I don’t know about you, but white papers come with an expectation of jargon laden technical reports that aim to solve some sort of complex problem. If you consider them as a simple piece of content that solves a user problem however and they are an excellent marketing tool that could (should?) be used by all manner of companies.
That is certainly the conclusion drawn by a report released today by TechTarget (pdf). The report draws a number of fascinating conclusions into how people look to solve their problems and the part white papers play in that process.
Evaluating the problem
The report found that 59% of people used white papers to help solve their problem. This trumped other tools such as webcasts and trials.
White papers are hugely popular
It was also discovered that those that use white papers tend to use rather a lot of them. The average white paper reader ploughs through 5 or more over an average 3 month period.
Whitepapers go viral
In an era when linkbait is a much used tool in the search engine marketers tool belt the report also had some good advice for search marketers out there with news that some 41.6% of respondents having sent a white paper to a buddy in the recent past.
How to write better white papers
From an authoring point of view the report also had some insights, with the main turn-off being that the white papers were too product focused rather than consumer focused. Remember that the whole point of a white paper is to solve a consumer problem.
So make sure it’s solving a customers problem.
Secondly make sure it’s not too long. The web typically strips out the fluff and boils a problem down to its key points. Users expect white papers to be exactly the same.
1. Solve a customer problem
2. Make it succinct
3. Enjoy the road to nirvana