What is a whitepaper?
Whitepapers are powerful documents that present complex and lengthier content, designed to fulfil a range of marketing and communications objectives, such as stimulate debate, educate, inform and sell. A well-written whitepaper will also be highly accessible and jargon-free, without being patronising.
So, where does the name come from? Originally rooted in UK politics, a whitepaper is a policy document produced by the government, setting out proposals for future legislation. It is a discussion document available to interested or affected groups and allows final changes to be made before the legislation – known in the UK as a Bill – is formally presented to Parliament.
In business, its use has been modified, but a whitepaper it is still an authoritative guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue. It has evolved into a powerful marketing tool, especially if you are offering a complex business-to-business proposition.
What are the benefits of a whitepaper?
Whitepapers are designed to help a reader understand an issue, solve a problem or reach a decision. It can build credibility, provide analysis and illustrate the benefits of a solution. A valuable component of the marketing armoury, whitepapers are objective and informative, and, as such, they make a strong impression on the market.
A whitepaper could be used to explain why and how a solution was developed, what challenges it faced during development, how it stands out from other solutions, what impact it might have and the thinking process behind the innovation.
Quite simply, your whitepaper provides an opportunity to share your enthusiasm for the marketing and communications messages you want to broadcast in a concise and professional way. In doing so, you offer insight into who you are, what you do, how your stakeholders benefit and create interest in your organisation.
How to use whitepapers in marketing
Many of Copestone's clients work in highly specialised and technical sectors with complex solutions. They usually have a wealth of information and knowledge about their products and services. What they find challenging is turning this knowledge into content that appeals to their audience.
A whitepaper is an option we suggest when an organisation needs to communicate a complex proposition or message. Marketers reading this may know about Chris Fill’s DRIP (differentiate, reinforce, inform and persuade) model, which is precisely what a whitepaper – as a high-level, scene setting piece of collateral – aims to achieve.
Once we have written a whitepaper, the messages it contains can be cascaded through the hierarchy of marketing collateral for more targeted communications. Let’s say, for example, that your organisation has developed a new type of fire sensor.
Segmenting your audience
Through your whitepaper, you will have described to your wider stakeholders the background of the product, the features and benefits, how it works, how to install it in different locations, and your prediction for how it will it impact the fire safety industry.
From here, you can segment your stakeholder groups into target audiences with whom you can engage further, including architects, M&E/building services engineers and contractors.
All you need to do now is repackage the information from the whitepaper into relevant marketing assets, targeting these specific audiences with the information they need and via their preferred channels. This gives you the makings of a full content marketing campaign.
Remember: a whitepaper is a lot more than a sales tool
A well-constructed whitepaper will contain all the information your marketing and communications team need to create collateral to deliver your marketing message. A whitepaper is a time-honoured and well-regarded style of documentation for serious readers who will expect it to represent your organisation and its proposition in an honest and open way.
For example, a whitepaper is an opportunity to highlight any challenges in your industry, any adverse effects of the current political and commercial climate, and the challenges your business faced while bringing the product to market. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate the costs of failure to upgrade to your new product too.
A professionally designed – as well as professionally written – whitepaper is a branding opportunity. It should reflect your corporate identity in an understated way, befitting the gravitas of the information contained therein. Facts, figures, graphics, infographics and graphs all have their place in a whitepaper.
Don’t miss an opportunity to share
Remember that discreet marketing doesn’t mean no marketing. Make your whitepaper social media friendly by adding social sharing buttons at the top of your website landing pages, so it’s easy for people to like, retweet or share.
And conclude the whitepaper with a call to action, which does not have to be ‘salesy’ but should take your audience to the next stage. Just a simple ‘contact us to find out more’ can be sufficient.
Do you have a complex marketing message you want to communicate? Whitepapers come in all shapes and sizes – and budgets – to suit your needs, and we can help you identify the right approach to achieve your marketing and communication goals. Contact us to find out how your organisation and its stakeholders can benefit.