You have to get up pretty early to outsmart the competition with content these days. And that often means finding clever ways to deliver your message on smartphones and tablets, as well as the venerable laptop. The challenge for marketers is to connect with customers through all these devices in real time and create content optimized for today’s digital world.

Enter the smart paper

Think of a smart paper as a white paper gone digital—but with a visual presentation more captivating than a static PDF, interactive graphics that get ideas across at a glance, embedded links to videos and other information sources, and direct links to social channels.

The emergence of the smart paper is the logical extension of this growing demand for more responsive content.

What makes a smart paper “smart” is its user-friendly experience that incorporates reader-controlled navigation. Readers can quickly skip from one section to the next, or from one chapter to another, using an interactive table of contents. Visual clues help readers rapidly scan documents and understand the progress they’re making through the material.

Bringing a smart paper to life for IBM

The smart paper’s ease of navigation proved especially valuable during a recent project with IBM in which TDA was tasked with creating a new sales tool for IBM® Spectrum Storage™ Suite software. The challenge for TDA was to find a way to grab attention and build excitement about a complex product while still communicating enough technical information to be credible.

Our IBM clients agreed that a smart paper was the right vehicle for the task. The smart paper, Six synergies of storage innovation, capitalizes on the rich graphic potential of the smart paper format. TDA formulated a unique dashboard approach to evaluating existing solutions that made it easy for readers to consider three different product feature options and their trade-offs.

Ingredients of an effective smart paper

So how do you create a compelling, results-producing smart paper that will keep your audience engaged and focused on your content? Here are a few tips:

  • Optimize for mobile. First, a smart paper must use technologies that work on the full range of mobile operating systems. The HTML5 format—not Flash—should be the starting point. It should also be designed to look great on a variety of small screens, as well as large ones, and it should not require extensive input from a mouse or keyboard. Letting readers swipe, scroll, and touch-select options helps ensure they can navigate and interact no matter where they are and what device they are using.
  • Make it sharable. A smart paper must be easily shared on social media, across professional networks, by email, and through other digital channels. Unlike other assets, social sharing buttons do not have to be anchored to a navigation bar; you can make them continuously accessible by having them float. Or you can place them next to particularly shareable content, such as a video or graphic.
  • Focus your message. Keep your message reader-focused and stick to your main points. Cut introductory and generalized commentary to the bone. In fact, it’s best if you concentrate on the absolutely compelling takeaways that your audience finds useful.
  • Break it up. Accommodate readers who prefer to skim by breaking your text up with short passages, lists, images, captions, and callouts. Inject informative headers and subheads to organize the paper into sections. This gives readers an overview of the content and lets them decide if they want to dig deeper and read more.
  • Use action words. Active verbs make your writing more energetic and robust. Because of their power to grab attention, action verbs are particularly effective in subheads. This approach also creates a parallel structure—a nice element of style that unifies your whole document.
  • Add relevant links. Internal links back to your own cornerstone content keeps readers on your site and consuming your best material. External links demonstrate that you’ve researched the topic and want to highlight other experts and resources. Good content uses both to expand reader understanding and add value.
  • Create a compelling call to action. Think carefully about what you want your readers to do after they read your smart paper, keeping in mind the versatility of the digital format. You can ask your readers to watch a video, sign up for your newsletter, visit a blog, or leave comments. The call to action is a vital component of a results-producing smart paper, so don’t overlook it.

Time to outsmart the competition?

As the range of content options continues to grow, marketers have to continually test ideas and strategically target their messages along the customer journey. Smart papers offer an exciting and effective tool for driving stronger engagement and delivering content optimized for the digital era. Want to see how smart papers can work for you? Drop us a line. We’re ready to help.