writing a white paper

How To Write A B2B White Paper Lead That Hooks Readers

Easy tips to write better B2B content leads

Most B2B white paper intros are mashups of summary sentences–boring context setting for the discussion to come. This type of lead snuffs out a prospect’s eagerness.

For the B2B SaaS companies I write for, building credibility is one of the top two reasons for publishing white papers and eBooks. Because they need to prove expertise to prospects, their content needs to be both intriguing (to capture attention) and useful (to position their brand as an industry resource).

To help this, rethink your lead.

Quick tips for better white paper leads.

Bad white paper leads use ‘throat clearing’.

Look for long, rambling sentences. These are the marketing equivalent of throat clearing; phrases designed to buy time to figure out what you’re supposed to say.

Other giveaways:

  • A bunch of stats and figures to ready the reader for what you want to say.
  • Text to bring your audience “up to speed” on a topic. Your readers intuit certain things because of their roles. It’s condescending and wasteful to state the obvious.

For example – I used to define table-stakes concepts like artificial intelligence, machine learning, or blockchain in early papers. My audience eats, sleeps, and breathes these. Assume they understand, and move on.

 

Good leads feel embarrassingly simple.

Clarity and simplicity are always punchy. If your writing doesn’t feel too elementary (and elicit some self-consciousness) you’re likely writing too long, redundant, or complex.

 

An anecdotal lead is fine.

Drawing readers in with a quick story works. Just make sure it’s poignant and relatable. Anecdotes build a reader’s understanding and starts them down the right path, helping them see your subject through the right lens.

 

Bad leads use cheap phrases.

Phrases like “in today’s world”, or “paradigm shift” have little use. Edit until you find a sharper word with the right connotation. These phrases rarely say what we want. We’re just lazy; settling for cheap words because the sharp one is failing us.

If there’s anything that pandemic era writing has taught us, it is that there’s no place for “unprecedented times” and similarly hollow syntax.

 

Bad leads just summarize.

The average SaaS white paper starts with some summary. This isn’t investigative journalism, after all. But you’re competing for eyeballs and against short attention spans.

Are you summarizing because other white papers do, or because it makes sense for your project?

 

Good leads don’t strain to be clever. 

Don’t write a lead that promises more than the paper delivers. If readers figure out that something sounds smart but isn’t meaningful, you lose trust.

From 4x Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee:

“A lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring: After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole, blinking.”

 

Good leads are easy when your content is complete.

Help yourself by knowing exactly what you’re trying to say. When we’re in total control of our content, we can write crisp, pointed leads that pull readers into the narrative flow.

Momentum from good writing takes over from there. 

Good leads in B2B writing are hard to find. This is actually good news for SaaS marketers (the main customers of white paper writers, like myself). Any place for differentiation is useful for the marketer or writer who will capitalize on it. 

 

Examples

Here are a few lead examples from white papers I’ve written. Use these to jumpstart your creativity:

  • “For creditors of the estimated $46 trillion in global consumer debt, even incremental collections technology improvement is a multibillion dollar business opportunity…”

 

  • “People are expensive, demanding, and error-prone. But it’s no longer a desire to replace them that drives customer support automation planning.”

 

  • “To those outside the region, LatAm is no longer just an attractive fringe market. Softbank’s $5 billion Innovation Fund dedicated to the region ends any debate: the market has arrived as a priority destination for global fintech investors.