Reason #6 – Wrong Length
Many people fear white papers “because they are long documents.” But, is that really true? How long is too long?
The answer to that questions depends a lot upon just who you are, and your role in a purchase. Are you an engineer trying to evaluate solutions to a complicated problem, or are you the CFO, and have to make a decision on whether to allow the spending?
There are different types of white papers for use with different audiences, but there are also different appropriate lengths. If a white paper is too short, it won’t contain enough content to satisfy the reader, and that’s true no matter who is reading.
On the other hand, a long white paper runs the risk of losing the reader’s interest. That’s particularly true of the busy executive. If a long paper contains details the engineer wants to read about, length isn’t an issue. So again, length depends on the targeted reader.
There is a sweet spot, however. The sweet spot for business executive readers and technical readers are different, but they do overlap. Recommended length for business readers is 6 to 8 pages. For technical readers, 6 to 12 pages is recommended. The page count includes only content pages, so a cover sheet is excluded from the total.
Shorter and longer white papers may be passable, but under no circumstances should the document fall below 4 content pages. For business readers, anything above 12 pages is too long, whereas technical readers will read significantly longer papers provided what they read is valuable.
In the end, the appropriate length for any white paper is a judgement call, but by targeting the 6 to 8 page, it’s hard to go wrong.
This article originally appeared in my LinkedIn account.