White papers are simple to understand when you pick your favorite flavor

A couple of weeks ago I attended a presentation on white papers at AWAI’s B2B Intensive Copywriting Workshop, in Chicago.

Gordon Graham, also known as “That White Paper Guy” has written over 200 white papers. I was pleased with how he simplified the process of planning and writing white papers. He explained that there are only three types of white papers; the backgrounder, the numbered list and the problem/solution.

In his book White Papers for Dummies, Graham further illustrates his point by comparing those three types of white papers to the three most popular flavors of ice cream.

The “vanilla” backgrounder: Vanilla ice cream is predictable and straightforward. There are many people (like my husband and son) who order it every time, and there are many situations (like when you’re trying to dress up warm apple pie) where vanilla ice cream is the only choice.

A backgrounder is a factual description of a product or service. The structure is straightforward. It should be about eight pages. You introduce the offering, explain the features and benefits, and then introduce the company.

The best time to use a backgrounder is when you are addressing prospects who are at the bottom of the sales cycle, when decision makers are trying to evaluate several vendors on a shortlist, and they need straightforward facts. Other good times to use a backgrounder are during a product launch or to promote an offering by a recognized leader in the field.

Strawberry – the fresh and lively numbered list: I have to admit it. I am completely addicted to reading articles that are in the form of numbered lists. When I see a number in the title, I assume that the piece will be easy and fun to read.

Numbered lists are clearly popular in magazines and social media. They also work well in white papers for the same reasons: readers are interested in getting some tips that they can use right away, want to discover a fresh perspective or a new way of doing things.

Here are three situations where numbered lists work well:

1)   When you want to attract attention with a provocative way of looking at an issue that your prospects face. “Don’t be provocative just for the sake of being provocative,” wrote Graham. “Each of your items should make a real point that can help your target reader understand an issue, solve a problem or make a decision.

2)   When you want to help your prospects remember you when they’re in the middle of the sales funnel.

3)   When you want to undermine your competition by casting FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Using a numbered list you can raise concerns about another vendor’s solution, uncover flaws and question the claims made by competing companies. “If FUD is distasteful to you, don’t use it,” wrote Graham. “But be aware that your competitors may not feel the same way.”

The problem/solution white paper is as rich and satisfying as chocolate: Chocolate is complex, mood-altering, and long lasting. So is a problem/solution white paper.

Here is Graham’s definition of a problem/solution white paper: “A persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to present a new solution to a serious problem that afflicts many companies in a given industry.”

This type of white paper is the most effective method for gaining leads, positioning a vendor as a respected expert, and creating a defining a new market space.

Using compelling arguments, credible facts and solid research, a problem/solution white paper will begin by describing a serious problem, discuss the drawbacks of every other possible solution, and will subtly position the offering as the best possible solution.

In contrast to a backgrounder, a problem/solution will only mention the product or the solution at the end of the document. The problem/solution white paper will not include details about the features and benefits of the solution; because this type of lead is meant to attract buyers at the start of the sales process, it is crucial that it doesn’t come off as a sales pitch. When done right, a meaty and informative problem/solution white paper will position the sponsor company as a trusted advisor.


Related Content: “The Secret to selling to Engineers

Bring people in the door with a great giveaway

By Mandy Marksteiner

Last weekend I attended Los Alamos’ Chamberfest where all kinds of businesses had booths and were offering information and giving away promotional items.

Some of the giveaways were very eye-catching: Los Alamos National Bank had an enormous pile of sand delivered to downtown so that little kids could dig in it. They also gave away silly putty and other knick-knacks.

You may be thinking, “Of course the bank can afford to give stuff away. But what about my small business?”

Many small businesses are reluctant to use giveaways to build their business. But it can be a great way to attract new customers who come back again and again. When you calculate how much money a customer might spend with you over time—the lifetime value of a customer—the expense of a giveaway is well worth it

Giveaways can multiply your sales by bringing in more buyers

Karen Wray, owner of Karen Wray Fine Art, discovered how giveaways boost sales when she had a drawing for a hot stone massage from Mullein Leaf Massage. Like many business owners in Los Alamos, she doesn’t always get as much foot traffic as she needs, but she understands that it’s up to her to inspire people to walk through her door. Once they’re in the gallery and see all the paintings, jewelry, cards and gifts, they usually want to buy something.

For the massage giveaway she chose a day when an arts and crafts fair was already planned downtown, and so there would already be a crowd of people interested in buying art. By simply walking around telling people that she was having a drawing in her gallery, their job was as easy as walking across the street to sign up.

She didn’t want to require a purchase in order to qualify for the contest, so there were no strings attached. Nevertheless, it was one of her biggest sales days.

Find out what works and build on your success

Wray’s first giveaway promotion was so successful she was eager to do again. We thought about what worked about the promotion: She was giving away something which is clearly valuable or which people consider a treat. For the second giveaway she did the same thing, but instead offered a dinner for two at the Blue Window Bistro. Again, she chose a day where there was already a crowd downtown—Chamberfest. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to repeat the best part of her first giveaway—a crowd of people downtown already in the mood to buy art.

But she also made a couple of improvements. During her first drawing, she simply drew names out of a hat but didn’t invite her new customers to join her email list. This time she was ready with slips of paper that let them sign up for the prize and sign up for the email newsletter at the same time (it’s important to mention that signing up for the newsletter wasn’t a requirement to enter).

The second improvement was that she caught people’s attention by adding something silly. It was her Basset Hound, Tinkerbelle’s, birthday and she threw a birthday party for the dog. There were balloons outside, and she served cake and doggy cookies from Pet Pangaea. When she walked around at Chamberfest, she brought Tinkerbelle with her. That way, she could spot other dog owners and let them know that their dogs were invited to the party.

I was impressed by that idea, because it was an offbeat way to bring in new customers who would connect with her (but might not realize that they wanted to shop at the gallery). Right now she offers a lot of artwork with dogs, cats and birds as subjects. By having a birthday party for her dog she was able to bring in animal lovers that would want to buy those pieces.



The Success Cycle – Achieving What You Want in Life

At 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 6th, Michelle Harkey, owner of Mullein Leaf Massage, will give a Ruby K’s Community Hour presentation on how to put yourself into a peak state so that your life is on the path of an upward spiral.

MichelleHarkeyMarathonYou may be wondering, what is an “upward spiral?”

“Many philosophers have noted the correlation between our metaphorical everyday manner of speaking and actual patterns in life. This is one of them,” Michelle said. “There is a cycle, actually a spiral, in life which we all go through. Typically we notice it in other people when they are experiencing difficulties. We say things like, ‘He’s sure in a downward spiral. He’s going to hit rock bottom soon and bounce back up.’”

Harkey’s talk will inspire you to stimulate your own upward spiral toward success.  Harkey said, “Wherever you are in life, you can get on this path. You will walk away from the talk with information on how to move your life forward in productive ways.”

Harkey has a coaching certification from the Robbins-Madanes Center For Strategic Intervention. As a life coach, Harkey can share information, provide structure and hold you accountable for staying on a successful path. Her training is designed to get results, and she practices what she preaches.

“Implementing this program for myself over the past five years has really made a difference for me,” said Harkey.

Her recent achievements are impressive: As a single mom of three kids she started a successful small business in Los Alamos. On May 18th she completed her Masters in Liberal Arts from Saint John’s College, in Santa Fe. On the same day she ran the Huff to Bluff Marathon, in Bluff Utah.

“Most of us don’t know what the Success Cycle is and we certainly don’t know how to manage it to our benefit,” said Harkey. “Join me to learn about how you can accelerate your upward progress or gain inspiration to start.”

Find out more about Michelle Harkey at http://mulleinleafinstitute.com.

Ruby K’s is located at 1789 Central Ave, Suite 2. Their phone number is 662-9866.

How to Turn Your Customers into Raving Fans and Ideal Customers

Raving fansLast month I attended a No BS Marketing Power Circle meeting with J. Wayne Story, owner of Direct Marketing RX, in Albuquerque.

The meeting was valuable because he laid out effective customer acquisition strategies and also provided an illustration of a better way to think about advertising.

Most small business waste a lot of money trying to get the word out, because they go about it backwards, starting the process by clearly defining who they are, and hoping that by putting an expensive logo onto an ad, the customers will start to line up.

Story illustrated a better way of cultivating customer relationships with his “Prospect Seduction Ladder.”

Step one: Identify the Luke-Warm Who

If you think that “everyone” can use your services or products, you’re in for a rude awakening when you try to attract them.

On the other hand, have you ever read an ad truly speaks to you? It seems to be geared specifically toward you and your problems and concerns? Those are the kind of ads that make you want to buy.

The first step to creating an ad like that for your business, the kind of ad that your ideal customer won’t be able to dismiss, is to identify who your ideal customer is.

Story was smart to point out that these people are still feeling pretty meh about you. Don’t lose heart; you’re only getting started. You need to grab their attention…

Step 2: Interest Hook

You need to give them a reason why to buy from you. And the reason that you choose needs to be their reason… not yours.

The best way to write a good interest hook is to get to know your customers, and figure out what they’re thinking about. Make the connection between their world, and your business.

Step 3: Identify the Ripening Fruit

Offer your customers something that they want.

While you’re at it, give them something that teaches them about who you are.

This free giveaway is basically a piece of free information (for example, if you own an art gallery you can write a report that explains how to protect your work of art). This free information is perfect for people who like to “do their homework” before they buy.

Step 4: Prime the Pump

According to Story (and I firmly agree) the number of names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses a business has in their database is literally the most valuable asset of the business.

During this step you collect that information.

Once you have the contact information, send the people on your list a series of information that will keep them engaged.

Step 5: Light the Fire

Start sending information about your company, like testimonials, proof that your product is as good as you say it is, case studies, etc. Send the kind of information that will lead your customers to the conclusion that they shouldn’t work with anyone else.

Step 6: Make an Offer

Now is the time to get them to take a step. Don’t leave it to the customer to make the decision about how to go about working with you. Make them an offer that “they can’t refuse.”

If you need help, check out Bob Bly’s book, How to Create Irresistible Offers.

Step 7: Raving Fan

Once you get a customer, it’s up to you to wow them so that they come back, bring their friends, buy more, and advertise for you. These raving-fan customers are the most valuable customers you can get.

Step 8: Create Customers for Life

Congratulations! You’ve gotten someone to buy something. Now sell them something else!

Step 9: Trusted Advisor

When people start to see you as the primary provider of what you do, they will naturally start to refer new business to you and buy more. What steps do you have to take to become that person?

Step 10: Ideal Customer

Ideal customers tell their friends and family about the experience of working with you… whether those people need your services or not. They are that excited!

If they are in business as well, and have a list or a database, they might be willing to send something to their customers on your behalf. When that happens, the response rate can be 2, 3 or 4 times as high.

These steps make it possible to transition from a one-sale business, to a business that fully realizes the potential of each existing customer.  For more information about J. Wayne Story, check out his book Knock Their Socks Off Markketing.


Waste Not, Want Not – Never Run Out of Writing Ideas


My next-door neighbor got chickens over the summer and I occasionally feed them.

Feeding chickens has completely changed the way I clear the table. I’m amazed at all the things they will eat. I’ve noticed they pick cantaloupe rinds clean, fight over wrinkly grapes, and eat the seedy cores of peppers.

The food we toss into the coop makes the chickens grow and lay eggs.

Making better use of my leftover food reminded me of the value of leftover writing ideas. Here are a few ways to stretch your writing further.

Start with the raw ingredients in your mind

You can’t feed chickens if you don’t cook with fresh ingredients. And you can’t reuse your writing if you don’t write regularly.

Natalie Goldberg, author of Thunder and Lightning; Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, recommends you get in the habit of completely filling one spiral notebook per month, and writing for a set period of time. She wrote, “At the beginning, I wrote for rounds of 10 minutes, eventually increasing them to 20 and 30. I told myself that if the atom bomb went off eight minutes after I began, I’d go on writing.”

Carry a notebook with you to jot down your thoughts, ideas, and conversations you hear. Months from now, this material might turn into the perfect lead, or spark an idea for an article or book.

Go through your notebooks

As you start keeping notebooks or journals, you’ll notice they begin to accumulate — physical proof that you have ideas! Periodically go through them and organize your favorite notes.

Start by cleaning out your notebooks, page by page. Rip out interview notes and put them in the appropriate client files. In your notebooks, you will find material you forgot about completely; things like unfinished articles, article ideas, and scenes. When you find these things, create a physical “article idea” folder, and put those papers in there. Then type up the notes and you’ll instantly have a rough draft.

Type up your journals

While cleaning out my storage closet, I unearthed over 20 years’ worth of journals.  My habit has always been to write in my journal and hide it. But now that I’ve lined them up in my office and started to type them out, I’m thrilled to see the pages add up to a full-length memoir.

But as I type, I realize that not everything in the journal belongs in the memoir. For example, I came across a section that could be turned into an article about creativity, another idea that made sense as a story, and plenty of material that can be fodder for a YA (Young Adult) novel.

If you have journals you haven’t looked at in a while, I challenge you to dust them off and type them up. You’ll get in touch with yourself, find your most emotional writing, and (if you’re like me and have been journaling since junior high) you might have already written a book.

If you find sections that can be used for something else, copy and paste them into a separate document.

Collect interesting quotes and facts when you read

The information you collect when you read will flesh out your articles, give your ideas more credibility, and can even make your writing more persuasive. Develop a system for saving, retrieving, and using fascinating tidbits you come across.

In AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, Don Mahoney writes, “You plant these little nuggets into your copy and they act like invisible hooks that grab onto your reader — hidden magnets that keep him turning the page.”

Some writers have a drawer or folder full of article clippings and quotes they tap into it when they’re looking for ideas. Others organize their clippings by topic. I’ve repurposed a small accordion file for coupons and labeled each section with a topic that interests me. When I find a quote, I can copy it on a slip of paper, photocopy it, or rip it out and stick it into my file, which fits in my purse.

Save your darlings!

William Faulkner said that in writing, you must kill your darlings, but it doesn’t have to be the end. When you feel a pang of regret after cutting a sentence or section from your latest promotion, article, or story, ask yourself if it can be reworked or combined with other material to make a new article, blog post, book chapter, or Facebook post.

Find fresh ideas in your reject pile

Just because an editor decided not to use your story doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

Last week, I opened my “rejected articles” folder on my computer and found a story with an anecdote that made perfect sense for an email I was trying to write. I used the anecdote, and tossed the rest.

Start your book today!

I mentioned that I found memoir and other book ideas within my journals. In fact, writing a book is one of the best things you can do to cement your credibility as a copywriter. Pam Foster recently wrote a book that she said became the best business card she ever had!

Once you start writing more efficiently, writing a book will seem less daunting. If you’ve written a lot about a certain topic, you can start by gathering all of the articles, blog posts, and reports you’ve written into one folder.

That’s what Master Copywriter Bob Bly, author of over 80 books, recommends … In Become a Recognized Authority in Your Field in 60 Days or Less, Bob offers an organization tip that simplifies the process of writing a book. “The instant I get an idea for a book I might write, I create a file labeled with the title. I then clip and place into that file every item related to that topic I come across in my reading and web surfing. This way, when I’m ready to write the book, a good chunk of the research is already done.”

Getting more mileage out of your writing is one way to get more assignments and make more money. When you organize your office, computer files, and life with the intention of reusing your words, you will uncover a cornucopia of ideas.


This article was published in Wealthy Web Writer.

How to Get Savvy — but Highly Skeptical — Customers to Finally Buy

Some customers are so analytical, you wonder what it will take to finally get them to BUY.

I wrote an article for Wealthy Web Writer that explains what information these customers need to take action.

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