10 tips for B2B white paper success
The term “white paper” was originally coined by the British government, referring to documents which outline policy preferences before they turn into legislation. In politics, they perform a dual role: allowing governments to outline policies whilst simultaneously raising awareness and inviting opinions on them. Since the 1990s, the term has also been used in a B2B marketing context and today, white papers are a staple of B2B marketing.
But what makes a successful B2B white paper? Here are Oban’s top tips for success.
1: Understand your objective(s) in publishing a white paper
• Generating leads?
• Growing an email database?
• Addressing a gap within your content marketing?
• Supporting a particular product or service?
• Establishing thought-leadership?
• Making a business case?
• Explaining a complex topic?
2: Understand your audience
• Firstly, define who are you talking to:
• Channel partners?
• Business analysts?
• Key stakeholders?
• What are their pain points?
• What problem can you solve for them?
• Do they consume white papers and if so, how?
• Do you have buying personas in place to help you understand your audience and if not, is there scope to create them?
3: Include rich, substantive content which educates rather than sells
• New ideas which prompt innovative thinking
• Statistically sound data and well-researched findings
• A clear point of view which differentiates you from your competitors
• Solutions to technical or business problems
• Remember: quality matters. Prospects who are disappointed by the quality of the content they receive will be unlikely to engage with your brand again in the future. A white paper is not supposed to be a sales document – it is supposed to help people understand an issue or solve a problem or make a decision
4: Use original research if you can
• Including your own research within your white paper can be a great way to uncover fresh insights on a specific theme that your brand can own
• Original research will make your content unique and more desirable
• This can be an effective way to generate PR coverage or backlink opportunities for SEO
5: Align with your prospects’ buying journey
• Ideally, you will map content for buyers in each phase in your sales cycle
• According to DemandGen, 61% of B2B buyers select vendors who deliver a mix of content that is appropriate for each stage of their buying process
• Understanding what information buyers need within each phase of the sales cycle will help make your white paper as relevant as possible
6: Decide on the format
• If publishing as a PDF, have you considered the SEO implications?
• Is there scope for innovation or exploration? Can you experiment with new formats?
• Decide upon optimal length – this will depend on your topic/ product/ audience but in our view, 6-12 pages is probably ideal. However, this could be much longer if you are discussing a highly complex topic
7: Ensure good design
• A distinctive or eye-catching design is a key factor in enticing a prospect to read your content
• Break up the text with visual elements such as charts, diagrams, graphics, call out boxes etc
• Ensure the right amount of information appears on each page to avoid overwhelming the reader
• Ensure clear calls to action
8: Consider whether the title “white paper” is a helpful label
• The name “white paper” could signal to prospects that they are a selling tool
• Consider calling them something else – e.g. a guide, a briefing, a special report, a handbook, a bulletin, a primer, a manifesto etc
• An intriguing or interesting title is more likely to encourage prospects to download your content
9: Promote your white paper
• Landing pages play a crucial role in how well your white paper will perform, so it is worth investing time to get it right:
• Ensure the title appears above the fold and display the white paper’s cover clearly on the page
• Provide a concise summary of the key insights your prospects will discover when reading your white paper and how they will benefit
• Consider split testing different design, copy and technical elements to understand which combination performs best with your target market
• Once you have a strong landing page, you can run paid campaigns on social media channels, using targeting to reach the right audiences
• For example, on LinkedIn, you can target your audience by company size, job function, title, and location. You can buy both ads and sponsored updates
• You could also run native ads to drive traffic to your white paper. For best results, run these ads alongside content dealing with the same themes as your white paper
10: Repurpose your white paper into multiple formats
• Host a webinar about your white paper’s topic:
• Not all your target audience will read a lengthy document
• A webinar will help you reach a wider audience
• Convert your white paper into a presentation and post on SlideShare:
• SlideShare has been described as “YouTube for B2B” and is a great channel for B2B marketers who want to communicate their messages visually
• You can even add a lead generation form to your SlideShare presentation to connect with potential customers
• Engage with influencers:
• Invite relevant bloggers to review and talk about your white paper to amplify its impact
• Establish a relationship before asking them to do anything
• Once you have established a connection, send them a link to your white paper’s direct download page, along with a personal email which explains why their readers will find it valuable
Alternatives to white papers
Audio, video, interactive, and blog series are all different takes on long-form content that can change the conversation:
In certain B2B industries – such as manufacturing, natural resources or cyber tech – competition within the podcast space is relatively low. So there could be an opportunity for your brand to establish a connection with your audience with a podcast. Rather than reading a 30-page white paper, your prospects may prefer to listen to a 30-minute podcast to help educate themselves about a complex topic. You can listen to recent episodes of Oban’s podcast The Global Marketing Calendar here and here.
There are various formats for B2B video marketing, including YouTube videos, webinars or webcasts, social media lives and social native videos. As with your other long form assets, a mix of gated and non-gated content is appropriate.
An easy way to create a library of video assets is by recycling old blog content – simply turn evergreen blogs into video explainers or how to guides.
Like a white paper, although perhaps less daunting to compile, a blog series allows you to dig deep into a particular topic, showcasing your expertise. By breaking down a complex topic into a series of posts, you make it more palatable for your readership. This approach also encourages repeat visits to your blog.
eBooks are different to white papers: they tend to be more conversational in tone, less scholarly, and may present an overall look at an issue, trend or industry, rather than a deep dive into a particular problem or solution. A white paper is designed to provide in-depth coverage of a focused topic, whereas an eBook provides a more generalised overview of a broad topic.
The right content strategy for your brand will likely include a mix of content types and formats, mapped to each stage of the customer journey.
Remember: whatever content you produce, if you are planning to localise it into other languages, always use a Local In-Market Expert. A native speaker based in your target market will be able to land the right messages in your target language, avoiding mistakes and taking into account relevant cultural and linguistic nuances.
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Oban can help
Oban can help you to devise an international content strategy and then bring it to life across languages and markets. To find out how, please get in touch.
To download Oban’s recent B2B white paper, How B2B can bounce back post-Covid, click here.
Az Ahmed | Marketing Manager
Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.