I write whitepapers for a living. Because of my background in engineering, I typically handle high-tech content for complex products and services, and I've come to discover that even the most complex material can be fleshed out in simple ways to produce high-quality whitepapers.
Here are my top 10 ideas that I share with clients to harvest information before writing highly effective whitepapers that engage their target audiences.
10 Easy Ways to Get Whitepaper Content
1. Blog it first
You've got ideas, but not a lot of time to write a full paper. Instead, outline the paper, then write a blog post for each chapter of the whitepaper. Bring the posts together, and edit your way to a paper.
For example, you may want to write a paper about six best-practices. Write a blog post for each best-practice, then add an intro and summary to turn it into a full whitepaper. As a bonus, the blog posts can link to the whitepaper as a call to action.
2. Interview a thought leader
Before your interview, come up with questions—but thinking about them as sections of a whitepaper. Then record the interview and turn the transcript into a whitepaper. For a meatier paper, interview 3-5 thought leaders on the same topic, and include lots of pull quotes.
You likely have lots of thought leaders internally, as partners, and in the industry; they have many different areas of expertise—which means a neverending well of content.
Tip: If your thought leader is a product marketer who never has enough time to write, just have them outline (here's how).
3. Write a webinar
It can often be much easier to get a thought leader on a webinar or podcast than to be interviewed for a whitepaper. Then, take your highest-performing webinars or podcasts and turn them into whitepapers. If it's a webinar, you already have graphics from the slide deck and great content from the transcript. In fact, you can make this approach part of your regular content process: Turn every webinar or podcast into a whitepaper.
4. Sit down with Sales
Your sales reps or pre-sales specialists field lots of common questions from lots of prospects. Buy your rep lunch and get the scoop on the most common questions they receive; you'll find you have a great early-sales-stage whitepaper.
5. Team up with Product
Chances are you have product-focused employees—engineers, product managers, or product marketers—who talk to customers about product. A lot of times they may be focused on what isn't working; hopefully, they've also heard their fair share about what is: things like the favorite features in your product or instances where product saved the day. Capture those positive interactions, and you'll have a great paper on the top features/benefits of your product.
6. Poll your audience
No, I'm not talking about asking for whitepaper ideas. Instead, work with the product team to turn a list of product ideas from the product roadmap into a way to educate and interact with customers. Create a simple poll for readers to rank ideas, and link to it in your paper. This means you can create an interactive whitepaper that educates prospects and customers on existing features and discusses valuable additions. You can send the results to subscribers as a great follow-up. It also gets product a prioritized roadmap. A total win-win-win!
7. Contact Support
A great paper for the sales cycle can be found by digging into Support's content. Look for questions that were about process (such as "How do I do this thing that will help my business?") and have solid answers that show you can do that thing with your product today.
You can turn that Q&A into a whitepaper that shows off all the cool and valuable things your product does. It is highly relatable for your prospects because the content comes from their peers.
8. Dig into implementation
Most considered purchases have an implementation team that works with customers to help understand and install your product. Find out what the most common questions and issues are at implementation, and you can turn those into a great late-sales-stage asset to help prospects overcome their implementation fears.
9. Get serviced
If you've got a services component to your business, there is an abundant amount of great content waiting to be harvested. Look for services case studies, real-life examples of how your product was used to solve a problem, common issues that clients are facing, etc. Many services organizations create reports on their client engagements, so you may be able to dig out what you need without trying to beg time from billable employees.
10. Attend a conference
Or, better yet, send a super customer to a conference, and ask them to cover it for you. They'll be thrilled you paid their way, and you'll get more authentic, peer-written content. Have them write a blog post about each key session, and then bring the posts together for a whitepaper. And, of course, the blogs can promote the full paper.
Look to the Gig Economy to Help You Produce Your Whitepapers
If you implement even a few of these ideas, you'll likely have more content than your internal resources can handle. That's where the gig economy can help.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 43% of Americans will be gig employees by 2020. As more marketers join the freelance world, you'll need to start embracing ways to utilize this important type of marketing employee.
All of the 10 ideas in this article refer to projects that can involve a contract writer. You're delivering them all the content; they just need to use their mad skills to turn it into a whitepaper. And with the caliber of product marketing writers in the gig economy, you'll get great results faster and for less money than using your internal product marketers.
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