The definition of a White Paper has changed over time and relies heavily on the industry you are referring. Initially, a White Paper referred to a specific legislative document in politics which would focus on a particular issue and solution. However, today the term has been adopted by many industries, not least marketing, to mean an in-depth resource explaining a specific topic.
What is a White Paper?
Hubspot offers a fantastic definition of a White Paper:
"A persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution."
Whereas a blog post may take between a few hours and a few days to write, a White Paper is expected to take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. They are considered an advanced problem-solving guide from an industry leader, providing expert knowledge to help guide the reader through the problem/solution. A high level of expertise is expected, as well as a documented supported by references.
Although standards vary for a White Paper, they do tend to have similar characteristics:
- Length - There is no assigned length to qualify as a White Paper, however generally they are between 6 - 50+ pages.
- Structure - Contain a title page, contents page, an introduction, case studies, and a conclusion. Cast your mind back to your college dissertation and use that structure.
- Style - Professional, not pompous. Use the language your audience does and aim to convince a single prospect, not a general crowd.
Why produce a White Paper?
There are numerous benefits to producing a successful White Paper. Primarily, a White Paper, like a Webinar, can establish you as a market leader within your industry. The White Paper will illustrate your specific knowledge and expertise within a topic and this can be used to garner future B2B relationships.
A White Paper can also be used as an incentive when encouraging people to provide details on your landing pages. Typically, a White Paper will require at least a prospects name and email address before they are able to download it. This will provide your Smarketing team with valuable information on prospective future clients and allow you to attempt to convert these new leads.
Finally, a White Paper also has the potential to act as 'Evergreen Content' for your business. This is content that has no expiration date and should remain a useful resource within your industry for a prolonged period of time. Not only does this ensure that new prospects are regularly encouraged to sign up and download, but it also raises the SEO of your website.
Should I produce a White Paper?
The big question. There is no easy answer for this due to the number of variables that each business brings to the table. However, in general, if you have the time and information necessary to produce a White Paper, it should be seriously considered as an option.
A White Paper offers not just a chance to confirm your status as a market leader, but it also will allow your company to continue gathering leads for a prolonged period of time.
However, a poorly produced White Paper can have the opposite effect so if you decide it is the way forward for your company, commit wholeheartedly to the process. If you expect your customers to commit to your company, you need to show them the same commitment.
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