Savvy content marketers turn to content-rich mediums like whitepapers to get their message out, and with good reason. 62% of the most successful companies in content marketing report that whitepapers are their most effective content medium in terms of achieving their objectives. Whitepapers are great at packing tons of value into one publication, and not-quite-coincidentally, they’re also great at generating leads when placed behind an email opt-in form.
As the volume of content on the web grows, marketers need to up the quality of their whitepapers in terms of both content and design in order to stand out from the noise. If you’re in the process of writing or researching a whitepaper to use in your content marketing strategy, thinking through a few design considerations during the planning process will help ensure your finished whitepaper gets the results you want. Here are a few tips to help you write with design in mind and end up with an engaging finished product.
Keep It (Relatively) Brief
Although it’s important to thoroughly cover your topic, don’t let the length run away from you. Brevity is especially important when it comes to whitepapers because the length of the document will increase pretty dramatically during the design process. As a medium, whitepapers are most engaging when they incorporate a healthy amount of white space into the design to help the reader focus on the content that’s most important. Add in a few compelling graphics and call-out quotes and your document can get lengthy fast.
As a rule of thumb, expect the page count of your whitepaper to double in length from the text document you send over to your designer. An ideal length to shoot for is 7-10 pages of text, which will yield a final document ranging in length from 14-20 pages.
Enhance Your Content with Data Visualizations
When it comes to whitepapers, people expect engaging content, not overwhelming blocks of text. Consider the challenges of holding your reader’s attention over the course of a 20-page document, as opposed to a 500-word blog post. One of the best ways to break up text while delivering substance is to include compelling visuals. A chart, graph, or illustration of a complex process will better explain concepts or data in the text and add visual interest. To streamline the design process, provide the data to your designer in a spreadsheet, so they can create graphs and charts that communicate the data in the most effective way and fit the overall visual theme of your document.
Don’t Feel the Need to Say Everything in One Place
The beauty of resources that are intended primarily for online consumption is that the design can take advantage of interactive features that wouldn’t necessarily be available in print. By strategically using links to other blog posts on your website, you can manage content length while adding value. You also give readers the opportunity to dive deeper into a topic they want to know more about. Think creatively about developing simple resources to save a reader time when they try to implement your advice. All in all, provide additional opportunities for engagement—it’ll make your reader happier and give you a chance to gain more information about who they are and what problems they’re trying to solve, which will make your sales team happier.
Work with a Partner Who Understands Your Industry
In order to make your content truly pop, work with a designer or an agency familiar with the visual standards of compelling content in your industry. The aesthetic of a whitepaper focused on savings bonds is going to be different from the aesthetic of the hottest new software product. Work with someone who understands where the quality bar is set and how others are using whitepaper design in your space. They’ll know what’s standard and how you can visually stand out with a finished product that’s truly memorable and shareable.