When I talk to clients about what their marketing needs are they often ask me to craft white papers when they mean case studies and vice versa. The confusion is brought on by the interchangeable way some companies view these two powerful business tools. Here are a few rules I share with my clients to help them keep the two straight:
A White Paper is:
- The presentation of a specific industry problem and a proposed solution
- Sponsored by a company but rarely mentions their actual product by name
- Is meant to read like an article and be persuasive only in that it is a call to action to do something beyond the status quo
- Is typically 6 – 10 pages in length
A Case Study is:
- The presentation of a specific problem and solution encountered by a single customer
- Obvious from the beginning and throughout the company whose product is implemented in the solution
- Reads like an article but has multiple points where contact information for sponsoring company can be reached
- Is typically 4 pages or less. Most are 2 page front and back.
Used properly both the white paper and the case study are valuable marketing tools. For example if you draw a prospect to your website with a white paper they want more information how the proposed solution has been implemented in specific industries like theirs it is always helpful to have a set of case studies as supporting documents on your website.
What I caution clients against is writing a white paper that breaks into a case study half way in. Readers of white papers desire research and background not a sneaky sales pitch halfway through. If you make the correct and compelling arguments in your white paper then your call to action at the end will lead the prospect to seek that next level of data which in many cases will be your case study.