Why We Love White Papers (and You Should Too!)

Anna Sonnenberg


February 20, 2018 (Updated: January 23, 2024)


White papers might not be as well-known as blog posts or case studies, but they’re remarkably powerful pieces of content that can pack a punch. Find out how white papers can benefit your business and learn how to incorporate them into your content marketing strategy.

Develop High-Quality Evergreen Content

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For most businesses, shorter blog posts and longer articles represent a large part of a typical content strategy. While both types offer value to readers and can serve as key resources, white papers provide an entirely new level of value.

Rather than sharing breaking news or connecting with readers regarding time-sensitive topics, high-quality white papers serve as evergreen content. The information they cover will always be relevant, which means your audience can refer to the white papers that you produce for months or years to come, and your business can distribute them as part of a long-term content strategy.

Position Your Brand as a Thought Leader

White papers don’t simply rehash information that your audience can find elsewhere. Instead, they include original research and present authoritative material. Since white papers feature such high-level information, they’re considered expert-level pieces that boost your brand image and showcase your business’s position in the industry. As a result, producing an effective white paper can position your business as a thought leader.

If you don’t yet have the expertise or resources to create a white paper, try co-authoring one with a more established brand. Choose one that complements rather than competes with your brand, and you’ll both stand out as trailblazers with ample expertise to share.

Educate Your Audience

While white papers are marketing documents designed to persuade your target audience, they aren’t product pitches. The best examples refrain from focusing on sales and instead prioritize educating readers about your business and your industry.

Perhaps your company has engineered a unique solution to a common industry problem or you’ve pioneered a groundbreaking method of doing business. A great white paper might discuss the problem in question and how it affects the industry, present original research to support your point, and position your company, product, or service as an effective solution.

Since it isn’t an outright sales pitch, a white paper will appeal to readers and industry figures who want to learn more and expand their knowledge base. Once your readers understand the value that your business provides, you can lead them toward the bottom of the sales funnel.

Supplement Your Content Strategy

For most businesses, developing an effective content strategy requires a multifaceted approach. In addition to basic blog posts, you’ll need dynamic videos, educational infographics, and high-level white papers to reach out to target customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey. However, the most successful content strategies don’t consider each piece of content to be independent from the others. Instead, every piece should supplement others to create a cohesive strategy.

While you’ll certainly want to offer your white paper as a standalone piece of content, your blog posts, infographics, and even videos should also reference and build upon your high-level work. Not only does this strategy give your target audience more opportunities to learn about and access your high-level content, but it can also increase your return on investment (ROI).

Encourage Readers to Act

Every great white paper should end with a natural, persuasive conclusion rather than feature a recurring sales pitch. Although few white papers directly invite readers to complete a sale, all should include a call to action (CTA).

Instead of leaving readers hanging at the end of your white paper, encourage them to act. Prompt them to learn more about your business, read up on your methods, or connect with your team to ask questions. No matter which CTA you choose, include a relevant link to make the experience seamless for your audience.

Grow Your Subscriber Base

One of the biggest differences between white papers and other types of content is that most marketers opt to place these high-level papers behind digital gates. That means readers can’t simply navigate to a white paper and begin reading immediately. Instead, most businesses require readers to opt in by submitting their email addresses and other pertinent contact information.

Once they’ve provided their information, readers gain access to the content and marketers gain new subscribers to their email lists. Whether you’re working hard to build a great list or you already have a strong email marketing strategy, growing your subscriber base has the potential to pay off in a big way. For every dollar you spend on email marketing, your ROI will average $44, which means your white paper could be a lucrative investment.

Generate Qualified Leads

In many cases, the subscribers that you gain from sharing your white paper will be more than mere readers. Many will be qualified leads who have moved past the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey and on to the consideration stage. While some of these leads may be ready to become customers and make a purchase, others may need further persuasion in order to move on to the decision stage.

To convert these qualified leads, be sure to introduce new subscribers to your marketing automation workflow. Consider segmenting your email list to ensure that your new subscribers receive the right automated emails to address their needs. Naturally, you may want to introduce casual readers to your business with educational emails, but you’ll also want to make sure that industry CEOs at the bottom of the sales funnel receive emails designed to convert.

Make It Easy to Share

Even if you don’t feature the full text of your white paper on your website, you can still make the content easy to find. Try creating a landing page that explains who should read the white paper, offers teasers of the full content, and clarifies the ultimate value.

You can easily share the landing page on your social media platforms, link to it in blog posts, or promote it in marketing emails. A landing page also makes capturing leads easy so you can grow your list and expand your reach immediately.

From thought leadership to lead generation, white papers offer a long list of benefits. Follow these tips to get the most out of adding white papers to your company’s content marketing efforts.

Author Image - Anna Sonnenberg
Anna Sonnenberg

Anna Sonnenberg is a digital marketer who specializes in paid social strategy, social media management, content strategy, and email marketing. For over five years, she has run Sonnenberg Media, a digital micro agency that works with small businesses in the natural food and beverage industry, health and sustainability market, and travel space.

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