Is the White Paper Dead?

Just a few years ago, the white paper, a 6-to-8 page document detailing a trend, issue or growing industry concern, was the backbone of what we’ve come to call “content marketing.”  Most hardly even sold the product overtly, it was merely a branded document that spread knowledge and expertise associated with your brand.

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More recently, content marketing is all over the place.  For example, marketing departments oversee blogs and webinars which mirror the educational and soft-sell approach once associated with white papers alone.  New distribution avenues like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook allow quick and cost-effective dissemination of compelling content.  No longer does the marketing department have to depend on expensive banner buys and PPC campaigns to spread their gospel online.

In this new world with a focus on content marketing, should we bury the old-style white paper?  While many marketing people have either forgotten about or never even knew them, white papers should have an important place in your content strategy.  Here are three main reasons why:

White papers are still considered “premium content.”  One of the key goals of a B2B marketing department is to add prospects to the marketing database.  Those prospects increase in value when you have full and accurate content information on each one.  Gated white papers, which require disclosure of somewhat accurate name, email address and other qualifying information before download, can accomplish this task.

Longer formats are still saved, printed and studied.  When a white paper topic is of interest to a reader, he or she knows they don’t have the time right then to read and digest what could be very in-depth content and the paper is downloaded as a pdf and available for study later.  A pdf can also be shared with colleagues when the topic comes up weeks or months later.  That paper may actually be printed for easy consumption at home or on an airplane.  You can print it professionally and use it in a direct mail campaign.  It’s a good thing when your branded content is in the hands of a potential customer for longer than the two or three minutes it takes to read this blog.

White paper content can be reused.  A good white paper starts with a detailed outline and a research effort.  That effort often produces a paper which explores several points in depth.  Each of these points can be the topic of a blog post.  The outline and supporting content can the basis of an interesting webinar.   In short, the white paper format is a nicely-sized quantity of content that is worthy of a research effort and can pay you back multiple times with use in different formats.

We all had the right idea with white papers all along.  They are useful and valuable, even more so in today’s social media world.  They are the forerunners of content marketing and should still be considered a cornerstone of your marketing effort.  Long live the white paper!

When was the last time you produced a white paper in your marketing?  Have you “repurposed’ the content yet?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

3 thoughts on “Is the White Paper Dead?

  1. Starting a new white paper right now, in fact.

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