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Aiming Is Not Driving

We’ve decided to change our business model.

That’s right. Effective immediately, whenever we’re asked to create a white paper, we’re going to create it at no charge. Thereafter, however, we’re going to charge five bucks for every revision. We’ve already picked out the tropical island we’re going to buy after the third white paper. We’ve already ordered the cigars and the single malt. And we’re going to spend our lavish retirement in sun, fun, and drunken splendor.

What is it about the white paper that makes it so perennially, perplexingly popular? Darned if we know.

We imagine, though, that the white paper is the only thing technical people like engineers and software developers get to really play with. The good news is they seem to genuinely have fun. The bad news is the result is like what happens when you give a little kid the keys to the bulldozer. But it does explain why white papers go through endless rounds of revision.

Evacuate the House!

Here are the three things we hear most frequently:

  1. “We want to collect contact information by making people fill out a form to download the white paper from our website.” We typically give these folks a copy of The Guinness Book of Things People Avoid. They’re always surprised to find out filling out a form is third behind (1) the plague and (2) mothers-in-law.
  2. “Our competitors have white papers.” We’re never sure that’s actually true; nevertheless, we secretly hope to be in the room when these folks find out their competitors have leprosy and toenail fungus.
  3. “We need to explain [fill in the blank].” These folks are always relying on the white paper to explain something they’re otherwise unable to explain, even to themselves. They typically add, “Make sure it has lots of graphics” or “Make sure it has an infographic.”

Rule of Thumb

You should think of a white paper the same way you should think of a car: If you aim it blindly, you’ll crash. If you drive it deliberately, you’ll get where you want to go.

Oh. The one thing our tropical island won’t need is a shredder. There won’t be any white papers on it.

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