White papers are generally used by organizations for one of three reasons – generate leads, establish thought leadership or close sales. Typically running anywhere between 4 to 20 pages, they provide an industry overview, identify pain points, present a solution and highlight the benefits of a solution or product. With lead generation becoming a top priority for marketers today, white papers are becoming an increasingly important piece of collateral.
So how can you write a white paper that will keep your reader hooked? Keep the length of the paper long enough to provide in depth insights but at the same time manageable for readers (somewhere between 8-10 pages). The tone should be professional (Avoid first and second person). Also, getting some home work done before you start writing will go a long way in developing content that is valuable to your readers.
- Identify the message that you want to convey – The messaging needs to meet the needs of the greatest number of stakeholders and this requires the identification of the ‘type’ of messaging. Will it convey technical benefits or business benefits? Will it portray thought leadership or position transformative solutions? Trying to pin this down before you get started will help in quicker reviews and approvals.
- Determine your target audience – Since the target audience for a company’s product or service are likely to be diverse, trying to write a white paper that addresses all sub sets of this audience will only end up diluting the paper. Instead, identify the ideal reader and craft a message that answers some of their biggest questions – like what will mean in terms of costs or savings, where can this be used, how this can be done, what’s the next big thing down the line etc.
- Set up a call to action – This is critical for an effective white paper. You need to tell your audiences what they need to do when they get to the end of the paper, and also tell them how to do it. Do you want them to register for an event, forward/tweet the white paper, subscribe to a newsletter, rate the white paper etc. For e.g., providing an email or phone number might not be as effective as asking them to follow you on SM. This is an excellent opportunity to create long term engagement. Do not waste it.
Now that you have developed a great white paper, you need to think about how to promote it and get more value for your efforts. Some simple ways to increase the life of a white paper include promoting them in your social media, blogs, and email signatures so they can catch the attention they need, thereby getting you more value out of your white paper exercise.