Case Study vs. Whitepaper: What’s the Difference?

By Erin Gleeson | Inbound Marketing Specialist

Creating high quality, helpful content at a regular cadence is key to generating inbound leads for your technical business. Case studies and whitepapers are two of the most powerful and sought-after types of content by engineers, and both can help you generate technical leads for your business. But how do you decide on a whitepaper versus a case study, and what’s the difference?

According to our 2016 study with The Linus Group, whitepapers and case studies are the top two types of content that engineers want more of from vendors.

2016 study on what content engineers want

Q: What type of content do you wish more of your vendor companies provided? (Select the top 3 choices)

While we recommend creating both whitepapers and case studies as part of a robust content plan, the two content types serve different purposes, funnel stages and audiences.

Whitepapers

A whitepaper helps a businessperson understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision by offering technical information, images and diagrams. It’s a lengthy piece of content at approximately 2,000 words or 6 pages.

Whitepapers can be an effective way to target people at all stages of the funnel. One whitepaper could create awareness of a persona’s problem, thus targeting someone at the top of the funnel, while a second could focus on advanced product uses, targeting someone at the bottom of the funnel or even an existing customer.

As a technical resource, you should take care to keep whitepapers up-to-date. Typically, a whitepaper has a lifespan of a year before it needs to be updated, but this can vary by industry.

Case Studies

A case study teaches by example, featuring extended testimonials on how a product or service helped a customer in the real world. It’s considerably shorter than a whitepaper, typically measuring at around 800 words.

Case studies are best suited for audiences at the top or middle of the funnel. Use them to create awareness of a problem and show the reader a solution that worked for a real-life customer.

Case studies can be time-consuming, often requiring internal approvals from the customer and deep research. Due to the increased number of involved parties, putting together a case study can be slow going and may require an extended timeline. Their shelf life does tend to be longer than a whitepapers though, remaining effective for up to two years before requiring updates.

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Ready to get started? Review your personas and content plan and identify any gaps that could be met by a case study or whitepaper. Start slow, and work up to producing one of each per quarter to steadily generate leads for your company.

For more information on building out your content plan, watch our webinar on creating a B2B Content Marketing Plan.

B2B Content Marketing

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Erin Gleeson

Inbound Marketing Specialist