How to Create White Papers that B2B Leads Want to Download

how to create white papers

White papers play a crucial role in the world of business-to-business (B2B) marketing.

They can help your potential buyers solve a problem, understand an issue, or make a decision[1]

59% of B2B marketers have used white papers in the last 12 months, even though many marketing teams have difficulty finding the resources to create them. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to create white papers B2B leads actually want to download. We’ll outline what a white paper is, the role it plays in marketing, and five steps to crafting a white paper that appeals to B2B buyers. 

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Let’s dive in. 

What Is A White Paper?

So what exactly is a white paper? 

Here’s a definition from Gordon Graham:

A white paper is a persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to promote a certain product, service, or viewpoint.

It’s an authoritative, in-depth report that aims to inform and educate readers about a specific aspect of a product or service in your industry. 

The purpose of a white paper can include showcasing your expertise, guiding decision-making, or generating leads.

Understanding the Role of White Papers in B2B Marketing

Understanding the role of white papers in your overall marketing approach can help you create compelling content that benefits your readers and drives your marketing success.

Here are a few key aspects of white papers in a B2B setting:

  • Industry relevance: White papers should be related to the specific industry or market you operate in and tailored to address concerns or challenges faced by your target audience.
  • Authoritative content: Your white paper must have well-researched, accurate, and credible content that establishes your company as an authority on the topic.
  • Educational: Your white paper should aim to educate readers on the subject matter, rather than selling your product directly.

Bottom line: white papers offer valuable, authoritative content that educates readers and addresses their challenges.  

But how do you write one that gets downloaded? 

Your first step is identifying your target audience. 

Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing your target audience helps you tailor your content to specific readers.

But it also ensures your message resonates with the right people. 

Understand that your audience may comprise both business and technical buyers. 

Business buyers are often focused on assessing the value of your solution in terms of meeting their organizational goals, while technical buyers look for specific features and functionality.

You can understand both buyers by:

  • Creating buyer personas: Craft a detailed profile of your ideal customers, including demographics, job roles, and decision-making processes.
  • Analyzing your existing customers: Look into your customer base and identify commonalities among those who have already chosen your products or services.
  • Conducting surveys and interviews: Reach out to potential customers and gather information about what they expect from your white paper.

Once you have these insights, you can focus on delivering the information needed. 

Step 2: Choose the Right Type of White Paper

Several types of white papers exist. But they usually fall into the general categories of business or technical. 

A business white paper focuses on the benefits a product or service can offer. 

This format is ideal if you’re trying to persuade readers to adopt your solution. Ensure you present compelling statistics and real-life examples to support your argument.

On the other hand, a technical white paper provides in-depth information on a specific technology. 

The goal is to educate your audience on the technical aspects of a product or service, helping them make informed decisions. 

Other types of white papers include:

  • A problem-solution white paper: Identifies a problem in the industry and how to solve it.
  • A background white paper: Dives into the history or background of a specific topic, offering readers valuable insights into its development and significance.
  • A list white paper: Adopts a similar format to a list article, giving a series of tips on a specific topic or issue.  

Identifying your audience and selecting the right type of white paper are the first two steps.

The next is crafting a great title. 

Step 3: Craft a Compelling Title

Your title or headline is the first thing your audience sees. 

It needs to pique their curiosity and make them want to read the full paper. 

Here are some techniques to help you write an engaging white paper title:

  • Use the words “how-to” in the headline if it’s a Problem-Solution white paper.
  • Use a number if it’s a List white paper.
  • Include a benefit in the title. 
  • Call out the target audience in the subtitle. 

Examples of great white paper headlines:

  • 5 Steps to Rid Your Small Business of Payroll Stress[2]
  • How to Get the Most Accurate and Reliable Data from HPLC using Ultrapure Water[3]
  • How To Choose the Right Microscope For Successful Research: A Buyer’s Guide for Life Science Researchers[4]

Copywriters advise that you spend 80% of your time on the headline. A great headline/title hooks readers and prompts them to download your white paper.  

Step 4: Design for Readability and Engagement

You should put as much focus into readability and engagement as you put into writing. 

It doesn’t matter if you write the most compelling white paper on Earth if the format makes it hard to read. 

So think about the visual elements, layout, and tone.

Be sure to include graphics like charts, graphs, tables, and images. 

Visuals not only break up large blocks of text but also help your audience grasp key concepts and data more easily. 

Here are some other tips to keep in mind. 

  • Use bullet points or numbered lists to summarize key points.
  • Bold or italicize important terms or phrases.
  • Use tables to organize complex data.

Avoid large blocks of text and make sure to use lots of white space. Your readers will thank you. 

Step 5: Repurpose and Promote Your White Paper

So, you’ve created a valuable white paper to help with your content marketing efforts. 

How can you promote it effectively, while also repurposing it for maximum impact

Here are some things you can do:

  • Optimize your landing page with a clear call to action. 
  • Share your white paper on social media. 
  • Transform your white paper into different formats like blog posts and articles.
  • Create a webinar or podcast using your white paper’s key insights.
  • Turn your white paper’s data and statistics into a visually appealing infographic.
  • Use your mailing list to deliver a newsletter with snippets from your white paper, directing readers to the landing page for the full download.

When you repurpose and promote your white paper, you’re getting it in front of more people. And more people seeing it means more people downloading it.  

Key Takeaways for Your Next B2B White Paper

Your white paper is more than text on a page; it’s a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. 

So next time you sit down to create one, think about your target audience, the type of white paper you need, the title, layout and design, and repurposing and promotion. 

These elements all contribute to improving your white paper’s appeal, ensuring more people read it. 


  1. White Papers for Dummies, Gordon Graham.