What is a white paper?

If you're a business looking to lift the awareness of your company or establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry, a white paper can form valuable part of your content marketing or inbound marketing efforts. But what actually is it?

What a white paper is:

A white paper is an authoritative, in depth piece of writing that gives you an opportunity to share your thoughts or position on a topic that matters to a business audience. This means you have to:
  1. understand what your audience would be interested in knowing more about
  2. know enough about the subject that you can have an educated opinion, and
  3. be able to approach the topic from a new perspective, allowing you to share fresh or unexpected insights.
The benefit of these 10 or 20 pages is that they demonstrate the quality of your thinking, and show in shorthand what the experience of working with you will be like.

 

What a white paper isn't:

It's not a long blog post

It's not a quick blog post you can dash out over your morning coffee; a white paper needs to be thorough yet succinct, persuasive yet balanced. It requires not the ability to sum up the discussion, but hone into the really critical parts of the argument which help to make your customer better prepared.
 

It's not an overt attempt to sell your company.

 It's OK - in fact we recommend it - not to mention your company at all in your white paper, apart from the end notes where you offer a sort of author's bio. Because the minute you try to sell yourself in the story the trust is lost, and it starts to read more as advertorial than editorial.

 

What makes a good white paper?

1. Storytelling that draws you in

2. Thoughtful design and beautiful imagery

 

3. Useful, surprising or necessary information

 

How do you use a white paper as part of a content strategy?

A white paper forms the first salvo of many B2B content marketing or inbound marketing programs. 3 - 4 white papers a year shared through a sponsored update on LinkedIn, supported by a regular blogs can be a great way to build brand awareness and start a conversation that eventually ends in a sale.

Your sales team can also use this content to assist them in their social selling efforts. For example they can:

  1. share it in a LinkedIn group as part of a discussion
  2. tweet it in response to social media monitoring or
  3. use it as part of a lead nurture email campaign to move prospects down the funnel.

If you're curious about how to include a white paper as part of your content marketing or inbound marketing activity, we should talk.