such as the ones that the U.S. State Department regularly publishes, a report of this length is not uncommon. Their white papers go into exhaustive detail providing every last nuance of information and all related research that has been gathered on the topic. Even the bibliography at the end of these beasts typically takes up ten pages!

I’ve often had nightmares of being a government white paper writer, having to deal with an editor on a bureaucratic diatribe asking me for the status of revision 138-b.

Fortunately, the business world is much more sane with their white paper requirements. where a typical paper is no more than about 10-12 pages.

Thank goodness for short attention spans.

The Callout Editing Tool

December 6, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing, WP Components 

callout2.JPGThe use of callouts (also referred to as pullquotes) is a technique within a white paper that is used to draw reader attention to an important message or statement located on a page.

A funny thing happens when you place a callout on a page. Not only does it heighten your attention to the highlighted sentence, but also the grammar tends to be scrutinized more than the same sentence within the paragraph.

The callout will typically be the first thing seen and read by your reader, and as a result, an extra effort needs to applied to the callout sentence to make sure that it not only makes sense, but that it also is the best sentence from the page that supports the central message of the white paper.

As a result, changes made to the callout result in subsequent changes to the sentence it comes from, to the supporting sentences around it, and quite possibly the rest of the paragraph and page.

So try using callouts liberally throughout your white paper and you may find that the frequent use of this practice, like a good editor, will improve the readability of your entire white paper.

Failing to Appreciate Executive Attention Span

December 5, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Writing 

xplane-798734.jpgI found this great post yesterday on Barry Zweibel’s, GottaGettaBlog site addressing the issue of executive attention span. The blog post features a promotional cartoon (click on the image to the right), where the dialog between a presenter and an exective suffering through a lengthy presentation goes something like this:

Boss: Why didn’t you boil this down?
Presenter: We DID boil it down, Richard. You’re failing to appreciate the time and effort it took to do this.

Boss: You’re failing to appreciate my attention span

The point of the story?

As Barry goes on in his post, “The next time you have some information to share , take a moment and consider the attention span of your intended audience before you begin. Remember, the goal is to be heard, not to impart everything you happen to know on a particular topic.”

The same can be said for your white papers. By including time saving features such as executive summaries, concluding summaries and keeping the size of your white papers short and concise, you provide enough information so that your message is heard and understood. It’s not imperative that you require that your audience read every last paragraph, or you may risk alienating them.