Difficulty writing effective whitepapers? Here are 5 steps to planning one

Whitepapers are often the most difficult pieces of marketing to create.

Why? Most marketers don’t have the time or resources to undertake such a complex project.

And that’s not the only problem: a white paper also sometimes produces a marginal return on investment and effort.

Challenges to writing articles

I work with marketing experts at scientific technology companies. Things I hear often:

“We’ve seen so many examples of bad white papers. We don’t want to risk creating one until all the pieces are in place.”

  • “We just don’t have the time or bandwidth to write one.”
  • “We’ve had a few white papers in the background for a while, but our marketing team is too overwhelmed to take responsibility.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? In that case, you may be wondering how to successfully plan your next white paper so that it is written and successful.

In this article, you will learn about the main components to include in a white paper plan. Use it as a step forward to write white papers faster and easier.

What a good white paper plan does:

  • Establishes a framework for the entire white paper and designs it for success. A plan also saves time when you start writing.
  • Buy from all judges, minimizing debates, arguments, and rewrites.
  • Keep your white paper in good condition from start to finish.
  • If you outsource your white paper writing, a plan is an affordable, low-risk product that makes it easier to hire authors and see if they’re suitable for other projects.

So how do you set up a white paper plan? Here are five steps to get started.

Five Steps to Create a White Paper Plan

Step 1: Involve all project reviewers

By “reviewer” I mean someone on your team who has a say in the white paper content. A reviewer can also read and review the piece. Bring all these people together for a meeting.

Is it necessary for everyone to participate in this ad? No, but everyone has to sign the plan before writing the white paper (more on that).

If everyone on your team agrees on the plan, there will be fewer surprises (if any) than the first completed draft, which means fewer rewrites and revisions.

Step 2: Agree to the “Big 5”

The Big 5 are the top five questions to ask when writing white papers (and yes, you can apply them to other forms of marketing content too!):

  • What is the purpose of the white paper?
  • Who reads the white paper (the target group)?
  • What is the subject of the white paper?
  • Where is it used in the sales cycle?
  • How long will the white paper last?

Step 3: Build the Big 5 into a Plan

After talking to everyone in the conversation, you should have good answers for each of the big five questions. The next step is to group these responses into a document.

List the questions and their answers to ensure you have a correct answer for each one. The more details you can provide, the better.

The answers form the basis of your plan, and by thinking about the 5 big questions, you can give your white paper focus and direction. It’s even more than most marketers, so you’re already ahead of the game when you plan it.

Step 4: Add important details to the plan

Additional information can be helpful on a white paper plan. This data can be…

  • Keywords for SEO
  • Calendar (start date, first draft end date, review time, etc.)
  • List of all judges
  • Budget for the white paper
  • Resource search
  • Possible titles
  • Call to action

This last point is especially important. A CTA means you know what you want your reader to do after reading the white paper.

Ideally, you want to track your CTA click, so sending readers to your site’s home page isn’t a bad idea. Instead, send them to a specific landing page or ask them to call a special phone number.

Step 5: Ask all judges to review and sign the plan

Once your carte blanche plan has clearly defined all of the above information, send it to all the jurors (as well as anyone who attended the first interview) and ask them to sign. If everyone is happy with the plan, you can be sure there will be no surprises when you submit your draft white paper.

Don’t skip this step! Discussing information in advance and involving all judges is key to coming up with a plan.

A white paper plan is important; but at the same time, don’t spend more than a week on it. This is not a detailed analysis of the article, with lots of research, graphs, and footnotes. It’s short and fast, designed to help you take your entire white paper offline.

It should be a small document that can be completed in 3 to 4 days.

Once you have your work plan

Use your plan as a guideline for writing the entire white paper. Someone has to own it. Ideally, two or more people have involved: one person writing, one drawing and organizing the images, one supervising, and so on.

The supervisor must take responsibility for the entire project to ensure it is completed. But with a good plan, you’ll get off to a good start.

You can use the steps in this article to schedule long content. Once you master planning, it becomes second nature and you create content faster and more efficiently, with minimal revisions or rewrites.