What Is a Whitepaper? When & How to Use One

Whitepapers are a valuable part of any marketing strategy. Read this guide to learn what they are, their purpose, and how they can benefit your business.

There are several ways you can go about advertising your business to potential customers including social media, email, classic brochures, and even whitepapers. What is a whitepaper, you ask? And why should you use one over other marketing methods?

In its simplest terms, a whitepaper is an informational document that advocates that a certain solution is the best choice in a particular situation. The purpose of a whitepaper is to promote a product, service, technology, or methodology and entice customers or investors to choose that product or service over competitors. A whitepaper is a less obvious, value-adding way to promote a product or service than other marketing avenues.

This overview of whitepapers will cover the purpose of a whitepaper, whitepaper examples, and more. To learn more about how using whitepapers can benefit your business, continue reading or use the links below to go straight to the section that best answers your questions.

What is a whitepaper?

A whitepaper is an informational document that gives an in-depth analysis of a subject while highlighting a business’s products or services and encouraging people to use them. Typically, a whitepaper will include all the features that the product or service offers and describe why it's the best solution for the problem presented.

There are two main goals of a whitepaper:

  • Educating the reader about the topic—positioning the publisher as an authority on the subject.
  • Enticing customers to purchase the product or service that’s being advertised.

Whitepapers are usually at least 2,500 words and written in an academic style. They are educational and useful, and should not be written like a sales pitch. A whitepaper is intended to be used prior to a sale. It should provide only facts and no opinions.

A whitepaper is different from a product pitch, which can also be used to entice customers to buy a certain product or service. But where a whitepaper differs from a product pitch is how it’s written. A whitepaper is informational, while a product pitch is typically written in a more aggressive and artificial tone.

Key parts of a whitepaper

In order to successfully write a whitepaper, there is a simple format that you should follow. The contents of a whitepaper will differ for every business, but there are four key parts that every whitepaper should contain:

1. Introduction: No matter what service or product you’re promoting, every whitepaper should start with an introduction. The introduction should engage the reader right off the bat and entice them to keep reading. You should immediately address the problem your product or service will fix and how you’re going to solve that problem.

2. Problem: Once you’ve mentioned the problem that your product or service will fix, you then need to demonstrate that you actually understand the problem and the impact it can have on their life. You should include what might happen if the reader does not address this problem, as well as the potential benefits of fixing this problem. You want to make this section as relatable to the reader as possible.

3. Solution: So you’ve identified the problem at hand and explained why the reader should care about addressing that problem. You now need to explain how your product or service is going to be the solution to this problem. If you’ve written the first two sections correctly, your reader should be at the edge of their seats to hear this solution. Be as descriptive as possible when describing the solution to convince the reader it's the best choice for them. Note, you do not want to make it into an overt sales pitch.

4. Conclusion: The conclusion portion of the whitepaper serves as a summary of the problem and solution. You’ll repeat what the problem is and how your product or service can solve it. The conclusion should be enticing and motivate the reader to take the next steps to purchase your product or service. You should also include a call to action in your conclusion so the reader knows what the next steps are if they’re interested in learning more about your business.

What is the purpose of a whitepaper?

First and foremost, the purpose of a whitepaper is to educate the reader by taking a deep-dive into the topic. However, for your business’s purposes you are also using it as a way to position your product or service in front of prospective customers.

While this an underlying purpose, it’s important to ensure it’s not done in an obvious or overbearing way, like you would with other forms of marketing. Whitepapers are not meant to be used for explicite self-promotion. They are meant to persuade prospective customers to choose your product or service simply on facts and evidence that it is a well-suited solution for the problem they’re facing.

The goal of a whitepaper is to build trust with your audience and show them that the solution you’re offering to their problem is viable. A whitepaper is an important part of public relations to generate interest in your company.

There are many benefits of using whitepapers for your business:

  • Establishes your credibility: With a whitepaper, you’re sharing facts, so it’s a great way to establish your credibility as a brand. Rather than providing a bunch of fluff and opinions, a whitepaper is based on evidence, so the reader is more inclined to believe the information you’re presenting—including the fact that your product or service may be a solution.
  • Generates sales: Internally, one of the goals of using whitepapers is to generate sales for your business. Whitepapers typically convert well because they offer both educational and marketing content. This makes the content more interesting to readers.
  • Increases engagement: If you’re looking to increase engagement for your company, a whitepaper is one way to go about it. Often, whitepapers are presented as a link that the reader has to download. It makes them highly shareable. When you include whitepapers in social posts, emails, and more it can increase engagement with your brand.
  • Helps you build a mailing list: Building a mailing list can be a challenge, but giving away a whitepaper as a free gift is an easy way to entice people to sign up for your newsletter. As a result, you can grow your mailing list. Just make sure the contents of the whitepaper are relevant to your brand and your audience so they are more likely to stick around after accessing it.

What are some examples of whitepapers?

If you’re still a bit confused about what exactly whitepapers are, don’t panic. Here are some whitepaper examples to give you a better understanding of what they can look like.

Problem & solution

One of the most common types of whitepapers is the problem and solution style. With a problem and solution whitepaper, you’ll focus more on highlighting the problem, rather than promoting the solution. The goal of this type of whitepaper is to thoroughly outline the problem and make it clear to the reader why they need a solution. In the latter portion of this type of whitepaper, you will present your product or service as a natural solution to the problem. Persuasion using facts is a key element of a product and solution whitepaper.

Technical

A technical whitepaper will outline how a product works and is typically focused on educating the reader about this product. This type of whitepaper is usually used when a company is showcasing a new product and needs to provide an explanation for the product and how to use it. A technical whitepaper will usually include the following:

  • Data and statistics that supports the effectiveness of the product.
  • Well-supported claims that prove that your business is successful and at the top of the industry,
  • Description of how the product works.

Educational

An educational whitepaper is intended to act as a guide on a topic. This type of whitepaper can instruct them how to do something or provide an in-depth explanation of what something is and how it works. Educational whitepapers will often contain numbered lists, steps, and other elements that make it easy to understand the message. The goal is to educate the reader, rather than to persuade or encourage them to buy your product or service.

Use Mailchimp to create & share branded content

Whitepapers are an effective way to position your business as a thought leader in your industry and spark the interest of prospective customers. Now that you see the value of whitepapers, your wheels are likely turning for how you can create and share your very own. If you need help with whitepapers and other branded content, you can use Mailchimp.

Mailchimp is an online marketing platform where you can create and share branded content about your business to drive traffic and increase sales. Mailchimp can help with everything from selling your services online to creating a product growth strategy.

Make whitepapers part of your marketing strategy

Knowing when and how to use whitepapers is a crucial part of any business’s marketing strategy. A whitepaper can make your company stand out from the crowd and reach more customers in a new way, and Mailchimp can help you do just that.

Mailchimp is your all-in-one solution for marketing and sharing content. When you sign up with Mailchimp, you’ll get access to a myriad of resources, like our digital content studio and e-commerce tools. Get started with Mailchimp today and expand your business to new heights you never imagined possible.

Share This Article