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Write them and boost your reputation as an expert

White papers are a unique form in copywriting. They are often overlooked because they aren’t properly understood or used by smaller businesses or in the business-to-consumer market.

Like diamonds, they’re multi-faceted and can be used in many ways. If you decide to research them, you’ll discover they mean many different things to different folks.

What exactly is a white paper

While white papers are used in government too, we’re only looking at their use in advertising.

A white paper explains ‘something’ for the consumer. It can be a product, a solution to a particular problem, or philosophy of the agency.  

Most commonly, they’re written for business-to-business marketing. Right now, they’re popular in the tech industry. In that industry they can be used to keep customers up to date with never-ending changes in the industry.

White papers are valuable in any business.  And they can be wonderfully applied in the self-improvement business (yes, they can).

Let’s dig in.

Imagine this

It’s budget time in a small company.  The three business owners (three hardworking guys) are overworked, happy, excited, and stressed.

They’re still in the early months of building their customer base. There’s a lot of competition for their customers and they’re overwhelmed.  

They had thought they could promote their business through word-of-mouth and Facebook. It had looked easy. It was what everyone else was doing.

But now, they are discovering it’s not working the way they hoped.  They aren’t getting results and they haven’t been able to keep their social media current. 

They need more.

They don’t have time to dive into reading 30 books, or 5 business journals.  They know Wikipedia isn’t enough.

They’ve heard about marketing strategies, and copywriting, and lots of other things about advertising.

They’re not advertising professionals; they’re small business owners with a dream of running their own business for the next 30 years. They want a legacy for their kids. They like what they do. They hadn’t realized how tough and time consuming advertising was going to be.

They have a hundred other things to do to stay on top of their business.

They’re coming to realize they don’t understand the world of advertising and its long-term value. They realize they’ve spent too much money on Face Book and other social media with too little benefit.

And, with the budget for the next year being planned, they’re very curious to learn more about advertising.

Ultimately, they’re wondering if they should invest in an advertising agency, or a freelance copywriter, or try to do it themselves (again).

Then, they stumble into the mine and find their rock

These tired business owners search Google for information about advertising agencies or copywriting or marketing and ….voila! White papers show up in their search.

A couple of nearby marketing agencies have white papers explaining the world of advertising and all it’s moving parts.  

The guys download the PDFs and read them, they discover the information is current. It captures the online world and print. The information is objective. It’s created to help guys just like them understand advertising in the 21st century.

As the business owners read, they feel a little more confident. They feel they’ve discovered their own diamond mine.

They start moving forward because they have a better understanding of their problem, of the advertising industry, and what they might be able to do.

They reach out to one of the agencies who published a paper.  And, so a relationship may begin.

A white paper offers information to help the consumer resolve a problem

A white paper helps businesses understand a problem they are experiencing and understand possible solutions.

On a very human level, for our small business owners, the white papers were reassuring to read. It reminds them that they’re not alone. Others are looking for answers.

Greene (aka the Godfather of white papers) and his 3 style types

White papers expert, Gordon Greene, sees three main styles of whitepapers:

  1. The backgrounder:  this is what it says it is. It’s background, highly focused on a service or product.  It might include historical data for context.
  2. A list: as it says it is. The numbered list is an easy way to skim through the information allowing the reader to focus on what they are interested in.
  3. Problem and solution: not as deeply focused as the backgrounder and offers a ‘new’ solution to an old but common problem.

Should you decide to write your own white papers and research their styles, you’ll find more styles and approaches than just these three. But, these three are a great place to start.

Why you should have white papers ready for your consumers

As mentioned, white papers are popular in the tech industry. However, any industry or business owner can be creative and write them.

NOTE! The white paper is never a sales pitch. Ever. It’s information showing you are an expert, and a helpful one.

Cheryl at

White papers can be needed during any time of the sales cycle. They might be needed in the beginning when people start searching for options. They can be used to help make a final decision.

It’s worth the effort to have your white papers properly written to ensure they’re found during searches.  White papers are professional and authoritative pieces.  This is how they help create your reputation.

If a white paper sounds like work, it is. 

Much like diamond hunting, a white paper takes time.  

The largest time spent on a white paper is in the research, then the writing.  Solid research skills and critical thinking  are needed to guarantee the information is credible and reliable.  

Remember, today’s consumers will double check information they find on the internet. They will double check you.

But the research offers a hidden benefit. The information can be easily be used for long sales letters, podcasts, videos, press releases, speeches, Ted Talks, e-books, teaching, or training.

Use your imagination and think of what you could do because you’ve created one white paper.  

How many diamonds are you overlooking in your backyard

You can write a white paper about anything. Maybe you want to help your clients understand the ethical guidelines of your industry. That can be a white paper.

Perhaps you’d like to explain the use of DLSR cameras in action photography.  Can compact cameras work as well? Is it just hype? You can write a white paper about trends in DLSR technology.

Perhaps you’re a realtor, and your clients need to understand the pros and cons of a tar and gravel roof before they buy their dream house. That can become a white paper.

In any of these situations, you’re helping your client solve a problem. You’ll write objectively, never selling – just educating.

Take it away

We’ve skimmed the surface. There’s formulas and other writing strategies to be understood when you’re writing a white paper.

If you’re stuck about how to write your own white papers you can reach out, too. There are lots of agencies and experienced freelancers who can work with you.

You can dive into the internet and find white papers to interest you. Not only should you be writing them, your might enjoying reading them for your own needs.