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 that most people see between a case study and a white paper.
|Case studies||White papers|
with a product
|New solution to an
old problem, or
benefits of some
product or service
|Message||Here's a customer|
who loves our stuff
|Here's a better way
to solve this problem
|Length||2 pages||5 to 12 pages|
|Format||Slicker: PDF with|
|Plainer: PDF with
a few graphics
|Lifespan||1 or 2 years||1 or 2 years,
|Time to create||2 to 6 weeks, |
|4 to 12 weeks|
|When to use||Later in sales cycle||Earlier in sales cycle|
|Why to use||To nurture prospects||To generate leads,
or explain product
Here’s another way to sum up the difference
A case study is like looking down through a magnifying glass at one flower. You focus in on one company in particular, telling the story of how it benefitted from using a certain product or service.
A white paper is like looking up through a telescope at a whole galaxy in space. You tell the story of how an entire industry has been suffering from a certain problem and propose a better way to solve it.
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 about $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 about $6,000 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.
And I focus on white papers because they’re harder to write, and there’s fewer writers who know how to do them.
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 just use e-mail?
Sure, e-mail marketing is powerful. And sending an e-mail is certainly cheaper than creating any original content.
But you can’t recycle the contents of an e-mail in more than a dozen different ways, like a good case study.
And you can’t keep using the same e-mail for one or two years, like a good white paper.
Why not just use social media?
Of course, using Twitter is easier than creating a white paper. But a Tweet is here and gone in an instant. And you can’t put much of an argument into a handful of characters.
I recommend thinking of social media as “pointers” to B2B content, or a way to promote actual content. They’re not really content in themselves.
And for B2B marketing, nothing drives results as well as case studies and white papers.
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