When you think of successful marketing, you might think of funny TV or radio ads, a clever social media post, or a website’s excellent landing page. However, there is another very powerful marketing tool that can help you connect with your target audience: a white paper. If you don’t already know how to use white papers for marketing, read on for some helpful tips on using them effectively.
How to use white papers
Of course, to know how to effectively use a white paper (sometimes written as whitepaper), you need to know what they are. You also need to know what businesses typically hope to achieve by writing them and how white papers have proven themselves to be a powerful marketing tool.
In simplest terms, a white paper is a document that takes a complex issue and explains it thoroughly but concisely. When you incorporate white papers into your brand content and your content marketing plan, you are educating the reader about your industry. A white paper does not sell directly, but it seeks to answer questions for the reader.
Again, you want your white paper to be thorough, but you also want it to be concise. As a result, most white papers are six to eight pages long. However, some are much shorter, even as short as one or two pages.
White papers also contain references to other trusted sources, such as academic studies or government bodies. Most contain images, graphs, and tables to help present complex information in an easier format.
Businesses use white papers in a type of content marketing known as thought leadership. They demonstrate a business’s expertise in an industry and answer potential customers’ biggest questions.
The primary purpose of a white paper is to establish you and your business as an authority in your field. In other words, you become a thought leader yourself. This creates an image and reputation for your brand.
A white paper also educates your target audience about your products or services. Often, white papers encourage people to sign up for a newsletter or mailing list, helping to establish a further relationship with potential customers.
White papers have been shown to boost marketing success. Survey after survey of successful companies shows that respondents overwhelmingly find white papers to be one of their most effective tools.
Part of the reason that white papers are a great tool is because they give you a chance to engage with consumers. You can answer all of their questions and present all of your information in an uninterrupted form. However, even if the reader only skims your white paper—or chooses not to read it—you are able to generate leads.
How to write for the right audience
You know what a white paper is, but you still need some key information before you begin to write one. Knowing more about your audience and your goals will shape what you write and help you maximize your white paper’s effect.
Determining your target audience
Of course, the fundamental question you need to ask is whom you are writing to. This means that you have to understand some of the demographics of your customers. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
- Am I writing this white paper for businesses or individual consumers?
- In what age range do I expect most of my readers to be?
- Do I expect that my readers will mostly be of a certain gender? Will most be of a certain race, ethnicity, or cultural group?
- Am I writing to people who already understand some elements of my industry or to people who are novices?
- Am I targeting people in my local area, or am I hoping to reach a wider audience?
Answering some of these questions will help you get a picture of your target audience, which will help you choose the best content.
Deciding how you want your readers to respond
Another important element that you need to consider before you write your white paper is what you ultimately hope to accomplish. If your goal is simply to inform readers and help them see you as an expert, that will influence how you write. However, if you want to make them aware of a common problem that they may not be aware of, you would approach your writing differently.
The intention of a white paper is not to give a hard sell to the reader, but you might still want them to take a certain action. You might want your white paper to encourage them to ask certain critical questions of anyone they hire, for example. Or you might hope that they follow you on social media.
Again, knowing your goals before you start helps you structure your white paper in the most effective way.
Finding the right tone
One final decision you need to make before you begin is what writing style to use. Often, a white paper has a conversational tone, explaining your topic in simple terms to people outside of your industry.
However, if you are a business-to-business (B2B) marketer writing to other industry experts, you would take a different approach. In that case, it would make sense for your piece to contain jargon familiar to those in your industry. After all, you can expect that your readers already have a lot of background knowledge in place, so you don’t want to talk down to them.
Similarly, most of the time, a white paper keeps an informative tone. However, depending on your brand’s image, you might decide that you want to add in humor to your writing.
How to write a white paper for marketing
Once you are clear on what a white paper is, how it can be useful, and whom your target audience is, it’s time to actually create one. There are many considerations to make during the writing process.
Deciding whether to write the white paper yourself
Now it’s time to decide who the white paper writer will be. Many people decide to hand the writing off to experts in white paper writing. But if you decide to write it yourself, don’t worry! There are many tools available to help you out.
First, you can find a white paper template on many websites. You can find a good white paper example on many websites as well.
No matter what, just remember that you are a thought leader in your field, so write with confidence. Also, write naturally, just as you would if you were speaking with a potential customer or industry colleague.
Following best practices
Again, there are many different structures you might decide to use for your white paper, and you can find a white paper template for all of them. No matter what structure you decide to use, however, there are some best practices you want to keep in mind.
Devise a snappy title
Remember, the title is usually the first thing that people see when they look at your white paper. So you want to make your title engaging so that it encourages readers to keep going.
Note that most people do not actually label their piece a “white paper,” especially if they are not B2B marketers. Instead, they will use titles that show expertise, invite clicks, and clearly explain what the piece is about.
Back up your claims
You are a thought leader in your field, but part of showing expertise is knowing how to bring in other authoritative voices as well.
Certainly, telling some stories or observations from your professional career is appropriate. However, you should use facts and statistics from studies, government agencies, and other thought leaders to be even more convincing. After all, your audience can’t just take your word for everything!
Since a white paper tends to be long and packed with information, having charts, tables, graphs, and images really helps emphasize important elements for your reader. Similarly, pull-out quotations will draw your readers’ eyes to essential matter.
Include plenty of white space
Large blocks of text can be intimidating, so use shorter paragraphs when possible. Also, use plenty of headings and subheadings to break up the text. This will also help your readers easily follow along and can guide them to the most pertinent parts for them.
Finalizing your white paper
After you have written your initial draft, it is crucial for you or someone else to review it for clarity, typos, and grammatical errors. After all, if you are establishing yourself as an authority, errors will hurt your credibility.
It is often hard to catch these errors yourself because you have spent so much time with the white paper already. So choose another person to read your white paper with a fresh set of eyes. That could be a trusted friend or colleague, or it could be a professional proofreading service.
One final step is to convert your white paper into a PDF. This makes readable for more users, regardless of which computer operating system they use.
How to incorporate your white paper into your marketing campaign
Congratulations, you have written your white paper! However, your work isn’t quite done yet.
Remember, the white paper is part of your content marketing strategy. Your goal is to use it as inbound marketing. So to maximize the impact your white paper has, follow the tips below.
Create a landing page
Before you are ready to release your white paper, create a landing page for it on your website. This way, you have already prepared a spot for users to go to access your masterpiece.
Many businesses ask users to complete a step before they can download the white paper. This can be as simple as asking users to input an email address. Or you could ask them to fill out a longer form in which they can provide demographic information.
The benefit of asking for information is that it offers you a lot of social data to analyze. With a better understanding of your readers, you can use social media to send more-targeted messages. Or you can simply ask them to subscribe to your newsletter.
However, some businesses choose to ask customers for only a little bit of information—or none at all—because filling out a long form might discourage people from accessing the white paper.
Promote your white paper
For a few days before you release your white paper, as well as on the day of the release, you want to put all of your marketing efforts behind it—that means promoting it like crazy with all of your digital marketing strategies.
Make sure you have published at least one blog post (preferably a few) ahead of time to get readers excited about the upcoming white paper. Similarly, use your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) to promote your white paper, both before and after its release.
Hopefully, though, you won’t be the only person promoting your white paper. Find bloggers who write about your industry. Tell them about your white paper, and ask if they will review it. You could also ask if you can create a guest blog post for them to publish.
You can also ask other contacts in the industry to promote your white paper. If you are a contractor and your white paper focuses on home repairs, for example, the local hardware store would see benefit in promoting it as well. Depending on the content, local or national news agencies might even want to present your information to their readers or viewers.
Remember that part of the goal of a white paper is lead generation. So send out messages to your new prospective customers.
Another important follow-up is to analyze data. In what ways did adding the white paper drive visitors to your website? If you collected demographic information from readers, what trends do you notice, and how might that impact future marketing?
Ready to get started? We’re here to help!
Hopefully, you now feel comfortable to sit down and give white paper marketing a try. But if you need any assistance at any stage in the process, Elite Editing is here to help! With our expertise in the writing, editing, and proofreading of white papers, your final piece will be something you’ll be proud to display.