How to Write a Compelling White Paper

Lately it seems I’m writing white papers left and right. Since I didn’t really know what a white paper was until I’d written my fifth one, I decided it was time to learn.  Enter Google (again).  This Top 10 List by Megan Tsai caught my eye. Thought I’d share it with you, ’cause you just might want to write a white paper soon…

If your marketing content huddled up as a football team, a great white paper would probably be your most valuable player, because it has the same name appeal as a star NFL quarterback. Sure, other players might work just as hard – but it’s the white paper that gets instant recognition.

So how do you create a paper (one that’s more Peyton Manning than Jay Cutler)? Here are the ten best white paper tips for writing white papers that win customers:

1. Think about your audience. Your white paper probably isn’t what you’d be interested in reading: find out what matters to your prospects and create your papers around those topics. Visit forums and ask questions to learn more about what they want to know.

2. Draw them in. The paper’s introduction should present the topic in a compelling way, drawing in the reader and making them eager to learn more.

3. Leave the marketing speak behind. The paper should present useful information in a simple, easy-to-read way. If you want to sell, create a brochure or sales sheet instead.

4. Solve the problem. Don’t just tell your audience about their problems, explain how they can solve them. Don’t be overly afraid of giving away “inside” information: your expert knowledge makes the paper a success.

5. Get the facts. Numbers are no longer a requirement, but good data or survey results will boost your paper’s appeal. Search academic journals and trade group surveys for numbers you can use.

6. Back it up. Don’t use these marketing pieces to make unsubstantiated claims; they breed skepticism and undermine your credibility. If you don’t have numbers, use quotes from objective third-party sources.

7. Make the case. Consider sprinkling in a few relevant business case studies and real-life examples for added value.

8. Tell them how to shop. You can’t use white papers to sell your solution, but you can explain to readers how to shop for a solution in a way that leads them toward your offering.

9. Think visual. Support your paper with strong visual elements like tables, graphs, pull quotes and sidebars.

10. Give it away. When you require a prospect to log in or sign up to receive the finished paper, you limit its effectiveness. Make sure most – if not all – of the content on your website is ungated.

White paper writer Megan Tsai is a seasoned communicator and award-winning writer. As a full-time freelancer, she provides business writing, copywriting and marketing communications – including white papers – for companies and advertising agencies. Visit to learn more and sign up for the Red Wagon Writing monthly e-mail newsletter full of writing and marketing tips.

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Compelling White Paper

  1. When writing White Papers the most important thing is that it has the ability to stand out. The world of white papers has become so cluttered, particularly all of the free white paper hosting sites, that it is difficult to find the truly worthwhile ones. A well written white paper can be beneficial for your business in lead generation and other ways as well.


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