Companies invest quite a bit in their white papers. They hire outside white paper writers or use in-house writing resources. Their subject matter experts spend time talking to the writers. A team reviews the white papers for accuracy. Another team designs graphics and layout. The web team posts the white papers to the company’s website, usually behind a lead capture form.

And then… nothing.

It’s not that the prospect isn’t interested in finding a solution to a pressing business problem; he visited your company’s website for that exact purpose. But once the prospect started reading the white paper, his eyelids felt heavy. He began dreaming of fluffy pillows and warm blankets. Finally, he closed his PDF reader and went to brew a fresh pot of coffee, much to the joy of his office mates.

The white paper was, well, boring. It was filled with technical jargon – jargon that he doesn’t use. It spent too much time on the features of the product (runs on the cloud!) and not enough time on the benefits (no need to patch or update the software, saving him time and saving his company money). And it didn’t address the problem he was trying to solve, so he took his cup of coffee back to his desk and started researching your competitors, downloading their white papers, and calling their sales managers to set up demos.

If your white paper isn’t engaging, exciting, and written for your target market, it’s going to end up in the electronic recycling bin. Take a look at the white papers you’ve published recently: would you want to read them? When you’re not suffering a terrible bout of insomnia?

White papers have evolved; they’re not boring, feature-riddled documents anymore. They have to be interesting and well-written for prospects to reach the end, where they’ll learn more about your specific solution. And that requires addressing a common problem that your solution solves: linking legacy ERP systems with a cloud-based CRM package, or provisioning BYOD smartphones to protect company information. Your prospect needs to come away from the white paper with actionable advice that isn’t a call to action to buy your product. To do that, focus white papers on problems and their solutions. Then, once your prospect understands the solution, he’ll be ready to move to the next step in the sales cycle.