Content marketing has proven its worth time and time again.
Don’t just take my word for it. SEO traffic has proven to be five times greater that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and ten times greater than social media.
Google itself says that content could “likely matter more than any other factor” when it comes to SEO.
It’s no wonder content marketing is predicted to be worth more than $600 billion by 2024. Content creation is already the top outsourced activity among business-to-consumer (B2C) companies who rely on outsourcing.
Content marketing is a complex subject with many different aspects across multiple channels. We’re talking instructional and educational articles, blogs, social media content, ebooks, videos, webinars, whitepapers… and the list goes on.
We’ll focus on whitepapers in this article, but this is only a fraction of content marketing and should be one piece of your strategy that includes many other working parts.
Need a high-quality whitepaper written for your business? Our done-for-you content services from expert-level writers include whitepapers, starting around $105/page.
What Is a Whitepaper?
Whitepapers are informational documents that are usually written in an academic style.
On average, most whitepapers are approximately 2,500 words. Their primary purpose is to highlight a problem and propose solution(s) while promoting a product or service.
A whitepaper is often designed for business-to-business (B2B) marketing, but it can also apply to B2C marketing strategies as well.
However, in the case of B2C, this form of content marketing is best suited for prospective customers who are searching for an educational, unbiased publication, not a quirky listicle or typical advertisement.
A whitepaper is NOT a:
- Flashy, image-heavy brochure
- User manual
- Technical support document
- Traditional ad
Whitepapers are designed to inform and persuade using facts, statistics, research, studies, and evidence. They aren’t likely to be trending on Facebook, but they can still be a powerful piece of your content marketing strategy to give your business an edge.What is a whitepaper? How can it give your business' content marketing strategy an edge? How do you write one? 🤔 Find out in this step-by-step guide. 📋 Click To Tweet
How to Write a Business Whitepaper in 5 Basic Steps
Whitepapers serve a specific marketing need for businesses. They raise awareness, educate consumers and clients, demonstrate a need within a specific industry, and help to establish your business as a leading authority on the subject matter.
Also noteworthy – the high quality, relevancy, and usefulness of whitepapers are a plus for SEO.
But writing a whitepaper is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of preparation, time, motivation, and determination, as well as strong writing skills.
After all, you don’t stand out as an expert in your field simply by cranking out an unresearched piece of content in 30 minutes. There’s serious work that goes into a whitepaper.
1. Choose the Right Topic
Just like any other piece of content in your marketing strategy, it all starts with selecting a topic that people will want to read.
When you’re considering the right subject matter, there are three primary factors that should influence your decision:
- Audience: Who will be reading your whitepaper? Is it targeting a B2B client, such as a wholesaler partnering with a retailer? Or, if you’re writing for a B2C audience, are you reaching out to established customers who are already familiar with your business and industry, or prospective leads who presumably have little knowledge about the subject?
- Expertise: A whitepaper can help to establish you as an authority in your industry, so make sure you’re sticking to your strong suits. Your content should be able to offer both internal knowledge as well as external research. Keep your whitepaper focused on your target niche.
- Solution-Focused Problem: Successful whitepapers identify a timely, relevant problem, and then they also provide a solution to said problem. Even though the format is academic and informational, a whitepaper is still a marketing asset. You need to point out and examine an issue, then propose how you can solve it.
Before you dive into the hard work of writing a whitepaper, make sure you read other whitepapers first.
In addition to giving you an idea of what to expect, you can also identify knowledge gaps and different angles to build on existing content rather than publishing a redundant whitepaper that rehashes the same ideas already being discussed.
2. Conduct Thorough and Comprehensive Research
A high-quality whitepaper is data-focused and supported by credible research.
Just like other forms of content you publish, make sure you’re using reliable sources and including citations. Using information from dubious sources is one of the fastest ways to lose your credibility.
If possible, include your own internal documents and studies in addition to industry resources, case studies, research, and recent statistics.
3. Draft an Outline that Follows Proper Whitepaper Formatting
Unlike a typical business report, which usually summarizes the findings at the top and then dives into greater detail, a whitepaper will feature the conclusion at the end of the document.
The beginning should include a well-defined problem statement.
Your goal is to take the reader on a journey that starts with examining a problem, then shifts into solutions, and ideally concludes by proving that your product or service is the best option to solve the problem.
Think of your outline as the skeleton of your whitepaper. Organizing the points you want to make, as well as your chapters or sections, will help you stay on track so you can escort your reader with a clear, logical flow.
4. Write First, Edit Later
Once you have your basic outline, start writing without reservations. It’s easier to dive right in, record all of your thoughts and research, and then go back later to fix errors and rearrange sections if the flow doesn’t feel quite right.
It’s tempting to try to edit while you write, but try to resist. It will slow down your process and can even lead to writer’s block.
5. Hook Your Readers with a Strong, Accurate Title
A good title needs to be interesting but also informative so a reader knows what to expect. Choosing your title after the whitepaper has been written is a good way to look at the piece as a whole and decide on a title that best suits the content.
Depending on your audience, you may want to include or exclude the word “whitepaper” from your title. Some readers could be drawn to that extra indication of authority, whereas others might have the opposite reaction and shy away from content that seems too formal upfront.
8 Whitepaper Style Tips for Success
You should now have a basic idea to begin writing your whitepaper, but don’t forget about style.
From formatting and design, to tone, to word count, and everything in between, the style of your whitepaper can transform it into an expert authority piece or a laughable waste of time and effort.
- Use a professional, informative tone. This isn’t the place to be using slang and hashtags. Think of your whitepaper as an academic essay, and the tone needs to reflect that. Educate your readers without belittling them.
- Format to match your brand. There aren’t hard-and-fast rules about how to format a whitepaper, but make sure it looks professional and represents your brand. No funky fonts and colors. As long as you took time and care to follow your outline, the whitepaper should be well organized and flow smoothly.
- Edit, edit, edit. Publishing a whitepaper filled with typos and poor grammar is a fast way to destroy the credibility you’re trying to build as an expert. Even if you feel somewhat confident in your writing skills, it’s always a good idea to have at least one other pair of eyes read over your work prior to publishing. Even great writers rely on editors to catch typos that the creator’s brain automatically skips over.
- Avoid information overload. Data is good, but don’t get lost in the technical details that drag on and on until your reader loses interest. The goal is not only to educate people, but also to persuade them. In order to do that, you’ll need to strike a comfortable balance between factual information a more human narrative.
- Keep your word count in check. You’re not writing a novel. Most likely, your audience has a hectic schedule and limited attention span, so cut the fluff and get to the point quickly.
- Showcase the benefits. Part of your whitepaper should be dedicated to the product or service you’re offering as a solution. Elaborate on why your solution is the best one. What does it offer that other companies can’t replicate? What are the perks? Why should consumers choose you over your competitors?
- Establish your authority. Google rewards content that embodies E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). If you do your homework, stick to the facts, and discuss your experience as a veteran within your given industry, readers will view you as a credible authority.
- Use examples and illustrations. Don’t get so bogged down in the facts that you forget to paint a picture for your audience. Use case studies, real-life success stories, engaging descriptions, and illustrations when appropriate.
When in Doubt, Hire an Expert
Like I said, writing a whitepaper is not for the faint of heart. There’s a lot of work that goes into the process to do it the right way, and it’s a major time commitment.
Is it worth all of that effort?
Consumers have been responding better to valuable content than generic ad campaigns and loud sales pitches. An SEO-driven content strategy that focuses on establishing authority and providing readers with high-quality, educational content is currently dominating the marketing game.
But not everyone is a natural-born writer, and many business owners simply don’t have the time or confidence to do a deep dive into the research and academic writing that makes up a whitepaper.
Publishing a whitepaper is a good investment. If you aren’t able to invest the time and research yourself, regardless of the reason, you should seriously consider outsourcing the work instead so you can add this valuable asset into your overall marketing game plan.
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