White papers remain the most influential form of marketing collateral for technology purchases, according to a 2009 study by Eccolo Media. This reinforces the findings of TechTarget’s 2008 Media Consumption Benchmark Report, which showed that 88.5% of IT buyers had downloaded white papers before making a buying decision.

If you sell high-tech products or services—in any industry—then you need to make white papers part of your marketing strategy.

Writing a white paper is a different proposition from developing a brochure or sales letter. Though a white paper is a marketing tool, its purpose is to inform and educate. The tone is impartial, analytical, academic. There’s no place for hype in a white paper.

Effective white papers require research and should include specific facts and figures, but they also need to hold the reader’s interest and attention. The first reader of the white paper probably holds an IT position, but the final recipient and decision maker may be someone with a business, rather than technology, background.

Today’s white papers emphasize design more than they did five years ago. Some white papers now include a video or audio element, though many CIOs still prefer to simply print white papers in order to pass them along more easily.

What About B2C?

The consumer version of a white paper is an e-book. These are usually far less formal than white papers. They’re often more overtly sales-oriented, as well. (Some of them are full of shameless hype.) Some of these consumer-oriented not-quite-white papers are very short, though it’s possible for other kinds of e-books to surpass 100 pages in length. The manifestos of Change This are an interesting (and effective) variation on the white paper theme.

If you sell to consumers or small businesses, you probably don’t want a traditional white paper, but an e-book or manifesto of this kind could be an effective sales tool.

Ready to start using white papers to market your company? Let’s talk.


I wrote the white paper below for Spare Backup in 2008. As you can see from the footnotes, it required considerable research.

Spare Corporate White Paper

What to Do Now