Building credibility has become a primary concern for B2B companies seeking to gain a competitive advantage in the digital world. Today’s buyers are more proactive and engaged than ever before, and conduct thorough online research before committing to any product or service. A prospect will undoubtedly find the information that he or she is seeking – but as a B2B marketer, the top priority is to ensure that your content appears front and center during the search, and offers the type of value that will justify a purchasing decision in your favor.

When it comes to content creation, white papers stand out from the pack. A typical marketing week may include several blog posts, a case study or a new slide deck – and although these are all powerful, crucial content marketing tools, white papers provide educational value that goes one step ahead. Publishing a white paper that takes a comprehensive and persuasive approach to a topic can generate more sales, credibility and trust, encourage readers to check out your company’s offering, and meet the needs of users searching for quality content.

White papers tend to require more research, time and resources than other content, so it’s crucial to consider a few best practices and guidelines throughout the process.

Step 1: Plan First, Write Later

The first question to ask is: What problem are you addressing? Writing a white paper that only discusses a trend or explains a subject matter is pointless – it needs to bring attention to a problem your target audience can relate to, and propose a solution that indirectly highlights the usefulness of your product, without ever advertising it openly.

Once you determine the problem, plan out your white paper accordingly. If possible, first decide on the approximate number of pages you plan to write. Your white paper shouldn’t be too short (four pages is probably not enough to provide sufficient information) or too long (you may lose a prospects’ attention after the 20 page mark). Also, it’s best to publish the white paper in PDF format, which makes it easy to access and e-mail.

Each industry will need to tailor the layout differently, but in general, it should include:

  • Title Page: It should include the title, company name and logo.
  • Headers/Footers: Include a logo and/or title in the header, and page numbers in the footer.
  • Introduction:Should be one page and include a short summary.
  • Chapters: Have at least three; each should be labeled with a prominent header.
  • Sub-headers: Several within each chapter, should be easily distinguished from a chapter.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the problem, main ideas and solution offered in one page.
  • Endnotes Page: Remember to cite all of your sources, and include links to access them.
  • End Page: Don’t forget to include your website and contact information here.

What other elements should you plan to incorporate?

  • Research: Cite your own, or find recent and engaging data from third-party sources such as academic institutions, analysts or industry reports, thought leaders.
  • Visuals: Include at least one to two visuals for each chapter, which strengthen your arguments. This can be an image, graph, chart, diagram, table or other illustration.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Refer to real-life examples and case studies in a non-promotional way that helps readers easily relate to the point you are trying to prove.

Step 2: Mind Your Writing Style

There are a few pointers to keep in mind when writing your white paper – the most important of which is to stick to professional, formal language that will maintain your credibility.

    • Stick to the Third Person: B2B marketers often use first or second person pronouns (I, we, you, your) to make content sound friendly and relatable. Although this is great for a blog post, in a white paper, write in third person to maintain a professional tone.
    • Limit the Jargon: The content you write should definitely include buzzwords and widely recognized industry keywords, but stay away from constant use of complicated terminology or acronyms that will make it harder for the reader to understand your text.
    • Give Promotional Wording a Break: Although a white paper is intended to build credibility for your brand which will ultimately generate sales, its foremost intention should be to educate readers. Avoid any overtly sales-y words to keep the reader engaged.
    • Keep the Paragraphs Short: Edit your writing for any run-on sentences or extremely long paragraphs that will make it more challenging to review the content quickly and easily.

Step 3: Get the Word Out

Before you start promoting, shift your attention to the connection you can forge between the white paper and lead generation. You put endless hours into creating this content, and providing access to it, without asking for any lead details, would be a mistake. Also, make sure that you devise a distribution strategy that reaches your unique target audience.

      • Landing Page: Websites are one of the leading destinations for B2B prospects, and each white paper should have its own landing page. It can include a teaser of the white paper and a few bullet points summarizing the valuable information it contains.
      • Registration Form: Turn the white paper into a piece of gated content, and ask leads to fill out a short registration form in return for access to it.
      • Social Media Promotion: Distribute the white paper using a powerful B2B social media marketing platform such as Oktopost, and emphasize LinkedIn Discussion Groups.
      • E-Mail Campaign: Create an e-mail that will be sent out to prospects and customers, including a short summary of the white paper and a call-to-action to download it.
      • Newsletter Spotlight: If your company sends out a weekly or monthly newspaper, highlight the white paper and include a link to the download page.
      • Website Banners: Publish one or two banners in prominent positions on your website, such as the company blog, with a call-to-action that encourages visitors to download a copy.

Prospects are inundated with content marketing from dozens of companies vying for their attention daily. Write a white paper that you truly feel will provide your prospects and existing customers with the information they need to help them improve their strategies or understand the benefits of a certain approach.