Content marketing is increasingly accepted as a viable, even necessary pursuit for businesses looking to connect with online audiences. With that said, many conversations about content marketing tend to be fairly one-dimensional, focusing on blogs and social media at the expense of other content types. Actually, there are several different mediums that can prove beneficial to your business, and that includes the too-often-neglected white paper.
White papers may not be right for every business, but we’ve found them to be extraordinarily impactful in B2B marketing scenarios. In this post, we’ll offer some brief pointers on using white papers effectively.
What is a White Paper?
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, we’ll begin with a quick definition. White papers are meant to provide reliable and comprehensive information on a particular topic, ideally in an authorial voice that is both clear and succinct.
In other words, it stands in stark contrast to the ephemerality of memes and Instagram stories, as well as to the more quickly-digestible nature of blog posts. White papers aren’t meant to amuse, but rather to solve complex business problems—and in doing so, establish the depth of your thought leadership and industry expertise.
What are the Advantages of White Papers?
When you produce a white paper, in other words, you prove that you know what you’re talking about—that you understand your industry well enough to offer sophisticated solutions even to the deepest problems.
The upshot of this is that it can encourage other businesses to trust you as their vendor, or perhaps as their collaborator. If your white paper shows knowledge of an area where the other business is weak, it may be enough to incite them to connect with you and to entrust you for outsourced expertise.
How Can You Use White Papers Effectively?
With that said, it’s important to understand that there are right and wrong ways to develop white papers. Simply writing a lot of words on a particular subject may not be sufficient. Instead, consider these strategic points for your white paper strategy:
Don’t view white papers as promotional tools.
Yes, the role of a white paper is to build trust and to establish thought leadership—but that’s done by providing a dynamic and informative resource, not by advertising your brand or including a promotional call-to-action on every page. The old adage about content marketing is that it’s all about “selling without selling,” and that’s especially relevant when you’re creating white papers.
Ensure an attention-grabbing headline.
We’re not advocating for clickbait here; above all, white papers should be professional. But do ensure that your paper has a headline that commands attention. The best way to do this is to outline the value proposition: What information can the reader expect to obtain? What problem are you helping them solve? How will the reader be better off having read your white paper? These are the questions that your headline should address.
Do your research before you write.
While white papers don’t have to be needlessly stuffy and academic, they should include the right documentation—including graphs and charts where appropriate. Remember that these documents should be troves of information, not opinion pieces—so ensure everything you say in the white paper can be justified by strong data.
Think about the layout.
The success of your white paper depends not just on what you say, but also how you organize it. That generally means short, clear sentences and brief paragraphs. Bullet points and lists may sometimes be appropriate, and section sub-headings can be valuable to break up longer pieces of content. If your white paper has more than a few sections, you may even consider a table of contents. There’s no formula or blueprint here; the important thing is to do what’s best for your content.
Distribute and promote your white paper.
In this sense, a white paper is just like any other piece of content: It doesn’t matter how good it is if you don’t have a strategy for getting it to your audience. While you probably don’t want to put it behind a paywall, you might consider using the white paper as a way to collect names and e-mail addresses. You should also think about using social media to send some traffic to your website, where the document can be obtained.
Should You Use White Papers in Your Content Strategy?
Not every business has use for a white paper strategy, but if you’re looking to facilitate more B2B connections, it’s an avenue worth exploring.
We’d love to talk with you and help you determine whether white papers make sense for your business. If that’s a conversation you’re ready to have, contact enCOMPASS today, and let’s set up a time to chat about your marketing needs.
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