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  • Writer's pictureJim Mahannah


A Cheat Sheet for Cleantech Companies

So, you’re thinking about writing a white paper. But you’re struggling to settle on a topic. Or you’re not sure how to structure the content. And you’re wondering how you can turn it into something your prospects will want to download and read.

Deciding exactly what topic to cover and how to structure the content isn’t easy. Which is why I’ve developed this white paper cheat sheet. It’s designed to help you answer exactly these kinds of questions. As you work through the cheat sheet, you’ll start to clarify not only which topics will resonate the most with your audience but also how to address that topic in a way your prospects will value.

Before we get to the cheat sheet, however, let’s start by defining what a white paper is and why you might want to write one.

What is a White Paper?

A white paper is a persuasive report that promotes a product, service, idea or viewpoint using facts and logic.

Today, most white papers run about six to ten pages long. Frankly, most prospects won’t take the time to wade through anything longer. The goal is to deliver useful and highly relevant information as efficiently as possible.

White papers differ from many other kinds of content in that they’re meant to be authoritative and objective. You should NOT openly attempt to “sell” the prospect on a particular product or service. That could undermine your authority and objectivity.

Why Choose a White Paper Over Other Kinds of Content?

White papers have several advantages. Some of the most important ones are:

  • They’re a powerful way to reframe an issue. Well-written white papers can reframe issues or challenges your prospects are facing and indirectly position your product or service as the logical solution.

  • They build your authority and credibility. White papers are perceived as educational pieces rather than sales materials, so they’re given more credence. This builds your authority and credibility with prospects.

  • They have a long shelf life. White papers can stay relevant and useful for months and years. This saves you from having to update them often or develop new content to replace them.

  • They can be repurposed. Because they have a depth of information, white papers can be carved up and repurposed into numerous other useful copy content forms, such as blog posts, placed articles, client letters and e-newsletters.

While white papers are an excellent content vehicle, not all white papers end up being persuasive, relevant or interesting. To write a good white paper, you need to thoughtfully analyze your prospects, understand their challenges and determine where your products and services fit in.

This cheat sheet will guide you through this analysis. Start by answering the following questions.


1. What product or service are you trying to promote? Limit yourself to only one product or service per white paper.

2. What role (job title) in your customer’s organization should you target? In other words, who is most directly impacted by or interested in what this white paper has to say?

3. What phase of your prospect’s “buying journey” are you trying to impact?

a. Identifying needs

b. Researching solutions

c. Shortlisting options

d. Evaluating shortlisted solutions and proposals

e. Buying additional products/services.

4. Keeping the target job role in mind, what key challenge is the prospect facing at this point in his/her journey as it relates to your product or service?

5. How is this challenge impacting the prospect’s organization and its key stakeholders? What are its key implications?

6. How have similar organizations addressed this specific challenge in the past? And why did their approach work or not work?

7. What questions is the prospect asking your company at this point in his/her journey?

8. What questions might the prospect be asking himself/herself at this point?

9. What beliefs and assumptions might the prospect have about his/her organization’s key challenge?

10. What misunderstandings or misconceptions might the prospect have about this challenge?

11. What do you wish your prospect knew and understood about your product or service?

12. How is your product or service different from (and better than) other options your prospect might be considering?

13. What potential objections might your prospect have to your product or service as it relates to solving the organization’s key challenge? How could you address each objection?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, start to formulate your argument. What would you say to your ideal prospect if you had ten minutes to make the case for your product or service?

Create a bulleted list of your main points, using facts, logic and reason. To better formulate your thoughts, it can be helpful to imagine yourself arguing your case in a court of law. What would you say? How would you refute counterarguments?

Then start writing!


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