Whitepapers are among the top lead generation tools of B2B marketers, but they must present unique information to warrant an exchange of information.
After all, the lead is giving up their name, contact, and demographic data for a free asset.
This is enough of a deterrent for the lead to bounce if the landing page doesn’t convey enough value.
Wikipedia defines B2B whitepapers as:
“…papers (that) use selected facts and logical arguments to build a case favorable to the company sponsoring the document.”
To me, this is a fair definition since whitepapers not only inform an audience but also present their brand favorably.
They are editorial content that informs opinions, not unlike a journalistic op-ed or even a sponsored article.
The key differential of a whitepaper is that it must convey authority with the depth of its research – and it must be valuable enough to convert that lead.
In this article, you’ll find 10 creative whitepaper concepts that will stand out in social media feeds, email newsletters, and programmatic advertising so you can score big with your B2B audience.
1. A Guide Written By A C-Suite Member
With this idea, you combine thought leadership with the level of detail required in a whitepaper to shape opinions in your niche.
Rather than a faceless document, it is authored by a C-suite member, such as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
These often cover a pressing issue in your industry.
For busy C-suites, ghostwriting is often an option that is quite effective so long as it captures the right tone and ideas.
What makes these whitepapers stand out is their personal voice, which sparks a connection and conveys trust.
Include the author’s contact information in the footer so readers can get in touch easily with their thoughts or feedback.
2. Whitepaper With Results From A Survey
Polling your audience is a great way to cater to their interests.
After all, people in your industry want to know what other decision-makers in their niche are thinking, so they often crave credible data from surveys.
You can conduct a survey on your own (or hire a survey provider) to glean insights from your audience.
This can be buyer behavior, industry outlook, or even top challenges and ideas on how to address them.
From this data, create a whitepaper that showcases the results but also provides commentary by experts on these ideas and what they mean for your industry.
This type of content positions your brand as an authority, which in turn will serve as a lead magnet for prospects that trust in the quality you bring to the table.
3. Predictions For The Next Quarter (Or Fiscal Year)
Whenever a new quarter looms, marketing and sales teams are under pressure to strategize how they will improve (or recover) their pipeline productivity.
Thus, a whitepaper with predictions provides valuable guidance for these professionals to mould their strategies.
These predictions can be backed up with data on trends, hashtags, and even interviews with decision makers across the industry as to what they can expect for the months ahead.
4. Insights From Academic Research
Worldwide, academics are publishing valuable research for your audience that you can leverage to create groundbreaking, credible content.
All it takes is for you to check scientific paper websites such as JSTOR and Elsevier with keywords that pertain to your niche.
And if you want to get local, contact your regional university for research to fuel your whitepaper ideas.
Just don’t forget to credit the authors. If they are willing, they can be featured in a video or webinar later that, in turn, will boost the value and credibility of your insights.
5. “Antihero” Whitepapers
If there’s any rule held as a gold standard in your niche, yet you believe it has room for improvement (or is plain wrong), then you have a perfect opportunity to publish an “antihero” whitepaper.
An antihero challenges conventions – and in this case, it is a whitepaper with shocking ideas that will invite readers to ponder new possibilities.
However, be careful, as these daring pieces of content can flop if you challenge well-regarded concepts wrongfully.
Make sure to support your arguments with enough proof as to why certain rules should be broken, and if successful, you will open a path for new practices in your industry (or at least a valuable discussion).
Bonus points if your antihero whitepaper turns into viral content that promotes your personal brand or that of your business.
6. Forgotten Lessons
Historical figures are often forgotten as their legacy is taken for granted or upstaged by recent, more trendy insights.
If you have any books of classic thinkers that serve as perfect analogies for how your company is shaped today, you can present their thoughts as “forgotten lessons” for your readers in a form of thought leadership.
For example, when it comes to technology, books by pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee (an English computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web) provide insights on how we can use the internet today or at the very least, are an interesting read.
7. Professional Reference Guide
A reference guide is a comprehensive go-to resource for a professional to find what they need quickly for their job.
It must cover the basics and contain a summarized overview of the advanced tasks of a role with links to further reading.
Reference guides commonly include an introduction for beginners, descriptions of the main tasks the job entails, a brief FAQ, and resource recommendations for professional development (books, courses, certifications).
This type of whitepaper is hard to pull off, yet it has the potential to be an invaluable asset for your audience, especially those who are just starting their careers.
For example, the ‘Mechanical Engineer’s Pocket Book‘ is a comprehensive guide for beginner and senior engineers to consult symbols, formulas, reference charts, and components.
The book has been revised three times since its publication in 1990 to keep up with the latest technology.
However, its structure has remained the same, which proves how this type of content can be easily refreshed to continue to be relevant.
8. Case Study Roundup
If you have correlated case studies, why not pack them together into a single whitepaper?
‘5 Case Studies of [Product] for Healthcare SMBs’ is a hypothetical example in which you would provide a summary of each case study with an overview of the general results.
This allows your case studies to pack more punch and is an easy whitepaper to produce if you already have the original content available.
9. Lessons from Past Trends
This whitepaper idea is also inspired by lessons from the previous year.
However, it is based on insights from trends rather than the ideas of your industry’s trailblazers.
While it can be argued that trends are unpredictable, a common element these whitepapers share is a fresh, unexpected perspective for an audience.
In other words, a trend cuts through the noise.
So, if you compile the past trends of your niche, you’ll understand why they were highly regarded and distinguished by your audience.
You can publish what you learned in a whitepaper such as ‘7 Lessons from the Biggest Hospitality Trends of 2020,’ for example.
10. Co-marketing Whitepapers
With co-marketing, you partner with another company to launch an asset and share the generated leads.
Partnering with an authoritative brand can not only elevate the perceived value of your services but also lessen your team’s workload.
If, for example, you wish to launch a whitepaper on educational technology, why not co-market with a brand that has different offerings (but isn’t a competitor)?
With co-marketing, you can double outreach, too, publishing the asset on more proprietary channels and leveraging separate paid media budgets.
Thus, it’s a win-win, which allows marketing teams to select the most qualified leads from the campaign for their company.
Often, it’s simply not enough to choose the right whitepaper idea.
To ensure it’s also an engaging lead generation tool, here are four additional considerations:
Be Concise, But Don’t Skimp On Content
Your audience will read your whitepaper precisely for its in-depth knowledge, but that doesn’t mean mulling over unnecessary information.
It also doesn’t mean repurposing an article into a multi-page PDF just so it can generate leads.
Whitepapers aren’t supposed to be dense like scientific resources, but rather long-form reports on an interesting topic.
They may be a problem-solving tool (such as a reference guide) or can simply showcase results.
What you need to keep in mind when creating a whitepaper is readability, which can be improved by featuring summaries, indexes, sub-sections, and listicles.
Include only as much information as the reader needs to understand the topic.
Keep In Touch With Your Organization’s Leadership Team
Whether you are a freelancer or an in-house content writer, talking with your leaders (or clients) is a must to craft thought leadership content that engages your audience.
It also helps to spark creativity, which is often necessary to produce the groundbreaking content needed for a noteworthy discussion.
This way, leaders can better anticipate needs in the market, rather than create content based solely on what worked in the past according to CRM and SEO metrics.
Don’t Copy What’s Already Out There
If you read a whitepaper from a competitor and think, “Wow, we could make this,” then don’t!
Many companies fall into the trap of copying other brands, polluting the infosphere with duplicate content.
Instead, analyze what makes that content so good and which features apply to your brand.
Then, you’ll be ready to create better-informed and new whitepapers that can outperform your competitor’s success.
Like the antihero whitepaper idea from this list, presenting an unexpected view can make your whitepaper stand out.
And maintaining this perspective prevents you from publishing run-of-the-mill content as you’ll creatively question the why behind your industry’s status quo.
Keep in mind that rebellion works best contained, so don’t foster this side for no reason in your work.
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