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Six steps to winning white papers

Six steps to winning white papers

When it comes to getting your content marketing seen by the right people, you’re on to a winner with a white paper. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Define your audience.

    Do you know who you’re aiming your white paper at? Create a persona that you’ll be writing for and make it as detailed as possible. Put yourself in their shoes and work out what challenges they’re up against in their business life. What work pressures are they under and what’s keeping them awake at night?

    Knowing your audience will not only guide your choice of subject matter, it’ll decide the structure of your paper, too. If you’re writing for time-poor CEOs, for example, you’ll want to think about including an executive summary to get your main points across in minutes.

    Defining your audience will also determine your language; after all, you don’t want to get too technical if you’re not aiming your paper at a technical target group.
  2. Decide on your topic.

    Working out what to write about involves identifying the overlap between the expertise you have, and the questions your target audience want answered. It can take time to find precisely the right angle that makes the most of what you know, but also addresses one of your audience’s distinct pain points.

    Above all, you want your paper to be interesting and relevant, so try to choose a topic no one else has covered, or one that you can update with new information. Remember that white papers are more successful than other types of sales documents because of their focus on education; it’s the shift from ‘selling’ to ‘helping’ that gets your messages across. But this is only effective if you’ve chosen the right topic.
  3. Plan your structure.

    Start by creating an outline of your paper, detailing the points you’re going to make, the references you’re going to include and the shape of the argument. Circulate this to key stakeholders before you begin to write. Making sure that everyone involved is in agreement about the paper’s content before you start will save you time and stress.
  4. Think about design from the beginning.

    Alongside planning your paper’s content, you need to plan how the design can amplify the meaning of its words. Your aim is that, together, copy and design will create a strong, cohesive piece that will grab the reader’s attention and stay in their memory.

    Good design goes beyond choosing a font that’s legible and large enough for easy reading. Perhaps you can use infographics or charts to break up the text and present statistical information in an interesting and easy-to-understand way. Call out boxes can highlight great quotes from sources, and imagery can bring your theme to life. Use headings and typography effectively to make your paper as accessible as possible, creating signposts that help your audience find their way around.

    Get the design right and you’ll help your visual learners to retain the information, as well as giving your skimmers a way to quickly absorb points.
  5. Create a winning title.

    As the first thing your audience will see, your title needs to hook your reader into delving further into your paper. You’re looking for a title that’s informative and intriguing, that’s an honest statement about what’s within — but withholds just enough to pique interest.

    Think about how you can use emotional triggers to prompt your readers to take action and to read your paper. Use curiosity (what am I missing out on?), vanity (how much do I already know?), fear and doubt (what don’t I know about?) to guide your title choice.
  6. Think ‘problem solving’ not ‘sales’.

    Your white paper is not about selling your product, it’s about providing your readers with valuable educational content that will help them solve problems they encounter in their working lives. Follow the 80/20 rule and spend 80 per cent of the paper on education, and only 20 per cent on describing how your product can solve the problem discussed. Think about how you can use case studies to demonstrate how your solution solved a real-world issue, and use endorsements from satisfied clients to further make your point.

This is just the start of your white paper journey. Get in touch to talk through how we can help you create winning white papers.

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