According to HubSpot, a white paper is an authoritative report on a particular topic that presents a problem and then supplies a solution. The white paper's role in your inbound strategy is to generate leads by offering them as free downloads in exchange for valuable contact information. From there you can market directly to the individual or place a call-to-action within the white paper to continue the process of qualifying the lead.
When packaged neatly like that, white papers sound like a quick and easy way to boost the number of qualified leads you get. They can, in fact, do just that--if you know how to make them compelling.
1. Be Really Useful
Following most inbound strategies, a prospective lead will take an interest in a bit of information you put on the web, and then follow a trail to learn more. When they reach the landing page for your white paper, they have to take a second and choose to enter their information in exchange for that white paper, and that is not a small decision to make.
In fact, a study has shown that the average conversion rate for landing pages is about 2 percent. You, however, have found someone who made the leap. They entered their information and downloaded the white paper to get the information you have promised. After all that, you had better deliver.
A white paper is not an opportunity to market your services or sell your products. If you provide nothing but another sales pitch, the prospective lead will feel duped, and you have lost a valuable opportunity to establish trust. Instead, focus on the reader. Find their pain points and identify their questions. Then, start providing actionable solutions.
2. Present a Distinct Point of View
If you are following a solid inbound strategy, you probably have a lot of content that is readily available including blog posts, articles, and infographics. Your white paper should be more than just a conglomeration of existing content. Instead, it should be distinguished from everything else. Here are some ideas for developing a distinct message:
- Focus. A white paper should be an in-depth look at a problem and a detailed, thorough presentation of solutions. The only way to really dig deep is to focus on a single question or problem. If you have multiple problems to solve, write multiple white papers.
- Make it Meaty. Blog posts and articles are made for skimming. White papers are made for reading and re-reading. Do your homework and find statistics, case studies, and other examples to make your message convincing. Then, instead of simply presenting the evidence, pick it apart and evaluate it and talk about why it matters. That way, you can become an authoritative voice with the latest research and fresh insights instead of just another reporter.
- Make it Long Enough. There is no magic number for how long a white paper should be. When backed into a corner, most industry experts will say that a white paper should be about ten pages. One study claims seven pages to be the maximum. The bottom line is that two or three pages are not going to cut the mustard.
3. Black Tie Only, Please
Blog posts can be light and conversational. Articles may be a bit more serious in tone, but they are still usually dressed in business casual. Your white papers need to be a black tie affair. Your writing style and tone should be professional and formal--without being too stuffy. After all, black tie events can still be fun as long as everyone is behaving appropriately.
Your white paper also needs to look the part. Have a professionally designed cover page made that includes your company's logo. Get professional page layouts that include images, thoughtful fonts and colors, and a finished appearance. In other words, your white paper should not be a simple Word doc run through a PDF converter; it should be a professionally created document.
Take Your Time
A hastily-produced white paper will waste your time and cost you valuable leads. In your overall content marketing plan, you might have hundreds of blog posts, but you will only have a handful of white papers. Take the time to give them the attention they deserve. Create an outline, do your research, and make sure a professional designer is involved in the production phase. If you follow these steps, your white papers will become the lead-generating machines that you need them to be.