White papers are an extremely effective marketing tool, especially for B2B service oriented companies. It gives you an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership, educate your target audience and build trust, all without the perceived “sleaziness” of a sales pitch. However, taking the time to write a white paper or even coming up with a topic can often be an undertaking in itself.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a quick step-by-step guide on developing an effective white paper, followed by a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts. Happy writing!
Steps for Creating an Effective White Paper
1) Gain attention by choosing a topic that will resonate with your target audience. It should either be a common issue your clients face or a question you find yourself answering frequently.
2) Attract interest with a broad description of issues and trends in your industry. This is an excellent way to introduce your reader to the topic.
3) Assess the issues and/or challenges the white paper will address. Give the reader a high-level overview of the issue you’re going to resolve.
4) Summarize what the reader will learn by reading the white paper. Make it clear what they will gain if they invest their valuable time.
5) Create desire by solving the problem. Describing the solution to your readers makes them want to carry out the solution—or hire you to carry it out.
6) Support your solution with statistics, charts and graphs. Numbers are more convincing than asking the reader to take your word for it.
7) Condense the key points into a brief summary toward the end. This makes for easier reading.
8) Stimulate action with a compelling conclusion. Tell your readers the next step—the step they should take immediately after finishing the white paper.
White Paper Dos and Don’ts
- Do understand your audience. What are they interested in? What motivates their decisions? What challenges do they face? If you work backwards from your audience, you’ll create a white paper that resonates with them.
- Do break up your content. Try using numbers if appropriate. A list of top 10 tips will be easier for someone to scan—which means people are more likely to download it and read it.
- Do be explicit about what the reader will get out of the white paper. If readers know they’ll get A, B and C out of the white paper, they’re more likely to read on.
- Do put your contact information on every page. Not every reader is going to get to the last page.
- Do make the white paper look good. A well-written but poorly designed white paper won’t capture your audience’s interest. Hire a designer if you don’t have the in-house ability to make it look professional and appealing.
- Don’t use industry jargon, acronyms or complex explanations. Most readers lack your expert knowledge. That’s why they’re reading your white paper!
- Don’t write a user manual. It should be educational, not step-by-step instructions.
- Don’t make a sales pitch. You’ll lose your reader immediately.
- Don’t be too wordy. Make it easy to skim and easy to understand.