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E-Books vs. White Papers: What’s the Difference?

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Current trends in content marketing show that e-books and white papers are a common part of strategies, with 71 percent of business-to-business marketers using them regularly. Both are considered important tools for content marketing that can help businesses achieve specific goals effectively. If you understand the differences, benefits, and creation of e-books and white papers, you can take advantage of this trend in your content marketing strategy. The main differences are the audience, tone, and purpose; however, both are foundational parts of content marketing because the information can be extracted from them for blog posts and other types of content.

Similarities and Differences

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People tend to think white papers are more academic than e-books. This is not entirely wrong, but there’s more to it. White papers have a different style and approach, focusing on your products or services and providing solutions to problems. E-books focus more on industry knowledge. Both should contain relevant data and statistics to generate leads and establish trust.

The following is a list of similarities between e-books and white papers:

  • Downloadable products
  • PDF formats
  • Relevant data and statistics
  • High-quality content
  • Meant to generate leads
  • Help establish industry expertise and trust
  • Require an email address or subscription for access

As mentioned before, audience, purpose, and tone comprise the biggest differences between the two. E-books are for a broader audience in the target market, while white papers are used mainly for business-to-business marketing. The tone for e-books is that they are easy to read and are meant to build interest, while white papers are more in-depth and informative. Both can be used in content marketing, and they provide valuable information for users, whether they be consumers or other businesses.

Content Marketing Strategy Benefits

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Using e-books and white papers as part of your content marketing strategy helps to establish brand awareness. The information in them can be extracted and elaborated on for blog posts, speeches, or presentations. Your content marketing strategy can be based on the information in an e-book, and white papers can be used as informative literature for sales calls. One idea is to create an original e-book and extract information to develop for blog posts with calls to action strategically placed in relevant content. Here are some other ideas for ways to use the information in both e-books and white papers:

  • Use for other website content, such as infographics and interactive media
  • Use to develop speeches and presentations
  • Make into educational resources for employees
  • Utilize as a central theme of the marketing campaign

Your strategy should be based on helping your target audience reach their goals and offer solutions to problems. It is important to understand your target audience in order to create valuable high-quality content. Do proper research in order to present information that is valuable to your target audience to encourage them to share your content on social media sites. Offer access to content in exchange for a subscription to a newsletter or providing an email address. Align strategies with company goals, and create content that engages the audience and builds trust.

Tips for Creating White Papers

Because white papers are informative and offer a solution to a problem, they have several parts: introduction, background or problem statement, solution, and conclusion. Set up the problem in the introduction and indicate the objectives with an overview of the paper. In the background, expand on the overview and thoroughly define the problem. Elaborate on the solution with detailed information and specific examples. Break up text with charts and graphics. The conclusion is a summary of the objectives with a review of the problem and solution.

Here are some other tips:

  • Keep it simple and to the point.
  • Use a consistent color scheme.
  • Link to other content.
  • Write an attention-grabbing introduction.
  • Finish with a strong statement.

Tips for Creating E-Books

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Create your e-book on a subject your potential customers care about, and that answers questions in an engaging way. An e-book can be used to strengthen your brand by providing valuable information about products or services. It can be used as a resource to generate other content; for example, certain sections can be broken up and built on in web content, social media posting, and blog posts.

Base the e-book on the central theme of your marketing campaign. Make sure each chapter provides unique content that concludes with a strategically placed call to action. When appropriate, each chapter can be used as a standalone for a different purpose.

Here are a few other useful tips:

  • Use an easy-to-read layout.
  • Align the title with the topic.
  • Clearly define the topic.
  • Include calls to action.
  • Link to other resources.
  • Use interactive or otherwise effective graphics.

Tactics for Using E-Books and White Papers in Content Marketing

Using these tactics in the right order can increase your brand’s popularity while building an audience. The soft sell and lead generation work for premium content, e-books, and white papers; extracted information can be used for the blogs and articles needed to build an audience. Create premium content that users can view by responding to a pop-up ad asking for an email subscription, which will result in the most interested users. Once you are established as a regular content creator, offer more premium content in exchange for email addresses.

Soft Sell

  • Allow users to access content before requesting a sign-up option.
  • Pop-up ads offering sign-ups can lead to more interested users.
  • Build a reputation and audience with more exposure.

Build Audience

  • Allow users to share content on their sites.
  • Request links to original publication sources.
  • Reach a wider audience through blogs and articles.

Lead Generation

  • Request email addresses in exchange for content.
  • Use identifiable metrics to measure success.
  • Request sign-ups after the regular content.

Content marketing goes beyond blogs and articles, making it important to understand the marketing funnel and to use the proper content for each stage. The top of the funnel is the awareness stage, which is the proper time for shorter content such as blogs and articles to help build your brand awareness. The next stage is the intent stage, where you should use e-books and white papers because people in this stage are already researching with the intent to purchase, which occurs in the final action stage.

E-books and white papers are important parts of a successful content marketing strategy that allow your company to demonstrate your expertise while serving as foundations for other types of content.

About the author

Rebecca Nedrow

I have a Bachelor's in small business and graduated from University of Phoenix as a member of Delta Mu Delta, an honor society for business students. I love to research and write so I currently work as a free lance writer. I live in the Natural State, Arkansas, where I enjoy camping, hiking, and fishing with my dog and husband.