6 Steps to a Lucrative White Paper (Template Included)

Creating a white paper for your business can feel like you’re back at uni, staring at the first blank page of your dissertation.

But it doesn’t have to be so intimidating. 

Not when you break down your white paper planning into 6 simple steps. Which is exactly what we’ve done for you. 

In this guide on how to write a white paper, we cover:

1. Identifying your audience

2. Choosing a topic and goal 

3. Conducting research

4. Structuring your content 

5. Refining your language

6. Selecting your design 

Learn everything you need to create a white paper that makes you stand out as a voice and authority in your industry. 

If you’re joining us for the first time, we recommend you read What is a White Paper? for a quick refresher on the basics. 

And don’t forget to download your free white paper template!

1. Identifying your audience 

How cosy are you with your audience? You might know things like their age, location and gender. But do you know their favourite pizza topping?

Okay, you don’t need the ins and outs of their culinary delights. But it’s good to get a bit more personal. So you can choose topics, words and visuals for your white paper that gets readers thinking, I must read this! 

Ask yourself:

  • How does your audience feel about the world?
  • What do they truly believe will help them?
  • What is their key desire?
  • What are they like as a person?

Answer these questions to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and write with empathy. 

You can also use Google Analytics to get more details. Analyse traffic across your marketing channels using custom URLs to understand which types of content are resonating the most and by who.

2. Choosing a topic and goal

A topic tells you what to cover. A goal tells you why you’re covering it. You need to get clear on both in your white paper planning before you start writing. They’ll guide you towards relevance and results.

First, the topic. 

It’s good to consider what you’re an expert in. But understand that your competitors are probably experts on that subject too. 

If you’re not talking about something new, be the source of all knowledge. Combine real-life experience, detailed research, hypothesis and industry commentary to bring everything together in one place. 

Or stand out by offering something unique. Like a fresh perspective on a trending topic.

Competitor analysis can reveal knowledge gaps your business can fill. It might also expose trends worth investigating.

Talk to your prospects and clients too. Find out what they’re curious about. What big problems are they struggling with? What do they need help with the most? Conversations like these often reveal the perfect topic.

Second, the goal. 

Having a defined goal helps you measure success. As a white paper is either top or middle-of-the-funnel content, your goal might be to:

  • Increase sign-ups to your newsletter
  • Drive brand awareness
  • Attract a new audience
  • Move prospects further down the funnel
  • Nurture existing leads or customers
  • Attract new partners or talent

Be greedy. Have multiple goals! A white paper can easily drive brand awareness while helping you nurture existing customers. 

3. Conducting research

We’re talking at least 70% research, 30% commentary with white papers. Because you need a mountain of evidence and alternative views to write a compelling white paper people will want to read. 

If it feels like you’re back at uni again, only now you have a full time job, multiple responsibilities, a social life and family to contend with,  it can be tempting to skirt the research and take a fast track to the end result. 


Your white paper and reputation will suffer for it. You’ll offer people no more than what they already know and risk wasting their time. 

Plus, you’ll learn loads from researching the subject area and that new knowledge can inform fresh, awesome content. If it’s absolutely too much, outsource it before you rule it out. That’s how important it is.  

To make the most out of the time you spend researching, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Start broad - a basic internet search is a good way to get started without feeling overwhelmed. You can dive into the specifics later.
  • Use credible sources - scholarly articles, government publications and trade journals will provide you with accurate data and figures you can count on. But also …
  • Use your critical and analytical skills - to determine if the source is reliable, ask yourself: Does it agree with other sources I’ve found? Is the author an expert in their field? Does it come from a trustworthy institution?
  • Use recent data - anything older than four years may be irrelevant today. But use your noggin’ to determine if old data can be relevant. And if you choose to include it, make sure you can justify why to your readers. 
  • Take plenty of breaks - breaks in between all that reading will give your brain a chance to catch up, digest what you’ve learnt and also allow new ideas to come to you. 
  • Be open to other points of view - it’s limiting if you’re only verifying what you already know. Seek different opinions and you might find surprising answers that challenge your point of view and enable deeper learning. 

Let’s also talk about staying organised. 

You’ll probably be taking endless notes and downloading many articles while researching your white paper. Organising it all is going to make your life so much easier.

You could use index cards and write a code on each card for future reference. Applications like Evernote, PowerPoint and OneNote help you do this digitally (yay for going paperless!).

And eliminate faffy copy and pasting with Airstory. It allows you to save online research as a note. Then you can drag that note into any space you write online. The note automatically merges with the source URL included so you can cite super fast. 

Also, when you download an article, highlight choice bits using comments (Adobe, Microsoft Word and Google Docs all have this function). 

Finally, keeping a note app on your phone means you can jot down thoughts on the go - especially useful for the brainstorming walks! 

4. Structuring your content

A white paper can come in various formats depending on the topic and how you choose to tackle it. But for this guide, let’s focus on the simple problem and solution white paper structure. 

Here’s what to include:

1. A hook

Hook the reader with a compelling title that focuses on the benefit of the white paper rather than what it includes. Because that can come in the introduction. 

2. An introduction

Provide an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of your white paper. Cover the topic, why you’ve chosen it and the benefits in store for the reader, encouraging them to read more. 

3. Solution or executive summary

This isn’t essential, but it can be useful for the reader to introduce the methods you plan to apply in your white paper. That way they’ll know exactly how much they’re set to gain from reading your content. 

4. Identify the problem

Discuss in detail why this is a problem in your industry and for your audience. Be sure to use empathetic language that resonates with your readers to keep them engaged and enthusiastic about your white paper. 

5. Give a historical overview 

Paint a picture as to how this problem you’ve chosen to tackle has impacted others and where it originates from. This will also help you add depth to your white paper and demonstrate your deep understanding of the topic, giving your work more authority. 

6. Give additional findings 

Show the reader that you’re an authority on this subject by offering other points to consider when tackling this problem. Consider using statistics and data visuals like graphs to make your information reader-friendly. 

7. Give the solution

Time to show the money, so to speak … Use steps to break up your solution into an easy-to-follow format. Don’t worry too much about providing evidence here, that comes in the next step.

8. Provide justification

Now you can liberally divulge the evidence you collected in your research. It should be clear to the reader why your solution is the best on the table. Remember, the credibility of your sources will affect how strong your case is. 

9. Include references 

You need to include a citation whenever you quote, paraphrase or refer to research material, giving credit to others for their ideas. It also allows the reader to follow up and learn more should they want to. The order of your reference should be: [author name], [date published], [publication title], [place of publication], [URL].  

10. Provide a summary

You’re almost at the finish line of a white paper structure! Time to review the problem, your solution and the results readers can expect from applying your suggestions. 

9. End with a call to action 

This should be tied into your white paper goal. To illustrate, maybe you want to build brand awareness. You could ask the reader to share your content with their colleagues or friends to achieve this. 

Download our white paper template for further help with your structure. 

5. Refining your language 

If you’ve read What is a White Paper?, you’ll know that your language needs to be formal and professional, even if you usually opt for a more informal tone in your other content marketing. 

Because white papers are generally seen as academic and technical pieces if your language is too informal, it will read more like an ebook

But formal and professional doesn’t have to be boring.

Keep your language engaging by opting for short, snappy sentences that are written in the active voice rather than passive. A readability app like Hemingway will highlight areas of your writing you can improve for engagement. 

Also, concentrate on making your white paper title and headlines shine. According to Copyblogger, 80% of your visitors will read your headline – but only 20% will go on to finish the article. This is absolutely applicable to white papers!

Adopt conversion copywriting tactics to keep readers engaged. These include:

  • Communicate how your ebook will help readers achieve their goals
  • Use contractions such as changing ‘you will’ to ‘you’ll’
  • Include numbers in your title
  • Replace adverbs like ‘very’ and ‘really’ with stronger verbs
  • Use second-person pronouns (‘You’ instead of ‘They’)
  • Show, don’t tell readers how your ebook will help them 

We talk more about copywriting in our next article: 7 Outstanding White Paper Examples. You can also learn where to include headings by downloading our white paper template

6. Selecting your design 

Whether your white paper design is outsourced or done in-house, you’ll need to create a brief outlining your style. This should include colours, typeface, visuals and images.

Sticking to your brand colours and typeface will create consistency. This helps readers associate your content with your brand, raising awareness.  

Your cover will be what draws readers in first, so make it as radiant as a male peacock love display. 

Consider colour psychology for your white paper design (Coschedule has a fantastic guide on this topic). 

You might also want to A/B test different designs to see which variant keeps readers with your content for longer.

Our white paper examples article is packed with dazzling designs to get you inspired. Check it out if you need some ideas. 

You’ve learnt how to write a white paper! 

Your readers are waiting to be wowed by your knowledge. Impress them with a white paper that’s been planned, researched, written and designed to perfection. 

Make this process easy by downloading our white paper template, giving you a clear structure to work from. 
And if you need inspiration for your white paper designs, read our next article.

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