Ten Top Tips For Writing Wonderful White Papers

White papers are a powerful business-to-business marketing tool. However, their writing needs great care and attention to make them as effective as possible.

Andrew McDonald

5/27/20224 min read

White papers (also known as whitepapers) are detailed documents which frequently form the basis of business-to-business (B2B) marketing strategies. They are in-depth reports which can be used to promote the benefits of a product or service to business owners and decision makers. They are typically used to market expensive products where a potential client needs to know as much as possible before making a purchasing choice.

Some people debate whether they should be considered marketing collateral in their own right, or whether they are supplementary to it. However, it is critical to clarify what white papers definitely shouldn’t be. Blatant promotion is totally unsuitable for them. Instead, they should focus on soft sales.

With all that out of the way, let’s look at ten top tips for writing wonderful white papers.

1. Know Your Goal

Above all, you should have a detailed understanding of the organisation requesting the white paper. You must also be absolutely clear on what the document’s purpose is. Equally important is understanding the audience the material is being written for. Without this information, it is impossible to hit the points you need to address in a wonderful white paper.

Common goals for white papers include:

• Lead generation

• Support for sales teams at advanced sales stages.

• Raising reader awareness of a new product or service.

• Positioning the organisation issuing the white paper as an expert in its field.

• Developing the unique selling proposition (USP) of an organisation.

2. Target Your Audience

This was mentioned in the first point, but it is so fundamental, it deserves one of its own. All organisations, particularly the major ones likely to want a white paper, have multiple audiences and stakeholders. Trying to address all of them at once will result in an untargeted, ineffectual, mishmash of a document. You must understand your audience intimately before ever picking up a pen so that your white paper has the maximum impact possible with the people you want to read it.

3. Pinpoint Your Topic

You now know your goal and your audience. Great! That’s only part of your pre-writing task, though. Equally importantly, you need to understand exactly what your topic is, and perhaps more critically, what it isn’t. Without precise knowledge of these facts, you will end up with an unwieldy white paper which rambles on about different subjects without getting to the nitty gritty.

Get out your imaginary concept sieve and push your initial idea through it. Then push what’s left through again... and again. Once more for luck! It is in the precise detail which remains that your white paper lives and breathes.

4. Research... Research... And More Research

A white paper is typically seven-to-ten pages long. If you’ve done points one-to-three properly, you are left with very precise details of what to write. You’re going to be targetting specific issues. Try writing about those without doing your research first and you will end up with a document full of waffle. You need to know your topic extremely well. Not only will this ensure quality, but it will also give you opportunity to prove what you write. Third-party evidence, statistics and citations are frequently employed to give white papers credibility.

5. Talking Is As Valuable As Writing

What this point means is you need expert, specialised knowledge for your white paper. How do you get that? By interviewing industry gurus, both within the organisation requesting the white paper and, if possible, externally, too. Do your research first so you can target interview questions to fill knowledge gaps rather than wasting both your and your interviewee’s time with weak queries. This ensures that your white paper as thorough as possible. Also remember that experts command respect and don’t appreciate timewasters.

6. Have An Outline

Academic papers come with a list of contents as a norm. Why? To make reports heavy on detail easier to read. However, it is also highly beneficial to the editing process. Your white paper should be no different.

– Reader problem – offer of solution – details of that solution and its benefits – conclusion/summary – is a typical start-to-finish path for a white paper.

7. Be Prepared To Draft And Redraft

No writer worth their salt submits work without checking and re-working it. You are producing a document which needs to read well and, above all, be accurate. You can’t ensure either without revisiting your white paper at least a couple of times before submission. Furthermore, white papers typically have several stakeholders. They will all want to see drafts and make changes before giving their approval.

8. Illustrations Are A Must

A picture paints a thousand words. Charts and tables help clarify complex ideas. Keep them tidy, cut out visual ‘clutter’, and don’t underestimate the value of white space. When there is a lot of information to digest, the human mind engages better when it isn’t bombarded with data. A simple display is easy on the eye and is far more user friendly. Don’t be frightened of using pull-quotes either. These are brief excerpts from the text which are displayed in a larger font, and in key positions, to capture reader attention.

9. Editing

I told you drafting was important, right? Meet its sibling, editing. It is incredibly helpful to move away from your white paper for a few days, or at least a couple of hours, before editing it. Why? It gives you time to relax, take a breather, then come back to your work with a fresh eye.

Some people choose to hire professional editors, and there are benefits to this approach, but it isn’t necessary. If you’ve got a good eye for detail, you’ve got the skills you need to edit your work yourself.

10. Market That Paper

So you’ve written the best white paper ever. Do you know what happens to it if you don’t market it? That’s right, it becomes extremely attractive... to office dust! If your engagement with the white paper was solely the writing, once you have approval from the organisation which requested it, your job could be considered done. However, if you’ve positioned yourself as an expert creator of white papers, the organisation you’ve been working with may very well be grateful for your ideas on how to get their document out there where it can get to work. If you are an in-house white paper writer, on the other hand, marketing your new creation is very likely just as important a part of your job.

Bonus Tip – I’m Good To You, Aren’t I?

11. Where To Find A Wonderful White Paper Writer

Do you want somebody who can take hold of your white paper project and deliver a document of the highest quality? If you’re reading this on www.andrewmcdonald.biz, you’ve just found such a person. If you’re not, head there. Give me a call and let’s start working together!