How to wow your readers: what you should include in a white paper

White paper

Here’s the secret to writing a white paper that promotes you as an expert to existing and potential clients

A white paper is a great marketing tool that can often promote a service or product by taking the approach of investigating – and hopefully – solving a problem. Rather than overtly pushing your business, service or product, a white paper examines the problem using in-depth analysis, then looks at how that problem can be solved – which may happen to involve a service or product that your business provides.

White papers are a particularly appropriate marketing tool for financial services businesses that want to stand out from their competitors in a crowded marketplace. This is because white papers allow financial services businesses to explore some complicated concepts at length, providing valuable insight to their customers.

But what is the right structure for a white paper and what should you include in it?

Title of white paper

While a white paper enables you to cover an issue in a lot more detail than a blog, you still need to give it a punchy, succinct title.

The title should grab the reader’s attention, clearly communicating the content of the white paper and the problem that it is solving. Ideally it should be punchy enough to include as an email subject line or even in a 140-character Tweet since it is likely that you will want to use these formats to promote the white paper.

While the ultimate aim of the white paper is to sell a product or service, you should not allude to this in the title – the title of the white paper should be benefit-focused, rather than feature-focused.

Summary of white paper

Any well-written document, regardless of format or content, should follow the ‘three-30-three’ rule. The reader will make a decision on whether to continue reading within three seconds.

If the title of the white paper has been pithy and relevant enough to hook the reader, they will then grant you 30 more seconds of time. Therefore the summary, also known as an abstract, needs to give a brief overview of the contents of the white paper.

While you don’t want to give every piece of information away, you want to show the reader that you have thoroughly researched, or have existing in-depth knowledge of, the issue and know how to solve it.

Effectively the summary should be short enough to be read in 30 seconds but give enough information for the reader to decide that the white paper can solve their particular query, without it being an overtly hard sell of your product or service.

Introduction to white paper, background and case studies

Once the reader has been hooked in by the three-second title and 30-second summary, they will then dedicate a further three minutes to your white paper. Don’t worry, if they’ve got this far, it is highly likely they’ll refer back to the white paper and share it with colleagues or other interested parties.

On first viewing, however, they’ll have a three-minute skim through the white paper. Therefore you need to ensure that it is clearly laid out with easily digestible data in the form of charts and tables, as well as clearly marked section headers to get the main points across.

The introduction to the white paper can kick things off, explaining what the issue is, how it affects your clients and why it is a common problem in the field. This explanation can be expanded in the background section using case studies, but effectively you want to address the issue from the perspective of your target audience.

Research – core of white paper

As well as using case studies in your white paper, you should give examples of the issue based on research. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your research (although it helps) and it can include major third-party industry research and data.

You may also want to address how the problem has been approached in the past, perhaps by your competitors, and diplomatically explain why such solutions are not as effective as they used to be, naturally leading on to what you believe is a more efficient or innovative way of doing things.

Solution presented by white paper

Once you have given an in-depth description of the issue your clients or industry faces, your white paper can then explain a new way of solving that problem. Again resist the temptation to go in for the hard sell. Instead, explain the benefits of the product or service that your business provides by linking it to the background research and data that you have previously described.

This is another area where you should use cases studies, if possible. If your potential clients can see where your existing clients have benefited from your product or service, then it also gives them another point of contact to help them make the decision to use your business.

Also, explain the potential risks of continuing to tackle the issue in a way that is proving to be ineffective.

Conclusion to white paper and call to action

Finally, you will want to round things off. Here, you can be slightly more overt in how your service or product will benefit the readers. Again, link your argument to the background research and data contained earlier in the white paper but really emphasise how your business can specifically help the reader.

Obviously, you want to include contact details for your business but offering a free or discounted consultation, based on the fact that they have read your white paper, can also entice the reader further.

If you would like to find out more about the marketing benefits of producing a white paper, contact Love Letters here.

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