White papers for multiple audiences can be inherently more challenging to write than those aimed at a specific audience, but that doesn’t make them impossible to create. Doing so successfully involves two things: thoughtful organization and building in what we call “navigation” tactics to guide readers to the most relevant information for their specific needs.

Creating white papers for multiple audiences

Developing a white paper aimed at multiple audiences begins with thoughtful organization. While it may seem obvious, the first step is identifying each of those audiences and then listing the issues and messages that matter to each. For example, you might be writing a paper about lubrication for heavy construction equipment, and making the sale requires getting the buy-in of three audiences. The first is the mechanic who’s responsible for keeping the equipment in good running order. The second is the equipment supervisor who takes the heat when a piece of equipment fails in the field. The third audience is financial managers at construction companies, who are most concerned with budgets.

Develop a basic outline

Once you’ve identified the audiences, list the messages that are going to be relevant to each. In this example, your high-quality lubricant has been proven to last longer, so the message to mechanic is that choosing this lubricant will extend service cycles and free up more time. For the equipment supervisor, longer maintenance intervals and better reliability mean improved availability and better utilization, so the company can serve customers with less equipment. The sell for the financial person is a bid different. Your lubricant carries a higher price tag than competitive products, so you have to explain how the higher price is offset by the longer service intervals and better utilization.

Organize the white paper

Now it’s time to develop the structure of your white paper. After a general introduction that educates the reader about differences in lubricants, you divide the paper into three sections, one focused on each of the audiences, and then you lay out the three separate cases. Your headline for the first section might be “Better lubricants lengthen maintenance cycles.” For the second, you might use “Maximize availability by choosing the right lubricants.” And for the third, you might use something like “Spend a little extra and save large amounts.”

Fill in the blanks

Follow each headline with relevant information for that audience. Each section might begin with a review of the purpose of lubricants and an exploration of how they perform their function. From there, it can describe the advantages of your product with a focus on the issue most important to each audience.

Isn’t that repetitious?

We’re taught to avoid repetition, but in this case, it’s a good thing. Each audience is unlikely to read the sections directed at the other audiences, so they won’t notice the repetition. And if they do choose the read the other parts, having the same messages presented in slightly different ways will provide additional arguments for your lubricant’s advantages.

Navigation tactics

When you write and design your white paper, build in what’s often called “navigation.” That’s the term given to visual cues such as subheadings and bold lead-ins at the start of paragraphs. These devices offer insight into or a summary of what follows. Because they have a different appearance than the body text, readers’ eyes are drawn to them. If your subheadings summarize the key messages and sales points, for each audience, that audience will notice them.

Include call to actions

Rather than try to write a single call to action for all three audiences, include separate ones in each section. It’s a good idea, because the intent of the call to action will probably be different for each audience. With our mechanic, your goal is to get him to recommend your lubricant to whoever is in charge of purchasing it, or perhaps to encourage him to test the lubricant on specific pieces of equipment to see how well it performs. For the equipment supervisor, the call to action might provide the information needed to make a case for the lubricant. And for the financial executive, it might be to request an analysis of how your lubricant compares to the product they currently use.

One wrap-up section

The last section of your white paper can be a brief description of your company and products, providing sources for additional information, whether that’s your website or a phone number to connect with the sales team. The end result is you’ve developed an effective white paper capable of communicating with different audiences that have separate needs and interests!

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