The questions most commonly asked about white papers are “What are they?” and “Why do we need them?”
The broadest definition of a white paper is a persuasive document that usually describes problems and how to solve them.
The term originated in government use, as an offshoot of the term “white book”, which were official documents bound in white covers that delineated a specific policy or strategy. However, since the 1990′s, the term is more commonly used to refer to documents used by businesses as a marketing or sales tool. For example, many white papers today advertise the benefits of particular technologies and products.
Think of white papers as a combination of research documents and marketing brochures. A white paper takes the objective and educational approach of a research document and incorporates marketing messages typically found in brochures.
These types of white papers are almost always documents designed to promote a specific company’s solutions or products. These papers highlight information favorable to the company authorizing or sponsoring the paper. Such white papers are often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or to educate customers.
There are three main types of commercial white papers:
- Business-benefits: Makes a business case for a certain technology or methodology
- Technical: Describes how a certain technology works
- Hybrid: Combines high-level business benefits with technical details in a single document
In the White Paper Writer Industry Survey, hundreds of white paper writers indicated that white papers are used primarily to demonstrate thought leadership and secondly to generate sales leads.
The survey further notes that they are particularly useful among business-to-business technology companies that offer complex or costly solutions. The survey notes that that businesses use white papers “to move a prospect into the sales funnel and coax them down through it.” This is achieved because white papers provide useful information, answer repetitive questions better than a salesperson and help companies gain credibility. White papers allow a business to take the lead in an industry by educating the user base in a way that influences them towards a specific solution.
White papers generate leads, help close sales, and educate users and decision makers. The white paper writers at The Art of Documentation have decades of experience creating and crafting the technical and marketing communications material required to help your company take the white paper plunge.