what is whitepaper

What is a Whitepaper – The Complete Guide to Creating a High-Conversion Whitepaper

Whitepapers can be confusing. And scary. After all, in a world where attention spans are devolving, whitepapers can seem like a risky investment. But here’s a number that will change your outlook completely – over 78% of your audience prefers whitepapers over any other type of content to research B2B purchasing decisions.

A whitepaper does much more than just inform. It is an extensive document that collates all the information, facts, and data about a particular topic. It makes this knowledge easily accessible and understandable for the layman audience. As an added incentive, whitepapers can also act as trophies to show your audience that your company knows what it’s doing. In short, a whitepaper doesn’t sell your products but it convinces your readers of the authority you or your brand holds over the subject, bringing them a step closer to the bottom of your sales funnel.

Before we delve any further, let’s first discuss what is a whitepaper.

What is a whitepaper exactly?

The term ‘whitepaper’ came about years ago as a result of government color coding papers to indicate the level of confidentiality. The color white was meant for publicly accessible documents.

Whitepapers don’t have a fixed format or definition. With content frameworks evolving rapidly, almost any document can be insinuated to be a whitepaper. But for convenience’s sake, we’ll hold onto a short definition.

Whitepapers are essentially long documents that provide in-depth expertise about a particular topic, problem, or product using facts and logic. Most whitepapers also include proprietary solutions to the problem it states. Generally, these documents are written in the format of an academic essay with graphs, charts, and tables to make it visually appealing. They can be anywhere between 2 to 100 pages long depending on the topic covered.

Whitepapers are not to be confused with case studies. Case studies use real-life examples to showcase the product or solution. It’s usually drafted after the client has used the product. On the other hand, whitepapers are created before the sale is even made.

What are the different types of whitepapers?

Whitepapers are primarily used during pre-sales and not as after-sale documentation. This element combined with the length of the document gives companies the freedom to engage with an interested audience that doesn’t just want to skim over the subject but actually delve in deeper. Basically, the readership for whitepapers is pre-qualified. If used right, within context, whitepapers are a very powerful marketing and branding tool that can support your entire sales funnel, especially in the B2B business.

For simplicity, companies usually focus on four types of whitepapers.

  1. Problem/solution – This is a popular type of whitepaper that companies use to publicize their proprietary solutions. Companies talk about the problem sparing no detail. Towards the end of the document, they also propose a solution. The solution might be a productivity enhancer, money-saver, or a radical new idea.
  2. Technology – This type of whitepaper is usually proposed by companies working with new technologies that haven’t yet seen widespread adoption. Whitepapers on AI and blockchain are widely popular. A technology whitepaper discusses the nuances of the new developments and their benefits.
  3. Product/service – This type of whitepaper focuses solely on the company’s offerings and how they can help clients. A demonstration of their proposed product can help create better recall value for their service than any other brands.
  4. Hybrid – A combination of any of the above types comes under this heading. Introducing new technology and adding your product details can be one example. Depending on the needs of your brand, you can choose to approach the type of your whitepaper with quite a bit of freedom.

Why do you need a whitepaper?

Visual content has taken over the digital world. While this stands true, whitepapers have continued to hold their ground. They are still top-notch marketing tools to establish authority, build connections, and create brand recall. Here are the top 5 Reasons why you should invest in more whitepapers.

  1. If you’re a new entrant in your space, your company needs to establish authority and thought leadership. White papers are the perfect vessels to introduce the technical prowess of your company to the world. Through well-written whitepapers, you can ensure that your audience views you as more than just another player. By detailing out your solutions and products in thoroughly researched whitepapers, your company can mold its own standing among already-present competitors.
  2. If you exist in a highly competitive space with several other big names vying for attention, creating instant brand recall should be your primary goal. Whitepapers can help you do that. If your product or service can solve a genuine problem, your audience will take note of your name.
  3. Salesforce estimates that you require at least 6-8 touch points on average to convert a customer. A whitepaper is the perfect way to initiate contact with your audience. Due to the amount of information stored in whitepapers, you will have a higher chance of scoring your readers’ contact information. Once you have an email address or phone number, you can create personalized sales funnels for your leads.
  4. If your whitepapers contain surveys, research, and statistics, there’s a higher probability that the reader will share the information on social media. This simple act of sharing will give your website more views and thus more leads.
  5. Websites are ranked on Google based on a number of factors, one of which is the number of high DA backlinks that link to your site. Whitepapers are an excellent opportunity to generate some free backlinks and climb higher on Google’s search results. Whitepapers can also help increase the dwell time on your website and reduce the bounce rate, giving Google more reasons to rank you higher.

What are the different elements of a whitepaper?

Once you’ve decided to write a white paper, here are the most critical elements you need to think of.

The topic

The topic you choose to work on will make or break the white paper. Make sure your topic isn’t very broad or vague. The goal of a whitepaper is to solve a very specific problem through research, facts, and information. To choose an appropriate topic, keep these three factors in mind.

  • Audience – Who are you addressing with the whitepaper? Are you introducing a new product for existing customers or are you trying to rope in new leads? Make sure you’ve done a thorough analysis of your audience’s tastes, needs, and goals. Your job is to position your company favorably in front of the readers. And unless you have an exciting topic that is relevant, your readers won’t get hooked.
  • Expertise – Don’t go beyond the domain of your company. Instead of trying to sound omnipotent, make sure that you stick to your area of expertise. A good whitepaper displays your authority in a particular domain. Don’t squander this opportunity.
  • Address the problem – The topic that you choose should allow you enough leeway to introduce the problem and propose a solution. The problem must be current; something that troubles executives every day. And the solution must be original, unequivocal, and unique.

The research

Once you’ve zeroed in on your topic, it’s time to bring out the big guns. This is the most time-consuming part of authoring a whitepaper. Take out ample time to look up the technological concepts you’ll be explaining. Get grips with the terminology and jargon. Further, imbibe this technical information so deeply that you’re able to explain it to a layman with no technical sense. In the current B2B scenario, a lot of the purchasing decisions are made by non-technical personnel. It’s your job to decrypt your proposition and make it accessible to everyone.

The data and statistics you pull from the Internet to support your claims should be validated and backlinked. Make sure all your research numbers are verified and collated from reputed sites. Try and include as many citations as possible. It will add tremendous weight to the paper.

Another point to consider is including surveys in your paper. If your audience is young, then survey results in the form of charts and graphs are always compelling. People love talking in percentages. With so many survey tools online that can help you collect data and condense it into colorful charts, there’s simply no reason to not include statistics in your paper.

The synopsis

Adding a synopsis or executive summary at the beginning of your paper can help your readers grasp the main takeaways immediately. Moreover, it can help you collect your thoughts and create a pathway for your paper. Since a whitepaper is longer than most blogs there’s a chance you might go astray. Having a synopsis at hand can keep your paper earthed to the primary goal of your paper. Before you even begin writing the paper, take out time to sketch out a synopsis that can be shared with other stakeholders. This way, the end result will be along with everyone’s expectations.

The problem and its solution

This is the key element of your paper. While we’ve discussed at length how to create credibility, there are some more ways that can help your audience trust your solution.

Try and include as many statistics as you can. Statistical proof of your argument can lend an objective light to the problem. Additionally, you can also use quotes from leaders in your space to support your conclusion. You can also include real-life examples and case study excerpts to support your claims. If possible, try and get your paper endorsed by leading analyst firms or industry experts. Getting them to sign off on your paper will lend it instant legitimacy.

How to write a whitepaper that generates leads immediately?

Once you’re familiar with everything there is to know about whitepapers, it’s time to sit down and write one. While there are no strict formats and scales to stick to, here are some tips to give your paper that extra edge.

  1. Read other whitepapers

This is simply a no-brainer. You can’t write a decent whitepaper unless you go through all the existing papers in your domain. Analyze these papers for their structure and tone. See how well they’ve performed in the market and why. Look at the terminology they’re using. If possible, also find the flaws in these documents. Your job is to create a paper that is better than the ones you’re reading.

  1. Use a mind map

Whitepapers consist of tons of research numbers, facts, data, quotes, concepts, information, and sources. Before you get confused, invest in a mind map tool to keep everything organized. With a mind map, you’ll be able to organize and arrange all the info into categories and flowcharts.

  1. Hook your readers in

If you’re using whitepapers primarily as a marketing tool or lead magnet, you need to use a good hook to get your readers interested. The cover page of your whitepaper must be compelling enough to get the reader to subscribe and act on the CTA.

  1. Use visual aids

While whitepapers tend to be text-heavy, there’s no reason why you can’t break the monotony with a few images, charts, and graphs. If you’ve used surveys, then turn the dry data into interactive charts using online tools to add a bit of color to the grim paper.

Whitepaper examples that did everything right

Here are a few links to some of the most intriguing whitepapers written.

  1. Seizing the Digitalisation Opportunity – Siemens
  2. Are equities overvalued? – HSBC
  3. Not Another State of Marketing Report – Hubspot
  4. Google Cloud’s AI Adoption Framework – Google

Writing whitepapers is not as difficult as it is made out to be. Once you’ve understood what is a whitepaper and learned the best techniques to write one, you’ll realize it is as easy as putting pen to paper and following the right steps.

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