Let’s clarify by saying that white papers are a completely different beast then a blog post. What you’re really writing is a detailed and well-researched paper that can be quite long and in-depth. They’re written by experts in a specific industry to highlight pain points and possible fixes with relevant examples. A good white paper will include data, charts and references: the hard facts.
It’s no surprise then that white papers are the single most effective tool to help buyers come to a buying decision.
So, where do you start when you are writing a white paper?
Step 1. Identify your Audience
Just like with any content writing, the audience is your first consideration. It is especially important to write with your target reader in mind. White papers are often long and in-depth and generally written in a formal tone, so keeping the reader on the topic is important or they will lose interest. Your audience could be a veteran CEO or a marketing department, it all depends on your specific goals for the piece.
Step 2. Highlight the Problem and Show your Expertise
White papers should outline your company’s expertise in your industry. It should be an argument based on external research and internal knowledge. Be “problem-based and solution-focused” in your design and argument. Your white paper should identify and address a particular problem and should be relevant and timely in your field (making sure you use the most up-to-date information). It could focus on issues such as common industry dilemmas, new trends, changing techniques and technologies, or industry comparisons.
The white paper MUST have a proposed solution or recommendation to answer the problem that is based on a thorough examination of the problem and potential solutions.
Step 3. Formatting Your White paper
A white paper is similar in shape and focus to other business research documents, but with one crucial difference. Unlike a business report that starts with the conclusion and shows how it came to be, you instead build the problem and the understanding of the problem from the beginning, with a big “Ah-ha” moment at the end to tie it all together. Your research and expertise should guide your audience to the answer.
Think of it as bringing your reader on a journey with you to solve a problem. Make sure you map out your format with easy to navigate headings and clear and concise writing. At Maguire Marketing Group, we believe it doesn’t hurt to add some stellar design. You can find samples here.
Choosing a Title
An accurate title is essential for readability and SEO. Not only should it be enticing to the reader, but it should clearly indicate what the reader will learn from the white paper.
Although it seems somewhat trivial, the word ‘white paper’ does not necessarily need to be in the title. Some audiences may see it as an important indicator, but others may not see the value in the statement. It all boils down to what the audience prefers.
A problem statement is a concise description of the issue to be addressed in the white paper. It needs to be clearly defined in order to be placed into context and identified by the reader. It should identify the gap between the current problem and desired goal.
This section provides the necessary background information required for the audience to grasp the problem. The content will vary depending on the reader and the problem. If original research is done to highlight and solve the specific problem, make sure you articulate that to the audience (showing your expertise).
The ‘ah-ha’ moment of the white paper based on the information provided; the solution is now evident to the reader. It has been gradually developed using the gathered research/evidence and the expertise of the author and their company.
This section summarizes the major findings of the white paper and expert recommendations based on the solution. This is your moment to really shine and tie in all the important facts presented in the white paper.
Step 4. Continually Measuring Results
Don’t forget to keep measuring your results. Once you’ve finished and published your white paper, does it accomplish everything you set out to? If not, you can work on it; don’t just abandon an asset. Always look at how you can add more value to your content pieces to keep them relevant and continually generating leads.