What’s the 80% White Paper Rule and How to Implement it Properly

16 May
2012
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Do you know what the 80% white paper rule is? Have you ever followed it?

Last week when I wrote the post “21 Important Rules to Follow While Writing Your White Paper,” I mentioned what the 80% white paper rule was, but I did so very briefly. I wanted to expand on that point and explain it further as I have seen people ignore it quite often and I wanted show how important this rule is.

What is the 80% white paper rule?

The 80% white paper rule states that at least 80% of your white paper should be educational and only 20% of the white paper should be promotional. This 80% of educational content should be the first part of the white paper (it is also called the magazine section) and the 20% of the promotional part of the white paper should be the second part (it is also called the brochure section).

Usually it’s better to have a white paper that has 90% educational content and 10% promotion material. But 80% content and 20% promotional material should do just fine. You shouldn’t exceed this 20% of promotional material.

Why is this rule so important?

In the past white papers were reserved to companies that sold complicated and expensive products and they followed the rule really well of separating the white paper into a magazine part and a promotional part because when their clients read a white paper they knew what to expect from it.

Nowadays almost everybody knows what white papers are and are using them in their marketing strategies. But they are not following the 80% rule. Many white papers nowadays contain a lot of promotional material interspaced with the educational content. If you do this to your white papers it will make them ineffective.

Why would adding too much promotional material make white papers ineffective?

When people read a white paper they expect them to be strictly educational right from the beginning. If they come across something promotional about your company it will discourage them from reading it. Once they see this promotional message they will expect more of it and they will give up reading the white paper. So you need to follow this 80% rule and only add promotional information at the end of the white paper if you want people to read your white paper completely.

How do you implement the 80% white paper rule effectively?

The following steps will help you implement the 80% rule so that you can make your white paper more effective:-

1. Have a good white paper outline where you specify that no promotional material is to be included in the magazine section of the white paper. Also mention that any promotional information will only be written at the end of the white paper.

2. Proof-read it several times to ensure that no promotional information has been written in the magazine section.

3. Focus on educating the reader and helping them, not on selling your product or service.

Following the above tips will help you write powerful lead generating white papers that focus on educating the reader.

For more tips on writing effective white papers read this free white paper on How to Write a White Paper.

Do you follow the 80% white paper rule? Has this helped you write better white papers? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments in the comments box below.

 

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