White papers are still a valuable part of the B2B content marketing mix as an essential source of information on technology and business. We have put together 12 tips to ensure that your white paper is a hit with customers and prospects.
According to research by Curata, 79% of B2B buyers said white papers are the content they are most likely to share with colleagues, and 75% of B2B buyers say they would share information about themselves and their company in exchange for a white paper.
Writing – and reading – a white paper takes commitment, and there are many pitfalls to avoid, which we have described in this blog.
Success in white paper writing requires a methodical approach to capture the information you want to convey and pitch it effectively to your audience. You will need to communicate often complex technical messaging in a clear and comprehensible manner while keeping your white paper both punchy and engaging.
We have been writing white papers for over 20 years and share our experience in this ebook, which outlines the best practices we believe will deliver success. We have summarized our recipe for success below:
1. Set realistic objectives for your white paper
Ask yourself what you want to achieve with the white paper, then tailor it to your audience and deliver information that is useful for them. That means understanding your audience’s challenges and demands, and then setting your paper out to solve one or more of their problems.
2. Map your white paper to the buying journey
Where does your white paper fit in your customers’ buying journey? In general, white papers are top of funnel content. They can educate your readers on about a business challenge they may be facing and a position a technology to resolve it. White papers can also work in the consideration phase in the shape of buying guides, which can outline different technology options.
3. White papers for ABM: a different buyer journey
If your white paper will be used for an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign, then the journey is slightly different as you are targeting already-identified companies directly. This also gives you the opportunity to hyper-target your information for each customer, focusing on their specific business challenges and needs.
4. Choose your tone of voice
If you don’t have a documented guidelines for brand and tone of voice, then you should put these in place before starting your white paper. While the idea is to keep your tone of voice consistent across all content formats, there should be scope to vary it across different types. Blogs and white papers, for example, might require a slightly different form of address.
5. Finalize your messaging before starting
Take time to create a message house before you start the white paper writing process proper. It will help your copywriter communicate your message accurately and compellingly in the paper. If you try and do it concurrently, the white paper will take much longer to create.
6. Write a detailed brief
Writing a brief in advance ensures that the key messages, structure and concepts you want to get across are documented. This way you can check that the delivered draft is what was agreed.
7. Stay on target with a project timeline
White papers typically take a minimum of 6-8 weeks from kick-off to final PDF delivery and involve many different stakeholders in the interview, writing, design and review processes. The final delivery date will also need to fit in with any overall campaign planning, so sometimes it is better to work backwards from that date.
8. Capture information with interviews
At their heart, white papers are a way to capture your organization’s expertise and harness it for marketing purposes. Therefore, choosing the right interviewees is fundamental to the success of the paper. Ensure that the interviewee is briefed in advance and supplied with an outline list of questions by the writer.
9. The importance of an outline
An outline of the paper will list the key points and structure of the paper. It allows any changes to the structure and content to be made before the writing process starts. The process can also highlight any missing content, which could require a further interview.
10. Draft and review the text
The draft will follow the agreed structure from the outline and include additional elements such as sidebars, pull quotes and boxouts. The review process is iterative, and we typically budget for two to three review and revision cycles. It is vital to prevent versioning problems by consolidating stakeholder comments in a single review document.
11. Design the final document
A boring design can be a real turnoff for your readership. Use good signposting throughout and break the text up with boxouts, sidebars and other elements. Having clear guidelines on photographic use makes it possible to use stock photography while still keeping a consistent look and feel.
12. Distribute and promote your paper
White papers are often created as part of a campaign along with other assets such as brochures case studies and fact sheets. Typically, this will be done via email marketing using prospect and customer lists and could include additional activities such as webinars. Combine this with digital advertising, such as Google AdWords, to attract new prospects.