How to Write a White Paper That Wows (In Just 5 Steps)

Illustration of a cartoon man with brown hair, brown tie, and brown pants running while holding a sheet of paper with a lightbulb on it, to illustrate the idea of someone with a great new idea.
What problems can you help your audience solve? Get specific. (Illustration: samuraitop)

Many businesses and marketers are interested in writing a white paper, but they’re also intimidated because it can be a daunting task.

What makes white papers so effective is also what makes them challenging to write—they’re longer and more detailed than most other types of business content.

However, there’s also a formula for writing a white paper. By following the steps below, you can tackle a white paper in manageable chunks.

Step 1: Define the Target Audience, Then Choose the Topic

Before doing anything else, you want to get clear about the audience and why you’re writing for it. Many people make the mistake of deciding on a topic before thinking about the audience—but that’s backward.

If you know whom you’re writing for, it becomes much easier to find topics that are interesting and useful to them. That’s why a successful white paper starts with the who rather than the what. The more specific you can get about your target readers, the better.

Here are some questions to consider at this stage:

  • For whom is your white paper intended?
  • What questions can you help them answer?
  • What problems can you help them solve?
  • What useful information can you give them?
  • What are you hoping they’ll do after reading your white paper?

Now that you understand your target audience, it’s time to choose a topic that they’d be interested in reading about.

Step 2: Develop a Detailed Outline

Now is when you take a big-picture view and write a detailed outline. Remember, you can always change this later. What you want to accomplish at this stage is how long the white paper will be, what sections will be included, and the order it’ll be presented in.

The point is to get some clarity about the sections, what they’ll cover, and how they’ll be structured.

Most white papers have an introduction and a summary, so don’t forget to include these in your outline.

Don’t Miss: White Papers: Pros, Cons, Examples, and Best Practices

Step 3: Do Extensive Research

The research phase of a white paper can often be the most time-consuming part. You’ll need to collect a lot of high-quality information. Most white papers also include data. You can find this information in trade magazines, market research reports, books, and other references.

Another great way to get high-quality information is to conduct interviews.

  • For example, if you’re writing a white paper about computers, you might want to interview an engineer who has designed them.
  • Or if you’re writing a white paper about gardening tips, you should probably interview an expert on gardening.

Not only will these experts give you great information that you can use directly, but they can also recommend other resources such as articles and books.

In this video, OpenView explains more about creating great white papers that generate leads:

Step 4: Write the White Paper

It’s time to get to work on writing the white paper. You’ll be able to incorporate the information you’ve collected from the research stage and start bringing it all together.

Remember, a great white paper should educate the readers, so it’s important to be clear, concise, logical, and consistent.

Don’t Miss: Writing Tips From Experienced Marketers and Copywriters

Step 5: Have Someone Review It

Don’t forget to have someone, such as a colleague or an editor, review your work.

A white paper should be highly professional and polished, so it’s important to eliminate mistakes. Failing to do so can reflect negatively on your business and damage your image.

By following the steps above, you can write a white paper that gets noticed.

At Super Copy Editors, we have years of experience in polishing up white papers and similar marketing content. Contact us today to learn how we can help make sure your white paper wows people.

Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I'm Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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