Publishing a white paper may not be the hottest marketing technique, but it’s still one of the most effective ways to gain audience trust and generate leads.
What’s a White Paper?
A white paper is a report meant to educate or persuade your target audience on a subject (usually related to your product or service). White papers are an excellent way to explain more complex topics. Some common uses for white papers include:
- Introducing a new product or service
- Detailing industry trends
- Talking about a target customer’s pain point and best practices to solve it
- Explaining how a product or service works
White papers are especially common in B2B industries and can take on a number of formats:
- An in-depth look at the features and benefits of a product or service
- A numbered list of tips or questions on a topic
- An exploration of a topic in more detail
Why Do White Papers Matter?
Because they’re one of the most useful types of content…
Lead generation is one of the key goals of content marketing and it’s probably one of the most common reasons businesses use white papers as part of their marketing plan. You can offer a “gated” white paper to your readers in exchange for their contact information, allowing you to build up a solid list of qualified leads and a high-quality email subscriber list.
In a business.com survey, more than 50 percent of respondents said white papers are a “valuable” or “extremely valuable” lead generation tool.
Once you have developed a list of leads for your business you’ll need a way to stay top of mind and move them through your conversion funnel. A great way to offer your leads continued value is to offer white papers that provide valuable information on common pain-points for your audience. This can often cause them to increasingly look to you for insights and eventually convert.
Businesses that provide the best resources on customer focused topics are at an advantage when it comes to developing relationships with their market base. People look for businesses they can trust, and a well-written white paper can showcase your company’s expertise and establish you as an industry leader.
White papers provide an opportunity for you to connect in a non-sales focused environment. This is your chance to show your viewers that you understand their needs and want to give them something essentially for free. This type of generosity helps your readers develop positive associations with your brand and a good connection with your business.
Educate About Product or Service
White papers can provide valuable information that can help influence your customers’ purchasing decisions, especially for B2B companies.
In one survey of IT decision-makers:
- Respondents named white papers as the most persuasive form of content marketing for technology products and services
- Over 49 percent of respondents reported that a white paper had helped them make a technology purchase in the last six months.
Another study revealed that:
- 70 percent of professionals in strategic decision-making positions relied on white papers as a key source of information when making a purchasing decision.
Urge Readers to Take Action
An effective white paper will include a call. Be sure to tell readers how they can learn more about the solution you’re offering for whatever problem you outlined. You can provide an email, phone number or even a link to a page on your website.
Social media has become a key player in most marketing strategies and for good reason. It’s a great way to share your content with a large group of followers. However, it’s important to recognize that these platforms should be used more for engagement and not conversions.
9 Tips for Creating an Effective White Paper
1. Set a Goal
Start by setting a goal for your white paper, whether it’s lead generation, thought leadership or something else. Figure out what topic(s) would be most likely to achieve your goal. If lead generation is your main goal, research what your potential customers would likely be interested in learning more about and what angles or little-known facts could provide the most value.
Then, create a focused outline, decide on the format that would be most well received and determine how you’re going to make the final paper available (gated or not, PDF or other).
2. Give Readers Information They Can Use
Compelling white papers begin with a compelling information hook detailing the potential impact on your reader. If you’re wondering what you would even write in a white paper, ask yourself a few questions:
- What pains and challenges do your customers experience?
- What kinds of problems does your business help with?
- What kind of advice could you give that would be extremely valuable?
The most effective papers are those that offer real, actionable solutions to readers.
3. Don’t Make It a Sales Pitch
One of the biggest mistakes content creators make when writing white papers is spending too much time promoting a product. Don’t fall into this trap – the goal of your paper should be to answer questions and offer solutions for your audience. Keep your tone conversational and educational, not salesy.
4. Create a Killer Title
The title of your white paper is the first thing prospects see on your website or in a list of search results. If that title doesn’t grab their attention, potential readers are likely to skip right over it. Arouse readers’ curiosity with a headline that contains a question, a promise or a bold statement.
You don’t even need to call your piece a “white paper” – using the term “special report” may generate more interest, depending on your audience.
How you structure the white paper is also important.
5. Back up Your Claims
If you make a claim in your paper, you need to be able to back it up with real data. Use facts and figures from reliable sources and search for the most recent data you can dig up. If your audience suspects you’re using data from suspicious sources or making claims that you can’t prove, they’re less likely to trust your products or services.
6. Provide the Next Steps
While a white paper should certainly be packed with valuable information, it also needs to explain how your audience can make good use of that information. What are the next steps your readers need to take to achieve their desired outcome? Be sure that each of these steps is constructed as a call-to-action.
7. CTAs are Your Friends
Add a clear CTA at the end of your white paper encouraging readers to continue engaging with you. Prompt them to try a free demo of your product, contact your sales team, visit your website or just follow you on social media.
8. Use Visuals
People are highly-visual creatures, so use plenty of charts, tables and photos. Visual data will improve your credibility and also make the document more readable and shareable.
9. Promote It Like Crazy
Making your white paper available on your website isn’t enough – you need to promote it aggressively to maximize results. Talk about it in your company’s blog and mention it on all your social networks and LinkedIn groups. You may even want to consider publishing a press release or launching an advertising campaign.
If you gate it by requiring a reader’s name and email, you can acquire some great leads for your sales team to follow up with.
How to Distribute and Promote a White Paper
Use these 10 tips to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your white paper investment.
1. Create a Great Landing Page
Creating a good landing page for showing off your white paper is the first and most important thing to do once you have completed it. The purpose of your landing page is to convince people to set aside some time to download and review your white paper, so it is essential that you make it as compelling as possible. It must look attractive while also giving people genuine reasons to proceed.
2. Encourage Discussion
One of the primary purposes of writing white papers is to raise awareness, and in doing so, generate discussion. Without giving too much away, it must be written in such a manner that it inspires people to act and formulate decisions.
On the other hand, it should also present plenty of useful information in a user-friendly format complete with things like bulleted lists, graphs and other graphical elements.
3. Promote It on Social Networks
Millions of people log in to their favorite social networking services on a daily basis, making social media an invaluable resource for promoting your content. As soon as you have created your white paper and its landing page, you should start showing it off on social media sites.
Facebook, for example, provides its integrated pay-per-click ads, and these can be a great way to attract attention to your white paper.
4. Include Interviews
A well-written white paper should contain relevant quotes or interviews from other important individuals in your field. Since one of the primary purposes of this essential document is to take an authoritative look at a specific subject, quoting others and publishing interviews is an important element to any white paper.
Where possible, include interviews with other influential characters within your sphere of influence.
5. Use Press Releases
Press releases are short news articles which can be used to draw attention to your recently published white paper and other content. You can publish such press releases on your own websites as well as on other online resources which serve as news portals specializing in your niche.
There are also online news resources which publish press releases of any niche as well as press release writing services which can craft an effective message to promote your white paper.
6. Use White Paper Syndication Services
White paper syndication services are online libraries where people can keep up-to-date with new products and services. Some of them are completely free to use, while others use pay-per-lead schemes. While many such syndication services cover a broad range of niches, others specialize only in certain industries. To appeal to a more focused audience, try to stick primarily with the latter.
7. Start with an Eye-Catching Cover Design
People are always being told never to judge a book by its cover, but the fact remains that most people do and always will. Along with your landing page, one of the first things which people will see is the cover design of your white paper. Needless to say, it needs to look the part and draw people’s attention, and it may well be worth hiring a professional graphic designer to do the job for you.
8. Keep Your Content Focused
A white paper is far more than just a blog post or other relatively short web content. Its purpose is to take an in-depth look into the subject that it’s dealing with. For this reason, its content should stay focused on the issue at hand. Start with explaining the subject in detail, along with illustrative graphs, other graphics and lists to back up your argument, and propose solutions towards the end of the paper.
9. Present It at Conferences
Don’t be afraid of offering your white paper as a gift to interested parties. Whether you are hosting personal business meetings, online seminars or any other kind of conference, consider offering your white paper to the attendants. Things like webinars also provide you with a great opportunity to discuss the content of your white paper with others and gain important feedback from your audience.
10. Highlight Important Points
The importance of highlighting important points applies to landing pages, press releases, other marketing content and the white paper itself. People want instant gratification, so be sure to instill a sense of urgency by using button text like “Download Now”. Be sure to include elements like bulleted lists in your content as well, since this enforces brevity and makes content more scannable.
Connecting with Your Prospects
Creating and sharing an effective white paper is a great way to move prospects toward conversion. But, before you dive into it, know your goals, what your audience is seeking and when they need it. There’s nothing worse than falling into the trap of choosing the wrong topic or format. Good white papers may be challenging to create, but the value they provide for both your prospects and your business makes them worth the while.
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