What is a white paper, and how is it different from a case study? While many people aren’t clear on the differences between the two, each has a distinct purpose and can be a valuable tool in your marketing strategy.
A white paper is a guide for solving a problem relevant to your audience. White papers give you an opportunity to show thought leadership and educate your customers and prospects about common issues in your industry.
A case study, on the other hand, is an in-depth report about a client or small group of clients with a situation that your company helped resolve. These marketing pieces allow readers to put themselves in a particular situation and envision how your company would solve their own problems.
Along with serving different purposes, white papers and case studies also contain different types of information. An effective white paper should include these five elements:
1. A defined problem. Introduce your white paper to your audience by explaining the primary issue or opportunity. You could discuss obstacles in a particular industry or opportunities to increase sales. State the issue quickly to grab readers’ attention.
2. Proof that this is a real problem. The fact that you say there’s a problem doesn’t make it true. Once you expose the potential issue, back up your findings through market research or tangible statistics. Prove you know what you’re talking about.
3. Any additional problems. If the initial problem you’re addressing isn’t enough to engage readers, include other relevant issues. These issues should have similar solutions to the problem you addressed above.
4. The traditional solution. This is the basic solution for the problem; don’t mention your product yet. Give them general solutions without name-dropping.
5. Your solution. This is where you get to show off your knowledge and convince readers that you understand the issues they face. You can highlight specific benefits, show how your product differs from your competitors’ products, and let your audience know what to do next. Always include a call to action at the end of a white paper.
To write a successful case study, include these three elements:
1. The challenge. What is the situation you solved? Summarize the challenges your client faced before turning to your organization and provide specific details. You can include history about the client or the relationship the company had with a competitor.
2. The solution. In this section, describe the steps you took to resolve the issue. Give a detailed outline of your approach and why you chose it. What made it unique and how did it help?
3. The results. This section gives you an opportunity to address specific results the solution achieved. Use statistics and client quotes to back up your claims. How did you improve your client’s business?
Knowing when to use a white paper and when to use a case study is entirely up to what you want to say. You can showcase your white papers or case studies through your other marketing efforts, too. Hand out copies of your white papers or case studies to prospects at trade shows, send out press releases to publicize them and link to them through your social media outlets. Professional marketers can help you understand the benefits of each and what will work best for your company.