You’ve heard about the benefits of blogging for content marketing. And you know about the value of incorporating video and image-based content into your content marketing plan. But what about content marketing white papers?
Admittedly, white papers aren’t a good fit for every brand. It’s difficult to imagine a fashion or beauty brand winning new customers with a content marketing white paper. But, for the right company, persuasive content marketing white papers can convert leads to potential customers.
Hubspot describes content marketing white papers as a report that outlines a problem, then details a solution to that problem. White papers start by taking a particular stance or viewpoint. Then they go about convincing the person reading them that a particular viewpoint is the right one.
People often associate white papers with marketing and content marketing. But, Purdue OWL notes that white papers were originally government reports. Since white papers have a long history of being connected to politics and government. They also have a reputation for being authoritative and informational.
Content marketing white papers have a very different tone and voice compared to what you’d use in a blog post. While blog posts are meant to be friendly and conversational, a white paper will tend to be more formal.
White papers also tend to be much longer than your typical blog post or online article. There is indeed some debate about the proper length of a content marketing white paper. But, Hubspot argues that a white paper shouldn’t be any shorter than six pages.
Finally, a white paper should have a concrete, defendable argument and point of view. But, it shouldn’t try to sell.
What Brands Use White Papers?
That’s not to say that B2C brands aren’t using white papers —it’s just much less common. According to the Content Marketing Institute‘s 2018 B2C Content Marketing Trends report, 35 percent of B2C respondents use white papers.
Meanwhile, according to the 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends report, 71 percent of B2B respondents use content marketing white papers. In fact, among B2B marketers, white papers are the fourth most popular type of content.
Benefits of Content Marketing White Papers
For the right company, content marketing white papers offer several benefits. The Content Marketing Institute found more than 60 percent of B2B respondents see white papers as their most successful content.
Another major benefit of white papers for brands is that they can help to establish a company as an authority on a topic. Perhaps your brand wants to be seen as a thought leader or knowledge leader on subject A. Producing an in-depth, highly researched white paper on the subject will help to set you apart and elevate your brand’s authority in the eyes of your customer base.
Yet another benefit of white papers is that they allow you to display original thought. There’s a lot of content out there, and a lot of it is simply the same thing said over and over. Presenting a problem, then outlining a clear solution to that particular problem (ideally a solution no one has come up with before) will help set your brand apart in a crowded field.
There are a few things to remember if your brand is going to produce white papers.
First, they are different in form and style from other types of written content. While you want to use short paragraphs and lots of subheadings and bullet points with a blog post, that won’t fly with a white paper.
Instead, think back to the papers you wrote in college. That’s the style you want to emulate, since, in their own way, white papers are a type of academic paper.
You also want to go in depth with the research when you’re writing a white paper. You might not have to conduct your own research, but rest assured that getting the facts and figures you need to produce an accurate and in-depth paper will require a bit more than a Google search.
While a white paper is likely to be dense, research-heavy, and bursting with information, it doesn’t have to be dull or boring. You do want to keep the tone and style formal and professional, but you are free to do what you can to make the information leap off the page.
At the end of the day, a successful content marketing white paper gently nudges a reader towards your brand. It does so by giving him or her the information he or she seeks, and by planting the seed of an idea in the mind of the reader. You might not land a direct sale after a white paper. But you’re likely to get a lead. And, you’re likely to get someone new interested in your brand.