Content Types: Case Studies vs White Papers

By Lee Chapman | VP Account Services

This is the first post in our content types series. Keep an eye out for future posts on the other types of content that should be in your content plan!

Case studies and white papers are essential pieces of content to include in your B2B content plan, and each meet different needs of your buyer personas at various stages of the funnel.

Content_along_the_funnel.jpg

However, I often hear from our customers and prospects that while they are familiar with these content types, they aren't entirely sure what the differences are between them. And I bet they aren't the only ones with this question. Below I share TREW's definitions, best practices, use cases and examples for each.

Case Studies

Case studies are a great way to demonstrate how valuable your products or services are in the market place. They go beyond simple testimonials by showing real-life examples of how you were able to solve a customer’s pain point and help them achieve success. With case studies, you highlight your successes in a way that will help an ideal potential customer come one step closer to becoming a new customer. Be sure to keep the focus 90% educational and 10% promotional and lead with benefits that speak to your target customer’s pain points, versus a product or services pitch.

Best Practices Include:
  • Benefits-oriented headline
  • One-sentence challenge with one-sentence solution
  • Up to 1,600 words explaining how your products and/or services solved the challenge
  • Specific results data as proof points (i.e. money savings, decreased time to market)
  • Illustrations, images, charts/graphs with captions

One challenge to consider with case studies is that the larger and more well known a company is, the harder it can be to secure permission from their PR and legal teams to publish it. Another option is to write an anonymous case study and generally reference the company without naming them specifically.

Depending on your industry, a well-written case study can have a two-to-four-year lifespan, with annual updates to stay current.

Use Cases:
  • Promote them on your website
  • Blog about them
  • Share an image and caption on social media with a link to your website to read the full case study
  • Submit them for trade show paper contests
  • Repurpose them into news releases or videos
  • Use them as sales enablement content at onsite visits and trade shows.

Case studies are considered “free” and therefore should not have a lead form required to view them.

Example:

Case Study Example-1.png 

White Papers

White papers are persuasive, authoritative, in-depth content designed to explain a particular issue, topic, or technology and provide a methodology. They are typically dense content with few images, and between 2,400-3,000 words in length. White papers are at the heart of a strong B2B content marketing plan and seek to build thought leadership in an area that aligns with your marketing or campaign strategy. A white paper addresses your target audience’s pain points, similarly to a case study, but goes deeper into explaining the research and proof points to support your methodology.

Best Practices Include:
  • A table of contents if it’s longer than 2,800 words
  • A bold title (i.e. controversial, lessons learned), ideally 55 characters so it will display well in search engines
  • Descriptive text and not industry buzz words, and ensure you spell out acronyms on first occurrence
  • An abstract and executive summary
  • Use data to support your point(s)
  • Site all research sources

As this is lengthy content, it can often take up to six weeks to write and complete a white paper. Start with an outline and review it with your team internally to ensure alignment on the objectives.

White papers typically have a shelf life of two-to-five years, again, depending on your industry. We recommend an annual review to ensure the content and research is still up to date.

Use Cases:
  • Promote them on your website
  • Blog about them
  • Repurpose them into slide decks and deliver them as live or on-demand webinars for added impact and thought leadership

White papers are considered premium content and should be “gated” with a landing page providing a brief overview (often the abstract) and a form that includes at a minimum:

  • First name
  • Last name
  • Business email address
  • Company name
Example:

White Paper Example.png

 

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Lee Chapman

VP Account Services

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