Whitepaper Writing 101: Get Your Lead Generating Report Read All Over
When I was a kid, I knew a single riddle: What’s white, black and red all over. The answer is, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, a newspaper; with RED being a homophone with the past-tense word READ.
Well, now that I’m an adult, I’m changing the riddle. Using a few tried and true methods, I’m going to teach you how to write a whitepaper that is white, black and READ all over.
What the heck is a whitepaper?
The term whitepaper originated in government, with the term indicating a document that was both authoritative and informative in nature. Today, they are used by marketing companies to provide valuable information for prospects during the introductory stage of the lead generation process.
The introductory stage is when a prospect will land on your website in search of information. The information the prospect is searching for usually has to do with a problem he or she is facing.
In the case of my business, a prospect may be looking for help with marketing writing. They don’t know how to get their blog started or reinvigorated; they need sales copy written and they don’t know where to start, or they’ve given email marketing a try, and they can’t seem to get their open and click-through rates where they want them.
If I had a whitepaper for potential clients to download, I would be able to answer their questions and help them make a positive buying decision.
In other words, there is nothing like a whitepaper to improve lead generation and convert maybes into yeses. And it’s all done with a single document.
What does a whitepaper include?
A whitepaper is different from most marketing materials. You’re not writing a blog. Rather, you need to be thorough and descriptive. Don’t be surprised, then, if your whitepaper extends to more than ten pages (or even more).
Do you have an engaging topic?
Once you’ve figured out who your audience is, find out what those people want. Do they want more traffic to their websites? More sales for their newest products? More social media engagement? Or maybe it’s something completely non-digital marketing related. Quite possibly they want more dates on Saturday nights or to get their spouses back following a separation.
When you’ve nailed your audience’s biggest problem, it’s time to deliver with your whitepaper. You’ll begin with an introduction.
Your introduction is your chance to hook your readers very early on. Your introduction should include the following:
- A summary of the reader’s primary problem. This shows that you completely understand their plight.
- The outcome. This is what your reader will get out of reading your white paper to the end.
- An organized summary. You’ll want to spell out each section heading with a brief overview of what each section contains.
By the time your reader is finished reading your introduction, he or she should be ready to flip to the next page to begin reading.
You’ll have piqued their interest and prepared them to find a solution to their most pressing problem. And your solution is so unique that it can’t be found anywhere else except for the whitepaper they are currently reading.
Problems and Solutions
This is the section of the whitepaper where you provide value. If the introduction was the appetizer, the problem/solution section of your document is the main course.
To make your whitepaper as valuable as possible, you’ll want to provide some useful tips. Here are some examples (using the problems I listed above).
- For a client seeking writing services, you may show how a blog can increase customer engagement by XX%.
- For prospects who crave more web traffic, you may show the value of PPC marketing; along with one or more tips on how to create and steadily expand an easy-to-implement PPC campaign.
- If lagging sales are your reader’s problem, you may show the value of Facebook advertising and how it costs just $5/day to start a feeding frenzy.
- For more social media engagement, you may include tips on connecting with the top visionaries in your field. Social media success is, after all, all about building relationships. Your audience may need help in this regard.
- For more dates or to get one’s spouse back following a separation, a similar approach should be used. Tips could be offered on how to dress, how to make an initial approach or how to cut contact with your spouse to make him/her crave your prospect’s attention once more.
The important thing to remember is that your readers are not going to take your word for the claims you provide. They want cold, hard proof. This proof can come from your own analytics dashboard, surveys you have conducted, and from various other sources; books, blogs, and speeches given by authority figures in your niche.
Your Sales Pitch
By the time the main course is served and consumed, your reader will be ready for dessert. Your sales pitch is where you will let you know that, instead of languishing with the prospect of putting all of your tips into action on their own, you’ll do all the hard work for them.
As a freelance writer, I would provide my reader with tips on how to write engaging headlines, how to write a blog post, and how to entice more sales using expertly-crafted sales copy. But then I’ll hit my reader up with an incredible offer: I’ll do the writing for you while you sit back and collect the checks.
Marketing companies can take the same angle. For more social engagement, more product sales and more traffic to one’s website, hire [The Marketing Company], who will put all of the tips into action on your reader’s behalf.
For dating and getting one’s spouse back, the sales pitch might be a webinar or a seminar held in a physical location that teaches the mindset, the steps to take, and the lifestyle one should lead if the goal is to attract women, or to reinvigorate a marriage. And, of course, the solution you’re providing is to use the tips you’ve already covered in the main course.
By now your reader understands that you understand the trouble they’re facing, you have the answers, and you’re willing to take them on as a client/customer to make their dreams/ambitions become a reality. Your conclusion should further make your case by making it appear that time is of the essence.
Your conclusion may remind your reader that there are essentially two choices. You can go on getting very little traffic to your website, no social engagement, and you can remain single most weekends, or you can take action.
Taking action is the easiest path to take and will provide the quickest reprieve to all of your reader’s problems. You’re basically telling your reader that he or she is foolish not to take you up on your incredible offer.
Dress It Up
There are many whitepapers that are just that – plain white documents with black text. However, to amaze your reader and to keep the person progressing further down the page, and to give the document a professional polish, you’ll want to invest in professional design services.
Your document should look top-notch and should include one or more images. For best results, hire a designer to do this work for you; that is unless you have years of design experience. Many marketers think that they’ll just slap some images on their whitepapers and call it a day.
But in my experience, the best performing whitepapers are meticulously designed and heavily edited. Thorough amounts of time are spent on them because they can mean the difference between many sales and a company that languishes while the competition cleans up.
As far as what images to include, photos of people work well, as do action shots showing the tips you’re providing in action. And always include graphs when possible to showcase the effectiveness of the advice you’re doling out.
What do you do with your whitepaper?
Now comes the easy part. Once your whitepaper is written, edited and checked for errors, and dressed up with a professional polish, you’ll want to offer it on your website for free.
Turn it into a PDF and use it as a lead generation magnet. That is, you’ll want to exchange it for your reader’s email addresses.
By downloading the whitepaper, your subscribers are proving that they’re facing the problem you discuss in your document, that they are interested in the solutions you’re offering, and they’re receptive to possibly buying from you.
If you don’t sell them via the whitepaper alone (as in, your sales pitch fails to entice them the first time), you can continue to pitch your services via email. That way, you get to pitch your audience twice or as many times as you feel is necessary to make the sale.
Now you’re ready to write your whitepaper to ensure that it is read all over (and entices many, many sales for your organization).
Would you like to have a professional craft your whitepaper for you? If so, contact me here and tell me a little bit about your organization.
Or, if you have something to add to this discussion, leave your thoughts below and let’s get this conversation started.