What’s a White Paper? And Why Your Business May Need One

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White papers, positioning papers, reports, and e-books: you may have heard each of these terms, but do you know what they mean or why they matter in the ecosystem of your marketing? These long-form pieces of content are ways to offer immense value to your audience while giving them an in-depth education about your product and services. But they’re not for everyone. Read on to learn more about white papers, and why your business may need one. 

If you’ve heard of white papers before, you might think of them as highly technical documents that are shared between businesses. And in some cases, that’s true. The core goal of a white paper is to give your audience more detailed information. It’s an opportunity to include research results, compile data from your case studies, and offer in-depth solutions.  

But that doesn’t mean that white papers are only for B2B businesses. Any business that offers a complex product or service might benefit from a white paper. I write white papers for medical companies that are offering something new to clinicians, patients, or other medical companies. 

I’m a nurse copywriter for businesses that are changing healthcare for the better. I help clients gain a foothold in the cutting-edge medicine industry, so that they don’t look at their competition 10 years from now and think “that should be me”. And white papers are one of the key strategies I like to use to help clients gain legitimacy and authority. 

Before we talk about why your business might consider a white paper, let’s talk about what they are, and the white papers you might already be using. 

What’s a White Paper?

A White Paper is a long-form, detailed sales page that helps businesses communicate the value of what they do. They’re about a specific problem and a specific solution. They may not seem like it, but white papers make an argument. They just do it using facts and data. 

But white papers come in a few forms, so let’s talk about where you might see one in the wild. 

The Different Forms of White Papers

You’ve probably already seen a white paper without knowing it. White papers can look like:

  • An e-book you download for free, that puts you on a mailing list about a product
  • A report on a business that you’re thinking about investing in
  • A PDF guide that shows you how to use a new product
  • A 10-page positioning paper that details a company’s mission, vision, and results 

Because they come in so many forms, there are a lot of ways to use a white paper. Many businesses use them to talk about:

  • Trends in their industry, 
  • Solutions that their brand offers,
  • Guides for their services or products, 
  • Insights into data and research, 
  • Educational step-by-step processes,
  • Challenges that their audience faces

Now that you know more about the content of white papers, let’s talk over a few scenarios when a business might use a white paper. 

When to Use a White Paper

White papers can help fill a gap in your medical marketing funnel, because they inform your audience and urge them to action. If you can’t get your clients to trust you enough to move to the next step, a white paper might be a good solution. 

Let’s get into some of the most common reasons my clients look for white papers:

Seeking Legitimacy & Authority

White papers are a valuable option for building authority if your company is:

  • In the startup phase
  • Actively looking for partners
  • Raising VC investments
  • Offering a product or service that is new, and therefore less trusted
  • Pivoting your offer to a new audience

A white paper helps you gain legitimacy, even if you haven’t been in business for long. Startups often use them to start building trust with investors and partners. They’re also super valuable if your service is relatively new to your industry. 

But authority-building isn’t the only reason you may want a white paper for your business. Let’s talk about white papers as a lead-generation strategy. 

Building an Email List

A white paper or e-book is an excellent tool if you want to grow a list of subscribers to your business. When they’re used in this way, white papers are sometimes called an opt-in or lead magnet

Email lists are a great tool in your marketing arsenal because they’re a way to build an audience in a more personal way than just your online followers. A person gets on your email list, and if you keep providing value, you’ll nurture them for your future offers. So when you build that course or create a new service, you’ve got an immediate list of people who already know you, like you, and trust you. 

But first, they need a reason to give you their email. That’s where an e-book or white paper comes in. Businesses may make an e-book to help their audience solve a problem, or to show them how their product works. And the great thing about this system is that it’s usually set-it-and-forget-it; you can keep growing your list without investing in ads. 

There’s another good reason why businesses might use a white paper. Maybe you’ve been getting more questions about your product, or it’s not clear to your audience how you can solve their problems. 

Answering Questions About Their Product

Businesses may also need a white paper if they’re meeting confusion from their audience. Maybe you keep getting the same question over and over on your sales calls. Maybe your audience has a new problem they keep coming to you with. White papers are a way for you to help your clients gain information, and gain their trust in you along the way. 

But what if your company is one of many in your industry? That’s another reason why a white paper could help you gain traction. 

Positioning Companies Within an Industry

White papers can help you stand apart from the competition, because you’re helping your audience in specific ways, with specific problems. And even though many people think that these documents are mostly technical and boring, they’re still a way to communicate your unique voice, mission, and aim. 

A white paper may be especially valuable if there aren’t many (or any) in your niche. For example, even though psychedelic medicine has grown so much in the last few years, there’s only one notable white paper in the space. So if you’re a smaller psychedelic medicine company, investing in a white paper can get you see a lot faster than just publishing blogs or newsletters. 

White papers have come a long way in the last few years. They’re not just for executive reports and charts. They’re also for getting people excited about what you do. 

Explaining the Value of a Service/Product

Sometimes a white paper is also called a positioning paper. These are usually longer than standard reports, often 10-20 pages. They go in-depth into the problems in a specific industry, the way other companies have tried to solve them, the ways they’ve failed, your solutions, and how great those solutions are. 

Positioning papers can be massively valuable for companies that are trying to position themselves with shareholders and partnerships who may not have heard of them. Startups often use positioning papers to make their value clear before they have high earnings reports and real-world proof of concept. They’re a way to help people learn why they should be excited to work with you. 

Gaining authority, building an email list, answering questions, positioning, and explaining value are just some of the ways a professional white paper can be an asset to your medical marketing strategy. But where does a white paper fit into the marketing strategy you already have? How can you make sure that people will read your white paper once it’s finished? Let’s answer these questions. 

Where to Put a White Paper in Your Medical Marketing Funnel

If you haven’t read my blog on medical marketing funnels, check it out. If you have, I’m very impressed. One thing I emphasize when I talk strategy with clients is to think about the steps that your clients will move through your funnel, and give them enough information to move to that next step every time. 

A white paper is an excellent way to give them that information. Check out this step-wise funnel that includes a white paper:

Notice the key step that the white paper solves; without a free e-book someone might come to your blog, read an article or two, and then lose interest because you’re not immediately solving their problem. A white paper helps you offer value right off the bat, so that people move more easily through the steps of your funnel. 

This is just one way that a white paper may fit into the marketing ecosystem you’re already using. But how can you get your white paper out to readers?

Create a Landing Page for your White Paper

My favorite way of distributing a white paper is to put it on your website via a landing page. You can link to this landing page from your new blogs, your newsletter, and your social media pages. It’s this page that helps people understand why your report is valuable, and how to get it using their email address. 

But this isn’t the only way to disseminate your white paper once it’s done. There are some people you’ll want to offer this report to immediately, without making them give over their email. 

Email Your White Paper to Your Existing Subscribers

If you already have loyal subscribers, you certainly don’t want to leave them out of the value you’ve made with a white paper. You can send them this report directly with a link to a PDF, or a private page on your website. 

Your email list is one audience you don’t want to leave out, but neither are your social media followers. 

Link Your White Paper on Social Media

If you have social media accounts for your business, you’ll probably want to share the landing page for your white paper with them. That way they can sign up for your email list, which is a much more intimate following than your public pages. 

Create a Lead-In Blog

If you want to give readers a taste of your white paper without giving them the whole pie, a lead-in blog is a great option. I sometimes call this a white paper-lite article. You might provide some of the information from your report, or summarize the findings without giving away all the juicy details. This way you can attract readers with a search engine and get them interested. 

White paper landing pages, emails, social media links, and blog lead-ins are all great strategies to make sure your white paper actually gets read once it’s made. But is a white paper for you?

White Papers: Who Needs Them (And Who Doesn’t)

White papers are a fabulous tool if you’re communicating about a service that is complex, innovative, or not well-known. But not every company needs them. 

For example, if you sell a relatively low-ticket item, a free report on that product might be an unnecessary investment on your part. White papers aren’t cheap, and if they won’t make your sales easier, you’re better off investing in something else like paid ads. 

If you’re unclear on who your target audience is, or what problem you’re helping them solve, a white paper isn’t a good option yet. Keep in mind that these reports are very specific and tailored to an audience. So if you don’t know who that audience is, a white paper isn’t the right thing yet. 

Murky waters won’t make for a clear white paper. It’s essential to be clear on your audience, their pain points, and your value offer before you think about a white paper. 

Thinking About a White Paper? 

Has this blog made you curious about a white paper, e-book, or report for your business? I write white papers for medical businesses that are making positive changes in medicine and healthcare. 
If you’ve got specific questions about white papers, I’d love to answer them! Email me at marie@mariehasty.com to talk more about how a white paper could help your business grow.

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