Structure a white paper

1. Decide on the target audience you want to reach, based on your marketing goals and reasons for writing the white paper.

The way you write your white paper should align with your buyer persona and their wants and needs. For example, if you’re writing a white paper targeted at healthcare professionals, you’ll probably want to use technical and formal language, whereas a white paper targeted at a tech startup might have a more casual tone. Understanding the needs and pain points of your market is essential to develop the topic of your white paper.

2. Research white paper topics and select a topic on which you can provide fresh insight, or there are no other updated white papers with current information.

When selecting a topic, consider these questions: What topic would you consider yourself a professional on? How can your own industry knowledge help others in your target audience who may not possess your knowledge? What are under-addressed  problems you are aware of in the industry? If you can’t find much information about it, or if the information is outdated, there’s a good chance there is a demand for a new white paper. White paper topics often include:  Brand solutions: how your brand will satisfy a need of your audience. Industry trends: current business trends that your audience should or would want to know about. Data insights and analyses: new or past data and how that data can be used by your target audience to enhance their business. Industry or business challenges: problems that your audience faces and ways to overcome those challenges. Educational walkthroughs: sharing your knowledge of a topic not commonly known about that can help enhance the business or solve a business problem for your audience. Element Three provides topic idea starters that can help establish the framework for determining the topic.

3. Select a title that addresses the problem you're solving and how the reader will benefit from reading the white paper.

Choose a title that tells the reader exactly what they are going to gain from reading this white paper. For example, 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Increase Sales.

4. Write an executive summary that gives an overview of your white paper and persuades readers to download the full document.

Summarize the white paper in high-level detail. This should grab the attention of readers, help them understand what the full white paper will answer, and leave the reader wanting to know more about the subject.

5. Define the issue and the business problem you are going to solve in the introduction.

Write this section as you would if you were currently experiencing the business problem yourself. This helps to build trust with your readers as you outline the same problems they experience.

6. Identify high-level solutions upfront before providing a detailed explanation in the body of the white paper.

Write this section with authority and as an expert on the solution. Provide quotes, industry reports, and references to experts to bolster your argument. Begin working in subtle selling points in this section. For example, if your product has advanced dashboard options, provide examples of how tracking KPIs accurately and easily can lead to higher conversion rates. In this way, you are showing the benefits of your product without coming across as a sales pitch.

7. Break down exactly how your product will solve all of the problems you've outlined, and describe in detail how the solutions you proposed can be achieved with your product.

Cover the business benefits of your product, the ROI that your reader will attain, and assure them that you understand and can solve their pain points. Provide customer reviews, feedback, and quotes from happy clients to assure your reader that other reputable businesses have tried this product and have had positive results.  Your tone in this section should be as someone who understands the problems and wants to share the solution you’ve discovered with your reader.

8. Summarize everything you've just told your reader in the conclusion.

Remind them of the benefits, what their problem was before you offered the solution, and conclude with the most important point for your reader.

9. Tell your reader exactly what to do next with a CTA as the final point in your white paper.

Common calls to action (CTA) include:  Start a free trial. Request a demo. Watch a video. Subscribe to a newsletter. Speak to a representative. Whatever the goal of your white paper, tell your reader specifically what next steps they should take to move towards that goal. For example, if the goal is to increase your qualified leads, tell your reader to request a demo.

10. Design your white paper so it is visually appealing to the reader so that they will continue reading to the bottom.