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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Methods to write a white paper

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So that you’ve heard of white papers. Perhaps you’ve questioning easy methods to write a white paper or maybe you’ve even written some. However you’re unsure for those who’re “doing it proper,” and also you’re actually unsure easy methods to get work writing white papers.  

I’ve been there.

In 2011, I bought an e-mail with the topic line: “Excited by a white paper undertaking?”

It was from a undertaking supervisor on the content material advertising and marketing company we each labored at. “Sure!” I despatched again. 

After which I googled “easy methods to write a white paper.”

I’ve discovered lots since then. On this article, we’ll take a look at what white papers are, easy methods to write a white paper, and easy methods to break into the white paper enterprise.

What’s a white paper?

First issues first: what the heck is a white paper? 

White papers are long-form, in-depth, academic content material that tackles a particular drawback. They’re a means for an organization to ascertain itself because the clear, trusted authority of their business.

They’re greatest suited to the notice and consideration levels of the customer’s journey, however may also assist the choice stage. 

Historically, white papers are PDFs–they’re typically gated, that means you’d should commerce your contact info in trade for the obtain.

However they may also be printed on-line and ungated, like extra-long weblog posts. And so they’re utilized in B2B (Enterprise to Enterprise) advertising and marketing, to assist the B2B shopping for journey (extra on this shortly).

As a result of B2C (Enterprise to Shopper) shopping for selections are typically extra simple, white papers aren’t generally used for B2C. 

Who publishes white papers and why?

Corporations that publish white papers have a couple of issues in widespread:

  • They provide costly options…that resolve much more costly issues.
  • They sometimes work with purchasers on long-term engagements (or recurring subscriptions).
  • They assist their purchasers by a fancy, multi-step, multi-stakeholder shopping for course of.

You’ll discover white papers in almost any business, however particularly in B2B Software program-as-a-Service (SaaS): medical expertise (medtech), academic expertise (edtech), monetary expertise (fintech)…you get the thought.

And why do they publish white papers? As a result of their clients do a ton of analysis earlier than they determine who to work with. Based on the DemandGen Content material Preferences Survey Report 2022:

  • 62% of B2B consumers work together with three to seven items of content material earlier than connecting with a salesman.
  • 52% of B2B consumers say they’ve learn a white paper up to now 12 months.

For instance, think about you’re a advertising and marketing supervisor at a medtech firm. You make software program that makes it straightforward for a number of healthcare suppliers–medical doctors, specialists, physios–to get a single view of every affected person.

You spend money on content material advertising and marketing to get your message on the market: weblog posts, e-newsletter, movies, visitor podcast appearances.

On the cornerstone of your advertising and marketing combine? White papers.

For instance, inside a 12 months, you may interact a contract author to create:

  • A white paper about why it’s so necessary to have a single view of every affected person, referencing authentic analysis exhibiting {that a} single affected person view results in higher well being outcomes and decrease value of care. 
  • A white paper wanting on the drawback the corporate  solves: what occurs when a number of healthcare suppliers don’t get a single view of their affected person.
  • A white paper outlining 5 steps to assist hospitals shift to a single affected person view.

Keep in mind, white papers are in-depth, useful content material that digs into a particular subject. Every white paper helps the medtech firm to coach its prospects and within the course of, is positioning itself as an knowledgeable, trusted authority. It’s a win-win. 

What’s the distinction between a white paper and an e book, information or analysis paper?

On the whole, white papers and analysis papers are extra formal and analytical, whereas ebooks and guides are extra informal and visually fascinating. 

However! I’ve additionally seen these labels fully flipped round. Key level: discover what your goal firm calls them and use the identical phrases they do.

The various kinds of white papers

Listed here are the commonest sorts:

  • Authentic analysis analyses and explains the outcomes of a customized analysis examine. For instance, a cybersecurity firm may interview 500 heads of IT and knowledge safety in a sure business to study their foremost challenges and the way they’re coping with them, then publish “State of Cybersecurity in [industry]. For a real-life instance, take a look at Orbit Media’s running a blog study. Discover that it’s printed as a weblog publish (how meta!).
  • How-to walks by a course of to resolve a particular drawback. For instance, a cloud companies firm may publish “5 steps to get your knowledge prepared for cloud migration,” highlighting greatest practices or widespread errors alongside the way in which. For a real-life instance, take a look at this information from SaaS firm 15Five (gated).
  • Numbered listing highlights components to think about on a subject–much like how-to however not organised round a stepwise course of. For instance, an automation firm may publish “A Newbie’s Information to Automation” that highlights six widespread workflows to automate. For a real-life instance, take a look at this e book from HRTech firm Betterworks (gated). 
  • Downside-solution highlights a typical business drawback and methods to resolve it, which nearly all the time aligns with a product you should purchase. For instance, an e-mail advertising and marketing platform may speak about challenges with e-mail deliverability and the way their platform addresses these points. For a real-life instance, take a look at this instance from Xero, centered on the issues with payroll administration and the way Xero can resolve them (gated).
  • Developments report connects the dots between at present’s business traits and what it means for tomorrow. For instance, a office collaboration platform may take a look at present traits within the office, what they imply for corporations in 3 to five years, and actions to take at present. For a real-life instance, take a look at the annual traits report from Accenture.

Methods to write white papers professional tip: A number of of the real-life examples are gated, that means you’ll must commerce your contact particulars to get the report. In the event you’re keen to make the commerce, there’s lots to study from merely downloading a number of white papers.

Plus, you get a front-row view of an organization’s advertising and marketing combine. Do you get added to a e-newsletter? Funneled into an e-mail marketing campaign? Emailed by a gross sales rep? Or, erm, nothing?

What’s the construction of a white paper?

Most white papers observe the identical normal construction.

  • The Government Abstract hooks the reader and summarises the details. Very quick white papers (5 pages or fewer) might skip this part.
  • The introduction units up the issue you’re attempting to resolve, in addition to the larger business context round it. Don’t rush by this–for those who don’t arrange the issue, the answer (your shopper’s answer!) doesn’t land with the identical affect. 
  • The physique is, you guessed it, the core of the white paper and the longest part. Use your writerly judgment right here to construction the story that the content material wants.
  • The conclusion can reiterate the important thing factors however it doesn’t should. Make sure you join the white paper’s big-picture considering together with your reader’s day-to-day–for instance, with a guidelines of subsequent steps or questions to consider.

Professional tip: Many white papers embody a quick point out of firm services or products that resolve the issue. Hold it quick, immediately associated to the dialogue, and in service of serving to your reader. 

Methods to write a white paper 

There are 5 foremost levels to writing a white paper:

  • Technique
  • Analysis
  • Define
  • Write and edit
  • Format

Step 1 – Technique

White papers begin as large, blobby concepts, so good questions assist everybody get readability. Be sure to ask your advertising and marketing lead:

  • Goal: What are you attempting to attain? 
  • Viewers: Who’re you speaking to? 
  • Ache level: What particular ache level are you fixing? 
  • Perspective: What contemporary views do you deliver to the subject? 
  • Alignment: Do the viewers, ache level, and perspective all align with the corporate’s experience? 
  • Promotion: How will you promote and repurpose the white paper?

Subsequent, you’ll must agree together with your contact on the tactical particulars. Be sure you focus on:

  • Size
  • Kind of white paper
  • Tone
  • Interviews 
  • Reviewers
  • Evaluate course of and timeline

Professional tip: Wish to develop into advisory companies? White paper technique is an effective entry level. One other is content material technique for promotion–and with it, the chance to bundle the promotional items into an even bigger quote.

Step 2 – Analysis

Right here’s how I work: I begin with desk analysis to rise up to hurry, conduct subject-matter knowledgeable (SME) interviews, after which fill within the gaps with desk analysis as wanted. 

SME interviews are essential to getting the distinctive standpoint that makes a white paper price writing in any respect.

Dig into the viewers, ache level, and answer, ensuring to notice particular language you’ll be able to deliver into the white paper. 

Desk analysis sources will rely in your business and subject. Good locations to start out:

  • Prime-tier newspapers (New York Instances, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald)
  • Enterprise magazines or web sites (Harvard Enterprise Evaluate, Enterprise Insider)
  • Commerce or business publications (for instance, in insurance coverage: Insurance coverage Journal, Danger & Insurance coverage Journal)
  • Analysis corporations (Forrester, Gartner, YouGov)
  • Administration consulting corporations (McKinsey, Bain)
  • Main corporations in an business (for instance, in CRMs: Salesforce, Hubspot) 

Your advertising and marketing lead and SMEs in all probability have favorite sources too, so ask them. 

Professional tip: With regards to desk analysis, work backwards. Begin with the story you’d like to inform and determine the information you’d must assist that story. Then search for these stats, not alllll the stats.

Step 3 – Define

Outlines are important for white papers. There’s simply an excessive amount of to wrangle without delay–knowledge, distinctive views and model messaging, for instance. With out a top level view, it’s exhausting to develop the construction and logic that may information your reader.

Extra necessary, a strong define is your likelihood to be sure you and your shopper have the identical understanding. Bonus: it’s a lot simpler to edit a top level view than it’s a draft.

Professional tip: Ridiculously detailed outlines assist me incorporate all of the issues right into a logical construction: desk analysis, SME interviews, model and advertising and marketing assets, you title it.

My outlines are nearly like first drafts, however in raggedly-worded bullet factors. In my expertise, time spent on the define is nicely price it–as a result of strong construction makes it sooner to put in writing.

Step 4 – Draft and edit

Writing’s private, so I’m not going to let you know how to do that. Nonetheless you flip a top level view right into a draft, do it. Greater than different sorts of content material, white papers profit from downtime–so issue that in.

While you’re pleased with the draft, it’s time to optimise. 

Right here’s the reality: only a few readers will learn a white paper from begin to end. So your job is to make the white paper as skimmable as potential:

  • Make the Government Abstract thorough and compelling.
  • Optimise headers and titles in order that they’re significant and descriptive.
  • In the event you’re publishing the white paper as a webpage, optimise for web optimization.
  • Break up lengthy sections of textual content with instructed sidebars, pull quotes, or graphics. 

Professional tip: Sometimes, writers aren’t anticipated to supply or format graphics for a white paper. That stated, I like to incorporate solutions for visible parts, particularly for dense or data-heavy white papers. I sketch issues longhand, take a photograph, and embed it within the draft. Messy however efficient.

Step 5 – Format

More often than not, purchasers handle the design course of, and for a lot of white paper writers, that is the place their involvement ends.

Nonetheless, I all the time ask to be a part of design as a result of I do know the content material in a means the designer doesn’t. Most advertising and marketing leads are completely happy to oblige as a result of it’s one much less factor for them to fret about, however do focus on this on the undertaking’s begin.

Professional tip: Insist that the white paper is professionally proofread earlier than it’s printed. Do that your self, subcontract and handle it, or let the shopper deal with it, however don’t skip it. There’s an enormous distinction between public well being coverage and pubic well being coverage.

Methods to break into white paper writing

White papers aren’t inherently tougher to put in writing than different sorts of content material, however their size, depth, and complexity means it’s useful to have sure abilities.  

What abilities does a white paper author must have?

  • Construction. Are you able to thread a number of sorts of info right into a logical, cohesive, and lengthy narrative?
  • Interview abilities. Are you able to nail down the transient together with your advertising and marketing lead and seize your SMEs’ distinctive views?
  • Analysis. Can you discover credible, related sources and clarify them clearly?
  • Storytelling. Are you able to stability the brainy a part of a white paper with a compelling narrative?
  • Knowledge. Can you might have productive conversations about knowledge and statistics?  

How lengthy does it take to put in writing a white paper?

It will depend on the undertaking. I are inclined to work on technical, data-heavy white papers, anyplace from 10 to 30 pages lengthy. All these initiatives sometimes take 25 to 80 hours of labor. 

This can be a typical timeline outlining the steps within the technique of writing a white paper:

Clearly, this may differ by the white paper’s size, kind, and complexity. Consumer evaluation instances are additionally an enormous issue, so plan accordingly.

Professional tip: What number of revisions to incorporate? Most white papers want one to 2 revisions–not together with hoops like company comms, authorized, or compliance evaluation.

How a lot do white paper writers receives a commission?

The American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) 2023 pricing information offers a variety of $2-10k US for a white paper and $2-7k for an e book. 

That’s a wide range and it will depend on a couple of components:

  • Firm and business. Larger firm = larger finances. Boring or technical business =  larger finances. There are all the time exceptions, however they’re first rate shortcuts.  
  • The undertaking. The longer and extra technical the report, the upper the charge. The extra data-intensive, the upper the charge.
  • Your positioning. Your potential to cost greater charges has extra to do together with your positioning–what you do, for whom, and why somebody ought to select you–than it does your precise potential. Notion actually does matter.

Wherever you’re in your profession, “what’s your fee?” continues to be one of many trickier inquiries to reply. Observe within the mirror with the following pointers.

Professional tip: White papers are an enormous elevate and also you don’t desire a penny-pinching shopper. Your preferrred shopper is one who recognises one white paper can land them a shopper price 6 or 7 figures–and pays you accordingly. 

Methods to discover white paper purchasers

Sorry generalists, niches are very useful right here. Begin the place you have already got expertise (instance: training) and develop into B2B by including -tech to the top (instance: edtech). 

Relationships matter. Your current community is the very best place to start out prospecting for white paper work. Test in with:

  • Earlier and current purchasers. In the event that they already produce white papers, nice! If not, discover out why. There are numerous causes corporations don’t produce white papers–it’s not all the time for lack of the precise author.
  • Company contacts. In the event that they already know and belief your work, they could be open to providing you with white paper work.
  • Fellow writers. The extra individuals who know and belief you, the extra individuals who can refer you for initiatives.

Additionally replace your socials, your LinkedIn profile (key phrases!), and your web site. Anxious that you just don’t have any white paper samples to share with prospects? Try this DIY train.

Professional tip: For chilly prospecting, search for alerts that white papers are an everyday a part of the advertising and marketing combine–for instance, 4 to six white papers per 12 months. If there’s only one report, like an annual State of the Trade report, they in all probability have a go-to author already or deal with it in-house.

Methods to turn into a white paper author

So there you go. White papers get a foul rap for being boring, long-winded, and irrelevant. And let’s be sincere, they are often.

However they don’t should be.

Accomplished nicely, white papers dig right into a buyer drawback, take a look at it from a contemporary angle, and suggest an answer that genuinely solves that buyer’s drawback. 

For the answer or service supplier, it’s a technique to get their distinctive take into {the marketplace}, and to attach with the purchasers they greatest serve. (It additionally fuels a wise content material technique, however that’s one other story for an additional time.)

For white paper writers, it’s an opportunity to make use of all the abilities you’ve honed through the years: interviewing, researching, structuring, storytelling, all whereas holding a particular viewers in thoughts.

There’s nothing fairly as satisfying as wrapping up a white paper–realizing you began with a mass of Excel spreadsheets and coaxed it right into a cohesive, coherent story.

It’s not for everybody and that’s okay. But when that appears like enjoyable: go get it!

Eagranie Yuh (ee-grah-nee yoo) creates white papers and case research, and develops branded podcasts. To do that, she attracts from her expertise as a chemist, journalist, and marketer. Initially from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Hobart, Australia the place she runs, reads, and obsesses over music. Join along with her on LinkedIn or study extra at eagranie.com

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