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Why White Papers Are Actually Good at Converting

[fa icon="calendar"] 11/1/18 8:53 AM / by Anthony Greer

Ever since the 19th century, white papers have served as a relevant, influential form of content marketing. Other marketing strategies have come and gone, but white papers show no signs of going anywhere. Not only have they survived multiple technological revolutions, they’ve also weathered our behavioral changes in how we consume content.

 

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In this article, you will learn why white papers are so good at converting, how companies can improve upon their white papers, and what companies should be doing to deploy white papers in their content marketing strategy.


Why White Papers Convert


White papers offer in-depth information about a problem in an industry that interested parties are looking to understand. They also offer a practical solution to this problem in the form of a product or service. They are meant to educate buyers through the Evaluation Stage by providing in-depth information on a specific subject, advocate for a solution, and make a company be seen as a subject matter expert (SME). As a result, 79% of marketers list white papers as the content format they are most likely to share.


When done well, white papers are able to make your brand more persuasive and bring about meaningful change as your platform and influence increases. They can boost your brand’s exposure within your industry, and can strategically increase your brand’s visibility. By having a well-crafted white paper, your audience will feel more confident in your brand.


White papers have no time for fluff. They are carefully crafted documents full of quantitative data written in an academic format. They are the textbooks of marketing: they are not always the most fun to read, but if a company is looking to make a significant business decision, they are grateful that white papers exist because of the breadth of information they provide.


However, this doesn’t mean that the white paper hasn’t evolved in its own ways. Modern-day white papers are often filled with infographics, images, videos, and interactive content.


How Companies Can Create or Make Their White Papers Better


First, companies need to understand what a White Paper is and what it isn’t:


 

White Paper

E-book

Blog Post

Standard Length:

Ideally 3,000-5,000 words

How-to’s are usually 30,000-50,000 words

Rarely above 3,000 words, typically between 600-2,000

Form:

PDF, usually

PDF or EPUB

Hosted on web pages

Visuals:

Multiple infographics, photos, graphs, and interactive content

Some visuals

Few visuals

Focus:

To be seen as an SME, to generate leads, to advocate for a position or specific solution, and to provide in-depth information on a subject to educate leads during the buying process

To be seen as an SME, to generate leads, to initiate the buying process, and upsell related products

Usually covers the opinion of a single person or group on a given topic. Can range anywhere from recapping trends to “how-to” or “DIY” guides

Research required:

Every statement is backed by thorough research

Multiple, credible sources. As many as are required

Usually two or three sources, based on the subject matter

Tone:

Academic, heavy, and full of quantitative information

Educational, but more informal, conversational, or engaging

Informal, very conversational and friendly

Audience:

Typically B2B

Usually B2C, but can be B2B

Both B2B and B2C


A white paper isn’t like a research paper, it’s more like your graduate thesis or capstone project! It requires a lot of in-depth information complete with credible data to backup every one of your claims. By writing a white paper, your company is looking to become the SME of your industry. If a sentence that you have written or if the fact that you have inserted can be disproven, your credibility will take a hit, and your buyers will mistrust you.


Carefully plan your White Paper, and take your time writing it. This is a document that will be valid for your company for at least a year or two and then can be revised to remain relevant. Make sure that it goes through a rigorous review process, and don’t consider it a completed project until you are 100% satisfied with it.


Given the importance of this document, the amount of time it may take to put together all of the relevant information, and the writing skills necessary to create a well-crafted White Paper, many companies find that their best solution is to outsource writing one.

This is what you should include in every white paper:

  • Fully explore your target audience’s key challenges, more so than a web page or brochure would do
  • Statistics, expert testimony, and quotes from industry professionals
  • Market trends and changes in your industry that make your product necessary (without actually selling your product)
  • At the very end, pitch why your product can help your audience. *Note: this isn’t the bulk of your white paper, merely the last page or two.

What Companies Should Be Doing to Market Their White Papers


Once a white paper is created, it should be marketed, so that leads in the later stages of the marketing funnel can evaluate them during their buyer’s journey. Here are a few ways to do just that:


Direct Email Campaigns and Newsletters: Email has an average  ROI of 122%, which is more than four times higher than other marketing formats like direct social and social media. Feature your white paper in your newsletter or as a downloadable PDF in your next e-mail marketing campaign.


Free Gift: Promote your white paper as a ‘free gift’ or ‘downloadable content’ on your website. If you want to get something out of it in return, ask for information to help you better qualify leads.


Press Releases: Promote it as part of a press release complete with a link to your white paper, landing page, or site where the white paper is easily accessible. Press releases are submitted to search engines, social platforms, and industry journals and allow for a broad reach and more potential leads.


Reach Out: Contact influential bloggers, editors, and industry experts who work with or cater to your target market and pitch your white paper to them. Services like the aptly named JustReachOut can help connect you.


Social Media: 83% of B2B marketers use social media as a content marketing vehicle. Promote your white paper on your various platforms, again offering it as an ‘extra’ or ‘gift.’


Utilize Your Sales Team: White papers are great for sales enablement. Give it to your sales team to help them further nurture leads.


No matter what you are selling, a white paper is an excellent addition to your content arsenal. Not only does it make you appear to be an SME, but just about 2/3rds of B2B marketers actually use them, which gives you a significant advantage over your competitors that don’t. Keep that in mind for the next time you are spearheading a marketing campaign.

Anthony Greer

Written by Anthony Greer

Anthony Greer is a twice-published author and copywriter with a focus in marketing, branding, and product development.