Even if you didn’t know what they were called, it’s possible you’ve read one or two white papers. Jump on any political candidate’s website and you’re bound to find a detailed description of their policy proposals - that's a white paper. When a giant corporation wants to educate readers or provide a researched report, or when a company wants to provide investors and clients with in-depth technical knowledge of a new product - it’s done in a white paper. Considered to be an extremely influential form of business negotiation - sharing varied perspectives, solving problems, and providing research - white papers are significant tools for business growth and powerful additions to a marketing arsenal.
What’s a white paper?
In short, a white paper is a well-researched prospectus designed to help solve a significant problem. By enabling readers/clients/investors to gain insight and information into a company or new product release, a white paper aims to benefit through clear, concise and often impactful insight. Think about it as a tool to add value to relationships, garner new clients and provide necessary data-centered resources. Combining the mega persuasion of an influencer with the grand technical product information of a manufacturer's brochure, the white paper provides educational knowledge without the pushy sales pitch. The goal of the white paper is to use facts and data in order to inform and persuade the targeted audience.
What does it do?
Today, many people and companies use white papers as a tool in their decision-making process. Designed to reach a target market, white papers aim to boost the knowledge of readers who have already heard of your business, invite new clients into the fold and provide solutions to similar problems from which others in the industry also suffer but don’t yet have proper answers. If businesses and investors feel that a company really knows what it’s talking about, trust elevates and a merger/partnership has a greater potential to take place. White papers are used as a masterful player in the B2B (brand to brand) marketing arena, and establish you as a subject matter expert.
What are some common topics for white papers?
Whether you’ve seen them on websites, read them for work or helped author them yourself, you know they’re floating around the Internet. Although there are many things white papers detail, most of these persuasive papers fall into one or a few of three categories: the one that provides background, the one that provides an organized list, and the one that supposes problems and offers solutions:
Providing product background: Considered an evaluator’s go-to guide, this type of white paper helps explain key facets of a product. It holds the most weight in describing a potentially unfamiliar product, exemplifies leading experts' take on the product in the industry, and can help launch a product out into the world.
Painting a picture of your numbers: Often displayed as a numbered list, this white paper includes things like sets of tips, list of questions and answers, or significant points about particular issues. These papers provide quick content bursts which are traditionally used in supporting promotional and marketing materials.
Of the modern kind: The modern white paper is a persuasive essay using facts to steer the answers to significant issues. Often brought up at the beginning of the buying process, this paper educates readers/clients/investors on problems and solutions that go hand-in-hand.
What makes up the perfect white paper?
Written with a strategic, targeted audience in mind, white papers display business expertise and leading authority within an industry. Using facts and logic, authors promote products, express viewpoints, exemplify data and establish solutions.
But white papers are not the same as a blog or article. Typically written in long form content, the often technical and lengthy white paper is traditionally downloadable in PDF form from a company/candidate’s website. There are a lot of differences that make a white paper an additional - not a duplicate - tool in your outreach kit:
Why so long? Chock full of data of all kinds, this document of more than 2-3,000 words explains and explores factual implications through the use of verbiage, charts, illustrations and data.
Where's the meaty part? Filled with more material than a blog post, more news than a newsletter and far more detailed technical minutiae than an e-book, a white paper is meant to be the cornerstone of information for business needs. Included in an exemplary white paper, one might find visually pleasing and persuasively engaging content juxtaposed with significant data, graphic organizers, expert examples and colorful charts.
What does it look like? This professionally organized document sticks to a more formatted design than perhaps a graphically crafted newsletter or a newly published e-book. Often opening with a title page, table of contents and introduction, the white paper then continues with endless data detailing the problem at hand, proposed remedies, examples of how that solution might be implemented with positive results and finishes with an intricate conclusion at the end of the document.
Who does it target? Like a great athlete who can expertly fill in for a teammate in a different position, white papers not only play a number of roles, but they’re read by people who fill various roles. Whether readers are the ones who recommend the technical or financial information, the ones who manage the details, the ones who test out the user-friendly nature of the product, or the final decision-makers of the whole shebang - white papers are useful to each team member in their varied capacities. Designed to touch on all facets of decision-making, white papers find and educate new potential customers, provide facts and details to the media, build credibility and thought-leadership in industry, keep up with the competition and play a commanding role in prospective sales and lead generation.
Why do you want white papers in your business arsenal?
These useful tools are fantastic resources for your entire marketing and sales teams and can be easily repurposed as evergreen content to fit your various streams of marketing literature. A good white paper will help you edge out the competition, exemplify authority, boost that audience engagement (in person and online) and build your brand presence in a constantly expanding global market.