Thought Leadership

7 Thought Leadership Rules for Brilliant White Papers

Thought leadership can flourish with the right mindset towards content marketing. It’s your goal to communicate evidence in your white paper that provides clear direction for the reader. When you can provide clarity, you are on track for increasing thought leadership.

Thought leadership is all about authority. You gain authority when the content that you produce, in this case the white paper proves that your brand is competent. White papers are common in B2B industries and if you are going to be successful, your white paper must be exceptional and different.

White Papers Are For Complex Issues – Rule #1

The motivation for your readers to download and read a white paper is so that they can better understand a complex topic. Before finalizing the subject matter of your white paper project make sure there’s enough motivation for the reader to solve a problem. Is the question or subject deep enough to warrant a white paper?
Here are a few industries that make use of white papers:

• Enterprise software
• Computer hardware
• Manufacturing
• Medical equipment
• Technical or scientific services
• Consulting

It can also be very helpful to download some of your competitor’s white papers for research.

3 Thought Leadership Goals per White Paper – Rule #2

After you have your subject pinned down, you need to attach at least 3 goals for your white paper to achieve. These three goals need to be documented. This document must stay front and center as the white paper is being produced. Every sentence and paragraph needs to be in line with your 3 goals and what is not needs to be cut.

Start with choosing one main goal. This may be lead generation. It is a very common goal for the marketing of white papers. Your two other goals should be around the content that is produced. Maybe your second goal is making sure that you persuade the reader that your stance on this part of the subject is the smartest and the other options are sub-par.

Maybe your third goal is that there is a second part of the subject matter that needs to be addressed with a high level of importance. It is being able to say we need to make sure we give these parts of the content extra attention.

There are content goals and online performance goals. Make sure that you have one main or big goal for performance. Also, make sure that you have a few content goals and possibly secondary online performance goals. The main point is being able to distinguish what is most important.

Conduct SEO Research – Rule #3

SEO research is needed before you finalize the subject matter. If people do not find your white paper online, the whole thing was a waste of time, effort, and money.

So far, you have your rough idea, the next step is finding out if you’re using the keywords to get the performance that you need. The successful marketing of your white paper needs to have a documented game plan that includes use of keywords in the content.

Make sure to work with someone or a company who can build the right SEO strategy for your white paper development and launch.

Know Your Format of White Paper – Rule #4

Know that you know what subject your white paper is about and what is most important goal wise, it is time to consider a format. Here are three formats to think about:

Problem/solution: offers a new or better solution to a business problem. These kinds of white papers should provide leads at the top of the sales funnel.

Backgrounder: this gives the background information on technical or business benefits to the offering. The backgrounder is great to use when launching a product or building a business case.

Numbered list: this style of white paper presents tips, Q and A, and argues points for a business case. It raises questions and sometimes cast doubt on other options and competition.
What format may work best for your content?

Know Your Budget – Rule #5

How Much Does a White Paper Cost? A quality white paper can cost $1,500 to $3,000.00. This is how much you would at least want to pay to get quality work. Some white papers cost much more ($7,000-$15,000) but it is relative to the needs of the project and skill of the writer. It can take 24 to 48 hours to write the white paper.

Use A Professional Copy Writer – Rule #6

A professional copy writer should write your white paper. Your company may have all the experience and knowledge about this issue, but communicating it in a clear, persuasive, and winsome manner might be outside of the talent scope of your employees.

Your white papers will provide the best thought leadership content if it’s a combined effort from employees and a professional writer. The employees or subject experts can give all of the right answers while the writer can make sure that it’s a pleasure to read. Make it a team effort.

Quality Design – Rule #7

Work with a talented graphic designer. The white paper should have your logo, other graphics, and images. The main goal of the white paper is to build authority in your brand through thought leadership. Don’t skip on the visuals and leave them unimpressed. It’s common that white papers have quality graphic design.

Your white paper should use your brand standards and colors. It should be easy to read and skim. Your only a thought leader if you and your content marketing is established in the minds of the reader. Let quality graphic design help to aid that process.


White papers are great for building authority for your brand. If you are going to do a white paper make sure that it’s excellent. Make sure it’s better and different than your competition. Get the right team for the project and surpass the expectations of your readers.