A newsletter for B2B writers and marketers
keen to know more about white papers
Issue 2 • March 2022
- Fresh content: So you have to write a white paper…
- Quick tip: Name your white papers right
- This just in: For 10 years running, 6 out of 10 marketers used white papers
- Tools of the trade: A new product to help you write white papers
- The White Paper Review: New episodes on YouTube
- What I’m reading: The Apollo Murders
- Just for fun: AI writes a commercial?
But you’re not sure where to begin?
Here’s something that can really help: a quick-start guide that explains all the basics and points to many resources.
All this will help you avoid the most common pitfalls in doing a white paper.
This article walks you step-by-step through the three Ps of these projects: Planning, Production, and Promotion.
Whether you’re brand-new to this field, or you’ve done a few white papers but could use a refresher, this quick-start guide can help.
Read on to discover the best practices that will help your white paper succeed.
Quick tip: Name your white papers right
This tip applies to everyone: writers, marketers, agencies, and designers.
You know how most organizations have some system for naming files, right?
And those names go something like this:
And those filenames end up on your white papers when they’re published?
Or maybe somebody along the way renames each white paper to match your corporate standard:
Well, with nondescript filenames like that, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, SEO-wise.
Because it turns out Google and other search engine spiders don’t like those names any more than people do.
Search engines, like humans, prefer filenames they can actually parse and understand.
Ideally, your filename is based on the topic, such as:
You don’t have to use obscure abbreviations or the notorious FINAL-FINAL label.
Give your white papers a readable filename, and your SEO for that piece will soar.
How do I know this?
When I was doing some white papers for 3M, the head of their content efforts told me an intriguing story.
As a test, they changed the filenames on some of their content to more descriptive names that actually made sense.
And downloads shot through the roof from that one change. Their re-named content clearly started generating more traffic from search engines.
(Of course, that only works if the search engines can access your white papers since they’re not gated. But that’s another story you can read about here.)
Make your white paper filenames more reader-friendly, and you’ll help get more eyes on the white paper you’ve created.
This just in: For 10 years running, 6 out of 10 B2B marketers used white papers
No one has surveyed B2B marketers on their content efforts for as long as the Content Marketing Institute.
In case you missed the 12th annual B2B report for 2022, here are some highlights:
- 56% of all B2B marketers surveyed use e-books/white papers
- Even more (67%) of the most successful firms use those formats
- 62% of the most successful firms use long articles (3,000+ words)
And the clear winner for the most successful format was virtual events/webinars. That’s not a big surprise during the pandemic.
But research reports (48%) and e-books/white papers (47%) were pretty much tied with short blog posts (48%) for the second-most effective format.
The past 10 years of B2B white papers
As for white papers, here’s a chart I made from the CMI research.
Over the past 10 years, on average 62% of B2B marketers surveyed have used a white paper in the past year.
But look what happened in 2019 through 2021: a huge drop of more than 25 points!
That number bounced back nine points in 2022, but still. Does this mean white papers are a dinosaur on the way out?
Well, think about what else was happening in those years… a little thing called Covid-19.
At first, marketers were stunned. Everyone had to work remotely. Some people got terribly sick.
And then marketers were pressed with demands to pump out extra content to replace all those canceled trade shows and sales calls.
If not every team managed to publish long-form, authoritative content like white papers during that period, I can understand why.
It’s been far easier to focus on medium- and short-form content like blogs and social media.
But when they’re done properly, white papers work.
And I expect to see that usage number hover around 50% to 60% for the foreseeable future.
That’s still a lot of companies producing a lot of white papers.
But what is a …?
If I have one quibble with the CMI surveys, it’s the lack of clarity around the different categories of content.
What’s the difference between a research report, a long article, an e-book, and a white paper anyway?
If you merged all those together, you’d see long-form content as the #1 format by a long stretch.
But still, hats off to the CMI for their ongoing efforts to survey the field and their hefty annual reports.
Tools of the trade: A new product to help you write white papers
My colleague Brian Boys has developed something quite amazing: a cool new product to help speed up your white paper writing.
The White Paper Writing Tool is a neat package of training videos, tips, and online forms to help you capture your thoughts and get that first draft down faster than ever before.
The software basically interviews you through the process of writing a shorter white paper.
With online forms to capture your ideas and videos to coach you along, this product is a mini-course plus a writing tool all in one.
Brian has an engaging online presence and a minimalist approach that boils everything down to the essentials.
Whether you’re a marketer, an entrepreneur, or a writer, I think you could benefit from this writing tool.
Right now, Brian is offering a special price of $79.
Check it out here: https://brianboys.podia.com/view/courses/the-white-paper-writing-tool
(Not an affiliate link, I just want to bring this new resource to your attention.)
Due to popular demand 😉 my writer buddy Brian Boys and I put up another two episodes of our YouTube show, The White Paper Review.
It’s the only show on YouTube that answers the burning question: Is this white paper any good?
Or should the company that published it be ashamed of themselves?
Along the way, we “geek out” on loads of things we’ve learned about these challenging projects.
You can catch every episode of the show here:
Now the show has an intro, created by yours truly in a few minutes with PowerPoint, Camtasia, and a free audio clip from transistor.fm
If you like the show, remember to subscribe. Then we can tell you when the next episode goes live.
What I’m reading: The Apollo Murders
Yes, the acclaimed astronaut Chris Hadfield has now penned quite a competent thriller, called The Apollo Murders.
The intriguing alternate-history plot is packed with real-world details about space flight during the Apollo years.
Hatfield provides so many realistic details that I really felt like I was jammed into a tiny capsule on the way to the moon.
Tension mounts with high-stakes action in space and on the moon, driven by the geopolitics of the Cold War on earth.
If you like techno-thrillers with intricate descriptions of how space machines work, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
If you want deep characterization, profound themes, and poetic writing, well, you probably don’t read many thrillers, do you? 😉
Just for fun: AI writes a commercial?
AI is soon going to write everything any client ever needs, right?
Here’s a commercial that was written by AI for a huge brand, Burger King. You tell me: Should all copywriters quit today?
The bottom line? I think copywriters can have it their way for the foreseeable future.
That’s all for this time
If you liked this e-newsletter, please forward it to a colleague who’s interested in white papers.
You can see all the previous issues here: www.thatwhitepaperguy.com/newsletters/
And if you have any questions about white papers, please send them to Gordon AT thatwhitepaperguy.com and I’ll do my best to answer… maybe in my next article!
Good luck with all your projects!
That White Paper Guy