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How to use a case study inside a white paper

In a recent presentation on white papers, expert Jonathan Kantor suggested using a case study inside a white paper.

I thought, “Wow, what a great technique!”

Then I realized I’ve been doing the case-study-inside-a-white-paper trick for years already.

Here are two examples that show how I’ve included case studies as proof points inside white papers.

Example #1: 50 words or less

case study inside a white paper Example 1

This example comes from a white paper on fintech I worked on in the spring of 2010.

That paper was about how moving to paperless invoice-handling can save a lot of money.

Click here to see the full-sized page.

 

In a problem/solution white paper like this, I find the best place for a case study is towards the end… after you present your vision of the ultimate solution to the problem.

My client had already published three case studies in a standard format, convincing stories with great metrics. But each one was three pages long.

So for the white paper I condensed each case study down to 50 words:

  • one sentence for the problem
  • one for the solution
  • and one for the results

I inserted each case study into a circular text box. This didn’t take any fancy design, I just used Word and made sure the line endings worked out nicely.

The result is an unusual and attention-getting visual device that gives a powerful customer story in just a few words.

Example #2: 300 words or less

case study inside a white paper Example 2

This example is in a paper I worked on back in 2004.

Click here to see the full-sized page.

This backgrounder described some “software instrumentation” that helps debug huge projects and keep them on track.

The client had some good “use cases” in various states of completion.

One was already finished as a two-page story.

The rest took some more interviewing to gather the details. But I managed to put together four convincing case studies in less than 300 words each.

I broke these up with four headings: project, problem, solution and remarks.

Then I used these as sidebars against the main body of the white paper.

I’m not sure the final design was as elegant as it could have been. Notice how there are two separate reading tracks through the document; one for the main body and one for the sidebars.

In page design, two headings fighting with each other this way are called “tombstones.”

In any case, the client was happy. And as a bonus, they got four finished case studies to use as separate marketing pieces.

Try it yourself!

I hope those examples help you think about including case studies in some of your white papers.

As long as they’re short, snappy and persuasive, these case studies add a lot of real-world proof to any white paper.

 


Have you ever used a case study in a white paper? Please tell us about it, in the Comments section.


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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 300+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. And named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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