We’re continuing along with the question, “What should you have in your business developer’s toolkit?” In addition to a capability statement and unsolicited proposals, you should also have white papers and point papers.
A point paper is a high-level PowerPoint presentation of a problem and a potential solution, without the level of detail typically present in a white paper. It is meant to show just enough to the customer for them to schedule a meeting with you where you can deliver the full message.
The goal of both documents is to position you as a trusted advisor to the government, helping you earn additional business.
Both are useful not just for marketing, but when you want to capture a specific competitive opportunity.
What Situation Warrants a White Paper?
You need a white paper when you want to market to multiple government customers. White papers function as effective marketing collateral, since you may not have any direct connections at the agency you’re interested in. You can:
- Use it on your website in exchange for visitors’ contact information
- Market it in your newsletter so that it’s forwarded to others
- Distribute it at trade shows in a printed form
- Promote it on social media in groups attended by government buyers, to build your mailing list
A great white paper can position you as a thought leader in your industry and attract government customers and teaming partners.
White papers are sales and tech documents that speak to a customer’s specific need. They rely on case studies of your past performance that serves as proof that your solution works. When your solution is truly unique, you can safely describe it in a white paper, as your competition may not easily emulate your offering. Beware of how much detail you share, however, because you don’t know who will be reading your white paper.
You can tailor your white paper to each customer you submit it to for a more targeted campaign.
When Should You Submit a Point Paper?
You can create a point paper in PowerPoint. While a white paper explicitly lays out your product or service as a narrative with text and figures, a point paper teases with short bullet points and illustrations to get the government to extend a meeting invitation. You want to give just enough information to get the invite, without giving away the store.
You should do a point paper when your solution is proprietary and you don’t want the details to get into your competition’s hands. If there is a danger that your competition may take your white paper and repackage your solution as their own, you should prepare a point paper instead. Your competition will get just the flashes of what’s behind the curtain.
Data rules: Do Your Research
Unless you’re submitting classified proposals, you have a wealth of data available to you. Just like when you’re planning on submitting an unsolicited proposal, you need to do thorough research for the agencies you’re targeting. This is particularly true if you aren’t pursuing a specific opportunity, and are planning to reach out to a wider audience. You want to make sure your white paper or point paper clearly communicates your solution to your desired audience from their vantage point.
You can research using the following steps:
- Execute a NAICS search for that agency, and refine it using keywords
- Review the agency’s strategic mission
- Identify which part of the agency would have an interest in your offering
- Acquire any publicly available information about this portion of the agency.
While reviewing the agency’s mission, make sure there is a fit for your offering. You must determine which offices within the agency are relevant to your offering since you can’t rely on someone within the agency to forward your white paper or point paper along to the right office. You need to know who the intended recipient is.
By doing this market research ahead of time, you can qualify your great idea to avoid wasting marketing and business development resources on futile endeavors.
Rules of Thumb for the White Paper
When writing a white paper, you want to brainstorm on the customer’s pain points and needs. You may be writing for a specific category of customers. Always lead with the customer’s needs and context, instead of jumping straight to introducing yourself.
Remember, it’s never about you. Don’t start your white paper with, “We’re pleased to submit…”, or, “Our company is proud of its 20 years of government service…” You’re focusing on your company that way, instead of on your customer.
Use emotional intelligence techniques (EQ) to craft everything you send to the government. Emotionally intelligent writing creates a customer-centric experience for your reader. By the end, they should believe that you truly understand how to solve their problem, and they can implicitly trust your expertise and experience.
Don’t Forget to Sell Your Solution
If you’ve written white papers in the past with little to no results, it’s possible your paper was too technical and failed to sell. Your Subject Matter Experts (SME) know their professions, but that doesn’t make them salespeople. Get the technical information from them and plan to have a professional proposal writer do the writing, instead of forcing them to try and sell what they do.
With your SMEs providing the technical information you need, and having a pro write with a “benefits-first” mindset, you can produce a white paper that clearly positions your company as the problem solver.
If you have past performance implementing a similar solution at another agency, you may want to structure your white paper around a case study. This is particularly relevant if the agency you’re courting isn’t implementing anything similar.
If you’re not using this white paper as a broad marketing tool, include a section that’s similar to a statement of work. The government will be able to reuse it. Light the way for them to award work to you. Provide your NAICS code, small business categorization, and mention which vehicle or schedule this work could be under.
Good Practices for a Point Paper
It’s critical that you understand when you can speak about the procurement opportunity directly, and when you must indirectly pitch your approach without mentioning a bid. Sometimes, direct pitching of your approach for specific opportunities can suddenly turn into indirect pitches.
When this happens, a point paper can be a great way to present your methodology in a tailored fashion, without appearing to directly pitch your approach for a bid they are not allowed to discuss with you. You’ll need to veil any direct references to a specific program. By focusing on the customer’s pain points, you can still tap into their emotions while teasing your solution.
You want to make sure you tie your bullets to the issues inherent in the bid opportunity, even if you don’t directly name the opportunity.
Don’t exceed six or seven slides. At the end of your point paper, include your capabilities and your contact information.
Next Steps With the Government
White papers and point papers can lead to meetings. If you get a meeting, make sure you bring your best SMEs with you. You don’t want to waste this chance. Do your research before the meeting. Be prepared to offer alternative solutions. This meeting will require you and your SMEs to think on your feet.
Research the customer representatives who will be on the other side of the table. Look them up online. LinkedIn can be a great resource for finding a person’s professional history. The information you find there can allow you to relate better to the customer.
Don’t leave the meeting without a firm close. This means clear next steps of what else the government may need from you as far as information and help.
If you’re want to add these tools to your business developer’s toolkit, take a look at our Foundations of Federal Business Development course.