Yes! I have a lot of experience of writing white papers!!
Arguably, in the IT and tech world, white papers are the most important assets you can create, effective at positioning you as a thought leader because they detail elements of your skills, knowledge and experience…
And they’re great for lead generation.
51% of businesses say that white papers are a ‘valuable’ or ‘extremely valuable’ source of leads, and 76% of buyers are willing exchange their personal information for a white paper.
40% of C-level execs spend 1-3 hours per week reading this type of content – that’s an incredible opportunity that you can’t afford to miss.
Pitching your white paper correctly
Reasons that you might consider writing a white paper include:
- Educating the market on a new technology.
- Testing/proving/disproving a theory.
- A deep-dive on a new market trend.
- Solve a problem/challenge faced by the target audience.
- Showcase a methodology in action.
But while the reason behind publishing a white paper may vary, the purpose is always the same: to educate the audience.
Unlike other forms of content, such as blogs or guides, white papers should never be promotional – they should never be written from the perspective of showing off all you can do, because within the process of educating the audience on the subject matter, you become an authority figure and your value shines through.
Ultimately, that’s what’s going to ‘sell’ your business.
And to prove yourself as a credible authority and effectively ‘seal the deal’, you need to substantiate your claims, opinions and arguments with research and data. Ideally, this will come from new independent studies that you may have commissioned. But if your budget doesn’t allow, there is a wealth of information already online that you can turn to. However, it’s important to note that any existing research you use must either come from a credible source (for example an analyst like Gartner, Forrester or IDC) or comprise a statistically valid sample.
How to write an effective white paper
A well written white paper is essential if you’re to convert that lead and demonstrate your value – 53% of C-suite execs said they lost respect and admiration for an organisation due to its poor content.
Start by thinking about what you want your audience to do as a result of reading your white paper. For example, it could be sharing their details or booking a demo.
Then think about what information you need them to listen to in order to encourage that behaviour. For example, you need them to recognise they have a problem, that’s pretty painful, and the white paper holds a simple way that they can address and overcome that challenge.
Now step into your audience’s shoes. Imagine you’ve just read this white paper and now you ask, “So what?“. Think about what they’re going to do with this information. For example, share it with the board or discuss it with their team.
And think about their role within the organisation and the language they use. For example, a CEO will appreciate an executive summary that covers off the key points at-a-glance, whereas a more technical audience will be thankful for more detail around any research and further sources of reading. Make your white paper easy to share across different audiences by including these different elements within the copy.
When it comes to writing your white paper, the basic structure is:
- Anticipated outcome
- Solution overview
Then top it with your executive summary, include a reference table to the sources you’ve used to compile the paper and finish with a list of further reading materials.
“Alice writes engaging thought-leadership content, based on our brief but also substantial research, that successfully attracts people to our brand…We’ve seen a flurry of downloads and received great feedback on our written content and would recommend Alice’s approach (and the cakes she brings to our office).”
James McCarthy, CMO, Exonar
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash