Marketing with Whitepapers

By this point you’ve probably noticed that writing is a skill that I use a lot in my marketing.

Like blog posts.

Or my newsletter.

But sometimes it makes sense to write something longer. Ebooks can work but they come with their own risks.

And besides, how many free ebooks have you read yourself?

The amount of time you need to invest to read a book makes them difficult to use as a marketing method. And the amount of time your clients need to invest can make them prohibitive.

(Note that they CAN work, but for the amount of time you spend on them you could have much more success doing something else.)

What I’ve been experimenting with has been between a blog post and an ebook in length.


Just don’t call them whitepapers – very few people trust whitepapers anymore.

What I’m describing as a whitepaper is:

  • an electronic file (PDF)
  • about 2-10 pages in length, excluding the cover
  • educational and valuable for the reader
  • focused on one specific topic
  • given away as a promotional piece

Why whitepapers?

(or as I call them, guides)

Length-wise, they are very close to long blog posts or articles. But they are so much more valued.

Imagine if I gave you a paper napkin with a hand drawn chart on it. How much would that be worth to you? Not much.

What about if it was printed in full color, on thick cardstock? You’d put more value on it.

The same thing happens with blog posts and whitepapers. Blog posts are so common and vary in quality that they aren’t that valuable by themselves.

But put the same content into a PDF, format it nicely, add a attention-grabbing cover and now you have something that people will take notice of.

It’s not just about getting attention that’s important though. It’s also about making people have a desire to read your whitepaper. That’s the hard battle.

Focus in order to create your whitepaper

It takes work to create a whitepaper, but it’s not that hard.

What you want to do is to focus on writing the content. That’s the most important part during creation, and the most time consuming. Refer back to my other lessons on writing or this blog post.

Next you’ll need to edit what you wrote. You can hire an editor, have a friend look it over, or do it yourself. I normally do one pass of edits on blog posts and two passes on my whitepapers.

Now you’ll want to create a cover. If you have design skills, by all means create it yourself. If you don’t have design skills, don’t worry. Try to find a designer and have them create a cover template for you (you could use your network, outsourcing sites like oDesk, or even fiverr for this).

Getting a cover template is important. When you’re starting out, making each whitepaper’s cover look the same can help your branding. If all you need to do is to change the title and re-export a new cover, you’ll be able to go far.

Get it in front of your potential clients

Once the whitepaper’s written and you have a cover, create a PDF from it and put it online somewhere where someone can download it.

(Search for "PDF Printers" if you need help creating a PDF. This software adds a printer to your computer that lets you convert to a new PDF file.)

The best success I’ve had with my whitepapers has been to host them behind an opt-in form. That basically means a visitor has to subscribe to my newsletter before they can download the whitepaper.

To do this I use LeadPages which has a very nice lightbox-style opt-in form. A new subscriber will opt-in, LeadPages will add them to my newsletter, and LeadPages will email them a link to my whitepaper.

There are other systems that could work too. Worst case you can put a link to your whitepaper in the first email your new subscribers get.

Once you’ve got your first whitepaper done, then you’re ready for the next step.

Eric Davis

P.S. Focus your whitepaper on a single problem you can solve for your potential clients within the length provided. Don’t try to make it a reference guide for every problem they have.