What’s your favourite content medium? I’d be willing to bet white papers didn’t come to mind. It’s a fact that more accessible digital marketing mediums, such as eBooks, blog posts, webinars, and informative videos, have begun to gradually replace the stodgy and longstanding white paper. Research suggests that B2B buyers are more interested in content that relays information quicker, as these mediums require less of the reader.
Although white papers are intended to inform, educate, and ultimately convince clients that your product is the best choice, they often fail to maintain the reader’s interest. The text is grey, unending, and uninteresting, which induces potential buyers to consult other types of flashy content when it comes to making an informed decision.
What these buyers don’t realise is that, despite increasing interest in more modern content formats, white papers are still in demand. This is because newer content mediums fail to convey the big picture, whereas white papers offer a balanced perspective by providing the reader with well-researched data and viable solutions to common industry problems. In this sense, white papers are unbeatable in that they build credibility, establish thought leadership, and ultimately convert customers - if they are done the right way.
A successful white paper needs to address the right problems, engage the reader with persuasive language, and incorporate visual elements to accommodate research. Let’s take a closer look to gain a better understanding of how these key points can make or break your white paper.
1. Address your Target Customer’s Pain Points
The primary function of your white paper is to convince clients that your product or service will fulfil their need. By offering a well-researched solution to their problem, you persuade them to invest in your product or service over another. At a fundamental level, this may seem simple, but it really takes a firm grasp of an industry to identify the pain points of your target audience.
So, how do you go about identifying and addressing a specific problem? Or, more specifically, how do you go about choosing a topic? Well, the best place to start is with the product itself. Ask yourself, “What does my product do, and in what ways does it benefit the end-user?” Your answer to these two questions will help you decide what approach is best.
Let’s take a look at one of Google’s white papers to get an idea of how this works:
In the picture above, Google discusses their cloud computing service. For the client, the pain point is the price of the product in comparison with its long-term benefits. Is it worth the price? Or would the client be better off switching to another provider for this type of service?
Although the ‘topic’ was predetermined by ESG Lab’s request to compare the cost structures of a similar product from Google and Amazon, you still get a clear understanding of how your product ultimately determines the posture of your white paper.
2. Avoid Dry Language
The importance of tone and language cannot be understated. If you write with a dry, strictly informative tone, you risk losing your audience’s attention.
To avoid this, don’t assign product managers or engineers the task of writing your white paper. Yes, they understand the product and industry better than anyone else, but they often lack the sophistication to deliver information in a persuasive, balanced, and interesting manner.
Instead, hire a white paper writer in your niche to take care of the copy for you, and allow product managers to assist them by providing relevant documents and other helpful information pertaining to the project.
With that said, formatting also plays a part in the presentation of your white paper. Break up dense swaths of text with strong headlines, numerical lists, or bullet points whenever possible. This will make your white paper reader friendly.
Here is one example of a Google white paper that streamlines the reading process by listing their product’s advantages with concise copy:
The use of bolded headlines and scannable paragraphs gives this white paper instant appeal. While this minimal approach may not be ideal for complex or technical subject matters, it helps relay consumer benefits in a way that doesn’t intimidate the reader.
3. Accompany Research with Visual Assets
This is a must for two reasons: it’s a great marketing and SEO tool that breaks up the monotony of the text for the reader.
The SEO Scoop on Visuals Assets:
Great white papers are rich in data, which makes for excellent visual content; marketers and buyers alike eat up visual content because it is easily shareable. Charts, infographics, pictographs, and informative videos are all great examples of visual content that, when disseminated on B2B and B2C platforms, will increase organic traffic to your product.
The shareability of visual content will increase links and traffic, which automatically improves your SEO. This, in turn, creates new leads, placing future buyers into the beginning stages of the sales funnel.
A New Way to Look at White Papers
Companies like NowSourcinng take the infographic a few steps further by focusing more on visuals than text. Their method resembles a picture book more so than a white paper, but it presents the facts in a visually stimulating way.
In the below example, we see icons paired with the text. This kind of ‘playful’ imagery helps break up paragraphs.
While something this loud might not fly in your industry, you should still consider using more visuals in your white paper; they help the reader digest information, and they make the reading process less intimidating.
White Papers Are Evolving, Not Going Away
Remember: It’s not a question of how relevant white papers are; it’s how engaging you make them. White papers are the purest form of marketing content when it comes to providing buyers with a holistic, balanced perspective. As more modern types of content emerge, white papers will adapt.
Zach Painter is an editor and Community Outreach Manager at Freelancewriting.com, where he addresses freelancing queries and strives to help employ and hire writers that are committed to their craft. When he is not typing up responses or pitching to blogs, he can be found at the nearest record store searching for first-press Black Sabbath vinyls or sampling a flight of IPA’s at the gastrobar.