Your Guide to Writing, Promoting and Using White Papers for Business
Whitepapers are one of the most effective lead generation tools available in B2B Marketing (Marketers named it #2 in the recent B2B Barometer Report). But even the most well-crafted whitepaper will fail to meet your expectations if your distribution strategy is putting the content on your website, waiting and hoping for the best.
To make the time you have invested into creating a compelling whitepaper pay off, you’ll need to get the word out.
Listening to the buzz you might think social media is your best bet, but from my own experience traditional, boring email will outperform social media in most cases.
The only downside: while social promotion is predominantly a time investment, successful email campaigns will require a sizeable budget.
The reason you’ll need that budget is your target email list. Unless you own a large subscriber base you will have to rent contacts. The options available are:
1. Newsletter ads – a banner or text ad in a third-party newsletter
2. List rental – a partner sends your creative to their own subscriber base for a CPM
(Stay away from purchasing lists unless you want to end up on a blacklist)
3. Cost-per-lead partnerships – a partner sends your copy in their design for a cost-per-lead
No matter what option you chose to go with, the deciding factor is always list quality. Make sure you know who your target audience is, then identify a matching list. A very good source for researching lists is edithroman.com. I’d recommend department, industry and job title as the primary criteria to use to find a match.
Make sure you rent a true subscriber list, where the opt-ins are from a single source. Stay away from compiled lists, where the names have been collected from directories.
Instead of buying one larger list, try to hedge your bets by going with three different lists at smaller recipient numbers. Instead of renting one list with 30,000 subscribers, go with three lists of 10,000 recipients each. That way it’ll be more likely that you find a list that works well for you.
The Email List Price Index will give you a good idea of the budget involved to get your email campaign off the ground.
If you want to learn more, check out the various ClickZ articles by Jeanne Jennings. Jeanne is a great resource on all things email marketing and I wholeheartedly recommend her. She’s also a speaker, so if you get the chance it’ll be well worth your time.
With choosing your list(s) you have already made the critical decision and laid the foundation for your success. The next important factors are your offer, your subject line and the email itself. I assume you’ll be marketing a whitepaper, so let’s go straight to the subject line.
Anatomy of a killer email subject line
• Use lower-case letters as that feels less like blatant advertising
• Avoid spam words like Free, cheap, $$$, etc.
• Use active, actionable language (i.e. verbs)
• State clearly what is in it for them
• Get to the point quickly
• Test, test, test
Create Emails that sell
Now that you have the attention of the reader you need to create an email that sells the whitepaper. Here are the tips to apply:
• Keep it short
Avoid paragraphs longer than three lines. Promotional emails are scanned, not read.
• Get to the point
Make sure your intro paragraph gets to the point immediately. Tell the readers what’s in it for them.
• Use bullet lists
The eye loves bullets. They get read. Put juicy benefits in the bullets. Bullet 1 should be the juiciest, bullet 5 the second most juiciest
• Include a hero image
An appealing hero image of the whitepaper will get more clicks. Read this post on ‘How to create stunning whitepaper hero images.’
• Use image captions
Image captions are one of the most-read parts of emails & websites. Make use of them
• Make everything clickable
Readers click on a whim. Make sure there’s a link behind where they click
• Focus on one call-to-action
“Download now” or “Download the Whitepaper” should do nicely
• Make the call-to-action a button
There should be no doubt that this is where the reader is supposed to click
• Use a PS line
Everyone reads the PS. Use it wisely
Now that your email marketing prowess has driven boatloads of potential customers to your website you are now faced with converting them. Here’s how:
• Have a dedicated landingpage
Your landingpage should be clutter-free and promote only the whitepaper
• Reduce navigation
Avoid users getting distracted by reducing the navigation elements to just a logo taking them back to your main site
• Have a prominent headline
A bold headline that reiterates parts of the subject line tells users they’ve come to the right place and reduces bounce rates
• Repeat the hero image
Serves the same purpose: A visual clue that this is what they came for
• Restate the benefits
Use the copy and another bullet lists to restate the benefits in slightly different terms
• Offer a preview
Allowing users to preview a shortened version of your whitepaper helps get them sold. Think Amazon’s ‘Look inside’
• Have a big call-to-action
Another ‘Download now’ on a big button
• Keep the form short
You will likely want to collect lead information. Make sure you only ask for data you absolutely can’t do without!
• Give the form some love
The form is the critical piece of the landingpage. Make sure form field validation rules are reasonable, error messages are easy to understand and that the overall form looks nice.
Alright, you’ve done your bit. Provided your whitepaper is any good you will now see the leads roll in. See the table to the right for a (conservative) calculation of likely outcomes of a $4,000 investment.
1. Rent the right list
2. Create a killer subject line and matching creative
3. Build a high-converting landingpage
What is you experience with promoting whitepapers? Is email the most effective channel for you as well? How is lead generation through social channels working for you?
I’d love to discuss in the comments below. Feel invited
About the Author
Daniel Waas is a B2B marketer with a passion for online marketing and a special interest in content strategy and creation. He heads up the Demand Generation team of Citrix’ Online Services Division in Europe, but this blog post is based on his personal experience and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the company. Daniel also owns and runs WhitepaperDepot.com, a brand new download portal for whitepapers, eBooks and PDF guides. Currently he spends a lot of time watching the Google Analytics flatline that is his website visitor graph. Consequently if you like this post he’d be super-excited if you would share it, follow him on Twitter (@WhitepaperDepot), check out the Whitepaper Depot Website or post a comment below.
True stories can be a great addition to your white paper. Real life incidents when put in a story form can make your white paper more interesting and can add credibility. Your white paper is usually filled with lots of facts and figures and it could take very long to read them, this can bore your reader sometimes, but if you place lots of interesting real life stories in between and reference them to the original story it could make your white paper more interesting – it will bring it to life.
The first step is to find the stories. You can use search engines and Google Scholar to look for these stories. The best thing to do is to type in the most relevant keywords in the search fields and look for them in the results. Take a look at all the stories carefully and filter out the most relevant ones. It’s good to include 2 to 5 stories in a white paper. These stories could be from research papers or from news websites.
The stories need to be used to explain a point better and make it easy for the reader to understand what circumstances lead to that story. For e.g. if an incident occurred due to a company doing something wrong write about it and let them know what lead to that incident and what the company could have done to avoid that incident. Also let the reader know the different problems the company faced – loss of time, money, affect on public image, etc. If the solution is relevant to your product or service, it will make your white paper more effective in generating leads.
If it’s something good that occurred to the company let your readers know what they did right.
Don’t forget to cite the stories, so that people can find out more about it if they want to.
You shouldn’t ever fluff up your stories with information just because it might suit your white paper better. You should always use the right facts and figures and not bend the story to suit your needs. If your reader finds out that the facts you used were untrue it could affect the credibility of your white paper.
This is similar to the above point, but it needs to be said. If you don’t find any stories that suit your white paper you shouldn’t just start making them up. As I mentioned in the above point, making up stories will really affect your white paper’s credibility and put your name and your company’s name on the line.
If you don’t find any relevant stories just don’t include any of them and focus on improving the other parts of the white paper. Another thing you could do is give hypothetical instances where you could let readers what might happen if such and such a precaution wasn’t taken and what can be done to avoid them. If you do this you need to keep them very realistic and let the reader know that it’s just a hypothetical incident and not something true.
These are the steps you need to take to add stories to your white papers and make them more effective and lively. For more tips on creating effective white papers read this free white paper on “How to Write a White Paper.”
Do you use stories in your white papers and other content? What type of stories do you use? Are there any tips you would like to share with us? Please leave your comments in the box below.
Power words are a key component to writing wonderful content. Adding these words to your content, especially in key locations like; headlines, sub-headlines, calls to actions, etc. can make your content powerful and exciting to read. It will also make your writing unique as it will be completely different from boring words which have been used repeatedly.
Awesome is a word which can be used instead of words like good, useful, great, etc. You can use it just like in this article’s headline “7 Awesome Power Words Which Can Spruce up Your Content.” As you can see the headline sounds more exciting and energetic with this word in it.
Deadly has the power to make the headlines sound more effective. Usually this word is followed by the word “Sins,” as in the headline “The 7 Deadly Sins of Blogging” by Sonia Simone. It sounds a lot better than “The 7 Most Common Mistakes Made While Blogging.”
This is another fantastic word which can be quite effective. An e.g. is this headline on Entrepreneur “10 Common–and Effective–Emotional Triggers” by Susan Gunelius. Using the word “triggers” instead of phrases like “bring out emotions” makes the headline short and succinct.
Evergreen is another word which can shorten your headline and make it sound more persuasive. An e.g. is this headline by Corey Eridon, “How to Revitalize Evergreen Content for a Lead Gen Boost.” Sounds great doesn’t it. Here you have evergreen accompanied by two other power words Revitalize and Boost.
Boiling point can be used to display that something has escalated to really high points. It doesn’t have to always be weather. Here is an article by Scott Bauer where he cleverly uses this word – “Budget Crisis Hits Boiling Point.”
How often do you come across words like dominate and rule? I am quite tired of these words popping up everywhere. One of the best words which can replace these over used words is Thrive.
An e.g. is the headline “11 Tips to Thrive on Twitter” by Irene Kohler. Thrive doesn’t make people think that they will be the best at something. It just shows them that they will do really well, so it sounds more realistic, just like in this headline.
This isn’t exactly a word, but I wanted to include it anyway as numbers can make headlines more persuasive. As you can see in this headline and most of the other headlines I have listed above how effective numbers can sound.
An e.g. I wanted to point out here was an article I wrote for Bufferapp. “15 Ways to Increase The Click Through Rate on Your Tweets” this makes the headline sound better than a headline like “How to Increase The Click Through Rate on Your Tweets” as when people see it they instantly know how many tips they are going to learn and the number 15 persuades them.
These are 7 power words that can make your content, especially your headlines more unique and persuasive. But you need to make sure you don’t overuse these words. Overusing them will make it more odd or weird and not unique. Also don’t be afraid to experiment with new power words.
I have only given examples of headlines, but like I mentioned they can also be used in other parts of the content like calls to actions, sub-headlines, etc. You can also use them in anywhere else.
Now it’s your turn. Have I missed out any important power words? What power words do you use? Please leave your comments in the comments box below.
Do you know what the 80% white paper rule is? Have you ever followed it?
Last week when I wrote the post “21 Important Rules to Follow While Writing Your White Paper,” I mentioned what the 80% white paper rule was, but I did so very briefly. I wanted to expand on that point and explain it further as I have seen people ignore it quite often and I wanted show how important this rule is.
The 80% white paper rule states that at least 80% of your white paper should be educational and only 20% of the white paper should be promotional. This 80% of educational content should be the first part of the white paper (it is also called the magazine section) and the 20% of the promotional part of the white paper should be the second part (it is also called the brochure section).
Usually it’s better to have a white paper that has 90% educational content and 10% promotion material. But 80% content and 20% promotional material should do just fine. You shouldn’t exceed this 20% of promotional material.
In the past white papers were reserved to companies that sold complicated and expensive products and they followed the rule really well of separating the white paper into a magazine part and a promotional part because when their clients read a white paper they knew what to expect from it.
Nowadays almost everybody knows what white papers are and are using them in their marketing strategies. But they are not following the 80% rule. Many white papers nowadays contain a lot of promotional material interspaced with the educational content. If you do this to your white papers it will make them ineffective.
When people read a white paper they expect them to be strictly educational right from the beginning. If they come across something promotional about your company it will discourage them from reading it. Once they see this promotional message they will expect more of it and they will give up reading the white paper. So you need to follow this 80% rule and only add promotional information at the end of the white paper if you want people to read your white paper completely.
The following steps will help you implement the 80% rule so that you can make your white paper more effective:-
1. Have a good white paper outline where you specify that no promotional material is to be included in the magazine section of the white paper. Also mention that any promotional information will only be written at the end of the white paper.
2. Proof-read it several times to ensure that no promotional information has been written in the magazine section.
3. Focus on educating the reader and helping them, not on selling your product or service.
Following the above tips will help you write powerful lead generating white papers that focus on educating the reader.
For more tips on writing effective white papers read this free white paper on How to Write a White Paper.
Do you follow the 80% white paper rule? Has this helped you write better white papers? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave your comments in the comments box below.
Would you like to find out what these rules are?
When you write a white paper, you need to mix your procedure, techniques and ideas with certain rules. These rules will help you write the perfect white paper every time. This will help you save a lot of time and money as you will avoid having to rewrite it.
Even if you’re an expert on that subject, before you write your white paper you need to perform a lot of research by reading on that subject and topic. Read any content you can get your hands on. You can read white papers, blog posts, website copy, articles, brochures, annual reports, journals, etc. These could belong to your company or your competitors. Take down notes of all the information you gather.
After you finish reading, spend a lot of time interviewing Subject Matter Experts. These experts could be working inside the company or outside. From them find out more about the subject and get any questions you have cleared. Also ask them for suggestions, which can make your white paper better. Make sure you take down notes.
Another important rule you need to follow is to study your audience. Once you find who your audience are and what they do, spend a lot of time getting to know them better. Find out what their biggest problems are, and write about these problems, and solutions to these problems in your white paper. For more tips on studying your audience read this post.
Another step you shouldn’t forget to follow is writing an outline. Writing an outline can help you save a lot time and help you write the perfect white paper in your first attempt.
Always make sure you begin your white paper with an attention grabbing, persuasive headline and follow it with a sub-headline which complements the headline.
After the sub-headline, have an introduction which summarizes the contents of the white paper and lets the reader know why they need to read this white paper and how the knowledge gained can help them.
Also have a conclusion after the solutions section which not only summarizes the contents of the white paper, but also bridges the brochure section with the magazine section.
In between the introduction and the conclusion write about the problems faced by your reader and give proper genuine solutions to these problems. Your reader should be able to use these solutions to get rid of their obstacles.
This is a very important rule. Promotional information about your company should only be provided at the end in the conclusion and the brochure section. You shouldn’t try to promote yourself in the magazine section. Follow the 80% rule – where 80% of the white paper is educational and only 20% is promotional.
At the end of the white paper have a call to action that asks the reader to contact you to try out your services or to use your products. Also add your contact details to make it easy for them to contact you.
After you finish writing the entire white paper read it several times and make sure it flows really well and that all the contents fit in well together. If it sounds odd anywhere, make the appropriate changes and improve the flow.
Always provide quality information and make your white paper unique. The more quality information you provide, the more helpful your white paper will be and the more number of people will want to read it. If your white paper isn’t unique there will be nothing special about it. So fill the white paper with quality information and work on making it unique.
One of the best ways to make your white paper unique is to give your secrets away. If you have some secrets tips and techniques no one else knows about, then make sure you include them in your white paper. A secret can make your white paper unique and sought after. Never be afraid to reveal your secrets.
Your white paper should only be written by one person if you want it to read well and have a uniform flow and aim, as we all know that too many cooks spoil the broth.
After you finish writing the white paper get it proof-read and edited by at least one editor. Sometimes you can have two editors. Especially if you’re new to the subject you’re working on. One of the editors can be an editor who specializes on that subject and the other one can be the editor you always use.
Hire a good designer and get your white paper designed, good design accompanied with your white paper’s content can make your white paper stand out. The design of your white paper should be based around your company or product logo. Don’t be afraid to add a lot of design and colour to your white paper.
Two types of people will read your white paper – some of them will read your white paper thoroughly and some of them will read it briefly. The people, who read your white paper briefly, are known as browsers or skimmers. You need to make sure your white paper is browser friendly if you want to reach a larger audience. For tips on how to make your white paper browser friendly, read this post.
You should never use testimonials in your white paper, but you can improve its credibility by adding a lot of citations. Citations show that what you have mentioned is really true and it’s not something you have just made up. Use at least 5 to 15 citations per white paper.
A white paper is a really long document, if you want your reader to read it completely you have to make it easy to read. They need to be able to read it quickly without any problems even if it’s a very technical subject.
Brand your white paper so the reader knows which company created the white paper, right from the very beginning. Several brand impressions can help create a good impression about your company to your reader.
While you write your white paper keep in mind that you have to promote it after you finish it. As you write it plan your promotion – while you learn more about the subject and ways to write it, plan how you can use the same information to promote it. Use the information you gather to also write white paper landing pages, press releases, run social media promotions, blog posts, guest posts, etc. later. Planning this while you write the white paper can help you save a lot of time.
A recent Infographic shows that a lot of people are using technology in the form of cell phones, e-readers, etc. to browse the internet and read documents. Here’s another Infographic by Sam Laird of Mashable which shows that the latest generation of students are using technology to its fullest too. If you want to get more people to read your white paper, make them technology friendly. This can be done by cutting off the margins, making them available in various formats like mobi, epub, pdf, HTML, etc.
These are the 21 rules you must follow while you write your white paper. Follow them to if you want to write the perfect white paper.
For more tips on how to write a white paper, read this free white paper on how to write a white paper.
Did I leave out any important rules you need to follow while writing a white paper? Are there any other rules you follow? I would love to hear your tips and techniques. Please leave your comments in the comments box below.
Is it necessary to write a white paper outline?
Can it help you write a better white paper?
The white paper outline is written after performing the research and right before writing the white paper. Even though this is considered an important step by many white paper writers, some people aren’t sure if it’s worth the time. They feel that directly skipping to the writing part will save them a lot of time, as writing a good detailed outline requires a lot of thinking and planning. But actually one of the many benefits of writing an outline is that it saves a lot of time.
Are you keen on learning how writing an outline can save time and provide many other benefits?
As mentioned above writing a white paper outline can actually help you save time. A white paper is a really long document (about 6 to 14 pages long). It usually takes 20 to 40 hours to write a good white paper. This is a lot of time. You need to make sure you get it right the first time, if you don’t want the time you invested in writing it to go to waste.
This is exactly what writing the outline helps you do. When you write the outline you can verify it to make sure the white paper does everything you want it to achieve. You can also discuss it with the company and make sure they are happy with it before writing the white paper. This way you will be sure you are writing a white paper both the company and you will be happy with.
After you finish writing the white paper outline you can go through it a few times and think about ways to improve it. You can think about what more you could include; maybe you could add a definition, a case study, a graph, etc. Writing the outline first and then reading it thoroughly and thinking about it can give you more and more ideas on bettering your white paper.
You could also ask other subject experts to take a look at it and give you their feedback.
Like I mentioned earlier, it is really important to get your white paper right the first time. This is why you need to make sure you include everything important you plan to include in your white paper and not forget to add anything. If you write an outline beforehand you can be sure that you will include everything.
While writing the outline you will need to go through the content you collected and make sure everything you planned to include has been incorporated in the outline.
A good white paper needs to have a good flow. For a good flow all the contents of the white paper need to fit in well together. All the problems and solutions need to complement each other and need to be placed at the right place. The best time to do this is while writing the outline. After writing the outline you can read through it and adjust all the contents with ease. It’s a lot easier to do it when you write the outline, than to do it after writing the entire white paper.
Once you write the outline, it becomes really easy to write the entire white paper, as you will know what you need to write where and when. Having both the content and the outline ready will simplify and accelerate the process of writing the white paper.
As you can see from the above benefits writing a white paper outline is actually beneficially and time saving and not the other way round. This is why you need to write a good white paper outline before you write the white paper.
For more tips on writing good white papers read this free white paper on how to write a white paper.
Do you usually write a white paper outline? Does this help you write better white papers? Please leave your comments in the comments box below.
Did you know you could brand your white paper?
As I have mentioned countless times before, adding promotional information about your company to the magazine section of your white paper will make it ineffective. But branding your white paper, though slightly promotional, will make it more effective. Branding it with your logo, contact information, etc. will help your readers know a bit about your company while they read the magazine part of the white paper.
The reader will know about your company without you having to promote it aggressively. Branding promotes your company, subtly. Therefore, when you’re in the designing stage, always make sure you brand it.
The best way to brand your white paper is to add your company logo to each and every page. Usually it’s best to add your logo to the top left hand corner or the top right hand corner of the white paper. I have also seen white papers where the logo was added to the bottom corners.
You also need to add a large logo right at the end of the white paper.
Another important bit you need to do is add contact information. You could add the contact information to the header or the footer of the white paper. Contact information can be in the form of email address, website address, phone number, etc.
This contact information could work really well if the reader is reading the white paper for the second time. As they have already read the white paper once, they have most likely been through the brochure section too. If they are reading your white paper for the second time, they most probably found it helpful the first time they read it. So if you add the contact information they won’t need to go through the brochure section again. They can contact you from the contact information on these pages.
You need to make it really easy for your reader to contact you, if you want your white paper to generate more leads. So add your contact information to every page of the white paper.
Another important detail you need to add is the company name. Add this to the header or footer on every page of the white paper.
You should also add the copyright at the end of the white paper, right after the big logo. The copyright consists of the sign ©followed by the year the white paper was published on and the name of the company that created it. You can also add “All Rights Reserved” at the end. The copyright protects your white paper. The copyright lets others know that they can’t reuse this white paper to promote their company and if they want to, they need to contact you first.
Your white paper design should be based around your logo. The colour of the header, footer, any graphs you might use or any other design you will add to the white paper should go along well with the logo. You could also use a similar design to the one on your website, doing this will make sure your white paper appears better.
This is how you brand your white paper when you’re designing it. This subtle promotion doesn’t have a bad effect on the white paper because it’s not mentioned in the text. It’s only in the corners and the headers and the footers of the white paper. The readers can only look at it if they want to.
Branding it will make your white paper appear more professional and attractive. If you would like to look at some well branded white papers you can take a look at some of my white paper samples on my samples page. These can give you some ideas on how to brand your white papers.
For more tips on creating good white papers, read this free white paper on How to Write a White Paper.
How do you brand your white papers? Have I missed out any important points? Please leave your comments in the comments box below.