Inbound marketing operates on one basic principle: engage with your potential customer, and offer them value. While that “value” can be almost anything, for many businesses, it’s information. Even with the advent of search engines like Google, finding specialized information from a reputable source can be difficult. When that information is given out seemingly for free, there’s a lot of value there. White papers are a concise, visually appealing way of taking your specialized information and putting it together in a nice, value-driven package. All it takes is a simple landing page with a call-to-action for their email, and your white paper can generate lead after lead.
But what makes a white paper more valuable than others? Why are the best practices when writing and designing a white paper?
Don’t Make the White Paper About Your Product or Service
The number one mistake companies make when writing a white paper is that they use the white paper as marketing collateral. White papers are not intended to inform customers about your services or your company; they’re first and foremost to educate. If a white paper just talks about how great your program or service is without actually offering up valuable information that the reader can use, it’s worthless. The inbound way is ultimately about reaching out in good faith and giving away something for free. But by giving away some of that knowledge you’ve acquired over the years, you’re establishing a strong, positive relationship with future customers (aka generating a lead). So make sure to avoid using a writing style that’s too sales-y, and always emphasize being informative.
Gear Your White Paper Towards Your Target Audience
Because of their educational nature, white papers assume a certain level of knowledge on the reader. That knowledge level might be low, average, or specialized – it’s important to know which and write accordingly. Your target audience will strongly dictate how in-depth your white paper will be, how much technical or industry-specific jargon you use, and how casual or friendly your tone is.
Don’t Slack on Grammar or Design
A white paper is, ultimately, mostly made up of words. To ensure you don’t alienate readers (and thus nurture your potential leads), always ensure your writing is as strong as possible. Edit your white paper thoroughly, and instead of relying on your writing software’s spell checker, have a friend or colleague comb it for grammatical mistakes. Be sure and reference any material or information you borrowed from outside sources. For more formal or technical white papers, always use third-person when writing, avoiding the use of “I” and “me” which sounds more casual.
Of course, a visually-appealing white paper with strong layout design and applicable infographics will speak volumes on the quality of the content, as well. Though it may seem a waste of time to make your white paper more visual, it’s ultimately a fantastic excuse to brand the white paper. Use your company’s colors and fonts when possible to give your white paper a coherent look. Remember, if the information is useful, you want to associate that value with YOU as much as possible.