22 September 2020

White Paper Outline: Simple Formula for SaaS Success [8 Steps]

White papers are one of the most effective ways to generate leads as a SaaS marketer. Over 70% of B2B buyers use white papers to gather information on purchase decisions, which makes this type of content an excellent bottom-of-the-funnel play. White papers help you illustrate your company’s expertise and provide useful information to your prospects all at once. But, before you can write a B2B SaaS white paper, you need to create a white paper outline.

Why a white paper outline is essential for strong content

White papers take a lot of effort to produce, so you need to ensure that by the time you’re ready to hit “publish”, your content includes all of the topics that are important to your reader, answers their most pressing questions and flows in a clear, compelling way. Writing an outline can help you reach these goals.

A white paper outline breaks the content creation process into manageable steps that you can focus on one at a time. White papers often involve a team to produce, and an outline helps ensure that everyone understands their role and stays on track to meet their deadlines.

A winning formula for a white paper outline

1. Figure out a topic

A specific, actionable white paper topic is your best bet to capture your B2B SaaS prospects’ attention. If you don’t hone in on a topic, you risk watering down the effectiveness of your content. Don’t worry about trying to fit all of your company’s expertise into one white paper. Use your outline to help you stay focused on the most relevant information.

2. Land on a working title or two

You have two primary opportunities to convince your prospects to download your B2B SaaS white paper: the title and the cover. It’s crucial that these elements make a powerful impact. Use your white paper outline to capture a few ideas for persuasive, benefit-driven titles.

3. Brainstorm insights and actionable takeaways 

Ask yourself what you want your readers to gain from your white paper, then write down everything that pops into your mind. This section of your white paper outline doesn’t have to reflect your final draft. Rather, this exercise will help ensure that your content covers all the information you want to share with your audience, including educational insights and tips they can put into action immediately.

4. Lump ideas into sections

Your next step is to structure your brain dump into sections. This will help you identify a few major themes for your B2B SaaS white paper. Once you’re finished, if you feel like your topic is too broad, cut any themes that don’t support the main focus of your white paper.

5. Fill the gaps in each section

Review each section in your white paper outline to see what’s missing. Think about this from your prospect’s perspective. Include statistics to help illustrate the points you’re trying to make. Ensure that every question your reader might be wondering has an answer.

6. Edit and organize each section

Now that you’ve put all of the details around your major themes into your white paper outline, it’s time to edit your outline. Step away from your white paper for a while and return to it with fresh eyes to see if you can tighten up the content and ensure it flows as logically as possible without any redundancy.

7. Add links to source material such as data

Statistics help make your white paper as compelling as possible, and they support your credibility by showing that you use research from reputable sources. Add links to these sources into your white paper outline. Stats make great graphic design elements later down the road in the white paper production process.

8. Get feedback from subject matter experts 

Get a few sets of eyes on your white paper outline. Subject matter experts and other key stakeholders will likely have valuable feedback to offer that can improve your content. They can help you spot any gaps in information or point out confusing sections that require explanation. They can also provide feedback on the flow of your white paper outline.

What’s next?

You’ve done the hard work of honing in on a white paper topic and title, and organizing your content into themes. Now you’re ready to turn your white paper outline into a powerful lead magnet and start writing your white paper

This is the fifth post in a 9-part series called the Ultimate Guide to Writing a White Paper for B2B SaaS.

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads teams in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies. Check out her bio.

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