What is a White Paper?

Draft horses are bred to pull heavy loads – just like white papers.

White Papers are fact-based documents used in B2B marketing.

They move your prospects through the sale process and give the needed information to justify a purchase.


White papers are like draft horses

I’m sure you’ve seen the Budweiser commercials. You know, the ones with big beautiful horses. These horses are much bigger than regular horses – and they can be intimidating because of their size and strength.

I’ve thought about these horses ever since 2012. That’s when I was lucky enough to attend the Calgary Stampede. There were lots of activities. One of my favorite, was watching giant horses pull weighted sleds across an arena.

These horses are called “draft” horses. The word “draft” means to pull a heavy load, and that’s what these horses were bred for.

Since that time, I’ve thought how work was done in the pre-industrial era. And how these horses were indispensable in getting things done.

Kind of like white papers.


White papers are “bred” for the heavy lifting of sales.

And they’re invaluable because they:

  1. Generate leads.
  2. Enlighten readers with thought-provoking information.
  3. Provide detailed specifications to close sales.


A single white paper can’t do all of the above things. Pick one type – depending on your goal.


Generate leads with white papers:

Most white papers are written to generate leads – at the top of the sales funnel. These documents are written in a problem/solution format.

They are typically 5-8 pages long and start with a brief overview – often called an executive summary.

They discuss a problem in your industry. They talk about common solutions and then introduce a new way to solve the problem.

This new solution is discussed without mentioning a specific vendor. Of course, it’s setting you up to be the best vendor.

At the end of the white paper, a call to action is included along with your company information.


Enlighten readers with white papers:

You’ve seen reports with titles such as “3 questions you must ask . . .”  or “9 things you must do . . . ”  These white papers are generally short (4-6 pages) and easy to read.

They’re not as detailed as a problem/solution white paper. However, they’re a great way to round up blog posts or other assorted information into one place.

You can even write one to answer FAQs.

These white papers are as fun to create as they are to read.

You provide thought-provoking information your readers might not otherwise understand.

And they appeal to anyone interested in an issue.

They charm prospects at the top of the sales funnel. They keep buyers interested in the middle of the funnel.


Provide detailed specs with white papers:

According to Gordon Graham, this type of white paper is a “backgrounder.” He says:

Once upon a time, every white paper was a product backgrounder.  A backgrounder is good for explaining an unfamiliar or misunderstood product to a technical audience.

A backgrounder is powerful at the end of the sales cycle. It’s also great to back up a product launch.

Backgrounder white papers go into great detail about your offering. They give the detail and specifications necessary to justify a sale.

Although they’re a bit longer (5-12) pages, they need to be engaging so they’ll be read.


Creating a white paper can be intimidating

Formulating a white paper can be overwhelming – just like handling a draft horse. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Think of white papers as the gentle giants of marketing.

Their power comes from considering many things and making thoughtful decisions such as:

  • Choosing the audience – by industry, technical needs, business role. etc.
  • Selecting the goal – how the paper will fit into your sales funnel.
  • Limiting the topic – you can’t cover everything in 5-12 pages.
  • Showcasing your available research, if needed.
  • Determining subject matter experts, if necessary.
  • Obtaining buy in from stakeholders.


Take the intimidation out of crafting a white paper.

White papers take time to create (usually 6-8 weeks) That can be intimidating – especially with everything else you have to do.

You can do this yourself with a white paper plan.

Or you can hire me to create the white paper. (See a sample.)

I can help you decide on your target audience, goals, and subject.

I plan, research, and write business-to-business marketing documents.

And, if you need graphics and printing, I can have partnerships with a few graphic designers who can do that as well.

Contact me to get your next White Paper done.