Best Practices for White Paper Design and Promotion
Written by Matt Berringer
April 20, 2021
White papers are persuasive reports meant to advocate for a certain position or solution. Companies use them to inform and influence potential customers while creating a competent brand voice. White papers are useful for several purposes. They establish your company as an authority on relevant industry topics. They also draw potential customers to your resources and help you promote your solutions. And they can generate leads and influence buying decisions in your favor.
Creating the most effective possible white paper is an involved process. White papers are in-depth, informative documents, which persuade the reader using facts and data. They require extensive research and pre-planning. They also require plenty of promotion to attract the right audiences. Read this guide to learn white paper design best practices — discover how to write, structure and promote an effective white paper.
White Paper Basics
Before you begin crafting a white paper of your own, it’s vital to understand the basics. Many companies wonder if they need to invest the time and energy in writing white papers at all. After all, it can be an extensive, time-consuming project. First, determine whether writing a white paper might serve your company and help you achieve your goals.
Do I Really Need a White Paper?
Any company can benefit from writing a thoughtful white paper — however, certain types of businesses benefit from white papers more than others. Not all consumers are interested in reading multi-page documents before making a purchase decision. Consumers in technical fields are more likely to engage with industry white papers. If you run a business-to-business (B2B) company, and you’re selling something new, complex or expensive, writing a white paper likely is a good idea. White papers are most helpful for companies in these industries:
- B2B enterprise marketing
- Computer hardware
- Medical equipment
- Technical services
What Is the Value of a White Paper?
White papers can be more valuable than you might think. They attract people interested in your industry, including those making purchasing decisions. In that way, they can be a powerful tool for generating leads, influencing purchase decisions and closing sales. Writing a white paper helps you position your brand as a valuable addition to your industry. It helps build an authoritative brand voice and establishes your credibility.
Do White Papers Help With Leads?
Quality white paper design can result in many new leads. With adequate planning, you can make sure your white paper reaches the right audiences and keeps their attention. Educational marketing catches consumers early in the buying process, building your brand as an authoritative voice. It’s a great way to engage with early-stage leads who might not be ready to speak with a representative yet.
How to Write a White Paper
Writing white papers for lead generation requires researching and creating an outline. It’s important to have an in-depth understanding of your audience, the topic at hand and the solution you’re promoting. It’s also important to pre-plan the piece’s structure, building an effective format. Follow these basic steps to write your white paper:
- Research your audience.
- Research the topic.
- Determine all possible solutions.
- Establish your solution.
- Create a detailed outline.
To get started, use the following white paper writing tips. Detailed research and thoughtful outline formatting will result in the most effective possible white paper. Before you put pen to paper, make sure you understand your audience, topic and solution.
Planning and Research
White paper planning and researching stages are among the most critical. You might consider conducting your own studies for statistics and data — you’ll have to set aside at least a few months to conduct safe, reliable, effective research. Otherwise, you’ll want to gather diverse data from reputable sources to back your claims. Choose credible, impartial, authoritative sources. You’ll also need to research your audience and plan your paper’s outline.
Understand the Audience
First and foremost, identify and research the audience you wish to reach. Determine your intended audience’s demographics. Then, take some time to consider their objectives, hopes, concerns, interests and other factors. Create an in-depth profile of your intended audience member. Who are they? What content will draw their attention and keep them engaged?
Remember, the longer you can keep a reader interested, the more likely they’ll be to return. Understand your audience if you hope to keep them coming back. Determine if your audience members are professionals in the field or novices seeking information. This will help you decide what topic to cover, what kind of language to use and what information to present.
Understand the Topic
Publishing a white paper or other content marketing material can help you position yourself as an authority. Of course, you need a thorough, nuanced understanding of the topic at hand if you want to convey your brand’s intelligence. Be mindful when choosing your topic — pick something you’re qualified to write about, which will spark reader interest. It’s a good idea to identify a gap in existing available content. This will mean less competition for an audience. It’ll also help you show the depth of your company’s knowledge.
Understand the Solution
Your white page should be informative and useful, offering a solution to an industry problem. You’ll want to position your product or service as the solution to an established problem. Before you start writing, consider all other possible solutions to the problem, and determine how your solution is better than the rest.
Remember, a white page should be an industry resource, not a sales pitch brochure. You can compromise your white page’s integrity and effectiveness by falling into “sales pitch mode.” Instead, present your solution in generic terms, with supporting facts and figures. In other words, avoid marketing lingo, superlatives and brand labels. Make your case without mentioning your company or product by name.
Structure and Formatting
Proper structure and format can make all the difference for your white paper. Before you start writing, create a detailed outline. Your outline should include an introduction, overview, body content and conclusion. Decide on section headings and subheadings. If you’re writing a long, complex piece, you might want to include a table of contents. While there is no universal white paper template, planning an outline will help you create an effective finished piece.
How to Design an Engaging White Paper
Thoughtful design can elevate a white paper, pulling in readers and encouraging engagement. Even the most boring content can earn a reader’s attention if it’s formatted well. The opposite is true, too — interesting content suffers from poor formatting. A digestible white paper design keeps readers interested. For an effective white paper design, follow these steps:
- Create a detailed outline with determined section headings and subheadings.
- Write your content using data from reputable sources.
- Make sure the text is readable and engaging.
- Include interactive elements and create visual interest.
Quality content is important — its presentation is, too. Use the following white paper designing and building tips. They’ll help ensure your white paper is readable, interactive and promotes user engagement.
When designing white papers, remember that readability is key. You can use several strategies to create a more readable white paper. For starters, make sure you have no more than about a dozen words per horizontal line. Cramming too many words onto each horizontal line makes reading a difficult task. Make sure any hyphenated text breaks up words in logical places, and choose a font large enough for easy reading.
You’ll also want to use bulleted lists, sidebars, pull-quotes, graphs, charts and other methods for breaking up the text. Headings will make your piece scannable, allowing readers to find the information they seek. Be careful not to make pages too busy, however, as this can overwhelm the reader. The most important takeaway for readability is to make proper use of white space.
Within your white paper structure should be opportunities for interaction. A high-tech digital report platform allows for more advanced interaction than just vertical scrolling. Instead, readers can flip through pages, click to enhance elements and scroll through pages that interest them most. Providing opportunities for interaction results in more interested, engaged readers, who are more likely to consume your white page content.
Above all, prioritize user engagement. Include easy-to-digest text, interesting visuals, effective white space and interactive elements. Think about whether you’d prefer to read a several-page block of small text or a piece with visuals, clickable elements, and thoughtful sections of text. Make sure your white paper promotes user engagement.
How to Promote a White Paper
Once you’ve finished writing and designing your white paper, you can begin promotion. You’ll want to promote your white paper in a way that generates high-potential leads. Follow these steps for promoting white papers:
- Create an effective landing page to host your white paper.
- Decide whether to gate your white paper content.
- Consider using a distribution service.
- Share with potential clients via email campaigns and other promotions.
Read on for more information on white paper distribution channels, gating strategies and landing page creation.
Use Multiple Distribution Channels
Using multiple distribution channels, such as posting your white paper on your website, emailing your clients about it and posting a link to it on your social media accounts, allows you to reach a wider audience. You might also consider using a distribution service. White paper distribution services will include your content in syndication services and repositories in exchange for a fee. If this is your first time writing a white paper, using a distribution channel can help you build credibility and generate an audience.
Consider Gating Your Content
Gated content requires the reader to complete an action before they can have access. Companies will often ask a user to provide a name and email before accessing certain content. This can be a powerful tool for identifying and reaching new leads, but only if used well. If you’re going to gate your white pages, be sure to use user-friendly technology and create a thoughtful follow-up plan.
Keep in mind that some users will hesitate to provide their contact information, even if your content could be useful to them. Users question whether a company will be respectful and considerate or if they’ll spam their inbox with promotions. If your goal is to gain as many readers in the industry as possible, skip gating. If you only hope to attract high-potential leads, include a short opt-in form.
Create a White Paper Landing Page
A key step in white paper promotion is creating a specific landing page rather than directing users to your home page. This offers you more control in terms of what the user does next. On this landing page, you’ll want to incorporate a few key elements, including:
- An abstract of your white paper to pique interest.
- A clear explanation of the white paper’s value.
- The gate form you’ve decided to incorporate.
- A note promising to protect the user’s privacy.
Your goal is to convince the user to offer their contact information and invest their time. Briefly explain why your white paper is worth reading. An effective landing page will result in more readers and increased conversions.
White Paper Examples
When you begin crafting your white paper, it might be helpful to view some effective examples. Here are two diverse white paper examples, each using high-tech, interactive software:
- Total Organic Carbon for Cleaning Validation Programs: This manufacturing industry piece provides information about total organic carbon testing and cleanliness validation. With such a complex, technical topic, an in-depth white paper report is a helpful resource for readers. This piece includes eye-catching, colorful graphics to consolidate important information. It also includes easy-to-scan page and section headings, so readers can find what they’re looking for. This company created their white paper using nxtbook4 software, which allows you to replicate your content into a more interactive and responsive platform.
- Orlando Year in Review: Orlando, Florida’s annual report includes information from the Orlando Tourism Association. It discusses visitor data, tourism revenue, marketing efforts and other points of interest. It includes plenty of photos, sidebars and graphics. Each page provides information in a digestible and interesting way. The report also includes colorful front and back cover pages. This company created their report with PageRaft software. This software allows you to design responsive content experiences. With this software, you can even animate graphics and text for more visual interest.
Consider how these formats encourage more interaction than a scroll-through PDF of plain text. They have excellent readability, eye-catching images, well-defined sections and interactive elements. These factors promote reader engagement and help establish the company’s credibility. All things considered, one of these two formats would make for an effective white paper.
Choose Nxtbook Media for Effective White Papers
White papers are an effective means for drawing in high-potential leads, establishing your company as an industry expert, providing helpful information for your target audience and promoting conversions. They also allow you to argue in favor of your products and services and influence purchase decisions.
If you’re looking to create an effective white paper, consider using more advanced software than a simple PDF. Using Nxtbook Media digital platforms, you can host your content on an interactive, engaging platform. You’ll also have access to detailed reporting, which will help you measure your white paper’s effectiveness and make adjustments as needed. To learn how to create a user-friendly, high-tech, responsive white paper experience, schedule a free Nxtbook Media demo.