What is a Whitepaper?

Originally Published: 1 October 2021
Last updated: 18 March 2022
Written by: Nick Jolliffe

Reading Time: 5.92 minutes

What is a Whitepaper

So, you’ve been told you need a whitepaper. Great!

But, what is a whitepaper? What does it do? And more importantly, how on earth do you write one?

Whitepapers are a fantastic way to showcase your industry knowledge in a way that isn’t totally focused on selling your services. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive but bear with us here. A whitepaper is designed to examine a problem for your customers, bring them new information, show them research around the issue, and highlight that your business might well be the best solution for their problems. They’re a very valuable part of content marketing strategies the world over, and with a little bit of effort, they could be a great tool for promoting your business too.

What Is A Whitepaper in Marketing?

To put it simply, a whitepaper is an informal document, report, or guide that examines a specific issue in detail, and provides a solution. They’ve been used by businesses for decades as a way to highlight their own services while showcasing their knowledge and providing a wealth of evidence to back it up. Whitepapers tend to be much longer documents than your average blog post – starting at around 3,000 words and just going up from there – but all of those words means you have a lot of time to really dig into the issue and position yourself as the ideal solution. They should be a well-polished piece of marketing collateral that’s packed full of information. 

Whitepapers are an ideal tool for content marketers because they provide a wealth of information as well as being an incredibly trustworthy source of information for prospective buyers. Whitepapers are widely considered to be the most influential form of business collateral you can have, with 76% of people having used whitepapers as part of their decision-making process. Whitepapers are also often used by businesses to highlight their value proposition – they are an excellent way of showcasing your industry knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and the benefits of your service to those struggling with a particular problem.

How Is a Whitepaper Different From A Blog Or An Ebook?

If you’ve not done a lot of content marketing before, then you might think that content is all basically the same. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. A whitepaper is much more than just a long blog post, and it’s in a different league to an ebook – the thing they get confused with most. But just in case, here are the key differences between the three.

Blog: A short, informational post, usually between 600-1000 words, posted on your website on a regular basis.

eBook: An extended guide on a topic for a general audience.

Whitepaper: A research-driven document on a specific topic, presenting the issue, research, information, and solutions to a defined audience.

As you can see, blogs are a much shorter, more compact form of content marketing, and are designed to be uploaded on a regular basis, whereas ebooks and whitepapers are much larger, less frequent pieces. While it’s easy to see the difference there, the lines tend to get a bit blurrier between whitepapers and ebooks.

In essence, the main differences between an e-book and a whitepaper are in research depth and audience. Ebooks are designed to be read and understood by pretty much anyone, whereas a whitepaper is targeting a much more specific kind of person. For example, a recruitment business may write a whitepaper targeted at HR managers, examining a common problem they come across and offering their services as a solution. Whitepapers are a more precise and targeted form of marketing, while ebooks are more general.

How Are Whitepapers Used In Marketing?

The great thing about whitepapers is that they are one of the most versatile pieces of content you can have for your business. If used properly, a single whitepaper can fuel your content marketing efforts for months after you publish it. In other words, it’s not a document you just upload to your website and expect people to read. There is some legwork involved, but it’s very much worth it! Here are just a few ways you can use a whitepaper in your marketing:

  • Build your email marketing list by putting it behind an information wall, so engaged prospects have to enter their details to download it. 
  • Send it to prospects as part of your sales pipeline as a conversion tool.
  • Break it down into several blog posts, which you can share over months to keep your website updated.
  • Use it as a lead magnet to draw in and convert new prospects.
  • Upload it to your website with its own landing page, and use this as a base to promote your business and add value. 
  • Send it to current clients as an upsell tool.

And that’s just a few. Ultimately, whitepapers are a fantastic way to promote your business and your knowledge, establishing yourself as an expert in your field and spreading the word about your brand far and wide. So when it comes to how you use a whitepaper, the sky’s the limit!

How Do I Write a Whitepaper?

Writing a whitepaper is by no means a simple thing. It requires a lot of planning and research to decide what topic you should cover, along with in-depth research for the actual whitepaper as well. This can take anything from several days to several months to gather the information needed to write a good whitepaper, so it’s important to assign the right resources and timeframes to getting one written. Once you have the information, you need to plan out your structure. You should start with an introduction to the topic and the problem, before working through the issue, its roots and its impact on the business. From there you can examine solutions, including DIY options and of course your own services, wrapping up with a conclusion and call to action. Throughout the whitepaper, you will need to be showcasing your sources and providing statistics and examples to back up what you’re saying to give it some credibility. And once that’s done, you will need to edit, refine and polish the paper before designing it and publishing it for the world to read.

Alternatively, you can ask us for help! At Lion Spirit Media we specialise in creating content to promote your business, and whitepapers are one of our favourite content types to write! Because they are so big and versatile even one whitepaper can be a goldmine of content for your business and a great foundation for a marketing strategy. We can help you with every stage of the whitepaper creation process, from brainstorming topics and research through to writing, design, and formatting for publication. And once it’s written, we can help you weave it into your marketing strategy so that you can get the best possible return from it. If you’d like to know more about our content marketing services, please just get in touch with the team today to book your free consultation.

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