There are also ebooks and blog posts — both of which have various differences from a whitepaper.
What really set these products apart are the size, appearance, and time commitment of each one. Whereas writing blog posts and ebooks can take anywhere between a few hours and a few weeks, a good whitepaper can take between a few weeks and a few months to write and polish. They’re less flashy, much more serious in tone, and more heavily researched than blog posts and ebooks.
Let me show you a comparison. The set below is one of our own ebook templates (which you can get for free here). It’s a thorough but simple read:
Now, here is a whitepaper based on our latest research on emerging tech for small to mid-sized businesses (a great report — see the web version here).
There were half a dozen main reasons for this, as shown in the pie chart.
Please note that the “lack of editorial or design skills” existed on the client’s side.
For example, sometimes a client assured us they have a competent designer to handle the formatting of the paper.
But the results fell far short of professional standards for typography, page design, or illustration.
For a longer discussion of this topic, see my article “5 reasons why white papers are challenged: our data and stories.”
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What makes a white paper succeed?
That White Paper Guy recently analyzed 300 of our own white paper projects going back to 1997.
We judged 214 out of 300 of these were successfully published.
- What makes a white paper succeed?
- How long are white papers
- Whitepaper Examples
- 1. Not Another State of Marketing Report, HubSpot
- How long are white papers please
- How long are white paperscan
- How long are white paperspigot
- Then What is the Optimal White Paper Length?
- Mini-white paper myth #1: A marketer can stretch their budget by doing shorter pieces
- Where are white papers today?
- White papers and case studies: What’s the difference?
How long are white papers
While it’s not necessary to get too flashy with it, color, layout, and imagery goes a long way to make your whitepaper appealing.
To provide even more inspiration, here are modern examples of whitepapers that are emblematic of great whitepaper execution (and why):
1. Not Another State of Marketing Report, HubSpot
HubSpot does an amazing job every year compiling data from experts and partners to convey modern trends in the marketing landscape.
This is useful for marketers because they can use the statistics to create marketing and sales content as well as learn from the macro shifts that are happening in the industry. The whitepaper presents this information with attractive graphs and short editorial summaries along with links to more in-depth articles on each topic.
How long are white papers please
As a marketing tool, these papers use selected facts and logical arguments to build a case favorable to the company sponsoring the document.
B2B (business-to-business) white papers are often used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, grow email lists, grow audiences, increase sales, or inform and persuade readers. The audiences for a B2B white paper can include prospective customers, channel partners, journalists, analysts, investors, or any other stakeholders.
White papers are considered to be a form of content marketing or inbound marketing; in other words, sponsored content available on the web with or without registration, intended to raise the visibility of the sponsor in search engine results and build web traffic.
How long are white paperscan
White papers are used in the sales cycle before the prospect makes a purchase.
Different types of white papers work best at different points in the sales cycle:
- To attract fresh prospects at the start of the process (generating leads), the problem/solution or chocolate format works best
- To engage prospects through the middle of the process (nurturing prospects), the numbered list or strawberry flavor works best
- To encourage a purchase decision near the end of the process (support a technical evaluation), the backgrounder or vanilla flavor works best
After making a purchase, the buyer has little need for white papers.
At this point, the customer may need documentation, training, and technical support.
How long are white paperspigot
They are typically between 500 and 1,500 words long, written in a journalistic style with many quotes from the actual customer.
The classic format for a case study is Before/After, Then/Now, Problem/Solution:
Before we had this terrible problem, then we found this fantastic product, and After we started using it, everything was sweetness and light.
White papers, on the other hand, are persuasive essays about a certain product, service, technology, or methodology.
They are generally 3,000 words or more, written in a somewhat academic style, with no direct quotes from the vendor.
So in this sea of information, wouldn’t a compact, two-page white paper stand a better chance of holding the attention of its audience?
In a word, no.
Then What is the Optimal White Paper Length?
The goal of a white paper is to provide useful information to aid business or technical decision making for a defined audience. To achieve this, the paper needs to include some “beef.” There is also the matter of the expectations of the reader.
When they see the term “white paper,” most readers are expecting to be informed about a topic, saving them the time to research and synthesize information from various sources. If you raise the expectation by calling the document a white paper but delivering only two pages, the reader may be disappointed (and move on to your competitors’ web sites).
They will tolerate longer papers with modest production values. In fact, a slick and colorful format tends to make them suspicious.
Executives want to see bottom-line benefits summed up in a page or two.
They want to hear about lower costs, higher sales, richer profits, or better customer service. Executives expect polished production, with clear graphics they can understand at a glance.
Managers want to hear about streamlined workflow and labor savings.
They are keen to see how a new system would affect their area and their people.
User reps want to hear about ease of use, training, and support. They can be more or less technical, but they will likely be detail-oriented.
Users are not often a significant audience for white papers.
Also called a listicle this is the fastest type to create; a numbered list can often be devised from a single brainstorming session, and each item can be presented as an isolated point, not part of any step-by-step logical argument.
A client recently asked me to write some “mini-white papers.”
Against my better judgement, I decided to try.
I agreed to write 10 mini-white papers of 2-3 pages each on an array of topics for a technology vendor. That’s less than half the length I normally write.
“Nobody reads long things anymore,” I was assured by the 20-something marketer who contacted me.
I think what he really wanted was a set of short articles written by an SEO jockey to help build web traffic.
Based on my 20-20 hindsight from this recent experience, I’d like to dispel a few common myths about shorter white papers.
Mini-white paper myth #1: A marketer can stretch their budget by doing shorter pieces
If a 9-page white paper costs $7,500 then a three-pager should only cost $2,500.
White papers were used in science and medicine during WWII and the 1950s.
This continued until the widespread adoption of the PC and the expansion of commercial software in the 1980s.
Ever since then, white papers have been popular in the IT industry.
And in the 1990s, the Web provided an inexpensive distribution channel that sparked the explosion of white papers over the past 30 years.
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Where are white papers today?
The number of white papers is growing exponentially.
And here’s proof.
In 2002, I ran a Google search for the phrase “white papers” that yielded 2.8 million hits.
A decade later in 2012, the same search got 39.5 million hits: 14 times as many.
Twenty years later in 2022, the same search yielded 782 million hits: more than 50X as many as a decade earlier….
Most readers become irritated when they see a vendor doing this.
Some marketers who should know better urge vendors to make white papers as flashy as brochures. This is not correct.
A white paper should be much more dignified, substantial, and informative than a brochure.
Making it look like a sales piece is the kiss of death for a white paper.ny
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White papers and case studies: What’s the difference?
White papers sometimes mention case studies for evidence of a vendor’s claims. But the two are quite different.
Case studies are extended testimonials on how a product or service helped someone in the real world.