The phrase ‘content is king’ doesn’t just apply to blog posts and landing pages. White papers can also be a powerful tool for businesses.
The use of white papers isn’t just to generate leads but to establish the brand as a thought leader in their chosen niche.
If you’re a freelancer who’s looking to score some extra gigs, knowing how to write a top-quality white paper will definitely help.
Before we proceed, it’s important to establish what a white paper is and why a business owner would want you to write one.
White papers are in-depth reports or guides that dive deep into a certain topic or subject. It discusses every aspect that surrounds the said topic and is meant to educate readers and help them understand and solve a problem.
Much like an ebook, white papers are long-form but are more technical and in-depth in terms of approach. Every fact or opinion discussed in white papers would be backed by extensive research and taken only from reliable sources.
White papers usually come with charts, graphs, and tables to further emphasize the topic at hand. The in-depth research combined with the reliability of the sources of information makes for an authoritative and trust-worthy tone, making it the perfect strategy to promote thought leadership.
What makes white papers different from other content marketing tools is that it allows you to build trust with your audience.
Keep in mind that people are searching for reliable information that can help them address a certain pain or problem. If your white paper can help them do that, they’ll most likely turn to you moving forward.
White papers can be classified into several types and below are some of them:
As the name implies, this type of white paper delves more into the features or benefits of a product, service, or methodology which are discussed in-depth.
Considered the most common type of white paper, this type walks readers through the solution to a given problem.
There are also white papers whose sole purpose is to discuss the summary of specific information or statistics relevant to a certain industry or field.
Regardless of the type of white paper you’re looking to write, what’s important is to keep in mind that they are meant to highlight your expertise. It’s the perfect opportunity to provide your audience with an authoritative source whom they can trust.
It’s safe to say that writing a white paper is no easy task. With the amount of research it requires, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and get lost in the process.
You can have all the charts and statistics you need in there but without a good narrative arc, there’s a better chance of your white paper not getting read.
The simple tips should help you keep your white both informative and engaging.
Picking the right topic is crucial in determining whether the paper is going to get a lot of reads or not. But what makes for a good topic, anyway?
First and foremost, a good topic should be one you are qualified to write about. Readers can easily notice if an article is written “naturally” or with minimal effort.
Besides, white papers are meant to be authoritative pieces based on the author’s experience and expertise. You’d naturally want to write about something you are familiar with.
Second, a good topic is something your audience is interested in. It makes little to no sense to write something that your target reader won’t consume, don’t you agree?
Lastly, a good topic is one that can fill what is called a “content gap.”
For a marketing strategy to work, it’s important to be able to define your target audience right from the get-go. White papers aren’t that much different although defining its audience goes beyond people’s interests.
This is because it’s equally important to think about the kind of people who will read the paper. Are they familiar with the product or service? Will they likely read a paper that is totally alien to them?
It’s important to be able to answer these questions because they will dictate the kind of voice you’ll use to write the white paper. It will help you determine whether you’ll use technical jargon or not or if you’ll speak in “layman’s terms.”
Just make sure to write for people and not for search engines.
While it’s the value that counts, readability should also be a consideration which is why correctly formatting your white paper is equally important. The more in-depth and readable your paper is, the more credible it will be in the eyes of your readers.
Will it be practical to use more images? What font and font color can you use best? Does it have to be single-column?
These are just some of the questions you need to address when it comes to the format of your white paper. Remember that no matter how interesting your topic is, the layout you use can still be a factor in whether your audience will read it or not.
Lastly, don’t forget to make your white paper mobile-friendly considering how most people spend more time on their phones than on their computers.
Just like any written content, capturing the audience’s attention should always be a priority, and the best way to do this is to write a strong intro.
Having a good topic isn’t going to be enough. You need to give your audience a reason to continue reading and this won’t likely happen if your intro doesn’t pique their interest.
The basic rule of thumb is to capture their attention so you can tell them about the benefits of reading your paper.
A good outro is equally important, not for self-promotion (which we will get to in a bit) but for setting up compelling calls to action.
While searching for trending topics is a good way to begin, you can take it up a notch by going directly to your audience and finding out what they’d want to see in the white paper.
Ask for ideas that would make the topic more relevant. This will not only help you write the paper better, but in a way, you’ll also be generating buzz around the topic even before it gets published.
As noble as your intentions are, there are several mistakes that you need to avoid if you want people to read your paper. It’s important to make yourself aware of these mistakes because they each have the potential to flush all your efforts down the drain.
This is probably the worst mistake you can make in writing a white paper primarily because people are looking for answers and not looking to be sold to.
Making part of the paper sound like a sales pitch can easily dissolve any form of trust that has already been created.
No one likes to be sold to because doing so will immediately turn your audience off. White papers are made to educate, inform, and solve problems and not to persuade people to buy.
There’s a world of difference between “well-researched” and “researched” and when you’re given the responsibility of writing a white paper, always choose the latter.
What does this mean?
It means going beyond the first article or statistic you find on the first page of a Google search. Take time searching through scholarly work and collecting evidence and statistics.
Yes, it will take a lot of time and work, but everything will be worth it once you get to see its intended results. Remember that you are doing this to establish authority and build trust and both of these don’t come easy.
Since writing a white paper means sharing your research findings, it’s easy to leave readers with theories without detailing how to use those findings in a more practical, real-life scenario.
Make sure to provide concrete examples when possible so people can relate to the topic at hand. Clearly illustrate how the solutions you’re offering can help them solve the problems they’re experiencing.
The last thing you need is to write a detailed and well-researched white paper that doesn’t really serve its purpose.
Knowing how to write a great white paper is a valuable skill that can earn you more clients in the future. Though this marketing tool requires more work than your typical blog post, the value it brings definitely goes beyond lead generation.
White papers are made to put a brand in a position of authority. Being regarded as a thought leader in your niche will not just attract more people but also bring in more sales in the process, something your clients are working very hard to achieve.
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