The DNA of a successful white paper

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When you think of an engaging white paper, what comes to mind? Facts and data, right? After all, the whole purpose of a white paper is to advocate that a certain solution is best for a specific problem. In that sense, a good white paper is research-driven, showcasing exactly how a solution can be achieved.

However, there’s more to white papers than simply facts and figures.

When creating a white paper people actually want to read, you need to think about the big picture–and that big picture revolves around great design. Notorious American businessman Thomas Watson said it best: “Great design will not sell an inferior product, but it will enable a great product to achieve its maximum potential.”

Needless to say, a successful white paper will have the full package. Let’s explore the DNA of a white paper that’s sure to convert.

What exactly are white papers and why do they matter?

While the definition varies slightly depending on the source, a white paper is an informational document a company or organization uses to highlight a solution, service, or product.

A beneficial component of any content marketing strategy, white papers are a great way to educate your audience–especially when it comes to advanced problem-solving. Your ultimate goal should be to persuade your audience based on key facts and evidence.

After all, a white paper can help you:

  • Expand your overall brand presence
  • Establish your brand/company as a leader in your industry
  • Build trust and in turn, a more loyal audience
  • Increase engagement rates and generate leads
  • Generate more inbound links from credible sources, supporting your ranking

However, it’s not enough to just create a white paper–after all, 71% of B2B buyers used white papers over the past 12 months to research and drive purchasing decisions. You need to craft your document strategically–you need a well-written and well-designed white paper.

How do you create a white paper that’s worth reading?

Technically speaking, there are no minimum requirements when it comes to white papers. With that said, there are things you’ll want to consider when aiming to stand out above the crowd.

Crafting the perfect white paper involves a rather comprehensive process made up of three core stages: a research and development stage, a content creation stage, and a design stage.

Here are some basic guidelines to follow throughout:

  • Be sure to consider your buyer persona. Who is your audience and what problem(s) are they facing?
  • Back up your white paper with solid stats and data. You’ll need to do your research–including scoping out white papers published by your competitors to better understand what works and what doesn’t work for your target audience.
  • Be discrete in terms of what you’re offering your audience. Do not directly mention your products or services–remember, the purpose of your white paper is to offer value and assistance without overselling.
  • Keep the language simple and structure your white paper in a way that drives engagement. While your white paper should be packed with useful information, keep paragraphs short so that the overall read is pleasing on the eyes.

Don’t underestimate the importance of good design

While it’s true that those interested in what you have to say will most certainly read the content of your white paper, the design is what people really gravitate toward. It is also what forms a reader’s first impression–which is critical, especially when time is of the essence. Some studies show that you have as little as 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!

So while it may be tempting to include every single chart, graph and statistic you can find, remember the old adage: less is more. If you overcrowd your white paper, the result can be detrimental. Keep your white paper easy to read, strategically structuring your text and columns.

In addition, use design elements to draw the viewers eyes to where you want them to go, highlighting the most important pieces of information. Focus on just a few colors, images and interesting typography that really pops. Need a good example? Check out Transporeon’s white paper here.

Great design is great complexity presented via simplicity.

M. Cobanli

Keep in mind that if your white paper is not well-designed, it can seem very dry and boring–which can negatively reflect on who you are as a brand.

This is where utilizing a designer can make all the difference. Even if your budget is too tight to involve a designer from the beginning stages of creation, you can present your white paper to one in order to re-work problem areas. This can make a massive difference and support your ROI.

So, you have the idea for a white paper… now what?

Here are some great resources to support you on your journey:

Need help with content, design or both? You’ve come to the right place.

SketchDeck has created over 20,000 designs and is trusted by companies both big and small. From Salesforce and Dropbox to small startups, we work with clients to provide content and design solutions that fit their unique needs and budget.

At SketchDeck, we will take the guesswork out of your next white paper design, ensuring a finished product that you, and more importantly your audience, love!

Ready to get started? It’s simple–just set up a call or start your project here!

Krista H

Krista H

Redefine what's possible with SketchDeck.

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