The white paper is a versatile document that often serves as the cornerstone of content marketing, lead generation and lead nurturing strategies. Writing a white paper can be an excellent way to tell the story of how your company helped solve a problem or ease the pain of one of your clients.
White papers can be targeted to other businesses, media outlets, and consumers; and can be a useful tool for internal communications. Because of its versatility, the content strategy of your white paper easily can be re-purposed across your entire content marketing strategy.
While we love any resource that does double-duty like the white paper, we know putting together new resources can be tough.
In this article, we provide some helpful hints for composing your white paper, and include a handy white paper template in a Word.docx to help you get started.
Establish Your Audience: Who is this white paper for?
White papers should target a well-defined audience, just as you would with any marketing message, to improve its relevance and benefits to the reader. To help guide you in considering the needs of your readers, here are some questions to consider when defining your audience:
- Internal or External? Is this report designed for employees of the same organization or meant to be used as a marketing message to an external audience?
- Executive or Departmental? Departmental leads are generally concerned with the operations of their departments (sales, service, etc.) Executives are looking at a bigger picture. Both entities require a unique focus and level of detail.
- Large or Small? Larger corporations have resources that are not readily available to small businesses. Your white paper must take into account the size of the company that it is targeting for your solutions to be considered viable.
Elements that Should Appear in EVERY White Paper:
Every white paper design you create should have a similar structure, which will help you stay focused in your writing process. A common structure across your white paper portfolio will also unify the different pieces of content your company creates. Here are eight elements that should appear in every white paper:
- Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- The Problem
- The Solution
- The Conclusion
- About Your Company
Use a title for your white paper that speaks to the problem your target audience is experiencing. Make sure that the title does not mislead the reader regarding the content of the white paper.
Incorporate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices – Keep titles under 60 characters, research competitive keywords, and capitalize on trending search behavior among users in your industry and geographic location. For an overview of search engine optimization strategies, click here: https://rawsoninternetmarketing.com/our-services/search-engine-marketing-seo/.
2. Table of Contents
Tables of content and outlines allow your readers to skim through your content and locate the information that is most beneficial to solving their problems. Creating an outline also helps you stay focused and avoid including irrelevant details in your coverage of the subject. Creating an effective outline and table of contents benefits both you and your readers by:
- Planning and organizing the writing process
- Directing the reader quickly and efficiently to the content they desire
3. Executive Summary
The executive summary is the elevator pitch of your white paper. In this section of your white paper, you have the opportunity to convince your readers that your content is worth the investment of their time in reading the full document. All executive summaries should include:
- Concise Abstract (What is the attention-grabbing main point of your paper?)
- The Problem (What audience pain or need are you describing?)
- The Solution (What did you do to address the problem?)
- The Conclusion (What are your key takeaways, findings and recommendations?)
- Additional Resources (What are your other white papers?)
Generally, it is best to create the executive summary after you complete the body of your white paper. Writing it beforehand can put unnecessary barriers on the depth of your data. The executive summary will resemble your introduction, but not provide as much detail.
The introduction is where you set expectations in your readers’ minds and state the objectives for your white paper. In this section, your goal is to capture the reader’s attention and entice them to delve further into your subject matter to accomplish your objectives.
Keep your main idea focused on having an effect in the world, such as making your product or service, and your company, look good; helping people understand or do something well; or raising awareness of an issue. You should use this section to introduce pertinent case studies and statistics that you can expand upon in subsequent sections of your paper.
An effective introduction should:
- Grab your readers’ attention
- Use data to introduce your problem
- State your objectives for writing this white paper
- Provide additional detail not included in the Executive Summary
- Help your audience understand how the white paper is organized
5. The Problem
Your white paper should address a single issue or problem that your target audience is facing. Business people are looking for efficient solutions to the current hot-button issues they are experiencing. Therefore, addressing multiple problems in one white paper would only impair your audiences’ ability to find your unique content and apply your solutions to their problem.
If the problem is sales, then keep the focus on sales and avoid veering off onto other issues of productivity, supply chain management, or cybersecurity. Instead of making the reader sift through answers to issues they are not experiencing, narrowly define the single issue that your white paper addresses. If you have trouble defining the main problem you can use a diagram to help you visualize the data.
The Problem section should contain answers to many of the following questions:
- What is the current market situation?
- What are the problems that companies experience and why?
- What will happen if the problems are not resolved?
- What are the benefits of addressing these pain points or needs?
- What additional perspectives or data would clarify the issues?
6. The Solution
At this point in your white paper, you have convinced the reader that the problem exists and is well understood. And, you have provided a concise description of your most relevant remedies to the problem in the Executive Summary. In the Solution section, you get to go into the specifics of your solutions. How you explain this to your audience is critical to your thought leadership, and should include:
- A clear definition and framework for the solution
- A detailed description of each part of the solution
- A clear explanation regarding the benefits of your solution
- A real-world example to support your solution
- A visual aid in the form of a graphic/table to illustrate the solution
- Relevant quotes or metrics to help drive home your main points
The Solution section is the perfect place to include charts and graphs or small infographics. Raw statistical data and/or original research is essential to establishing credibility in your white paper, but it can be burdensome to digest. Piktochart is a service that helps you create custom infographics and graphic design to include in your white paper, alongside the pie charts and bar graphs you could create in desktop software applications.
7. The Conclusion
The conclusion is your opportunity to remind the audience of your main points and focus on the objectives of your white paper. This section should include:
- A brief restatement of your main point without history or details
- A recap of the solution and how it addresses the problem
- Additional solutions and resources for readers to get more information
- An indication of what readers can do next to act on your ideas
In the Conclusion section, you need to finish with a strong statement and focus on having an effect in the world, such as making your products, services, or company look good; helping people understand or do something well; or raising awareness of an issue.
Based on your insightful review of their problem and your eloquent solutions, prompt the reader to take action – go to a website, make a phone call, send an email, download more information, etc. Here, you need to compel them to act and provide them with the information they need to accomplish your objective.
8. About Your Company
The final section should include an elevator pitch explaining who you are and what your business does. In the final section, you can also link to reference material used in the white paper, and suggest additional resources that might benefit your audience. Remember to include your company’s website address and your contact information.
One final thought: Re-purpose!
After putting in all your hard work to create your white paper, don’t let it become a single-use product. Due to the versatile nature of the white paper format, you can easily re-purpose the content in other formats and media channels.
Your white paper content, with a few tweaks, can serve in multiple roles – as a SlideShare document, a video script, a blog post, a case study, a social media update, a podcast outline, and more. Re-purposing your white paper is the smart way to use the same content and reach multiple audiences in different ways.
Let’s get started writing a white paper – Download Our White Paper Template.
White Paper Template – Editable Word Document
The white paper is a versatile document that often serves as the cornerstone of content marketing and lead nurturing strategies. A white paper not only can attract and help you generate new leads on your website, but it can be re-purposed and re-used in the lead nurturing and customer retention process as well.
While we love any resource that does double-duty like the white paper, we know putting together new resources can be tough. We’ve put together some helpful hints for composing your white paper, and provided a handy white paper template in a Word.docx to help you get started.