Okay, so you have ideas for what you are generically calling a ‘strategy paper’, but before you get started there are FIVE important things to consider.
As far as credibility goes, making the effort to author your own strategy paper, is a winner. Successful strategy papers have three key elements. The first is to showcase your expertise and knowledge. The second is to provide worthwhile and helpful information for a specific or ‘ideal’ client, and the third is to leverage your other products and services.
This involves taking a ‘thin edge of the wedge’ approach that focuses on overcoming a particular problem or achieving an inspirational goal. If your approach is broad, your strategy paper will most likely fail to connect with those who need, and value, what you have to offer. That’s simply because when shooting for everyone it’s very likely you’ll miss them all.
When you speak directly to your ideal clients and describe specialised or in-demand services you will use vernacular that resonates with that specific audience and in terms they understand, value and ultimately, will be prepared to pay for to receive your services.
Step 1: Identify a specific area of need, perhaps within a particular industry or a key problem that your ideal prospective clients encounter.
Step 2: Describe the need or problem according to a 5-step framework or writing structure. As follows:
- Set the scene by identifying the specifics of one key issue (the thin edge of the wedge) within a bigger picture issue;
- Describe who it affects. That is, describe your ideal client so that they understand you are speaking directly to them;
- Outline the problems and consequences of not taking action;
- Indicate the benefits of taking action i.e. how the combination of your experience, knowledge and process create the successful outcomes they need;
- Now that you’ve described the problem, the solutions and the value of engaging with you, explain the next step which might be to participate in a confidential telephone discussion; attend a private briefing or workshop. Importantly, this next step must be logical, easy for them to complete, affordable and most importantly, demonstrates value in terms of the client’s expectations.
Clients who need solutions (especially for complex matters) gain confidence from having a clearly articulated framework for achieving that outcome.
It is likely that you have a framework, but you may not have written it down or formalised it. Your framework needs to be logical. Never assume processes that are second nature to you, are obvious to your clients. Above all else, your framework needs to make sense to your client.
Step 3: Keep it simple and stick with the thin edge of the wedge
When you deviate from the key elements and become caught up in complex detail, no matter how interesting you might find it, the document will become long, possibly overtly technical, and even boring for the reader. You will also create the unnecessary risk of the reader misunderstanding or misinterpreting the information.
Even though your prospective clients are seeking solutions, if it sounds complex, your clients will consider it ‘too hard’ and not take action.
The key is to acknowledge complexity and the need for specialist skills (yours), then focus on describing how you’ve developed a structured and logical process for creating outcomes the client needs. This will build confidence that will allow your client to act.
Step 4: Give it a title and format appropriate for the solution and the audience
For some clients, if you call the document a White Paper, it will stop them dead in their tracks. They will envision a very long and detailed public service type document. However, for some clients (such as engineers) who value and take comfort in heavy detail, this would be perfectly appropriate.
Calling it a strategy paper will give an impression that the document holds a formula for generating outcomes that executive managers and professionals will warm to. However, if your ideal clients are considerably more casual in their approach and unfamiliar with dealing with formal documents, then presenting it as an e-book would be more appropriate.
Step 5: Get it done
Writing a document of this sort can represent a reasonable investment of your time to properly brief a professional capable of compiling the content and presenting it in a workable format for you.
In my experience, you could expect a professional to spend a minimum of 6 to 8 hours to knock it into shape, and between 12 and 18 hours for more complex issues.
While that document could be nicely presented on your letterhead, if you wanted to present it more artistically you should allocate budget for several hours of professional graphic design. When you consider the shelf-life of such a document, the investment in doing it well, is worth it
The central purpose is to provide clear evidence that you create valuable outcomes within a specialised area. The key is to present the information in a manner that an ideal prospective client ‘self-sells’ so that they are motivated to contact you to find out more.
For a no-obligation discussion please contact Wendy Bold on 07 5477 0197 or email firstname.lastname@example.org