White paper: white noise?

The white paper has taken on a ‘grey’ hue since it was first introduced by Winston Churchill in 1922. Apparently, business is to blame – with marketers extending its original remit whilst adding it to a growing armoury of content assets.

Technology marketing can gain real advantages from including a white paper within an integrated campaign or programme. As a content asset, it can fulfil a unique role but only if some basic rules are followed in order to avoid the white paper simply becoming ‘white noise’.

A white paper shouldn’t be a product pitch. Neither should it try to combine the detailed product information of a backgrounder with an industry-wide perspective or thought leadership. It has to be authoritative – with facts, figures, examples, comparisons and quotes.

White papers should be found at the academic end of the marketing content library with a high degree of expertise backed by solid research and fully documented with references. If that means they can be a little bit ‘boring’, requiring two or three reads to fully understand, that usually means the balance is right.

Getting the quality and balance right requires time, especially when you factor in technical, legal and brand approval. Breadth and depth is essential, and anything less than six pages could be deemed lightweight. Tight deadlines and white papers aren’t a good combination but they can be afforded longer lead times if the need is identified early enough in campaign planning and they’re offered as a downloadable fulfilment piece later in the delivery schedule.

White papers perform a unique role in establishing credibility, trust and preference when they help to clarify an issue, solve a problem or help to guide a decision. And as downloaders are usually further into the customer buying cycle, they can be positioned at a critical point in the sales funnel.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

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