You’ve probably seen them before. Heavily researched white papers diving deep into a specific industry topic, all encased in a crisp, formatted design. Automatically you think, “Wow, that brand really knows their stuff.” And that’s exactly the point.

There’s a reason so many marketing teams today are turning to white papers to turbocharge their thought leadership and brand awareness efforts. They really, really work. Almost half of respondents in one Demand Gen Report survey said they’re willing to share their personal information to access a white paper.

Simply put, you need to start creating white papers (if you’re not already). We know, that’s a lot easier said than done. Marketing budgets can be tight, and maybe you don’t even have the team in place to bring these hard-hitting pieces of content to life.

If that’s the case, you need to consider hiring either a marketing agency or a freelance writer. But which one makes the most sense? Let’s explore.

First Thing’s First: Why Write a White Paper?

White papers are the gold standard of thought leadership content. In a content marketing context, white papers are typically in-depth reports focusing on a specific topic or concept, outlining problems related to that concept and detailing possible future trends and solutions. The goal is to educate, inform and inspire, ultimately demonstrating your knowledge of the industry to potential customers in order to build trust in your brand.

Done right, the most effective white papers drive significant business value, including:

  • Lead generation: White papers tend to sit behind gated forms that require users to exchange email addresses or other personal information to access, making them a central part of your effort to generate qualified leads.
  • Thought leadership: White paper content attracts consumers with a deep understanding of the industry who want detailed information about niche subjects. Fulfilling those needs helps to establish your brand as a leader in the space.
  • Website traffic: Embedding your white papers in SEO-optimized landing pages — or, even better, making them the centerpiece of a PPC ad campaign — can help drive traffic to your site and promote engagement with other pages.

While still relatively concise, white papers tend to be longer and more detailed than blogs and other forms of content. They’re typically between 1,500 and 3,000 words and usually distinguished by a deluge of stats, figures, charts and graphs. For that reason, white papers are heavily researched and require much more time to produce, making them a significant investment for any marketing team.

Good News: You Have Options When Writing a White Paper

Unsurprisingly, given their depth and complexity, bringing your white papers to life can be a long, complicated and expensive process. You need strategists to examine the competitive layout and find a compelling topic, writers to research the topic and put pen to paper, and designers to format the copy and make it sparkle. Throw in the time it takes to conduct original surveys and create unique graphics and it’s no wonder many marketing teams simply don’t have the bandwidth (or the budget) for them.

That’s where outsourcing comes in. Companies can lean on external marketing professionals to handle all white paper creation tasks, from topic ideation to writing and design, allowing them to keep their teams lean and focus their marketing dollars on other high-value priorities — while still getting all the benefits of attaching their brand name to hard-hitting white papers.

The real question for companies in this category is whether to lean on freelancers on marketing agencies.

Writing Your White Paper With a Freelancer

Freelance writers are the go-to white paper creation experts for many marketers, and for good reason:

  • They’re typically professional writers, so you’ll generally receive good quality content — though it’s not a guarantee.
  • They may have strong marketing industry knowledge and expertise, so they should be able to write to your brand’s style and voice.
  • They are relatively affordable and can complete work on a tight budget, and often a short timeline.

However, freelancers have some inherent limitations. Bringing a white paper to life involves experts across all areas of marketing, and if you really want to create something of value (and, more importantly, ensure your target audience can actually see and download it), you’re going to need a full marketing team.

Sure, you could hire a big team of freelancers with a variety of marketing skills, but that’s going to take a ton of time, and there likely won’t be any coordination or familiarity between them.

Partnering With an Agency To Develop Content

When you partner with a full-service marketing agency to develop your white papers, you’re not just getting an expert writer — you’re also getting designers, strategists, email marketers, social media marketers and more.

Basically, you’re hiring dynamic, specialized marketing professionals with deep knowledge and expertise of every aspect of the entire lifecycle of content creation. Better still, these are individuals that operate like a well-oiled machine — they work together every single day, and they know exactly what it takes to create something worthwhile with the staying power to generate meaningful engagement.

The right agency will have reams of experience generating content in your specific space. That means not only can they write content that a highly educated audience will find engaging and valuable, it also means they can help you generate compelling ideas from a novel perspective.

Making Your Decision: What It All Comes Down To

At the end of the day, deciding whether to hire a freelance writer or a marketing agency depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Freelance writers tend to be more affordable, so if you have a tight marketing budget (or you’re struggling to win buy-in from the top decision makers), then it might make most sense to work with a freelancer.

On the other hand, a full-service marketing agency will handle white paper content creation from beginning to end. If you don’t have a full marketing team on staff, a freelance writer’s final product isn’t going to mean much if you don’t have anyone to format, distribute and promote it. A marketing agency will fill any and all gaps in your current marketing team, helping you extract maximum value from your white papers in the most efficient way possible.

Whether you choose a freelancer or a marketing agency is up to you, but one thing is certain: Creating white papers should be one of your top priorities.

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