Most marketers know that white papers are the most powerful marketing tool they have, especially for complicated and/or expensive products or services that tend to have long sales cycles and go through extended decision-making processes with potential buyers. The technology industry, including medical technology, is rife with white papers – and yet they continue to hold the most sway with buyers.

The challenge for medical  marketers lies not in producing white papers (although this can be challenge enough) but in producing well-written white papers that do their jobs – namely moving a prospect down the path toward a sale. In order for a white paper to be a useful addition to the lead-nurturing content library instead of an expensive and time-consuming waste of digital space, they absolutely must avoid  making these top 3 mistakes – mistakes I see much too often in the medical industry!

White Paper Mistake Number One: Asking the Techies to Write It
Seems like a brilliant idea, after all who knows the product inside and out better than the engineers and technical staff? They know all the specs, all the techie-speak, all the jargon that best describes what the product does, how it was made and how it works. Even better, the marketing staff doesn’t have to write it!

The problem with this approach is while the technical experts are experts, they are also usually not marketers. Their job is to be technical and they do it very well or they wouldn’t be creating top-level medical devices and biotechnology. What their job isn’t, is a marketer. And the function of a white paper is not a technical document, but a sales document. An educational one to be sure, but in the end the point is not to go on about the features of your latest widget, but to show how your widget will make your prospects’ life easier by solving one of the challenges they face everyday.

Technical staff absolutely should be interviewed by the writer of the white paper so the writer has a strong grasp of the technological implications of the product, but the writing of the paper should be left to someone who knows how to position the product in terms of it’s benefit to the prospective buyer.

White Paper Mistake Number Two: Turning the White Paper into a Blatant Sales Piece

A white paper should be educational in nature. It’s true that the white paper is a sales and marketing document, however many marketers make the mistake of channeling the dark side and end up turning an educational document  into a blatant sales pitch, which can be just as detrimental (if not more so) as letting the technical writers turn it into a dry dissertation on product specs. This is not as prevalent a mistake in the medical industry as the first one I mentioned, but surprisingly enough I still see it happen on a regular basis.

The reason that white papers are so powerful as a marketing and sales tool, is that they come across as informative, non-biased reports on a problem or challenge experienced by the target prospect. A problem that is solved by the product or service detailed in the white paper.

Prospects aren’t stupid – they know perfectly where the white paper came from and that isn’t actually written by an unbiased third party. But if the information in the paper is valid and helpful, they will accept and appreciate the information in it – including the information on your product.

White Paper Mistake Number Three: Lack of Any Kind of Visual Appeal

This one I do see a lot in the medical industry. Just because the subject is a serious one, doesn’t mean the reader wants to be confronted with 12 pages of unbroken, black-on-white text. It’s boring. That doesn’t mean that white papers should be frivolous, but there is a lot that can be done to make a white paper more attractive and readable.

Use subtitles, put summaries and statistics in bold print, break up text into smaller blocks, insert pull-quotes and memorable statistics into boxes alongside text, add more white space and create graphs, images and relevant pictures to insert into the document. These techniques go a long way toward breaking up text and making it more readable and less daunting, something that will be appreciated no matter how well-educated the audience. They can also get your point across to members of the decision-making team who are skimmers and won’t bother to read your white paper no matter how well-crafted it may be.

If you’re going to the expense and time to craft a white paper for your product, do it right and make it something that will speak to your audience and make a strong case for you. And if you don’t have the time or just want an expert to take care of it for you, click here to find out more about how I can help you write your next white paper.

White Paper Mistake Number One: Asking the Techies to Write It

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