how to write a white paper

White papers are a popular and effective content marketing tool. They can be used to establish your company as a thought leader, to present relevant and convincing research and information about your products and services, and to generate leads. This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know to make white paper marketing a powerful component of your content marketing strategy. We’ll walk you through a step-by-step tutorial on how to write a white paper in this article. We’ve also included some great design tips to help you take your white papers to the next level, as well as advice on how to distribute and promote your white paper properly.

What is a White Paper?

A white paper is a formal document that is intended to fully inform the reader on a specific topic. It is a document that combines expert knowledge and research to argue for a specific solution or recommendation.

The reader can use the white paper to better understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
White papers are text-heavy, data-centric business documents. White papers are in-depth reads with a formal tone because they contain a large amount of data and research.

Why Should You Write a White Paper?

A white paper demonstrates a person’s or company’s authority and expertise in their industry. Its goal is to persuade readers that a particular solution to a problem is the best by conducting an in-depth analysis of evidence and information. Furthermore, it shows readers that the writer (or company) behind the white paper is a respected expert in the field.

While a white paper should not specifically mention, advertise, or endorse a product or service, the level of expertise displayed can have a positive indirect effect on a company’s or writer’s reputation.

Who is a White Paper’s Intended Audience?

White papers are written for an audience that is not affiliated with the industry. Readers may be familiar with the topic, or they may be looking to learn more about the industry before purchasing a product or service, so a white paper strives to provide trusted expertise, experience, and guidance through credible research and reasoning.

How to Choose a Topic for a White Paper

Choosing the right topic is critical for getting your white paper read. There are three major factors to consider:

#1. The audience

The audience is the first consideration in any business writing. The white paper should be written with the intended reader in mind. The audience may consist of long-term customers who are familiar with the industry or new prospective buyers who are completely unfamiliar with the field.

Consider the reader’s major concerns or pain points. Look for topics that have not been thoroughly researched or where the available information is out of date.

#2. Knowledge

Your white paper should reflect and highlight the expertise of your company.
The document should contain a thorough investigation that includes both external research and internal knowledge. The content included and how it is compiled are informed by the business’s own know-how.

#3. Problem-solving orientation

White papers should identify and address a specific issue. In your field, the problem should be current and relevant. The document may concentrate on issues such as common quandaries, new trends, changing techniques, industry comparisons, and so on.

To address the problem, the white paper must include a proposed solution or recommendation. This solution is the result of a careful examination of the problem and potential solutions.

What Is the Proper Format for a White Paper?

Because there is no single, exact structure to write a white paper, make sure to consult your instructor’s prompt and guidelines. However, in general, a white paper should include the following elements:

  • The title page
  • Introductory paragraph (including “Problem Statement”)
  • Background (research-heavy)
  • Solution Suggestion
  • Conclusion
  • Citations or references

It is important to note that, in contrast to most academic papers, the solution (ultimately, the main argument) should appear at the end, after the information has been presented and analyzed.

10 Steps on How To Write a White Paper

Now that you understand what a white paper is and what it is used for, let’s go over how to write one for your own business.

Step #1: Select a Topic

Before you begin to write your white paper or even look at white paper examples for ideas, you must first decide on a topic for your white paper.
To select a topic that is both relevant and impactful, consider the following:

  • Is there any aspect of your industry that has little content or information available online?
  • What aspect of your company do you believe would be beneficial to share with your industry peers?
  • Is there a specific aspect of your business that you’d like to investigate and report on?
  • Is there anything your team has accomplished that could be replicated?

Choose a topic that you are well-versed in. Because white papers are expert documents, make sure you have enough knowledge to share as well as sources or proof to back it up.
You should also choose a topic that your audience is interested in. If your audience is not relevant or engaging for your readers, you may not achieve the desired results. free

Step #2: Conduct Extensive Research

Once you’ve decided on a topic, you’ll need to gather information and data in order to create insightful content that provides real value.
You can gather information for your white paper from both internal and external sources. The more you research your subject, the more unique and useful your content will be.
Here are a few methods for conducting in-depth research for your white paper:

1. Look for reliable sources.

Keep a record of all the sources you use while researching the content for your white paper.
You can incorporate these sources into your white paper in the following ways:

  • As cited within the text
  • As a reference list at the end of the document
  • In the form of footnotes

If you use quotes or statements from thought leaders or experts in the field, make sure to credit them.

Aside from your regular research online or at the library, reading journals and reports already published on the same topic is a great way to find reliable sources.
Reading up on previously published content on your topic will inspire you to think of new angles. It will also assist you in identifying content gaps that you can address in your white paper.
Make a folder on your computer for all of your research materials so that you can access it at any time.

3. Make contact with industry experts.

Conduct interviews with people who work in the field of your topic for a more personalized approach. Connecting with top-level personalities may be difficult, but if you construct and deliver your angle persuasively, they may just answer your call (or email.)

4. Check everything for accuracy.

It’s in your best interest to share content that you know is trustworthy and true. Don’t skip this step, and double-check the information you get from both previously published content and interviews.
There are numerous online tools available to help you fact-check your research; journalists and thought leaders use these tools on a regular basis.

Step #3: Know Your Audience

I mentioned earlier that considering your audience is an important part of selecting a topic and preparing content to write a white paper.
However, simply considering your audience is insufficient; you must go further and understand your audience on a deeper level. Consider the following questions:

  • Why is my audience interested in this topic?
  • How does my target audience typically consume information?
  • How well does my audience understand this subject?
  • What is my target audience interested in learning more about?
  • How can my white paper assist them?
  • What kind of research analysis is best for my target audience?

To find the answers to these questions, you may need to conduct extensive research. If your team has already completed this task, you will be one step ahead. To get a sense of your audience’s needs and characteristics, create a visual user persona.

The idea is that in order to connect with your audience, you must first understand them. If your title piques their interest, they’ll start reading, but if the content isn’t up to par, you’ll miss out on the chance to make an impression.
Keep your user persona handy in order to stay on track with the intended messaging for that audience.

Step #4: Create an outline and format for your white paper.

You’ve completed your research and are now ready to write the white paper for your business. But, before you can unleash your inner storyteller, you must first sketch out an outline. This whitepaper outline will almost certainly lay the groundwork for a fantastic Table of Contents in the final design.
As an example, consider the following simple outline for a white paper:

  • Abstract or summary of the title
  • Subheadings in the Introduction Section
  • Footnotes/Sources
  • Conclusion

White papers are typically written in an ascending fashion, with the conclusion at the end.
The abstract establishes the playing field, and then each section provides information that builds on the one before it.
You can look at it this way:

  • Describe a problem or situation.
  • Provide a methodology with instructions.
  • Without being pushy, explain potential solutions.

Finally, a good white paper will provide the reader with a “Aha!” moment upon completion.
Use document editing software such as Google Docs or Microsoft Word to create a white paper outline. Use high-level headings for your most important sections of content, then branch out into subheadings.

Make a list of ideas and important points to cover in each section. Your internal and external research will fuel these.
White papers follow a standard document format. Consider a white paper to be more of a research paper than a report. The distinction is that conclusions in a report are included in the executive summary or introduction, whereas conclusions in a white paper outline are included at the end.

Step #5: Create an Eye-Catching Title

The cover of your white paper is the first thing your readers will notice. Make it appealing, interesting, and inviting. Your title or headline will take center stage on your cover, so pay close attention to it.
Here are some helpful hints for creating an eye-catching title for your white paper:

  • Make it appealing.
  • Make commitments
  • Be concise and clear.
  • Be astute.
  • Make use of a subtitle.

Step #6: Create a Captivating Introduction

As previously stated, white papers include the conclusion at the end, which means you’ll need to greet your readers with a different type of introduction at the start. The most common is a summary or abstract of the white paper’s contents.

If you or the author are a thought leader in your field, include an author blurb alongside the introduction. The following example uses a single page to cover both instances — the author blurb on the left and the introduction on the right.

When writing an introduction, whether it’s a welcome note or an abstract, keep it brief and inviting. Don’t give too much away, but make sure to highlight the main points. Include your motivation for writing the white paper and what you hope the reader will gain from it.

Step #7: Use Subheadings to Separate the Content

It’s now time to properly format the content in your white paper. Use subheadings within each main section to break up the text and make it easier to read.

The following example shows how the main topic page is divided into subtopics. This page could serve as an introduction to a longer section, which will be divided into three subsections, similar to the first page.

It is critical for the reader to use subheadings to break up content. It aids in the retention of information and research. Readers may want to highlight specific sections; subheadings will help them find their notes later.

Step #8: Make a data backup of your content.

White papers are intended to be informative, valuable, and well-researched. There’s no better way to back up your findings than with hard data.

In your white paper, using verified facts, statistics, quotes, and other data as evidence can help your company establish authority in its niche. It is also essential for ensuring that your white paper has a strong impact on your audience.

Make sure to properly cite all of the data sources you use in your paper. Use annotations with footnotes or annotations with a final section listing sources to cite your sources. When citing sources, the most important thing to remember is that they are fact-checked and relevant.
You can use data visualization techniques such as charts, graphs, widgets, maps, and more to make your data more engaging. There will be more on this later.

Step #9: Ensure that each paragraph has value.

This tip is more important than you may realize. Because a white paper is not a magazine editorial or a fiction novel, avoid using fluff language that simply fills the page. Every paragraph should add value in some way.

As previously stated, the content of a white paper takes the reader on a journey beginning with a basic problem or statement.
It leads them uphill with researched methodologies, solutions, and data to a conclusion that gives the reader the impression that they’ve learned something important.

Step #10: Edit and proofread

Never skimp on proofreading and editing. All of your research and writing efforts can be undone by a simple typo in a heading or a duplicated sentence.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes, but professionals have proofreaders to ensure they don’t.
If you can’t do the proofreading and editing yourself — don’t worry, no one can — enlist the assistance of coworkers or consider hiring a professional. It’s well worth it!

What Is the Difference Between White Papers and Blog Posts?

White papers and blog posts are two types of marketing collateral that can be linked. Marketers frequently use blog posts (or even podcasts) to repackage factual information from a white paper in a creative, casual manner. A white paper, on the other hand, is a long-form document that makes a data-driven argument, whereas a blog post is a less formal piece of marketing collateral that is voice-driven and subjective. There are several key distinctions between a white paper and a blog post.

#1. Format:

A white paper is a standalone document that can be distributed independently (typically within an online PDF or a dedicated internet landing page). A blog post coexists with other blog posts on a blog platform.

#2. Style:

White papers are similar to academic papers, whereas blog posts are more similar to public journal entries. A white paper is a factual, research-based document, whereas a blog post is frequently used to express opinions and reflects the author’s own voice and tone more than a white paper.

#3. Length:

White papers are long-form documents that cover a lot of ground and are usually 2,500 to 5,000 words long. Blog posts are typically much shorter than white papers, ranging from 500 to 2,500 words.

#4. Purpose:

The primary goal of a white paper is to disseminate factual and technical information. Blog posts are used to generate interest in a business or brand by utilizing the brand’s marketing voice.

What Other Formatting and Style Considerations Should a White Paper Have?

#1. Length

If you’re writing a white paper, expect to write a lengthy document. A white paper can be longer than 25 pages depending on your industry. However, in an academic setting, it is unlikely to be this long.
If your instructor asks you to write a white paper, follow their length guidelines. Prepare to write at least five pages for your white paper.

Images should be used as supplements to the written word, not as a replacement. In other words, one page of content is typically 300 words; if your white paper calls for ten pages, you should write 3,000 words in addition to any images you have included.

#2. Detail

A white paper is more academic in nature than some business documents that are easily scannable. Its paragraphs will be dense and complex, and the provided facts, evidence, and information will be thoroughly explained and analyzed.

#3. Visuals

Visuals such as tables, graphs, charts, and images are frequently used in white papers to clarify and strengthen their main ideas. Be prepared to include these if they are required as part of the assignment instructions. Even if there are no stated requirements, consider incorporating these visual figures to convey your point in more than one way.

Remember that images are meant to supplement, not replace, written content. Their use has no bearing on the amount of written content you are required to produce.

What Distinguishes a White Paper From a Business Proposal or Even an Industry Blog?

The primary distinction between a white paper and other texts is the breadth of research.
Business proposals differ in two significant ways:

  • Self-promotion: Whereas business proposals are essentially sales pitches written by company members to promote their own services, white papers persuade readers that a company is a trusted industry expert. This may inadvertently persuade readers to use their services, but a white paper should not explicitly seek customers or contracts.
  • Audience: While the readers of a business proposal are usually the investors or executives who sign off on a deal, white papers are written for a broader audience of non-experts who are just trying to learn.
  • Industry blogs can serve the same purpose as white papers in the end: to persuade an audience of a solution based on expert reasoning and research. The research requirements for a blog, on the other hand, are significantly lower than those for a white paper. A professional industry blog, on the other hand, should be both professional and academic. As a result, while a blog can be written informally, a white paper must maintain a formal tone.

What are the Advantages of White Paper Promotion?

#1. Enhances Brand Visibility

A well-designed paper can aid in increasing brand visibility. It is an excellent way to promote the brand and distinguish it from the crowd. The more quality you provide, the greater your brand awareness.

As a result, you can draw attention to your brand and convert it into more visits, visibility, and brand exposure.

#2. Obtains Inbound Traffic

You will begin to receive traffic once you have created an SEO-optimized landing page for your white paper.

#3. Establishes topic authority and trust

White papers are your domain for demonstrating brand expertise through evidence-based arguments. As a result, you will establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

To lay the groundwork for trust, emphasize the audience’s pain points in the white paper. That is where you should hook the readers and gradually gain their trust.

#4. Data Collection

After readers consume the content, you will receive white paper inquiries and leadership insights. Such information will assist you in tailoring your content marketing efforts to your customers.
You will also be able to nurture them and guide them toward making a purchase.

#5. Sales Conversion

Despite their educational nature, white papers can be used to generate sales. You can broaden your customer base by convincing the reader that your company’s product is the ideal solution to their problem.

Last thoughts

Writing a good white paper is a difficult task. However, putting in the time and effort can result in a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge, contributing to overall education and progress in your industry. A good white paper also expands business opportunities.


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