How to write a white paper

White papers are a highly effective marketing tool, but can be a big undertaking. Our guide makes the process clear and simple.

White papers are very effective at establishing your business as an authority, and can generate significant interest in your products and services. But they are a huge undertaking, and there are many things to consider before putting pen to paper.

Below we take an in-depth look at what white papers are, the upsides they offer businesses, and how you can ensure your white paper engages, educates and entertains your target audience.

First up, what is a white paper?

A white paper is a detailed report on a particular subject that identifies a problem and presents a solution. They often contain unique data, analysis and insight that educates the reader and prompts new and innovative thinking.

Ok, but why should I write a white paper?

A well-written white paper allows your business to share its knowledge and expertise with industry peers and potential customers. By identifying a trend or problem and then proposing a solution, you establish yourself as the clear market leader.

It’s all about highlighting an issue your target audience currently faces, picking that issue apart to better understand it, and then proposing a solution – your solution.

In short, a properly constructed white paper delivers value to potential customers while also elevating your business/brand.

Right, go it. How do I write a white paper?

Step one:

Identify the topic/problem your white paper will discuss. The topic needs to be relevant, interesting, and one that you can provide substantial insight and expertise for. You also need to be able to offer a solution to the problem you identify.

Step two:

Put a detailed plan together. I suggest breaking your white paper down into clear sections, and briefly outlining what each will cover. You also need to consider what data/stats you require, and whether you will need to work with a data partner to obtain them.

Length is another consideration. Some white papers can run to hundreds of pages, but in most cases it’s best to keep them short and snappy while still retaining all the necessary information and value – 10 to 20 pages should cover it.

An example of some of the sections you should include in your white paper are:

Introduction

Identify the issue/problem

Break down the issue/problem into clear points

  • Each point should include expert analysis/insight
  • Each point should include data/stats

Identify how the problem can be overcome

  • This is where you can subtly sell your products/services
  • Team up with other experts/analysts to support your solution

Conclusion

Step three:

Gather the necessary data/stats/information you will need to compile your white paper. This includes any input from independent analysts/experts. You also need to collate your internal knowledge/expertise.

Step four:

With a plan in place, and the required data and expertise to hand, it’s time to start writing. Consider the style and tone of your white paper – I suggest keeping it clear and concise by using short, punchy sentences.

You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to digest the stats and insight you are providing. Graphs and images should also be included where relevant as they are a great way of simplifying complex arguments and data.

Step five:

Once you have written the raw text, you need to think about the design of your white paper. It needs to be visually striking, and, again, make it as easy as possible for the reader to access and digest the information provided.

We recently produced a white paper for online poker technology developer, Connective Games, which strikes the right balance between style and substance. You can download it here.

Step six:

Once you have a completed white paper, it is important to undertake a stringent proof-reading process. It must be printed out and read through several times, with corrections marked up in red – black can be difficult to spot when reading back.

This should be done by two or three different people, as well as the person who has authored the white paper. This ensures all mistakes (typos, grammar, coherence) are picked up and corrected.

Step seven:

Once your white paper has been signed off, you need to distribute it. There are several ways of doing this via your own channels; you can publish it on your website, send it out to your customer database via a newsletter and post it on social media.

In addition, you can work with a PR agency who will send it out to relevant B2B and B2C publications for them to share with their readers. It’s all about making sure your white paper lands in front of the right people.

Any other top tips for writing a white paper?

Think about data capture. While the main purpose of creating a white paper is to educate and inform, you are also using it as a marketing tool and to connect with potential customers.

With that in mind, you should require readers to provide details (name, company, email address, etc) in order to download the white paper from your website. You can then reach out to these people at a later date.

If you would like more advice on how to create and distribute your white paper, get in touch with a member of the ghostfoundry team here.

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