Eric van Hall • CopyRobin
13 September ‘22 • 7 min. reading time • Blogposts

This is how you create a white paper that your prospects want to download

13-09-2022

A growing number of companies are using white papers in their marketing mix. Distributing a good white paper is an important part of a strong marketing strategy. It raises brand awareness and authority, as well as valuable leads.

Don't use a white paper to put your own product or service in the spotlight. Instead, tell a substantive story that really benefits your audience. This shows that you are the expert in your field of work.

This shows that you are the expert in your field of work.

Are you considering writing a white paper, but unsure how to put it together properly? Can you make sure that it is not a disguised promotional talk, but a strong piece with real value for your reader? We’ll tell you what elements are indispensable in a good white paper and how you can achieve a successful result.

What is a white paper?

You probably see them regularly on LinkedIn and other social media and marketing platforms: white papers. But what exactly is a white paper? And more importantly: what is it not?

To start with the latter, a white paper is emphatically not a commercial document. It has an educational purpose. It is a widely reported substantive piece, usually in PDF format, on a specific topic. The intention is to teach the reader something. Companies often use them to highlight a recognisable problem and their unique solution, but there are other forms of white paper.

White papers  are very suitable for generating leads.

Original research or data from other reliable sources support the information in a white paper. The text is supplemented with images, graphs, tables and other visual content. This helps to convey the message even more clearly.

Usually, a company asks for at least an email address in exchange for the download. This makes white papers very suitable for generating leads.

Types of white papers

When you are going to put together a white paper, you can choose from different types. Each has a different look and feel, so marketing teams use them in different situations.

Backgrounder

In a backgrounder (a white paper with background information) you explain in detail the advantages of a product, service or methodology. Companies use backgrounders most often to explain the technical characteristics of a new product or service.

These white papers are primarily intended to make complex technical information more accessible. A backgrounder is simple, straightforward, and reliable 

Problem/solution white paper

Another form is the problem/solution white paper. In these white papers, you outline the hiccups of a specific problem that many potential customers recognise. You then explain using concrete information the solution to this problem and ultimately how your product or service contributes to it.

Numbered lists

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Finally, there are the numbered lists (point-by-point white papers). With the help of numbered headings, you make complex topics clearer and therefore easier to understand.

Numbered lists are easily identified by a number in the title. Think of "8 tips for better content marketing" or "6 things you need to know about keyboards".

In all cases, the purpose of the white paper is to highlight your expertise in a specific area.

In all cases, the purpose of the white paper is to highlight your expertise in a specific area. The reader is looking for specific information and is open to the substantive knowledge of an expert.

The information you share is therefore always based on data. It stems from your own research or is collected from other studies. The different types of white papers then all tell the story in a different way.

White paper marketing: what is the purpose of a (well-written) white paper?

The purpose of white paper marketing is to promote products or services, without centring the commercial message.

The readers generally fall exactly into your target group and are therefore all potential customers. They leave their email address in exchange for the download, building a list of valuable new leads. A white paper is therefore primarily a lead magnet.

In fact, research shows that more than three-quarters of respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper. This is more than for e-books, case studies, podcasts or infographics. So if you want to expand your database with new leads, a white paper is the best choice.

In addition, by using white papers in this way you position yourself as an expert in your field. You show that you are experienced and knowledgeable in a specific area.

You’ll also reach a larger audience because people love to share a good white paper with colleagues. 

Are your potential customers looking for information to help them with a problem, and does your white paper offer the solution? Then there is a good chance that they will find you again in the future. After all, everyone wants to do business with the experts in their field of work.

Everyone wants to do business with the experts in their field of work.

Clearly, using white papers in your content marketing strategy can give you great results.

How do you make a white paper?

How do you make a good white paper? If you're going to write a white paper, you need to keep one thing in mind at all times: the purpose of a white paper is to inform and persuade based on facts and evidence, not to use a commercial story to tell the reader why to buy your product.

The lack of a storyline could mean that your audience quickly drops out. If you only list statistics, your white paper won’t be very effective. You might have a strong message in terms of content, but a white paper should above all be interesting to read.

Stick to the following guidelines and you’ll produce a good white paper that will keep your reader engaged until the last page:

Determine your audience and their pain points

Firstly, think carefully about the kind of people who will read your white paper. Are they colleagues or potential customers? Or do you have a different target audience? Do they already know a lot about the subject or do you have to provide additional explanations?

Once you know who you're writing for, you can start thinking about which of their problems you can help them with. When you create a white paper that addresses and solves a recognisable problem, you have a much better chance of success.

To achieve this, you can create a persona. What are their needs, weaknesses, wishes and requirements and how do you best respond to this?

Choose the right topic and dive into it

It may seem obvious, but let's discuss it anyway: a strong topic is indispensable if you want your white paper to be read. Take into account the following criteria when choosing a topic:

  • It is a subject that you know a lot about so you can easily present yourself as an authority in this field.
  • It's something your audience is interested in – a topic that's alive in your target audience that draws them to read your white paper.
  • It deals with a theme about which little has been written and which therefore fills a 'content gap'. This way, you stand out and reach a wider audience.

Provide a clear structure

Once you have chosen your topic and done the initial research, you can start writing. Pay attention to the structure of your text. If you don't do this, the reader will quickly lose you because of the abundance of information.

This starts with the introduction, which should immediately stimulate your audience and encourage them to continue reading. Provide a brief summary of the content, emphasising what the white paper does, conveys, or solves.

The conclusion is also very important in a white paper. Here you can (finally!) draw attention to your own products or services. We have already mentioned a number of times that a white paper does not tell a commercial story, but aims to educate the reader. But at the end of the text, the time has come to mention relevant product offers. Of course, a convincing call to action also helps.

As with all written content, it is quite normal to make multiple adjustments and write different versions. Don't think it has to be perfect right away. Read your own text several times, at different times, and look carefully at how you make the information as clear and attractive as possible. Let others proofread and give feedback as well. This way, you make the text as interesting and clear as possible.

Stuff it with valuable content

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Emphasising value is the key to producing a good white paper that is widely shared and read. It is therefore preferable to provide information that the reader will not find elsewhere. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Conducting your own research or surveys
  • Analysing existing data in a new way
  • Compiling unique case studies
  • Describing a particular process or project in detail

In terms of length, a serious white paper will quickly end up with at least six pages, including illustrations, graphs and other visuals. Of course, it depends on what you want to say. Remember that you don't just scan a good white paper. Readers have to read it through a few times to get all the information out of it.

Pay attention to the design

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The written content of a white paper is the most important, but don't forget the design. With a good design, the most important points stand out and help you read the text more easily.

Because white papers often go deep into research and analysis, visuals (such as images, charts, and tables) help to present the information in an interesting way.

For a really strong design, hire a designer who takes care of the layout, images, fonts and colours.

Outsource your white paper? Book your free trial order!

You’ll have noticed that writing a valuable white paper – one that is interesting for your audience and provides you with new leads – is serious business. You might even feel a bit discouraged! At CopyRobin we are happy to help you.

Do you know what you want to say, but lack the skills of a writer? Do you find it difficult to find the right words and to create a strong, well-structured story? Then let our copywriters write your white paper!

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