The 411 on White Papers
In today’s cluttered marketplace, giving customers something they can’t get anywhere else is more important than ever. Increasingly, companies are turning to unique educational content, often composed by outside content marketing services, as their way to attract new customers and educate current ones. Content typically comes in the form of written material, such as blogs and eBooks, but a new contender — the white paper — has emerged. White papers are taking the content world by storm, opening up possibilities that people never knew existed.
What is a White Paper?
In short, a white paper is anything you want it to be. An essay on the topic of your choice is a white paper. A series of infographics is a white paper. A piece of content that’s too long to be a blog, but too short to be an eBook, is a white paper.
Because of the lack of limitations placed on white papers, the content and format of a white paper is not quite consistent. As a recipient, you never know what you’re going to get until you get it. On the other side, it’s just the same. The endless possibilities of a white paper make it easy for you to create the masterpiece of your dreams! It just takes a little imagination and know-how to turn a dry piece into a dazzling white paper.
Why Write a White Paper?
Why not? For starters, the term “white paper” has a whole lot more credibility than the standard “blog.” Even if your content isn’t much different than what you’d post on your company blog, the fact that it’s in a white paper gives it an additional aura of importance.
More importantly, it’s a great olive branch to throw to your customers and those people who would like to learn more about your company. By demonstrating your expertise in your field, you’ll show people that you’re someone to take seriously and someone that understands what their customers want. That goes a long way in terms of developing customer loyalty.
What Should I Include in My White Paper?
A white paper is a freeform document, but there are still some main points you should hit:
First of all, you should have a defined purpose for your white paper. This can be an examination of a particular area of your industry or an answer to a commonly asked question. The title itself should clearly state this purpose so that there’s no confusion. The title should also be phrased in a way that generates interest and entices people to read the white paper.
Second, you should figure out your angle. That is, how are you going to spin the white paper so that it reflects positively on your company? Remember, while your goal is to educate customers, your white paper will ultimately be judged on how many people became customers because of the white paper. Make sure the reader is always aware of how the content of the white paper directly benefits him or her.
Finally, ensure that the white paper itself is easy to read. Break up the text with headers and bullet points. Use a font that’s modern, but easy on the eyes. Include infographics, charts, and other visual aids to drive home your main points. Don’t forget to make sure your white paper reads well on smartphones and tablets.
I Wrote a White Paper…Now What?
Writing a great white paper is only half the battle. The bigger task at hand is making sure that people actually see it. This is easier said than done.
You should promote your white paper the same way you’d promote anything else. Send emails to your customers and create social media posts that hype up the white paper. Place an advertisement on the sidebar of your website promoting your exciting new document. However, you don’t want to merely send these people to your home page. Instead, you’ll want to direct them to the place where you’ll finally start to see some return on your investment.
When people click the link to download the white paper, you should have a landing page set up that speaks directly to these people. Add a form asking for the reader’s email address; when they submit their email address, they’ll get the white paper. This enables you to add that reader to your email list, allowing you to send them information about future promotions and other content you may produce.
This is the sort of quid-pro-quo that typifies content marketing. And nothing accomplishes that better in today’s marketplace than a white paper. Follow these rules when writing your first white paper, and watch your number of quality leads soar through the roof.
Bryan B is a freelancer writer living in Long Island, N.Y. He may be the only writer in the entire world that doesn’t drink coffee.