White papers: essential tools of the trade

Over the last couple of decades, the White Paper has become an essential weapon in the marketing armoury. Companies wishing to show their thought leadership in a particular area or to promote the benefits of a particular approach, service or tool that they happen to use, offer or provide have increasingly turned to the White Paper as a way of generating leads and, hopefully, sales.

As a company that has researched and written a good number of White Papers in its time, we thought it would be useful to look at some of the background and the best ways of using them.

White papers have entered the marketing communications lexicon from the world of politics. Printed on, yes you guessed it, white paper, they were intend to outline a policy a government plans to adopt to solve a particular problem. For example, the UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change published a White Paper on reforming the electricity market.

In the world of marketing, White Papers adopt many guises. They typically range in size from six pages but can extend to many more, with some running to 24 pages. However, our view is that a White Paper should be tightly focused but well researched and sit somewhere between these two extremes.

Some are produced internally while other companies outsource production of a White Paper to outside companies, like Businesstravelwire. We would say this but we believe that having a White Paper produced by an independent expert is far more likely to be trusted by potential customers and therefore lead to more fruitful business relationships.

And so to content. What should go inside a White Paper? This requires very careful thought. Pick a subject that is obliquely related to what you want to promote. If you are a technology company wanting to promote a new self-booking tool, you do not want to choose self-booking tools as the topic of your White Paper. Much better to think along the lines of, say, “The uses of technology in modern travel management”.

Words play a very important part in a White Paper but images – specifically infographics and charts – more so. People respond strongly to visuals and infographics and charts allow you to get a vast amount of information across very quickly. And they make grey slabs of text look much more appealing to read.

How you use your White Paper to best effect is down to you. Journalists love them (if the paper can be shown to be independent) and your customers will too, if you have chosen your subject to chime with their own interests and concerns.

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