What Is a White Paper? Meaning, Types & How to Write One
47% of marketers use whitepapers in brand promotion. Companies create whitepapers as part of their content strategies. This format allows them to demonstrate subject matter expertise, build user trust, generate leads, and expand their reach.
Whitepapers are used at different sales funnel stages, but more often before a deal is made. The document helps a wide audience understand the topic and ensures the source is authoritative, leads users familiar with the brand to solve their problems through the product, and informs ready-to-buy readers about the best offer for their tasks.
So, what does a white paper mean, and how to create and promote it? In this guide, we answer all the questions.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Whitepaper?
- What Isn't a Whitepaper?
- What is a business white paper?
- What is a whitepaper in marketing
- Purpose of a White Paper
- Types of White Papers
- How to Write an Ideal White Paper Document?
- The Best White Paper Examples in Marketing
- Advertising White Papers
- Create Advertising White Papers to Pull Your Clients into the Sales Funnel!
The whitepaper is a non-advertising document that is written in the form of a report, research, and instruction on the topic of your business. The goal is to subtly lead potential customers or partners to cooperate with you by demonstrating a solution to their problem. Ideally, a white paper should not only tell about the scope of your business but also benefit readers, even if they don’t decide to cooperate.
You may have a logical question: what is the difference between a whitepaper and a marketing kit or a brand book?
- The whitepaper is expert content based on real research. A marketing kit and a commercial offer are presentation materials.
- There are no advertising slogans and calls to place an order on the whitepaper.
- The whitepaper describes specific customer problems and how to solve them. But the reader is left with a choice - to contact you or solve their problem differently. You are not forcing your services on anyone.
And how is whitepaper different from ebooks or electronic booklets?
At first glance, it seems that they have a lot in common. Indeed, infographics and calls to action are used in whitepapers and booklets. However, the whitepaper is exclusively non-promotional content. And usually much larger. The ebook is also a broader topic. If the ebook is called “Contextual advertising: how to bring leads,” then the whitepaper is called “Guide for working with Google Ads: pitfalls and subtleties of settings.”
The whitepaper is the most official and expert format of those listed, it has much less adaptation for the reader than ebooks and long reads. Here in the first place - objective data and analytics.
79% of B2B buyers share the whitepaper with colleagues. So, practical and useful content is popular from the position of expertise in the B2B segment. The audience likes when its questions are solved, prompted, and advised. And this, in turn, increases the level of loyalty and trust of potential customers.
In addition, the whitepaper is a source of high-quality and targeted lead generation. 80% of users are willing to leave an email in exchange for a white paper. Only those who are close to this particular topic will get acquainted with this content. This means that they will be interested in your company's trade offers. It might look like this: email in exchange for a white paper. The website sends a useful product guide or fresh industry research to the mail. The non-commercial format of the business whitepaper encourages voluntary reading and sharing while the title and cover suggest that studying it will be beneficial.
Firstly, the marketing whitepaper helps build trusting relationships with the target audience — demonstrating the company's reliability, experience, and professionalism.
Secondly, positioning as an authoritative source of information works great for increasing sales.
For example, more than 50% of those surveyed in the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey admitted that they read WP before making a purchase decision. In other words, they buy from those they trust.
Finally, WP is a very useful lead-generation tool. Over 75% of all respondents were willing to exchange their personal data for access to the whitepaper. This format was the most popular, ahead of e-books, analytical reports, podcasts, and infographics.
The whitepaper in business suits startups, the IT industry, service providers, entrepreneurs, medical institutions, and government agencies. The whitepaper is a must-have document for a business operating in the B2B segment.
The whitepaper is needed to solve the following tasks:
- attracting investors and partners;
- attracting clients;
- increasing brand awareness;
- increasing trust in the company;
- attracting attention to a new product/service;
- getting grants.
The purpose affects the content of the document, for example, the business whitepaper for investors is different from a similar document for clients.
To attract investors, the document must answer the following questions:
- the essence of the project;
- what tasks and problems it solves;
- how it differs from competitors;
- what is the business model of the project;
- at what stage is it being developed, is there a prototype, or is it already a working project;
- the role of the project in the industry.
The text of the WP for attracting customers contains answers to potential questions of the target audience, closes possible objections, and provides comprehensive information on the topic of the product/service.
There are 3 types of whitepaper:
- presentation of goods and services: creation history, examples of use, interesting cases related to the product;
- problem-solving: the focus is shifted to the “pain” of the target audience, and solutions are proposed with arguments, reports, and expert assessment;
- research paper: market analysis, trends, industry news.
- the optimal volume is 5-15 pages;
- format - most often found in PDF;
- the presence of graphic elements: illustrations, diagrams, infographics;
- the presence of an expert part is mandatory - it can be designed in the form of a report, infographics, or information blocks;
- a deep study of the topic.
How to compose a whitepaper:
- Formulation of the problem. Why is WP compiled - to close customer objections, to announce the release of a new product, to increase brand awareness, or to attract investors?
- Concept: format, theme, scope, timing. Examples of how the White Paper theme might sound.
- Search for experts, conduct research, collecting and process statistical data.
- Writing the main body.
- Packaging: designing text blocks, and adding graphics.
- Printing and distribution.
Everything is ready for the most important part - writing the whitepaper. You can entrust this task to a professional writer, or you can take it on yourself. Here are the elements you have to create step by step:
- Title. From the heading it should be clear what the material is about and why it deserves attention.
- Introduction. In this block, you need to tell what your whitepaper is about, why it is important, what problems it will help solve. Indicate what was the reason for writing, what is the main purpose of this content.
- Overview. Here, define the main terms that you will consider in the material. In this section, it would also be appropriate to describe the state of affairs in the industry to give a brief history of the issue. At the end, in a couple of sentences, indicate what the reader will learn about next.
- Main content. Now, section by section, start filling the whitepaper with meanings. Consider the problem from different angles and offer your solution.
- Additional materials. You may recommend readers additional resources: books, courses, videos, etc. You can skip this step.
- Conclusion. Review key takeaways from different sections of the whitepaper.
- Terminology. Are there many difficult terms in the document? Then it is better to put them in a separate block and give definitions.
- Sources. Indicate the references that you used in preparing the material.
Common mistakes when compiling whitepaper
- the WP concept does not meet the objectives;
- WP theme is not suitable for the target audience;
- there is an advertisement in the document;
- no research part;
- surface research;
- unverified data;
- too much theory and few practical recommendations (or none at all);
- bad design.
The above principles are advisory in nature. In practice, white papers look quite varied, from an interactive website with dozens of charts to a PDF with solid text on a white background. The type of the finished document largely depends on what target audience it is designed for and also on the vision of the brand itself.
Here are some great whitepaper examples to help you choose the format.
Content from Google is a classic example of a whitepaper review: an online format with PDF downloads, section navigation, and solid text.
The blockchain company has prepared useful material about the terms and metrics of the industry in PDF format. Diagrams and tables are added here, which simplifies perception.
The brand proves by example that a whitepaper in PDF is not boring. Smart design, infographics, and callouts make reading comfortable.
The company offers a document with many studies, charts, rankings, and statistics.
1. Social networks
Social networks play a significant role in promoting brands. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have huge audiences. Activity on these websites will provide a great base to promote your WP.
Try to find popular groups on Facebook and LinkedIn related to your topic. Look for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, as well as relevant threads on Reddit.
Once you find your audience, it will be much easier for you to connect with them. Become an active member of these communities - share content, and support discussions. This will help draw the target audience's attention to you and, subsequently to your whitepaper.
2. Opinion leaders and traditional media
Today, influencer marketing is gaining more and more popularity. Now it is much more efficient to distribute content not through journalists but through well-known bloggers.
Opinion leaders, who are also influencers, and have a large, involved audience in which they enjoy authority. Such bloggers influence the opinions of their followers and even their consumer preferences.
You can find the right influencer on social media. As you explore groups around your topic, pay attention to the posts that are most talked about and shared. It is the authors of such content that will be able to help promote your brand. Of course, this process can take quite a long time, but the main thing here is establishing a trusting relationship.
3. Email marketing
You can mail to the client base, industry media, and the company's sales department. The more people know about the white paper, the better.
Email marketing is still an effective online promotion tool. Email newsletters provide a higher return on investment (ROI) than social media, and this is likely to stay the same shortly.
If the main purpose of your whitepaper is to generate leads, then email marketing is certainly not suitable. However, if your goal is to increase sales, build trust with customers, and create an image of an authoritative source of information, you must pay attention to the existing customer base.
Although email newsletters, unlike social media posts, do not get viral distribution, they have other advantages. In particular, if someone subscribed to your newsletter, then it was his choice.
This means you can expect greater engagement from this audience than from those who came through other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and ask them to share your whitepaper with friends and colleagues.
4. Landing page
A separate landing page with a book summary, an announcement, and a call to download should have a contact form for accessing content.
For this approach to work, it is important to add the following elements to the landing:
- Description of the user's goal - what he will get by downloading the book (learn how to create ideal clients).
- Problem statement for future readers (CEOs want to maintain ROI while innovating).
- Whitepaper solution proposal (a data-driven approach that will help consolidate marketing resources and personalize the customer experience).
- Call to action (download whitepaper now).
When everything is ready, ads and your channels send traffic to the page.
To increase the conversion, open access to the introductory part of the material or add automatic data import from social networks.
Regardless of your platform or channel, you can also use popups with current offers to increase conversions. Using Claspo drag-and-drop popup builder, you can add and fully customize your widgets. In your personal account, you can choose from a large library of website widget templates to add and edit as much as you wish.
Depending on the stage of the buyer's journey, different scenarios for working with leads are possible:
- if WP is aimed at those who are in the "awareness” stage, it is worth encouraging readers to subscribe to an email newsletter where you will already talk about other types of content (for example, blog posts) on a topic of interest to them;
- if WP is intended for those who are in the "consideration" stage and the leads are already familiar with your company, you can send them information about special offers;
- if WP is aimed at "hot" leads, then the next logical step is a call from the sales manager.
A whitepaper is a detailed report or guide on a specific topic that informs readers, and helps them understand and solve a problem. Whitepaper is a marketing document that contains detailed information about your business and is intended for a wide range of readers, including potential customers. This non-promotional document can accomplish the goals of a standard advertising campaign, such as attracting new customers to your business.
However, it is worth recognizing that its creation takes time and effort. A quality WP can take weeks or even months. The most difficult thing is to correctly define the goal and find a topic for whitepaper that will be interesting to potential clients, and for this, you need to clearly understand the needs of the target audience. WP helps you strengthen your position in the industry, increase your credibility, generate leads, and convert customers faster.
WP are detailed and serious content that you must devote time to studying. You risk scaring off readers if you publish such material on your blog with regular articles. Assessing the information richness, they will quickly leave the page. At best, they will save it "for later" and forget.
The reader needs to be prepared to study the whitepaper. This is why many companies create separate landing pages for WP and open download access only after receiving contact information: this is how they collect leads and emphasize the value of the content offered.