A white paper is an in-depth analysis of a topic or a product. It is beneficial for companies that sell complex services, products, or software. White papers are usually between 5 and 30 pages long and take a very data-driven approach to present the information.
Writing white papers requires firm knowledge and a professional tone. White papers are an opportunity to show off your skills and, if done right, can bring in new clients or customers. The information presented has to be concise, comprehensive, and accurate.
The Writing Process for a White Paper
Writing a successful white paper consists of the following steps:
|1. Choose your target audience|
2. Pick a topic
3. Research your topic
4. Organize your information
5. Create an outline
6. Write your draft
7. Edit and proofread
Choose your target audience
Knowing who will benefit from your white paper is key to writing it. For instance, if you’re doing brand awareness or lead generation, you need to know who would be interested in your product or service. If you are doing a technical white paper for software, you need to understand your audience.
Pick a topic
Choosing a topic that is related to the company is very important for white papers. It is even better if it can pertain to a future service or product. The product, service, or topic should be complicated enough to warrant a white paper.
Tips for choosing a white paper topic
Research your topic
Thorough research will provide you with all the facts and figures needed to support your information. It will also help you keep an objective point of view and choose an appropriate tone and style.
Significant research should be done to ensure that you are writing about the subject accurately. Gathering relevant and adequate information will enable you to write a high-quality white paper.
Organize your information
Once you have the facts, you need to organize them to allow the reader to follow your flow of thought. It is important not to lose track of the big picture while providing supporting details.
Create an outline
The next step is to draft an outline for the white paper. This should be carefully done because it will guide the rest of the writing process. The outline will also allow you to spot any inconsistencies or holes in your topic.
Write the draft
The next phase is to write and finalize the document. It is not necessary to write it in order, and the beginning is not important. Starting with a draft enables you to flow without the pressure to be perfect.
Write each section as you think of it, and then organize your document according to the outline. You’ll take time to go through the draft and refine the details. The draft includes the following sections:
2. Problem statement
3. Background information
4. Solution statement
5. Success stories
6. Best practices
The white paper abstract shouldn’t be too long. It should contain the information that will attract the reader’s attention and must pertain to the topic of your paper.
The problem statement contains the root of your white paper. It should be descriptive and include the main reason why the topic is essential to your target audience.
In this section, you should describe the history of your white paper’s topic and the issues that have been discussed about it.
|Problem: The widespread use of mobile devices has brought many benefits to society, but the associated lack of security presents a challenge. |
Solution: A new platform called Osada will be released soon in an effort to improve mobile device security.
The solution statement includes the solution that you are offering in your white paper. It could also contain a description of what consequences your solution could have on the future.
A white paper is not complete without success stories. This section should provide real-life examples of how the product, service, or solution has benefited organizations in the past. A success story boosts the reader’s confidence in your product.
A best practice section will show why your product is the best on the market. It should also advise on how to use your product or service most efficiently.
Finally, the white paper is concluded. In essence, this summarizes your main points, and it is prudent to end on a strong note.
References usually follow the conclusion section and should list all sources used during research.
Edit and proofread
Once you’re done with your draft, it’s time to edit and proofread it and get rid of all the obvious errors. Be sure to check your document for any mistakes or typos. The final draft should be free of grammatical errors and have a consistent style throughout.
Tips for Writing a Successful White Paper
- Do thorough research before your start writing so you can create a unique paper.
- Choose an appropriate style and tone for the type of white paper you are writing. If it is highly technical, be sure to include technical details.
- Organize your information in a way that will make it easy for the reader to follow along.
- Include facts and figures to support your information. If there is no research done on the topic, include a section called “background” so that you cover this gap. Facts increase the reader’s confidence in your work.
- Proofread the final draft carefully to fix any mistakes or typos.
- Avoid using jargon so that anyone can read it with ease. You can apply bits of industry-specific jargon but don’t overdo it.
- Use a creative layout with adequate headlines and subheadings to make it easier for the reader.
- Include images where appropriate to explain your ideas or to break up long sections of text.
- Use graphs and charts where they would clarify the message you are trying to convey.
- Write in a professional tone throughout the entire document.
- Address the reader’s pain points and offer valuable insight to your audience.
- Make sure you tackle the subject matter satisfactorily.
- Include a call to action for your readers. They should have no excuse for not using the product or service that you are offering them.
- Do proper referencing to give credit to other authors or experts in the field.
- Ensure you highlight the main themes in your paper without including too much information. Your audience should leave with a clear idea of your product, service, or solution.
- Don’t include ideas that are out of scope with your business or solution.
- Always provide solutions. Although white papers are meant to be educational, they should not include any false or wrong information. Your paper must always answer the reader’s questions and provide them with solutions.
- Have a highly focused topic. Each white paper has to be about a specific topic, even though the audience may be different. This means that you need to narrow down the scope of your document so that everything it includes is related to its central idea.
White Paper Format
Every formal write-up has a standard document format that guides the writer. Formating a white paper takes a bit of effort and in-depth knowledge on how to do it.
Today’s white papers are developed with the help of specialized software, which makes the entire process easy to follow. White papers usually come in a downloadable PDF format. Here are some of the key components that should be included in any white paper format:
A white paper should have a cover page that contains the title, author(s), and other relevant information about the product. The name should stand out on the cover page and be clear yet effective.
The title of the paper should be catchy and concisely sum up the contents of the paper. It should be a one-liner that can grab attention and inspire people to read more about your product or service.
It is common practice to list the name of the author(s) of a white paper. If many authors are involved in the project, it’s appropriate to list all of them on the cover page.
An abstract summarizes the most critical points of a paper, and it is helpful to include one on the cover page. A reader will often read only the abstract of a white paper before deciding whether to read the rest of it or not. It is therefore important to write an effective abstract that can inspire people to read more.
The introduction should introduce your readers to the paper’s subject and give them a perspective on what is ahead. If you are writing about a new industry or product, this part should mention that to prepare your audience.
The body section should be written in stages. It is best to go from the basics and build up your argument to support your statements.
The conclusion section should sum up the points made in the body of the paper. If you are offering a new product or service, this part should include a convincing call to action.
The use of references is mandatory in any formal write-up. Make sure you include a list of references at the end. The list should include the authors, sources, and any other material you used for this white paper.
Images and diagrams
Include images and diagrams to highlight your points. These concrete examples can help readers understand the message you’re conveying much better than a wall of text. Some of the images and diagrams you can include are screenshots, charts, graphs, and graphics.
The appendices section contains additional information about the product or service you are writing about. This is where you include data that is vital for your argument but does not fit in the body of a paper.
Types of White Papers
A white paper can be used to sell a product or service directly to consumers or businesses. It can also educate readers about a particular topic and convince them to take action. There are different kinds of white papers that you can produce depending on the purpose.
Listicle white paper
This paper is similar to a blog post in that it provides a list of tips or recommendations on a particular topic. It has the same style of writing that is popular online, and it can be used to reach a wider audience.
Comparison white paper
This type of paper compares different products or services, explaining what they have in common and how they differ. These papers can be used to highlight the benefits of using a certain brand or product. A comparison white paper helps the marketing team describe the product or service without too much detail.
Solution-based white paper
A solution-based paper is used to provide solutions for company problems. These can be published online or offline and are usually written by internal staff members.
Solution-based white papers serve the purpose of marketing and educating customers. They can also be produced by the sales team and used as part of a lead generation campaign.
Research white paper
A research paper is written to share research results with the public. It is used to attract potential customers and collaborators. Research white papers are also often published online on company websites or specialist sites.
Unbranded white paper
An expert in a specific field writes an unbranded white paper to prove their authority within the industry. These papers can be used to attract clients or encourage team members to follow a certain course of action.
Overview white paper
This paper presents a general, high-level overview of a topic. It helps deliver an understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of the product or service to the reader. An overview white paper is an excellent introduction to complex topics or products.
Review white paper
A review white paper is used to share the research and testing results of a product or service. It can help share your ideas with a broader audience. You can use the findings from a review white paper to improve how you present information going forward.
Technical white paper
This paper is used to describe a complex topic such as technology. It can be used to educate current and potential customers about how your product or service works. Technical white papers are very different from other papers because they focus more on data and explanations than personal or emotional experiences.
Internal white paper
Internal white papers are distributed within an organization only. They are used to inform employees about changes in the workplace or encourage them to take on specific roles.
Executive white paper
Large companies use these papers to share important information with shareholders and other stakeholders, including the media.
Purposes of a White Paper
The main benefits of a white paper are:
Generating leads for a business
White papers are used for lead generation campaigns. They are helpful when researching B2B markets to understand the current state of affairs. These papers also assist in identifying specific problems with a particular product or service.
White papers are also used to attract the attention of potential collaborators, investors, and clients.
Building trust with customers or business partners
A white paper helps to build trust and show that the company is an expert in its field. They can also help increase brand awareness by explaining the background of a business and sharing its values and goals.
A white paper is also a great way to let audiences know they can trust your company’s products or services. Companies often use white papers to show that they are up-to-date with the latest trends within their industry.
Educating and improving brand image
White papers can be used as educational tools. They help to present a company as an authority in its field and to improve the brand image.
White papers can also be used as a way to present a company’s expertise. They can be distributed to potential customers to provide valuable information about products or services that are useful for clients.
Companies can use white papers to drive traffic to their sites. They are usually unique and well-written pieces of content that help build quality links. These links can improve the site’s rankings within search engines and increase traffic.
A white paper is ideal for generating traffic when it explains complex topics in simple terms. This makes it useful for a wide range of audience members.
White papers can be distributed to potential customers or sent to media sites to attract additional attention. They are often shared on social networks and can go viral.
How to Gate your White Paper
One way companies can make their white papers more attractive is by using a gate. A gate is a lead generation tool requiring visitors to provide their email addresses before accessing the document.
Gating a white paper helps generate leads for a business and can also improve brand awareness. It is a great way to build trust with visitors.
A gate can also be used to limit the number of downloads for a paper. This is useful when the company is trying to control how many people access the paper. Gating also helps when a company wants to share the documents with specific people.
There are several ways to gate a white paper:
- Embedding a lead generation form in the paper: Lead generation forms can be added to white papers after they are downloaded. Readers can choose to opt-in when they download the document or when they finish reading it.
A form can also be added to collect contact information from the visitor. This is a good option when a business wants to keep in touch with people who have downloaded their white papers.
- Adding a registration form on a website: Some white papers can be shared with multiple people. A business should make sure the paper is only available to other members if intended for a specific audience. This can be done by adding a registration form on the site, which is only available after downloading the white paper.
- Requiring registration when an article is shared on social media: Sharing white papers with the public can generate considerable interest in a business. A company can require registration before the document is shared on social media. This makes it easier to identify potential leads and get in touch with interested parties.
- Semi-gating. It means that part of the white paper is available to the public without any registration. However, an individual will need to provide their details to access the whole document.
Gating should be used with caution because there is a risk of discouraging people from sharing the paper. The approach should also only be used on white papers that are intended for a general audience.
What are the Benefits of Gating a White Paper?
There are several benefits of gating white papers:
- Keeping leads engaged. Gating a white paper can help businesses maintain leads and manage their contact information more effectively. This approach gives the business more control over its customer base and email lists.
- Gating is a cost-effective way to generate leads. It doesn’t require companies to spend money running ad campaigns or controlling distribution.
- Generating interest. A gate can also help a business create interest and build brand awareness. By requiring visitors to provide their email, the lead generation tool turns white papers into powerful tools for building customer lists.
- Gating puts off jokers. Some lead generation tools are open to everyone. However, gated white papers mean people will need to provide their contact details before getting access. This minimizes the number of leads interested in accessing information without considering buying products or services.
Things to Avoid When Writing a White Paper
A poorly designed white paper can turn off the reader before they get to the introduction. Your paper shouldn’t be an eyesore. Otherwise, the written content, however good, will be useless. Ensure that you have a professional and attractive cover page.
Multiple distracting objects on the pages
White papers are meant to provide additional information, not just text. You should use graphs, images, and other media to make the subject easier to understand.
However, too many distracting objects on a page will turn the reader away as they will not focus on the paper. Make sure that there are no distracting elements and that the white paper isn’t too busy.
Odd or complicated sentence construction
The sentence structure used in white papers is usually formal and complex, but not to the point that the content becomes difficult to understand. A sentence should never be so complicated that the reader must re-read it several times to figure out its meaning.
It’s possible to have simple sentences packed with important information, but you should ensure a good balance. If the sentences are too short, they’ll become dull to read; if they’re too complicated, the reader will become lost. Make sure that your sentences are complex enough to communicate your message but not so much that they make sense.
Technical subjects require a clear and concise writing style. The wording should be as unambiguous as possible, using common words instead of unnecessarily complicated ones. You should also make sure that you don’t leave out important information or fail to provide details about the topic.
Spelling or grammatical mistakes
White papers are usually written by specialist writers. They are never the result of a rushed job, so there’s no room for careless spelling or grammatical mistakes. Make sure to edit the paper after writing the final draft so that you can catch any errors before they make it to print.
A poorly written white paper is not only irritating for the reader, but it will also drive away potential customers and cause you to lose respect. Remember that white papers should be well-written and easy to understand.
A white paper writer should always present themselves as experts in a particular field. Thorough research is, therefore, a non-negotiable factor in white paper writing. If you don’t research well, your paper will be shallow and authoritative.
Even though a white paper is meant to boost traffic and sales, it shouldn’t sound so much like a sales pitch. This paper should be highly educational and aimed at addressing the reader’s pain points. This way, your audience will be more engaged and interested in your product or service.
Who Uses White Papers?
The following groups of people need white papers to boost their expertise and establish themselves as industry leaders:
- Researchers. White papers are great tools for research-based businesses. If they can provide their readers with interesting and informative papers, they will increase their credibility.
- Enterprises. White papers are a good way for large organizations to promote themselves and their services. These papers highlight what enterprises have to offer and the value of their brand.
- Start-ups. Smaller companies can use white papers to share their knowledge and ideas with potential customers.
- Non-profits and charities. Non-profit organizations can use white papers to explain their cause and get people involved.
- Educational institutions. White papers written by educational institutions are read by students, who have to submit their reports to pass the course.
- Government institutions. White papers are also helpful for government institutions to publish new laws, policies, and other legal documents.
- Anyone with something important to say. White papers are perfect for individuals who have a message or knowledge to share with the world. This kind of document will prove that you are an expert in your field and have valuable ideas to share.
A White Paper Versus a Blog Post
|White paper||Blog post|
|A white paper is typically lengthy and has more information||A simple blog post is shorter with less information.|
|White papers should be unbiased and present all the facts and figures that support the topic||Blog posts are usually subjective and less formal.|
|A white paper can also generate awareness, provide information and allow the audience to learn more||A blog post is mainly for sharing thoughts and providing a point of view.|
|A white paper is usually issued only once to provide specific information.||A blog post can be published weekly, monthly, or daily|
|White papers are usually reserved for subjects that have been researched and where there is much information available.||Blog posts can cover a broader range of topics and do not need to be as detailed.|
|White papers can be purchased or downloaded after a simple registration process.||Blogs posts are usually free|
|A white paper uses a formal tone and is usually persuasive.||A blog post can use a formal or informal voice depending on the audience and its needs.|
Writing a white paper is a technical process that requires internal and external research to produce the best. Learning how to write a white paper like a pro will add value to your business, attract more customers and increase revenue.
Make sure you start on the right footing by choosing a suitable topic, defining the audience, and developing a plan. Remember to research extensively for facts and figures to validate your research findings.
By following the steps and tips highlighted here, you will produce a winning white paper that is sure to deliver results in your organization. Acquiring a simple white paper template from a reliable source can also make your work easier.