If you’re looking to become a thought leader in your industry, it’s more than likely that you’ll need to create longer form content, such as white papers, to engage your target audience as part of a well-researched B2B content marketing strategy. A thoroughly researched and well-written white paper is one of the most effective tools for conveying authority in your niche.
According to our research, some 62% of C-suite decision-makers request calls or meetings with companies that produce high-quality thought leadership content. 8 in 10 of those will happily provide their contact details to download in-depth reports.
A recent survey by Demand Gen further found that 71% of B2B buyers find marketing white papers valuable in their buying decisions. So, if you’re looking to target these higher quality leads, a white paper is an excellent place to start.
When is the right time to use a white paper?
So, where exactly does your white paper fit into your content marketing strategy? Unlike activities traditionally used to create awareness, such as advertising, PR or content optimisation, most prospects will download a white paper when they’re further into the decision-making process.
A typical customer buying cycle can be defined as having five stages: awareness, consideration, preference/intent, purchase, and repurchase. An informative, carefully crafted white paper would typically fit into the third stage. This is where the customer has heard of your brand, is considering your service, and now needs that final piece of persuasive content to trigger action.
This is your chance to provide your prospects with valuable, researched content that provides insight on and a solution to a persistent problem they face and addresses their pain points. If you can promise to do that, your target audience will take the extra steps to enter their contact details and download the report.
What your white paper should cover
Your B2B marketing white paper should seek to tackle a common problem that your industry faces — and should always be backed up by evidence obtained through meaningful research. By presenting your company as offering the solution, you can stamp your authority on the issue.
The challenges facing your industry will vary according to your line of business, so choosing the right topic is vital. But the premise is the same. Your white paper should put forward the problem and recommend a viable solution.
It sounds simple when presented this way. But It’s crucial to strike a balance between creating an informative non-promotional report while demonstrating that your business can help provide the answers. A white paper is not the place for brand promotion. According to AdAge, some 60% of survey respondents turned down content that sounded like a sales pitch.
Let’s take an example of a growing challenge facing the HR industry: attracting and retaining top talent. According to a poll by Gallup, some 60% of millennials are open to exploring different job opportunities. In other words, “For businesses, this suggests that half of their millennial workforce doesn’t see a future with them”.
Considering that millennials will comprise three-quarters of the global workforce by 2025, this is the type of problem that would certainly command attention.
If you can capitalise on this by highlighting how your company’s talent acquisition solution can help, you’ll show a compelling need for your service. And demonstrate your authority at the same time.
The tone and style of your white paper
Your white paper needs to be at least two things: evidence-based and seamlessly constructed. As an in-depth, extensive report, this is not the place to cut costs. It should be backed up by references from reliable sources and feel like it’s been written by experts.
Any original research that you can carry out will support the perception of quality and expertise. It will also encourage audiences to associate your brand name and voice with deep knowledge and insight.
Use storytelling techniques to create a compelling source of information that isn’t just about crunching the numbers. Stories catch our attention. They influence and inspire us into taking action.
So, a great white paper will be one written in collaboration with subject matter experts and experienced copywriters who can help to translate research findings and data into a captivating narrative that engages your target market.
Once you’ve thoroughly developed a good topic and crafted persuasive and engaging content for your white paper, you’ll need to find the right title. Coming up with a compelling title for your white paper is essential and should never be an afterthought. It should be succinct and to the point and include active verbs that pique interest and inspire action. If possible, use the title to speak directly to your reader and make it specific to the persona(s) you want to target.
Don’t skip on quality design
You’ve committed resources to create great quality content that’s backed up by research — great! But to ensure your white paper holds the attention of the reader, you also need a design that is engaging and keeps readers captivated throughout the narrative. Keep in mind, though, that not everyone will read your text word for word — and that’s okay. Some audiences prefer to skim read, so it’s important to use design features to help signpost the headlines and help direct readers to the insight that’s of most relevance and interest to them.
Also, be sure to maximise impact by creating spin-off content used as additional campaign assets that help to get your content in front of your chosen audience. These could include infographics, blog articles, social media posts, or sales enablement tools; many of which rely on strong creative visual design to catch the eye.
Close your white paper with a call to action
Your B2B marketing white paper isn’t meant to be a sales pitch for your brand. It’s not a marketing brochure or a sponsored article either, but rather a means of developing thought leadership and capturing quality leads from your target audience through real-world insight.
However, your readers still need to know how to find you once you’ve captured their attention. So, make sure that you’re clear about the next step you want them to take.
Rather than directing them to your website homepage, send them to a specific landing page instead where they can request a demo, read a case study or follow you on social media. And don’t be afraid to provide direct contact information for your specialist team. Some audiences may be ready to act immediately and need to know how to reach you.
Remember, you already gained their contact details – now you need to secure their business.
Find out more about how a wider B2B content marketing strategy – not just white papers – can allow your brand to better communicate with your audience.