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Justifying your white paper

Before you start on a white paper project, do you justify it?  It’s going to cost you some money, so it might be a good idea to do a justification, both to identify its need, and also think about how you will measure its success.  Here are a few things to consider:

Why do you want a white paper? 

  • Fulfillment piece for a direct marketing campaign
  • Handout for sales team to use
  • Handout after conference or webinar presentations
  • Gated web content to obtain signups to your distribution list
  • Build brand awareness

Who’s this white paper targeted to? 

  • Existing customers
  • Prospects at a specific stage in the sales funnel (be specific, it might impact the content)
  • People who don’t know your company
  • Media such as industry publications

What’s the purpose of the paper?

  • To generate sales leads
  • To educate on your technology or solution
  • To develop credibility and build mind share
  • To establish thought leadership
  • To create brand preference
  • To keep up with your competition
  • To influence selection committees (via “best practices” guides)

Who are the readers of your paper?

  • Technical audience:  IT practitioners or management? Define seniority level and decision-making power.
  • Business audience:  which departments, what seniority level, what decision-making responsibility.

How much are you willing to spend?

White papers are often about 5 to 10 pages in length, although they can be more or less.  And they often have a research component, so there might be a significant investment. If you’ve got a firm budget, that gives your writer an understanding of how much research, and even how many pages.  But experienced writers can also give you some budget guidance based on the type of paper you’re looking for.

How are you going to use the white paper?  I’ve written a post on multiple ways you can use a white paper, to ensure you effectively leverage your investment.

How do you know if your white paper is working?

  • # of downloads
  • Comments from sales reps
  • Comments from customers
  • Interest from media
  • Post-download survey – was it what they were looking for?  Did it help?
  • Comments on social media like Twitter, or discussion group on LinkedIn, etc.

Even if you’ve got lots of marketing funds, it’s always a good idea to go through a justification process.  It helps ensure you’re clear about what you want out of your white paper, and it will help your writer create a document that suits your purposes.

Interested in creating a white paper?  I’d love to help you out:  feel free to contact me at or 905-439-9340 (Toronto, Canada area). For more information on me and my services, visit

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