White papers probably define content marketing in the IT and tech sector. Unlike other forms of content, like articles or case studies, white papers have a different purpose. Rather than promote a product/service they exist to educate, and therefore they carry a more objective view to help the audience make a decision.
As a white paper copywriter, my job is share useful information, which is balanced with the right amount of promotional messaging (the secret is to show the audience why you’re the best, rather than explicitly shout it from the rooftops!).
In this article we look at how to use white papers within your content strategy and the practicalities of how to write and format one – there’s even a couple of examples to help demonstrate what I mean.
What is white paper in copywriting?
White paper copywriting involves taking an in-depth look at how a domain (like cybersecurity, cloud computing, or data analytics) can address a market issue or customer pain point. Typically, they include unique insights in the form of research, case studies, or commentary from subject matter experts, and leave the audience with practical guidance on next steps.
White papers use a lot of copywriting techniques, including:
Do people still write white papers?
White papers are the foundation of B2B tech marketing because they help the audience to understand what the technology is and how it addresses a specific problem. They are so effective that 9 in 10 IT buyers say white papers are the second-most effective type of content in the buying process (behind product literature) – they value white papers more than videos, webinars, and social media posts.
If you think about your sales cycle, white papers are most commonly used to engage marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Here, a prospect has interacted with other content, such as a blog, advert, or social post, and is looking for more information.
White papers are a valuable asset because they afford you the opportunity to address different stakeholders within one document, as well as showcase the value that your organisation has to offer. Furthermore, you can build entire promotional campaigns around a white paper by repurposing it into other forms of content.
Another reason why white papers are highly valued is because they can be used to extend the life of your campaigns.
Imagine you’ve hosted a roundtable discussion or webinar. Rather than end the campaign with a simple email to thank the audience for attending, you can repurpose the event as a white paper. Now you have a new meaty asset to build a campaign around, as well as a reason to re-engage lapsed sales opportunities.
How to write a white paper?
I think of white papers in a few different ways, to either:
🧁Repurpose an event.
Although the outcome is similar, my process for each is slightly different – as documented in these downloadable templates:
With any white paper, it’s important to have a strong narrative to pull your audience from start to finish. To do this, the white paper should be structured with:
🧁Executive summary: to share a high-level overview of the key points from the white paper.
🧁Context: to ‘set the scene’ and show the audience you understand their current situation.
🧁Problem: to identify what’s causing your audience pain – or how a new trend could impact their business.
🧁Opportunity: to introduce what the white paper will cover, including the anticipated outcome if the audience is to listen to your advice.
🧁Solution overview: to get to the heart of the issue, exploring it in detail with supporting research, analyst commentary, use cases, case study examples…etc.
🧁Conclusion: to recap on everything that has been covered – finishing with a strong lasting message.
🧁CTA: what you want your audience to do now they’re read your white paper.
White paper example
|White paper written following an event||White paper written to guide the audience through a specific issue|
What things you must include in your white paper?
Before you hit publish on your white paper, make sure you’ve covered off everything in this checklist.
🧁A strong headline that gets to the heart of the issue – include a H2 subtitle if you want/need to elaborate further.
🧁An executive summary to highlight the key points from the white paper.
🧁Clear sections with descriptive headings to guide the reader through and ensure that even if they only read the titles, they take away some valuable insights.
🧁Practical advice. If you just tell your audience lots of information, it’ll leave them questioning ‘So what?’. So pepper your copy with tips and practical advice so they know what the next step is.
🧁Research to back up your claims, because your opinion alone means nothing without evidence.
🧁Graphical elements, like diagrams, infographics, or boxouts with key information, to make your copy look inviting and easy to read.
🧁A CTA – ideally tailored so it reflects what has been covered in the white paper.
Why choose me as your white paper copywriter?
Hire me as your white paper copywriter because I specialise in long-form copy, am experienced in how to distil your insights, and know how to structure your white paper so it delivers maximum value to your audience.
I’ve spent my entire career in the wonderful world of B2B tech, SaaS, and IT infrastructure, so white papers have always featured heavily in every marketing campaign I’ve been involved with.
However, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when organisations couldn’t interact with their prospects and customers face-to-face, the use of white papers exploded. It was an opportunity to hone my skills and experiment with different copywriting techniques to create white papers that gave value to the audience – and returned value back to my clients.
These are some lovely things my clients have said about my skills as a white paper copywriter:
“Alice writes engaging thought leadership content, based on our brief but also substantial research that attracts people to our brand.”
“Alice is a very talented copywriter. One of her biggest assets is her creativity. She really cares about what she works on and genuinely wants to add value.”
“We have found her to be an invaluable asset to our business. She has a ‘can do’ attitude and is very easy to work with. She gets to grips with our customer’s business needs quickly and easily and never fails to deliver fantastic copy.”
“Her expertise, understanding of our audiences, and ability to produce outstanding work have helped to elevate our brand and messaging.”
“She undertook a great amount of research for the project and put together drafts ahead of scheduled deadlines.”
To find out more, take a look at my services & pricing, or: