How to Write a White Paper and how to use it for Sales and Marketing.
First off, what is a White Paper? A White Paper is an authoritative report that gives info on a how to solve a problem or to make a decision. It was first made famous by Winston Churchill in 1922, the white paper was used to teach and influence the public on a specific viewpoint or opinion of the writer. It got it's name because the original white papers were printed on white paper, giving it a very institutionalized impression.
Recently, the white paper has become a crucial tool in the commercial world, with it’s specific use to show the details of technologies and/or products being sold. A white paper is written from a specific company’s point of view. For it to qualify as a white paper, it has to uphold an educational format and content quality.
The numbers show and confirm what those in the know about White Papers already know. White papers are an essential tool when it comes to sales and marketing.
- A report by MarketingSherpa shows 68% of prospects download a whitepaper as part of their marketing cycle, and 35% of those pass it up to someone above them.
- A report by IT Toolbox shows almost 70% of big companies depend on white papers, compared to 60% of smaller businesses.
- A TechTarget report showed that 85% of IT professionals deem white papers as effective info sources and that they view between 12 to 25 white papers every year.
These numbers show us how important a white paper is to the tech world, but our evidence tells us that they are also lead monsters for the non-tech world. In fact, their influence is crucial to the beginning of the marketing cycle.
Content, Structure, and Tone.
- Create a great title. Something that will catch an eye. Think of newspaper headlines. Instead of focusing on the product make sure you are focusing on the problem that will be solved. Make it short and sweet and use subtitles if you need to explain more.
- Introduction. In the intro paragraph, be sure to completely lay out the problem that will be solved and briefly describe how your product and/or service will be used in the solution.
- Solution. This is where you can dive into the detail of how your product/service will solve the problem in the intro paragraph. Try to be as educational as possible. Remember, the purpose is to educate and not sell a product. Make sure that you are educating. This is important to keep up your credibility.
- Summary. Use this area to summarize your most important points you want to leave in the readers mind. Keep it to 4 or 5 points. Feel free to bullet these points if you want. At the end of your summary, include a srtong “Call-To-Action”. Decide what the next steps are in the sales process before deciding what “Call-To-Action” to use.
- About The Author. Use this section to help the reader understand exactly what position is regarding your products/services. We recommend this as the only section that use to focus on yourself. is the only place in the white paper you should spend the real estate focused on YOU.
- Sources. Make sure that the sources you used are cited. Make sure to be honest and include everything. This will increase the credibility of your paper. APA format is suggested.
- Length. To avoid creating an article, keep the length over the 5 page mark. At the same time you don’t want to create a manual. If you do see that you have ay to much information, we suggest creating a two-part white paper.
- Look. Make sure you strike a balance between text and white space. This will keep it from looking like a brochure. At the same time, don’t be afraid to include any graphic elements you feel are necessary. The key here is keeping it interesting and readable.
- Format. Make sure it’s printed on white paper, obviously. But, we suggest printing on the nicest stock that you can afford. Use staples, nothing else. For electronic disbursement, create a PDF file. This is the industry standard when it comes to electronic distribution.
You don’t have to necessarily have to be educational or technical in tone when you write your white paper. If your audience warrants a more educational or technical feel to it, do so. If you feel that it will be more well received with a more laid back style, don’t shy away. It’s fine to do so. Also, don’t use specialized language just to sound good. Only if needed.
Prior to distribution of your white paper, you need to figure out what your goals are. Are you using it to promote awareness for you company or developing possible sales leads? That will lead you to the next step which is creating the correct message to promote your white paper. Make sure the message is focused on the paper, not you or your products/services.
First step is releasing it on your website. To improve SEO, make sure you create an abstract of white paper, including keywords, and link it to the article. The next step is deciding what access you want to paper. If it’s use is to get sales leads make sure access is to registered readers only. If your objective is to promote brand awareness then leave access open to any user. This is the best option to give your paper a chance to be spread virally.
Make sure to use a press release to announce your paper is available to read to ensure it’s success. This will greatly increase your chances of your paper getting picked by the various search engines and news sites. Again, make sure your title is catchy and more of a newspaper headline. a newsworthy headline. Include keywords.
Make sure you go wide with your release and post it on ALL your Social Media sites. Even posting to related 3rd party blogs.
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs
Use your newsletter to distribute your white paper. Just submit the article’s abstract with directions to go and download the complete paper. You can also reach out to partners to see possibility of submitting through their newsletter. Finally, locate industry trades and submit for their publications. It may cost a little to gain entry into some of the larger publications but it coulod be money well spent.
PPC advertising can be a good method of getting your paper out. We recommend doing so for a quarter and longer if it turns out to be popular. It’s also another way to bring traffic to your site at the same time.
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising
This can be done in two ways. First, is with a postcard announcement. Here, you a sending invitations with directions of where to go and how to get access to the paper. Expect roughly a 3% response rate. The second is releasing the white paper itself. This method works great when the list is small and specific. The key here is making sure the white paper reaches the hands of target list.