As content marketers, we hear that we should be using white papers all the time. In B2B content marketing, it may seem like all we’re doing is writing white papers (particularly in enterprise software). But sometimes, white papers aren’t the answer to all our content marketing woes. I live in the B2B technology marketing space, so I’m never going to tell you they’re not needed. Sometimes, you may be able to get away with writing fewer, however.

White Papers Are Good When…

  1. You’re selling a complex product or service. The only way to explain why someone needs your new SaaS product or to upgrade their hardware is by writing a white paper. These are the best ways to frame out problems, the state of the market, and your solution.
  2. You have a plan for the white paper. If you’re going to let it languish on your website, not behind an email capture form, you’re missing the point of content marketing and not getting any ROI out of that asset. Formulate a plan – think of your white paper as leftover turkey, and start carving.
  3. You want to write something more “fun” than the traditional white paper. I had a sales enablement client that decided to have fun with a white paper. We came up with a “Seven Deadly Sins” theme. He brought in a graphic designer, put it behind an email capture form for lead generation, and had an engaging ebook for his prospects to learn more about software that helps with sales enablement. If your company has a more relaxed vibe, your white papers can, too.

Skip the White Papers When…

  1. You’re releasing small upgrades. If all your new release has is a cleaner interface or a faster back end, you can get away with a blog post.
  2. You already have a good white paper on the topic. Most likely, you can upgrade what you have. (I know, I should be telling you to write a new one and hire me, but I’d rather see my clients get more bang for their buck.)
  3. You want to tell a story. Find a customer that is willing to go on the record, and write a case study.
  4. You want publicity. Check out industry publications and pitch a bylined article from one of your executives. If your executives don’t want to write the article themselves, hire a writer to interview your executive and write it under her byline.

White papers have their places. Know when you need them, and know when you don’t, and you’ll get the most ROI from your content marketing programs.