Five tips for creating whitepapers that convert
Using long-form content to fuel your content marketing outputs
When was the last time you sat down and wrote 10,000 words? Probably at 2am in your university library the night before a deadline. And if you’re anything like us, you were probably glad when it was all over.
But in today’s world, long-form content is essential to a sustainable content marketing strategy, and whitepapers are a brilliant place to start.
Writing a lengthy, insightful document that’s relevant to your customers and your business is tough, and it’s something a lot of businesses put off in favour of more reactive content marketing, but believe us, it’s a false economy.
Creating an intelligent, ownable, chunky piece of content could fuel your wider content strategy for months in advance and free your marketing team up to focus on other important jobs while your big campaign looks after itself.
Here are the clever comms co’s top tips for writing a whitepaper that converts to sales.
1. Tell a cracking story to human beings
Like any marketing output, you have to think audience first. Of course, you’ve got an agenda, but no-one’s going to engage with content that feels like a blatant sales pitch.
Start by looking at your key prospects and build a profile of them – their interests, their need state, their place in the decision-making chain. Then look at where they hang out – social channels, industry publications, events. What do they want to read about and where?
But don’t just think about them as customers, think about them as human beings. There’s a real danger, particularly in B2B marketing, to create marketing comms based purely on who your customers are as business people. But they’ve got a life outside of the office, so think what they might consume outside of work, and draw some inspiration from those sources too.
2. Stay focused on the bigger picture
All content marketing outputs should feed in to your wider marketing strategy, which should be generated by your business strategy. All content outputs, from blogs, to event presentations to social media posts, should flow naturally from this great big pot of insightful content you’ve created, so the more relevant your topic is to your customers, the more likely they are to engage with you on a day to day basis.
So, while you might have a burning desire to write about your own personal favourite topic, if it doesn’t feed in to your broader business objectives, it can wait. Of course, there’s no harm in creating the occasional piece of ad hoc content but try to focus your attention on a couple of strategic topics to begin with so you’re not spreading yourself too thin.
It’s also much easier to justify your outputs to your boss if they can see how your marketing materials are supporting the big business goal.
3. Have an opinion
There’s so much bland content available that doesn’t draw conclusions or offer advice – it’s just there for SEO purposes which, in our opinion, is a very cynical approach. Of course, whitepapers are great for SEO – especially if you’re using the content to fuel your comms across multiple channels – but that shouldn’t be your main objective. They’re a place to share your brand personality, showcase your expertise and, most importantly, open the door to valuable conversations with the people you want to talk to most.
Obviously, you don’t want to alienate your biggest client or turn off key prospects, but you don’t have to be controversial to be memorable. Add value, showcase your expertise and create a hook that your audience will remember.
You’ll need to be selective with your content too. It can be really easy, when you’re trying to generate 10,000 words of copy, to add in every piece of research, fact and figure you can find on your chosen topic, just to make it to the wordcount. But just because it’s available, doesn’t mean it’s right for your paper. Before you include any information, ask ‘so what?’ – maybe even write it on a sticky note on your desk. You’ll soon find it easier to weed out what’s genuinely important and what’s just filler.
4. Don’t do it alone
Whitepapers are fuelled by external references, but there are lots of ways to source insight and ownable data before you put pen to paper. Starting to discuss your key topic before you start to create the whitepaper can also generate content you can share in the run up to publication, acting as a teaser campaign on what’s to come, while also opening conversations with customers, existing and new.
If you’ve got relationships with relevant industry experts, thought-leaders and academics, see if they can contribute to add weight to your whitepaper. Using external experts also means you can leverage their networks to help your content spread further too.
Use Twitter polls to gather original data on key topics and share the results in the whitepaper
Hold workshops and focus groups with your staff or willing customers to get original quantitative and qualitative data
Speak to clients / friendly external experts who already have relevant research or insight and use and who are willing to co-author your paper
5. When you’re sick of it, keep going
You’ve spent hundreds of hours poring over your masterpiece, planning your blog posts and social content and sharing it with every man and his dog. Be honest – are you a little fed up of talking about it? Sorry, but you probably haven’t done enough yet. When you’re all-consumed by something it can feel like you’ve flogged it to death, but your audience don’t feel the same way. It’s probably only when you’re sick to the back teeth of hearing about it that it’s starting to sink in with them.
So, keep sharing across different channels for as long as you can, repurposing and rejigging content. Keep an eye on what’s getting good engagement and don’t be afraid to reshare if people reacted positively to it. Those who’ve already seen it will keep scrolling, but you might just catch those you missed first time round.
Want help creating a whitepaper but don’t know where to start? Drop us a line at or call 07852 371075 to discuss how we can help.
We got some great results from one of our latest whitepapers: