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How to write your first whitepaper for B2B content marketing

How to write your first whitepaper for B2B content marketing

Writing your first whitepaper might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be.

Whitepapers are one of the most effective B2B content marketing techniques for reaching and engaging senior-level decision makers and influencers. In fact, they rank among the most effective B2B lead generation tools going.

Producing them however, especially the first one, can seem awfully challenging as you sit down and stare at the blank screen waiting for a whitepaper to take shape. But producing them needn't be so difficult if you follow this process.

Choose your topic

Easy to say, harder to do. For your topic though you just need to look to your expertise. Any subject you have sound knowledge of is potential whitepaper material. Now cross-reference your areas of expertise with the interests of your key personas (don’t have personas already? Read about creating personas now) until you hit upon a good match.

Read our Introduction to B2B Inbound Marketing here and learn all about this  powerful approach to generating leads and sales.

Still struggling? Here’s a hint. Practically every business can write a good 'how to choose your provider' whitepaper right now.

Plan your structure

Take some time to identify the areas of information that you will cover. Make sure you include everything required to present a full and logical argument, but don’t go overboard or stray off topic - keep the content tightly focussed on the central subject.

Write your whitepaper

Ok, now the hard bit. But with the topic and structure clearly described, you can now focus solely on the writing and this will make it much easier. Keep writing and re-writing until you are happy that you have covered every essential thought - don’t worry about length, you'll take care of that later.

Leave your introduction until last as it will be far easier to write when the body of the document is done.

Edit it down

If possible, ask someone else, preferably a competent copywriter, to help you edit your draft whitepaper. If that isn't possible, walk away from it for a while, overnight at least, before editing it down yourself.

At this stage you should be looking to simplify any complex language, remove any ungainly or unnecessary wording and generally enhance the brevity of the piece - although whitepapers are typically relatively long, they should not be unnecessarily so.

Create signposts

Although readers expect your whitepaper to be comprehensive and detailed, many will not have time to read it in full the first time they see it. Some will never have time. Help them out by making your whitepaper easy to scan.

Make sure the document is thoroughly headlined throughout so that readers can easily pick which sections they want to read. Call out the key facts, figures and main points that you want to get across to every reader. Also think about which content can be communicated in charts, graphs and infographics.

Get it designed

No one wants to read a plain white Word document in Times New Roman. Get a graphic designer to work up your whitepaper, paying special attention to graphs, charts and those all-important signposts. Have them create a front and back cover and output for the web. After proof reading and revisions, your whitepaper is ready to go.

Publish it

Your whitepaper should be available on your website - but behind a sign-up form which adds valuable contact details to your database, whether this is in a content marketing platform like HubSpot, a CRM system like Salesforce or simply an email marketing platform like MailChimp.

Promote it

Now that your whitepaper is written and live, you want to drive as many prospects as possible to it. Some effective methods of promoting your new content are:

  • Email the relevant segment of your contact list
  • Blog about it - or break it down into several blog posts on the different sections
  • Share it socially - again, break it down to generate several social posts over time
  • Link to it from other, related blog posts
  • Add it to your blog or website sidebar - or test a pop-up plugin like Pippity(use caution)
  • Create a Remarketing campaign to drive website visitors to it after they leave your site

On to the next one

Now that your first whitepaper is written and launched, don't stop there, move on to the next one. You don't need dozens of whitepapers to create an effective inbound lead flow but regular production of new ones will strengthen your campaign. Try to hit a different persona and/or a different decision stage with each whitepaper you write - before you know it you'll have your whole audience catered for and your efforts can go into maintaining and improving your system rather than filling in gaps.

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