Are you one of those SaaS marketers who think white papers are dead?
Allow me to change that mindset of yours!
Here are a few facts before we proceed.
White papers may not be the newest content format but the power they yield is far from going extinct.
While videos and infographics are certainly popular and have their place in the B2B SaaS buying process, white papers offer the audience content that’s authentic and palpable.
As the B2B SaaS sales cycle grows longer and complex, the role of white papers will become ever more important.
SaaS buyers are becoming more and more selective about the content they consume. They rely on trustworthy sources, their peers, and industry influencers to educate themselves.
In this post, I will share how you find everything related to white papers and their role in boosting your brand image.
We will also share action-packed tips and white paper examples, enabling you to write and promote a piece of content that converts.
So, let’s begin!
To begin with, let’s understand what is a white paper?
White papers are the most useful type of content that educates and persuades the audience on a subject (especially complex topics). Here’s why B2B SaaS marketers should consider having white papers as a part of their content marketing strategy.
This is one of the key benefits of including white papers in your content marketing strategy.
White papers hold persuasive, authoritative, value-adding content. Hence, people are willing to hand over their information to access it.
The central goal of every B2B firm is to attract prospects, turn them into leads, and convert them into loyal customers.
White papers not only help attract prospects but also capture leads which is the second stage in the funnel.
White papers lead magnets that capture leads through a lead generation form on the landing page of the white paper.
Notice how Pearson’s lead capture form asks the user to provide more than just the basic name and email fields for access to their white paper on Defining Career Readiness and Student Success.
Did you know?
80% of new leads never get converted. One of the top reasons for this is poor lead nurturing.
On the other hand, companies that invest in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.
Thus, after generating leads, the top priority for SaaS businesses should be moving them down the conversion funnel using lead-nurturing tools like white papers.
For B2B SaaS businesses, the point of contact with buyers comes at a later stage. Plus, the sales cycle is long and complex. Hence, businesses need to offer value-addition much higher in the funnel.
By hosting a white paper on your business website, you are –
Thus, white paper allows marketers to nurture leads at each funnel stage, thereby maximizing the likelihood of them becoming paying customers.
It’s a no-brainer that when SaaS buyers need a solution for the problems they seek thought leader guidance. When done well, thought leadership can positively influence brand perception and purchase behavior through the sales process.
An Edelman study of 3,600 management-level professionals found that SaaS decision-makers consume thought leadership to stay on top of the trends and generate new business ideas.
White papers allow businesses to share compelling content that positions them as an authority in the domain.
The persuasive in-depth report addresses problems that have long plagued the industry. So, the white paper sponsor or the author becomes the ‘hero’ who offers a solution to the problem.
B2B SaaS marketers often find it tough to stand out from the crowd because all businesses speak the same language and offer similar pricing.
In such a competitive scenario, sharing white papers can educate your sales team, potential customers, channel partners, and the media about your product or service.
Thus, white papers act as excellent PR tools that cement your business into a leadership position. That’s why most businesses announce their PR white papers in press releases and newsletters.
Without a doubt, original research helps move the needle for SaaS buyers. It not just builds thought leadership but also drives the content for owned and earned media.
In the State of Original Research for Marketing 39 percent of marketers shared they published original research in the past year. Also, 50 percent said they were considering conducting research.
The internet is full of duplicate content. White papers present an opportunity to publish original content, allowing you to gain a competitive edge.
Bonus – you get tons of backlinks, thus boosting your online visibility and ranking.
This graph from the 2020 Content Preferences Study, clearly shows that white papers are one of the most preferred content formats for an early and mid-stage of the buying process.
However, it looks less likely that they are only counting on white papers to attract and nurture leads. In fact, you can see most B2B firms focusing on formats like infographics, listicles, blog posts, and podcasts.
Thus, publishing well-researched and compelling white papers will offer buyers something different than what the competitors offer.
Moreover, white papers allow businesses to cast FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) on what the competitors are offering, thus crossing them out of your buyer’s checklist.
For instance, if you are a B2B marketing agency producing a white paper on ‘Lesser-Known Facts about SaaS Social Campaigns,’ you are appealing to the buyer’s fear of failure, the uncertainty of lesser-known brands, and doubt in the competitor’s claims.
Thus, you are disqualifying your competitors in the race towards conversions.
Writing a white paper may seem like a daunting task. But when done correctly, white papers can educate your target audience and help them accomplish their goals.
They act as fuel for turbocharging your lead generation and conversion efforts.
Here are a few tactics that will tell you how to create a white paper and incorporate them into your content marketing strategy.
Writing a white paper can seem like a daunting task when you aren’t clear on what you plan to accomplish from it.
Simply sharing statistics without a narrative that takes your audience nearer to your goals is a sure-shot formula for failure.
Start by defining the goals you plan to achieve through your white paper. That will determine the topic of the white paper and the ensuing research.
Here are a few common reasons why B2B SaaS firms invest in publishing a white paper.
But your goals should go deeper than the ones mentioned above. They should answer questions like –
For instance, are you looking for leads who aren’t aware of your niche or unaware of your product or service?
Answering these questions will help you set a razor-sharp goal and create an effective white paper outline.
You can determine your ideal reader by considering the following four questions.
What’s their role in the organization?
Decision-makers wear multiple hats. They could be investors who have studied the industry trends, opportunities, and challenges in detail.
They could also be analysts who are curious to know how your services fit in the industry landscape. Possibly, they may be looking for information that will help them communicate with their audiences.
Know what role your reader is playing and tailor your white paper content accordingly because a single document will not be able to accommodate a diverse audience.
At what stage are they in the buying process?
We already saw that a white paper can be an excellent tool at any stage of the sales cycle. But that doesn’t mean it will work at all points.
So, determine the stage at which your target reader is. Is your reader at the awareness stage, wanting to know what the crystal ball tells them? Are they in the consideration phase (solution aware) and planning to use the white paper to make a business case to their management?
Considering the stage they are at will help you write and promote your white paper in the most effective manner possible.
What questions are they asking?
Paying attention to what your target audience is talking about on online forums, social channels like LinkedIn, and communities will add a lot of meat to your white paper.
What are the top questions they are asking? Here are a few questions I picked along with the insights we derived.
Where are they researching?
Part of defining your ideal reader in today’s digital world is also about where they will find your white paper. Thus, you also need to consider the platforms where your target persona will research and the search terms they use.
This is a big reason why optimizing your white paper for the right keywords is critical. Also, the title and headers should be relevant and easy to understand with descriptive long-tail keywords.
Your carefully crafted content, original research, and statistics will not earn the much-needed clicks if the white paper structure isn’t appropriate.
From social posts and tweets to emails, the competition for getting the reader’s eyeballs is intense.
Thus, to attract readers, your white paper will require some serious sparkle.
Make sure your white paper is well structured to keep your readers’ attention glued to the content. Here are some quick tips to consider.
Design for Your Readers
Align your design with your target readers. Are you talking to financial executives or real-estate professionals looking for industry insights? The colors and typography should complement who you are writing for. For instance, you will surely not choose Fuschia pink headlines for a white paper addressing the C-suites and top management.
If you are looking for a suitable white paper template, I recommend visiting this template gallery.
Check Out the Current Design Trends
Draw inspiration from other white papers to understand what’s trending. Dribbble, Pinterest, and Behance are great platforms to know what’s popular.
Spend time looking through various designs and formats and save the ones you line on Evernote or Keep for future reference.
Beware of Clutter
A long-form content format like white paper will hold several images, charts, and walls of text. Not to mention the supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos, and copyright info.
Hence, there’s a danger of the white paper design feeling crammed. Implement a design that allows some breathing space between the information shared and highlights the key insights.
Take a look at this sample white paper by ADP on ‘5 steps to rid your small business of payroll stress.’ It uses an attractive and clutter-free design to share a wealth of information and statistics on the topic.
Make it Mobile-Ready
In the first quarter of 2021 alone, mobile traffic (minus tablets) accounted for 54.8 percent of global website traffic. No wonder, web designers and SEOs have already adopted this trend and gone responsive.
The same applies to digital content assets like white papers. Check out this white paper by RethinkX. The think tank knows how to engage its mobile audience and hence has adopted a responsive design.
White papers are full of facts, information, and numbers. So, the huge load of information can get overwhelming for the audience.
Humans are hardwired to narratives. We not just like to tell stories but think and remember them for a lifetime.
Regardless of how complex your research is, there’s always a story to tell. It’s the best way to keep the reader engaged and persuade them to make it through the white paper.
So, establish the problem, talk about the problem-solving journey, the challenges encountered, and share the solution, just like DocuSign has done in its white paper.
White papers are perceived to carry high-value and unique content. So, live up to that expectation!
Avoid sharing content that’s already present on your website or blog. Instead, the content should be unique with insights that can trigger action.
Here are a few quick tips to consider.
Content without adequate research or context is like a spreadsheet. A strong white paper balances value-adding content with numbers and real-world examples and thoughts/ ideas.
Consider adding context and credibility to your white paper by –
Check out how Deutsche Post backs all the data shared in their white paper with a quote from an industry expert.
Adding visuals to white papers is not just about sharing pretty pictures or infographics.
Visuals often have a quicker and stronger impact than a wall of text. That’s because the human brain is set up in a way that any visual stimuli are linked with an emotional response, thereby forming a memory.
Here’s an image for you-
Just the image and two words are enough to invoke fear within the audience and make a connection with pain and death.
Visuals support the arguments and make an otherwise bland white paper look appealing. So, include graphs, charts, and relevant images in the white paper to make it interesting for your audience.
Notice how Tableau Software uses impressive and clean visuals to share value-adding insights.
Further, create an impressive cover design to draw the reader’s attention to the white paper.
When the reader visits your landing page, the cover design is the first thing they notice. So, an eye-catching cover design will go a long way in persuading them to click on the link and download the white paper.
Notice how Ion Interactive has implemented an attractive white paper cover design on its landing page along with a clear CTA.
That brings us to the next point – adding a call to action.
Besides adding a CTA to your landing page, it’s critical to tell readers what to do after they have consumed your white paper content.
Whether you want them to get in touch with you for a free demo or trial, make a purchase, or simply sign up for more industry updates, you need to guide them through the next step.
So, give them specific instructions like –
Writing and designing an impressive white paper is only half the battle won. Thanks to the massive amount of data available on the internet, it’s getting challenging for marketers to get noticed.
Hence, one cannot ignore the importance of promoting and distributing your white paper on the appropriate traction channels.
Follow these tips to get your white paper the attention it deserves.
After all the effort you’ve put into writing the perfect white paper, you cannot miss creating a well-converting landing page. A landing page is essential for gated content like white papers.
Your landing page needn’t be fancy yet it should clearly explain why your audience should hand over their details for the content.
Ideally, the landing page should carry –
Make sure your landing page and the paid search/SEM/PPC campaigns carry the same language. When readers click on a paid search, for instance, the landing page should feel different.
Finally, remember to A/B split test your landing page using tools like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer to boost the download rate.
Notice how Tableau Software uses bulleted points and an impressive design in its landing page.
When the reader clicks on the CTA, a simple form slides in.
Besides creating an impressive landing page and making your white paper responsive (both of which we discussed earlier), there are other ways to improve its online visibility.
If you want to increase your white paper downloads, follow the SEO tactics shared below.
Research suggests that the use of infographics improves reading comprehension by 50%, thereby boosting engagement. Further, search engines give preference to user-friendly visual content like infographics.
So, including infographics in your white paper can improve your white paper reach and viewership.
Optimize the Title and Text
Use keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, or KWFinder to determine the suitable keywords. Using appropriate keywords in the captions and titles will help the search bots index the content.
Check out how SEMrush can help in finding suitable keywords for ‘SaaS tools.’ It also shared the keyword difficulty.
Make sure you include these keywords in the titles, subtitles, and content while being mindful of the keyword density. Adding metadata to your white paper PDF will help in getting the content indexed by the search engines.
Write a Crisp Summary
Your summary shouldn’t just be authoritative and persuasive for your readers but also keyword-rich so that search bots get the context of your content.
Make sure you create a crisp summary for your white paper and use it as a part of your landing page, social media posts, email body, and newsletters.
Topic influencers, thought leaders, journalists, and publishers have their own set of audiences. So, it’s wise to seek their permission and mention them in your white paper. This will amplify your promotion.
For instance, if you have mentioned or quoted industry influencers in your white paper, make sure you tag them in your social posts. This will encourage them to repost and share your content with their followers.
Thus, your white paper will find a new pool of potential leads.
Moreover, every industry has a major annual event or conference. Most of these conferences heavily rely on authoritative content forms like white papers to remind their potential participants about the upcoming events. Such partnership opportunities can help you get your white paper to their audience.
Finally, you can team up with industry associations to research and promote your white paper. That way, you can leverage their authority and audience.
Aren’t sure how influencer marketing works for SaaS businesses? Check out our post on this topic!
Are you a part of communities or groups in your niche? Make sure to share your white paper on channels like Reddit, Quora, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are the platforms where your leads are looking for solutions to their pain points.
To get more eyeballs, pin the post to the top of your LinkedIn or Twitter page. You can also invest in sponsored advertising for exposure to specific targeted audiences.
However, before sharing your white paper, make sure you are active on these groups, else your content will be seen as spam.
Despite the popularity of social media, email marketing continues to be one of the most profitable and popular channels for B2B SaaS marketers. In fact, email is the second most popular B2B content distribution channel.
Follow these quick tips to promote your white paper to your email list.
If you’ve attended industry events, meetups, conferences, and webinars, you would know that it’s common for speakers to share their white papers. Most of them smartly give a compelling reason to the attendees to download the paper soon after the event.
For instance, they create a sense of urgency by creating a landing page where attendees can download the white paper free within the next 48 hours.
To reach a global audience quickly, you can share your white paper as related material after a webinar or an online event. This will allow you to connect with leads who otherwise struggle to attend meetups beyond their geographies.
Slideshare is the YouTube of B2B SaaS marketers with more than 80 million active users. And this audience comprises business owners and C-level executives.
So, by sharing your white paper on Slideshare you are –
So, share a presentation on a related topic and incentivize your audience to visit your landing page to download the full white paper.
If you need more help with promoting your white paper, use white paper syndication services. These agencies promote white papers to the relevant audience using channels like their company website or blog, emails, social pages, sales calls, and more.
A white paper syndication service can improve your content’s circulation and outreach and position you as a thought leader in the niche. They can also work on improving your website traffic and rankings.
White paper syndication websites like TechRepublic and Knowledge Storm offer free and paid schemes to promote white papers.
Despite being one of the most powerful weapons in a SaaS content marketer’s arsenal, most white papers fail to capture and engage quality leads.
Marketers are often intrigued by too many ideas that pull them in all directions. Here are some common mistakes I have seen marketers make when writing and promoting white papers.
Is your white paper a sales pitch in disguise? Well, I have bad news for you!
A white paper that sounds salesy reduces its credibility and trustworthiness, thus impacting its download rate.
So, don’t let that happen.
Whether you are trying to promote your SaaS or position yourself as an expert in this field, your white paper shouldn’t be seen as promotional.
How can you do this?
White papers are expected to carry in-depth research and knowledge on a particular topic. But that doesn’t mean you plainly share statistics taken from various websites.
Make sure you add well-researched content from authoritative sources that will add value to your audience and help them to make an informed decision.
More often than not, marketers get so involved in talking about the past analysis that they forget to share what the future will look like.
The audience is more interested in how this analysis will impact the future of their business. So, too much backstory is a surefire way to see your white paper tank.
It’s like telling a golf player what a double eagle/albatross is all about! They already know that it’s tough to score an albatross. They want to know how they can do it.
It all boils down to asking yourself these basic questions –
This point is closely related to the previous one; yet, it deserves a separate mention. Most white papers lay too much emphasis on sharing research findings.
Though it’s important to share research insights, it’s equally important to tell the audience what to do with the data and how.
Ideally, white papers should follow the problem-solution approach. They should offer clear solutions/ action areas with concrete examples, enabling the audience to alleviate their problems.
The least appreciated aspects when writing a white paper are readability and design. As mentioned earlier, white papers carry a lot of text and visuals. If these aren’t structured well or presented elegantly, it will negatively impact the reader’s experience.
When designing the white paper, you must think beyond words, images, and branding. Think of aspects that may seem trivial to you, namely the typography, the text alignment and positioning, column width, and more.
For instance, many white papers go wrong when they choose a small size font, so small that readers have to constantly zoom in and out to navigate to the sections they are interested in. Such inconveniences can cost you a loss of readers who may otherwise have shared your content in their network.
A white paper is aimed at generating leads and ultimately sales.
Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean readers will be ready to answer a sales call or click on a pop-up immediately after they have downloaded it.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, avoid blasting your leads with sales messages and calls.
Past research has shown that leads are most engaged in the first 48 hours of the download. So, make sure you send that follow-up email within this window.
You have created a white paper and invested resources in publishing and promoting it. Now what?
When your white paper is out there, I would recommend working on the following pointers to continue getting returns from this content asset.
Once you’ve set up a strong white paper promotion and distribution strategy, it’s time to think about managing the bulk of leads generated.
If not properly tracked and nurtured, all your efforts will be in vain. Also, re-engaging cold leads is tougher than engaging warm ones.
So, follow these tips to convert your leads into paying customers.
Also, you may want to track the common email marketing metrics like open, click-through, and conversion rates.
Your journey as a B2B SaaS marketer isn’t over after publishing and successfully pulling off a white paper marketing campaign. You have raised the bar, not just in the minds of your target audience but also in the industry.
So, make sure you have lined up fresh research and content for your new set of leads. You cannot let them down now after they have consumed your awesome white paper.
As a SaaS firm, you must be working hard to fill your sales pipeline with warm leads. I am sure doing that is still easy!
The challenge lies in delivering value that persuades them to stay with you and move lower in the sales funnel.
If that’s what’s been hovering in your mind, it’s time to invest your resources into creating an impressive white paper. An in-depth analysis of a specialist topic in your domain is all you need to build authority, win trust, and turbocharge your conversions.
So, go ahead and use the tips and tactics shared in this article to generate pre-qualified leads and boost conversions.
Feel free to share this post with your peers looking to leverage the awesome power of white papers!
White papers are informational and authoritative pieces of content that help readers understand a pressing issue, get an idea of the possible solutions, and make a profitable business decision.
White papers are nothing like brochures.
Brochures are staunch sales documents designed to create interest. They use impressive copywriting and advertising techniques and flashy design to evoke emotions like fear or vanity in their audience.
Moreover, brochures are mostly used by B2C brands like automobiles, electronics, or white goods.
On the other hand, white papers are persuasive and authoritative documents that offer insights into an industry, product, or technology.
They make an excellent SaaS content marketing tool because they carry original research and in-depth insights.
Moreover, they focus on visualizing a possible solution for the pain points of their readers.
White papers usually carry case studies but the reverse isn’t true. Case studies are real-world examples or extended testimonials for a product or service. It often carries direct quotes from customers who have used the products.
They are mostly used at a later stage of the sales cycle (usually during the consideration phase) when the customer needs some social proof.
Besides having an academic style of writing, white papers establish a problem and offer possible solutions while backing up their claims with data.
Moreover, white papers are used early in the SaaS sales cycle to build trust and establish authority.
Not all white papers are the same. Depending upon the nature of a business, its target audience, and goals, there are five types of white papers.
White papers usually come in when the prospect wants to know more about the industry or the product/ service. However, the types of white papers we discussed earlier can be used at different stages of the customer journey.
You could use the Technical white paper at this stage.
If you aren’t sure about the type of white paper that’ll help your business, ask yourself these questions.
The answers to these questions will help you make a suitable choice.
Both white papers and ebooks are powerful tools for B2B SaaS businesses. However, you must know when to use what.
Here are a few characteristics of each that will help you make a decision.
There aren’t any ground rules for defining a white paper. Hence, more often than not, businesses wrongly and carelessly label any long-form content as a white paper.
Here’s what doesn’t count as a white paper.
Note that white papers are strictly pre-sales documents used to help the target audience get a grasp of the problem, know the possible solutions, and make an informed decision.
By its very nature, the B2B SaaS industry thrives on data, original research, authoritative information, and analysis. So, white papers aren’t going anywhere!
In fact, the whitepaper’s creation and distribution strategy developed by a proficient content-driven SaaS SEO agency can effortlessly put the SaaS product in front of potential investors and customers through organic search.
New content formats like podcasts, explainer videos, and recorded webinars may seem popular. But creating these content assets requires a lot of resources and varying production methods.
Moreover, white papers, owing to the in-depth data they hold, will always be considered the most authoritative piece of content in this industry.