Your target audience of engineering, industrial, and technical professionals is regularly searching for specifications, application notes, white papers, and other technical content relevant to their jobs. According to the IHS Engineering360 Industrial Buy Cycle Survey, 70% of buyers review four or more pieces of content for purchases over $10,000.
White papers and technical articles are near the top of your audience’s list in terms of popularity and usefulness—and these two types of content can serve as the anchor of your content strategy.
White papers and technical articles are similar, with only slight differences. Technical articles tend to be shorter and focused, but deeply technical. White papers are longer, more in-depth, may be written for multiple audiences, and may have multiple authors. Both deliver the same types of benefits, including:
• Positioning your company as a valuable and expert source of information to your target audiences
• Helping you gain a reputation as a thought leader in your market
• Generating leads and engagement opportunities for your marketing and sales teams
• Serving as the foundation of other content, such as such as webinars, blog posts, executive briefs, infographics, and more
The Key to Good Content
Technical in nature? Yes. Boring? No. There’s no reason that your white papers and technical articles can’t be interesting, even fascinating. To be that way, you need to focus on the needs and interests of your audience and tell a good story—one that has a clear objective, a strong beginning that states what’s to come, a well-reasoned and researched middle, and a powerful and succinct conclusion.
You can achieve these goals if you do the necessary work up front, before you begin drafting the copy. Follow these steps:
Define your purpose. Why are you writing this piece? The answer to this question helps clarify your purpose. All white papers and technical articles have at their core the purpose of educating their audience about a specific topic. In addition, you will likely also identify one of four other purposes:
• Describe a product and its uses. For example, define and describe a diode laser and how it is used.
• Explain a concept or idea. For example, explain the concept of emissivity as it applies to measuring infrared temperature.
• Describe a process. For example, explain the process by which a gas moves through a flow meter.
• Provide an opinion or perspective on an industry trend. For example, describing your company’s viewpoint on the impact of a new regulation or new technology on your industry.
Analyze your audience. We say “analyze” your audience rather than “identify” your audience because it’s not granular enough to say your audience is “engineers” or “potential customers.” A thorough audience analysis will drive your content decisions and help you decide what to put in and what to leave out, as well as help you write to the level of your audience . Ask these questions about your audience:
• What do they already know about the topic? What do they still need to know?
• Why is this information important to my audience?
• What objections or differing perspectives might they have on the topic that you need to address?
• What do I want my audience to do or think after reading this content?
Not Just Words
The strongest white papers and technical articles use visual aids to help enhance understanding. They can also provide key information for readers who scan (many do not read beginning to end, no matter how well written your piece is).
Use tables to summarize and group information. Photographs and drawings can show what an object looks like. Diagrams are useful to explain a process or how something works. Data can be represented in bar charts, pie charts, tables, and other graphing formats.
Create and Distribute
PDF is one of the best formats for creating the distribution version of your content, and the one that will optimally display your graphics and layout. PDFs can be viewed online, printed, or downloaded and saved to the user’s computer.
Once you have a beautiful white paper or article, you need to get it into the hands of your audience. Here are some strategies that might work for you:
• Publish papers and articles on your website
• Use email marketing to drive your audience to your website to access the content; alternatively, attach the paper or article to the email
• Promote them through your social media channels
• Highlight them using targeted display advertising on industrial websites
• Use them to pitch story ideas and attract media attention
• Distribute them at trade shows or other events
• Print and mail them to customers and prospects
• Submit them to other websites that publish technical content
Want to learn more? Download "Technical Articles and White Papers: Making a Content Connection," the newest white paper from IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions.