Reason #7 – Inappropriate Format
White papers are are documents meant for a specific target audience. Trying to force a single white paper to do the job of many isn’t going to work out well. A white paper handed to an individual must match that reader’s expectation.
The sweet spot for a white paper is around 6 to 8 pages, not including the cover. For technical people, however, there is no real upper limit to the length. As long as the white paper is providing useful information, a long white paper isn’t a problem for the engineer.
Give that long paper to the CEO of a company and things change. The CEO is a busy person and doesn’t have the time for an in-depth technical analysis. That’s why the CEO employs engineers. If that long white paper is read at all, the CEO probably won’t get past the executive summary.
The decision-maker needs a white paper that provides a brief overview of the specific solution to a problem that the engineers have already evaluated. Technical vs cost tradeoffs? Yeah, the executive cares about that, but needs the information provided succinctly and in a format that can be read quickly.
Give that same executive white paper to the engineer, and there will be frustration. The engineer wants details. The engineer wants specifications and the minutia that matter to the execution of the solution to the problem. The executive white paper is far too superficial for this person.
When putting a white paper together, it’s crucial to know who is the intended reader, and then format the document appropriately. White papers are great tools, but the target reader must receive a white paper written for that audience. The wrong white paper does the reader no good.
This post originally appeared in my LinkedIn account.