White papers help businesses to earn trust and ultimately generate more sales, especially for B2B companies. In fact, nearly three-quarters of professional service companies think that whitepapers are a great way to generate leads. White papers are also the most consumed kind of marketing—more than webcasts, blogs, podcasts, reports, or any other format of information. In addition, more than half of the professionals who read white papers pass them on to colleagues. So, for every 10 people you reach with a white paper, six of them will pass it on to others, helping you get more eyeballs on your brand.

Now the question is, how do you create an effective white paper that will attract the right type of buyer and ultimately convert more customers? Here are the four essential steps to building an effective white paper:

1. Decide on Your Topic

White papers are a marketing tool – not a sales tool – and are most effective when they answer a burning question for your audience.  The goal is to connect to prospects very early in their buying journey. For example, if your business plans corporate events, a great white paper might be “10 Ways to Stretch Your Venue Budget that Only the Pros Know.”

White paper topics are built on the needs of your ideal buyer. So, if you haven’t pin-pointed who your ideal customer is, now is a great time to take a step back and build out an ideal buyer persona to help direct your marketing strategy.

2. Create Your Content

Creating content can be tough for businesses with smaller teams and budgets.  At the same time, don’t feel like you have to write a novel or dissertation. Instead, use your company’s unique voice paired with your expertise to create helpful, quality content.  In fact, if you can break down a complex idea in a short, simple manner, all the better for your audience.

If you need help getting started, download our “White Paper Template.”

Finally, if you don’t have the time or skills to write your own content, there are lots of platforms that make it simple to outsource, such as Media Shower, Foxtail Marketing, Upwork and Fivvr.

3. Convert Web Traffic into Downloads

A white paper is a great way to begin a conversation with top-of-the-funnel prospects who are just beginning to explore problems and solutions. To generate these leads, use a landing page form to present a short summary of your white paper and ask for contact information.  Don’t overdo it on the form fields – just a few simple contact details, including name, email and company, are enough to get the conversation started.

Depending on your topic, you may even be able to tease the white paper and have people register to receive it in their email before the paper is actually released.  This works well for time-sensitive subjects, for instance a quarterly or yearly reports.  For example, you could collect survey data from your audience and have survey takers sign up to receive the report in advance.

4. Nurture New Prospects

White paper downloads don’t turn into customers on their own.  Once a contact downloads your white paper, help them along their buying journey with a lead nurturing campaign. Email them relevant resources over time, and check in with a friendly phone call just to touch base and keep your brand top of mind.  As they learn more about their problem, potential solutions, and how your business can help, you can put them on more targeted campaigns that begin the sales process.  If you need help building email campaigns for new prospects, our content marketing grid can help you plan what type of emails to send.
A whitepaper is a solid way to market your company, find out who is interested in your products and services, and turn interested prospects into new customers for your business.  Building a white paper that converts starts with a compelling topic and ends with a nurturing campaign that generates sales.