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How (and Why) to Create a Whitepaper

Published: April 1, 2016

Author: Hillary Read

Thought leadership can come in many forms, but one of the most common applications is the “whitepaper.” A whitepaper is a comprehensive document that outlines a strategic practice in your industry. Typically, these are given away for free, in exchange for a little information about yourself. Hey, if you’re interested in what we do, we’re interested in trying to see if we could work for you! If you’re keen to establish yourself as a thought leader, or gather leads, here’s how to put together a proper whitepaper:

Identify Key Trends in Your Industry

You could spend a ton of time researching and explaining the minutiae of an esoteric problem, but chances are it won’t have a lot of impact.
Instead, use Google Analytics to test the effectiveness of smaller pieces of content (blog, anyone?). If a certain category or style of post gets more page views than others, it might be time to dive a little deeper and really explain that process.
At 3Q, we noticed that our design and Facebook content was getting high readership. There must have been a dearth of content for designers and marketers looking for best practices Facebook! We developed two whitepapers with tons of information in them, and they remain pretty popular.
You can also read other industry blogs to note trends, or check the schedules of upcoming conferences for speaker topics.

Recycle and Create a Calendar

That design whitepaper? Not all of the content was written specifically for it. We had blogs that were already popular that were highly relevant to the project.
Instead of starting completely from scratch, we identified key areas where our content was lacking, and developed a strategy to fill in those gaps.
We listed categories of topics that were highly relevant, developed titles for those sub-sections, and scheduled due dates for them so the project could be completed over time.
Once everything was completed, we added a useful table of contents, intros, and segues between topics to really tie the room document together.

Apply Completed Content to a Template

Make sure you have a professional looking home for your content! That means an attractive (and functional) landing page for the whitepaper, a simple form to fill out, and a great template for your final whitepaper.
We work with our internal design team (who are all rock stars) to make sure every .pdf file that goes up on our website is sleek, readable, and laid out in a logical way.

Distribute and Advertise!

All that work and no hits? Might be time to throw some ad spend at your whitepaper.
If you followed our advice for topic generation, you should see some traction with your whitepaper content. If you want more leads, look into Facebook Custom Audiences (based off of your website visitors), retargeting options, and Facebook Lead Ads.
The Lead Ads in particular are very effective because they remove two significant barriers to entry: leaving Facebook’s ecosystem for an off-site page, and the filling out of the lead form.
Hopefully this will inspire you to create your own whitepapers to share the wealth of knowledge you’ve accumulated in your industry. After all, who wouldn’t want to be known as the expert in their field?

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