Why a white paper?

​White papers are authoritative guides or reports whose origins stem from their use as government policy documents. Since the ‘90s, they’ve been commonly used as marketing or sales tools.

A white paper sits somewhere between a short brochure and a long article. Its long form content can be used to explain new technology or detail the workings of a product.

A white paper should outline a situation or problem, then go on to explain how to resolve the issue. It shouldn’t include sales jargon or marketing-speak. It should contain facts and possibly figures.

And it shouldn’t be afraid to be educational. The point of a white paper is to give advice and information.

Limit the length

A white paper can be very long – if necessary. It's a good option if you have lots of detailed information to get across.

Although the report can be long, it doesn’t have to be. Due to its roots in government officialdom, a white paper has the reputation of being overly complex and containing far too many words.

The most effective white papers are written in plain English and concise sentences and paragraphs. Why waffle on for fifty pages when you can get your message across in two or three?

Persuasive papers

Start by outlining the potential problems your customers may face. Then explore the options for resolving them.

A white paper gives you the opportunity to explain the features and benefits of your product and service in more detail than you could elsewhere.

It’s essential to provide the source of any facts and figures you include as the document should have an air of authority. The paper should instil trust in your reader, which is why it’s important to avoid giving a sales pitch and including too much hype.

The title of your white paper should be fully descriptive. Don’t give it a catchy blog-type headline that makes the reader curious. State plainly that this is a report on the workings of the lightweight, bagless vacuum cleaner or whatever you may be writing about.

Promote your paper

Now you have this highly informative document – make use of it.

Mention it on your website, tweet about it, and talk about it – do what you can to get your customers to read it. You could also feature excerpts or quotes from it on your company blog.

Your white paper can be a tool to generate leads. Use it as a call to action and invite your customers to download or send off for their free copy of the report.

When you’re trying to close a sale, leave the paper with your customer as a way of providing them with follow-up information.

A white paper is a valuable document that can work for you in a number of ways. Don’t be afraid to make use of its content and take chunks of its text to use in different environments.