How to write successful white papers

writing successful white papersDoes your company write white papers as part of its content marketing strategy? A white paper allows you to go into more depth on a subject than a blog post, and can help position your business as a thought leader in its industry.

White papers are also a proven new business tool, with a Forbes survey revealing that 63% of decision makers rely on them to evaluate prospective products and services. That said, in order to enjoy these benefits your white paper needs to stand out from the competition. So how can you ensure your white paper is successful?

Set a clear purpose

Before you start writing, answer this question: ‘What do you want to achieve as a result of writing this white paper?’

Perhaps you want to use it to demonstrate your expertise in a particular sector, as a conversation starter with prospects, or as an email newsletter sign-up incentive. Whatever your purpose, define it clearly from the start and keep it firmly in mind throughout the writing process.

Write for your specific audience

It’s important to identify the audience of your white paper. Once you know exactly who you’re writing for, you can home in on the particular problems and solutions that matter to them. Look for ways to make your white paper genuinely useful to your intended target – the more value you provide, the better results it will deliver for you.

Use the right language and tone of voice

The language you use should also be tailored to your readers. Some industry-specific jargon may be appropriate, but try to stick to terms that most people will understand. Too much business-speak and you risk alienating your readers.

It goes without saying that your white paper should also be written in your brand’s tone of voice.

Format for ease of reading

Your white paper might contain valuable business insights, but if it’s hard to read there’s no guarantee your readers will persevere. White papers should be broken down into manageable sections, with scan-able copy, sub-headings and clear formatting. Plan the structure of your white paper before you start writing so that it flows well and forms a coherent narrative.

Although your white paper may be printed out, chances are it will be read on a screen, so formatting is extremely important. With this in mind, you should test reading your white paper to ensure it’s legible across all devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Get your facts straight

Successful white papers are research-based. With this in mind, make sure all of your facts are from reliable sources, and are properly referenced within your white paper.

Make it compelling – from title to conclusion

Finally, your white paper should be compelling enough to capture and keep the attention of your reader all the way through. However dry your subject, there’s no reason for your paper to be a dull read – use examples, case studies and relevant graphics to bring your subject matter to life.

You should also spend just as much time on the title as the conclusion – because without a catchy title and punchy opening paragraph nobody will keep reading as far as the conclusion.

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