A white paper is one of the best ways to demonstrate your expertise, while at the same time providing useful information to prospective clients. You’ve probably thought about adding a few to your website, but may not know how to get started.
The writing process outlined below covers every step—from identifying your audience to writing to distribution. By following this process, you can create a professional white paper that positions you as a true thought leader.
1. Know your audience
Before you even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you need to make sure you know who you’re writing for. What does their job entail? Think about their pain points or aspirations and how your white paper can help them. Also consider any misconceptions or biases they may have towards the topic.
2. Strategize and plan
Sit down and brainstorm ideas for your white paper. What is it that your prospective clients want to know? Understand where this piece of content will fit in the buying funnel. Analyze keyword ranking to find opportunities for SEO. Figure out who you will interview and where the rest of your information will come from.
3. Narrow your topic
Prospective clients generally prefer topics that are more specific. Topics that are too broad just dilute the overall effectiveness of the information. And don’t try to cram everything into one white paper. Instead, focus on the most important and more relevant points.
4. Offer a unique point of view
This might seem like a no-brainer, but your white paper needs to provide a new perspective from other, similar white papers. Think about how to demonstrate your expertise in a way that encourages conversation. Often this unique point of view can come from the subject matter experts you chose to interview.
5. Designate research and writing time
Set aside specific chunks of time for research and writing. Turn off your phone and email so you can focus without interruptions. If you’re doing interviews, schedule them at least a day apart so you have time to prepare and digest afterwards.
6. Write and edit the white paper
With your interview and research notes, you can create an outline. Don’t skip this step—it will help you stay more focused and save you time in the long run. Then you’re ready to flesh out your white paper. Finally, edit the paper for logic, key messages, grammar and style.
7. Coordinate reviews and approvals
Reviews and approvals always take longer than you might think so make sure there enough time set aside in the project timeline. Before the project even starts, you should determine exactly who will be reviewing and approving the white paper. Aim for no more than 3 stakeholders. Set firm deadlines for review and approval cycles.
8. Draft the landing page, registration form, thank you email and thank you page
Depending on how you will promote the white paper, you may need to write a blog post, introductory email or landing page. While you’re waiting for feedback on the white paper, you can tackle these key pieces of marketing collateral.
9. Design the white paper
Appearances matter. Get your designer to create a professional and memorable design that is fun and easy to read—and plays into your branding.
10. Develop a distribution strategy
A white paper isn’t valuable unless the right people see it, download it and read it. Think about how you will use owned channels (like your website, social media and email) and external channels (like conferences, advertising and public relations) to get your white paper in front of people.
What do you think?
Are you ready to position yourself or your company as a thought leader? Are there any steps you would like to see me add to this process?