White Paper 101

by John Eberhard

Offering a white paper is a great way to improve your website marketing and increase the number of people inquiring on your site. It’s also a great way to increase the number of conversions, or people filling out the form and becoming a lead on a pay per click advertising campaign. This is most useful for lead generation campaigns, meaning you are getting people to respond to you so you can have a salesman sell them your product or service, usually a high ticket item.

So what is a “white paper” anyway? When white papers first started appearing in the late 90s and early 2000s, I thought they would all be white. They’re not, they come in all colors. In fact I’ve never seen one that is all white.

So what is a white paper? It is simply a report that a company will write and give out, usually for free, on some topic related to that company’s expertise. The trick is to come up with a topic for a white paper that is exactly related to your business, so that everyone requesting it will be a prospect for your business.

So by offering a white paper you are indirectly generating leads for your business. And everyone requesting it will understand that and no one will be offended by your pitching them your services.

I have put together many white papers over the years for clients or companies I have worked for. Here are the parameters I’ve used:

  1. The white paper should be 500-2,000 words long, with the ideal length being perhaps 1,000-1,200 words.
  2. The majority of the copy for the white paper should be helpful information on some topic related to your business. Then you should have a pitch for your products or services at the end. This pitch should not be more than 3-5 paragraphs. End it with a call to action, i.e. tell them to call you for something.
  3. Once it is written, design it using a desktop publishing program, with a nice cover, and with appropriate photos or graphics throughout.
  4. Once it is designed, save it in PDF format, so it can be emailed to people requesting it. Make sure it is under 3 megabytes in size, otherwise you will have trouble emailing it. If it is too big, you can reduce the pixel size of your images.

Here are some white papers I’ve created for clients:
Hotel Internet Services
Repipe Specialists
Aero & Marine Tax Professionals

Once you have your white paper ready, then you need to put up some kind of offer on your web site. Make a graphic of the cover of the white paper, and write a blurb promoting it. Then you have to require that someone gives you their contact information, minimally their name, phone and email address, in order to get the white paper. That is the “price” they are paying for the free white paper, giving you their contact info.

You can set up your white paper offer with an autoresponder so that once the person fills out the form, it sends out an email with a link to the white paper so they can download it right away. Or you can just email it to them once you receive the email. But since you are offering it, you have to make sure you actually send it to everyone who requests it.

After that, call them and sell them your product or service. And put them on an email mailing list so you can promote to them over time.

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