Creating a Great White Paper

The white paper is one of the most underused pieces of content in today’s blogging universe. Companies will blog repeatedly but rarely venture into this world of long-form content. White papers present the choice between quality over quantity, and they’re actually easier to execute than you think. Discover why CopyPress creatives are white paper cheerleaders and why you should be cheering for white papers, too.

What Is a White Paper?

Image via Flickr by Nic’s events

Suppose you surveyed 200 marketers and asked them to tell you about white papers. Many might respond that white papers are “really long blog posts.” Unfortunately, people who approach white papers with that mentality fall short of the goal. White papers aren’t about length; they’re about the depth of content that they cover.

Use your white paper to go deeper than you normally could with an article. A blog post covers the highlights, while the white paper provides in-depth analysis:

  • Blog Post Example: # Reasons Your Oven Won’t Turn On
  • White Paper Example: Your Complete Guide to Troubleshooting and Fixing Your Oven

While the first article makes you more coherent when talking to the oven repairman, the second one will actually help you find a solution to your problem.

With white paper length, remember that less is more. The key to a successful white paper isn’t to fill a 10,000-word content goal. Instead, you should pack the article with enough detailed information to make readers bookmark it, print it, save it, and use it immediately.

What Are the Benefits of Using White Papers?

The main benefit of white paper creation is the lead generation across the sales funnel. Whether someone has never heard of your company before or is about to buy from you, your white paper can move that person deeper into the funnel.

How is this approach different from a blog post? Instead of promoting daily blog articles that get skimmed over, your white paper is considerably more sharable and will drive other blogs to link to it as a resource. Also, since you create fewer white papers, you’re more likely to spend a longer amount of time promoting one, which translates to longer staying power than the average article.

The key to successfully promoting your white paper is to understand the different parts of your funnel and to reach out to your audiences within that funnel differently.

  • Top of the Funnel – Use outreach and PR techniques to feature your white paper on blogs or websites within your niche. The main goal is problem solving while introducing your brand.
  • Mid-Funnel – Include your white paper in newsletters and other marketing materials to engage with your audience that has already contacted your brand. Keep the communication going or re-engage customers that you haven’t talked to in a while.
  • Bottom of the Funnel – When used correctly, your white paper becomes key to closing sales. Make a personal connection between a client’s problem and the white paper’s solution. The message is simple: “We can take care of you because we’re experts in tackling challenges like yours.”

A strong white paper should give leads for up to one year before the data needs to be refreshed. Even at that point, you don’t need to start fresh, since you can create an extra section to cover updated trends.

What Are the Basics of White Paper Creation?

Before you begin, research what subjects and articles already exist in your industry. You want to fill a hole without exhausting your resources. Understand the different types of white paper formats you can use. Start with one of the following options when you’re venturing into the world of white papers for the first time.

  • Survey Reporting and Analysis – If you have the resources, build a survey and send it to your customers, contractors, or peers to understand how they feel about various topics. Here is a great opportunity to gauge how an industry has experienced changes in the past few years or how outside elements, such as the economy or government, affect your business.
  • How-To Guides – For companies with fewer resources, test the waters with an in-depth guide. Work with an expert in your company and go through the exact process for problem solving in your business. A termite company, for example, would cover its tenting process while an IT company would explain how its experts troubleshoot various networking issues.
  • State of the Industry Reflections – When in doubt, reach out to your peers. Report on the industry if you can’t send a survey. Highlight major news stories from the past few months and dive into what’s going on and how your industry is reacting. You’ll be able to paint a strong picture by interviewing and quoting your peers throughout your text.

How Do You Take a White Paper From Good to Great?

A strong white paper will have multiple elements from what we’ve discussed throughout this post. If you’re going to create a survey report, then you’ll want to include the news highlights that inspired it or quotes to back up the data.

By combining multiple media elements into your white paper, you’re able to increase the likelihood that the content strikes a chord with your audience. When you include quotes and photos along with your data, you’re appealing to your readers that aren’t analytical or are visual learners. If you’re able to strike a chord in multiple ways, the odds of generating shares and leads increases.

To end your white paper, make sure you leave the door open to keep the conversation going. Include a stronger call to action than a blog post and encourage readers to contact you about sections that were confusing, extra problems that they have, or follow-up questions on the data. This invitation will help with lead generation and give you content ideas for what to cover next.

Remember, the worst approach you can take is to build a white paper around a topic that’s too broad. Your company is better off focusing on a specific idea and exploring it thoroughly instead of trying to cover many ideas around a general theme. High-level content is what drives blog posts. Use white papers when you want to take readers with you on a deep drive through a subject.

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About the author

Amanda Dodge