What is a white paper? A white paper is a thought leadership document that is designed to provide insight that the reader will find valuable. White papers were originally produced by the federal government in order to present valuable political information to voters. The technology industry eventually adopted the practice in order to present consumers with technical spec-type information about their products.
More recently, white paper writing has evolved into a highly effective content marketing strategy. Today, white papers are written to offer insights on industry trends, help readers identify solutions to the challenges they face, and generally provide helpful, non-salesy information. They are no longer about why a particular technology solution is great.
So, now that we’ve answered the question of “what is a white paper?” let’s explore “what is an effective white paper?”
4 keys to strategic white paper writing
There are four keys to writing a nutrient-dense white paper. It needs to be:
Valuable – The information that you present in your white paper must be valuable to your target audience. It needs to answer an industry-related question or solve a problem and it needs explain to them why they should care about the particular topic.
Insightful – As thought leadership, white papers aren’t a regurgitation of what other people are saying on a particular topic; they offer your unique insight as the leading subject matter expert.
Actionable – Your audience should have a clear understanding of how to put this information into action. You can do this easily by adding a list of steps or tips to the end of the white paper.
Efficient – Your white paper should be about 5-10 pages long; we have found 8 to be ideal. If it’s any longer than 8-10 pages people will lose interest and if it’s any less than 5-6, you probably aren’t providing readers with enough content.
When you are writing white papers, you never want to sell your good or service. When people download your white paper or provide you with their contact information the last thing they want is a sales pitch. Articulate your value proposition, but do it implicitly. It’s appropriate to insert a short blurb describing your business and your good or service at the end of the white paper; you shouldn’t talk about yourself anywhere else (though case studies and examples are great).
Join the conversation! Please respond below with any questions or comments and stay tuned for more information on content development.