When you mention the term white paper to the casual readers, the first thing that would probably come to their mind is a blank piece of paper. Or, a blank word processor screen before they start writing something. It might also be the first thought on the mind of many self-standing entrepreneurs and startups. But many of them learn quickly that it is still an essential business tool. And it is a tool that has its specific, writing, formatting, and design style.

So, why does such a tool with a somewhat outdated name still have such importance? The answer to that question is both simple and complicated and lies in the current definition of the term. And the importance? Well, there’s a simple fact any online user can check themselves. A single search with Google or any other search engine for the term ‘white paper’ will produce almost 900 million results.

But what written content falls under the term white paper and what is it used for?

According to Digital Marketer, a white paper is “a piece of content written by your business as a report on a specific topic within your industry.” Let us add to their definition the fact that white paper is also a tool used by official institutions and non-governmental organizations. Also on a specific topic.

Still, most of the white papers are used for business purposes. “A white paper uses statistics and technical language to explain a topic related to a business’s industry. Companies want to write white papers when they’re looking to showcase a problem that their business can solve” (above).

white paper

The importance of white papers

There are three main reasons why businesses opt to write white papers:

  • They show in-depth industry expertise;
  • They can be used as a lead magnet;
  • They can be used internally by your marketing and sales teams.

Actually, as CFI explains, “a white paper is an authoritative guide that discusses issues on a certain subject, along with a proposed solution for handling them. The term, “white paper”, came about after the government color-coded reports to indicate who could access them, with the color white referring to public access.”

Many casual readers would come to the conclusion that white papers are highly technical, boring reports with too much numerical information. In a way, the impression could be that white papers are as unreadable as some academic documents.

In one of its aspects, white papers do correspond to their academic ‘cousins.’ They do present educational content. But this informational/educational content is geared towards other businesses. White papers present the so-called B2B informational product. They present an in-depth presentation of a particular issue, problem, and idea. Finally, they present how the business that is coming up with the white paper can resolve a problem, or advance the development of their product or service.

In a way, white papers are a form of “advanced problem-solving guides.” Still, at the same time, they should be based on solid facts and are presented in a non-promotional manner.

To actually, make white papers interesting and attractive to their readers, most of today’s white paper creators use color, graphics, modern page design, and SEO (search engine optimization).

Some copywriting experts call white papers ‘king of content.’ Why? If done properly, white papers are at the same time useful, practical, and educational. They may present exactly present a solution a certain business needs.

Is there still a need for such information?

In this fast-paced business environment, more or less bulk of the business marketing is done online. For its part, such marketing needs to be short, quick, and use media-rich presentations. Many startups and marketers are of the opinion that people don’t want or don’t have time to read long-form content. After all, white papers can often number up to 50 pages of text or even more.

Still, according to one Business.com survey, more than 50% of respondents think that “white papers are a “valuable” or “extremely valuable” source of leads .”

But how can white papers become a valuable source of leads and information? As you may, expect, it depends on the type and content of any given white paper.

According to CFI (above), there are three most common types of white papers:

  • Benefits of the business – A case study of how a business process or specific technology can increase productivity
  • Technology – Discusses a specific technology and its benefits
  • Hybrid – Addresses the benefits to the business along with some technical details on the product/service.

Currently, businesses also use white papers commercially as a document for marketing and sales. In fields like technology, white papers can “discuss the potential uses of a new product and how it can help increase the efficiency of processes in companies.”

For whom and by whom?

Deciding on the category of a white paper will certainly depend on the topic, I.e. the content of the potential of such a writing project. When selecting a topic, a potential white paper client should have the following three points in mind:

  • Who will be the audience of the white paper? The audience is essentially the first factor to consider. “For a business, they can be longstanding customers of the company or new customers who will learn more about the business and its products and services through the document. The white papers published by the government will discuss urgent issues and current events in the economy that the general public will want to learn more about.”
  • It has to be prepared by an expert. A business white paper should provide in-depth research on the product and highlight how it can help benefit customers. Of course, such information can only come from an expert in the field. Such experts can provide valuable information, but, they might not be adept and writing that will be more widely read. That is where content writing services and freelance content writers come in.
  • A white paper should present a specific solution or advancement. “While the white paper provides detailed information about the company’s product/service, it should also address problems faced by customers and how the product can solve the problem. The problem must be relevant to the industry and the customer. Very often, they are written to address how a product can help the customer evolve with the new trends and techniques in the field.”

Hiring a white paper writer

There are often two approaches that businesses make when undertaking this type of project. One is to focus on their own interests. This approach focuses exclusively on a product, service, or solution. Unfortunately, such writing projects can have limited benefits and/or a short life span.

On the other hand, there is an approach that focuses on the interests of the readers. If you are trying to present a solution to a problem readers might have, you need to present what those problems really are first. In this manner, the author establishes credibility with the reading public. At the same time, the author is filtering out unqualified customers.

The above two approaches point out the fact that in most cases, even big businesses hire copywriting agencies or freelance professionals to write their white papers. While such writers should certainly have a good writing ability they should have some solid knowledge about a specific field. This includes good research skills. With these, such a writer can follow similar new trends in the field, possible similar solutions, and others.

So, what should be preferable? Engaging a content writing agency or a freelance professional?

On one hand, agencies often specialize in certain fields and have specialist writers on hand. But, at the same time, they also have a number of customers. And, as should be the case, they have more or less the same treatment of each and a lot them more or less equal time, depending on the complexity of it.

This though could often mean that they might not give more in-depth work and time to a certain writing project, that a potential customer might need.

white paper

Why opt for a freelancer?

But what about a freelance content writer i.e. copywriter? Some experts point out three, possibly key benefits of freelance writers:

  • A freelance writer makes a contractual and financial commitment to your project. White papers can be pricey affairs. When a freelancer takes on such a project he doesn’t abandon it midway through it, and he gives such project precedence over their other work.
  • Such freelance writers usually specialize in one or two fields, exactly the ones you need. Include there the fact that they do not work in your organization day-to-day. In that manner, they can bring a fresh set of eyes to the topic and theme of your prospective end product.
  • A writer who has already worked on such projects has the knowledge, experience, and training to do the job exactly in a manner that it should be done. As one expert notes, “white paper writing is unlike other forms of technical writing. It is uniquely journalistic, technical, and persuasive.”

Does the question then rise where to look for such writers? Looking through tens or hundreds of online pages of freelance writing services or professional freelance writers can be tedious and time-consuming. Essentially, it can turn out to be quite expensive. So, concentrating on those services that specialize in all activities that tie in into producing quality content is possibly the best possible solution.