What is a white paper and how do I write one?

in Ebook and white paper copywriting

A white paper is in-depth document on a particular subject. Typically it outlines a common problem or problems and suggests a solution or solutions.

A white paper is an incredibly useful thing to have in your marketing tool kit. I’ll explain why in a minute, but first let’s look at what a good white paper looks like.

What makes a good white paper?

The best white papers are useful. They leave readers more informed when they finish reading them than they were when they started. If you bear this in mind, you can’t go far wrong.

The first thing to get right is the subject matter. To do this, put yourself in the shoes of your target customer. What problems do they typically face? What are the challenges they need to overcome?

From there, consider how you can help them overcome this problem or challenge. It may be that your experience in the field means you’re able to provide insight and advice. It may be that you have a product or service that could help. However, it is important to remember that a white paper isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a sales pitch. You can certainly mention the solutions you have but the overriding sense should be of an expert talking to an expert not a salesperson glibly talking to an expert.

The next thing is to arm yourself with the information you need. A white paper is akin to an academic paper so you don’t want to skimp on facts or skim over the surface of anything (remember, it’s expert talking to expert). If you aren’t the expert on the subject matter, you need to go to the person in your business who is. You might also need to undertake or commission additional research in a particular area.

Presentation is vital. A good white paper is a technical and in-depth document that demonstrates expertise. But if you’re going to get the information across in the best possible way and make maximum impact, it is vital that it’s engaging to read. (In other words, while you may need an expert to get all the information you might also need a copywriter and a designer to turn the information into a readable document.)

What are white papers used for?

As I said at the beginning, white papers are incredibly useful things to have.

You can share them with prospective customers you’re in discussions with as a way to demonstrate your expertise and give them peace of mind they’re choosing the right supplier.

You can share them with existing customers to show you’re still at the cutting edge as well as give them additional value over and above the products or service you already provide.

They are probably more often used earlier on in the buying process, though. Because a white paper is a document that educates its readers and provides valuable information and insights, it is a great lead magnet for a website. That is, you can ask people to share their email address with you (so you can market to them in future) in exchange for the content.

Why are white papers such a good idea?

White papers are a great way to show you’re an expert in your field, so even if the reader isn’t ready to buy at the moment you’ll be at the forefront of their mind when they are. They also demonstrate you’re a valuable partner willing to share useful information not just someone trying to make a sale.

What’s the difference between a white paper and an ebook?

If a white paper is an academic article, an ebook is much less detailed and much lighter weight. I’ll look at ebooks in the next blog.

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