people reading a white paperOne of my clients believes that most B2B marketers just “throw shit against the wall” and hope that it sticks. This may keep you busy, but it won’t bring you great results.

When you’re putting a ton of time and effort into creating a white paper, you don’t want to throw random content out there and hope that it resonates with your audience. That’s why it’s important to get clear on who your audience is and what their key pain points are – as well as how you want to address their concerns in your white paper – before you begin to write. Once you have this information, you can use it to draft your white paper’s introduction.

Get Clear on Your White Paper’s Audience

When you completed the white paper creative brief (links to a Word file), you answered a number of questions about your target audience, such as:

These are just a few of the questions you can ask. If you have trouble answering these questions, then you may need to do more background work. Be sure to check out “15 Ways to Get to Know Your Target Audience” for ideas that will help you connect with your ideal customers.

How to Write a White Paper Introduction that Compels Your Target Audience to Read More

Once you have a good grasp of your target audience, you’re ready to start writing.

When I start to write a new white paper, I begin by drafting the introduction or executive summary. Doing this first ensures that I stay focused on the target audience, their key challenge and what’s needed to solve the challenge as I write the rest of the white paper.

The introduction of a white paper can be anywhere from a few paragraphs to a page in length. It serves as a teaser that gives readers an overview of what they can expect in the rest of the white paper and compels them to read more.

I base my white paper introductions on a process that I learned through Michael Stelzner’s book Writing White Papers. I highly recommend this resource if you want to learn more about writing white papers. Stelzner recommends that your introduction identifies your target audience, summarizes their challenge, summarizes the solution and states the white paper’s goal.

Here’s a breakdown of what you must do in your white paper’s introduction:

When I draft the introduction of a white paper, I always mention the target audience by their role, even if this doesn’t go into the final draft. I find that referring back to this helps me stay on track.

You can include a statistic or compelling piece of research that highlights the scale of the problem. For example, if you’re talking about network security, you can say something like, “Did you know that a company loses $300 for every customer record that is compromised? At $300,000 for every 1,000 records, – the hard costs alone can add up fast.” (This isn’t a real statistic, so please don’t quote me!)

 “While your old technologies may have worked in the past, they do not stand up against today’s sophisticated global hackers. That’s why you need a network security solution that allows you to …”

And finally, remember that this is just a draft. It doesn’t need to be perfect and will probably change as you dive deeper into the white paper. At this stage of the writing process, it’s just important to have guidelines that you can refer back to as you continue writing.

If you have any comments or questions about this lesson, please post them in the comments section below or message me directly.

Do You Want to Know More About Writing Better White Papers?

This post is part of a series that outlines how to write white papers, as well as how to promote them to reach the widest possible audience. If you would like this series emailed to you for easy reference, please sign up for the No More Boring White Papers! e-course.

2 Responses

  1. Nice article – I’ll definately share with some of our customers/potential customers.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.