Guide to Creating the Whitepapers Your Prospects Actually Want

09/01/2016 08:50 am ET

By Tim Brown, Director of Strategy, Snap Agency - Minneapolis Web Design

 The process of creating white papers is time-consuming, and for that reason, it’s extremely important to make sure that you’re spending time on targeting them to be attractive to your ideal client. The promise of more leads sometimes seduces people to create a whitepaper really quickly that doesn’t hold a lot of value for their prospects just to get their emails and contact information.

Of course, this is short-term thinking, and a certain shift in our mindsets needs to happen to become sold on the idea that time needs to be invested into a white paper, and it needs to be high quality to make a positive brand impression as well, not just capture some info.


Create something totally consumed with the objective of being useful to the prospects at their time of greatest need for your services

That time of greatest need should ideally be right before they would come to you– so perhaps they’re considering trying to do it in-house, or are researching all of the different options out there. Instead of giving them a hard pitch, give them a no-nonsense resource that even non-technical people would understand.


You can do this by:

  •  Making sure your writing is simple and clear and it doesn’t rely on jargon.
  • Include recent developments in your industry, like statistics and information. Yes, they may be able to find this research elsewhere, but by curating it you’re demonstrating value and solidifying yourself as a knowledge expert. 
  • Offering up-to-date opinions by the experts that matter in your organization. Focus on creating a fresh, positive impression and associating the people that would be implementing on the work with the content that’s being shared. After people do business with other people - not just a faceless organization.

Dig deep to give value until it hurts and downplay any mention of your company or product offerings

Once again, another temptation is to go hard on the self-promotion in a white paper. But unless there’s real demand for the definitive guide to working with your company, your promotion should be kept to a few well placed ‘call-to-action’ sections around the book. Your prospects will understand this approach, but if the meaty content itself is riddled with ‘this is why you should do business with us’, very few people will read more than a couple pages. Why? Because they’ve already seen your website!

Your prospects don’t care that you’re the best – they care about why what you do is going to be beneficial to them. If you go in-depth about why the kind of work you do is extremely important to their business and give them actionable first steps they can do for themselves without pushing your brand – then you might earn their respect, and whet their appetite to have more of the kind of work that you do, done for them.

Don’t make prospects answer 20 questions just to get the content. Do you want to make it as hard as possible for YOU to get a lead?

Of course, if you’re absolutely swamped you can add some more qualifying questions if you feel like they’re appropriate– but the guiding question should be; “what would our ideal client feel comfortable filling out,” not how do I fill every field in your CRM,  or sales development software.  If your ideal client is a C-level executive, do they have time to fill out your 20 question form or would that scare them off?


Create anticipation by giving them a thank you message a confirmation of registration e-mail, and then one hour later send the white paper

According to Pragmatic Marketing, this kind of approach increases brand name exposure and gives the person desiring the content a sense of anticipation. Of course, you should make sure to mention this in the confirmation message, so that your prospect isn’t confused – but allowing a bit of anticipation makes sense psychologically. Have you ever had to ‘request’ to be on a list for a service? I remember when access to Facebook was by invite only, and people were just itching to be part of it for that fact. Utilize this psychological principle and you get more branded touches too!

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.