Tips to Writing Whitepapers that Drive Sales


Each week, I download whitepapers and read them. Ultimately, the power of a whitepaper is measured, not in the number of downloads, but the subsequent revenue you’ve attained from publishing it. Some whitepapers are better than others and I wanted to share my opinions of what I believe makes a great whitepaper.

  • The whitepaper answers a complex issue with details and supporting data. I see some whitepapers that could have simply been a blog post. A whitepaper isn’t something you want prospects to easily find online, it’s much more than that – more than a blog post, less than an eBook.
  • The whitepaper shares examples from actual customers, prospects, or other publications. It’s not enough to write a document that states the thesis, you need to provide valid proof of it.
  • The whitepaper is aesthetically pleasing. First impressions do count. When I open a whitepaper and see Microsoft Clip Art, I typically don’t read any further. It means the author didn’t take the time… which means they probably didn’t take the time in writing the content, either.
  • The whitepaper is not freely distributed. I should have to register for it. You are trading your information for my information – and you should prequalify me as a lead with the required registration form. Landing Page forms are easily accomplished using a tool like an online form builder. If I’m not serious about the topic, I wouldn’t be downloading the whitepaper. Provide a great landing page that sells the whitepaper and collects the information.
  • The 5 to 25 page whitepaper should be compelling enough for me to regard you as the authority and resource for any work. Include checklists and areas for notes so they aren’t simply read and discarded. And don’t forget to publish your contact information, website, blog and social contacts within the body of work.

There are a couple of means of making whitepapers compelling enough to drive sales.

  1. Transparency – The first is to transparently tell the reader exactly how you solve their problem in finite detail. The detail is so finite, in fact, that they’d much rather call you to take care of the problem than actually doing it themselves. Do-it-yourselfers will take use your information to do it on their own…. don’t worry… they were never going to call you anyways. I’ve written a few papers on optimizing a WordPress blog – there’s no shortage of people calling me to help them do it.
  2. Qualification – The second way is to provide your reader with all the questions and answers that qualify you as their resource better than anyone else. If you’re writing a whitepaper on “How to hire a Social Media Consultant” and you provide your customers with open contracts that they can leave at any time… make that section of your whitepaper on negotiating contracts! In other words, support and play to your strengths.
  3. Call to Action – I’m genuinely surprised by how many whitepapers I read where I end the article and have no clue about the author, why they are qualified to write about the topic, nor how they can help me in the future. Providing clear calls-to-action in your whitepaper, including phone number, address, your sales professional’s name and photo, registration pages, email addresses… all of them will solidify the ability to convert the reader.


  1. 1

    Great points, Doug. I have also found that many companies that attempt to use whitepapers to accelerate the sales process omit two of the most important ingredients. First, are they describing a problem that is absolutely spot on painfully relevant to what they provide as a product or service, and second, what makes them different? Not necessarily better. (The consumer will decide that, no matter how many times a vendor might say it).

  2. 2

    @freighter, I don’t disagree that you should define what your difference is – but no one honestly believes a company anymore just by saying they’re different. It’s why it’s so important to develop a qualifying message within the whitepaper. By defining the qualifications, you can differentiate yourself!

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