Friday, October 31, 2008

White Paper Development Strategies
How to speed up the development cycle and make thought leadership more useful
Author: Alistair Davidson,
Contact Information:
Phone: 650-450-9011

White Paper Development Strategies
How to speed up the development cycle and make thought leadership more useful.
Five Key Take-Aways
Introduction: why it’s difficult getting an effective white paper
Why Content Matters
The Content Development Process
Levels of Involvement
Level 1 Development
Level 2 Development
Level 3 Development
Rapid Content Development Based Upon Business and Technology Knowledge

Six Key Take-Aways
1. Many white papers are like highly processed white bread. You eat them and they are not very satisfying. Good white papers should seek to have high impact. They should be designed to be memorable, leaving behind a story, a key number, and a graphic that the reader will remember and be able to summarize or use. Ideally, they should be based upon the right combination of customer knowledge, market research and vision for the use of the technology, solution or consulting approach.

2. White papers take too long to create. Their value decreases if the production cycle time is too long. Most projects fail to begin with a messaging objective and a target audience. Without a clear messaging objective, the time and budget required for development and approval becomes large.

3. Bad white papers often represent a “regurgitation” of what an overly technical content expert thinks is important. Most white papers overemphasize the features of the technology, and are not sufficiently focused on the ROI and business decision of why to use a technology or business consulting approach.

4. Consulting firm white papers often have difficulty establishing credibility because they make unsubstantiated claims or propose models without sufficient business examples, cases and research. Even worse, consulting firms often don’t take the time and trouble to document their successes.

5. Many technology and consulting organizations don’t do enough cases to illustrate the value of their technology or consulting approach. Often concerned about the willingness of customers to cooperate, they don’t develop disguised cases, nor do they commission cases with non-clients to illustrate problems that their consulting or technology could solve.

6. White papers can not only create new sales, they can reduce the cost of sales particularly for hard-to-launch new products and services. The content around a product or service contributes to the brand value and may increase opportunities for premium pricing by establishing the value of an unfamiliar product or service.

Introduction: why it’s difficult getting an effective white paper
If you are already using white papers, you probably have a nagging suspicion that your white papers and cases aren’t working as well as they should. They seem to lack a hook and not very memorable. They don’t present a substantial ROI or present benefits from an end user perspective.

A successful white paper needs both technology and business analysis. It should be developed quickly by a skilled writer who knows the needs of the audience. Speed is important in competitive markets where staking a claim to technological and thought leadership is part of the branding process.

Most skilled writers are journalists with little understanding or experience of technology, business, consulting and finance. They are rarely state of the art in business theory and practice. They almost always lack business development and sales experience. They rarely have done business teaching or executive development. And it is extremely unlikely that they understand finance, spreadsheets and ROI.

And many good writers are high maintenance. Their work needs many revisions and multiple layers of review because they do not understand that publishing a white paper is always an art – revealing what may be revealed without incurring legal problems, upsetting clients or internal power brokers.

Why Content Matters
Good articles create customer interest. Good white papers simplify and clarify prospects’ decision making. Cases support white papers and can demonstrate quantified benefits for a particular company. Newsletters represent a useful way around the delays in getting articles published and provide a more focused marketing tool.

Good content generates sales, speed up sales process, short circuits (in a good way) long approval cycles, and can accelerate repeat purchase and increased usage. Even better, if done well, they will be forwarded by one client to another in a viral way. Brilliant white papers and articles can become classics that continue to generate business year after year.

Marketing materials must also be designed to be effective with spiders sent out by search engines. A good article or white paper should be written and accessible on the web so that it is easily findable – able to scoop in prospects and decision makers a company may not be in touch with through traditional sales methods.

How white papers or articles simplify or clarify depends upon what you are selling, but complicated or novel products, services or consulting approaches need to be explained before they can be sold. The process of selecting, deploying and using the product or service needs to be explained. The evolution of a technology often needs to be projected to reassure customers and prospects. And because there is always competition for resources, business cases are needed to help the client justify why a project should be highly ranked.

Loosely speaking, we distinguish between two types of content:

1. Push, where the business problem is that potential customers don’t have experience with a new technology or consulting approach. They need it explained, its implications mapped out, the likely benefits extrapolated.
2. Pull, where the technology is relatively well understood, but the justifications of why one vendor or technology is preferable to another.

Good content represents an investment that will reduce the cost of sales and increase sales volume. When used as part of an integrated launch strategy, good content becomes part of the brand attribute and increased pricing opportunities, particularly where the product has optional service or solution trade-ups.

The Content Development Process
An explicit process and set of review points speeds up content development, improves targeting and makes sure that maximum value for money is obtained. With a systematic approach, time can be reduced in both content development and review. A rough rule of thumb is that for ever day of content development large organizations will require 3-5 days of elapsed time for approval. But it’s worth pointing out that engaging a professional can speed up overall processes by up to 10X over internal development. Most managers are not naturally good writers. Even when they are, they are distracted by their ongoing activities.

Stage Initial discussion of needs
Activity Content and research availability is also reviewed.
Benefit Fact based marketing and message development is more effective

Discussion with content expert or customers
Activity: Optional
Benefit: Validation of initial discussion

Messaging strategy development
Activity: Required
Benefit: Build consensus among stakeholders

Content outline
Activity: Provides review point
Benefit: Reduces number of rework loops

First draft delivery
Activity: Can be provided rapidly
Benefit: Uncertainty about what is being delivered should have been reduced by now

Editing and review
Activity: Often longer than writing stage due to number of reviewers
Benefit: In some cases, the act of delivering the white paper will alter the strategy of the group

Levels of Involvement
Generally speaking, there are three levels of project involvement:

Level 1 Development
Here the goal is simple. Take several different sets of material as source material and weave them into a white paper, article, or set of newsletters. The key requirement here is the ability to digest, structure and write clear content. An outsider can often help the sponsor of the content to sharpen the material and make it more appropriate and relevant to the reader. Simplifying graphics are often missing and can increase the impact of the piece.

Typical time: 1-2 days
Involvement of sponsoring company staff: low

Level 2 Development

The sponsoring company provides background research on the industry and users. Judgments need to be made about the messaging strategy, segmentation decisions, number of pieces to be developed, types of pieces and publishing strategy. Multiple white papers, articles, internal and external cases, ROI and financial analysis are developed as part of an integrated marketing or launch program.

Typical time: 4-8 weeks
Involvement of sponsoring company staff: medium

Level 3 Development
Facilitation services are provided to create consensus within the team. Market research may be optionally commission if the sessions suggest that data or insights are missing. Judgments need to be made about the messaging strategy, segmentation decisions, number of pieces of content to be developed, types of pieces. Multiple white papers, articles, internal and external cases, ROI and financial analysis is provided as part of an integrated marketing or launch program.

Typical time: 8-12 weeks
Involvement of sponsoring company staff: high

Rapid Content Development Based Upon Business and Technology Knowledge

Alistair Davidson provides companies with needed capabilities for high quality thought leadership and content development. Alistair Davidson, managing partner provides the following capabilities:

1. Deep understanding of many technologies from running three software companies, a high tech incubator and consulting to over 60 Silicon Valley firms, both startups and major players. He has personally been involved in software, hardware, services and solutions development and promotion.

2. State-of-the-art in business knowledge with leadership experience, consulting experience, startup and turnaround experience. He has a strong background in finance and modeling, marketing and sales. In addition he is a trained strategic facilitator and a certified Myers-Briggs administrator who has run many strategic consulting processes for international companies large and small.

He is a skilled and rapid writer. His third book which has 110 pages was written in three days. The total publishing cycle for the book from start date to publication was four weeks. He has been published by a major publisher, HarperCollins Canada. Some of his content based marketing programs have produced ROIs of in excess of 1200%. His recent thought leadership clients have included multiple publications for Cisco, HP, Deloitte Consulting and Cushman & Wakefield.

Recent topics have included sustainability, risk management, succession planning, investing in China, refinancing real estate, IFRS, fixed mobile convergence market evolution, video services, new media advertising models, wireless services and fixed mobile convergence dual mode services.

Appendix 1: Alistair Davidson Background
Alistair Davidson is a former CEO of four high tech firms, a Harvard MBA, author of three books on strategy and technology, and several dozen articles, interviews and book reviews. As a contributing editor to Strategy and Leadership magazine, he is continually involved in assessing the latest ideas and research in strategic management. Occasionally, he writes books reviews of significant books. He is frequently involved with interviews with major thinkers, e.g. an interview with HBS professor Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmstead Teisberg on reforming healthcare.

Business Experience: He has raised angel and venture capital for startups in two countries, been hired to turn around startups, has improved companies’ performance, has had full life cycle responsibility for over a dozen high tech and consulting products, and has hands on experience in all aspects of starting up and growing both high tech and consulting businesses including developing all the written materials.

Consulting Experience: he has worked with a wide variety of industries including major international and boutique consulting firms, real estate, telecom, semiconductor, communications equipment and solutions, financial services, pharmaceutical, military and government organizations. He has been involved in developing new consulting tools, simulations, executive leadership programs, IT strategy, IT portfolio management and staffing, launch strategies, syndicated consulting projects, budgeting systems, planning systems, artificial intelligence based strategy assessment, new product success prediction models, new product gating models and expert systems, process management and improvement, strategic facilitation and competitive analysis, organizational development, pricing strategy and execution, diversification and prediction of market and technology evolution.

Product Management, Marketing, Sales and Business Development Experience: he has a full range of business development experience including developing consulting projects, developing new product requirements, setting up distribution, training sales staff, web-site marketing and ranking improvement, press release, sales literature, newsletter, blog and thought leadership development. He has been involved in closing over 300 companies internationally and has sold products and services to major companies and organizations internationally.

Appendix 2: Alistair Davidson Recent Projects
Recent projects have included:

Deloitte Consulting, Technology Media and Telecom Practice
- IT portfolio management and strategy
- Strategy for outsourcing technologies as product categories mature
- Retail strategy for high tech products
- Pricing strategy and execution management
Visioning exercise for a major storage company
- Pricing strategy for a major security vendor company

- Various cases on deployment of fixed mobile convergence solutions for consumer, enterprise and video solutions including financial analysis of benefits of technology solutions
- White paper on FMC for integrated service providers
- White paper on FMC for cable service providers
- White paper on FMC for fixed line service providers
- White paper on FMC for mobile service providers
- White paper on FMC for mobile virtual network operators
Cushman and Wakefield Real Estate Consulting
- International location decisions
- Investing in China
- The impact of the introduction of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standard) to Canada and US
- Succession planning
- CFO as change agent
- Green strategies
- Risk management

- development of ROI models for telecom solutions

VideoAnalytica LLC
- White paper on real time dynamic product placement in video streaming

Appendix 3: Sample Articles and White Papers
Example Book Review
Porter and Teasberg: On Reforming Healthcare

Example Deloitte Articles
Managing Web Mavens,1002,sid%253D2245%2526cid%253D112087,00.html

Pricing Execution and Strategy

Example Cisco White Papers
White papers on fixed mobile convergence service providers
In publication

Example VideoAnalytica LLC White Paper
White paper on dynamic product placement (document address likely to change after May 6, 2008)

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