In 2019, 55% of B2B marketers used white papers according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). This type of content was also considered the most useful for the middle stage of the buyer’s journey in a 2019 CMI’s study. Given that, we can conclude that knowing what is a white paper and using it in your marketing strategies can help you create more effective campaigns.
White papers explore a topic related to the solutions your company offers. It has the potential to educate your audience and show your expertise, since it is usually based on research and statistics, influencing the decision-making in the purchase process.
Unlike other types of content, such as ebooks and blog posts, they allow more personalization and the usage of a wide range of features to achieve your strategy’s goals.
In this article, we will explain to you what is a white paper, distinguish it from other types of content, explain its benefits to your company’s digital marketing strategy and show you why interactive white papers are more effective than the static ones. Let’s dive into it!
What is a white paper?
A white paper is a guide that presents detailed information about a topic related to the solutions that your company provides.
It should be focused on educating your audience, providing content that will be truly valuable and useful. As a result, you make them feel that your business is not trying to sell its services at any cost. Instead, it is more interested in offering the perfect solution to solve their problems.
To do that, your content must be based on solid and original research or statistical data from reliable sources.
Moreover, it is important to find a way to present your services without offering them at this content, which is more effective in the early and middle stages of the buyer’s journey.
This kind of content is not usually meant to try to convince the reader to look for a company’s service (except if it is going to be used in a final stage of the purchase cycle).
Therefore, a white paper often focuses on a problem that your company can solve, showing how it would help your prospects and presenting it as an option.
Consequently, when they are ready to look for a solution, they will consider your brand. One of the reasons is that content with these characteristics is enough to show that your company has expertise and authority.
To what purposes it can be used?
Among the main goals to use this type of content, we can mention attracting prospects, generating leads, and building credibility to the brand.
For instance, to grant access to the material or download it, you can use a lead-form. After reading your white paper and realizing that it is valuable, the audience is more likely to give you information.
Although it is an in-depth content, requiring more time to be read, it presents the information in a more dynamic way than a business report, for example.
A white paper is not just a combination of data derived from research, it brings other relevant aspects to your audience, demonstrating that your company acknowledges its problems and is willing to make an effort to solve them.
What are some of its benefits?
Among the main advantages that the usage of white papers can bring to your company, there are:
- increases quality leads generation — you can include a lead form on your white paper. It is a good opportunity to do this because, in the face of valuable content, your audience will be more likely to give you pieces of information such as their email address;
- attracts prospects — since a white paper presents a topic related to your company’s solutions, you will attract people that are truly interested and have the potential to become customers;
- boost your brand’s authority — this is possible because you present solid information about a topic that your company knows very well, proving that it has the expertise and capability to offer effective solutions to your customers;
- brings differentiation — with this type of content, you can also show your audience what differentiates your solutions from your competitor’s;
- allows measurement — make it possible to track and gather data about your prospects, which is useful to know what works well in your campaign and what you should change. With the aid of this data, you can take actions to enhance your marketing strategies.
What are the main differences between white papers and other types of content?
Sometimes, it is possible to feel confused in the face of so many kinds of content. For this reason, it is important to know how to distinguish them.
When it comes to white papers, that allow the usage of typical elements of several kinds of contents and can be designed in several formats, it is common to have this problem.
White Paper vs. Blog Posts
White papers are more detailed, its language is more professional and serious, the quality of the writing and design is superior, and data plays a major role in it.
Blog posts are not focused on data (even though it can present it), its size is considerably shorter and the creative process is faster and simpler.
Also, blog posts can reach a wider audience, since they are less technical, while white papers are meant to attract qualified leads and prospects.
White Paper vs. Ebooks
The differences between white papers and ebooks are the same as white papers and blog posts, though ebooks are slightly denser than blog posts.
In addition to that, ebooks are usually offered as downloadable PDFs or displayed in online platforms, restricting its design, while white papers are more versatile regarding its shape.
How to create a white paper?
In this topic, we will explain how you can create a white paper, teaching you how to prepare it, elaborate it and promote it.
We will also show some tools that can be used to make your content more engaging and increase your chances of achieving success with the usage of this asset in your marketing campaigns.
Select an appropriate topic
To define the main topic of a white paper, you must consider the audience you expect to reach and your company’s specialties.
Your content should discuss a problem and bring effective suggestions, based on what was proven to be efficient, to solve them. Try to answer questions such as:
- What are the biggest issues or pains of your audience?
- How can you solve them?
- How can you help with that?
Do a comprehensive research
As we already mentioned, you must make good research to support your affirmations.
Look for information in sources such as credible websites, market researches, your company’s documents (for example, performance appraisals) to be able to create a trustworthy and solid content.
As a result, you will obtain your audience’s trust. Do not forget about citing all your sources.
Choose a format according to your goals
The choice of your white paper’s format is important considering that the elements you include in it influence your prospect’s reading experience.
For example, using visual elements makes the content more compelling, given the fact that they draw attention and facilitate the comprehension of complex concepts.
Besides that, this aspect impacts the results, because it determines which assets can be used in your white paper. So, while defining it, keep your strategy in mind (especially when it comes to your goals) and the essential information about the persona you want to reach.
There are several ways to present your content. You can develop a landing page and offer the white paper for download in PDF (requiring filling in a lead form to have access to it) or create an exclusive page on your website, for example.
In the second option, the possibilities of personalizing the content are larger, since there are no limits to the features that you can include on a website (even videos and interactive elements are supported).
Use an appropriate structure
Usually, a white paper is composed of: title, abstract, table of contents, introduction, development (background, issues, and solutions), conclusion, CTA.
You can distribute these elements on your white paper in numerous ways depending exclusively on your creativity and the format of presentation.
If you plan on creating innovative content and need more freedom, make sure to pick a more flexible format.
Use interactive content features
Static contents are those in which the elements do not move and that restrain the possibilities of interaction. On the other hand, interactive content, as its name indicates, is known for requiring the audience’s active participation.
They are requested to perform actions such as clicking in elements to move to the next section of the content, answer questions, etc.
Enhance the audience’s experience
Including interactive elements in a white paper helps you to make it lighter and more compelling without leaving behind (or oversimplifying) parts of the text.
For this reason, the prospects will likely feel more stimulated to read the content until the end and understand the addressed topic.
Increase conversion rates
Since they are already participating actively, they are more likely to take action to move to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.
In other words, interactive elements can be used to raise the chances of achieving your content marketing strategy’s goals, especially if they are connected to increase your audience’s engagement and conversion rates.
Find out how to apply it
In white papers, this asset can be applied in multiple ways. For instance, each chapter of the content can be presented on a different page, requiring the reader to click in buttons to move through the page and advance to the next section.
Moreover, you can include videos that are not automatically played, which is interesting to enhance the presentation and allow the reader to choose whether to watch it or not.
Considering all this, we can assume that interactive white papers are far better than the static ones.
Prepare a good publishing and promotion strategy
After gathering information, deciding the format, choosing features and creating your company’s white paper, the next step is to publish and promote it.
Based on the persona you defined for this strategy, it will not be difficult to discover the best place to distribute it.
Preparing a good distribution strategy and ensuring the content’s quality are equally important actions. The white paper will only bring the expected results if is promoted in the right channels, that is, places where potential leads will be able to find it.
Thinking about visibility, a good idea is to use social media in this process. If your company uses any of them in your marketing strategies, it already has a prospects base that will receive well its new content and help you promote it.
Besides that, you can include your content in an email marketing campaign, for example.
Regardless of how you are going to distribute the white paper, remember to restrain the access to it. This is a way to stimulate your audience to give you information — name, email, geographic location, size of the company they work at, etc. — in exchange for the content.
These details are useful to have a better understanding of your prospects and customize your next campaigns, providing more compelling and rich experiences for them.
As you were able to see in this article, white papers are great marketing tools. Companies around the world use them to build rapport with their audience, which is possible because they are offering something valuable and allowing it to understand how they can help to solve a problem.
All that backed by solid research. After finding out what is a white paper and how to create a compelling one, consider creating one to boost your marketing strategies results.
Do you want to know more about interactive content and see an example of a white paper with interactive features? Then visit our website right now and check “Interactive Content Basics”, a white paper made by Ion Interactive.