This guest post is by Mitt Ray of The White Paper Blog.
With the rise in inbound marketing, more and more blogs are using white papers to promote themselves effectively. Blogs can use white papers as part of their marketing campaigns to spread expertise, generate leads, get more subscribers, and to take advantage of many other benefits. If you’re keen on learning how to write effective white papers and then use them to promote your blog, then you have to read this post!
What is a white paper?
A white paper is a cross between a magazine article and a brochure. It possesses both the educational qualities of a magazine article and the persuasive qualities of a corporate brochure. This combination of education and persuasion makes it one of the most powerful marketing tools.
How do white papers differ from guides and reports?
Guides and reports are helpful documents that usually dwell into the solution right away. There’s a brief paragraph or two as to why the guide is helpful and why they need to read the guide, and then the helpful information starts.
A white paper, on the other hand, dwells into the problems first. A white paper usually starts with a headline and an introduction which explains what the white paper is about, and how it’s going to help the reader. Then there’s a detailed description of the problems faced by the reader. The white paper goes into detail about every problem faced by the reader and how it affects them and their business. After making the problems clear, the white paper discusses the appropriate solutions in details.
This is the main difference between a white paper and a guide—a white paper dwells on the problems before providing the solution. One more difference is that the white paper has a persuasive brochure at the end which usually sells a service or product relevant to the solution in the white paper. This can play an important lead generation. Another important point to keep in mind is that white papers can be scientific with a lot of references.
When should you use a white paper and not a guide?
As I mentioned above, a white paper can be a fantastic tool to promote your blog, but you can’t always use it. If you want to use a white paper to promote your blog, you need to make sure that a white paper would suit your blog topic, your audience, etc. A white paper might be a fantastic marketing tool for some blogs, but it might not be for others.
For example, I have two blogs on marketing: one of them is on white papers, and the other’s on social media and inbound marketing. On my white paper blog I give away the free white paper on how to write white papers. This works because people who visit my website are people looking to learn more about white papers and how to write them—therefore a white paper on how to write white paper acts as a helpful document and sample, and this helps promote my blog.
When I first started my other blog on social media and inbound marketing, I offered the free white paper “How to get started with inbound marketing.” This white paper explained the problems with outdated marketing methods, how inbound marketing works, and how to get started with it. This white paper did well, as I was able to display the problems and solutions clearly and white papers do play a role in inbound marketing.
Recently, though, I took that off the site and replaced it with a guide on how to get started with Pinterest. I could have written a white paper on it, but I decided to use a guide as a white paper on Pinterest would have been redundant. If I wrote a white paper on how to use Pinterest, I’d need to talk about the problems with other social media and image-sharing sites and I didn’t feel that this would be appropriate. Also, I wanted to make a free guide which doesn’t have any marketing messages or information about any of my services. This is why I decided to write a guide instead of a white paper.
If you want to write a white paper for your blog or to promote your business you need to be clear about your aims, your audience, your topic, etc. and then decide if it would be better off to use a white paper or to stick with a guide. Normally it’s best to use a white paper if you’re providing a service or product in the B2B sector. Sometimes white papers might not work in the B2C sector; the best thing to do in those cases is to use a guide instead.
How can blogs use white papers?
Whether your blog is part of a business, or whether it’s a standalone blog, there are plenty of ways you can use a white paper to promote your blog or your business. Here are a few ideas.
How can an independent blog and a blog that is part of a company use white papers?
The different ways in which standalone blogs, and blogs that are part of businesses, can use white papers include:
- Get more subscribers: One of the best ways to get many people to sign up to your newsletter is by offering a free white paper in exchange for the signup. When you let people know that they get a free white paper in exchange for their email addresses they will readily give you their names and email addresses. For this to work well you need to make sure the white paper you give away is in relation to the topic you blog on.
- Rejuvenate old blog posts: If you are disappointed with the amount of traffic your old posts are receiving, then the best thing to do is to convert them into a white paper. You could select some of the best posts which did well in the past and combine them together to create a powerful white paper. This way you will be happy with the extra recognition some of your hard work is receiving, and your reader will be happy with the quality content you provide.
- Increase blog traffic: A white paper can also be used to increase blog traffic. Your white paper doesn’t just have to contain content and pictures—it can also contain links to blog posts on your website. For example, if you need to define a term or explain something clearly, you can just add a link to the blog post from your white paper, instead of adding heaps and heaps of secondary content to the white paper itself.
- Attract backlinks: A well-written white paper can be fantastic link bait. If your white paper is written really well, and is unique and contains lot of fantastic tips, people will want to link to it. If someone’s writing a tip on SEO and they feel that your white paper is the best resource for more information on a particular tip, they will want to link to it. This can help you get a ton of backlinks which can, of course, help improve your website’s search engine rankings.
How can blogs that are part of a business use white papers?
Below is a list of the benefits of white papers to blogs that are part of a business. These advantages usually don’t apply to independent blogs:
- Spread expertise: If your white paper is filled with amazing tips which can help readers run their businesses better, it can help you or your company gain recognition and authority as an expert in te field. And what’s the advantage of being “the expert”? Everybody wants to work with the expert!
- Generate leads: As mentioned above, white papers can be used to generate leads for a service. After reading your white paper, people have two choices: they can either try out the tips you have provided by themselves, or they can hire the expert who has provided these tips. It’s more likely that they are going to hire the expert, as people prefer to work with someone experienced who has produced results, instead of taking a chance themselves. This is exactly what your white paper proves. In this way, it can increase your chances of landing the job.
- Sell products: White papers can be used not only to sell a service, but also to sell products. At the end of your white paper in the brochure section, you can let people know about your product, explaining how it provides the solution you’ve described in the white paper. This can really help to increase the sales of your products. White papers are commonly used to sell expensive products.
How to create white papers from your blog posts
You can either create white papers from scratch, or from your blog posts. Given that we’re all bloggers, I’m going to teach you how to create white papers from blogs post. If you would like to learn how to create white papers from scratch, read my white paper on How to Write White a Paper!
Contents of a white paper
A white paper usually consists of:
- an introduction
- a statement of the problem
- an explanation of the best solutions
- a “brochure” section that explains your offering.
If your blog has been around for a while, you can probably get all the above required information for a white paper from your blog posts. In fact, you can take any solution-focused blog post and use it to build a white paper.
A blog post usually consists of a headline, followed by the introduction where you briefly write about a problem. Next comes the main part of the post, where you write the solutions to the problem in detail. As you can see, it’s pretty easy to either repurpose blog posts, or use them as the basis, to create your white paper.
Creating the white paper
As I mentioned earlier, white papers usually detail problems, then follow up with solutions to these problems. So let’s start off by taking all the blog posts you plan to include in your white paper. Make sure all these posts are on the same subject or belong to the same niche.
1. Write down the problems
Write down a list of all the problems from the blog posts you have amassed. After you have written them down, go through them thoroughly.
Now, write down a brief introduction to the Problems section of the white paper. This needs to be written briefly, based on all the problems you listed.
After you finish writing this introduction, you can start listing out each of the problems and describe them in detail. Make sure you expand on those few lines you wrote earlier. You want each problem’s description to be between 100 and 400 words long.
After you have listed all the problems, write down a brief conclusion which tells the reader that the problems stated can be solved with simple solutions. This conclusion should lead the reader into the Solutions section of the white paper.
2. Write down the solutions
For the Solutions section of the white paper, you can use the same solutions you provided in your blog posts. You might need to modify it a bit to suit the white paper and the detailed problems you just wrote.
First, start off by writing a headline and brief introduction to the Solutions section. Here, write about all the solutions you plan to discuss, and how they can help solve the problems you’ve already covered.
After that introduction, list the solutions one by one and copy in the content from your blog posts, modifying the content so that it reads well in sequence and so that the problems and solutions match each other perfectly. This will improve the flow of the white paper and make it easy to read.
3. Write a conclusion
At the end of the Solutions section, write down your conclusion. The Conclusion should lead the reader into the brochure section of the white paper. You need to let the reader know that the tips you have provided in the white paper do work, and if they would like to try out a product or service that provides the same solution they should keep reading…
4. Create the brochure section
After the Conclusion, it’s time to create the brochure section of the white paper. Here, you can just give a brief outline of your blog or business, and then follow it with the benefits of your product or service. At the end, don’t forget to include a linked call to action which asks the reader to contact you to find out more about your product or service.
5. Write the Introduction and headline
After you finish writing the Problems, Solutions, and Brochure sections of the white paper, go back to the beginning and write the headline, sub-headline, and the introduction. I like to leave this task till last, because by the end of the writing, I know exactly what’s in my white paper and how I’ve pitched the problems and solutions. Writing the Intro and headline last means I can make sure that they pre-empt the content of the white paper very well.
First write an attention-grabbing headline and sub-headline that will convince the reader to read the rest of the white paper.
For the introduction, all you need to do is sum up the contents of the white paper in around 300 to 500 words. Here, just outline some of the contents of the white paper. Let the reader know what the white paper is about, mention some of the important problems and solutions that are discussed here, and highlight how they will find the information helpful.
Think of the introduction as a mini-white paper, or a teaser. Don’t give away too much information in the introduction, as you still want the reader to read the rest of the white paper and find out more about what it contains by themselves.
6. Check the flow
After you finish writing the entire white paper, read it several times to make sure all the contents of the white paper complement each other and fit in well together. This will improve the flow of your white paper and make it easy to read.
If you follow this process you should be able to create a powerful white paper from your blog posts. You can then use this white paper to take advantage of all the benefits mentioned above.
Have you ever created a white paper from your blog posts? Have you got any other tips you would like to share with us? Please share your comments with us below.
Mitt Ray blogs about white papers on “The White Paper Blog,” where you can download his free white paper on “How to Write a White Paper.” He is the Founder of Social Marketing Writing and the Director of imittcopy. He is also the author of the book White Paper Marketing. You can follow him on @MittRay.