While white papers are hardly a new tool in the B2B marketer’s arsenal, they remain among the most effective for lead generation, thought leadership, and to advocate for your product or solution. A 2018 survey by Demand Gen Report found that 71% of B2B buyers had used a white paper to aid in a purchase decision.
A good white paper helps readers solve a problem, understand an issue, or make a decision. White papers give you a chance to focus on your product or service on a deeper level than other kinds of content while avoiding an off-putting hard sell. But what makes a great white paper?
These tips will help you understand how to write a white paper your audience will love.
What is the purpose of a white paper?
White papers need to educate on as deep and specific a level as possible — without giving away the “secret sauce,” of course. They need to help readers solve a tough problem or describe in detail the benefits of a methodology.
But before all of this, you need to determine your goal. Is it to drive prospects to a specific product? Educate about your particular type of service? Describe a use case for those on the threshold of purchase? Then, as you write your paper, deliver the goal in a convincing way so your prospect is compelled to engage further and move down the sales funnel.
Marketers sometimes fall into the trap of feeling compelled to share too much about the company itself in a white paper. But great white papers will figure out how to deliver only enough company positioning as is necessary, while over-delivering on the thought leadership and authority on the problem being addressed. The goal isn’t to make it about the company — it’s to make it about the customers’ problems.
A good example is PatientPop, which created an all-in-one practice management platform for growing doctor’s offices. Their purpose was clear in creating a white paper to share their original research. Rather than creating an entire “About” section to focus on their company, they contextualized the findings with a note from the CEOs, after the executive summary.
Answer your prospects’ most pressing question
As you fine-tune and figure out what angle to take on a key issue for your brand, consider your buyer personas and the kind of questions that feel pressing to them related to your company’s solution or offering. For example, a healthtech company that provides a B2B telehealth platform for hospitals might examine:
- What distinguishes telehealth technology designed for hospitals and physicians groups from telehealth designed to go direct to consumers (or, how are they the same)?
- Which revenue streams within a hospital have the potential to be positively impacted with a telehealth solution, and in which departments?
- How do you choose a telehealth solution? What capability considerations truly matter?
- What is the near and long-term future of telehealth technology?
Essentially, you want to tackle big questions that are difficult to answer in a way that presents your company as a solution to a problem (even if indirectly.) Doing so will help connect your solution to larger trends in your marketplace and industry, while demonstrating to your audience that your brand is one to be trusted.
Back up your claims
A good white paper showcases your organization’s expertise — but a great white paper backs its claims up with trusted third-party research. You can say all you want about a tele-ICU solution’s impact on patients, but unless you back it up with credible research, you’re not really substantiating your claim.
Given the more formal air of a white paper (versus, say, a blog post), you need to pick your sources carefully. Leverage the most credible research at your disposal, and your message will come across all the more authoritative (In fact, we have a checklist for using research to buttress good content).
What if credible third-party sources don’t exist? That means there’s a golden opportunity! Like the PatientPop example above, if research doesn’t exist, that means you can do the research. It takes time and investment, but there is no substitute (especially in Google’s search algorithms) for bringing new knowledge into the world and hosting it on your platform.
How to title a white paper
You worked hard to draft a compelling case, so do your white paper justice by titling it appropriately. Brainstorm heavily and give others within the organization a chance to contribute ideas. Whatever you do, don’t include the words “white paper” in your title. Give it a name that conveys something about your paper’s key points and motivates audiences to read it. And remember, if you include your product name, your white paper will likely come across as sales collateral.
Rather than opting for a long title that you hope conveys all the valuable information in your white paper, think short and compelling:
Silversheet, a talent management platform for medical providers, offers their Credential Management Handbook. This white paper is clearly titled in a way that helps the audience know what they’re going to get without being too wordy.
Rather than pack too many details into the title, they offer “What You’ll Learn” takeaways while asking the audience to input information into a lead gate to download.
Promote your work
While you will want your white paper to remain available on your website, probably with a landing page to capture a reader’s attention before they download it, don’t forget to let people know it’s there. Make use of your other channels to develop a campaign around your new white paper. Write a blog post, send an email to your client and prospect list, and distribute it across your social media properties (and ask your colleagues to distribute through their networks, too). Then make sure your content is easy to find on your site, preferably on your home page while it’s still new.
Remember, your white paper needs to educate and serve a specific purpose. It needs to be substantiated by solid research and real-life relevance. Built solidly, it can be a useful tool to deepen your relationship with your prospects.
Need help making your own white paper a powerful, persuasive tool in your B2B marketing efforts? Right Source can help. Contact us to start the conversation.