You search for information, find a great document and you quickly fill in your contact info so that you receive the PDF by mail. For companies, a white paper is a way to show knowledge and to appeal to potential customers. White paper marketing works particularly well with products with longer customer journeys, such as financial products, in the B2B market and more expensive consumer products such as cars and security systems.
What is a white paper?
A white paper is a downloadable file, almost always in PDF format, in which a problem is addressed. Such as: where should you pay attention when purchasing a car? Or how do you keep your customer data up to date? The white paper addresses the problem with a solution from the company; sometimes several options are compared. The value for the reader is in the objectivity of the whitepaper: do you get real information or is it a we-of-toilet-duck story? Whitepaper marketing belongs to B2B content marketing.
The or the white paper?
You write: It whitepaper. It is also "the white paper Which your download ”and“this one white paper ”. Because it is now a Dutch word, we do not write "white paper" but "whitepaper" together.
Why white paper marketing? 6 possible objectives
It takes a lot of work to write, make up and put an informative whitepaper on the market. So what can a white paper deliver for your company? The following objectives are possible for white papers:
- Thought leadership (vision and leadership)
Demonstrate what knowledge and expertise you have and therefore claim the specialist role. With thought leadership it is mainly about visibility and the allocation of specialist by the market. That results in good PR and branding.
- Lead generation
Potential customers are initially looking for information. By helping them as early as possible in their customer journey, you create leads for the sales department and you work faster on binding. White papers are therefore also called lead generators called.
- Training customers
Wn what is a daily routine for you can be a one-off and unique problem for your potential customers. A white paper gives them the information that gives them more insight into the problem and a possible solution. That can make a difference in the communication from the sales department, because this way customers can train themselves.
- Reach decision makers
Certain roles and people within a company can be difficult to achieve, especially at large companies. When you know which information they are specifically looking for, you can reach the decision makers by making the right information available. They then start looking for you. That approach is called inbound marketing, in contrast to outbound marketing, where you approach your target group yourself.
Existing customers can also struggle with issues and your white paper can support with valuable information. This strengthens the bond with your organization and can encourage repeat purchases.
- Internal communications
A white paper puts the story of a company or product on paper. This can greatly help internally with communication in terms such as definitions, sales arguments and positioning. Particularly with complex sales processes of half a year or more with various products and customized solutions, a white paper offers a hold.
That makes white paper marketing primarily one B2B marketing tool.
4 critical conditions for white paper marketing
If you want to actually fulfill the stated objectives, four critical conditions will come into play:
- Valuable: a white paper must offer real value. It is just different window dressing which potential customers can easily see through and which will lead to little thought leadership. It must be well written and offer real insights.
- Printable: in principle, you don't prepare a whitepaper in Word. It must be a document that you like to print, read and share with colleagues. The layout is therefore of great importance.
- Topical: you want to give your customers, stakeholders and employees the right picture of your company. A white paper is only relevant when it is kept up to date.
- Attention: the white paper must then be brought to the attention of the right target group via the right channels. That can be your own channels (newsletter, website, social media) or paid media (advertising or specific websites such as Emerce Whitepapers).
Tasks with which you make whitepapers
Successfully setting up and deploying a white paper relies on the interaction of several people within and possibly outside the organization:
- To write: the white paper is written by a writer. This requires input in the form of sales and marketing documents and interviews with specialists.
- Design: the story is supported with images, graphs and diagrams. Quotes are emphasized and the corporate identity is generally applied by a designer.
- Landing page: the white paper is offered through a landing page with possibly a lead form. Everything on the landing page supports the purpose of downloading the white paper. The landing page is set up by an online marketer. (Read Create newsletter conversions with super content for a step-by-step plan how I do that at Bloeise)
- Promotion: your potential customers need to hear about your white paper. Promotion is done by an online marketer via the website, search engine optimization, social media, newsletter, advertising and trade press.
- Lead qualification: after completing the lead form the lead follow-up must be clear to everyone internally. Typically, the sales department takes up this task and not marketing. A qualitative white paper aimed at a specific target group with a specific problem already qualifies. These qualitative leads are generated by the marketing department and the sales department further qualifies these leads.
- Keep up: there is a person or department responsible for maintaining the white paper, typically the marketing department as part of their job of producing leads. There is a distinction between small facts and major changes in the story that require a writer.
Writing a white paper in 10 steps
Writing a white paper has a number of fixed points. By consistently applying this checklist, all white papers get the same structure:
Problem definition: identify the problem for your target group
Who do you write for? What information needs and problems does your target group face? For a hospitality company, this can be a setback, for example, for a service company it can be disappointing results from the service center, for example. It can also be a goal, such as how do you get more loyal customers?
An important distinction is the level of the reader:
- Strategic level: Directors and CEOs are primarily interested in implementing solutions that ensure competition, enhancement of financial performance or that improve operational effectiveness. In short: business-oriented objectives to make the right decisions.
- Technical level: engineers and IT people are interested in detailed comparisons of features and functionalities, considerations of different architectures, compatibility and integration possibilities, safety, scalability and manageability. The main objective is the wise use of technology.
- User Level: the end users experience the most changes when implementing a new solution. They are interested in user-friendliness, learning curves, speed and flexibility of implementation, useful tips, improving efficiency and preventing unnecessary actions. They want to work easily and satisfied.
Define the expertise and attention span
Professional jargon makes or breaks communication. Define the vocabulary of the target group: which words do they know? In addition, view the attention span that the target group has for the subject. How current is the problem for the target group? How much do they already read about your subject? Also at B2B you have to take into account a limited amount of available attention.
Create a content plan
Now you can determine the length. On average, a white paper is between five and ten pages. With a content plan you determine how you collect data from the company and give the writer an hour estimate and planning.
Possible sources for content are:
- Policy documents: internal documents written for the sales, marketing or management departments. The writer finds here insights, arguments and the history of the subject.
- To investigate: with investigations the writer substantiates his claims and the white paper becomes more objective. Internally, customer surveys are interesting as a source; externally the investigations that make a certain connection or give hard figures.
- Interviews: a specialist knows everything, but often not how he puts it into words. A writer can go into depth with an interview.
- Finds: The subject of your white paper will certainly have been described in large markets. Google on a number of word combinations and be sure to view English-language websites for interesting blogs, articles and white papers. Never copy the information one to one, but use the arguments, sources and possibly the storyline. A number of websites are also leading in your industry, so take advantage of this.
Think of a strong title - 6 practical tips
The title of a white paper is the first test. A valuable and well-written whitepaper will not be read quickly without the correct title. Sin. So invest in a strong title and take the following six tips:
- Describe the problem or goal directly in the title in a catchy way:
"How cloud computing will shake up the insurance world & the five strategies for survival"
- Point out the added value with which the reader gains:
"More loyal customers in your restaurant with beacons"
- Using numbers and lists can also work well:
"Six major developments you need to know about omnichannel"
- Never mention product names, because then the white paper immediately sounds like a sales pitch.
A subtitle is great for calling up an image:
"From lap dog to watch dog: extend your smartphone with personal security"
- Think of multiple titles and let someone from your target audience see which ones stand out positively.
- Does your title appeal to your target group in three seconds? Use the 3-30-300 rule:
The 3-30-300 rule
You have three seconds to catch the attention. Similar to the two seconds to judge someone. Your reader will see the title and the corresponding image in three seconds. If the title is complicated and offers no advantage or brings emotion, people will already drop out.
You have 30 seconds to interest your reader. You do that with a great intro, cups and any other images. The intro must immediately evoke relevance, such as a recognizable problem, a strong promise or an intriguing question. The more your article connects with a target audience, the easier it is to interest your readers. Of course, the intro must match the title and image.
You have 300 seconds to deliver on the promise. After five minutes it is ready: the reader wants to continue. Either the article has been read, or the article is being saved for later, or it has just been enough. The average reading speed is 300 words per minute.
The intro is the most important part of a white paper in which the target group recognizes the problem and they learn what is needed to meet the challenge. The purpose of a white paper must also be clear. The reader takes an average of 30 seconds for this. The length can be a paragraph to an entire page. The intro actually gives an overview of what the reader can expect in terms of content in the white paper. Does the reader not feel addressed as a target group, does the intro describe a non-recognizable problem or are the solutions not right? Then the reader drops out at the intro. Kopjes makes it scanable.
Figure out the problem
Name the specific aspects of the problem. Explain with figures, dates and names and research. What questions will the target group have about the problem? What key messages must the reader understand before he understands the problem? Talk from the perspective of your reader, not from your own perspective. Just scan an average B2B website: how often does the sentence start with 'we' and 'our company'? How seriously do you feel taken?
Set the background
The background consists of everything that is necessary for the target group to know, and therefore cannot be existing, small or very large. The background sets the canvas on which the problem occurs and provides explanations. For this you can describe the market, trends, or recent developments in technology. A handy tool for this is the order of technology, supply and behavior:
- Technic: Technical innovation is constantly ongoing. New solutions for known problems, new applications of old techniques and solutions in search of problems. A good example is 3G technology. This made video on the mobile possible, but also VOIP (Voice over IP) and video conferencing such as Facetime and Skype.
- Offer: Not every innovation results directly in available products or services. A company must see enough bread in it to want to invest in order to be the first to put it on the market. The list of failures is in fact long. Only at 4G did video on the mobile really break through, but with the necessary network problems for providers due to the increased data traffic, in particular due to the rise of the iPhone and Android.
- Behaviour: How does it then influence our behavior? Suddenly it sounds throughout the Netherlands: “You have to watch, nice movie pie". We are going to watch video on the mobile en masse. For companies, the following always applies in this phase: fish where the fish are. In other words, being present where the consumer is and responding to consumer needs. That's why I write the online consumer trends, with this year's trends: mobile first, high consumer expectations, personification and AI.
Give the solution
Does anyone want a heavyweight drill for the display cabinet? Large holes and small holes in the wall? Or decorate the house nicely? Describe the possible solutions that fit the problem. Focus on the ultimate goal of your target group. You can explain step by step how you apply those solutions, when, for whom it works and what the pros and cons are. Take into account the level of your intended target group, so that you give the CEO the business arguments and the IT manager the technical arguments. In fact, you provide the criteria with which your reader can assess the various solutions.
Especially when you state fairly when one solution works better than another - read your solution - you create a lot of goodwill with your readers. This white paper provides objective information! And that benefits your role as a consultant. Further thought: you still want the best customer / solution combination? A dissatisfied customer in the long term does not help your company any further.
Many companies like to talk about themselves. You can see that from sentences that start with 'we' and your own company name. This creates a sense of self-interest that is best captured in brilliant advertising by WC-duck. As a slogan, it won the 2007 election as the best slogan of all time with 46 percent of the votes.
Write to a conclusion. Your readers expect that. That your solution is the conclusion is also expected by everyone. Of course you have to substantiate it well. So. Don't make it too commercial, stay substantive. Just think of a telemarketer - you definitely want to avoid that tone.
Why is this a suitable sender for this story? What experiences does the company have with this specific problem in this industry? Provide contact information and social media accounts, tell relevant information about the company and give suggestions for the next promotion. Such as: contact, follow webinar or download the following whitepaper. In some branches it is also wise to mention the writer, especially if it concerns an employee who can tell more about the solution shown.
Layout of your white paper
The layout is according to the house style. That determines the font size, colors, possible house style elements, use of photos, placement of pulled quotes, diagrams and tables, etc. to reinforce your story. But be careful! A whitepaper must also be pleasant to read, have enough white space, be scannable and have valuable eyes. You can place links in a PDF, but if it is also meant for print, I recommend a list of sources, as an appendix or in the footer. Be kind to your audience and apply a URL shortener if you actually want your audience to consult the sources.
Have a white paper made?
You are not the first to properly use a whitepaper but have never made one. Building a professional whitepaper takes a lot of time, attention and expertise. We are ready to help you with the ideal white paper for your company. In addition to a white paper, we can also directly support you with the content on your website, your landing page (s) and other marketing resources.
Make an appointment to discuss the possibilities of whitepaper marketing for your company.