In the world of technology, white papers are so very important. Yes, I know, they can be a major slog to deal with — to produce, edit and read. . . and to get everybody to sign off on. However, they really are a valuable complement to traditional marketing.
White papers help companies introduce new business solutions and their underlying technologies. They bridge the gap between technical detail and the 40,000-foot level of generalized understanding and bottom line decision-making. Non-specialists can quickly learn the basics about subjects that cannot be easily explained in an elevator or on a data sheet. Specific issues and markets are often better addressed in white papers than in promotional materials, and companies that share their expertise without blatantly pitching products often engender more respect from prospects and industry analysts.
As an example, I recently wrote a white paper on XBRL (a financial reporting standard based on XML – eXtensible Markup Language) for Software AG. Consider the fact that XML has been both excessively hyped and incisively attacked by all kinds of highly qualified industry analysts. Our goal was to establish expertise, clear some of the smoke, explain some very technically challenging and abstract concepts, and outline some case studies about how XBRL is being used in a variety of financial industries. We were successful because we stuck to the facts, explained concepts in clear and simple English, and presented promotional information with complete candor. Actually, we kept the promotional information to a strict minimum.
Keep in mind that white papers are not academic studies that exist outside the realm of promotion. White papers are part of integrated marketing strategies that are designed to elicit buying action on the part of the reader. Think of the brochure or data sheet as the elevator pitch. All parties understand that they are promotional and biased. With complex technologies, brochures are designed to pique interest and offer proof of value. White papers establish expertise and competence while also serving to educate potential users on complex subjects.