White Papers / Special Reports
A white paper is a persuasive essay, usually 3,000 words or more, written in a rather academic style. It is used by companies to introduce something new, to explain something complex that they sell, or to outline the benefits of something expensive1.
At the top of the sales funnel, your B2B prospects need to find out everything they can about the benefits of your product or service so they can choose between a range of vendors, including you. This is when a problem/solution white paper — a persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to present a new solution (provided by your product) to a nagging industry problem — will fill the bill..
The second type is a numbered list (e.g., "5 problems you need to address to do X" or "How you can make money using these 7 tips"). In the middle of the sales funnel, this will get attention for you with provocative views; nurture prospects; or attack your competition. It provides tips, questions, answers or interesting points about some issue. You can even include a brief case study inside one of these.
A backgrounder provides a detailed look at the features and benefits of a certain product or service. It is most effective at the bottom of the sales funnel, to assure prospects/new clients that you are the undisputed leader in your field; to support technical evaluations; or to support a product launch.
It's not, however, a brochure: you can't be selling in a white paper; just providing very useful information through hard facts, interviews with industry leaders and unimpeachable logic.
If your publication resonates with your prospects, a good white paper or report can drive new business to your company.
1. Much of this information can be found in White Papers for Dummies, by Gordon Graham