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How to Write a White Paper: 5 Essential Steps

Dustin Brackett
August 27, 2017

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If you've read much of our content, you know that we're big believers in high value content and some of the most powerful pieces of high value content are white papers. White papers are great tools to generate new leads and educate your prospects, but they have to be valuable and well written. So today we're going to teach you how to write a white paper.

Of course, after it's written you should design and brand it for your company, place it behind a form to generate leads and follow up with those that download the content in order to nurture them into becoming customers. Now, let's dive into our five steps to writing a white paper!

1. Research Your Target Audience

Before even beginning to write a white paper, you need to know your target audience. Your content is essentially a waste of your time if it's not targeted at your buyer personas. Every single thing that you do should relate back directly to your target personas.

In order to get a better idea of who will read and make use of the information in the white paper, you'll need to do some thorough research before you ever write a word.

Once you develop your target personas, you'll learn what your prospect's problem is and how you can meet their needs through the white paper.

Then, you can use this data to offer your company or product as a solution to their problem.

2. Choose an Attention-Grabbing Title

One thing can make or break the success of your white paper, and that is mastering the headline.

Your title has to be precise, clear and catchy in order to generate interest. Your title should be one that you believe that your target persona(s) would be interested in and should be honest. One of the best ways to let your prospects down and tarnish your reputation is to promise something in the title that you don't deliver in the content. Avoid click-baiting at all costs!

3. Identify and Present the Problem

This part of the white paper must be the highlight of your content. It's where you outline the problem your audience has and provide facts, data and your point of view.

It's a space to show them you're an expert in your field and you know exactly what you're talking about and how to solve their problem. The readers need to trust you before they buy from you and that trust is built from your expertise, honesty, and ability to help your prospect fix their problems.

4. Propose a Clear Solution

Now that you've explained the problem in detail, it's time to deliver the solution.

The best way to offer the solution is through a step-by-step approach, using bulleted lists or subheadings. This is also a great way to approach most of your content. Think about it - how many posts, white papers, or any other content do you thoroughly read every word? Probably not many. Providing a bulleted or segmented piece of content allows your prospects to skim it and even helps them get right to the piece of your content that they're most interested in. 

PRO TIP: Remember to deliver valuable content, not generic information. There is nothing more frustrating for a prospect than downloading a piece of content that they think is going to be helpful only to realize that it's all fluff.

5. Add Visuals, Examples, and Resources

Although white papers are longer in form and complex in content, you should still make them easy to read and digest.

You can do this by adding visual components such as images, graphs, tables or charts. Also, use real-life examples in the text and state your resources and works cited in the paper. While white papers should not be overly visual, there is something overwhelming about a white paper with no visual elements, only text.

The Bottom Line

Like anything else, learning how to write a white paper takes some practice and planning. Your second white paper will likely be better than your first and your third will be better still. The key is to continue to publish great content for your prospect, measure its success, and produce new content.

High value content is a very important piece of an effective inbound marketing campaign and undoubtedly will help you to produce new leads. Learn more about the inbound marketing methodology and how it can work for you with our FREE Inbound Marketing 101 eBook!

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