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White Paper World 15: January 19, 2023

  • Quick Tip: Don’t start your research with Google
  • This just in: Survey says, white paper use is up again
  • Tools of the trade: Passion Planner
  • January Book Giveaway: Share your 2023 career resolution

Quick tip: Don’t start your research with Google

Yes, you need a lot of research for a white paper.

No, you don’t want to start with Google. 

That might send you down countless rabbit holes.

And with AI content being dumped online, we can expect the web to get even more polluted with lies and disinformation in the future.

So here are three steps for doing research even faster and better by not starting with Google.

Step 1: Start with Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo

But you said never quote Wikipedia in a white paper?!

No, don’t quote from Wikipedia. That’s still my rule. But you can use it as a shortcut.

Wikipedia is a secondary source: people commenting on the primary sources who are the actual authorities.

So look up your topic in Wikipedia, and then use the footnotes to find primary sources, the real experts.

Those footnotes will lead you to authoritative authors, analysts, journals, universities, and government reports.

Cover of The Economist magazine

CIO magazine

Step 2: Check trusted sources

After that, do a sweep of some trusted sources:

  • Analysts like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Forrester, Gartner, McKinsey
  • Journals for C-level execs like CIO, CFO, CMO—whatever fits your target readers
  • The Economist
  • The New York Times
  • The New Yorker
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Wired
  • Ted Talks
  • For professions: any special sites or journals for that profession
  • For technologies: any special sites or journals for that tech
  • For global topics: the UN

This targeted research may sound like a lot of effort. But I find this usually turns up solid references I can quote in my white paper.

Step 3: Then use Google to check if you missed anything

Google logo

But don’t click on dozens of items.

Take a quick eyeball down the list of Google search results.

Skip anything you already found.

Do you see anything that sounds right on target, from a source your readers trust?

Tip: If you see many items that all seem to quote the same factoid, survey, or study, click on a couple to find the original source.

Then dive into it and forget the commentators. Once again, go for the primary source, not the rehash.

I’ve found using Google third instead of first gets me better results in less time.

Try it yourself, and let me know how it works for you.


6 out of 10 marketers use white papers, 2014 through 2023

This just in: White paper use is up again

The annual B2B survey from the Content Marketing Institute always includes some interesting findings.

You can see the 2023 survey report here, no registration required.

The first thing I check is how many B2B marketers used white papers. For 2023, that number is up again to 59%.

As shown in the graph above, that means the 10-year rolling average is 63%.

So it’s fair to say that over the past decade, white papers were used by 6 out of 10 B2B marketers surveyed.

But what about that drop in 2020-2021?

I think there’s only one explanation: Covid.

Remember what happened that year?

  • All trade shows and in-person events were canceled
  • Teams were scrambling to work from home
  • Kids were home with parents as babysitters
  • Our families were scared or sick

It’s no wonder 15% of B2B marketers decided to shelve long-form content while they put out the fires burning all around them.

Even so, half of all B2B marketers kept on using white papers right through Covid.

Here’s the past decade, without the worst of Covid

2 out of 3 marketers use white papers 2014 through 2023 excluding 2021 Covid v2

If we exclude the low in 2021, the average over the past decade jumps to 65%.

So I believe we can say that over the past 10 years, except for the single worst year of Covid, white papers were used by 2 out of 3 B2B marketers surveyed.

Other insights from the CMI 2023 report

—Research reports and e-books/white papers were the #3 and #4 most effective formats, topped only by in-person and virtual events.

That means marketers see long-form content as the most effective content of all.

—The greatest challenge is creating content that appeals to different stages of the buyer’s journey.

White papers map beautifully to the customer journey. Here’s how.

I suggest that B2B companies create:

  • Problem/solution white papers at the start of the customer journey
  • Numbered lists in the middle of the buyer’s journey
  • Backgrounders near the end of the customer journey

—In-person events are back, jumping from 19% in 2022 to 49% in 2023.

But what does that mean for white papers?

Well, why not repurpose a white paper into pieces that work at events? For example:

  • Infographics blown up to poster size to attract attention
  • Slide decks with speaker’s notes for presenters
  • Explainer videos to run unattended in a booth

You can also print white papers in color to give to interested prospects. Or load some onto USB drives to hand out.

All these approaches can help marketers combine long-form content with in-person events to get a better ROI on both.

—Nearly half of B2B marketers will outsource or hire for content creation. That’s good news for any writer or designer looking for clients or a steady job.

—Budgets are going up. Half of all marketers see their budgets going up, and only 4% see them going down. More good news for the whole industry.


Tools of the trade: Passion Planner keeps it all together

Passion Planner

I have to confess: Staying organized is not my strong suit.

Like most people, I’ve tried an assortment of time management methods, paper and online. I’ve read books. I’ve taken courses.

But nothing clicked for me until I found a unique organizer I’ve been using for the past five years now. Thank you to our social media manager Pauline Clark for spotting it!

Passion Planner is the name of the company and I’m using the weekly planner with the blue cover shown above.

Here’s what I like about Passion Planners:

  • Every day shows hours from 6 AM to 10 PM, ideal for me
  • Each two-page spread shows a full week
  • There’s still enough space to write notes
  • There are extra pages to make big plans and review every month

And the real game-changer for Angie and me has been the “Good Things That Happened” box on the side of each of the weekly pages. This prompted us to start our weekly meetings with a review of what went right during the previous week, rather than jumping straight into the ‘To Dos’.

The company is generous: they’ve made one-month of their lay-out available to try free of charge, along with a whole bunch of cool inserts like trackers for your books, gifts, groceries, monthly bills, daily calories, and water intake.

And for every planner they sell, they give one away.

It’s a small, feisty operation started by a young woman through Kickstarter.

So if you’re trying to get it together in 2023, I highly recommend Passion Planner. 

(Not an affiliate link, I just want to tell y’all about them.)

Book Giveaway logo

January Book Giveaway: Tell me your resolution

A New Year is a great time for a new resolution.

So here’s my question for the January Book Giveaway.

In terms of your writing or marketing career in 2023:

  • What do you plan to do differently?
  • Where will you put more time, energy, and resources?
  • Where will you venture out of your comfort zone?

Click here to send me your 2023 career resolution

Deadline for entries: 6 PM Eastern on Friday, January 27.

I’ll pick one entry at random and send you any title you choose from my list of recommended books.

And I’ll never show your resolution to anyone else without your permission.

You tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine

—In 2023, I will only take on writing projects for organizations that are actively trying to make the world a better place.

—In 2023, I will launch my first products aimed at helping writers.

—And in 2023, I will put more time and energy into finishing my first YA novel.

Pheww. That feels good to say all that “out loud.”

I wish us all the best of luck in achieving all our goals in 2023!


That’s all for this time

You can see all the previous issues here:

And if you have any questions on white papers, please send them to [email protected]. I’ll do my best to answer… maybe in my next article!

All the best to you and yours all through this New Year.

Gordon Graham
That White Paper Guy

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. Joseph Atta-Fynn on March 27, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    Thank you for sharing how the Passion Planner helps. My first time learning about the Passion Planner, and mine arrived today.

    • Gordon Graham on March 27, 2023 at 9:04 pm

      That’s good to hear. Good luck using it! I have mine right beside me as I type this.

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