How to improve your next white paper in 4 easy steps

March 15, 2019


If you’re a content marketer in the tech B2B space, you will know that white papers are an important part of the marketing arsenal. They are a versatile and useful content marketing tactic that allow you to make a connection with your target audience at any stage of the buying process. Education, awareness, information seeking, consideration – any of these phases can be supported with an insightful deep-dive into specific key issues affecting your vertical.

However, any content marketer will know that no matter what the sector or technology, the market is crowded. Thousands of white papers are released monthly by vendors, users, analysts and experts focussing on different areas of the value chain. It’s not surprising therefore that some white papers simply do not get the attention or engagement they were seeking to achieve.

So, what makes some white papers perform better than others? Is it just luck? Were they in the right place at the right time? Did they provide information that was far more useful? Were they more creative? The answer, of course, is that it is a combination of factors. Here are five simple things you can do to ensure that your white paper stands out from the crowd.

1. Choose your topic based on what the audience needs

It’s a no-brainer that the topic of the white paper and its content is the most important factor for success. And you’ll be surprised at how many white papers start off on a list of ‘suggested topics’ that have been created from a little online research. Or white papers that are clearly in love with their own technology, and speak about it rather than the problems it can solve.

Always start from the target audience, and gain an understanding into what they want to learn. If you’re one of the lucky few with access to comprehensive customer research to understand the issues that they are seeking to address, use it! If you don’t have research to hand, engage with sales and product marketing, or speak to people at your stand during trade shows to answer questions like: What is the buyer persona? What stage of the buying cycle are they in? What are their key challenges and concerns? What are the pain points they are seeking to resolve at that time? What aspects of our solution do they find the most compelling? Speak to the SEO people – what keywords are being most frequently researched, and what topics can we discuss that will address these.

It really is worth investing the time to understand your customers’ pain points and create content that addresses these. You will be rewarded with a bigger audience, greater engagement and a growing body of customers who turn to your tech brand time and time again.

2. Keep it useful and jargon-free

Once you’ve identified the topic, it’s time to develop the content. Set up a briefing session with the technical content owners and writers, and ensure the content writers have all the information they need to piece together a coherent and compelling story.

Aspects like use cases, case studies, analyst information, research and statistics all go toward making a white paper readable, useful and informative.

In the tech B2B world, we’re often dealing with technologies that are quite complex, created and owned by very smart technical people. Having just come back from MWC, I’m still in awe of how many ground-breaking technologies are coming to market and how they will change the way we live and work. However, one trend that I have noticed in many years of content marketing is that technical people often write for other technical people.

Accepting this is one of the most common mistakes tech B2B marketers make. Buyers are not interested in techno-speak – this is marketing 101, isn’t it? Buyers are interested in their problem and what a solution can achieve for them. Don’t fear simplification. Everybody likes to read simple, clear and direct content pitched at their level, that solves real issues.

3. Design and illustrate it

The design phase of a white paper is almost as crucial as the writing of it. In today’s attention-scarce environment, presenting stories visually is an effective and rewarding tactic. And we’re not just talking about clipart icons.

Anyone in tech B2B will tell you that an infographic is a useful marketing tool. They are eye-catching and make tough concepts accessible. But they only work if you engage closely with your design team with an inspiring brief. Regardless of what their websites might claim, designers are not techies: your 25-slide sales presentation and the text of the white paper are not going to be as helpful as a concise design brief. Explain, elaborate, demystify and inspire. Write out the logic flow and data points, draw your own rough illustrations if you can. Take the time you need to ensure your designers understand what they need to express visually. Use humour!

If you’re patient, clarity will emerge on what the infographic should say to whom and what it should achieve.

4. Develop a content distribution strategy

You’ve researched your audience, developed the right content, designed it and made it user friendly, and launched it onto your website. But don’t rely on your audience stumbling across it. Develop a content launch campaign strategy that you can follow for every important white paper or other content asset that you develop. This could include tactics like:

  • Seed your white paper across all your owned and social channels to bring it in front of the people who matter.
  • Promote it on the homepage of your website if you have a ‘news’ ticker.
  • Align your activity with your social media team: pin it to the top of your feeds, if you can.
  • Promote it on your e-mail newsletter.
  • For important content, consider highly targeted, paid promotion in partnership with important publications or even on social media channels. A small investment can produce a huge return.

Here’s a blog we wrote recently on some great content promotion tactics you can use for your business.

Are white papers the bane of your life? Maybe we can help! Drop us a line and let’s talk.

Photo credit: Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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