How to Create a White Paper that is a Great Marketing Asset

15 March 2023

Business Communications Communications for Fundraising Marketing Communications Social Sector Communications Whitepaper/Report

Team Purple Iris

To create a white paper is one of the top priorities of B2B marketers. It is a versatile content asset that can be used to demonstrate an organisation’s deep expertise in a chosen area of work and promote a niche offering. 

A white paper is the nudge you are looking for to make a prospect get off the fence and sign up.

Buyers who are actively evaluating options need subtle persuasion, and a rich, informative and substantive white paper often does the trick. A survey of B2B customers shows that 71 percent have used white papers as a decision-making tool for purchases.

However, though white papers feature prominently in a B2B company’s editorial calendar, plans do not always get off the ground. Targets (“we want to publish one white paper every quarter”) or even definite ideas (“Our team has written an article that needs to be converted into a white paper”) do not take concrete form. 

The reasons are many. The inability to devote time for the extensive research and writing involved. The lack of in-house skills to put together a compelling and marketable asset. Or limited creativity to work around dry and dull technical material for wide consumption.

Sometimes the problem is more fundamental. There is a lack of understanding of what makes a white paper. If an article has sufficient length and depth, can we term it a white paper? How is a white paper different from a technical paper or an industry report? 

Read about the approach we took to create white papers for our client, Project Management Institute (PMI).

White Papers: Creating Influence, User Stickiness 

A white paper is an authoritative piece of document that explores a big idea, dissects it from different angles and states the way forward including a government’s position or a company’s point of view. It aims to break down an issue or a technical subject for the ease of consumption of an audience. A white paper may lay down a roadmap or recommendations, and thus become a handy guide for users. 

Here are examples of two white papers–one that led to huge public discourse and the other that saw the start of a whole new market fuelled by a new technology. 

The Population White Paper by the Government of Singapore published in 2013 “sets out the key considerations and roadmap for Singapore’s population policies to address its demographic challenge.” It is a blueprint for Singapore’s population growth and suggests that the island nation increases its population to 6.9 million by 2030.

One of the most influential and pathbreaking white papers in the world of business is a nine-page document published in 2008 that marked the beginning of bitcoin. Written under the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto, and titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, it is credited with using the word ‘bitcoin’ for the first time.

Not all white papers enter immortality but they help achieve certain set objectives. 

  • Showcases your depth of knowledge and expertise, which is critical when trying to influence a buyer.
  • Adds depth to your website. Customers will spend more time on your site, which in turn will bring down the bounce rate and help push up the ranking of your website. 
  • Gives you a new asset to use for marketing campaigns.
  • Provides you an avenue to capture leads by making it available only when an interested user submits certain information.

What Goes Into its Making

There are a few important components to consider when you create a white paper.

  • Identifying the Target Audience: Know who your target audience is and what their pain points are. Make that the starting point of your white paper planning process, and not the solution that you want to pitch. In other words, think backwards. If this is the solution I want to capture, what problems am I trying to solve? 
  • Finding a Topic: Pick a topic that is still a ‘white space’, which gives you an opportunity to create original content around it. Involve your organisation’s subject matter experts in the discussions and pick their brain on messaging and the organisation’s stance. 
  • Structuring the White Paper: Get the structure right, so the white paper has a logical flow. 
  1. The title is what will catch your reader’s attention.
  2. An executive summary, which will give an overview of the content.
  3. The introduction sets the context and lets the reader have the background behind the problem being discussed.
  4. Next, stating the problem clearly will resonate with the customer.
  5. The solution that your organisation is offering or recommending, with any use cases as a form of illustration.
  6. Outlining the outcomes that show your value proposition.
  7. The conclusion that sums up as takeaways for the reader.
  8. A call to action that indicates the next step for the reader.
  • Fixing the Look and Feel: A white paper is a piece of long form content that everybody wants in their content mix. But how well it is consumed depends on whether it meets today’s readers’ expectations. Readers look for hooks in different forms. It could be a pithy introduction that conveys the message strongly. Create visual hooks with graphics that simplify complex information. Or it could be an aesthetically made layout with a text-visual mix that adds to one’s reading pleasure. 

Read our post on ways to enhance your text with infographics. 

  • Working on the Promotions: Before you unveil the white paper, give some thought to its promotion. Collaborate with sales leaders and time the publication to coincide with planned sales campaigns. Even after you have published it, look for opportunities to promote it. For example, an executive speaks on this topic at an industry forum and you share the white paper to the event delegates as a post-event email or use a micrographic to promote it on your social media handles.

Five Mistakes to Avoid 

While white papers are a powerful tool for lead generation, be mindful of these common mistakes to ensure effectiveness. 

  • Do not make it a sales pitch. A white paper is to be used primarily to highlight your expertise and provide recommendations. Make subtle references to your products and solutions and do not hard-sell.
  • Do not skimp on the details. Readers expect more depth in a white paper than an article. So do not hesitate to provide details at a granular level such as process maps and new methodologies or frameworks adopted.
  • Do not miss the business angle. Carefully sift through all the technical details and pick only those that help you tell the story. While the technical details are important, you must be able to weave a business story out of it.
  • Do not make it dry. Discussing a complex subject can make it tedious and drab. So pay attention to the writing style and presentation so that readers stay engaged.
  • Do not be lax in your research. Spend time researching the topic. Use genuine and reputed third-party sources for data points and trend spotting. 

Since it is time-consuming to create a white paper and needs strong writing skills and collaboration between writers and designers, these projects tend to drag. In-house efforts need the support of specialist writers. They offer an outsider’s perspective to the content, think out-of-the-box by incorporating learnings from other such projects and manage the project end-to-end.

Want to know how we can help you create white papers? Write to us at

Get in Touch With Us

Contact Image