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19 Ways to Generate Whitepaper Ideas

Date published: August 06, 2013
Last updated: August 6, 2013

Although blogging and social media fulfill needs at the top of the sales funnel, your more serious prospects will want more serious pieces of content. Enter: whitepapers. But how do you define a specific topic? How can you make sure that your content is useful and interesting?

Ideating for whitepapers requires a mix of creative brainstorming and technical, thorough knowledge of the industry. Here are 19 tips to help you come up with your next piece of mind-blowing content.

  1. Take a look at what you’ve already done when it comes to whitepaper. Do you have a category, tag or theme that is particularly popular on your blog? Consider combining and expanding upon them with more context and back-end research.
  2. Start with a theme and narrow it down. How can you boil a broad topic like “lead generation” down into an eight-page, highly specific whitepaper? Add in the who’s, what’s, and why’s to make it more specific: B2B Lead Generation Using Facebook Advertising.
  3. Learn (and teach) from your mistakes. Have you made any business mistakes lately that you are willing to share? If you’re not willing to share specifics, you can write it in a general, instructional tone.
  4. Consider alternative media. Take a look at videos, infographics and even forums that aim to answer a specific question and pull ideas from there. Conversely, you can pull information out of whitepapers to create these alternative approaches to your content.
  5. Know your questions and your audience. It’s not enough to have a list of common questions that prospective clients ask your sales team. Consider the questions they may ask well before they talk to your team, and what their motivations and pain points are.
  6. Start with a snippet. Concepts, titles, and conclusions can get stuck in your head. Ask around to see if there’s anything your coworkers or industry connections have been dwelling on lately, and move forward from there.
  7. Give everything a home in the funnel. Chart out what topics or questions prospects might have in each area of your sales funnel. Create a home for your whitepaper before you even start writing it.
  8. Look into the past. How did the industry look five years ago? How has it changed? What important lessons or cues can we take from where our industry has come from? Create an outline based on the research you collect.
  9. Look to the future. What’s the next big thing? If you can find excellent supporting facts for trend prediction, go for it. If you feel your opinion is rather unfounded, it may be best to use this one for a blog post.
  10. Share the honest-to-goodness truth. Don’t share information you’re uncomfortable sharing, but take a look at bold facts and harsh lessons that you’ve learned. Is there anything in there that deserves further examination and research?
  11. Who has the time, energy and/or resources to write it? Let them weigh in. If you’re going with someone who knows little about your industry, talk to them about what they’re willing to learn. If they know a lot, ask them what most fascinates them right now.
  12. Go behind the scenes of your products or services. What industry-wide issues do they solve? Examine that problem with a whitepaper, but avoid product pitches. Studies, consumer research, and surveys for product development can be useful here.
  13. What does your team need to know? Educate your team as well as your audience by researching the questions you have internally. It’s a win-win situation.
  14. Pull apart a numbered post. Look back at posts you or other bloggers have written that have a numbered list of tips. Is there one that strikes you or begs for further research?
  15. What myths or rumors surround your industry or company? Do some research and debunk those myths and rumors with hard facts.
  16. Consider new angles on old content. Can you look at a situation from the perspective of a different role or industry? For example, CEOs might want different facts than a mid-level marketing manager; and the health care and high-tech industries might view things differently.
  17. Use failed attempts as starting points. Cold calls, direct mail and even social media failures can provide a great amount of content if you’re willing to analyze what went wrong. Again, strong research and numbers boost the value of your content.
  18. Eavesdrop. Listen to what people are actually saying to each other, both out loud and in person, at conferences and industry events. Hold conversations with others in your industry about what they’ve been hearing and talking about.
  19. Teach someone who knows little about your industry. This can provide good feedback that can be utilized in all positions of the sales funnel. If they’re really on the ball and ask great questions, you may walk away from the discussion with a few new angles.

Where do you find content ideas? More specifically, what have you found helpful when ideating for whitepapers? Tell us in the comments.

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