6 steps to writing a white paper

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Create compelling content quickly and easily


Whitepapers can offer a lot of value to your customers, enticing them to invest more into your products and position you as an expert in your field. However, white papers are notoriously challenging to write, and many companies have no idea where to start, leaving them at the mercy of their competitors. Without good, solid content, such as whitepapers, you will always struggle to retain the interest of your audience and generate recurring value. 

This blog will show you how to write a white paper in 6 easy steps so you can engage on a deeper level with your audience and position your company as an expert. It contains a few tips for getting the best results from one of the most reliable pieces of content in content marketing history, and how to create your own quickly and easily.

What is a white paper?

White papers are long-form documents or guides covering a specific topic in detail. They often explore specific questions, topics or challenges of your customers and position your products or services as a potential point of interest. 

In essence, white papers blend research and facts with a sales pitch, hoping that your prospects find value and even share the material for greater effectiveness. They are quite effective if you can produce enough interest in your leads to engage with them, as they usually require a time investment from the reader and resource investment from you.

The anatomy of a white paper

While every white paper will have its own unique style and structure, the general flow normally proceeds as follows:

  1. Outline - where you’ll label each section and highlight which pages they fall on.
  2. Introduction - where you’ll outline the general problem and what you will discuss in the paper.
  3. Problem - where you’ll explore the problem in detail and why it impacts your customers.
  4. Solution - where you’ll detail possible solutions for the problem and the effects they have.
  5. Sales pitch - where you’ll present your product or service, how it combats the problem and where it fits into the solution.
  6. Conclusion - where you’ll summarise your findings and what you discussed above.
  7. Call to action - where you’ll instruct your audience what to do next to solve the problems discussed in the white paper.

While the above structure can be used for any white paper, the content will separate an average white paper from an effective one. Let’s take a closer look into some of the work you need to do in order to create an excellent white paper.

6 Steps to Writing a white paper

demodia-6-steps-to-writing-a-white-paper-infopraphSTEP ONE - Identify your audience

Good communication is clear, but excellent communication is clear and personalised. 

Take the time to know who you’re talking to and who the decision-makers are for your typical client. From there, you can identify their challenges, what their preferred style of communication is, and what their goals are. 

For example, a chief technology officer might be most concerned with how easy a new system is to implement. The chief financial officer might care most about how it improves efficiency, and the chief executive officer is concerned with the ROI it can deliver.

Identify which role you’re targeting, and you can begin to create a white paper that speaks to the audience you want to attract.

STEP TWO - Single out the problem the paper will address

Every potential customer has problems they have to overcome, so they will want guidance on how to overcome those problems. A white paper that simply explores a topic may be interesting, but it won’t drive a reader to action unless they are made aware of a specific problem you can assist with.

For this reason, your white paper should always attempt to address a specific problem that your product or service can tackle and explain what that problem is. It gives your paper a hook and helps justify your sales pitch at the end of it.

Common problems to address include:

  • Changes in industry.
  • Aspects that hold businesses back.
  • Opportunities to take advantage of before competitors do.
  • Upcoming threats or challenges.

Finally, it’s best if your paper only addresses one of these problems at a time. This focuses your argument, makes it easier to follow and keeps your paper concise and clear.

STEP THREE - Prove your understanding of the problem

Demonstrating your knowledge of the problem helps you build an emotional connection with your readers and positions you as an expert on the topic. This means that they will feel comfortable and confident using your services or product to help solve the issue - both vital factors for getting your white paper read and your sales pitch to work.

To help prove your understanding of the problem, you can reference particular points and research surrounding the primary problem:

  • How your prospects may suffer if they don’t solve the problem.
  • Any third-party case studies, statistics, or quotes about the problem.
  • An analysis of trends about the problem’s significance or impact.
  • Solutions people have tried so far and why they’re ineffective.

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STEP FOUR - Figure out how the problem connects to your customers

The previous step identified your understanding of the problem from an outside perspective, but for your paper to truly resonate with your reader, you have to adopt their internal emotions surrounding the problem

Your paper can acknowledge their fears surrounding the problem and how it affects them on a personal level. To do this, you can reference specific cases where the problem involved a certain customer of yours or how solving the problem improved someone’s business or well-being.

This ultimately helps your prospects identify with what you’re saying and see you as a way to fix their problem.

STEP FIVE - Explore solutions to the problem

Now that you’ve presented the problem, you need to provide a solution to that problem, otherwise your white paper will end up disappointing readers. To generate the trust that leads to a sale, you have to make your readers see your white paper as an educational piece and note a sales brochure.

Therefore, when you explain how to solve their problem, you need to set out a few generic solutions. Of course, these solutions should connect or be remarkably similar to your product or service, but you should only ask for the sale at the end of your paper.

Instead, you should present how the generic solutions suit your prospects. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Include logical reasons the solutions work.
  • Add statistics featuring the solution’s effectiveness.
  • Reference third-party quotes and examples of people overcoming the problem with the solutions.
  • Explain why your solutions are better than alternatives.
  • Demonstrate the positive impact of the solutions.

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STEP SIX - Connect your product

At the end of your white paper, it’s time to explain your product and set out why your company is the real solution to the problem. You need to connect your product to each benefit outlined above and reaffirm how it would solve the problem initially presented.

Additionally, you have to show that your solution works. The best way to do this is through a case study or statistics that highlight your customer’s success and address the fears you spoke about earlier in the paper.

After this, you must clearly state what you want your reader to do through a call to action. Whatever you want your reader to do, make sure it’s as easy as possible for them. Thus, you should avoid having them make big commitments like "buy now" or "contact sales", as well as filling out any lengthy forms. Something as simple as "find out more" or "show me how" work wonders after a good white paper.

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White papers can take a considerable amount of time to master. Doing the research for complicated topics while making your writing understandable and relevant is challenging even for experienced content marketers. 

In short, it’s not easy to create compelling white papers or content. We’ve seen many people struggle to put together relevant content and waste their money on ineffective and disengaging methods without knowing it. They end up feeling frustrated and hopeless without knowing any of the skills they need for success - but that doesn’t have to be the case. Digital marketing can be easy with the right partner.

We know how important digital marketing is today, and how confusing it can be to those who don’t have the experience to apply it. As a small company ourselves, we’ve gone through this process ourselves and found a way to succeed. Contact us now for a consultation. We will provide you a step-by-step approach to improve your brand story, so you can watch your conversion rates and profits increase as customers uncover your true value through content marketing.