Wondering about white papers?
If you’re up to date with research on content marketing effectiveness, you’ll have come across the term ‘white paper’ more than a couple of times; however, when it comes to actually creating white papers, the logistics leave many marketers scratching their heads. It’s also not something just any copywriter can turn their hand to, it’s a real skill.
Knowing that, we’ve broken it down to make it easier to understand – because every business should be able to harness the potential of white papers.
Why you should care about white papers
White papers are a convenient way to give a busy, professional audience what they want most: an easy way to break down a complicated topic and help them make decisions with confidence. A white paper works as a persuasive document that relates directly to a challenge faced by the reader and makes a strong case why a particular approach to solving the problem is preferred.
When they’re written well, white papers appeal to a wide range of readers, leaning more towards a magazine feature than an academic research paper, making them accessible to everyone.
Picture the intersection between technical documentation and awareness-building marketing communication; that’s where your white paper should live. With this delicate balance, white papers can be used as lead-generation tools and thought-leadership pieces and to close sales. Along with case studies, white papers can go a long way to justify a high-stakes purchase decision, and they are often included in business proposals.
The ideal white paper ranges from six to 12 pages in length but has been known to go as high as 50. For longer white papers, an executive summary is necessary to ensure your readers quickly get the information they need. All white papers are text-based, yet they often include images, charts and infographics where appropriate. And because they’re such detailed and specialist documents, many businesses call in a professional copywriting service to create their white papers.
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How to craft the perfect white paper
Although there’s no prescribed formula for white papers, through experience and thorough research into best practice, we believe a white paper should have the following attributes:
- A clear description of the problem or challenge before a solution is offered
- A statement of the problem in a broad context, not just in that of your business, product or service
- An appropriate length — enough to provide necessary details but not so much as to bore your readers
- A focus on education
- A conscious avoidance of direct selling
- A focus on the benefits of your solution, not the features
- A focus on information useful to the researched audience.
As previously mentioned, an effective white paper works by demonstrating the thought leadership of an individual or business. However, a good white paper can also be the cornerstone of a number of pieces of content, including articles, case studies, presentations and media commentary. Ideally, a white paper should be the basis for at least ten other pieces of content.
The white paper document itself also often warrants ‘gating’, where readers must exchange personal data (e.g., name, position, organisation, industry) for access to the white paper. In this way white papers can increase their lead generation effectiveness.
Ideally, businesses should develop a library of white papers, each addressing each of their main areas of expertise. This is your opportunity to become a leading authority in your field and to set the agenda for future discussion.
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Where to find the time
Sound like a lot of work? It can be. With the sheer amount of writing and research time necessary to create white papers, many businesses avoid writing them as they lack the resources to do so. Luckily, content marketing agencies like Lush can create them for you, using experienced copywriters and researchers to work behind the scenes, while you focus on your day-to-day business activity.
Contact Lush – The Content Agency to find out more information about how we create white papers for businesses just like yours.