The term “white paper” has commonly been used as a document for sales and marketing since the early 1990s.
Generally, they relate to specific products or technology
solutions. In reality, they can be used as a concise medium to
describe almost anything.
a marketing tool, “white papers” are incredibly powerful. Written
well, they engage the audience with key details, benefits and practical
information to allow them to make a judgment call.
However, they also make excellent prefaces to non-sales orientated
material. This is often not considered the realm of “white papers”.
A good example would be a key note speaker about to deliver a speech
to several hundred colleagues. They could provide them with a summary
of notes that match their speech, but that’s rather dull. A better
option is to provide a two page “white paper” on the subject. People
get sufficient information to be engaged and satisfied, but are still
left wanting to know what the speaker is about to say.
There are three main types of commercial white papers:
- Business-benefits: Makes a business case for a certain technology or methodology
- Technical: Describes how a certain technology works
- Hybrid: Combines high-level business benefits with technical details in a single document