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3 Tips for Choosing a Magnetic White Paper Topic

White-PaperIf you’ve ever published a white paper, you’ve probably experienced one of the most challenging aspects of white paper creation: choosing the right topic.

A white paper’s success strongly correlates with how many people download it and how your audience reacts to the insights it delivers. To optimize the impact of your next white paper, you need to address a topic that engages your audience. Here are some ways to choose a white paper topic that captures attention and gets results:

1. Focus on a very specific business problem.

The narrower your focus, the more value you’re able to offer. Choosing a broad topic makes it difficult to go into serious depth on any specific issue. That’s a problem because your audience wants you to go into depth. It’s why they downloaded your white paper, after all.

Consider a provider of cloud-based legal software that wants to create a white paper about data security. The target audience of executives at medium-sized law firms is interested in cloud-based tools but can’t compromise the security of clients’ confidential information. The software provider is trying to choose between the following topics:

  • Data security for law firms in the age of the cloud
  • Effectiveness of encryption standards for legal data in the cloud

While both topics are relevant, the first one is broad enough that it could be the subject of a book. In contrast, the second topic is highly specific and focuses on a very narrow issue. It allows the software vendor to go into extraordinary depth and deliver valuable information in a smaller, white paper-sized package. Of the two topics, it’s the best choice.

2. Choose a fresh topic.

Instead of writing a “me too” white paper on something that others have covered, take the time to identify a pressing issue that competitors aren’t talking about yet. You will be the only source of valuable information on the topic, and you will attract more attention as a result.

Instead of using competitor research only to determine which topics to address, use your research to assemble a list of topics not to cover in your white papers. Then mine other sources – client proposals, sales databases, live chat transcripts, keyword research – to discover alternative topics that are both highly relevant and completely novel.

3. Ensure that you can make a convincing case.

Ultimately, you’re trying to establish expertise and make a convincing case for your solution. If you can’t make that case, it will be difficult to produce a successful white paper.

Returning to the legal software example, let’s pretend that the company is struggling to choose between two different topics:

  • Benefits of integrating legacy legal software with cloud-based tools
  • Case law on the loss of legal data since the rise of the cloud

Since legacy software integration is a core competency, the company already employs subject matter experts who can tackle the first topic. The second topic, while relevant to the target audience, requires legal expertise. It would be more difficult for the company to produce a convincing white paper on case law for an audience of legal professionals.

As a leading inbound marketing agency, when we pursue content marketing and copywriting, we always help you identify fresh, highly specific topics that will engage your audience. Doing so is critical to producing a successful white paper that inspires readers to seriously consider your solution.


With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.