A white paper is a technical document, rather than a promotional one, so it should help to educate your audience on a specific issue and present recommendations for helping them to address that issue.
Typically, a white paper is:
- About 5 pages in length.
- Performs a deep dive on a specific topic.
- Presents information in an unbiased way with objective reasoning.
- Contains adequate technical details, graphics and illustrations appropriate to the audience.
- Substantiates any claims by quoting credible and verified references and/or including a case study.
When I write a white paper, this is how I structure it:
Pitched so that it arouses enough curiosity while still being clear on what you’re going to talk about.
1-2 paragraphs that sum up the key findings from the paper.
Don’t assume the audience knows the background to your paper. Introduce the market context and why your white paper is relevant at this moment in time.
Problem / opportunity
Demonstrate empathy for your audience – show you understand the pain/opportunity that this particular topic causes their business and how it impacts them in the short and long term. Ideally, include research to emphasise why it’s so important they pay attention to what you have to say.
It’s likely that your product/service is perfectly placed to solve their problem or help them take advantage of the opportunity. But this is not your opportunity to pitch yourself – do this, and you’ll lose your reader and all credibility for your brand.
Talk generically about the technologies that your reader should be considering – perhaps give them an objective summary of what’s available with the pros and cons of each. Here, tools like Gartner’s Magic Quadrants can be useful because they’re seen as impartial and provide you with scope to position your own offering within the market context.
Case studies are really important in this section because they allow you to ‘sell’ your product/service without ever pitching it. Having a client talk about how your product/service benefitted them is far more powerful and useful to your audience.
Think about it…
Your client was once experiencing the same pain your reader is now. But your client is now super happy living in ‘the perfect world’, and the bridge that got them there was your product/service.
At the end you want to summarise your white paper’s key points and leave your reader with a single, clear call to action.