How to Write a White Paper in 10 Steps ( Tips & Templates)

You made it—you’re ready to research, plan, write, design, and promote an exceptional white paper. Follow this process to build a piece of content that will serve your marketing and business goals for many months and years to come. Don’t skip the promotion and repurposing efforts to make your work go a long way.

White paper format and design

Table of Contents

For example, you can use a white paper to share marketing statistics, compare different campaigns, present a complex analysis of an industry trend, or share an in-depth explanation of a specific process carried out by a team or company.

How is a White Paper Different From an eBook?

In many cases, you might find that the terms ‘white paper’ and ‘eBook’ are used interchangeably. However, there are a few differences between the two, and it’s important to know which one is best for your needs.

eBooks are electronic books that usually provide a general overview of a topic. They are more conversational in nature, and are normally directed at non-expert audiences who are new to a particular topic.

White papers, on the other hand, are targeted at more expert audiences who are already familiar with a topic and want to learn more about a particular aspect of it, such as a detailed analysis of a specific strategy. White papers are more factual, professional and research-based.

What is a white paper?

In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content, similar to an eBook. The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data.

Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.

Who uses white papers?

In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.

With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.

White paper content marketing cartoon

Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.

Types of white papers

Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.

Whatever type you produce, the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for information, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.

The purpose of a white paper

White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you’re reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for information to help them understand a problem or opportunity they’re facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they’ll turn to you again in the future.

This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.

Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation. The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks, case studies, analyst reports, podcasts, or infographics.

White paper examples

White paper example - CodinGame

What Developers Want – CodinGame

This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what’s possible with our embed feature.

White paper example - BDO GDPR

This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that’s engaging and comes to life.

White paper example - content-marketing-strategy

Building and Applying a Content Marketing Strategy – Foleon

Designing Your White Paper

Step 1: Create the cover page

Your white paper’s cover page can be as simple as the one we’ve given you in the white paper template: But you can also work with your designer to build a version with brand colors or custom illustrations. Another option is using a tool like Venngage, which gives you ready-to-use white paper designs. You can pick a template that matches your white paper type and customize your colors and visuals:

Step 2: Design any necessary inline graphics

If you have the graphic design skills, build your own charts and graphs. Tools like Canva make this quite easy, especially with templates like those for infographics. If you have the option to work with a designer, here’s a simple template you can use to brief them on images you’d like to add to your white paper. GRAPHIC HEADLINE: [Include a brief header or title for your graphic] GRAPHIC COPY: [Include descriptive copy] GRAPHIC DATA: [Include statistics, numbers, percentages, metrics, and so forth] GRAPHIC NOTES: [Include other thoughts or image direction for your designer] That should be enough to give your designer an idea of what to create.

Step 3: Structure white paper in correct column layout

Your white paper might work perfectly in a single-column layout, but if it’s particularly long, you might want to consider a two- or three-column layout. Here’s what a three-column layout looks like in The state of content (mis)management white paper: If you have a designer in charge of visuals, let them know about your layout decision. And if you’re working from our template, work from the Layout tab to set up your columns:

Promoting Your White Paper

Step 1: Add it to a resource or white paper hub page

Make your white paper easy to access for your site visitors. This might be on a dedicated content hub, like a resources page or a white paper hub page. Here’s an example from Mitek: If you don’t have a dedicated resources page, we recommend building one once you have more than a couple of white papers or ebooks. If this is your first white paper, though, you can announce it to your blog readers with a blog post that announces and briefly summarizes the white paper, then links to it. It’s exactly what Vox Media did with this blog post.

Step 2: Let sales and support know it exists so they can share it with prospects and customers

White papers can be great tools, not just as a marketing asset, but also in the sales and retention stages of your customer journey. Reach out to both your sales and customer support teams and share your white paper with them. Give them a brief overview—one or two paragraphs—on what it’s about and the pain points it addresses. For sales teams, it can become a great bonus resource to use in sales conversations to both answer prospects’ questions and establish authority. For customer support teams, it gives them lots of context and unique insights about a topic they otherwise wouldn’t have. It helps them in coaching customers to success and building customer loyalty.

Step 3: Promote it strategically with paid advertising

Step 4: Use your email list


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