When I talk to business owners about the hottest strategies for content marketing and thought leadership, the topic of white papers always comes up. Should you create white papers? How do you pick a topic? How do you use them to get leads?
White Paper Basics
A white paper is a form of marketing collateral that companies use to educate customers, establish credibility, and raise their brand profile. This type of content is often used to generate leads. However, a truly innovative and well-written paper can also help a business gain a reputation for thought leadership.
Because these short reports and guides are often somewhat technical in nature, they are best suited to B2B marketing. White papers are geared toward an audience of business decision makers and should reflect an authoritative but readable style.
What Should You Write about in a White Paper?
Your white paper won’t serve any purpose in your marketing strategy unless customers want to read it. Capture their attention in one of the following ways:
1. Address one or more key questions your target customer demographic has about products and services within your industry. Analyze your company’s social media feeds or survey results to identify moderately complex questions that could be answered well in a white paper format.
2. Provide helpful information about how to overcome a common challenge. For example, describe how to create a successful migration from an older system or process to a new one.
3. Say something new or controversial that will generate discussion online and encourage sharing and blog or magazine article commentary about the white paper. If you disagree with competitors about something, that’s usually a good starting place to find an idea.
4. Explore several case studies based on your own company’s experience to demonstrate real world results along with lessons learned. For greater breadth, add information from related case studies in your field (from strategic partners rather than direct competitors).
5. Make educated guesses about what’s next in the evolution of your industry and the implications for society and/or business. Any specialized knowledge your company has gained from being involved in research and development is a plus. If you create a series of white papers, you can rotate through all of these formulas. This strategy ensures that your customers will always have fresh content to keep them interested. Add these documents to your resource library over time to build even greater value in your business website.
Tips for White Paper Marketing
Today’s business readers may have a longer attention span than the average consumer, but they are also very pressed for time. Unless you are a major player like IBM, no one is going to read your 40 page white paper. Keep it short (4-6 pages). You will probably get better ROI by creating several white papers rather than one long paper.
A white paper should be written in language that is easy to understand, but it should be formatted to look professional and even slightly academic. Use chart, graphs, and other images sparingly. They should add value or clarity to the text rather than simply serving as decoration or padding the page count.
Don’t make the white paper into a document that doubles as a sales brochure. White papers tend to be viewed as having more authority and credibility if you position your company as a neutral source of information. Readers are also more likely to share your white paper with others if it doesn’t sound like a sales pitch.
Daisy McCarty helps business owners gain exceptional clarity on their brand message and engage their ideal clients with ease. If you want to end the confusion and frustration of trying to figure out your marketing message, contact Daisy today.