White papers versus case studies

Many people are not clear on the differences between white papers and case studies.

But B2B copywriters and marketers must understand when to use each one.

After many years, I’ve come to the conclusion that white papers and case studies are the two most powerful, most convincing, and most cost-effective marketing materials that any B2B vendor can produce.

So what’s the difference?

This table sums up the key differences between a case study and a white paper.

Case Study

White Paper

Focus

One customer’s experience

New solution to an old problem, or the benefits of a B2B product or service

Message

This customer
loves our product
or service

Here’s how our B2B product or service can benefit you

Length

1 or 2 pages

5 to 12 pages

  Production values

Slicker:
color photos,
multiple columns

Plainer:
color graphics,
single column

Lifespan

1 year,
then update

1 to 2 years,
then update

Cost

$1,000 to $2,000

$5,000 to $7,000

Time to do

2 to 4 weeks

4 to 8 weeks

Effort

Faster and easier
(less research)

Slower and harder
(more research)

Approvals

External and internal

Internal only

 When
to use

Later
in sales cycle

Earlier
in sales cycle

Why
to use

To nurture
prospects

To generate leads, nurture prospects,
win product comparisons

Offline analogy

Word-of-mouth testimonial

Article in industry trade journal

The beauty of case studies…

I believe that case studies are the most cost-effective piece of marketing literature that any technology company can produce.

For $1,000 to $2,000, a B2B company can commission a beautifully designed, magazine-quality case study.

Like speaking face-to-face with a happy customer, this document will reassure any prospect working in a similar industry or facing a similar challenge.

That’s why I’ve written hundreds of B2B case studies: They get results.

The power of white papers…

White papers are the heavy guns of any marketing campaign.

For $5,000 to $7,000 a B2B company can commission a persuasive summary of the business and technical benefits of their product or service.

A good white paper helps a business person to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

This document will likely be passed up and down the food chain at your prospect’s company. And it will keep on working for a year or two, maybe longer.

That’s why I write a steady stream of white papers: They get results.

From a B2B marketer’s point of view, the key is to know the difference, and to use each type of document to support your sales team in the best possible way.

Why not use e-mail?

Sure, e-mail is cheaper than creating original content.  But you can’t keep using the same e-mail for one or two years, like a good white paper.

And you can’t recycle the contents of an e-mail in more than a dozen different ways, like a good case study.

Why not use social media?

Of course, Twitter is easier. But a Tweet is here and gone in an instant. And you can’t put up much of an argument into only 140 characters.

I recommend thinking of social media as “pointers” to content, or a place to promote actual content. They’re not really content in themselves.

And for B2B marketing, nothing works as well as case studies and white papers to drive results.

About Gordon Graham

Author of 275 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients everywhere from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, for everyone from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. Reviewers call it "a must-read... fantastic... outstanding... terrific... phenomenal... the best book of its kind."

1 Comment

  1. Design Complementing Content - Layerbag on May 7, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    […] Educate: Often your blog, white papers, or case studies are designed to educate your audience about your product or service, how it will benefit them, and […]

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