What are white papers and why should you consider marketing with white papers? Let’s be clear, B2B white papers are completely different from the white papers used by governments as far back as the Winston Churchill era. Those white papers presented information that might become policy while allowing others to give their opinion before it became law. In contrast, B2B white papers are promotional tools that provide valuable and helpful information for customers while allowing companies to build thought leadership.
Types of White Papers
Most white papers fall into one of three categories. They provide background to an issue, they summarize research or they identify a problem your customers might have and a solution to that problem. All of these have one thing in common – great research. For example, UK retail giant Tesco has so much customer data from every purchase that it has a readymade stream of research to fuel its white papers, says Slipstream.
Unlike an advertisement, a white paper may not simply state that your company’s product is great; it must have the facts and statistics to back this up. And that research extends to showing how you solve your clients’ problem. That’s why finding reliable data is the starting point for a good white paper.
Writing White Papers
Having done the research, the next step is to write the white paper and here, short is beautiful. While there are long white papers (a hundred papers or more), in the B2B marketing world, most white papers are in the 10-30 page range. That’s long enough to provide meaty information, yet short enough to avoid being overwhelming. Writing style is also important. Although your white paper is aimed at businesses, you need it to be readable and visually attractive.
The best white papers have excellent visuals to bring information to life for readers. This may be charts and graphs highlighting aspects of the research or text callouts of quotes from research subjects that illustrate an important point. Either way, the look of the white paper is important.
White Paper Presentation Tips
Apart from the main content, there are three more aspects of your white paper that you must get right to encourage people to read it. The first of these is the cover, which needs a catchy title and an eye-catching visual. This comes in handy when your white paper is listed among thousands of others in a white paper directory.
The second is the summary – the short version of what your paper is about. This has to navigate the balance of presenting the problem, stating that you have the solution and presenting a key fact without being too dry. It’s a tricky balance. The summary will form your directory entry and will become part of your promotional material.
And the third is the executive summary. Anyone who has ever written a report is familiar with this – it is where you outline the main conclusions your report reaches, providing enough to whet the appetite and to enable readers to navigate to the sections that interest them most. In shorter white papers, this is often simply a table of contents with a one line description of the section’s content.
You can also make your white paper more shareable by embedding social sharing buttons within it.
White Paper Distribution Formats
What’s the best format to put your white paper in for maximum accessibility? Until recently, the answer was the platform independent PDF. But with recent changes in how people are accessing information (see Google’s study on The New Multiscreen World), we don’t think that’s the best choice anymore. The number of mobile device users is increasing rapidly and PDFs can be very hard to read and manipulate on small screens. Master Control’s Curt Porritt told the Content Marketing Institute that his company had to build their own viewer to display their white papers – would you want to go to that trouble and expense? Not many businesses do.
That’s why, if you’re creating a white paper, your best bet is a mobile friendly interface like the Readz platform. That means that your white paper will adapt to any screen size, will look great and will be easy for readers to navigate. Give mobile users what they want and you will increase the benefits you gain from your white paper.
Marketing Your White Paper
Once your white paper is written and published, there are several ways to promote it. These include:
- On your own site, with an optimized landing page for the white paper. You will have to decide whether it will be free but gated (collecting emails in exchange for downloads like Hubspot) or completely free, which some believe is a better strategy which increases downloads, shares and overall benefit.
- Via a white paper directory such as CNET Networks Business, IndustryWeek, Find White Papers, Retail Wire and others.
- Submitting press releases outlining some of your findings to PRWeb, PR Newswire and others.
- Using social marketing such as Facebook promoted posts, sponsored tweets or sponsored updates on LinkedIn.
- Sharing it via social media and marketing it to your email list.
JAL Communication provides a good rundown of some of the main white paper promotion methods.
More Ways Of Marketing With White Papers
Finally, producing a white paper doesn’t have to be the end of your content marketing efforts. You can repurpose the content in many ways to get even more benefit from it. Use the charts on Pinterest and Instagram or turn the content into a Slideshare presentation, a podcast or a video, says Elise Schadauer of Tapis Marketing. This gives your white paper even greater reach and completes the process of using white papers to create thought leadership, build authority and win new business.