Building Logic, Trust, and Affinity with your White Paper Reader

Updated: March 22, 2011

To get to this ultimate destination, you must provide clear, logical proof of your bottom line, solution-oriented messages. There are a lot of ways to build this type of logic and trust which can lead to greater reader affinity.

Here are some examples that you can add to your white papers.

Quotes from leading experts

Quotes from industry experts and sources are one of the best ways to increase logic, trust, and affinity in your white paper. This is especially true if that expert opinion reinforces your white paper message.

The more recognized the expert or research firm, the greater the credibility and level of reader affinity. For example, if you are a solution provider in the tech sector, referencing leading researchers such as Gartner, IDC or Forrester Research impacts the credibility of your white paper. Similar analysts are also present in the medical, insurance, healthcare, finance, and other vertical industries. Seek them out and use them where appropriate.

Lesser-known third-party experts may have less credibility, but should be included in your white paper if a more recognized source is not available. Make sure you reference the original online source, so the reader can make their own assessment of content credibility.

Industry statistics and graphs

Trends, statistics, charts, and graphs that reinforce key problem assessments or solution points are great ways to build trust and credibility. Rather than one or two paragraphs of text, having a simple, clear visual such as a chart or graph can reinforce your message in just a few seconds. Given the short attention spans in our culture, any fast path to such bottom line messages are always welcome.

If you use these, make sure you reference the source in the caption of the illustration. Adding a paragraph either before or after the illustration ensures that your reader will clearly understand the specific message they should be gleaning from the chart and how it applies to the problem or solution message in your white paper.

Referenced footnotes

Always provide footnotes for your white paper claims. If you use an external reference, add the source name, the title, the page number, and the date to maximize credibility. Finally, hyperlink the title of the article so your reader can see the specific page that you originally found.

Given the choice between footnotes at the bottom of the page as opposed to the back of the white paper, I find footnotes at the bottom of the page add greater credibility. If your readers can verify a statement as quickly as possible, that will always be a more effective way to generate credibility than waiting until the end of your paper.

How many readers will click through a hyperlinked footnote reference? From my experience, about a third will actually click through to the original source. What's more important is that you actually have a reference. For many, merely seeing one somewhere in your white paper builds greater credibility than not having any at all.

Case studies

Most of us love to know that we're not alone with our business problem. When we can read that another company has the same business problem(s) we have, we build greater affinity for the author/company/brand, since we feel that they "understand our pain".

Case studies are one of the best ways to accomplish this commercial form of "vicarious affinity". The closer your case study matches the size, scope, and problem with your target audience, the greater the level of affinity, credibility, and lead generation.

Reputable polls

While a white paper marketer's ultimate goal is to find a great research study that closely matches their white paper message, we all know that this doesn't happen very often. When we canât find the perfect research study, including a third-party poll is another great resource, but it comes with a price.

Not all polls are created equal. There are many polls where the pollster over-samples specific target groups or asks questions in a way to elicit a particular result. Many readers are also savvy to this technique, and may look at your poll results with a degree of skepticism.

The way to use polls and maintain credibility is to have more than one poll that backs up your primary white paper message(s). For example, when readers see that three polls all reach a similar conclusion, more are willing to warm up to your point of view, rather than if your white paper relies on just one poll.

Just make sure the poll sources don't detract from the credibility-building process. For example, a poll from Microsoft that alludes to positive user satisfaction with Windows Vista may not be one you would include in a white paper about PC support services.

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