6 “Dos” and 1 “Don’t” For Developing a Great White Paper

According to the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs’ 11th Annual Content Marketing Survey, 47% of B2B content marketers used white papers in the past 12 months. Considering that the average white paper costs $4,000 to $6,000 to produce, with some complex projects costing as much as $10,000, it’s reasonable to assume that organizations receive a good return on their investment. In fact, white papers are among the best early-to-mid-stage content formats, particularly effective in generating early buyer interest from the awareness through the consideration and intent stages. What’s more, white papers often benefit from a long shelf life, and can be easily repurposed in a variety of formats and channels, such as blog posts, podcasts, webinars, press releases, bylined articles, infographics, and social media. A well-developed white paper is indeed the gift that keeps on giving.

Given the levels of investment, effort, and potential return associated with a white paper project, marketers have plenty of incentive to do it right. Whereas blog posts and infographics can be produced quickly and relatively cheaply, long-form content like white papers demand some additional thought and planning. Most importantly, your white paper should be fully aligned with your organization’s long-term content strategy and goals.

With this in mind, here are 6 “Dos” to consider before kicking off your next white paper project:

  • Do speak to your audience: A successful white paper begins with a compelling topic. And that topic needs to speak directly to a specific, unique challenge or issue your target audience is facing right now. The name of the game is clicks, and unless the topic clearly resonates with your audience, your white paper is likely to gather dust in a forgotten corner of their inbox.
  • Do say something original: One of the most important jobs of a white paper is to help an individual or brand become established as a “thought leader” in their field. The late economist and editor-in-chief Joel Kurtzman first coined “thought leader” in its modern usage in strategy+business magazine. In the decades since, many organizations overused this term, throwing it around to describe every regurgitated utterance of conventional wisdom. Don’t be that guy or gal! For your white paper to have a chance at making an impact in the marketplace, and to have legs beyond the current quarterly cycle, you need to say something original or counterintuitive, and be prepared to back it up.
  • Do cite relevant data: One way to back up your unique or counterintuitive big idea is through evidence – specifically, fresh, current, compelling, independently validated data that support your key points. This information can come from a variety of sources: proprietary research, published studies, government publications, or anecdotal evidence gathered through client interviews and focus groups.
  • Do quote industry experts: Another popular and effective way to establish credibility in your white paper is by interviewing recognized experts in the field. Not only will these quotes help validate your position and point of view, but since everyone loves to see their name in print, they will also extend your reach among the experts’ networks and spheres of influence. Don’t forget to approach your current customers as potential interview subjects, as well. They can provide real-world examples of how they solved the problem you describe in the paper (using your solution, of course), and the additional recognition can serve as a way to thank them for their loyalty and partnership.
  • Do avoid jargon: As much as you hope your shiny new white paper will enable you to leverage industry best practices to help move the needle on all your marketing goals and capture low hanging fruit along the customer journey, you can easily shoot yourself in the foot by overusing industry jargon, cliches, and the most annoying buzzwords of the moment. Nothing reduces a white paper’s effectiveness and credibility more than jargon, except maybe this …
  • Do proofread! Perhaps the only sin worse than overusing buzzwords is neglecting to weed out careless typos, spelling errors, and grammatical snafus. Not everyone will notice, but for the vocal minority that does, nothing is more annoying than silly mistakes that should have been picked up in a final round of editing. Take the extra time to have a second set of eyes read through the final product before you publish. Your readers will thank you!

As a bonus, here is one important “Don’t” to remember for your next white paper project:

  • Don’t push product! We all understand that the ultimate purpose of marketing is to drive sales. Long-form content like white papers are most effective when used in the top and middle stages of the sales cycle, when establishing brand awareness and credibility is most critical, and your audience is seeking objective, thought-provoking points of view. For this reason, avoid overtly selling your products or solution in the white paper, where product-pushing can be more damaging than beneficial. Leave the selling to late-stage content like case studies, website product pages, in-person and virtual events, sales sheets, and brochureware.

White papers hold a unique and important place of prominence in your content marketing toolkit. They help build awareness, credibility, and “buzz” for your brand and offerings. They also have a long shelf life and can be repurposed in multiple ways. Follow our tips for effectiveness, and you’ll be assured of a successful white paper project that will keep returning value for years to come.

How to Tackle Your First 100 Days

The first 100 days of a new President’s administration is generally seen as crucial to its ultimate success. This period is ripe with opportunity, as the newly inaugurated President typically benefits from a “honeymoon” period, with higher-than-average public approval ratings and bipartisan reserves of goodwill that can lead to key legislative wins.

Especially in times of crisis, the first 100 days are seen as a bellwether of an administration’s ability to enact change. As the nation battled the Great Depression in 1933, a freshly inaugurated FDR took 15 major actions in service of his signature “New Deal” program, including passage of the Emergency Banking Act and the introduction of his signature “fireside chats.” JFK ordered the ill-fated Bay of Pigs attacks within his first three months, Ronald Reagan secured the release of the U.S. hostages held in Iran (on day one!), and Barack Obama shepherded the massive $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through Congress before his first month was out. With a historic coronavirus crisis still looming, President Biden has pledged to deliver 100 million vaccines into the arms of Americans within his first 100 days, among other bold initiatives.

But it’s also true that the first 100 days, a period lasting just over three months, establishes the tone and expectations for the new Administration’s competency and ability to function, and provides the nation with its first clear-eyed view of the President’s overall effectiveness as a leader. If an administration begins its term hampered by inaction, internal discord, and dysfunction, it is unlikely to accomplish much of anything in its first few months, let alone over the course of a four-year term.

The first 100 days of a new administration demands bold leadership, big ideas, and strong, confident action. There are lessons to be learned for marketers, as well.

We often focus on setting annual targets or objectives for our business or marketing program. But think back to January 2020—of all the ambitious goals you set back then, how many did you actually accomplish, post-COVID? Even in a “normal” year, the annual goal-setting cycle is useful from a strategic perspective, but is usually less effective as a tactical tool.

In contrast, working to a 90- or 100-day timeframe strikes the perfect balance between long-term, strategic goals, and shorter-term, practical milestones. A week or a month is too short. It is too easy to become derailed when your focus shifts to dousing “urgent” day-to-day fires. At the same time, too much can change over the course of a year – in your market, with your competition, and with economic and business conditions beyond your control. An effective strategic plan must be both forward-thinking and flexible enough to pivot on a dime.

That’s why a 100-day (or 90-day) plan can work so well.

When setting your content marketing goals, break your yearly calendar up into quarterly increments. Start by focusing on your key content pillars – those products, topics, or themes you want to highlight in the upcoming quarter. Then decide on the mix of content you’d like to utilize to support these themes: A blog series? Earned media? Placed byline articles? White papers or eBooks? Customer success stories and case studies?

Lastly, schedule your content releases in two-week “sprints,” until you have the entire quarter covered. Lay it out visually on a thirteen-week calendar and double-check to ensure all the key content pillars are covered. Make sure you support your flagship assets (like white papers, eBooks, and trend reports) with a consistent campaign of promotion and repurposing through a variety of channels and media (e.g., blog posts, bylined articles, social media, podcasts, videos, and earned media).

By establishing the groundwork in your first 100 days, you’ll set the tone for a solid and successful content marketing program. With some foresight and planning, these early wins will carry you through the entire year, while providing enough flexibility to help you manage any challenge that comes your way.

Thank you

I love this time of year. Oh, it is busy, sure. Especially in my home, where my wife, three kids and I celebrate eight days of Hanukkah,and then roll right into Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But it is so full of joy, laughter, warmth, and fun that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I write this on December 10th, our children have opened all their Hanukkah gifts, we have each selected this year’s charity of choice, the menorah candles have been lit for the last time, and I have fried up my final batch of latkes(traditional potato pancakes) for 2018. As I sit in my home office, wrapping up a few client projects while Alexa blares a mix of Christmas classics, I take some time to reflect on the successes and learnings since I launched Ted Goldwyn Writing in November 2014.

The successes have been many.

Looking back at four years in business, I am proud to have been involved in over 330 writing, editing, and marketing projects. This listincludes dozens of white papers and case studies, well over a hundred articlesand blog posts, and over a hundred editing and proofreading assignments.

I feel blessed to have maintained wonderful relationships with a core group of long-time clients who use my services, via retainer contracts, regular monthly assignments, or ongoing repeat business. I am also thankfulthis year for those past clients who contacted me with new projects. And I’mexcited to be kicking off some energizing projects with a select number ofbrand-new clients. 

As I enter my fifth year in business, I am enthusiastic about what 2019 will hold. The die has been set for record growth, and I look forward to expanding on the core services I offer to financial services marketers.

Based on client requests and in recognition of a definite need for basic business writing skills among professionals in a variety of industries, I began offering a BusinessWriting Basics remote training program in 2018. I present this program as alive or recorded webinar, customized to my clients’ specific needs. The training has been well-received, and I plan to roll this out more broadly in 2019. In addition, I am currently in talks with a local college to offer a full-day in-person course to area employers and the public.

I am also early in the planning stages of writing a new book to help marketers navigate the stormy seas of dynamic content marketing. Staytuned!

Of course, Ted Goldwyn Writing will continue to focus on content marketing, thought leadership, and editing for the financial services industry. If you are searching for an experienced financial services writer tosupport any of your 2019 content marketing objectives, let’s talk!

I want to take a moment to thank you, my loyal readers foryour support, business, thoughtful advice, and genuine kindness over this pastyear. I wish you and your families a joyful holiday season and a New Year filled with success and happiness.

Best wishes,


Appreciating Leftovers

My kids love Thanksgiving.

Not so much all the grocery shopping, and days of preparation, and the hours of watching the turkey slowly roast in the oven.

And certainly not the smothering hugs and lipstick-stained kisses from Aunt Martha as she makes her grand entrance into our previously-bucolic homestead.

(OK, who am kidding? With three school-aged kids and three dogs, our home is never peaceful.)

No, what my kids really look forward to are the leftovers. I have a mean turkey rice casserole recipe, and my kids beg me to cook it up every day for a week following Thanksgiving. I also make some great turkey croquettes. For some reason, my children seem to enjoy the leftovers much more than the original dishes. You know, the ones that my wife and I sweat over for days preparing.

The key is to change the recipes up a little bit. Use the turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes in new, creative ways. Add some fresh ingredients, like cream of mushroom soup, rice, or egg noodles. Sprinkle a little pizazz into the mix.

Come to think of it, the same approach works well in your content marketing strategy.

(You, Patient Reader, knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

Repurpose your content leftovers

One of the many benefits of developing a regular and consistent content marketing program over the course of months and years is that eventually, you have created a massive library of rich and flavorful articles, white papers, webinars, blog posts, and case studies to draw on.

Once you’ve developed that library of delectable content, it’s simply a matter of defrosting the leftovers, reformulating your recipes, and mixing up all your ingredients until you have something new and delicious.

In practice, this may mean taking the white paper you published last spring and recycling the observations into a webinar featuring a panel of internal and external subject matter experts, making sure to introduce fresh new insights into the mix.

Or it may mean reheating portions of the article you wrote for a leading industry publication into a set of short blog posts.

Another tasty approach to try is leveraging your recent case studies to create a series of short client testimonial posts on LinkedIn.

The possibilities are endless. As we near the end of the year, it’s a great time to revisit all the delicious content you cooked up over the past twelve months. You’ll be surprised how many savory morsels are buried deep in those pages of valuable assets. All they need is a little loving attention and effort to turn them into a cornucopia of mouthwatering delights.

Whatever else you do this holiday season, remember to save your leftovers.

Your kids will thank you.



Back from the Dead

‘Tis the season of vampires, Frankenstein’s monster, and zombies. This makes it a great time to discuss the reanimation of that old content marketing standby, the white paper.

Recently a client asked me, “Do white papers still have a place in my content marketing strategy?”

I get it. In today’s information-packed, immediate-gratification world, the traditional white paper can seem windy, dry, and even a bit boring. Aren’t bright shiny objects like short blog posts, infographics, and 90-second video clips more effective at engaging your audience?

To some extent, yes. Shorter-form, visually-immersive content is growing in popularity, particularly as part of a well-coordinated social media strategy. Yet in the high-end B2B market, the staid, long-form white paper still plays an important role. Consider these stats:

White papers remain the most effective way to attract and engage buyers of high-value, complex products and services. These decision-makers spend hours researching the best solution to their unique business challenge. A properly-executed series of white papers creates a foundation of expertise upon which your firm can build credibility within your target market. Over time, this foundation will harden and begin generating a steady stream of qualified leads and eventually, sales.

That said, white papers are evolving. Here are a few trends I’m keeping my eye on:

  1. Short is sweet: Although I still write a lot of traditional, long-form white papers of 4,000 to 6,000 words (up to 15-20 pages, with graphics), recently I’ve worked with several clients to produce shorter papers of 1,500 to 3,000 words. This format is perfectly designed for today’s busy, harried executive who doesn’t have the time to read a full-fledged white paper. The key is to still provide a meaty exploration of a core business challenge or industry trend.
  2. Seeing is believing: When white papers first became popular in business in the early 1990s, they consisted primarily of plain text set against a white background, with few if any graphical elements, charts, or illustrations. This approach has changed dramatically in recent years. Today, white papers include photos, company logos, call-out quotes, charts, graphs, illustrations, and infographics. Some even include video clips in interactive, electronic formats. It is a welcome change. Today’s “white” papers are much more engaging and easier to digest than those of the past.
  3. Promote, promote, promote! You may have just written the most thought-provoking, scintillating piece of content in the history of white papers. Unfortunately, if you simply slap it up on your website, no one will find it. This is where social media posts, media alerts, press releases, emails to your current clients, prospects, and influencer lists, and sharing on popular white paper sites like White Paper Library and TechRepublic can help get the word out and extend the life and usefulness of your publication.
  4. Reuse … recycle … repurpose: A white paper is the centerpiece of a comprehensive content marketing strategy. If you take an evergreen approach, focusing more on tried-and-true insights and advice rather than chasing the trend of the moment, a single white paper can continue paying dividends for years. The content can be sliced into a series of shorter articles, each focusing on one key topic from the paper, and repurposed endlessly via social media posts, blog posts, live webinars, podcasts, and recorded videos.
  5. Avoid the overt sales pitch: OK, this one is nothing new, but it remains a best practice. White papers are meant to provide a thorough analysis of a specific business problem or market trend and offer a well-considered solution. Buyers do not expect a hard-sell. Leave that job to your product brochures, sell sheets and case studies. It’s acceptable to include a “learn more” call to action toward the end of a white paper, but that’s about it. The white paper is strictly a top-of-the-sales-funnel asset targeted to buyers beginning their research. Once you establish credibility as a thought leader, the buyer will return to investigate your offerings.

The white paper is not dead! It remains an important element of a well-balanced content marketing strategy, particularly for firms offering high-value, high-cost products and services. Is it time to make it part of yours?

To Japan With Love

Yuka just boarded her flight back home.

My family was selected as one of three host families for a Rotary youth exchange student from Japan. Yuka spent this past year immersing herself in American culture, language, and education, and she had the experience of a lifetime.

For my family, the experience was every bit as rewarding. Through Yuka, a joyful, kind, and enthusiastic ambassador for her home country, we caught a glimpse through the peephole into the fascinating world of Japan. For her part, Yuka confronted several challenges along the way, especially early on as she struggled to become fluent in English and understand the nuances of our relaxed communication style.

Now that the tears have dried, I’ve had a few days to reflect on the experience. Several lessons are applicable to marketing communications:

  1. Communicate simply and clearly: Simplicity is always a worthwhile goal in communications, but when dealing with a non-native English speaker, it is particularly important to break your writing down to the core message. What is your goal? Are your sentences and paragraphs overstuffed with purple prose? If you slash all non-essential words and phrases, is anything lost?
  2. If at first, you don’t connect, restate your message: Sometimes I would ask Yuka a question, and be rewarded with a blank stare. This was a sure sign I needed to rephrase the question in a different way, using simpler, more common verbiage. Occasionally it meant I needed to provide additional background information or context. These interactions reminded me there is usually more than one way to communicate with your audience.
  3. Know your audience: In Japanese, there are four distinct ways of addressing people: kun, chan, san, and sama. These various styles range from informal, to condescending, to deferential. Japanese custom requires speakers to address people differently depending on their relative ages and organizational rank. Although the U.S. is a much less formal and hierarchical society, it is still critical to understand your audience and cater your messaging style accordingly. Ignoring your audience’s perspective means at best, encouraging misunderstanding and at worst, offending the reader.
  4. Listen before speaking: Yuka taught me to listen more closely and to have patience. As a non-native English speaker, she would sometimes struggle to find the right word. After much trial and error, rather than quickly jumping in with what I thought was the phrase she was looking for, I learned to let her sort through her mental catalog to find the words that fit her thoughts. I often found she was trying to say something different from what I assumed. This lesson is already helping me in my writing and interactions with collaborators and clients. Even as native speakers, few of us can always, perfectly articulate our thoughts, goals, and messages. It pays to listen, ask follow-up questions, and engage in interactive dialogue before drawing conclusions.
  5. Thank your lucky stars: Those of us living in the English-speaking world have it easy. Not only does a majority of the (business) world speak English, other languages, particularly those native to Asia, are much harder to learn. Consider that Japanese has four separate systems of written language: kanji, hiragana, katakana, and romanj. Kanji, which was imported from China two millennia ago, consists of 2,000 symbols in common use, each representing a different word. Japanese children must memorize over 1,000 kanji by the time they finish elementary school.

My family and I are grateful to Yuka for sharing her wonderful and unique perspective and personality with us for a few months. We miss our host daughter/sister already and look forward to seeing her again, perhaps next time in Japan.

Yoku kaite, umaku iku.
Write Well, and Be Well!


Training for the Marketing Marathon

For a recreational runner training for a big autumn distance race, the months of July and August are soul-crushing.

You’re getting into the heavy slog weeks of long, slow distance runs, mentally taxing mid-week speed work, and weekly mileage counts approaching 30, 40, 50 miles or even more. You wake up earlier each morning to combat higher temperatures and stifling humidity, factors that slow your natural pace down by a full minute for every 10 degrees of temperature rise.

I’m training for my second marathon. Like a lot of runners, I find it hard to stay focused. Digging deep for daily motivation is a challenge.

Yet the key to any successful distance race is to put in the work, week after week, day after day, mile after mile. As any coach will tell you, if you follow the plan, and put in the miles, you have a better-than-decent chance of hitting your goal, whether it’s to qualify for the Boston Marathon, notch a personal record, or just cross the finish line.

But you’ve got to put in the work. You can’t expect to successfully run 26.2 or 13.1 miles without training hard for three or four months. You can’t complete a distance event drawing on just one workout a week. Or by skipping your long runs when you feel tired.

Content marketing works the same way.

There is no magic marketing formula that works for every business. Some organizations publish regular blog posts on topics of interest to their target audience. Others create long-form thought leadership content like white papers or e-books. Still others seek out expert interview slots, guest posts and podcasts, and bylined articles in relevant industry journals to expand their universe of qualified leads.

All approaches are valid. But no method will work for your business unless it’s done regularly, consistently, and strategically. A white paper may present the most brilliant and unorthodox solution to a problem the world has ever seen. But if you don’t promote the content across multiple channels (like press releases, social media, and sales meetings), and repurpose it in other forms (articles, blog posts, webinars) it will have limited impact. Besides, one white paper alone won’t do much for you over the long term. The goal should be to develop a thought leadership platform, and build an audience that begins to think of your company as the go-to knowledge expert within your field.

The same goes for blogging. Too many businesses start a blog with the best of intentions, only to peter out after a few posts. It takes time to attract an audience, and once you have one, you must work to keep them engaged. A regular, active blog with relevant content improves search engine optimization (SEO), and drives traffic to your site. An inconsistent, stale blog with broken links and obsolete info has the opposite effect.

Be in it for the long haul. Develop a solid plan and stick with it, mile after mile.

That’s how you cross the finish line.


Looking to kick your content marketing plan into race-day shape? Let’s talk! Contact me at ted@tedgoldwyn.com or www.tedgoldwyn.com.