How to Write the Ultimate White Paper That Inspires Your Readers
White papers can help establish a business’s credibility with potential customers. They generate traffic to your website and can be used as a lead magnet to obtain email subscribers. Here are some tips to consider when trying to write an engaging white paper to inspire your readers.
Identify What Readers Want to Know
The most important part of creating a white paper is deciding on its topic. To figure out what topic your audience will be excited to read about, you must identify what your readers really want to know. You can do this by simply asking some of your customers, looking at a list of common questions your customers ask, or looking at online search trends for keywords related to your business. If you spend the money and time to create a white paper about a topic that doesn’t connect with your readers, it won’t be as successful as a white paper developed through a little bit of research.
Make an Ultimate Guide that Builds on What Already Exists
No matter which topic you decide on, there are already white papers, e-books, and other digital materials that have covered it. Therefore, your goal isn’t to find a topic that has never been addressed before. Your goal is to make a more comprehensive and valuable guide than the other white papers available. Research and download similar white papers you can find, then brainstorm ways to include better, more current information to provide a more substantial take on the topic.
For instance, there are many white papers that you can download about becoming a freelance writer. You can see what freelance writing markets are available, the credentials you need to be a writer, and lists of free courses. A better white paper would combine all of these topics, but also cover ways to increase your writing rates, connect with editors, write pitches for blogs, and invoicing systems. If you see a free white paper that covers the complete range of topics that are important to freelance writers, and another that only includes one of these subjects, it makes more sense to download the more comprehensive one.
Provide Reliable Sources and Stats
If the person who downloads your white paper isn’t familiar with your company, they won’t necessarily trust what you have to say if it isn’t supported by facts. The best white papers provide links to reliable sources and are backed by data that help readers see and believe what the white paper says. It’s hard to dispute the fact that there’s a diaper need for one in three families in the United States when you link the claim to a trusted government source that supports the statistics. This can help to build credibility for your white paper and your organization.
Add Comprehensive Resources
In addition to adding reliable sources and citations, provide some resources for the readers at the end of your white paper. These can be considered the next steps your readers can take if they want even more information. They can include other white papers, a software demo or trial, a recommended tool, or a book. Much like a call to action in a blog post, you want to give readers an idea of what they can do after they read the white paper.
Use Case Studies and Real Examples
Whenever possible, strive to use case studies and real examples in your white paper. These add to credibility, but also make the white paper more interesting. For instance, a white paper about how to launch a new company is more interesting with examples from real life companies and CEOs. People will likely feel the information is more relevant since they’ll see the context from companies on which they can follow up.
Sell Only at the End
The purpose of your white paper is to educate potential customers, not sell to them. If you want to include sales information, add it at the end of the white paper. Too many companies create a white paper with a primary purpose of selling customers on their specific product or service. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t get as many downloads as a white paper that has a primary purpose of educating readers about a specific problem, topic, or industry in which they have an interest. It’s perfectly okay, and somewhat expected, that there will be some mention of your company or product in the white paper, especially if your product or service solves the issue the white paper addresses. Just try to focus this information only when it adds to the white paper naturally or at the end.
Be Clear With Its Value
Wherever you advertise your white paper, be sure to outline its value so you can have a white paper people will want to download and read. Provide details on what makes your white paper different and worth downloading. Include information on what the white paper covers and what problems the white paper can help solve. This can help it stand out.
Include Awesome Graphics and Photos
Great white papers aren’t only text-based. They have engaging photos and infographics that help to capture the readers’ interest and make the pages look great. If possible, avoid using stock photos and consider some original content that can give your white paper a one-of-a-kind look. This might include pictures of your team or your company’s headquarters. Just make sure to secure permission to use the photos in this commercial application.
Invest in Professional Cover Design and Writing
There are two things that really matter when it comes to your white paper: its design and its content. For the writing, it makes sense to hire a professional content writer to develop high-quality content that’s error-free and easy to understand. Equally, you want to hire an expert designer to create a compelling cover. A text-only cover doesn’t look professional and won’t attract as many people.
Edit and Proofread
Your white paper is a direct reflection of your company. A document full of errors and typos doesn’t reflect well on your company’s expertise and attention to details. Ask someone else to review your work before it’s published. For larger companies with bigger budgets, hiring a professional editor to review the document can be a smart way to avoid costly grammatical errors.
Stick to the Topic
A white paper should stay on a single topic. Referring to our freelance writing resource examples from above, you wouldn’t want to advertise a white paper about freelance writing that also has examples about freelance web design or freelance photography. Those could be separate white papers that people would be able to download and could even be advertised at the end of the white paper. However, there’s a good chance that someone who’s interested in freelance writing has no interest in web design or photography. Stick to your white paper’s main topic instead of deviating into related areas that are not necessarily relevant.
Ask for Reader Feedback
If you’re unsure of whether your white paper will inspire your readers, you could give a few readers a preliminary copy of the white paper in exchange for their feedback. Consider it a focus group for your white paper. This early feedback can provide you with a list of changes you can make to improve the white paper before you send it out en masse to your email subscriber list and to anyone who visits your website.
Answer Common Questions People Want to Know
Ultimately, people want answers to their questions. If you provide the answers to common questions that people want to know in a comprehensive and easy-to-understand way, there’s a good chance they’ll find your white paper to be valuable. Often, a white paper is this simple.
A white paper is an invaluable marketing tool and resource for your company that you can use for many years. Developing a comprehensive and high-quality white paper can encourage more people to download the white paper and learn more about your company’s offerings. By using the tips outlined in this post, your readers will end up with a more valuable white paper by which they’ll be inspired.
Melanie G. is a freelance writer and editor living in Tampa, Florida. She’s freelanced full-time since she left her writing job at Nielsen in 2012.