How to Use White Papers in Your Marketing Strategy

Amanda Dodge


January 31, 2018 (Updated: January 23, 2024)

White paper

Between the worlds of long-form article content and e-books, an additional level often ignored by content marketers exists. White papers are more than articles, but they often lack the length of e-books.

This gray area can leave marketers confused. How do you promote a white paper? What types of content should be included in it? How will you know if it’s a success? These valid questions are ones that any content creator should ask before they develop something.

Today, we have those answers. By understanding the purpose of white papers and the expectations of audiences, you can create a white paper that generates results. Discover how you can use white papers successfully within your marketing strategy.

White Papers Are Mid-Funnel Content

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One of the main reasons companies struggle to use white papers in their content strategies is that they don’t know where these marketing materials fall in the sales funnel. White papers are typically either promoted as a top-funnel product that’s meant to drive traffic or a bottom-funnel sales tool meant to close deals. Often, companies give up when the white paper fails to accomplish either of these tasks.

White papers are typically mid-funnel content. They’re rarely viral gold, and they don’t close as well as your sales team, but they’re still important. The goal of mid-funnel content is to teach people about your brand and prove to audiences that you are an expert in your industry. Your interactive infographic may have brought an audience to your website, but your white paper will make them want to stay.

By focusing on mid-funnel content metrics, such as bringing return visitors back to your website and keeping them on your pages longer, you can create goals to measure the success of your white paper that are better aligned with your sales process.

Your Content Determines the Success of Your White Paper

The length of your white paper isn’t as important as the content it contains. White papers can be shorter than some blog posts and longer than e-books. Before you create your white paper, make sure your topic and research strategy is relevant to your industry. Conduct research to see if the trend has been covered before, and ask yourself how you will cover it differently.

If you’re still struggling to come up with original content ideas that will wow readers and make your white paper a valuable asset, consider reviewing your industry with an eye on the following concepts:

  •  What data is missing from your industry that could shed light on certain trends?
  •  What news worries those in your industry and how can you offer your perspective?
  •  What ideas do you have about your industry that no one else has thought to cover?

All of these questions address the needs of your customers, bloggers, and employees within your industry. By reviewing topics with these questions in mind, you can develop a white paper creation strategy that creates a compelling piece.

With your topic in mind, you can set out to create a valuable content piece that draws people in. This work may include interviewing thought leaders to get their perspective on various topics or conducting a survey to provide data to your field. By the time you sit down to create your white paper, the length is irrelevant because you’re so focused on presenting the valuable material in front of you.

Make Sure You Have a Promotion Plan in Place

Since your white paper acts as mid-funnel content, you need to approach its promotion and outreach differently than you would your top-funnel content. With top-funnel pieces, the goal is virality. A few shares could balloon into hundreds of shares as people across the web interact with your engaging piece. White papers can certainly be engaging, but they rarely have the spread of top-funnel content.

Be sure to focus on industry-niche marketing. Consider promoting your white paper at a conference to help audiences better understand a concept. Reach out to bloggers in your industry and see if they find the content in your white paper valuable. (Hint: If you follow the content creation advice above, they likely will.)

These marketing strategies will help you achieve your white paper promotion goals. You will likely attract people to your website who may have already visited before or are familiar with your brand. These individuals make up your mid-funnel audience. You will also likely attract links to your content as people find your research valuable, which boosts organic traffic in the long run.

Unlike top-funnel content, your mid-funnel content takes time to prove itself. But after a few weeks and months, you should start to reap the benefits in the form of closed sales and rankings increases.

Case Study: Vircom’s Anti-Spam White Paper

If you still doubt the value of adding white papers to your marketing strategy, consider this case study of one company that invested in the creation of a white paper and is known across the web for its results.

Gordon Graham (aka That Whitepaper Guy) shared a fantastic success story of white paper promotion. The anti-spam developer Vircom released a report called “Why Spammers Spam,” and sent it to a few local influencer channels and customers. The report took off and was downloaded more than 2,200 times. Additionally, the report generated major media coverage outside of the brand’s niche outreach plan.

Vircom had spent only $1,700 to create the white paper, but the promotion generated more than $96,500 in sales and brought more than 21 new clients to the company.

When asked why the white paper did so well, the Vircom marketing team said their secrets to success included picking an interesting topic that was distinctive and relevant at the time, conducting original research that provided value, and making the content relevant to their customers. Both the content creation strategy and the promotion plan matched the company’s mid-funnel goals.

You don’t have to be a white paper expert to create one. We’ve shaped dozens of white papers for a variety of niches and developed successful promotion plans around them. Let us know how we can help you create mid-funnel content that brings target consumers closer to you.

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Amanda Dodge

CopyPress writer

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