How to use copywriting and graphic design to create the perfect white paper?
Companies working in predominantly B2B industries will be no stranger to working with different digital marketing strategies. In these sectors, with this audience, it’s crucial to build a different kind of brand than you would in a B2C context.
The sales funnel itself is entirely different. For B2B customers, it’s a longer process, with a very different potential customer life cycle. Conversions can be more difficult to achieve but tend to hold a higher value. In B2B sectors, your client is likely already aware of what they want or need from a company. Your digital marketing strategy is often more about proving why you’re the right people for the job. You’ve got to establish your credibility and stand out in a potentially competitive industry.
When it comes to content marketing, a different approach is necessary. You need to think about long-form content. In particular, you need to think about creating a whitepaper.
Why create a whitepaper?
Becoming a thought leader is an important way to excel in your industry, proving competence, credibility and becoming a more reputable and recognised brand. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to open up meaningful conversations and grow progress within your sector.
Demonstrating thought leadership not only establishes your credibility, but it can be a fantastic way to generate meaningful new leads, which can result in successful conversions. While it is not and never should be a marketing brochure, a carefully crafted and well-designed whitepaper can simultaneously promote your branding in an effective way that doesn’t rely on a sales pitch.
How to create a whitepaper
A captivating whitepaper will rely on two main components, the copywriting and the design. The content might be more obvious; this kind of long form copy needs to be purposeful, compelling, and worth reading, without fluff or waffle. But big, uninviting blocks of text rarely capture their readers. A good whitepaper will balance thorough copy and important data with an appropriate layout and eye-catching graphic tools.
We’ll start with the written side of things. Writing a whitepaper can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re not familiar with long form content. This means that writing one with no real purpose is going to be a lot of stress with little payoff.
Don’t write a whitepaper for the sake of writing a whitepaper. A whitepaper should look to offer a solution to a common problem in your sector, or tackle a particular industry pain point. It should offer a new, refreshing angle, and more importantly, be backed up by reliable data and evidence. It should be research-led, with citations throughout from trustworthy sources, and it should fill in the gaps of existing content within your sector.
In turn, this means your copy needs to be thorough and in-depth while remaining free from fluff or waffle. You should be answering questions and opening a discussion. The title is important here; you should aim to draw in readers and encourage downloads and sign-ups with something topical, relevant, and interest-inspiring.
Which leads us to the tone of voice. You’re presenting yourself as a thought leader, so you must write with authority and expertise. But it should also be provocative, written in a way that feels worth following. Writing conversationally is also a great way to keep your readers engaged. You should seek to captivate your audience, encouraging them not only to read on and discover your conclusion but to take action afterwards.
Your whitepaper should, therefore, reach a distinctive conclusion that offers a relevant, practical solution to that pain point. By asserting yourself correctly, they may even look to you for that solution. This is an opportunity to close new business.
Tips on writing long form content
The point of a whitepaper is to explore, in-depth, an industry problem or question and build a viable solution or answer, one too large to explore in an ordinary blog, article, or case study. This means it’s a fairly hefty piece of copy. If it’s your first time writing long form content, it’s important to get to grips with how to do this effectively.
The first step is planning. A whitepaper should be research-led. You are bound to have a lot of data or findings to share, and it’s important that your exploration of this data is well-organised and makes sense to the reader. Even if you’re not the type to typically plan out your copywriting projects, doing so will really benefit you when you’re attempting long form content.
Separate the different points of your argument into sections that make logical sense, allowing you to re-reference different segments or data seamlessly throughout the paper. Make use of paragraphs; big blocks of text can be difficult to follow, and they also allow you to keep your writing concise before you begin to move your argument onto a different section.
Your whitepaper should flow well, and the way you present the structure of your argument should make sense to the reader. Much like a story, it should have a beginning (an engaging introduction), a middle (an analysis of the data and the main element of your argument), and an ending that pulls the two together with a decisive conclusion and a call-to-action. Never cut corners when it comes to editing. Proofread yourself, and ask colleagues to do so too, to get different perspectives on not only the copy itself, but the flow, structure, and readability of your whitepaper.
Keeping readers engaged is important, and it’s never been more difficult. On a universal level, there have never been so many distractions ready to interrupt your readers, so you need to keep them focused with content that is easy to read, and data that is easy to digest. This is where design comes in.
Design is vital for readability. From choosing an appropriate font and size, to ensuring your paragraphs and headings are placed in complementary positions, graphic design will transform your whitepaper from an essay into an engaging piece of content.
It’s also a useful way to translate complex data and statistics into easily digestible, user-friendly information in the form of graphs or infographics, to capture your reader’s attention and support your copy. Think carefully about the design and layout of your whitepaper, and how you can flag key details or sections to your audience - especially skim readers, who are inevitably bound to make up a proportion of that, irrespective of the content itself.
To reiterate an earlier point, whitepapers are not marketing brochures. And they shouldn’t be approached as such. You will absolutely compromise your credibility by turning an exercise in thought leadership into a sales pitch, and your potential clients aren’t reading whitepapers in order to be overtly sold or marketed to.
But a successful, carefully crafted whitepaper can accomplish its purpose whilst simultaneously promoting your services and your expertise. One of the best ways to do this is through your branding. Branding is extremely important for your business and should be reflected through all of your materials, including whitepapers. Designers can utilise your branding within the look of the whitepaper itself, in the font, colour scheme, even in the style in which data is relayed via graphs, infographics and more.
Distinctive branding makes your business stand out, and it makes you memorable. At the end of your whitepaper, you’ll need a call-to-action, but you’ll also need to encourage contact from prospective leads. Some of these will be immediate, with potential clients making an instant note of your contact numbers, email addresses, or social profiles. Others won’t be, but they may well keep you in mind - and your branding will help them to recognise and remember you later... when they’re just at the right stage of the sales funnel.