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How to Write a White Paper

January 23, 2018
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Writing a white paper can be a very daunting and time consuming task, but can ultimately bring a great amount of awareness to your business. These research-based reports are a crucial informational platform for marketers which can create leads, drive sales, and provide powerful tools for solving problems. Writing white papers is also a great way for your company to establish credibility within its marketplace while simultaneously meeting a client’s needs. The key to writing a valuable white paper, is all in mastering the process.

So, What Are White Papers, Exactly?

Typically between 5 to 10 pages in length, a white paper is a document that both educates and persuades the intended audience. The main purpose of a white paper is to identify a problem and then offer a solution for the reader. White papers historically are used in government and corporate settings but have been gaining traction in many different business segments.

If you’d like to put this high-powered marketing tool to work, here are 8 steps for writing an effective white paper for your client.

Related: This One Thing Could Be Tanking Your Digital Campaigns

Step 1: Know Your Audience

This step cannot be stressed enough. Before you even start writing the official white paper document, you need to know who your audience is and identify as many factors as possible that will help you to form your argument. Choose an issue that’s interesting and important to them which will increase your chance of engagement.

Going off of this step, you need to tailor your writing to exactly who the audience is as well. For example, if you’re writing a white paper on an engineering topic, you’ll want the document to be more technical with a lot of detail. If you’re writing for a baking company, the white paper should be more instructional, yet simple so it can be easily understood by many different readers. Or if you’re writing for the government, the key here would be to stay professional in tone and focus on policy-related implications.


Step 2: Write a Killer Intro

This might be the most important step in writing a white paper because this is where your audience will or will not be drawn in and interested in what you’re trying to convey. An effective white paper intro will engage the reader. Be captivating. Pique their interest. Finally, tell them exactly what they’re going to accomplish by reading your white paper. A subpar intro can ruin the whole flow of your white paper and could promote disinterest even if the rest of your paper is amazing. Ensure that your audience will want to keep reading till the very end by writing a killer intro.

Step 3: Identify the Problem

What is the problem your audience is facing? What helpful information can you provide to them? Once you’ve identified your audience, you should have a pretty good idea of what problem(s) they might be facing and how you can help through writing a white paper. Also, try talking about other problems that may arise if the current one does not get solved. Make sure that when identifying the problem, you balance both what your client and audience needs are.

Do as much research as you can on the problem being faced. Gather information from Google searching for case studies, industry articles, business journals, other white papers, press releases, and even check out the competition. The more information you gather, the better. Having an abundance of research will make writing your white paper a breeze and help identify your client’s problem.

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Step 4: Generate Solutions to the Problem

This step is crucial, as you will be emphasizing the value that you will create for the client. Generate precise, measurable solutions for the problem your audience is facing. Keep your solutions as unique as possible, creating an image of expertise and insight that will help your readers. Filling your white paper with useful tips and information will only work if they will actually help to solve the problem at hand, so be mindful of your recommendations.

Another important part of this step is providing evidence to justify your solution. Using hard evidence from what you researched will ensure trust and credibility from you to your readers. Talk about why your solution(s) are better than the competition. Presenting a valuable solution to your client’s problem can make all the difference if they’re considering hiring your company for it’s services.

Related: What Is Evergreen Content?

Step 5: Use Visual Aids

Including graphics, charts, or diagrams can help to backup your paper’s argument and add to your credibility. There are many free programs that can help you create visuals such as CanvaVectr, and even features that are already embedded in Microsoft Office software. Using visual aids will not only backup your argument, but they will keep your audience engaged as well. It will also help your readers to truly visualize the solution(s) you are proposing.

Some white papers use an appendix at the end of the paper to provide the supporting visuals but you can also just as easily integrate them right into the flow of your text. There is really no right or wrong way, it is completely up to you and what you think your client will like best.

Step 6: Conclusion + CTA

This step is where you will wrap things up. You’ll want to summarize your key takeaways and include a review of the problem at hand. In addition, you’ll want to include a call-to-action for the product or service you want to provide to the client. The key here is to keep in mind that you’re focusing on solving their issue, not promoting your product or service for personal gain. Tread this line lightly and keep your client’s needs as the top priority. Only add a call-to-action here if you truly believe it will be appropriate for your white paper. Make sure that any mention of your product or service in the paper occurs naturally and towards the end.

Step 7: Develop an Engaging Title

This step seems pretty self explanatory but creating a clever and engaging title is the first thing the reader will notice when coming across your white paper. Contrary to popular belief, waiting till you finish the paper is actually a great time to come up with the title. It could be a question, a number, a bold statement, or a promise. Whatever you choose your title to be will set the tone of the entire paper.

Step 8: Edit. Edit. Edit.

Write first, edit second. When editing, don’t just edit for grammar, edit for content as well. Bring yourself back to the beginning of the paper when you researched the problem your client was facing and ask yourself if your paper is accurately addressing the issue and solution you intended.

Ask for other other people’s opinions on your paper, because they might catch things you may have overlooked. Also try reading it outloud to see if the flow sounds as good as it reads and make sure there are no run-on sentences or awkward pauses. Proofreading and editing your white paper will ensure a more successful outcome.

Wrapping Up

White papers aren’t as scary as they seem when you break down the process into easy steps. The trick is to make sure your paper stays organized and to the point. Remember that writing a white paper is about the client and helping them with their issue and less about the products or services your business offers. Keep your paper concise and client focused and you’ll be a white paper writing pro in no time!

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