Content is the new darling of marketing. Everywhere you look, it seems there’s a new blog post about a hot topic, ranging from product development to sales to the super-meta “marketing content about marketing content.”
But if you’re mainly using written content for marketing your business, you probably want to think about mixing up the depth and breadth of the material you’re publishing. If every piece of content you write is just another 800-word blog post—intro, nut graf, statistic, quote, conclusion—readers are going to become bored with the formula pretty quickly. What you need, on occasion at least, is to sink your teeth into something a little more sophisticated.
“A blog post can be read and easily forgotten in a few minutes. A whitepaper? Not so much.”
Consider adding a marketing whitepaper to your content marketing mix. Writing a whitepaper is not unlike writing a blog post, except there’s more to it. It’s longer, it includes more in-depth research and expert opinions, and it often has graphical elements to make it more eye-catching and engaging.
A blog post can be read and easily forgotten in a few minutes. A whitepaper? Not so much. Here are three strategies for writing a good one.
Address Customers’ Real Pain Points
If you want to hook readers with your whitepaper, the first step is to address a topic that people really care about so they’ll be motivated to read.
The best strategy for this is to address a real pain point in people’s lives, writes Gordon Graham in “8 Tips for Writing White Papers (Hint: Don’t Call It a White Paper).” What problems are your customers (either current or future) experiencing? How can you help address them? Graham, author of White Papers For Dummies, says that if you can answer this, you can turn those prospects into legit paying customers in no time.
“Consider Tom the plumber,” Graham offered as an example. “The problems he finds include leaky pipes, clogged drains and plugged toilets. And what sometimes causes them? A DIY job gone wrong. What if Tom publishes a little report called ‘5 Home Plumbing Jobs You Can Do Yourself—And 3 You Should Leave to a Pro?'”
Graham suggests that if you want to engage with readers, choose a topic that’s relevant to their everyday lives and present it in a way that offers valuable advice or information. Then mention everywhere you can—your emails, your blog, your Facebook page, and so on—that your whitepaper provides content that can make a real difference.
Write with the Appropriate Tone
Choosing your writing tone and vocabulary wisely is key to keeping readers’ interest. In “Should You Write a White Paper for Content Marketing?,” Kevin Gibbons (founding director of British content marketing agency Quaturo) suggests writing for the layperson. If you get too technical or abstruse, people will stop reading.
“You can’t be certain how much your readers will already know,” Gibbons notes. “Even if they’re in the same general industry as you, they might not know all of the technical terms that you use on a daily basis. Avoid jargon, and keep your sentences relatively short. In a document that’s supposed to convey information clearly and accurately, it’s not patronizing to use fairly simple English; it’s just common sense.”
Of course, sometimes you’ll tackle a difficult topic which requires getting a little more technical. But save the jargon for when you really need it. For the most part, you want your writing to be easily understandable and relatable.
Ultimately, your goal with a whitepaper is to inspire readers to take some kind of action. Maybe you want them to pick up the phone and order your product right away, or maybe you have more modest goals, like getting them to follow you on social media. Either way, you need your paper to push people in the right direction.
“Your paper isn’t just a textbook—it’s more than that.”
This means you need to use language that is clear and actionable, says digital marketing expert Anna Washenko in “How to Write a Compelling Whitepaper.” Washenko points out that your title and sub-headlines can be great vehicles for pushing people toward taking action. If you use words like “How You Can…” or “Why You Should…” in your headlines, you can plant ideas in readers’ minds.
“To keep your publication compelling, be sure to think about all of the various steps that go into creating the desired result from your reader,” Washenko advises. “Make each of those steps a call to action. You’re the reader’s guide, so you need to show them how to get the outcome they want, whether that’s finding customers on social media, learning about your service, or improving their own business.”
Your whitepaper should have plenty of research, informative statistics, and quotes from industry leaders or experts who can offer a voice of authority. But your paper isn’t just a textbook—it’s more than that. It’s a guide that should lead people in the direction you want them to go. Every little language choice you make plays a role in that effort.
What You Can Do Right Now
Writing a great whitepaper is a can’t-miss strategy for advancing your marketing plans. Mixing thorough, in-depth content into your content can take your content marketing to the next level. Here’s how to start.
- Identify pain points that your customers encounter in their daily lives. Make sure to address those pain points directly with information and advice.
- Write with the appropriate tone for your audience. You may need to get technical for more complex topics, but you also want to be relatable.
- Remember that your goal is to inspire action in your reader, whether that action is purchasing your product or service or following your business on social media. Guide your reader towards that action with your whitepaper.
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