Purpose of a White Paper
Consumers and B2B buyers read white papers to find effective solutions to their problems—and to identify products that can fix those problems. A well-written white paper first informs the reader about a challenge they might be facing. Then, an effective white paper helps the reader understand how your company can provide a solution.
What is the purpose of a white paper?
Many B2C and B2B marketers create white papers as part of their content marketing strategy. The ultimate purpose of a white paper is to sell products or services to your target audience. However, it’s more than just an advertisement. An effective white paper should check three boxes:
- Identify an issue
- Educate your target audience about the issue and potential solutions
- Explain how your company can fix the issue
If your company is creating a white paper, be sure to research and interview credible sources. Your white paper is going to make factual statements, and you must make sure they’re accurate so you don’t misinform your target audience—regardless of your white paper topic.
What are common topics presented in white papers?
You might think that a white paper is always a technical document. And while some companies might create a technical white paper as part of their content marketing, a well-written white paper doesn’t have to be all that scientific.
The best white paper topics address current issues. In recent years, you might’ve seen a technical white paper about machine learning, SaaS, or even what might be considered controversial topics. Just be sure to write your white paper with your intended audience in mind.
Who is typically the intended audience for a white paper?
One of the first steps in creating an effective white paper is identifying your target audience. Depending on whether you’re writing for the public, B2B buyers, or a different demographic, you’ll need to adjust your overall content. For example, some audiences want to read scientific data, and others prefer design elements such as infographics or charts.
After you’ve determined who you’re creating your white paper for, you can get to work exploring the elements of a white paper so you can tailor it to your intended audience.
Elements of a white paper
Creating a white paper is much different than writing a landing page, blog post, or social media ad. In addition to solid research, your white paper needs to include the right elements, both written and design, to be effective.
What is the general structure of a white paper?
Similar to any written content, the sections of a white paper are relatively simple:
- Start with an introduction and executive summary that identifies the challenge that the white paper will solve.
- In the body of the white paper, include the data and statistics you found during your research. Also discuss how your products and services will help your potential customers.
- End by summarizing what you’ve taught the reader.
The structure might seem simple. However, to show your target audience that you’re the front-runner in your industry’s thought leadership, you’ll need to include several specific elements in your white paper content.
What are the elements of a white paper?
The first element to include in every white paper is your research. This might include data, statistics, or quotes from academia, industry experts, and other credible sources. The more accurate and impressive the information, the more inclined your potential customers are to partner with your company.
Another element to focus on is the white paper design itself. Very few people want to read multiple pages of solid text to find out how your products can help them. Instead, include some interesting design elements. Add in some illustrations, infographics, or charts highlighting key points of your data.
If you’re creating this content for online use, you can even make an interactive white paper to keep your readers engaged. The interactive content can include media like videos, quizzes, or carousel images. Be creative, and really aim your content marketing toward your target audience.
Now that you’ve learned about some elements to include in your content quality checklist for each white paper, you can start to learn what you should not include in your white paper.
What should not be included in a white paper?
Remember: white papers must be helpful, educational, and factual. To check all those boxes, your white paper needs to avoid several elements. Here are a few things not to include in any content marketing, including a white paper:
- False or inaccurate statements. Everything that you publish is a reflection of your company. If your white paper includes misinformation, your thought leadership will decrease.
- Inappropriate tone. Your white paper should have a friendly but authoritative tone. Don’t use words that push people too hard to purchase your product. Additionally, use language that your target audience will want to read. Are they looking for data presented without emotion? Or do they prefer more personality? Whatever the answer, remember to customize all your marketing efforts to appeal to your target audience.
- Industry jargon. Although your target reader probably has some knowledge about your industry, avoid using jargon or buzzwords whenever possible. Even if your potential customers know a bit about what your company offers, there’s no need to force them to learn new vocabulary that’s particular to your industry.
When you include the right elements and avoid the wrong ones, you’re on your way to creating a good—or even great—white paper.
What makes a good white paper?
White papers should be part of your overall content marketing strategy. They’re great ways to advertise your company while showing off your thought leadership. In fact, they’ve become such a successful marketing method that many companies hire writers who specialize in this type of content.
So, what’s the difference between a white paper that falls flat and a great white paper that increases your lead generation and sales? It starts with effective writing.
Why is writing a white paper so effective?
When you write an effective white paper, you are showing your existing and potential customers that you want to educate and help them. Your primary goal is to inform your audience using elements like data and infographics. Your secondary goal is to generate leads and earn sales.
Customers like white papers because this type of content marketing is created with their best interests in mind. Most consumers and B2B buyers perform online research before they make a purchase. When they find a company that wants to educate them on the issues they’re facing, they feel understood and appreciated.
If you’ve written an effective white paper, your readers will see you as a thought leader and are more likely to choose you as their vendor or partner. If you’ve written a great white paper, you’ll earn brand loyalty too.
What makes a great white paper?
Anyone can throw together an advertisement. However, it takes talent to research and create a great white paper that will earn you new customers—and repeat customers who are loyal to your brand.
So what makes a great white paper? One of the most important criteria is the value that your white paper provides your target audience. It must educate the reader on not just what the problem is but why it exists. It should include viable solutions, plus data to support how these solutions will fix the issue.
And don’t forget about the tone of voice! A great white paper speaks directly to its target audience. Avoid sales-heavy language, and use a tone that your customers will appreciate and understand. In fact, your writing style is a key component when you write a white paper.
Why should you be concerned about your writing style when writing a white paper?
Just like an author putting the final touches on a novel, you need to sharpen your manuscript before you publish a white paper. Your writing style must be consistent throughout the piece, as well as enjoyable to read.
For example, if you waffle between dry and entertaining tones from paragraph to paragraph, your reader could become confused about what you’re trying to communicate. And if you’re too reliant on bland data, you could lose potential customers if they become bored while reading your white paper.
Fortunately, much of this work is already done for you. You can find white paper resources online to help inspire you.
Successful white paper templates to download
Remember: people read white papers because they’re looking for information to help them solve problems. And although writing a white paper takes time and talent, you don’t have to start from scratch. Fortunately, there are white paper examples and templates available online that you can download.
What are some white paper examples that can inspire you?
The first thing to look for when you begin searching for a white paper template is a sample outline. This will help you define your white paper’s structure from the executive summary through the conclusion so you can fill in the gaps. Once you have the outline complete, just start adding the information that you want to communicate.
One of the best ways to find successful white paper examples that will inspire you is to check out your favorite brands and companies. Read through any white papers they’ve published in the last year or two. Use their success to springboard your success.
What makes these white paper examples good to follow?
When you find a white paper example that you like, take a close look to make sure it’s a good one for you to follow. Ask yourself a few questions about the example:
- What do you like about this white paper example?
- What will you improve when you create your white paper?
- What design elements does the example include?
- Is there any interactive content, or is this a flat marketing piece?
- Does this example truly appeal to the company’s target audience?
As you read through a few examples of white paper content, try to look at it through your target audience’s lens. Once you’ve found some white paper examples to build from, you can track down the best white paper template for your topic and audience.
How do you know which template best works with your topic?
The best white paper template depends on your white paper content. For example, if you’re writing a technical white paper with lots of scientific data, choose a template that allows you to easily import charts and tables to clearly communicate that data.
However, maybe your topic will attract a less technical target audience. In that case, look for a template that includes a design element like some infographics or interactive content. Make your white paper interesting to look at as well as helpful and informative to read.
In other words, hook your potential clients in with a well-designed marketing piece, and then let them read a great white paper.
Let Elite Editing help with all your white paper writing needs
Professional white paper writing can boost your lead generation and sales. And Elite Editing is here to help! We are the content marketing experts for all your business needs. From white papers and press releases to blog post creation and brochure editing, we’re here to help with every aspect of your content marketing strategy.