March 15, 2019

8 Simple Steps for Writing an Amazing White Paper

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As a business owner, you’re always trying to figure out ways to attract new prospects and turn them into loyal customers. It all starts with making them aware of your business by providing them with useful and interesting content like blog posts, videos, infographics and e-books. One popular form of content that has gained traction — especially in the B2B world — is white papers. 

White papers are in-depth, authoritative reports that are usually several pages long and educate readers on particular topics. They are well researched and sometimes take weeks or months to produce. Using white papers, consumers can solve specific problems and have their questions on niche topics answered.

When done right, white papers can bring in new potential customers and entice them to consider your products and services. According to Curata, 76% of buyers are willing to share information about themselves in exchange for a white paper, and according to Forbes, 79% of B2B buyers said they are most likely to share white papers with their colleagues.

If you want to create a white paper that will attract your audience, offer them interesting information and ultimately convince them to continue on their buyer’s journey, follow these eight simple steps.

1. Choose a Valuable Topic

Before starting your white paper, brainstorm ideas of what topic to cover. Your white paper should address a topic in your industry that has not yet been addressed in a white paper, or one that you can do a better job addressing than your competitors. You can begin by looking at white paper examples that your competitors have created. Then, think about the everyday problems you have in your industry and research industry-related content like blog posts, webinars, videos and podcasts. Remember: This is an authoritative piece of content, so write about topics that you have expertise in.

2. Determine Your Audience 

Your white paper should align directly with your audience’s wants and needs. Look at your buyer personas and figure out who is going to read your white paper. That will help you decide what problem you’re going to solve and how you’re going to market it to your audience when it’s complete.

3. Come Up with an Enticing Headline

Next, come up with a headline or title for your white paper. It should include the problem the reader can solve and a benefit he/she will get from reading it. Make sure your headline is active and consider including a number. When looking at stellar white paper examples, you’ll find that they often use formats like: “10 Ways to Increase B2B Sales” or “How to Use Marketing Automation to Boost Conversions.” If you need to be more descriptive, consider adding a subtitle.

4. Write Your Executive Summary 

An executive summary is a short pitch that is 200 words or less and describes what your white paper is about. The executive summary can appear on the landing page where you promote your white paper; it can be in the form of a short paragraph or a bulleted list. It can also be in the white paper itself in an overview section. Since your audience is busy, it should be as enticing as the headline and convince the reader to download the white paper.

5. Outline Your White Paper

Before you start writing, outline your white paper and what you’re going to say. Include:

  • The introduction, where you will describe the topic of the white paper
  • The challenge, which is your audience’s pain points
  • An overview, which explains what you will highlight in the white paper and define the terms you’re going to use
  • The body, where you’ll discuss the topic, its solutions and quantifiable data/statistics
  • The conclusion, where you’ll wrap up what the reader has learned
  • A call-to-action, which is the next step that you want the customer to take

6. Write Your White Paper

Now that you know how to prepare for writing a white paper, start composing it. You’ll want to steer clear of promotional language, and only focus on creating value for the audience. Think about what the audience wants to hear and how you can best serve them. Don’t make any claims without backing them up with solid data and statistics from reputable sources. Make sure you tell stories that illustrate the problem you’re solving. Use real-life examples, if possible.

Even though your white paper is factual and technical, it doesn’t have to be dry or boring. Use active language throughout, and revise your drafts multiple times with input from your colleagues.

7. Create an Eye-Catching Design

To make your white paper really pop, collaborate with your design team on how to format it with interesting graphics, fonts and charts. Have them design a table of contents and include page numbers that stand out so busy prospects can scan through your white paper quickly.

Instead of just listing statistics and data, illustrate them with charts and graphs. Make sure your white paper matches the rest of your company’s branding, and that you break up large chunks of text with interesting visuals. If you’re looking for some well-designed white paper examples, check out these templates.

8. Write Snappy Landing Page Text

Once your white paper is written and designed, it’s time to turn it into a PDF and promote it with a landing page. Ask customers to give you their basic information, like their name, email and job title, to receive the white paper download in their email inbox. 

To convince them to do this, your white paper landing page needs to be enticing. Include a picture of the cover of the white paper, along with your executive summary. Prospects need to know what they’re going to get in return for supplying their information. Show what they will learn from downloading your white paper and what benefits they will receive. 

Once you have prospects’ email addresses, you can start moving them through the buyer’s journey. Then you’ll truly have a chance of making a sale and boosting revenue for your company.

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Kylie Ora Lobell

Kylie Ora Lobell is a magazine editor and marketing coordinator for madison/miles media. She has written for a number of marketing blogs, including Convince and Convert, CMO and Marketo.