In business, a white paper is a document designed to present a complex problem, and then solve it. They tend to be around 8 to 12 pages in length (or 1000 to 3000 words), and usually tackle issues requiring clear, in-depth explanation. They use cafefully selected facts and develop a logical argument to establish thought leadership and build a case in support of the company sponsoring the document.
They can be a powerful tool in the hands of content marketers, building credibility and educating readers on how to solve a particular problem. As a long-form piece of content, white papers are similar to e-books, but are often more technical and backed by original research from reliable sources.
Main benefits: to establish thought leadership and increase traffic
Top tips to remember when writing a white paper
1. The purpose of a white paper is to build trust and establish thought leadership, so use original, well-researched data.
2. Analyse and present the data in a clear and logical order.
3. Prospects are often willing to exchange contact details for a white paper, so make it gated or semi-gated content and develop your email database.
4. Although white papers are usually dense with facts and figures, it is important to keep it engaging and easy to read. Just because they’re technical, doesn’t mean they need to be dry.
5. Write about problems that keep your audience awake at night, and how to solve those problems.
6. Try to write about subjects that no one else has tackled yet.
7. As with other forms of content marketing, define your audience. Knowing who is likely to read and share it will help you set the right tone and identify what research you need to carry out.
8. Consider how and where you will promote it. Writing and publishing it on your website isn’t enough these days.
9. Write an engaing introduction that tells the reader what they can expect from the rest of the document, and then add a compelling conclusion at the end, or a call-to-action.
10. Although the purpose of white papers is to market your business, it’s not a sales pitch (that comes further down the funnel). Provide plenty of helpful information and analysis to make sure it gets read and shared widely.
11. Have it checked and and proofread thoroughly; your reputation may depend on it.
12. Keep it clean, clutter-free and readable. You don’t want to scare prospective readers offer before they’ve had a chance to get past the first paragraph.