Should You Publish a White Paper?

Posted by Tasnim Ahmed

You've downloaded them, reviewed them and used them to inspire business decisions, but have you ever thought about what a white paper might do for your business?

A white paper is used as a marketing tool, which can provide information and definitive guidance on a set topic, showcase internal expertise and generate publicity. They are often used at industry and promotional events, conferences and seminars, and are considered comprehensive guides on a particular subject. Most of these papers are aimed at long-term efficacy for any business, and might be used to sell or advertise a product or service.

The term “white paper” is of British Government origin that is attributed first to Winston Churchill in 1922 when he was the Secretary of State. White papers were a tool of participatory democracy; while the purpose and intent were also to invite opinions and discussion on a specific matter.

Publishing a white paper has many pros and cons that need to be evaluated before you launch your own. For most businesses, a white paper isn’t necessary by virtue of competition, consumer awareness and market relevance. However, for businesses that like to get into the granular parts of a particular subject or that want to be seen as experts in the field, a white paper becomes one of the key marketing and advocacy tools.

Listed below are a few pros and cons that will provide you with insight on whether you should consider creating a white paper for your business.

White Paper Pros

  • Attracts Decision Makers: Because white papers are very definitive and authoritative, they attract key decision makers. They’re informative and allow for quick decision-making and logical reasoning, and form the basis of projections, reports and investigations when required. Opinions can be based off of your well-researched and verifiable paper.
  • Consumer-Centric: Any white paper, whether the company sells a product or service, will be exhaustive in its information, and can invite opinion and action from readers. This puts consumers in a position of control, wherein they consume the information and make conscious decisions based on the data in the document.
  • Educates Without Selling: How do you promote your product or service without seeming preachy, needy or very sales oriented? A white paper can fill this void. It’s educational while not seeming sales oriented. With the right tone and tenor, it can be a powerful tool for businesses.
  • Highlights Hard Facts: Unlike a sales pitch or an advertorial, a white paper isn’t spruced to entice a consumer. It lays down bare facts and figures that appeal to the logical part of the human brain; based on that information, the reader can make useful decisions.
  • Shares Information: A well-researched paper will be shared by users and consumers alike. After consuming the content, the white paper becomes a word of mouth reference to be shared with others. This way, a good white paper becomes a promotional tool.

White Paper Cons

  • Risk Being Boring: Too much data tends to make information boring. This is one area where a judicial use of data and literary skills have to be employed to be appealing to readers.
  • Pretense: When an article or information guide has been written by an amateur in a particular field, the reader will see through it and you lose your credibility.
  • Obligation: Whenever any information is passed out to the public, and an article or paper tends to be absolute in its information, it is not questioned by its readers. Any user or consumer for that matter, will always cite it when they require, and this carries the responsibility of being true or verifiable for the author. If any questionable information or data is found in these, an integrity issue is raised.
  • Time and Resources: A white paper requires quite a sizeable amount of resources with dedicated personnel for publishing. This puts a strain on smaller enterprises which have limited resources or might not be able to publish one. Usually, white papers are published by businesses or entrepreneurs to further their product, service or operations, which serves the purpose of education and issue solving.

As an entrepreneur, you may eventually feel the need to publish a white paper, but before you arrive at a decision, be clear about the purpose of the document. Your white paper can serve any one or all of the purposes mentioned below:

Educational: The main purpose of this kind of white paper is information dissemination, and to introduce readers to your product or service.

Tips and Pointers: This type of white paper provides tips and pointers to its readers (how they can maximize the worth from your service or product), apart from being informative.

Issue Solving: These tend to address a certain problem and provide the solution (could be exhaustive FAQs).

Whichever version of white paper you decide to launch, remember to put in a tremendous amount of research to ensure that you are viewed as the authoritative source you hope to be seen as.

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