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Practice Management > Building Your Business

10 Steps to a Great White Paper

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In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a white paper is an examination of a topic, business challenge or issue by an authority on the subject. To create a white paper that establishes your credibility as an expert in your marketplace and positions your company as a preferred solution provider, you need to plan carefully and think strategically.

Here are 10 tips for creating a great white paper:

  1. Choose a topic that concerns or confuses your market. Write about an issue or situation your clients or prospects care about but don’t fully understand. The marketplace will value your ability to shed light on an important or complex subject.
  2. Focus on what you know best. A white paper gives you a chance to demonstrate your in-depth knowledge and position yourself as an authority. Choose a topic about which you can legitimately claim to be an industry or subject-matter expert and for which your company offers potential solutions.
  3. Use facts to make your points. One of your main goals is credibility. Support your conclusions with research and statistics from third parties. Always cite your sources in footnotes.
  4. Add your perspective. While it’s critical to present content in a straightforward, objective manner, you also can use a white paper to help your market view an issue or challenge from your perspective. Add your point of view on the subject based on your experience.
  5. Use visuals. Increase comprehension and user-friendliness by using charts, diagrams and pictures to explain or illustrate content.
  6. Add sidebars. If there’s a specific point you need to explain in more depth to ensure the reader understands the bigger picture, use a sidebar for additional content.
  7. Include FAQs. Put yourself in the reader’s place: What questions would your client or prospect have about this subject? Include these FAQs and provide easy-to-understand answers.
  8. Invest in professional design. Increase the impact and perceived value of your white paper by presenting it in an attractive, business-like format. Have a professional graphic designer develop the layout. Be sure to integrate the design with your brand identity.
  9. Showcase your credentials. Provide details on your experience and education to affirm your position as a resource that readers can trust.
  10. Position your company as the solution. A white paper is not an overt sales tool, but one of your goals in publishing one is to encourage prospects to consider your business as a solution provider on the paper’s subject. At the end of the white paper, include a section of content describing your company and your expertise as it relates to the white paper’s topic, with an offer for a complementary consultation or evaluation.

If you’re interested in establishing yourself as an expert in your niche, a white paper can be an effective and cost-efficient method.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at


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