Have you ever read a boring white paper?
Let’s be honest: White papers can be downright dull and a chore to get through. I’ve come across a few white papers that could even cure insomnia.
But white papers aren’t supposed to be boring. They should be exciting, persuasive, and in-demand. After all, in a business setting, they’re used for marketing purposes.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to write a white paper for your SaaS that engages, convinces, and converts your target audience. Let’s get started.
What’s the Point of a White Paper?
Before we dive into the do’s and don’ts of white papers, let’s define exactly what it is.
Many marketers are confused about the purpose of white papers, so let’s break it down. A white paper is an in-depth research report. In this report, you’ll highlight a specific problem in detail. Then, you’ll use cold, hard data to point to the problem’s solution— i.e. your product.
The ultimate goal of any white paper is to educate the reader. However, you gain a lot, too. Some of the benefits of publishing a white paper include:
- Building your reputation – By sharing your views on a particular problem in your industry, you can become a thought leader.
- Generating new leads – Your white paper can raise awareness for your SaaS. People who’ve never heard of your solutions can find out about you by reading your white paper.
- Demonstrating your value – A white paper is your chance to establish trust with your prospective customers. By offering your high-quality, thoroughly researched report, you prove yourself to be a valuable resource to the reader.
- Building your email list – Most white papers are offered as a lead magnet in exchange for email addresses. You can use your white paper to build a list of prospective customers from your product.
Now that we’ve looked at all of the benefits of publishing a white paper, let’s discuss the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
Do Choose the Right Goal
Before creating a white paper, you need to set a goal. To figure out your goal, answer this question: What are you hoping to achieve with your white paper?
For example, you may wish to establish yourself as an industry expert. Or you may want to build an email list of prospective customers that you can nurture. Or perhaps you’d like to convert the leads that are already on your email list into customers.
Choose one goal and then write your white paper in accordance with that goal.
Why only one goal? Two words: Your audience. If you have multiple goals, it’s difficult to pin down your audience. And before you write a white paper, you definitely need to have one target reader in mind. This allows you to tailor the content for that reader. Otherwise, your white paper will be an unenjoyable and uneven read.
Think about it: Is it possible, in the same white paper, to write to fellow experienced peers in the industry as well as prospective customers who are just becoming aware of the problem? Not likely. That’s because you’ll need to simplify a complicated issue for prospective customers while not dumbing it down for readers who already know the basics.
This is why it’s important to focus on one goal and one audience. Don’t worry. You can always write another white paper to reach another audience.
Do Choose Your Topic Carefully
Now that you know who you’re writing to, it’s essential that you choose a topic that will resonate with that audience.
What does your target audience want to know more about? Consider common pain points, especially if writing to prospective customers. What do they know about the problem? What do they need to know about it? Make a list.
What topics are you an expert on? You won’t be able to write a persuasive white paper if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Only focus on topics that you know through and through. Bonus points for topics that directly point back to your products/services. Make a list.
Now, compare those two lists. Which topics overlap? That’s where you should begin.
After coming up with between 5-10 topics, research to find out if these topics are in-demand. Survey your email list subscribers. Search for the topic on Google. Look for threads on Quora. Find out what your target audience is saying about the topic on social media.
Also, don’t attempt to cover too much in one white paper. Your report should be a thorough write-up, so you need to zoom in on a specific problem, or maybe even one aspect of a larger problem.
For example, a white paper can discuss failed payments for an entire industry, or it could zoom in on the role that SMS messages play in preventing churn for freelancers. Depending on your audience, you may have a bigger impact if you narrow your approach. Think about what your target audience wants to read and deliver that topic.
Don’t Create an Obvious Ad for Your Business
Yes, a SaaS white paper is almost always used for marketing purposes. Whether you’re trying to market your SaaS or push yourself out there as an expert in your field, your white paper will be self-promotional. However, your white paper should never read like a blatant ad.
How do you avoid this?
You must use facts, figures, and independent data to support every claim in your white paper. You can’t simply say, “We’re the best solution” and then drop the mic. Why are you the best solution? Who else (that’s not on your payroll) says it? Do you have indisputable data from reputable sources to back up your opinions? If not, you have a blog post or ebook— you don’t have a white paper.
White papers are held to a higher standard than your average, opinion-filled ebook. While your white paper’s goal may be to generate leads or convert leads into customers, you can’t turn it into a self-promotional piece. You must give the reader factual information that quietly convinces them of the superiority of your product or position.
Don’t Forget to Outline
Don’t try to write a white paper without an outline. Starting out with an outline will help you organize your thoughts so that your white paper covers everything that you’d like to discuss. Without an outline, it’s possible to forget key issues.
Plus, your outline can also help you quickly create a table of contents when it’s time to publish.
Most white papers follow a similar template:
Title or headline – A punchy, benefits-led statement that draws your reader in. Create two unique titles so that you can A/B test them to find which one performs the best.
An executive summary – This portion of your white paper should give an overview of your content. It should persuade your audience to read the paper by raising questions without giving away all of the answers.
Introduction – In this section, you’ll introduce the problem and explain why the reader needs a solution. You’ll paint a grim picture of what happens if the reader doesn’t pursue a solution. You’ll also set expectations of what the reader can expect in the rest of the paper.
Sub-sections – Your white paper will then be divided into sections that tackle the problem.
Sidebars – These are smaller sections of text that are embedded in your sub-sections and contain additional information that the reader needs to know.
Conclusion – In this section, you’ll summarize your white paper and share key takeaways that your reader needs to remember.
White papers can boost your credibility, build your authority, and generate leads. However, white papers can also be boring and unfocused if you’re not careful. Use the above tips to create a white paper that attracts and persuades your target audience.
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