White papers are intended as marketing tools prior to sales, rather than as user guides or other technical documents developed to support a user once they have made their purchase. The belief stems from the fact that the reason why white papers are not sales pitches (although, obviously, they are meant to be beneficial for vendors and to showcase them in a positive light), is because they are offering solutions to the more difficult problems, or pushing an extensive study into the marketplace. In other words, what tech buyers want in white papers is reliable, well-written technical information they can use to address the issue at hand, and help them make an evaluation and justification for their purchase decision.
Moreover, Graham’s definition stresses using sound information (facts and logic), something that technology buyers have said they want from white papers. Using Graham’s definition, and what we have learned about what our prospects are looking for in a white paper, I believe that there are three types of documents that could legitimately bear the white paper label.
While companies often produce problem/solution white papers in order to convince readers to buy their products, it is good practice for problem/solution white papers to approach solutions in general terms – talk about the solution class, not the particular product. That’s why platforms such as https://www.robinroo.com/en appear to have garnered overnight success, whereas a whole lot more went into their pre-launch marketing.
I should note, though, that product backgrounders are typically targeted to readers late in the sales cycle, as they are making a technical assessment of candidates to buy. In every instance, technology buyers indicated they were much more likely to read the whitepaper during the pre-sales or early sales process–the gathering the information phase–than they were at a later point in the sales process, where they were evaluating particular solutions.
A 2017 content preference study by DemandGen found that over three-quarters of respondents in the study were willing to trade personal information for a white paper — a higher share than they were willing for an e-book, a case study, an analyst report, a podcast, or an infographic. By developing a white paper, not only do you create a chance to get insight into the prospect to pursue further, you are making content that can be shared among the buying team, as well as used as a resource for explaining challenges and solutions to the teams non-technical members. Putting together a white paper is a big job — but you can streamline both the creation and promotion processes by using a content marketing platform, which allows you to brainstorm, plan, collaborate, create, publish, and more — all within one digital space. While everyone else on your team is busy creating tedious word documents, you can be the creative genius who uses charts and graphs to produce visually engaging white papers.
For instance, you could use a white paper to share marketing statistics, compare different campaigns, provide an intricate analysis of industry trends, or provide a detailed explanation of a particular process a team or business is running.