What Is a Business White Paper?
White papers are focused business documents that convey a meaningful idea to their readers with authority. This article will break down everything you need to know about the business white paper — what it is, how to write a quality paper, and where to find examples of great white papers for you to take inspiration from.
What Is a White Paper?
A business white paper is a high-authority business document that is well-researched and thorough. They often address a specific need or question and have a very defined audience. White papers typically use a combination of several tools, such as statistics, research, and case studies, to help the audience understand more about a given topic.
White Paper vs Article
White papers differ from articles because they are more focused and authoritative, usually having a more formal and deliberate nature. While articles casually provide interesting or useful information, white papers provide more in-depth analysis and research to support their claims.
What is the Purpose of a White Paper?
White papers are commonly used to present new ideas, propose solutions to problems, or showcase research findings. They also serve to establish the writer as a thought leader in their niche, generating trust and credibility among readers.
Who Should Write White Papers?
When it comes to picking an author for your white paper, true merit should be the governing policy. This could mean the person with the most valuable insights, or perhaps someone with the most expertise or experience in that specific area.
Here are some potential profiles for white paper writers:
- Subject matter experts (SMEs). SMEs have deep, specialized knowledge about their industry, usually with years of hands-on experience to go with it. This enables them to comment thoughtfully on the topic at hand.
- Internal team leaders. Internal leaders who are close to the paper’s topics are another great choice. With experiential knowledge of these ideas, your brand, and its audience, they are relevant stakeholders who can add value.
- Business consultants. Consultants bring years of experience across many industries, allowing them to produce refined white papers with deep insights and perspectives.
- Multi-author. Sometimes, papers can be drafted collaboratively, either by a small team or a group of experts. These individuals come from various backgrounds, collectively enriching the writing process to provide a well-rounded paper.
- Partnering with a content agency. Partnering with a content writing company can be another powerful avenue to create your brand’s white papers. Writing companies often work with a diverse network of writers and SMEs, so you can lean on the agency to find you the perfect contributor.
At the end of the day, your white paper should be written by whoever will connect best to your audience and help you achieve certain goals. Maybe this comes via excellent research experience or innate analytical skills, but they should be able to present ideas clearly and concisely.
How Long Should a White Paper Be?
The length of a white paper often correlates with industry norms and the depth of content. In technology sectors, for instance, white papers typically average around 2,500 words – like this one by Snowflake.
Such a length allows for a complete exploration of technical topics like software solutions or methodologies, balancing detail with readability.
There are a few strategies that can help you determine how long your paper should be.
Evaluate Your Audience & Ideas
Knowing your audience is key in any content-based effort. While technical readers may appreciate a longer, more analytical paper (think 5,000-10,000 words), executives generally prefer something concise and to the point (maybe 1,500-2,500 words).
Compare who will end up reading your paper with how nuanced your ideas are, as well as the depth of your supporting arguments. This consideration will influence not just the content but also its presentation, including the use of visual elements like graphs and infographics for easier comprehension and engagement
Look at Your Competitors
It’s more than likely that other brands have written effective white papers on a topic similar to yours. Check them out; on average, how long are they? Use that distribution of papers to guide your writing.
What to Include in Your Paper
While every paper is unique, there is a white paper structure you can start from. They should usually introduce a problem statement, something that the writers will later solve with their ideas and commentary. The other core parts are the solution and some combination of analysis and/or evidence to gracefully support it.
How to Structure a White Paper
- Clear title and subtitle: Craft a clear and concise pair of titles to convey what you’re writing and why it matters.
- Introduction/Abstract: Offer a high-level overview of your topic, main ideas, and how they relate to your reader.
- Problem statement: Here, clearly define the problem or issue that your white paper addresses.
- Analysis & evidence: Conduct a thorough analysis of the problem and relate it to your core ideas. This is where you’ll use research, data, and examples to support your claims. Build on those to create a solution.
- Solution: Introduce your proposed solution, resolving the tension from the initial problem statement and elegantly expanding your ideas.
- Conclusion: Summarize your main points and emphasize why they are significant to your audience. Underscore your proposed solution and leave the reader with any other thoughts you have.
Business White Paper Examples
Now that we’ve covered most of everything you’ll need to write a great paper, let’s explore some past winners.
- Operational Resilience: Considerations for Boards, the C-Suite, and Enterprisewide Implementation by Protiviti
This piece discusses the problem of businesses needing to be resilient in the face of situations outside of their control, such as a global pandemic. It offers expert analysis and clear solutions and has a clear purpose and clearly defined audience.
Another great example of what outstanding whitepapers should look like. This paper explores the current state of long-overlooked cardiovascular disease, as well as what Aetna is doing to help stop it.
This is a quality white paper published by ride-sharing company Uber, outlining their plans to deploy short-range consumer air travel. This would enable commuters to hail a VTOL aircraft to get to work. Uber does a great job of laying out their problem and cleverly introducing a solution.
Strong white papers can be transformative for your content marketing strategy. They offer you a way to connect with your audience that is more robust than a blog or article due to the in-depth style, analytical approach, and expanded visual/design elements. A well-written monthly or quarterly white paper can be a great addition to your content calendar.
And of course, if you are looking to transform your insights into a compelling white paper, ContentWriters is here to help. Our expertise in crafting quality content, paired with your industry knowledge, will build credibility while fostering meaningful relationships with your audience. We create both well-written and well-designed white papers for clients that drive results. Reach out to schedule a content consultation today!
Animesh is a professional writer with expertise in business, tech and marketing.