For selling complex and expensive products, white papers are essential marketing tools that can elevate your brand, position your company as a trusted expert, promote your proprietary technology or idea, and capture or nurture a qualified lead.
B2B buyers do their own research — mostly online — before reaching out to a vendor. This is why white papers are so important. They get you into a conversation that’s already in progress.
White papers can take many forms, such as lists, which are great for building awareness, or backgrounders, which help in seal the deal with established prospects.
But for lead generation, a well-written, reader-centric problem/solution white paper delivers the most impact and makes the best impression on your most highly qualified prospects. It builds trust, which motivates action.
Focus on the reader’s pain and offer a solution
To get on the short list of the most highly qualified prospects, bond with the reader by feeling their pain. That is, use their pain points when illustrating the problem. Don’t forget human factors such as frustration, tedium, process friction, or other points. Touching on these points will engage the reader emotionally. Then, use a fact-base case to explain how your idea or innovation alleviates the pain.
Target a specific audience
For lead generation, target your white paper to a specific, clearly defined audience. Avoid the temptation to cast a wide net. Targeting an entire industry is too broad. Think job title, technology platform, sector or a narrower niche within a sector.
If you’re in a crowded field, a white paper targeted to a general audience won’t get much traction. That’s because buyers are hungrier for a solution than for general information. And as white papers proliferate, a focused white paper will increase your chances of getting it in front of the right readers because it’s focused on their specific needs.
Select a winning white paper topic
Once you’re clear about the audience, the pain, and how your solution eases it, you’re ready for the most important step in white paper writing, which is selecting a lead-generating topic.
A well-focused topic has benefits:
- Emotionally engages your ideal prospect (remember, they’re hungry for a solution)
- Is searchable
- Keeps the paper focused on a specific problem and solution. (Off-topic white papers are one of the two things that drive white paper readers nuts.)
If you’re not clear on your white paper topic, you’re not alone. A lead-attractive topic is not always obvious. Many struggle to get clarity. Topic relevance, simplicity and clarity are vital to attracting high quality leads.
If your topic is too broad or is not relevant to your audience, you’ll miss the mark. Instead, use the topic and title to target your best prospects — those who benefit most from your innovation.
A process for a winning topic
If your white paper topic isn’t obvious, try this process to maximize your paper’s charisma for leads. The best topic for lead generation meets these two tests:
- It’s of high importance to the target audience
- It positions your company as the go-to provider of the solution described in the white paper
Marketers live in a world of product features and benefits. Readers want a solution. When planning a white paper, use these questions to develop empathy for the reader and their need for a solution.
1. Who is the target audience and what are the layers (engineering, finance, C-suite or others)?
2. What is it about your product, service or technology that’s advanced, different, innovative or a game-changer?
3. How does your innovation benefit the target audience?
To drill down further:
4. What’s the biggest problem that your innovation solves?
5. What’s the biggest opportunity your audience is missing out on without your new innovation?
6. What hidden problem does your audience have that they need to know about?
7. For training companies and consultants: What’s the one thing your audience needs that only you can teach them or that they can’t get anywhere else?
Three-step topic brainstorm
Now you have you have empathy for the reader, you are prepared to make the best impact. Drill down more to discover one common problem and how your idea or solution solves the problem.
1. What’s the Big Idea?
From a marketing perspective, what’s the one innovation or thing that’s special, unique or new that speaks to the reader and positions your company as an authority?
2. What’s the Big Benefit?
What is it, specifically, about the Big Idea that benefits the buyer? There may be many benefits, but clarify which is strongest to the target audience — the benefit that will convert the reader into a lead.
3. What’s the Big Insight?
Answering the first two questions yields the Big Insight, which may have been hidden in plain view.
The next highly important part of the white paper is the title, but it’s best at this point to write the paper, saving the title as a final step. Use a working title while the paper is in development.
Write the paper in clear, uncluttered language that pulls the reader through the text and motivates action. Don’t digress. Stay focused on the topic.
Attract the right reader with a strong title
When you’re ready to write the final title, state a clear benefit to the target audience drawing on the Big Benefit, Big Idea or Big Insight from the brainstorming process. Consider including a job function for clarity about who benefits such as a marketing director, business analyst, or CIO.
“How Donor Research Managers Can Remove Friction and Save Significant Time by Automating Common Steps”
“How Sales Teams Can Use Networking to Set 18% More Appointments Over Cold Emails”
“How CIOs Can Increase Capacity and Improve Availability and Resilience, with Less Budget”
White paper writing for lead generation
In a crowded marketplace, unfocused white papers don’t deliver much reader benefit and are likely to fall flat in lead generation.
To attract the highest quality leads, focus the paper’s topic on your innovation’s Big Benefit or Big Insight that most appeals most to a clearly defined audience. Not only will you attract more leads, you’ll keep the white paper content excruciatingly relevant to the reader so they actually read the paper and take the next step.