The Right Way to Write White Papers

August 18, 2016   /   by  Diane Callihan

5 Best Practices for Creating White Papers

If your B2B company is searching for valuable resources to add to your content marketing mix, you should consider producing some white papers. Publishing a white paper helps to demonstrate thought leadership, and provides your target audience with helpful, in-depth information that can influence buying decisions.

White papers are one of the most effective marketing tactics for B2B businesses. In fact, respondents to a 2014 study by Eccolo Media indicated that white papers are the most influential type of content in the purchase process.

How then can you create effective white papers that will spark your readers’ interest and lead them into your sales funnel? By following some best practices.

1. Specify the Appropriate Length

When readers enter their email to download a white paper, they expect to find a comprehensive resource that will save them time on researching information from various sources. If you are only offering two pages, don’t call the document a white paper.

Your white paper should have about 6-10 pages of content (roughly between 2,000-3,000 words). Provide the ample information readers need to make decisions.

2. Organize Your Content

Decide how you would like your white paper content to be organized. The two most common ways are the “listicle” format (use of bulleted and numbered points) and storytelling format (providing success stories or case studies).

Regardless of the format you use, the content should begin with a 1-2 paragraph overview that introduces the topic and describes how it can help solve a reader’s problems/ease the buyer’s pain. This section should be compelling enough to motivate the reader to keep reading.

Also be sure to include a table of contents, illustrations, charts or graphics, a conclusion, a strong call to action and contact information.

3. Create White Papers for Specific Audiences

Avoid white papers that have “something for everyone”. These papers are not as targeted as those tailored for specific audiences. Technical and business audiences face different challenges and seek different solutions. The languages they use as well as their perspectives are also different.

Attempting to address the challenges of these two different audiences in a single paper is usually less effective than developing separate papers for them.

4. Provide Your Company’s Solutions at the End

The best point of contact to provide white papers to your audience is during the early or intermediate stages of a sales cycle. At theses stages, prospects are usually gathering information and evaluating options.

To increase the objectivity of your white paper, reserve your company’s solution to the end. Also, when describing the solution, adopt a factual rather than marketing tone to maintain the quality of objectivity. Later in the sales process, you can use marketing collateral to provide the marketing pitch.

5. Incorporate Third Party Information

Make your white paper a powerful and valuable resource for readers by synthesizing information from various sources. When you provide value to your audience, they will reward you with loyalty and business.

Weave information from third parties into the paper to enhance objectivity. Some of the third party sources you can reference to include government agencies, foundations, research institutes, regulatory bodies and industry associations.

Following the 5 best practices above will help you create an effective white paper that will deliver value for your audience and results for your business.

Once you have a well-researched, well-written white paper, house it on a landing page on your website and ask people to fill out a form to download it. This is great way for your business to gather leads. Be sure to promote your white paper through multiple channels as well such as email, blog posts, PPC and social media.

Putting together professional white papers takes time. If you need help developing white papers or other content to support your digital marketing strategy, we can help. Let’s Talk.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.