6 keys to writing a white paper that generates leads

One of the most commonly used tools in the content marketer’s arsenal is the white paper.

This powerful piece of content can be a lead-generating magnet if you do it right. Here are some tips for creating a white paper that attracts leads:

“This powerful piece of content can be a lead-generating magnet if you do it right.”

Generate sufficient demand before you turn to lead generation
It’s important to know the distinction between content created for lead generation and content that drums up demand for your products and services. The content you create to widen your audience and keep existing fans interested – blog posts, videos, infographics, social media posts – is what we know as demand generation. It makes people aware of you and primes them to want more.

That’s where lead generation comes in. At some point, you need to see who’s truly interested into you – the ones who will willingly give you their contact information and become a sales lead. But in many cases, they’re not going to just give up their email addresses or phone numbers. You need to continue to add value to their lives.

Your white paper can do just that. As an in-depth, rich piece of content, a white paper will be a major value-add for your audience.  But you need to build that audience first. It’s not worth putting your time, money and energy into a white paper if you don’t have anyone interested in you yet.

Know exactly what your potential customers want to read
Before you start writing your white paper, you need to take the time to figure out what your potential leads want to read. A common mistake that a lot of businesses make here is releasing a white paper based on what they think is important, rather than what the audience wants to read.

Use social listening, or even directly ask your audience what they want to know more about. What burning questions do they have that you would be well-positioned to answer? By delivering content that soothes their pain points or clarifies a confusing topic, you’ll position yourself as an expert while giving people a good reason to give you their contact information in exchange for the critical information.


This is just as much for your own benefit as it is your audience’s. A good white paper needs to be meticulously researched and written, with reliable sources and experts cited throughout. This can take weeks, if not months before you have something you can put out to the world. If you haven’t clearly defined what it is you’re writing about, you’re going to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels as you try to figure out what’s important and what’s not. A clear thesis makes the whole thing much more straightforward.

Keep the scope limited
A good white paper should be an inch wide and a mile deep. It’s a piece that gets really into one specific topic and fleshes out the fine-grained points far more than an average blog post or video. Don’t try to answer every possible question your audience might have. Just like in the last tip, figure out what’s most pertinent to your audience and stay focused on it. Remember: You’re talking to a very specific target audience. Everything you put in your white paper, from the title to the content, should be for them.

Leave the sales language out
A good white paper is educational and informative. Its sole purpose is to add value to your most interested leads’ lives and display your expertise at the same time. For this reason, it’s a more indirect way of selling. Use your white paper to give your readers information that will help them make decisions.

Remember: These are fresh leads. They still need to work their way further down the sales funnel before you start coming in with language that directly tries to sell them something.

Make it professionally written, edited and formatted
In return for giving you their contact information, your prospects are expecting something informative and useful. But they also expect it to be professionally done.

If you don’t have the capacity to produce a great white paper yourself, it’s worth working with a freelancer or content agency to help you put out the best possible paper. You supply the expertise, they supply the high-level writing, editing and formatting the project deserves.

Promote, promote, promote
Once you’ve finished your white paper, promote it everywhere. Social channels, blog posts, affiliate networks, your employees’ email signatures – anywhere it’s going to be seen by potential leads. Repurpose some of the white paper’s content for these purposes. For example, you could write a tweet that highlights a key statistic in the paper. Or you could allude to some of the points you made in the paper in one of your blog posts. Don’t give away everything though – you still want people to have to download the real thing to get to the good stuff.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.