Industry Conversations, Tips & Ideas

Live Pages Solution Recipe — The Beginner’s Guide to Whitepaper Production, Design and Distribution
Posted by: Jonathan on Monday, 17 December 2012

Even though content creation is often thought of as an exercise in keyword jamming or a sort of non-email version of spamming, successful content creators know just what’s possible from a single, well-produced piece of writing. Well-written content has the ability to go viral, or to influence highly targeted, highly desirable market segments, all with just a few days, or even just a few hours’, work.

And when it comes to digital content, the Rolls Royce of media is the whitepaper.

Authoritative, well-researched and reliable, whitepapers are more than just another piece of marketing content. They are a way for companies to affect hearts and minds in the marketplace, to argue a point and educate an audience, to position a business as thought-leaders in a given field and to promote businesses in a way that doesn’t feel like promotion, but still secures strong leads and healthy conversions.

So where to begin?

Here are the seven ingredients of effective whitepaper production, promotion and distribution.

1.       Define what you’re trying to achieve

Get clear on what you’re trying to do. Is the point of the exercise to promote your business? Establish yourself or your business as an expert in the field? Argue for a specific position? Or a combination of these factors? Whatever the intention, actually write it down before you start.

As you collect more information and begin pruning it into something readable, it’s easy get side-tracked and start pursuing interesting tangents and unfocused arguments that may not necessarily achieve what you’re trying to achieve. Having the intention of the whitepaper actually written out in black and white helps keep everything focused on the end-goal.

2.       Research

The nature of your whitepaper will determine the nature of your research. Also, what assets you currently possess will have an effect. Does your company currently have original research that could be distributed? Again, remember to keep tightly focused — just because you have the research doesn’t mean that it will be relevant to your readers. Likewise, some research will not function as a positive positioning statement for your company. Edit the facts, figures and statistics just as ruthlessly as you would any other element of the writing. 

3.       Write it

Writing 101: Set a start date to begin writing (again, write it down) and stick to it. Many writers have learnt the hard way that it’s possible to begin research which never ends.

Start by quickly creating a plan (spend no more than five minutes). Write down quick subject headlines and then arrange them in the most logical order. From there, write down as many relevant points as you can think of under each headline and, again, arrange them in the most rational way.

Now begin. Write quickly and without self-editing, beginning at the first point on your page. Get what you can down as quickly as you can, including the evidence you’ve amassed from your research at the appropriate times.

When you’ve filled in all your headings and sub headings with content, go back and write an introduction, saying what your whitepaper is about and what your essential message is, then restate those same positions in your conclusion.

4.       Design it

The standard format for a whitepaper is PDF and it really is the preferred way to present your work. Not only is it the industry standard, but the peculiar format offers other advantages as well.

A PDF has a perceived value above and beyond a simple web page. Offering your whitepaper as part of your mass email marketing (asking for participation in a survey in return for the whitepaper, for example) or via dedicated squeeze pages (that requires logging in with personal details or subscribing to updates) allows you to extract maximum value from your effort.

5.       Promote it

Push your white paper via your online channels — promote it on your social media pages, ‘tweet’ about it and offer it through your website. You can also promote it via article distribution software such as Comet HQ as well as via your monthly newsletter.

6.       Create a landing page

The nature of a whitepaper — well-written, timely, relevant and researched content — means that the document has value beyond a simple blog post or editorial. As such, it’s expected that, in return for the paper, readers will be required to hand over something of their own (such as personal information). That could be filling out a short survey, offering their contact details for a call later, or even reviewing an offer of an on-going newsletter. Essentially, putting a whitepaper behind an ‘action wall’ increases its perceived value in the market as well as providing you with an opportunity to secure some kind of commitment from your client. And the best way to secure a commitment from a client is via a well set up landing page.

Landing pages offer an excellent format for turning target web traffic into measurable conversions, and are the backbone of many successful online marketing campaigns. Landing pages offer an excellent way to distribute your whitepaper content while securing detailed conversion statistics, SEO benefits for your content and website, as well as generating leads and contact information in a simple, automated way.

Investigate good quality landing page design tools to find out how to create effective lead generation pages without needing specialist HTML programming skills.

7.       Create a template

Finally, create a PDF template for your whitepapers. Not only will it save you time the next time around, but it will allow to tweak your promotional material — such as logos, contact information etc — to produce the maximum return on your content in the future.