A white paper is a subtly persuasive document that presents in-depth information on a specific topic. It is often authoritative and explores a problem while providing solutions. White papers can also explore an idea with the intent to educate and inform a target audience. What a white paper covers and the style of white paper depends on the intended audience and outcome goals for the paper.
Many people use white papers to show their thought leadership and authority in an industry. Others use them for lead generation. White papers are also used to move a prospective customer through an organization’s sales funnel.
Sustainable businesses are often selling products or services that are either new, complex, or expensive. This is why a white paper is a great investment that is currently underutilized in the sustainability industry.
What a White Paper Does
White papers do have a set of best practices they adhere to, despite covering a broad spectrum of subjects across many industries.
- White papers subtly persuade readers towards a particular decision or idea.
- White papers can act as a lead magnet.
- White papers do have substance, meaning they are often 5 pages or longer.
- White papers do help B2B organizations communicate their value to customers.
- White papers require you to partner with experts to give relevant information to your readers.
- White papers require extensive research.
Given the complexities of writing a white paper, a finished product can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to complete.
What a White Paper Doesn’t Do
There are a handful of pitfalls to avoid when drafting a white paper to ensure your document is successful.
- White papers don’t replace your other marketing strategies. In fact, you need those strategies to get your white paper in front of people.
- White papers don’t overtly push your sale. A white paper builds a relationship with your ideal customer to move them through your pipeline.
- Often, white papers aren’t used by B2C organizations.*
- White papers are not case studies or reports, but rather are their own unique type of marketing and research.
*With an increasingly informed consumer demographic it’s never a bad time for a B2C organization to begin releasing ESG reports.
How Do Non-Sustainable Businesses Use a White Papers?
Whether you’re trying to get an organization to make a big investment in your product or service, or if you’re trying to build your authority within your industry, white paper provides a wide range of benefits.
- Businesses write white papers to nurture their funnel into making big investments.
- Businesses write white papers to help organizations make big investments.
- Businesses write white papers to break down complex information that is hard to understand.
- Businesses write white papers when their product is very new and requires a lot of information to understand.
- White papers are one of the 4 most effective types of marketing.
- 71% of companies prefer to reference a white paper before making a big purchasing decision.
How Could a Sustainable Business Use a White Paper?
Let’s say your organization sells carbon offsetting for businesses. You’re tasked with getting your business in front of other businesses and explaining why your service is necessary. There are a handful of reasons why an organization would consider offsetting their carbon footprint.
First, a business could care about the planet and want to be more sustainable. This gives you the opportunity to talk about different types of carbon offsetting and why one is better than another.
Next, there are organizations who only care about carbon offsetting because they know there is a potential financial return. They’re looking at carbon offsetting as a way to help increase customer loyalty. In this situation, you’ll be presenting the facts around returns on investment when it comes to your service.
Last, there are people who have heard of carbon offsetting and might be interested. These potential customers are much higher in the funnel than the other two types of organizations previously mentioned. You need to move them further down your funnel, and can only do that with helpful facts and information.
You could make a white paper for each of these demographics. Or, you could make one long white paper. This longer white paper would encompass:
- What carbon offsetting is
- The financial benefits of carbon offsetting
- Pros and cons of different carbon offsetting
A document like this would allow key decision-makers to examine all aspects of a problem. A white paper empowers them to make a decision on whether they want to invest in your organization.
This scenario is no different when it comes to solar panel installations, sustainable consulting, or sustainable investing. White papers help make decisions on a service or item that is expensive, new or complex. They nurture conscious consumers into purchasing a product or recognizing an organization as an authority.
Is Your Business Ready to Write a White Paper?
There are a couple of pre-requisites to producing white papers to consider. First, can your business afford to make an investment in a copywriter? White paper cost $2,500+. They’re certainly worth the investment, but they’re not cheap or quick to produce.
Do you have good marketing traffic currently? Do you have an email list you can send the white paper to, or are you able to run ads to create lead generation? Having a well built out marketing plan will help ensure your white paper is successful.
Do you know any industry experts that you can interview for subject matter? If they don’t work at your organization, it might be a good idea to start networking and meeting people who can provide you with information.
Once you’ve networked, developed your marketing strategy, and have the money to invest, you’re ready to start producing white papers.
Why Work with a Copywriter on Your White Paper?
Don’t try to find an employee in your organization to help you with your white paper. It’s almost always a better idea to outsource this responsibility to a professional.
You could encourage one of your employees to learn how to write a white paper. But, be prepared to waste valuable time as they get up to speed. You also can’t guarantee they’ll produce great results. Writing a white paper is a difficult mix of subtle persuasion embedded in information.
Not to mention they may not be familiar with audience. You don’t want a white paper written to a data analyst or franchise owner when it should be for a C-suite executive.
Unless you’ve hired someone who has experience writing white papers, it’s best to outsource to someone who has experience. Hiring a copywriter is likely to bring you a bigger return on your investment. Plus, you’ll create a relationship with an expert that you can leverage for assistance in the years to come.