According to a study carried out by the Content Marketing Institute, 51% of B2B marketers use whitepapers as part of their content marketing strategy.
Not only can they help grow your email subscription list but whitepapers can establish your business as a brand authority.
Whitepapers are essentially research papers that provide an original and unique insight into an industry. Recent trends have seen the length of whitepapers become shorter, and the typical whitepaper today is somewhere between 5 and 10 pages long or between 2,000 and 5,000 words.
However, more important than the length of the document is the content inside it. If you plan to sell your whitepaper to other businesses then it needs to provide a fresh perspective on the industry.
It should also cite new statistics, gather new opinions and generally add enough value for people to buy it.
Here’s my approach to writing a B2B whitepaper.
The Research Stage
As a freelance whitepaper writer, the first thing I do before I consider what I’ll be writing about is who I’ll be writing for.
The nature of a B2B whitepaper suggests that you’re writing for people already in a certain industry (whatever the industry might be), so it’s pretty safe to assume that your document needs to do more than just scratch the surface.
I always find out the audience demographics, their geographics and their job levels, i.e. are they recent graduates or CEO’s? At this stage, I normally use my customer profile/buyer persona template to get things moving.
Here, I also have a look at what unique insights my client has for me to work with. What statistics do they have, what surveys have they conducted and what case studies have they gathered?
These insights are the backbone of your whitepaper, the hook, if you will. It’s these figures that other businesses in your industry want access to, so it’s important to consider how you should present them throughout the document.
Once I have all this information, if I don’t already have a good working knowledge of the industry, I start researching.
I have a look at the websites of industry leaders and read their blogs, I download their whitepapers to give me an idea of what’s already out there and then I consider my client’s positioning in the industry. Are they authoritative industry veterans or young start-ups looking to shake things up a little?
Addressing the Problem
I always find the best way to come up with a title and angle for a whitepaper is to address an industry problem that people can relate to.
Perhaps a particular role is becoming obsolete due to advances in technology? Or maybe recent legislation is making it difficult for companies to assist their clients? Whatever problem the whitepaper aims to address, the title needs to be intriguing enough for people to want to read it.
With a whitepaper, you’re essentially arguing a point, so you need to remain consistent in your argument and refer back to the fundamental issue at hand.
Make sure that you build rapport with your readers and make an emotional connection with them. You want to get them on side with your argument and invite them to see things from your perspective.
An effective way of doing this is to give examples of common situations where the problem you’re writing about occurs. You can use loaded questions and leading language here to emphasise the collective feelings of frustration, overwhelm or disappointment at the particular problem.
If you get your readers on board early, they’ll continue reading your whitepaper until the end.
Offering a Solution
This is the part where a lot of companies get it wrong. Yes, you’re offering a solution to an industry-wide problem, but you’re not necessarily offering them your solution, i.e. your product or service.
Your whitepaper should aim to educate, not to sell, so your solution needs to be something that everyone can adopt without having to buy anything. Typically, your solution might involve changing business operations and processes, adopting new ways of working or updating old approaches and belief systems.
This is the part of the whitepaper that should drive home the value and explain the following:
- Why your solution solves their problem and its long-term benefits, i.e. money saving, improved sales, better employee retention etc.
- The research behind your client’s statistics. How long did the research take? How many people were interviewed throughout the process?
- Context. This is where case studies can be particularly effective. If your client has gathered some evidence that illustrates how the problem exists for individual companies, you’ll want to put it into a context that proves your solution to be the only answer.
- Why your solution is better than others.
Throughout this section, remember to emphasise the benefits of your solution.
Clearly explain why your way of doing things is the most effective and address some of the counter-arguments that people may have. This will show your readers that you haven’t only considered things from one side.
Your Call to Action
Okay, so I said earlier that a whitepaper shouldn’t be a sales pitch, and it shouldn’t. But the end of your whitepaper should leave you some scope to direct your readers to do something next.
And why not make it about your business? Try to avoid the obvious ‘buy our product/service’ slant and instead, welcome people’s thoughts on the subject. Unlike a public document or a blog post, there won’t be anywhere for your readers to leave comments other than making contact with you directly, so offer your email address and invite them to chat with you further.
Make the invitation friendly and inviting and don’t make your readers fill out a contact form, simply give them your direct email address.
And finally, remember to proofread your document thoroughly and check the accuracy of all your sources. As with any information product that you intend to sell, the value is in the detail.
After reading all this, do you think that you’d benefit from having a freelance whitepaper writer create your product for you? If so, take a look at my whitepaper writing services and get in touch for a chat about your project.
Image Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/horlik/4327503106