How to Create a Well-Planned White Paper
by Debra Harrsch
Do you know how important digital content is in your customer’s buying decision? I think by now we can all agree that it is a critical factor in moving your prospects forward on their journey. The word ‘content,’ however, covers quite a bit of territory – from email and blogs, to case studies and web content, to ads and white papers – and that is just some of today’s common content types.
Last March, I talked specifically about white papers in my Why White Papers are Important and How to Use Them blog post. I just saw a statistic in AZO Network’s Scientific Purchasing Survey – 2021 that puts a little more perspective around how important white papers are in your marketing toolbox. The survey found that nearly 75% of people viewed whitepapers as having an influence on their purchasing decision.
Just as a quick reminder, white papers are an essential part of your overall content strategy. They are the main asset that audiences researching and evaluating products are willing to trade their contact information for. Readers will expect the content to be educational and helpful – not promotional.
Remember that white papers should speak to a relevant topic that your customers view as a pain point. Your paper should also be presented in a way that shows your thought leadership on the subject. If these two elements are not a part of your project, why are you writing a white paper at all?
Since white papers are typically used for lead generation, it is critical that the topic you choose is one that readers are interested in. If it isn’t valuable, you won’t be able to drive traffic.
As I also mentioned in my last blog on white papers, you need to promote them just like any other content. Before you even write a white paper, you should plan how you’re going to disseminate it. Here are two thoughts on how you can use your new white paper:
- Promote it as a download from your advertising to generate leads.
- Share it with customers and prospects as a follow-up to sales engagements or trade show meetings.
Smart marketing partners will leverage the heck out of this content. Here are some of the ways Brandwidth Solutions uses white paper content. We:
- Promote them via social media, repurpose the content as blog posts, and convert it into an original article for publication in third-party periodicals.
- Create a lead-generating ad campaign – offering the paper as an asset.
- Use it as part of an email nurturing campaign.
- Include it in your newsletter.
- Post it on your website (we prefer to gate it for more lead generation).
- Look at the material with an eye towards converting it into a podcast or webinar.
Planning Your White Paper
White papers written by vendors are educational, informative, non-promotional papers that share expertise, perspective, and solutions for either specific or broad challenges their readers face (for example, “best green chemistry techniques” or “what are the benefits of outsourcing?”).
Last time we talked a little about how to structure a white paper. Here, I’ll show you how we create well-planned white papers for our life science and technology clients.
Scientists are used to lots of different kinds of papers – peer-reviewed articles, technical documents, and application notes, as examples. Because they are familiar with technical papers, your goal in developing a white paper should be to educate and inform your scientific audience in an area where you have expertise. White papers, when done well, help you build credibility with your target audience – especially as they look to you for guidance and information when researching products and services.
White Paper Length
Consider this: a 2018 DemandGen survey found that 61% of respondents share white papers with their colleagues. The survey also found that the majority of those surveyed (28%) spent 10-20 minutes with a white paper, while 24% spent just 5-10 minutes and only 16% spent more than 30 minutes.
The point of this data? Make sure your paper is easy to read and to the point.
I’ve seen white papers vary wildly in length, but we recommend around 2,000 words. This length keeps the information easily digestible, but with enough depth to help readers with their due diligence when investigating a product or service. If your topic is more complex, you can always create a two-part series.
What to Include
White papers are a vehicle for covering what questions readers should ask about a product or service, what to look for, primers on best practices…or to help them understand a product, service, process, or approach. Your white paper will share your point of view and solutions to the problem without being overly promotional. It’s your way of helping readers understand key information – all without using a hard-sell approach. This is what makes white papers a good lead generation tool. Customers and prospects are willing to register to download a white paper.
Because white papers need to add value, you must be very clear about what you have to say and why you want to contribute to the conversation when you start a project. Remember, white papers are not created using only your perspective. You must understand what the reader needs and what they will get from your content.
Our process helps you figure all of this out.
We start with a kick-off discovery call where we take time to find out about you and what you have to offer – what makes your expertise unique and valuable. We discover who you are trying to reach, what information they most want to know, and what you have to say about the topic.
And then, we dig in further, following up with an interview(s) of your subject matter expert(s). We choose one of our writers who is best suited to work with you. They then develop an outline, and after your approval, get to work on writing a white paper that best serves your prospects’ needs.
Whether your audience is highly technical and scientific, or business decision-makers focused getting comfortable with your offering, your white paper needs to be well-written. You must craft it in the right tone and style for your audience, and it must be engaging – or they won’t read it. We believe that a good design, with informative graphics wherever possible, is part of the process of engaging readers and should be part of any white paper project.
We make sure your white paper has a compelling call-to-action. Never forget to tell your reader what they should do next! Once you have reviewed and approved the content, you’ll have a well-written asset that can be used not only for lead gen but as the basis for additional content marketing.
White papers are just one tool in your marketing toolbox, but they are an important one! They are an authoritative voice from your company – designed to be a persuasive document that builds credibility and moves your prospect along their journey in discovering your solutions. When you marry the white paper to other forms of communication for an integrated approach, you help your readers see the value you bring to their challenge.
Considerable time and effort go into creating a white paper that can be used for multiple content marketing purposes. If your team needs assistance, we’re here to help. Give us a call to learn more.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.