When you’re marketing your business—online or otherwise—you have a wide variety of tools at your disposal. If you’re trying to persuade a potential customer to use your services or buy your products, you may try to persuade them with a compelling website, content for SEO, blog posts, social media feeds, videos, and commercials.
If you have some really good reasons to sway an audience toward a certain conclusion, some other great tools are case studies and white papers. These types of content are longer and more detailed than other forms of marketing but can garner a lot of credibility and position your company as a thought leader.
If you need to decide between a case study versus white paper, read on to find out about the differences between them and the benefits of each.
What is a case study?
A case study, in a nutshell, is a record of research conducted in order to study a particular issue or situation during a certain period of time. Case studies don’t tend to be very lengthy, but they do include a lot of granular detail.
In a business case study, the writer may dive deep into the organization’s strategy, examine how buyers are using a product, or describe the current state of an entire market.
What should a case study include?
There are several key facets that a solid case study should include, like in this case study example. These are some of the major elements:
- An introduction to discuss the key problem or issue the case study will address
- Background information and overall context, such as a history of the issue or relevant facts
- A description of the objectives of the study
- What type of study was performed
- How the data was collected and any limitations on the data
- An analysis of the case
- Key findings or results of the research
How long should a case study be?
Like most types of content writing, the length of a case study is subjective. Case studies tend to range around five hundred to a thousand words—or rather, shorter than a full-blown research paper. The case studies are more like extremely detailed chunks of information on a particular topic and should be about two to five pages long.
How does a case study work?
The main function of a case study is to present the facts of an issue and thoroughly analyze it. The goal is to inform the reader about the issue and its causes and propose some different recommendations. From a marketing perspective, you could explain how your business or service is the best option to solve the problem at hand.
When would you use a case study in your marketing strategy?
If you think a case study is a good tool for your business, let’s look at how you may be able to leverage it in your overall marketing plan.
Obviously, printing it on your website is a great plan. You may also be able to write a blog post describing the case study’s findings. But you also want to make sure to disseminate it to the widest audience possible. To do this, you can send out copies of the case study as part of an email marketing campaign or distribute copies at company events or shows.
You can also link to the study on your social media accounts and build a social campaign around your results. If the study lends itself to further analysis, you may be able to use it in conjunction with a white paper to point people in the direction your company recommends to go.
What is a white paper?
A white paper is different from a case study in some key ways. A good white paper presents a logical argument rather than simply stating the facts of a case. Using white paper material is more academically rigorous and conforms to a standard format, like this white paper template, by presenting a problem and a corresponding solution.
What is the purpose of a white paper?
White papers are part of the marketing and sales arsenal of many companies. They are long-form written pieces that describe an issue in detail and recommend solutions or final decisions on a problem.
White papers rely heavily on research and facts to help bolster an argument for an idea or a product. As a result, they can position your business as a source of thought leadership in your industry, establishing your group as a source of expertise.
How do you cite a white paper?
Because white papers originated as government documents and are now more academic, you may see them cited frequently in other research works. Different style guides recommend citing white papers in different ways. Here are some examples:
- APA style: List the name of the author or organization, the year of publication, the title of the white paper, the date of access, and the URL.
Lee, I. (2014). Marketing assets [White paper]. Retrieved July 2, 2022 from Ohio University Library, http://www.ohio.edu/
- MLA style: List the name of the author or organization, the title of the white paper, the name of the series or collection, the publisher and date of publication, and the URL.
Lee, Iain. “Marketing Assets.” Marketing Toolkit White Paper. Ohio University, 18 September 2014, http://www.ohio.edu/.
- Chicago style: List the name of the author or organization, the year of release, the title of the white paper and series, the name of the sponsoring organization, the date of publication, and the URL.
Lee, Iain. 2014. “Marketing Assets.” Marketing Toolkit White Paper. Ohio University Library, September 18. http://www.ohio.edu/.
Who is the target audience for a white paper?
When creating a white paper, you need to make sure it’s targeted toward the correct audience. The readers are likely people outside your organization who you want to attract to your products and services without giving an overt sales pitch.
Keep in mind that as part of your content marketing strategy, white papers should focus on problems that your audience wants to solve. If you offer a compelling solution, your audience will want to read all about it.
How do you persuade an audience to read your white paper?
To convince an audience to read your white paper and get all the way to the end, it first needs to be well written and offer compelling solutions to the issue at hand. With your expertise infused into one single document, it will become a master source of information to reach employees, potential customers and partners, or engineers and specialists looking to find out how something works.
You’ll need to make sure your white paper is easily accessible. You can place it prominently on your website or intranet, mail copies out in your direct marketing materials, and send it as part of an email campaign. Maybe it will even be worth a news release.
Differences between a white paper and a case study
As you can see, there are some key differences between a white paper and a case study. Case studies are shorter and descriptive. They present the details of a particular problem and how you gathered that information, then promote some solutions. White papers are longer and contain more technical research, and present the audience with very detailed recommendations or solutions to a problem.
Whether you create content internally or you plan on outsourcing content marketing, both types of content can serve your purposes.
Why should you create a case study?
Case studies may be your best bet if your goal is to evaluate a problem your business is facing. They are great if you need to break a complex topic down in layman’s terms and make it interesting.
Case studies can take your target audience on a journey. They can:
- Show your experience in a particular domain
- Showcase original writing
- Promote effectiveness within your organization
- Help close sales with a potential customer
- Demonstrate to existing customers that you are still their best choice
However, a case study tends to focus on a single project or idea and may not be applicable to your entire business or suite of products. It may also be more qualitative than quantitative.
Why should you create a white paper?
On the other hand, if you really want to demonstrate your expertise, you may want to focus your content marketing on a white paper. Because they are an educational tool, white papers can lay out information in detail while simultaneously presenting a persuasive argument. Many decision makers prefer using white papers to get thorough information and answers all in one place.
White papers can:
- Help generate leads
- Display original research
- Indirectly sell your products or services by explaining how you’ll address your customers’ problems
- Build trust with your audience (because you are establishing yourself as an expert)
- Boost SEO traffic on your website
Some disadvantages are that white papers can be time consuming to write, and the general public might consider them too “boring.”
How are white papers different from blog posts and e-books?
We’ve already discussed that white papers tend to be longer-form pieces. This differs from blog posts because blog posts are traditionally shorter (anywhere from three hundred to two thousand words).
White papers also differ from e-books, which tend to be more casual in tone. On the other hand, white papers are formal pieces of writing meant to establish expertise. In addition, white papers lean on data and research, whereas e-books are based on interesting trends and ideas and use far more visuals to help tell the story.
How to determine if you should use a case study or a white paper
So it finally comes down to determining if you should focus your content marketing on a case study or a white paper. No matter what kind of story you have to tell, focusing on quality content is the main consideration.
Ultimately, the goals of white papers and case studies are the same: to persuade your target audience to turn to your business to solve their problem—in other words, lead generation. Different marketing tools all have this same goal.
What makes the case for using a case study over a white paper?
If you aim to focus more on why you are backing a potential solution to a consumer’s problem and explain all the details of the problem you’re trying to solve, case studies are a great option. They may also benefit your business if you want to strike an educational tone without coming across as too sales-y.
Why use a white paper over a case study?
If you want to focus less on anecdotal evidence and instead stress how a consumer will benefit from your proposed solution to their problem, you may opt for a white paper. White papers can also be a great option if you want more of a hard sell document geared toward a B2B audience.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the material in case studies and white papers can be repurposed into blog posts, social media posts, and many other types of content.
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If you’re still not sure which way to go when it comes to a case study versus a white paper, don’t give up hope. If you’re looking for a partner that understands your content needs, Elite Editing is here to help.
We have a full staff of writers, editors, and SEO experts at the ready to help craft top-notch case studies and white papers for your business. Getting a free quote is easy. Reach out to us today!