If you run a business that provides information to prospective customers through a website, you may want to consider offering downloadable white papers or case studies.
According to Wikipedia, a white paper is "a report or guide that often addresses problems and how to solve them. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions."
A case study is a report that explains how a customer achieved some desired outcome using the solutions provided by another business.
A white paper should typically address a very specific topic: how customers can solve one or more specific problems using the solutions your business offers. While a white paper is typically short (several pages), depending on the complexity or breadth of the subject matter, it may be longer.
Do note that the purpose of the white paper is generally not to provide a comprehensive, in-depth overview of your solutions and it is certainly not to give a "hard sell."
It is to simply introduce a prospective customer to your solutions and to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the prospective customer's needs.
A case study should also typically be short and detail in a succinct, compelling manner how an existing customer was able to solve a problem using the solutions you provided.
White papers and case studies should be made available in formats that can be downloaded and printed easily. For this reason, I recommend that they be made availabe in Adobe PDF format.
You should assume that, in the best case, the white paper or case study will be printed and passed around a prospective customer's office.
As such, some time should be invested in making sure that the white paper or case study is presented in a professional fashion, with an appealing design and typography.
The Set Up
White papers and case studies can serve as great tools for generating leads and collecting data about who your prospective customers are (both specifically and in general).
Many companies require that website visitors provide certain information before being able to download a white paper or case study. This information may include:
- Email address.
- Phone number.
If requiring visitors to provide information, be sure to disclose how it used and remember to require that those who provide it can easily opt-out of receiving communications you send.
Here are several practical examples of how some companies use white papers and case studies:
- Halliburton (click on the "Developing the Heavy Oil and Oil Sands Assets" link)
- UBS (click on the "For more stability in your portfolio" link)
- VeriSign (click on the "FREE White Paper" links)