Katy Cesarotti | Gallery Design Studio Editor + Copywriter
According to a 2018 survey, 62% of marketers said that whitepapers were their most successful piece of marketing collateral. With gated downloads, whitepapers can help businesses capture and convert more qualified leads. During the early stages of the consumer journey, whitepapers help potential clients research and consider their different options — it’s like a foot in the door of the decision-making process.
But when it comes to achieving your business goals, the most important part of a whitepaper isn’t even the content. Above all, a whitepaper needs to be fresh, relevant — and not boring.
Whitepapers are custom pieces of content marketing that explore a specific problem your service can solve. With an emphasis on detail and research, whitepapers need to offer a one-of-a-kind resource for customers, with in-depth industry data that can’t be replicated by anyone else.
The following tips will help you craft whitepapers that customers actually want to read and generate greater ROI.
1. Hook Readers with Intriguing Landing Pages
Whitepapers are an invaluable lead generation tactic that can help you identify your most interested potential customers and gather relevant contact information. When you wall off access to downloadable whitepapers with a signup form, you can capture user information that can help you deliver personalized and more effective marketing initiatives. Whitepapers give you crucial data that can be leveraged into targeted email drip campaigns and custom solutions.
Before anyone will even open your whitepaper, you need to convince users why it’s worthwhile. With limited content and space, your landing page needs to convince customers that your whitepaper is interesting, helpful, and relevant enough to invest time in. Especially when you ask for personal and professional information, customers need to understand how reading your whitepaper will benefit their business.
On your landing pages, use focused design that minimizes distractions, so customers don’t click away before sharing their information. Instead of copy, shift the focus to bold, emotive visuals. Keep the text limited to the need to know essentials — provoke questions and keep readers interested in reading more.
Give users a taste of the whitepaper, but don’t share all your key information upfront. Unlike a movie trailer that gives away all of the twists, a landing page should offer just enough details to whet the user’s interest while still offering more value in the long-form document.
2. Visual Communication Where It Matters
Whitepapers are commonly used by tech and SaaS companies that offer lots of features. It can provide a helpful birds-eye view analysis of industry problems, or a focused exploration of different products and how they fill different consumer needs.
As a subject matter expert, you’re attuned to the nuances and minor details of your field — and the copy alone might be enough to hold your interest. But customers need something a little more to hook their interest.
With a larger word count and more pages, whitepapers are more substantial than blogposts, but that doesn’t mean they have to be dry. Effective whitepapers look and sound nothing like a high school term paper. Custom illustrations, full of personality, can capture readers’ interest and help them process the more complex details of your messaging.
Data visualization and graphs can help clients quickly understand the real value behind statistics. Go beyond stock photos with customized content. If your potential customers are going to invest the time to read this long-form document, it needs to be something they haven’t seen before, with original insight they can’t get from punching a couple of keywords into Google.
Skip extraneous graphics and cutesy effects. Your customers are busy people. Minimalist professional graphics keep the emphasis on data—charts, tables, graphs, and other key figures that convey in-depth information. In addition, they also capture your personality and connect disparate “facts” with a story-driven narrative.
Instead of looking at dry blocks of text, prospects can connect with a visual narrative that creates a flow throughout the piece. Instead of just general research, tell the story of a specific client like them, or use a visual metaphor to illustrate your points. Break up long sections with short paragraphs, icons, charts and illustrations.
Use design to highlight relevant facts or statistics, and draw your readers’ eyes immediately to the most important information. Offer testimonials, customer stories, and other social proof that your offerings work — and your customer might think that your product will work for them, too.
3. Give User Data a New Life
When it comes to creating original insight you can’t get anywhere else, your people are your most valuable resource. Build whitepapers around the most common questions you get from potential clients and anticipate their potential objections. By giving customers in-depth information when they’re trying to understand their problem, you build trust and credibility in your expertise.
Clients grow tired of seeing the same content everywhere on the internet. Without fresh insights and strategic branding, your whitepaper will make you look and sound exactly like the competition.
Think about where you can get your own data, either through an original survey or repurposing information already in your data set. What kind of customer information have you collected? Are there any patterns or general trends that might interest the rest of your audience?
By using data you’ve collected and analyzed yourself, you create irreproducible content that your customers won’t get anywhere else — you’ll spark their curiosity and their interest. If your insight is really valuable, other websites will backlink to your research as well, and boost your SEO.
4. Repurpose Content for the Future
Whitepapers might seem like an expensive investment in terms of the time and company resources required to assemble them. It might be helpful to think of whitepapers as more than a one-time effort — instead the first key to unlocking a longer content strategy.
Create content for the whitepaper that can be chunked into snippets and distributed. Illustrations can form graphics for social media or that can migrate to your website. If you create custom iconography, you can stockpile your designs and build out your digital visual language. Once you’ve gathered all your research, those surprising statistics and insights can be used elsewhere as assets in your marketing collateral.
Whitepapers are the most-used piece of content to make B2B decisions, according to a recent Demand Gen Report survey. Make sure you maximize the impact of your thought leadership with consistent visuals across your landing page, promotional emails and actual content.
About Gallery Design Studio
We're passionate about helping B2B businesses with their ongoing marketing communication design needs. We help our clients transmit complex information clearly, concisely and in a visually engaging way. Relentlessly curious, we're inspired by experimentation, and always looking for better ways to serve our clients.
We’ve collaborated with transformational businesses, both startups and more established companies such as Questback and CIT Bank.
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About the Writer
Katy Cesarotti is a copywriter at Gallery Design Studio. Katy believes that, with clear and concise copy, innovators can spark emotion and drive action in their readers. She’s written for magazines, blogs and cutting-edge startups.