What’s the Difference: White Papers and Ebooks

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Blogging just scratches the surface of the power of content marketing. Depending on your goals, content marketing is much more than communicating with your audience via your blog. White papers and ebooks are excellent examples of just how powerful content marketing can be. But what’s the difference between white papers and ebooks, and why should you use them? We’re glad you asked.

White papers and ebooks are similar content marketing assets, but they serve vastly different segments of your audience at different phases in the buyer’s journey. The best way to think about the difference between white papers and ebooks is to compare an essay to a comic book. Both offer great content, but in vastly different formats.

Still confused? Ok, let’s break it down a bit further.

Difference between white papers and ebooks

In order to breakdown the difference between white papers and ebooks, we need to take a deep dive into these two popular content marketing assets.

What is a white paper?

A white paper is a thorough report or essay with expert knowledge on a particular topic or segment within your industry. White papers use authoritative language and convincing data points and present and ultimately solve a problem.

White papers should address relevant issues within your industry and discuss how your products or services can help resolve those issues. However, we should be clear to state that white papers should not be used as active sales tools. A white paper should be general in its approach and should not contain clear calls to action to buy your products or services.

These essays are simply to educate your customer base and encourage your audience to take a more in-depth look at your products or services. This is why white papers make for excellent lead generation. White papers should be well researched and rely on peer-reviewed facts and are generally on the lengthy side. At between 2,000 and 10,000 words, white papers are what we refer to as long-form content.

How to write a white paper

Now that we’ve covered what is a white paper, now let’s look at how to write a white paper. First, it’s important to pick a topic that will resonate with your industry or audience. Here are a few tips to find a solid white paper topic:

  • Subscribe to market reports and pay attention to trends in your industry.
  • Survey customers and industry experts and compile relevant data
  • Monitor Google analytics for other high performing content or keywords
  • Keep tabs on key influencers via social media to stay abreast of talking points
  • Use your own FAQs (frequently asked questions).
  • Communicate with sales reps and other customer-facing positions to get voice of the customer

Once you have a topic, you want to make sure your white paper has the most impact possible. This entails much further research into the selected topic. Here are a few white paper guidelines that may help:

  1. Use data to back up your claims: Statistics are a great way to get your point across. Data points offer a sense of authority that few can deny and allow for creative call outs to help break up the doldrums of an in-depth paper.
  2. Make sure your sources are credible: Stick with .gov, .edu or .org web sources to ensure you’re using solid sources. Industry publications and your own internal research are great sources, but try to find more officials sources as a backup.
  3. Don’t’ try to break the mold: White papers are a tried and true content marketing asset and sticking to a format that works is important. A brief, informative introduction and thesis that addresses methodology, followed by the main body broken into sections with subheads. Then wrap it up with a strong, authoritative conclusion that reinforces your initial thesis.

Writing regular white papers will help ensure you or your business reach the desired content marketing goals. Whether you want to position yourself as an industry thought leader, drive more leads to your sales team or expand your audience, white papers are an excellent tool.

Ebooks and White Papers are Great Inbound Marketing Tools.

What is an ebook?

Many people conflate ebooks with white papers. Or, for those who’ve never heard of marketing ebooks, with a novel you’d read on your Kindle. For the purpose of this blog post, we’re not talking about ebooks in the kindle sense.

Perhaps the biggest difference between white papers and ebooks is that ebooks are often filled with pictures and illustrations and offer quick, high-level at-a-glance takeaways. Ebooks rely on design elements to help move the narrative along.

How to create an ebook

Similar to white papers, ebooks begin with topic research. But from there, the journey is quite different. Ebooks are often broken into chapters with a table of contents. Design elements, such as data points, pull quotes and industry anecdotes are used to fill in the gaps.

Ultimately, it is design at which point ebooks really stand out from white papers. A few design elements to consider:

  • Use brand colors and font so readers connect the ebook with your business
  • Create a cover, front and back, to give the asset a “book” feel
  • Use still photography or illustration, but not both
  • To improve flow, keep unique topics or ideas to their own page
  • Look to the data and copy for design cues

Finally, come to a conclusion. Unlike a white paper, ebooks are often more sales-oriented and contain a clear call-to-action (CTA) at the end. It can be as simple as the standard, “for more information, call us,” or a more direct CTA, such as “Get A Demo Today.”

Final thoughts

So, to recap, the difference between white papers and ebooks are:

  1. White papers are well-researched, authoritative essays
  2. Ebooks are design-heavy illustrations of industry topics or pain points
  3. White papers are not sales driven
  4. Ebooks often contain clear CTAs to drive customers through the buyer’s journey
  5. White papers are geared more toward problem-solving
  6. Ebooks are more creative and visually appealing

The bottom line: Both are fantastic content marketing assets. Take a good look at your content goals and make an informed decision based on what your audience wants.

There’s a place in almost every buyer’s journey for both white papers and ebooks. If you’re interested in creating an ebook or white paper for your own lead generation, consider using a content marketing agency. At the Lorem Ipsum Company, we are experts at creating content that resonates with your audience.

Jeramy Gordon is the founder and Chief Content Officer at the Lorem Ipsum Company. He has been creating successful content strategies for almost two decades and believes in the power of high-quality content. He lives in Orange County, California, with his wife and two children.

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