There’s a reason why so many B2B companies use white papers as one of their most tried-and-true ways of connecting with customers and clients. For one thing, they’re really good for lead gen. 76 percent of B2B buyers are more likely to share their name and email address for white papers. And according to the Content Marketing Institute, 61 percent of respondents said white papers were the most successful types of content at achieving their organization’s goals.
White papers are also one of the best ways to improve credibility and reputation. If your company puts a lot of effort and time into researching and producing a professional-grade white paper, it shows a level of industry expertise and thought leadership that can help sway B2B buyers to work with you instead of your competitor.
On the flip side, white papers frequently get a bad rap for being dry or boring. Which is somewhat fair, as they’re usually very business-minded, stuffed with lots of data, charts, and statistics – a far cry from more relaxed, entertaining fare like blog posts or video. They also take a LOT of work to put together.
But they don’t have to be dry and devoid of personality, and lead readers on a one-way trip to dullsville. Let’s look at some of the best white paper examples we’ve found, and see what they do right:
Use bright and colorful visual design to catch and please the eye. Since white papers are often formatted and read like academic papers with sources and well-researched information, it’s important to punch up the presentation with color and interesting visual design. For example, you can forego the “white” in white paper and use brighter, bolder colors to categorize and highlight different bits of information. You can also ask a graphic designer to give a dusty old chart a fresh, new perspective.
This whopping 30-page white paper from data miner Sentigraph opts for a sci-fi-ish purple and yellow color scheme with retro-futuristic hot pink and turquoise highlights that wouldn’t look out of place in a vaporwave album or Stranger Things promo. It also has a three-dimensional-looking infographic. It’s a fitting design choice considering the white paper is about whether it’s possible for companies to identify the sentimental value of a community through social media interaction to accurately predict how they’d react to future events—like a plot right out of a Metal Gear video game. And like any good-looking game, be sure to tighten up the graphics in your white paper.
Provide valuable information about topics that affect whole industries. This skirts the definition of white paper, but we’re including it here because of the sheer amount of traction it gets thanks to mentions in many places including industry blogs and general publications like Forbes. RightScale’s State of the Cloud report provides tons of valuable information about the cyber security concerns across many businesses. Since it’s about a topic that’s constantly shifting and varying—cloud computing—RightScale can release a new report periodically with updated data and keep those leads, engagements, and shares coming in.
With the right amount of data set or topic, a white paper can generate a lot of awareness and downloads, and it can help you with your other content plans, too—just repurpose some info in your white paper for smaller blog articles, infographics, or videos. Plus, like the best of white papers, the RightScale report is full of valuable data that the C-Suite can look to make informed decisions about their companies.
Provide solid arguments and persuasive case studies. GE recently published the case for commercial data, and it has everything a successful white paper should have: sleek, colorful design; perfectly spaced, readable text; easy-to-read prose full of definitions and free of jargon; eye-catching icons and graphics; categorized data points; and beginning, intermediate, and advanced how-to steps for stepping up a company’s data analytics process. It’s also incredibly succinct at six pages. But despite its short length, it manages to provide several real-world case studies for how tapping into multiple data sources has raised revenue and brand awareness for companies that include Dell and Staples.
Case studies, complete with results about how a company changed the way it does things, are excellent ways to persuade a reader to your side of an argument. In this case, companies should do what they can to collect research while they can in the face of costlier data restriction regulations. But if there’s a model for the perfectly produced and researched white paper, it may be this one from GE.
Help highlight and solve a long-standing industry problem. Of course, we have to include one of our own here. This white paper from S&G for JW Aluminum, Decoding the Supply Chain: Managing the Speed of Change, came out of an endeavor to recognize the problems within the manufacturing industry. Turns out, there are a lot of supply chain logistics issues that need ironing out. To discover that, we hoofed it to several manufacturing plants, interviewed experts, and identified pain points that JW Aluminum’s new app can help resolve through the streamlining of various supply chain processes.
But instead of talking about a new app product launch for JW Aluminum, we focused on the supply chain problems that weren’t otherwise covered by other publications. As a result, the white paper got picked up by Forbes and other publications because we helped shed light on an unknown problem, and JW Aluminum became known for its innovative customer-centric approach. A win-win.
For your own win-win, contact S&G. We’re always ready to help take another brand to the next level with the right combination of content.