The Wonderful World of Whitepapers

By November 30, 2012Latest News

When trying to find new ways to deliver online content, inbound marketers love to talk about whitepapers. I personally had not come across the idea of a whitepaper until Hubspot’s Inbound 2012 conference. As there is so much emphasis on the effectiveness of visual content, it can seem strangely archaic to encourage marketers to return to such a dry, single-media format. If you’re considering this format, it’s important to consider how it will apply to your business.

First of all, ask, “Who?” Who do you sell to? Are you a B2B seller? If so, this format will likely work well for you, as business-minded individuals may want to learn the more technical, statistical aspects of your service. If you are a B2C seller however, the format may not be worth the effort it takes to create, as many consumers won’t need such details to make the sale.

Secondly, ask, “What?” What topic will you write about? It’s an especially important question, considering that the whitepaper is essentially an in-depth, statistical report. It is longer than most online content, usually a minimum of 10 pages in length. If you don’t feel comfortable writing that much about a single topic, or are not able to put in the time for solid research, this format may not be for you.

Then, ask, “How?” How will the whitepaper be formatted in order to be the most relevant for your clients? Although there are many formats, these 3 are seen most often:

  • Backgrounder: This format details the business benefits of some service or product from a B2B company. It would be useful to  supplement a technical evaluation for a marketing-qualified lead, or to argue why your company is best qualified for a sale.
  • Numbered List: This format is very similar to an eBook, and gives a list of tips, solutions, etc to a common business problem. This is especially useful for drawing in prospective clients.
  • Problem/Solution: This format gives a new, innovative solution to a common business concern. It explains to clients how and why your business can solve their problem(s) in a way that your competitors can’t.

If you cannot think of any topic you could write on that would fit into one of these formats, it may be best to start with a smaller piece of content, such as a blog post, and expand it once you get some useful customer feedback.

But, if you are a B2B seller, with specialized knowledge on a topic, and a strong understanding of the problems your clients face, then what’s stopping you? Get your graphic team together, create some landing pages, and create that one-of-a-kind piece of content!

Check out these resources to kick-start your effort: