White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader, to present useful and persuasive research and information about your products and services, and to generate leads. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy.
1. What is a white paper?
A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.
In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content, similar to an eBook. The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data.
The term “white papers” originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper, commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.
Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.
White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership.
Who uses white papers?
In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.
With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.
Types of white papers
There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.
- One type is the backgrounder, in which the benefits of their product, service, or methodology are explained in depth.
- Another is a problem-solution approach, which walks the audience through the solution to a problem that is common in their industry.
Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the 2018 Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.
Whatever type you produce, the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for information, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.