Defining the Three Main Types of White Papers

By Gordon Graham

Part of White Papers For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Use the right type of white paper for the right challenge: either a backgrounder, a numbered list, or a problem/solution. The following table outlines the features of each type of white paper and gives you an idea of when to use each one.

Characteristic Backgrounder Numbered List Problem/Solution
Definition An in-depth look at the features and benefits of a certain
product or service
A numbered set of tips, questions, answers, or points about
some issue
A persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to present a new
solution to a problem
Audience B2B buyers near the bottom of the sales funnel Anyone interested in the issue B2B buyers near the top of the sales funnel; also analysts,
bloggers, channel partners, and journalists
Approach A factual description of the technical or business benefits of
a product or service
A light and lively roundup of points or highlights about some
Useful information about an industry-wide problem that educates
readers and positions your company as a trusted advisor
When to use To support your firm’s position as an undisputed leader
in the field
To support technical evaluations
To support a product launch
To get attention with provocative views
To cast FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) on competitors
To nurture prospects through a complex sale
To generate leads
To educate your market
To build recognition for your company
Length 8+ pages plus cover 5 to 7+ pages plus cover 8 to 12 pages plus cover
Typical contents Introduction
Features and benefits of each feature
Conclusions and call to action
About the company
Numbered points (between 3 and 9)
Conclusions and call to action (optional)
About the company (optional)
Executive summary
Industry-wide problem
Existing solutions and drawbacks
New, improved solution
Case study (optional)
Buyer’s guide
Conclusions and call to action
About the company