March 16, 2016
If you’re like most marketers, you’re probably missing out on the benefits of whitepapers.
For years, whitepapers have been the often-forgotten utilitarian workhorses of the content marketing industry – seen as a necessity for in-house education rather than a powerful tool for marketing and sales. Fortunately, the use of whitepapers goes far beyond in-depth analysis. In fact, whitepapers can actually be used as a powerful marketing tool that can help your company expand its online presence. Here’s what you need to know:
What are Whitepapers?
The definition and use of whitepapers vary heavily from industry to industry. As a general rule, however, a whitepaper is an involved report that covers a specific topic. The purpose of a whitepaper is to explore a problem and, eventually, to provide a solution. Whitepapers are used for the purpose of education and are popular among marketers who want to educate their audiences about a specific topic or offer in-depth insight on a particular tactic or approach for dealing with it. The following industry standards apply to whitepapers:
- Whitepapers are generally at least six pages in length, including all visuals. Can be 50 pages or longer for very deep topics.
- Whitepapers are structured like reports, with a title page, contents page, summary, introduction, and body content.
- Whitepapers are meant to discuss denser topics than would be discussed in an eBook and are designed to cater to high-level readers.
- Whitepapers are PDFs.
- Whitepapers feature expert writing and graphic design.
How to Use Whitepapers to Boost your Web Presence
1. Use an in-Depth Whitepaper to Generate Leads
Because whitepapers take a great deal of time, effort, and research to put together, they’re a fantastic option for gaining leads and providing users with relevant and valuable content. A great example of the way many companies use whitepapers is to incentivize signups for email lists or webinars.
While it’s easy to use virtually any type of content (an eBook, for example) for this purpose, a whitepaper stands out due to its expert nature. Because a whitepaper is typically denser and more specialized than an eBook, the type of customer who signs up to receive it will generally be more advanced and knowledgeable. Because of this, whitepapers can actually help generate more qualified leads and higher conversion rates.
Another great way to use a whitepaper to generate leads and produce conversions is to use it as the foundation for a series of blog posts. For example, if you ran a “how to” blogging website and often wrote about WordPress and how users could use the platform to create a free blog or website, you could easily create a whitepaper that answered the problem of navigating WordPress plugins. By serializing dense topics and encouraging your readers to download the whitepaper within each blog, it’s easy to entice readers to engage with your content.
2. Use Whitepapers to add Value to a Landing Page
Every great landing page needs a focal point and a white paper does the job beautifully. Adding a focused, well-written whitepaper to an optimized landing page is a fantastic way to add value to your promotional campaign while also helping your readers find the answers to the questions they’re struggling with. Ideal for targeting your content to a specific audience or catering to customers at a specific point of the sales funnel, placing a valuable white paper on a landing page can truly work magic for your company.
3. Distribute Whitepapers in Email Marketing
When you use email to disperse valuable content to your subscribers, it can be an amazingly effective way to generate more leads, conversions, and traffic for your business. All too often, however, the content of emails falls short by failing to provide enough value and interest for customers.
Fortunately, however, whitepapers can change that. By offering whitepapers to your target audience in the form of marketing e-mails, you can provide your readers with value and give them a reason to engage with other aspects of your company or services.
4. Publish Links to Your Whitepaper on Social Media
If you’re a part of a social media group, you know how important it is to interact by offering valuable content and relevant industry information. A whitepaper is a great way to participate meaningfully in the conversation of a niche-specific group while also offering value for the other readers in the group. By publishing links to your whitepaper on Twitter and Facebook and in any private social media groups you may be involved with, you can provide your readers with more value and drive more conversions for your site.
5. Use Your Whitepaper as the Basis for Other Content
If you thought a whitepaper was only good as a whitepaper, think again. A whitepaper can easily be turned into a webinar or a podcast in order to appeal to a wider base of your target audience. Because some of your audience likely prefer information in the form of a visual or audio presentation rather than text-based formats, it’s easy to grab more viewers when you convert your whitepaper’s content into a webinar or something similar. This allows you to get more leverage from your whitepaper while also encouraging more conversions.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your whitepaper can be used as a foundation for content packages. If you’ve followed the above steps, you’ve created a package of valuable content that can easily be distributed to your customers. To get the maximum level of value possible from this package, consider offering it all in a centralized location. For example, you can make a landing page and distribute all of the content related to your whitepaper — including blogs, podcasts, and visuals — in one place This will provide outstanding value to highly qualified leads and can help your company earn more conversions.
While whitepapers are not often regarded as a highly potent form of marketing content, they are. Marketers who use whitepapers correctly can easily increase their leads, earn more conversions, and market themselves effectively across the web. From social media to email marketing, whitepapers are a powerful tool for expanding your online presence.
Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She's earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.