Whitepapers are a valuable asset for your company, and there are several great reasons to create them as part of your content marketing efforts. When used correctly, whitepapers can provide your prospects with a resource they’ll use time and time again — and can provide a boost of authority for your brand (as well as a boost in lead generation).

So, where do you start? In this post, we’ll break down why creating whitepapers is great for your marketing strategy and give tips on how to put them together for optimal success.

What is a Whitepaper?

A whitepaper is a comprehensive, research-backed report or typically long-form piece of content on a topic that’s relevant to your industry. In marketing, these usually serve as problem-solving guides that start with a complex issue and then organically present your product or service as the solution. They can even include case studies that further showcase your expertise and problem-solving capabilities.

Of course, just as important is what a whitepaper is not. Namely, a whitepaper isn’t a pitch or an ad, per se. While your product or service should make an appearance, it shouldn’t be the main focus. It’s important to find that delicate balance between presenting your product/service offering and coming off as trying too hard to shill whatever it is that you’re ultimately selling.

Why is a Whitepaper Beneficial?

There are a couple of big reasons to adopt whitepapers as part of your content marketing strategy.

  • They’re excellent lead generation tools. Whitepapers are highly effective for lead generation, with 76 percent of buyers noting that they’re willing to exchange their contact information for them.
  • They’re shareable. Among B2B buyers, 79 percent say that they share whitepapers with their colleagues, so if you can get in front of one potential decision-maker, you can probably get in front of more too.
  • They increase brand visibility. There are a few tried and true ways to establish thought leadership-driven brand awareness online, and whitepapers are one of them. Done right, they’re inherently persuasive and show off your knowledge on a given topic.

Because they serve largely the same purpose as ebooks, consider adapting some of your planned ebook topics into whitepapers instead or build out a new batch of content ideas that are well suited to this effective marketing tool.

How To Put Together a Whitepaper

Now that you know how whitepapers can serve your business let’s talk specifics on how to create one.

While whitepapers are certainly more in-depth than your standard blog article or guest post, the standard process of putting one together is relatively the same. You’ll want to begin by figuring out an outline — that is, a title and an overview of the essentials that your whitepaper needs to hit on. From there, it’s simply about piecing together the major components.

These include:

  • An introduction
  • A table of contents (if it’s long-form)
  • Data (even better if it’s self-reported)
  • Images and design
  • Graphs and tables
  • A concise CTA

Originality is key here. To really offer your readers value (and to really increase your whitepaper’s lead generation abilities), you need to provide them with information that they can’t get anywhere else. This might mean running a survey or some other sort of reporting tactic, or possibly repurposing and elaborating on previously created case studies and guides.

The process for creating a whitepaper will vary depending on whether you’re producing it in-house or outsourcing to an agency. Even if you go the latter route, you’ll still have a role to play in making sure your whitepaper is a success.

The first step is to assemble your research. This helps you (or your writer) get the full scope of information that needs to be included, particularly key points that you want to be sure don’t get left out.

Next up is writing the whitepaper. This is probably the hardest part, but it’s also the most important. Your whitepaper should be original, concise, and intriguing, in addition to being persuasive. Make sure you have a deadline in place, so you complete the first draft in a reasonable amount of time.

Every good piece of content has to have a balance between content and design. After you’ve got your writing done, identify areas for creative elements, particularly images and other design features. These will break up the text and make the whitepaper more visually appealing for your readers. When you’re done, have a designer add in branding. You want to be sure your brand identity is obvious throughout. Then, review and tweak before settling on your final version.

Last but definitely not least is to distribute your whitepaper. As with any piece of content, this isn’t a one and done deal. Diversify your distribution methods to get your whitepaper – or gated lead generation form –  in front of as many eyes as possible through things like email marketing and drip campaigns, social media sharing, and digital ads. You can also have your sales team use it in their outreach and send it out to existing contacts. For the latter, you’ll want them to share the ungated resource.

Start adding more whitepapers to your content strategy, and make sure you include them as CTAs in your blog posts. Track engagement and downloads to determine which make the most impact and can inform any future whitepaper ideas.