White papers and brochures are two very different animals. Let me explain why. But before I do let’s get one thing straight – white papers are not just for large corporations that do complicated stuff.
White Papers are a marketing tool used to help potential customers resolve challenges they are facing.
Hang on a minute, isn’t that the same as a brochure?
No, it’s not.
What is a white paper?
A white paper is a lengthy document that provides information. Written persuasively, it’s seen as being an authoritative, in-depth look at a specific topic that presents a problem and offers a solution.
They are produced as a tool for education about a specific issue, or to explain and promote a particular methodology.
The whole premise of the white paper is to provide information on:
- What problems are your customers facing?
- How can you help them overcome these?
- What advice can you give that will help them?
Unlike a brochure, it is not a blatant sales tool.
Because the name white paper is somewhat grandiose, many companies write them using overly complicated English with loads of big words, complicated jargon and ridiculously convoluted sentences.
Readers don’t want that; they want a conversational style that speaks to them, and that’s easy to understand.
What is a brochure?
A brochure is a promotional tool that introduces a company, products and services to prospective customers.
It’s designed to sell a specific product or service on the strengths of the benefits it offers.
It is also written naturally, focusing on the needs of the customer, but it tends to be a much smaller document created purely for selling.
There is no room for scene setting or discussion about products and services. It just gives the benefits (backed up by facts), features, and a call to action.
As a result, it’s also cheaper to produce.
How much does a white paper cost?
There’s no set cost for the writing of a white paper.
Depending on length, the experience of your copywriter, topic, complexity and audience, it could range from about £3,000 – £5000 and reach as much as £10,000+.
Are white papers worth the investment?
Due to the cost of producing them, they do tend to be used by large corporations, but that doesn’t mean smaller companies can’t create shortened versions.
Although not an in-your-face sales tool, they are great lead generators because they give your ideas and expertise exposure to critical audiences. They also help you nurture your prospects and close deals.
Education can be a powerful, and yet subtle sales tool.
They are read because people are looking for useful information to help them understand an issue or solve a problem. If you’ve written a white paper on their specific problem it will help them justify their buying decision and (hopefully) make sure you’re in the shortlist of vendors they’ll consider.
How do I write a white paper?
As I mentioned earlier, white papers are in-depth documents and, as such, take a lot of time and expertise to write effectively.
That’s why most companies leave it to a professional copywriter.
Under their client’s direction, they’ll conduct all necessary research and interviews, structure the report, create an initial draft, and then work closely with the client to shape it into the finished document.
What’s right for me? A brochure or a white paper?
The easiest way to look at this is to ask yourself what are you trying to achieve?
If it were to purely sell a product or service, then a brochure would be best.
However, if you have a high value product or service that solves a specific issue, it might be better to consider investing in a white paper. That way, you can go into detail about the issue facing your customers, the impact it is having on their business, and how your product/service can be used to solve it.
You could also consider a case study too, but that’s whole different blog post.
Sally Ormond is an experienced writer of white papers and reports. Get in touch for an informal chat about how she can help you create a winning white paper, brochure, report or case study.