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3 Types of White Papers and When To Use Them

If you’re about to launch your marketing plan, you should consider using different types of white papers in your SaaS content marketing strategy. You can boost your business’s leads and sales if you use the different types in your marketing strategy. 

What Is a White Paper?

White papers are authoritative guides that talk about certain issues, along with suggested solutions for resolving them. 

Nowadays, white papers are commonly used within the SaaS industry to discuss problems, challenges experienced, and solutions on how to handle those problems.

They’re also used as a document for marketing products and generating sales. You can also use white papers to discuss the uses of new products and how they can boost the efficiency of processes in organizations. 

Need help writing exceptional white papers for your business? Schedule a free consultation.

The 3 Types of White Papers Commonly Used and Their Examples

There are three main types of white papers:

The Backgrounder White Paper

Backgrounder white papers explain the context surrounding a product and how it works. If you’re launching a new product, this type of white paper can help your target users understand your product better.

The Backgrounder tends to focus on educating users as it is more technical. Here is a great example. These types of white papers usually include:

  • Well-supported claims showing your business as the industry leader
  • Scientific data and studies explaining the efficacy of your product
  • Explanations of how your product works

When To Use the Backgrounder White Paper

The Backgrounder is great at clinching sales prospects because it provides in-depth information that novice users need. 

If your potential user is in the final stages (bottom of the sales funnel) of making a decision, this type of white paper can convince them your product is what they need.

However, remember to update the white paper as your product changes.

The Numbered List White Paper

A recent study shows people enjoy reading content that’s formatted as listicles. The numbered white paper is loved by most readers because it uses numbered lists that are easy to digest to convey its message.

Generally, this type of white paper is usually aimed at a casual audience as it is a great introductory marketing tool. You can use it to:

  • Answer your product’s common questions. For example, “The Top 5 Misunderstandings About Contract Management Software”.
  • Explain the advantages of your products. For example, “10 Reasons To Outsource Your Accounting Tasks”.
  • List tips for your target user. For example, “7 Ways to Convert and Retain Your Customers”.

When To Use the Numbered List White Paper

This white paper is perfect for creating awareness and nurturing leads. This means you can use it no matter where your target user is in the sales funnel. 

You can also use the numbered list white paper to focus on the unique features of your product. Check out BBN-International white paper to familiarize yourself with this type of white paper.

The Problem/Solution White Paper

While products provide solutions to a problem, sometimes you need to define the problem first before selling the solution. That’s where the problem/solution white paper comes in handy.

It convinces users that they need what you’re offering. This white paper type establishes the problem while showcasing your product as the best solution. 

If your company’s focus doesn’t change, the problem/solution white papers can remain relevant for a long time as they’re evergreen.

As long as the problem your product is solving remains a challenge for customers, this white paper type will continue bringing you new customers every month. 

Moving Target’s Problem/Solution White Paper is a good example.

When To Use the Problem/Solution White Paper

This white paper is usually used when creating a technical white paper and is perfect for generating new users. 


When people have a problem, they usually look for a solution on search engines. If well-optimized, this white paper type can help your site rank for your target user’s specific problem. 

3 Reasons Why White Papers Should Be Part of Your Content Marketing Strategy?

White papers are crucial for marketing your brand and products. Here are reasons why you should include them in your marketing strategy.

White Papers Generate Leads

White papers are the top lead content marketing lead generators for companies.

White Paper Types

This graph indicates that most companies value white papers. One of the reasons why white papers bring in a large number of leads is because users are willing to give their information to access them.

In fact, a 2017 study revealed that 76% of buyers shared their personal information to read white papers. 

What Information Can You Get From Your Leads?

I recommend using a lead generation form on your white paper landing page if you want to capture leads. Be sure to set your form to require mandatory information from your leads before downloading your white paper.

Mandatory information includes:

  • First and last name
  • Phone number
  • Company name
  • Country
  • Email

Here’s Demand Gen Report’s example:

White Paper Types

White Make Your Competitors Perceive You as a Thought Leader

White papers are a great way of contributing to your business’s thought leadership efforts. Thought leadership is a type of content that allows you to answer your target user’s questions on a certain topic.

Thought leadership is essential because it develops trust between your user and brand. You can achieve this by showcasing authority and expertise in your industry. In turn, users view your brand as one of the best at what it does.

That’s why people, including yourself, buy products from brands they believe are among the best. Other reasons why you should publish thought leadership pieces include:

  • They expose your brand’s ideas to the media, researchers in the government and reputable people within your industry.
  • They make your business become more persuasive, giving you the authority to shift the direction of certain topics.
  • They increase your business’s strategic visibility with funders and customers.
  • They help your brand initiate meaningful change through influence.

If you want to become a thought leader, begin publishing content that supports your authority and the company’s position as a thought leader. 

How Can Writing White Papers Position You as a Thought Leader?

White papers are in-depth, persuasive reports on a problem that stakeholders want to understand. That’s because they consistently answer the questions your potential users have on certain topics.

To position yourself as a thought leader, address a challenge that has been affecting the SaaS industry for a long time and offers an effective solution. 

Just ensure your company can solve the challenges your white paper is presenting with its products. 

Once your audience finds a solution to a problem that has been affecting many people, they’ll see the person who authored the white paper as the “hero” because of solving the problem permanently. 

Another way white papers can position you as a thought leader is by keeping your user aware of the challenges and products that are relevant to their lives. 

If you consistently publish white papers with valuable data on topics your users are searching for, they’ll keep seeking your resources whenever they want answers to other problems.

For example, Ericsson keeps publishing different white papers occasionally

White Paper Types

As you can see, Ericsson’s white papers topics are relevant to their products. 

Instead of using hard-sell tactics to create awareness for their brand and products, Ericsson uses detailed information and research to promote the progressiveness and usefulness of their products. 

This makes the user view Ericsson as a company with extensive knowledge on these topics, which adds to their sense of authority in the technology industry. 

Which brand do you think will pop up in their user’s minds when they want to buy a telecommunications product next time?

Ericsson because they have positioned themselves as a thought leader. 

You should also do the same for your company.

In short, if you want potential users to associate your brand with thought leadership, you should seriously consider investing in white papers.

White Papers Set You Apart From the Competition

If you want to give your company a competitive edge, you need to stand out. 

From my experience, I’ve discovered most SaaS companies only create content for their blogs and social media channels. That’s where you come in.

In fact, research shows ebooks and white papers ranked 5th in B2B most used content marketing strategies. 

Although most businesses publish social media content and blog posts, only ⅔ of B2B marketers create ebooks and white papers.

White Paper Writer

If you want to give your potential buyers something different from what everyone else is offering, publish white papers regularly.

Publishing content in different formats can also help you develop a solid marketing plan. Focusing only on one format of content creation can limit your brand exposure.

Moreover, you can reach diversified segments in your target audience if you use a wide range of content creation formats. However, you shouldn’t publish a white paper for the sake of it.

Ensure it provides genuine insights about a topic that interests your users. It should provide original research and evaluate a problem extensively plus its possible solutions.

That being said, if you want a platform that can help you demonstrate your knowledge of certain topics, and distinguish you from your competitors, publishing a compelling and well-researched white paper is a must.

White Paper Format

Your well-written copy and gathered statistics won’t earn clicks if your white paper format isn’t appealing. Besides, competition for your user’s attention is intense due to lots of content that’s posted online every minute

White Paper Writer

That’s why long-form content such as white papers need an attractive design. Your design should include things like visuals, typography and color if you want your white paper to be successful. 

Below are some things to pay attention to when creating your white paper.

  • Mobile Responsive: Ensure your white paper looks good on mobile since 54% of website traffic comes from mobile. Unfortunately, most businesses that provide white papers use PDF format, which is unreadable on smaller screens. 
  • Readability and Emphasis: White papers contain a lot of images and text and other supplementary data like logos and footnotes, making your design look cluttered. Instead, prioritize important information.
  • Research Design Trends: This will help you get inspired if you’re just starting out. Currently, color gradients and bold fonts are trending. While that might change anytime, spend time checking what other businesses are doing successfully.
  • Design With Your Audience in Mind: Although trends can inspire you, remember to align the design with your topic and audience. For example, hot-pink headlines aren’t a good choice for a funeral parlor white paper.

How To Write a White Paper

Writing a white paper can be difficult for first-timers since a lot of research and information is required. Follow these guidelines to make the process easier.

Choose The Right Topic

While this seems obvious, if you pick a topic that doesn’t resonate with your audience, your white paper may not be read. To pick the right topic, ensure:

  • You’re qualified to write about it
  • Its something your users are interested in
  • It addresses a topic which little information has already been written to fill a content gap

It’s essential to write about what you’re knowledgeable about because white papers are authoritative pieces based on the author’s experience. 

However, you should match this to your readers’ interests if you want to publish something they’ll want to engage with.

If you don’t have expertise on the topic, you can get information from within your company. If your white paper topic is related to engineering, you can interview an engineer or ask them to review what you’ve written.

Filling a content gap is important as it can make your white paper gain traction and get noticed. If you pick a topic no one has written about, your white paper will rank higher on search engines.

You can also ask your users the topics you should cover in your next white papers. When you do this, you’ll get awesome ideas and make your subject matter more relevant.

You’ll also generate buzz even before your content is finished.

Define Your Audience

Before writing your white paper, it’s crucial to think about the people who will be reading it. 

For example:

  • Are the users likely to read something they aren’t familiar with?
  • If they are professionals, are they knowledgeable in your subject?

Knowing this helps you establish the right tone and whether using industry jargon is appropriate. It also helps you narrow down your research. 

While all the arguments should be well-supported and logically sound, the information and statistics used should be relevant to your audience. 

When defining your audience, you should also determine how your users will find your white paper. You need to think about the channels they use for research and the keywords they type into search engines.

This will help the right people find your white paper. It will also help you when outlining your white paper. Although optimizing your keywords is essential, you should write for people, and not for Google.

Use an Enticing Intro and Conclusion

Your intro should captivate and pique your audience’s curiosity and encourage them to continue reading. 

It’s good practice to write a short summary of what the white paper contains and emphasize the benefits they’ll get after reading it.

Your conclusion is also crucial, especially if your white paper’s goal is to market your products. However, you should avoid self-promotion in your white paper’s body.

Instead, you should mention your product and how to obtain it, using a compelling CTA at the end. 

Provide Useful Information 

White papers are not for marketing your company, they’re for showcasing your brand’s expertise in a certain field. 

That’s why you should avoid self-promotion. 

Instead, provide valuable information to readers even if they don’t buy your products. In fact, white papers packed with useful information are usually shared and read widely.  

Your users should learn something valuable and come away with the impression you’re a great source of trustworthy information. 

As mentioned earlier, building this kind of reputation can lead to business success because buyers purchase products from brands they trust.

Keep It Interesting

Unlike ebooks or blog posts, white papers should be thorough and detailed. While this may make them sound formal and dry, they don’t have to be boring. 

Unfortunately, white papers use stats as a crutch without maintaining interest throughout. So, if you want people to read your white paper, use the techniques employed by creative non-fiction writers. 

While the techniques won’t always correspond well with white paper content pieces, they can help you figure out how to create and hold interest.

Mistakes You Should Avoid When Writing Your White Papers

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when writing your white papers. 

Lack of Adequate Research

White papers should be well-written. While performing lengthy original research may take time or be outside a company’s marketing budget, including a few statistics from Google’s first page won’t cut it.

Searching through scholarly work and aggregating stats may take a long time. However, the outcome will be worth the effort. 

If you want your white paper to stand out, your audience should view it as an authoritative source to which they would want to return to. 

Not Telling a Compelling Story

Although white papers are factual and informative, they shouldn’t be boring. All the white paper types I’ve covered above have an interesting story to tell. 

If you don’t use a story to keep your audience engaged, they’re unlikely to read the entire piece. 

Highlighting a problem, providing a solution and including success stories is a great way of making white papers more story-like.

Sounding Like a Sales Pitch 

A common mistake when white papers are included in a marketing campaign where a brand showcases their product is making them feel like sales pitches. 

If you do this, you’ll turn off your readers because they’re looking for unbiased, useful information that will help them when reading your white paper and not a piece of content that’s persuading them to buy something.

Not Explaining Research Findings in Your White Paper 

White papers involve sharing research findings. Unfortunately, most white paper authors leave those findings in theory without explaining to their readers how to use them on a practical level. 

Don’t let this happen.

Instead, explain to your readers the meaning of your research findings. 

Using Bad Design

While your white paper content is what matters most, using poor design is a big mistake. An attractive design makes your content stand out and helps your users understand what they’re reading. 

You can use visuals such as videos, graphs, charts and images to support your arguments. 

How To Promote Your White Paper For Lead Generation

There are different ways you can use to promote your white paper and generate leads. Some effective ways include:

  • Social Media: Add social buttons within the white paper and on your landing page. Also, promote it on your social media platforms.
  • Paid Marketing: Target search queries relevant to your white paper’s topic and promote it using Google Adwords.
  • Webinars and SlideShare: You can repurpose your white paper as a webinar or SlideShare presentation to get more eyes on your white paper.
  • Company Blog: Publish the white paper on your site or write several blog posts on it.
  • Newsletter: Send the white paper to your email subscribers or do a Q&A with its author. 

Need Help Writing a New White Paper?

I’ve written numerous types of white papers for some of the world’s leading companies that have generated leads for them. If you want exceptional white papers created for your business, schedule a free consultation.

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