The Newbie Guide to White Papers

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In the 21st century, it’s crucial that a large portion of your marketing efforts goes towards online avenues. With more and more people turning to the web before making purchase decisions, if you aren’t busy online then you’re going to be left behind. Of course, there are countless ways to use the web to bring in business, so it’s important that you are knowledgeable on different techniques.

One thing you can use to bring in new leads is something called a white paper. Odds are you’ve heard the term thrown around a bit but aren’t exactly sure what they are or how to use them. For those of you who fall under that category, I’ve put together this brief newbie guide.

The White Paper Defined

The definition of a white paper is one of those things that people just can’t seem to agree on. In fact, most people will call things white papers just for the sake of doing so. They don’t really know what a white paper is! So, the question is then…what exactly is a white paper?

Well, I can give you my personal definition: a white paper is an essay or report put together by a company that is used to deliver factual data while still acting as a marketing piece. In other words, it’s a mini-book or research paper designed to offer readers information that is beneficial to your business. Facts or not, the end result is to get the reader to take an action that you desire.

A good white paper:

  • Offers stats and real life findings.
  • Provides something readers find useful.
  • Is persuasive.
  • Is aesthetically pleasing (it shouldn’t look like an academic paper).

Beyond that, there are no real rules or regulations for white papers. In fact, you can call pretty much anything you want a white paper when it gets right down to it.

How You Can Use a White Paper

White papers have a wide variety of uses and can come in at any part of the buying cycle. Here are a few suggestions and examples for use:

  • White papers designed to get email addresses—Sometimes you aren’t trying to directly sell to a customer. Instead, you want to get their information and sign them up for future marketing initiatives, such as newsletters and mail outs. A white paper can be a good way to convince someone interested in your niche to sign up for your newsletter. They give you their email address and in turn, you give them a whitepaper with useful information.
  • White papers designed to get people to buy—These types of white papers may offer a practical solution to a specific problem. For example, suppose you run a personal assistant company. You are targeting people who don’t have enough time to perform all their normal daily tasks. So you might give away a white paper highlighting the problem and how you have helped solve it for other busy business people in the past. You end the paper with a call to action of some sort, in hopes that they will buy into what you are selling and give you a call or click through your site.
  • White papers designed to give background information—These may come at any part of the buying cycle, but often towards the end. A person is considering buying from you but wants to get to know you and what you stand for a little better. So you produce a white paper filling in the blanks on background information on your company, product, or service.

Things to Include in Your White Paper

Ready to write a white paper? Here are a few things you might want to include:

  • Statistics—Find hard numbers that are relevant to what you are selling. Making claims without backing it with stats will make you seem less legitimate.
  • Infographics—Infographics are pleasing to the eye and help tell your story in a way that is easy to follow…while putting emphasis on the facts.
  • An introduction—Sometimes called an executive summary, make sure you begin with this so people can get an idea if it’s something they really want to read.

Getting Started

Ready to write a white paper? Good idea, but make sure you take some time to plan it out. Ask yourself a few questions to nail things down:

  1. Who is my target audience and what’s important to them?
  2. What’s the purpose of this white paper?
  3. What part of the sales cycle will customers be using this?

Remember, a carefully planned, well written white paper can bring in new business. So put in the time to do it right.

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