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White paper samples

Some “experts” say there are eight, 10, even 40 different types of white papers?!

That’s a lot to remember, and a lot to choose from when you want to publish a white paper.

And I don’t think anyone needs that much complexity. Three main flavors, plus two mashups, cover 90% of all the white papers I’ve ever seen.

This page provides some samples of each flavor.

Click on any thumbnail below to download that PDF. These are just a few of the 320 white papers I have worked on.


Flavor #1: The Backgrounder

A backgrounder gives a deep dive into the features and benefits of a certain product or service. That makes this flavor as predictable as vanilla ice cream.


click to see PDF

This sample is called an Evaluator’s Guide, and it describes five key benefits of this single sign-on product. It often gives the product name, and provides many technical details.

Those are sure signs of a backgrounder, aimed at a B2B prospect near the bottom of the sales funnel.

Samples used with permission of Okiok.


Flavor #2: The Numbered List

A numbered list provides a set of tips, questions or points about a certain issue, promising a quick and easy read.

This flavor is as light and lively as strawberry ice cream.


click to see PDF

This sample lists seven questions that health insurance companies in the U.S. should ask hospitals.

Notice how each question is covered in a single page leaving white space as needed. Although this information is very detailed, it’s still easy to scan.

Thanks to Health Plus Technologies for permission to use this sample.


Flavor #3: The Problem/Solution

A problem/solution white paper describes a nagging industry problem, all the existing solutions and their drawbacks, and then a new, improved approach that works better than anything else.

This flavor is as rich and satisfying as chocolate ice cream.


click to see PDF

Problem: Poor cash management and forecasting wastes a lot of money.

Existing solutions: Spreadsheets, accounting systems, ERP, CMS.

Recommendation: Automate the purchase-to-pay process to save costs and cut errors.

The effectiveness of this approach is proven by the three mini-case studies included.

Sample used with permission of Basware.


Numbered List + Problem/Solution

Try this mashup when you want to provide a lighter take on how to solve an industry problem. This flavor is like a mix of strawberry and chocolate ice cream.


click to see PDF

This sample lists three industry challenges, using the structure of a problem/ solution white paper.

Every existing approach (hard copies, couriers, faxes, e-mail, CDs, flash drives) is dismissed in turn; this is a sign of a problem/solution white paper.

Sample used with permission of Aconex.


Numbered List + Backgrounder

Try this mix when you want to lighten up a backgrounder or spread some product-specific FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) on competitors. This flavor is like a mix of strawberry and vanilla ice cream.


click to see PDF

Notice how this “Evaluation Guide” lists a set of 20 must-have features for a particular genre of software.

This checklist (aka buyer’s guide) asserts that this vendor has the most capable, full-featured offering on the market.

Sample used with permission of eXplorance.


If you need help picking the perfect flavor for your next white paper drop me an e-mail to Gordon@ThatWhitePaperGuy.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ 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 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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  1. Ari on February 9, 2015 at 10:02 am

    These are great. Can these templates all be designed with Microsoft Word or are there other White Paper programs that people use?

    • Gordon Graham on February 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Flavors #3 and The Numbered List+Backgrounder were done with Word. The other samples on this page were all done by professional designers, I believe they all used InDesign.

      You can do a lot with Word, but no professional designer wants to use it because it lacks precise controls for typography and graphics.

  2. Uchenna on March 20, 2024 at 10:41 pm

    Wow!! This was a very simplified read. Thank you Gordon.
    Do you do the document design yourself? I’m looking to start writing white papers and I want to know the skills I will need in addition to the writing and research skills

    • Gordon Graham on April 23, 2024 at 2:42 pm

      In most cases (95%), the white paper client or sponsor has a professional designer to make the text and graphics look good.
      In those other cases, you may be asked to design the white paper yourself. I’ve done that a few times in Word, and it is possible.

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