According to a study by DemandGen, 76% of prospects say they are ready to provide businesses with their contact details and information in exchange for a white paper. That means they are all but guaranteed to produce results as part of an inbound marketing strategy. Yet many marketers still think that creating a white paper is a long and difficult process that is also bound to be expensive.
In truth, it all depends on how you go about it. At Plezi, we use the 6 steps outlined in the post below. Here, we’ll show you how to craft a white paper that’s guaranteed to convert and provide you with a free white paper template that you can use without being a design expert!
1. Choose your target
Decide what buyer persona the white paper is aimed at
We all know how important buyer personas are in content marketing. Each piece of content you publish should be targeted at a specific buyer persona.
This is even more important when you write a white paper. That’s because you will invest more time, effort, and money in creating a white paper than for a typical blog post. As a result, you can’t afford to miss your target audience.
Deciding who your B2B white paper is aimed at will also help you to write it. In order to decide how to organize the information included in your white paper and what tone to adopt, you need to do your research and know who you’re talking to. How familiar are they with your brand and the topic and what is their level of expertise? What sort of language do they typically use? Should you make use of specific industry terminology or make the topic easy to understand?
Decide what stage of the buying cycle the white paper addresses
Once you’ve decided what buyer persona the white paper will target, you also need to know what stage of the marketing funnel it will address.
That’s because the content that you provide to prospects will differ depending on what stage they are at in the marketing funnel.
- In the awareness stage, prospects don’t know much about your company and probably won’t have a very good idea of their needs. They are becoming aware of a problem, but it has not yet been formalized. At this stage, a white paper should be designed to educate, inform, and explain.
- In the evaluation stage, a prospect has formalized the problem they face or opportunity. They want to consider existing solutions to address these. Here, a white paper can be used to identify if a prospect intends to put something in place as a result. At this stage, a white paper will focus more on solving the problem at hand and the type of solution you can provide.
- In the purchase stage, white papers are used to support sales teams. The goal here is to convince the prospect to buy your product or service. They will typically make use of content like customer success stories and/or testimonials.
Our content viewed in Plezi. This white paper explains how to turn leads into customers by using a lead nurturing process that can be implemented with a tool like Plezi. As can be seen from the associated tags, it is aimed at prospects in the purchase stage of the funnel.
White Papers are also key to your wider content marketing strategy. You can create a content cluster around a white paper that includes blog posts, webinars, videos, and other types of content on the same topic. This associated content will support the success of a white paper over a significant period of time.
2. Decide on the topic and aim
If you want a white paper to convert contacts into leads or leads into customers, its content must be of value to them. It should provide an appropriate and detailed response to a problem faced by your target audience. Your aims might be depending on the position of buyer personas in the buying cycle. But content should always help prospects overcome an obstacle and increase their level of trust in your business.
You need to identify a problem of sufficient interest to prospects that they will provide you with information about themselves in exchange for your white paper. The easiest way to do this is by having a detailed knowledge of your buyer personas.
If the problem is relatively new or little has been written about it, you have a chance of creating the first piece of definitive content on this topic. If not, you need to use content intelligence to see how you can provide prospects with more value than content created by your competitors.
White papers are content with high added value. They should enable a reader to increase their knowledge of a particular topic and move forward in their buyer’s journey. As a result, you should never lose sight of the value you want to provide to your buyer persona.
3. Choose someone to write it
When deciding on who will write your white paper, there are two possible options:
- Write the white paper in-house
- Outsource the task of writing it
It can be tempting to have the white paper written in-house by your marketing department. You know the target audience, and you have a thorough understanding of the topic. The white paper should also demonstrate this level of expertise.
But writing a white paper also takes time. And as a marketer, you almost certainly have a lot of other tasks to perform. You might also not be an expert at writing content. That means the task may end up taking you more time than it would for a professional copywriter.
At Plezi, we outsource the writing of all our white papers. But by proving copywriters with a detailed brief to use as a guide, we keep overall control of the white paper’s content. So, there’s no need to worry if you decide to outsource this task. If you provide a copywriter with a sufficiently detailed brief, they should have everything they need to create high-quality content for your white paper.
4. Prepare a detailed brief or plan
Most white papers use a similar structure:
- Title page
- Company presentation (this can come at the beginning or the end of the white paper, the important thing is that it’s there)
- The different chapters of the white paper
- Call to action
If you write a white paper in-house, you don’t need to produce a detailed brief ahead of time to decide on what to include. Instead, a short plan in the form of bullet points for each chapter is normally enough.
But if you outsource this task, you’ll need to provide the copywriter with a certain amount of information about the business context, target audience, and the main themes to be addressed. It’s important that they understand not only the topic, but also the angle or position you want the white paper to take on that topic.
You’ll need to use the time saved on writing the white paper yourself to prepare a detailed brief for the copywriter and to communicate regularly with them.
This brief should include:
- Your business context
- The target audience
- The aim of the white paper
- The title
- The different sections you want to include in the white paper
5. Write the white paper
Some basic rules
Your target buyer persona should always be front of mind when writing a white paper. How can you convey your message to them in the most straightforward and engaging way possible?
To do this, there are some basic rules to follow:
- Use catchy titles. You content should make prospects want to read it. This starts with the white paper title, which should encourage them to download it from your website. It also applies to the titles of the different chapters of the white paper that they might want to read first.
- End each chapter with a summary of essential information. This is especially important if a white paper is particularly long or contains a lot of information. This helps a reader remember the important points.
- Include figures and references to outside sources to improve the credibility of your white paper. If you want readers to trust the information it contains, you can’t just say something is true. Instead, you’ll need to include things like recent statistics or references to industry authorities.
- Avoid talking about your product or service. A white paper isn’t there to advertise it. Instead, it needs to provide prospects with value by addressing one of their problems.
- Avoid using overly technical language, or if this is impossible, include a glossary at the end.
Collaborate with industry experts
To provide value, a white paper must express the ideas or information to be conveyed in an easy to understand way. But the content must also demonstrate expertise in a particular topic.
The person that writes the white paper in-house, or who writes the brief, must get information from either your company’s expert on this topic, or from external industry experts. Collaborating with experts in this way provides your content with more authority. Including information from external industry experts will also let you use their network to help distribute your white paper.
If you outsource the writing of a white paper, the marketing manager or the head of content should keep challenging the copywriter until the content meets their expectations.
Several industry experts contributed to our white paper “How to mess up your inbound marketing strategy (or not)” including Stéphane Truphème (who needs no introduction).
6. Format your white paper
After spending the time to create the best possible written content, it’s also very important to pay attention to the content layout. This will make the content more reader-friendly, in addition to being of value to prospects.
You should pay particular attention to the following points:
- Make sure the cover looks great
- Ensure the white paper matches your company’s visual identity (e.g., logo, colours, fonts)
- Include sufficient white space between paragraphs and blocks of text
- Change page background colours to create interest and rhythm
- Put certain keywords and important information in bold
- Include different visual elements (e.g., images, infographics)
- Include a call to action (CTA) at the end, or multiple CTAs at different points in the white paper
Both the content and the format of a white paper help contribute to its success with prospects. And paying attention to the layout is even more important if your white paper contains a lot of information.
Having trouble designing your white paper? Don’t worry, we have the perfect modern template for you, which you can edit directly with Google Slides or Powerpoint.
You now have everything you need to craft a successful white paper. But things don’t stop there! Once your white paper has been written and laid out in its final form, you need to ensure it will be seen by prospects. That’s where distribution comes in. To showcase this new piece of content, you can make use of blog posts, landing pages, newsletters, social media, and even email signatures.