The Top 5 B2B White Paper Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

white paper mistakes


This article will show you the top 5 white paper mistakes made in B2B technology marketing.

Click the link in the TOC below to skip straight to the mistakes.

But first, a quick story:

I occasionally draw cartoons for fun. 

You can see some of them on this website.

Honestly, I’d like to be more consistent with it. But that’s a rant for another day. 

Anyway, when I started learning to draw, my teacher told me there were several rookie mistakes made by newbie cartoonists. 

One mistake is not drawing a basic outline of the cartoon first. This means drawing shapes that roughly resemble what you want the final drawing to look like.


Another mistake is being too rigid with your sketching. When drawing circles for example – a key shape when it comes to outlining any cartoon – amateurs will draw one solid circle. And if they mess it up, they’ll erase that circle and draw another one. 

But pros know that you don’t just draw a single circular line.

Nope, instead you loosely sketch a circle over and over and over. And you use that rough sketch to then outline the cartoon. 

Rookie mistakes are also common in white papers. 

I’ve studied white papers a lot over the last few years. I’ve also written my fair share of them for scientific clients. 

And I see a few common mistakes made ALL THE TIME. 

The good news is they’re easy to avoid. 

Before we dive into these 5 mistakes, enter your email in the box below and click “Sign Me Up!“. You’ll get access to my weekly tips showing you how to drive traffic, leads, and revenue with white papers.

The Top 5 B2B White Paper Mistakes

Once you know these mistakes you can then create a great white paper that works hard for you.

Here they are:

Rookie mistake #1: Writing it like an academic paper. 

Here’s the thing: there’s no real industry standard when it comes to white papers. What I mean is there’s no benchmark for what a white paper should look like. Or what it should not look like. 

And I see A LOT of white papers look like academic papers – brimming with scientific data and technical jargon.

Here’s Gordon Graham’s (That White Paper Guy) definition of a white paper:

A white paper is something that helps your prospect or customer understand something, solve a problem, or make a decision” 

A white paper – especially one written for top-of-funnel lead generation – should generally be a high level overview of a new and better solution to a known problem. It’s not the place for academic or highly technical writing.  

Clear, simple writing is what you’re aiming for.

Rookie mistake #2: Too much selling

You don’t see this as much with science or high tech white papers. Mistake #1 above (writing it like an academic paper) is far more prevalent.

But you still occasionally see white papers written like sales brochures  – selling the product or the company with very little objective, helpful information. 

Here’s that definition again: A white paper is something that helps your prospect or customer understand something, solve a problem, or make a decision.

It’s not a sales piece. Instead, it’s classic content marketing – something your reader finds helpful and informative. 

So take an objective tone next time you sit down to create a white paper. And make sure it’s backed up by plenty of data and research. 

Rookie mistake #3: Not including a call-to-action at the end

This is probably the easiest to fix. Simply figure out what you want your reader to do next and then tell them to do it. 

How?

Ask yourself what the next step in the sales cycle is. Is it “visit a landing page for more information”? Or is it “call this number and talk to a sales rep”? Whatever it is, make sure you include it at the end of the white paper.


And in terms of exactly what to say for the CTA, here’s a formula you can use:

“To find out more about how your business can gain [key benefit explained in white paper] with [product or company name], [do something].”

Rookie mistake #4: Giving it a boring title

Remember: if nobody reads your white paper then you just wasted your time writing it. 

So how can you ensure people actually read it? You need to give it an interesting title. 

One of the fastest ways to spice up your title or headline is to include a benefit. There are other ways of course, but in the interest of time, let’s just focus on this one. 

Here’s an example of a benefit-loaded white paper title:

Save Time and Money with Fast, Accurate 3D to 2D Flattening for Industrial Fabrics

Rookie mistake #5: Not repurposing or promoting it enough

Many businesses will create a white paper, throw it up on their website, and leave it at that.

But if you want to leverage your white paper as much as possible, then you need to repurpose it into other formats and promote it as much as you can. 

An easy place to start is to divide the paper up into 4-5 blog posts and publish them on your website’s blog. Here’s an article I wrote for MarketingProfs a while back that shows you how to turn a webinar into 9 marketing pieces in 14 days.  

You don’t have to make these mistakes

Now that you know what they are, you can void these mistakes next time you sit down to create a white paper: 

  1. Rookie mistake #1: writing it like an academic paper
  2. Rookie mistake #2: too salesy
  3. Rookie mistake #3: no call to action at the end
  4. Rookie mistake #4: giving it a boring title 
  5. Rookie mistake #5: not repurposing or promoting it enough

Wondering what to do next?

Enter your email in the box below and click “Sign Me Up!“. You’ll get access to my weekly tips showing you how to drive traffic, leads, and revenue with white papers.