In Praise of the White Paper

May 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm 3 comments

The New York Times provides an overview on white papers and the marketing function they fulfill. More informative than a blog post, easier to execute than an e-book, a white paper is typically 10 to 20 pages in length and provides knowledgeable perspective on a trend or challenge affecting your customers. Recommendations and solutions are the essence of the white paper, backed by research, anecdotes and success stories.

The article stresses that a white paper’s sales pitch is subtle. The demonstration of know-how, the appreciation of the customer’s needs, and the presentation of benefits compel the reader to contact the author.

The article mentions that many marketing and communications firms provide helpful explanations about white papers because they are available for hire to write them. I proudly add myself to that list. To see examples of my white paper writing, click here to visit my LinkedIn profile and then open the “white paper” folder located among my downloadable work samples.

A white paper is an excellent addition to Web content, a powerful sales support tool, and a proven incentive for capturing prospect data (“please fill out your information to receive our white paper on…”) Information is the one thing you can give out freely without undermining your pricing or cheapening your brand. Few communications deliver valuable, in-depth information like a well-executed white paper.


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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. James Strock  |  May 13, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Terrific post, Jason. White papers can serve so many purposes, so effecitvely. Thanks for good tips!

  • 2. Alex Auerbach  |  May 23, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Great analysis, but most white papers offered on the Net first require the would-be reader to “register,” providing name, e-mail address, company name, blood type, etc. — all before one can even peek at the contents. This approach discourages busy senior executives who jealously guard their e-mail inboxes and who actually make “buy” decisions, and encourages idle browsers, students, etc. If the contents of the white paper are good, the prospect will respond. Why not offer it without requiring the reader to first take a leap of faith?

    • 3. jasonkarpf  |  May 23, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      You’re right, Alex…the data capture play is always tricky. In exchange for registering (giving over contact info that will be used in future prospecting), people get free and hopefully useful content. White papers on the Web can run the risk of attracting less-than-A-level prospects. If the white paper is carefully tailored to appeal to the right prospects, it will improve the quality of leads. And yes, I agree with having good, free content available in ways that don’t annoy or obligate the prospect.


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