Advanced Whitepapers

Previously you learned about writing and promoting whitepapers. Those two steps alone will get you some results – you might even be able to close a client from your first whitepaper.

But there is much more you can do.

Each whitepaper you create is a valuable piece of content. It’s a document you can share, it’s an expert tutorial or analysis, and a conversation starter.

Many times someone will email me and start talking about what they need help with. They might be talking to other developers and are trying to decide who would be the best fit for them.

What you can do to seal the deal is to use the whitepaper as proof of what you know.

Much of client marketing is centered around trust. Your potential clients need to trust you enough to contact you. Then that trust needs to grow before they work with you.

By giving them a whitepaper, you position yourself in multiple ways:

  • you’re generous
  • you’ve thought about this problem in enough depth to write about it
  • you’re not just "some freelancer", you’re the person who gave them that document that describes their problem and provides a possible solution

That’s one of the most important thing with whitepapers: they show your potential client that you really do know what you’re doing and that you’re world-class enough to write about it.

There is a downside though. Since whitepapers are so focused on one problem, they won’t be very effective unless you focus and target a common problem with your ideal clients…

…which is where the second part of today’s strategy comes in.

Just like with a blog, don’t expect to see a lot of results if you only write one or two whitepapers. That’s not enough topics and marketing surface area to attract many visitors.

Instead of spending weeks to craft and perfect the ultimate whitepaper for your ideal client, take those same weeks and create seven good ones.

Make sure they are quality documents with great advice, but don’t worry about perfection. Put that off for now.

You want to build a library of whitepapers for clients. Write about every problem they have. Every step of your client processes. Educate them on who you are and how you work.

With enough coverage, you’ll end up with a whitepaper for every question they could ever have.

Once you have five or six whitepapers done, released and promoted, you should start to analyze the results. Does one get downloaded twice often as another? Does one get barely any downloads but you win more clients from it?

What you need to do is to look at your whitepaper library like an investment portfolio. Some will be steady earners, getting you a few leads and clients all the time. Others will spike when you release them but stop producing results quickly. While others will be duds and won’t get any results at all.

Your goal is to decide what you want out of them and curate them based on these results.

Need more leads now? The spikes should be your focus.

Have plenty of work now but want to prepare for the future? Focus on the steady results.

Feeling overwhelmed with marketing? Kill off the duds, under-performers, and ones that take a larger investment.

Once you know where to focus, there are two things you can do:

  1. Revise and republish existing whitepapers to improve them
  2. Create a similar, but new whitepaper on a similar topic

For example, if your best whitepaper was on "Editing mistakes of first-time authors", you could revise it, or write a "More editing mistakes of first-time authors" or "The Second Draft: editing your first book".

Tip: Whitepapers are great marketing projects when you have a little extra time. They take longer to produce than blog posts but you can create whitepapers in spits and spurts. A few this month, one next month, and two in the third month. Each one you create, you plant another seed for potential clients to find you.

To finish up what I started last time about the promotions, we talked about how you could put a whitepaper behind an opt-in form or make it completely public. Here’s how you can do both methods…

When creating your library, create whitepapers for each style. Some behind an opt-in, some fully public.

  • Compare the results (as well as you can). Does one style or the other work better for you?
  • Switch a few whitepapers to the other style (from opt-in to public or public to opt-in). Is there an improvement in the switched whitepaper?
  • Try making each whitepaper public for a few weeks as part of its "launch" before putting it behind your opt-in. Try it the other way.

When you have a collection of whitepapers, you can be much more flexible with your readers. If some perform poorly, you still have the rest of the collection to keep things working.

Give whitepapers a try.

Eric Davis