In a marketing environment where providing useful information brings as much, if not more, value as paid ads, white papers are the cream of the B2B marketing crop. These in-depth reports establish your business as an industry expert while bringing in quality leads. They take more time and resources to produce than the average blog post, but when done well, they play an integral role in converting interested prospects into viable leads.

In the Content Marketing Institute’s 2021 B2B Content Marketing Survey, white papers and e-books were two of the top content assets that produced results, on par with original research reports and articles under 3,000 words. To get the results you want, however, white papers must include the type of content your audience expects.

What Is a White Paper?

We define white paper as “a report that provides in-depth, objective information offering solutions to industry challenges and/or examines current industry trends in an original, insightful way.”

HubSpot gives another concise definition: “A white paper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution.”

White Papers Are:

  • Informational
  • Deep in detail
  • Long (typically 2,000-3,000 words for marketing purposes, although others have run up to 50 pages!)
  • Well-written
  • Utilitarian
  • Valuable to the reader
  • (Ideally) provide information the reader can’t find elsewhere
  • Objective, e.g., unbiased, nonpromotional

White Papers Are Not:

  • The place for a sales pitch
  • Filled with product features
  • Opinionated
  • High-level, general overviews

Types of White Papers:

  • Trend analysis
  • Problem/solution
  • Question/answer
  • Reference guide

Why Should My Company Produce a White Paper?

White papers are one of the most influential types of content. When written well and promoted well, they benefit B2B companies in several ways:

  • Differentiate them from the competition
  • Establish them as a thought leader
  • Improve SEO value for the company’s website
  • Provide content for an inbound marketing campaign
  • Generate leads and drive sales
  • Educate the industry on a given topic

A white paper can serve as cornerstone content in your marketing plan. To unleash the most power from your white papers, keep these five tips in mind.

1. Provide High-Quality Content

White papers must deliver high-quality, deep-dive content. This content should discuss a trend, technique, or technology that’s of interest to your chosen audience while showcasing the knowledge of your subject matter experts. Within your white papers, include data analyses that only you have access to. Provide new insights into nuanced experiences of a patient group. Explain the process behind a novel scientific methodology. You get the idea.

The strongest white papers offer solutions to known challenges within a field or define an underrepresented concern. They can also take the form of trend analysis or reference guide.

White papers bring educational value to the reader — they’re not a place for marketing messaging or sales pitches. And while blog articles and e-books can use a casual, conversational voice, white papers are more professional in tone (but not boring — avoid boring!).

Outside of new information from internal resources, every significant claim in your white paper should be attributed to a source — ideally, third-party, peer-reviewed journal articles. Other good sources include firms such as Deloitte, Accenture, and PwC for market and financial data, and academic experts, industry consultants, and select customers for third-party interview sources.

2. Target a Specific Audience  

To provide value to your readers, you must know who they are. While it’s wise to perform a market analysis to define your audience, white paper audiences do share common traits. In most cases, you will write to professionals within a field with expert-level knowledge.

When writing to scientists, remember you are speaking to professional skeptics. Again, keep your writing and your research airtight.

3. Choose a Strong Topic

High-quality, valuable content starts with a strong topic. You need to define a topic that will not only interest your reader but will also bring value to your business. It’s common for companies to produce “white papers” that cover topics at a sky-high level. Or, develop content on topics so obscure and “niche” that very few people read them. Don’t do that.

When defining your topic, do keep the following in mind:

  • Will we educate the industry on a given topic?
  • Does it help answer a question or solve a common problem in the industry?
  • Does this topic differentiate us from our competition?
  • Will this white paper establish us as a thought leader?
  • Will it improve SEO value for the company’s website?
  • Can it serve as content for an inbound marketing campaign?
  • Will it likely generate leads and drive sales?

Ideally, your topic will answer “yes” to more than one of these questions. As your health science experts, SCORR’s account and content development teams will help you define a topic that generates value for both your business and your readers.

4. Keep White Paper Content Objective

White papers inform. They don’t sell. The physicians, scientists, researchers, and clinical technology professionals you want to reach know the difference between information and marketing messaging. Your audiences also know how to read data, evaluate arguments, and weigh the available evidence. Your white paper must engage them on these terms. Show your expertise, not your products. Save the promotional content for blog articles, brochures, and PowerPoint presentations.

5. Market Your White Paper Effectively

While white paper content should not be promotional, you do need to promote the white paper itself. Considering the large amount of time and effort invested in the final product, it makes sense to develop a sound white paper marketing strategy.

A white paper campaign can align with a broader marketing campaign, or you can develop a campaign specifically for the white paper. Elements of a campaign include an SEO-optimized landing page, lead generation emails, social media, paid search ads, and targeted media ads. It’s also wise to repurpose your white paper into bite-sized blog articles, engaging infographics, earned and paid editorials, and more. White papers can serve as cornerstone content in your marketing strategy. By focusing on educational value, high-quality content, and smart promotion, you’ll reap long-term value while establishing yourself as a thought leader in a competitive industry.