Savvy B2B marketers know white papers are one of the best ways to capture leads and drive revenue. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America, 71 percent of organizations use white papers and 62 percent say they’re the most effective types of content to get results.
To ensure your white papers aren’t a wasted venture, however, you should understand what a white paper is—and what it’s not—and how to distribute and promote them.
Here are 7 of the most common white paper mistakes to avoid—and what to do instead.
Mistake #1: No buyer personas
This is the single most common mistake I see clients make. You might have a basic understanding of who your customers are, what they need, and how you solve their problems, but without documented buyer personas, you can’t expect to write a white paper—or any other type of content for that matter—that truly speaks to your customers.
When creating buyer personas, be sure to include demographics, identifiers, goals, challenges and pain points, how your company solves their problems and common objections they have to what you offer. Conducting interviews with current customers and compiling quotes for the buyer personas is a great way to build out buyer personas.
Mistake #2: Skipping the creative brief
Writing a creative brief sounds time-consuming and unnecessary so you might be tempted to skip this step but a creative brief is a must whether you’re writing the white paper internally or hiring a writer.
A creative brief can ensure both your marketing, sales teams and c-suite agree on the goals for the white paper, the story, specific ideas and research that must be included and the timeline.
Mistake #3: Neglecting the outline
Like the creative brief, you might think writing an outline isn’t necessary or will stifle your creativity, but a white paper isn’t a blog post or an opinion piece. A white paper should be structured and organized while also engaging your reader in the story.
Chances are, you won’t follow the outline to a T, but your outline will ensure you hit all of the main points, the story will flow and make sense. The outline can allow all of your teams to understand the scope of the project, give feedback and make revisions before you invest time or money into it.
Mistake #4: Telling the wrong story
Your team might be fired up about a particular topic for your white paper, but if it isn’t one your customers want to know more about and need a solution for, it won’t be an effective way to capture leads.
Look at studies or surveys you’ve conducted, talk to your sales team and research ideas to identify topics your leads are interested in.
Mistake #5: Failing to conduct interviews
Your white papers should include relevant studies and surveys but quotes bring even more credibility to your story and make for a more interesting read.
Include interviews with subject matter experts or c-level executives but make sure they’re actual in-person or phone interviews, which will be much more compelling and natural than email responses.
Mistake #6: Making it all about you
When your leads download a white paper, they’re looking for information, not a blatant sales pitch. They probably read a blog post about the same topic on your website but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy. In fact, promoting your business too soon can kill your credibility and send your leads looking at what your competitor offers.
Bring leads further along in the buyer’s journey by educating them and providing value, and save your sales pitch for the end.
Mistake #7: Giving it away for free
Another common mistakes companies make with white papers is making them accessible to all visitors.
If your goal is to capture leads, this content must be gated via a landing page or pop-up. Unlike a blog post, infographic or webinar, white papers are premium content and hold a higher value so it’s appropriate to ask for a name and email address (or more) in return.