Your guide to creating thought-leading content.
If you’re an eCommerce or retail business owner, there’s never been a better time to leverage the power of content marketing to boost brand awareness and grow your audience.
With so many channels, touchpoints, and mediums to explore, you can develop content to inspire specific segments of your audience and gain an all-important edge on the competition.
One of the best ways to create thought-leading content is by producing an informative whitepaper on trending topics related to your specific niche or industry.
Creating whitepapers as part of your content marketing strategy will help you build trust, generate leads, boost sales, and encourage conversions. More than three-quarters of consumers are willing to exchange personal information for the right whitepaper—more than eBooks, infographics, or podcasts.
Yes, whitepapers are a powerful promotional force (not to mention the fact that they’re cost-effective). And with the right approach, they can provide a host of business-boosting benefits.
What is a whitepaper?
A whitepaper is a little like a mini eBook in the sense that it is a downloadable asset that covers a specific issue or topic in more detail than your average landing page, email, infographic, or blog post.
The best whitepapers have a simple yet scannable design, follow a narrative (they have a clear beginning, middle, and end or conclusion), and often include eye-grabbing visual assets (sparingly).
While there is no set word count for a successful whitepaper, most are around 6-12 pages in length. This content length allows you to dive into a topic without running the risk of your reader becoming overloaded with information or getting distracted and abandoning your creation before they’ve really had a chance to engage.
To help you understand the concept better and guide you to success, here are the key traits of a successful whitepaper:
- Statistics or quotes that make your content more credible and back up for statements, reports, or discoveries
- Visuals and formatting that bring the subject matter to life and make your content digestible as well as scannable from start to finish
- Plain, clear, and accessible language with minimal jargon that offers genuine value in every paragraph
- A strong call to action as well as insights that answer a specific question or help with a particular pain point
- Clear calls to action at appropriate times within the whitepaper
How to create an effective whitepaper for your eCommerce or retail business
Now that you’re up to speed with the best qualities of a brand-boosting whitepaper, we’re going to look at how to create one for your retail or eCommerce business—starting with a little consumer research.
Know your audience and industry
This may seem like an obvious point, but when faced with the daunting task of filling a blank page with content, you would be amazed at just how many people just start writing and see what happens.
Even if you’re an experienced content writer, winging a whitepaper is unlikely to ever make a real impact. That said, before you choose your specific topic, it’s important to hone in on the specific audience segment you’re looking to reach. You should also carry out a little competitor and industry research to see what’s trending at the moment and what your audience may want to know.
Once you’ve been through this process, you will have a solid idea of who you’re aiming your efforts at, as well as any content gaps (things your competition hasn’t covered in enough detail or has failed to answer) you can leverage to your advantage.
To help you understand your audience and give your whitepaper creation efforts definitive direction, read our study on how proper segmentation can lead to more sales.
Choose your whitepaper topic and title
Now that you’ve conducted your consumer and competitor research, it’s likely that you’ll have a firm grasp on the whitepaper subject matter that you’re going to explore. Now, it’s time to choose your topic.
To choose a topic that’s valuable, impactful, and you can really bring to life, you should consider these three essential elements:
- The topic is something within your grasp that you’re qualified to create content on
- The topic is relevant to your industry and will intrigue or inspire your prospective readers
- The topic builds on a competitor content gap or offers a fresh take on a popular or trending subject matter related to your industry
For instance, if you’re a running shoe retailer, you might choose to write about emerging trail running technology, as it’s a trending topic. To ensure your whitepaper stands out from the crowd and offers additional value, you could go with the refined angle of sustainable trail running performance technology trends to capture a more eco-conscious segment of your audience.
Once you’ve settled on a topic that you believe in, you should set about producing your title. Here are some top tips to help you do just that:
- Summarize what your audience will gain from reading your whitepaper
- Write in the active tense rather than passive
- Use impactful marketing action words where possible
- Use a keyword planning tool to select a relevant key term with a solid search volume (this will help your whitepaper become more visible for the right search engine queries)
Read: Our practical step-by-step guide to creating engaging content ideas for additional advice and inspiration.
Gather your whitepaper sources and assets
Before you start getting stuck into the writing or production of your eBook, you should take the time to carefully gather your statistical and knowledge-based sources.
Carry out a decent amount of research, finding web sources that are credible, reliable, and reasonably recent (within the last three years, if possible—unless you’re creating a historical point or case study). If you have industry experts or pundits you would like to quote, reach out to them with the right questions and curate their contributions, editing them as you go.
You should also gather the graphics and imagery you would like to use within your whitepaper and label them in order of use. Armed with your statistical sources, quotes, insights, and imagery, place everything into one document or project management platform for easy use and access as you create your whitepaper.
Build a narrative with your sources, quotes, and assets
With your sources, stats, and assets at your fingertips, you can start to build your whitepaper narrative and watch it take form.
Looking at all of your assets and information, carve out a solid beginning, middle, and end using the stats, images, quotes, and insights to build headings and subheadings. With your headings in place, add everything to your whitepaper document in a consistent logical order.
Take a few hours or a day away from the project and return with fresh eyes, refining the order of your headings and assets until you’re 100% happy.
Write your whitepaper in full
At this stage in the operation, you will essentially be halfway there. You will have a rock-solid topic, first-class research, and a fully fleshed-out framework ready to go. Now’s the time to fill in the blanks.
If you’re struggling with a particular concept or section, leave it be for a while and come back to it with a clear head.
Here are some resources that will help you while writing your whitepaper in full:
- 5 offbeat content marketing ideas for retail & eCommerce business owners
- 7 copywriting principles for the modern age
Tip: Once you’ve finished your first draft and proofread and edited it a couple of times, send it to trusted industry professionals as well as honest friends or colleagues for constructive feedback. Repeat this process as many times as you need until you’re happy with the result.
Promote and amplify your whitepaper
Once you’ve finished your whitepaper and converted it into your desired format (a PDF is usually a slick and reliable medium), it’s time to promote it to your audience across channels.
Here are a few ideas:
- Create a dedicated landing page about your whitepaper that leads to a download form
- Use organic as well as paid social advertising across platforms at the times your target audience is most likely to engage
- Create compelling email marketing emails, incentivizing your recipients to download your whitepaper
- Work with respected industry influencers to expand the reach of your whitepaper
Creating a whitepaper is a big task, but with the right planning and a pinch of passion, you will create something that really resonates with your consumers.
Follow these essential whitepaper creation steps, trust your creative instincts, and take your time, and you’ll be sure to enjoy a healthy return on investment (ROI) from your new content marketing efforts.
For some whitepaper promotional pearls of wisdom, read all about how to scale your business with user-generated content.