Now, this one’s a tough cookie. And that’s because, if you ask a white paper copywriter about this, you might get a list of anything from 3 to 40 different formats!
Personally, I follow the three formats Gordon Graham outlined in his amazing book, “White papers for dummies:”
- Numbered List, and
- A Product Backgrounder
Anything else is a combination or variation of those three.
Format #1 – Problem/Solution
This white paper targets a specific problem and suggests a new solution for a reader to consider.
It aims to present arguments to introduce a new way to solve a prospect’s problem.
For that reason, these white papers work particularly well for Top of the Funnel visitors, focusing on learning more about their challenge at hand.
Because of this wide reach, a problem/solution white paper can generate a significant amount of leads and position your company or product as a viable solution for the audience.
Examples of problem/solution white papers I wrote:
Length: Problem/Solution white papers can be long, reaching up to 10 or more pages without the cover and the company’s information.
Format #2 – Numbered Lists
This white paper focuses on presenting a list of solutions, tips or any other points on a specific issue. The lightweight format of a numbered list makes it easy for prospects to scan and extract value from fast.
The numbered list white paper works equally well for prospects early in the buying cycle and those already evaluating available solutions.
Examples of numbered list white papers I wrote:
Format #3 – Product Backgrounder
The most advanced white paper type, focusing on providing a reader with in-depth information on a product or service.
Because of being so heavily product-focused, this white paper format works particularly well at helping anyone at the end of the buying cycle justify the expense of purchasing your offering.
However, such deep laser focused means that it attracts fewer leads, albeit highly-qualified ones.