These days, it seems everyone is interested in white papers. If you market products or services to businesses, you may consider creating a white paper as a content marketing tool. While the term can sound a bit stuffy or formal, a white paper is simply an evidence-based case for why an organization needs what you have to offer. White papers are sort of research papers in disguise. They appear unbiased, but they offer specific solutions to particular problems.
The goal, of course, is to present the research in such a way that the solution you offer is the obvious choice, but a good white paper is also a tool for vetting clients to make sure your service is a fit for their needs. White papers are different from other types of content marketing pieces, most of which are less formal.
Do you need a white paper?
The simple answer is maybe. There are other types of content marketing pieces that may work better for you. If your clients are businesses, though, a well-crafted white paper may be more effective, since the decision to hire you will likely be made by more than one person or at least after more one than person considers what you’re offering.
Other content marketing options: brochures, case studies, guides, and e-books
Before you decide if you need a white paper, consider the other options. These include brochures, case studies, guides, and e-books. A blog may also be a better option for your business or service, especially if your clients are mostly online and easy to find on social media.
In contrast to a white paper, brochures are sales oriented and not heavily researched based. You may include one or two statistics to support your sales pitch, but a brochure is usually a more emotional appeal than other types of content marketing pieces.
Case studies are specific to your business and how you have helped clients solve problems. In other words, you present examples of actual companies or people you’ve helped. You may need more than one case study, especially if you target different markets.
If your business has a how-to component, even something intangible like “how to get better sleep,” a guide is a good content marketing option. Less formal than white papers, guides can be designed in creative ways. They are tools readers can use to reach a goal but leave room for learning more and solving related problems (which is where your service comes in).
The term e-book is a general term used to describe text delivered digitally. An e-book is usually longer than other types of content marketing, but not always. I’ve seen e-books as short as six pages, though I’d be more inclined to give something that length another name. You can write an e-book on any topic related to your business.
Does it matter whether you call your piece a white paper or something else?
The short answer to whether it matters what you call your piece is probably, but not necessarily. In general, it matters most if you’re using it to attract larger companies (versus consumers or small business owners).
If you tell a company’s decision maker you have a white paper and it’s really a brochure, you’ve already failed to meet their expectations, making it less likely they’ll hire you. A white paper needs to focus on research and evidence and most decision makers expect a white paper to have a formal tone. The same is true for case studies, which must give examples of how your company (not others like you) has helped actual clients. You’ve got a little more leeway with e-books and brochures.
Of course, if your prospect doesn’t know what a white paper or case study is, this will be less of an issue. If they have the wrong idea of what either of these is, you have a different problem (though one that’ easier to solve by simply explaining what you’re offering accurately).
The bottom line is your content marketing piece should capitalize on your strengths. It should offer solutions to real problems your client has that you can solve. You can do that as directly and scientifically or as informally and generally as appropriate. Consider the service and people you serve and what they will likely respond to best.
In other words, if you’re marketing to large companies, and you have the content, expertise, and research to write a white paper, go for it. If your prospects are consumers or small businesses who will be happily informed with a brochure, guide, or case study, one of those may be a better option for you. If you have a lot to say, you may want to create an e-book. If you have a lot to say, but you want to say it over time, you may do best with a well-publicized blog!
Need help deciding what you need or creating it once you’ve decided? Contact me anytime to chat about how I can help!