White Papers vs. Case Studies: What’s The Difference? (2nd In A Series)

Welcome to the second in our continuing series on understanding content – the different types of content available today. In our first installment, we looked at the difference between traditional book publishing and eBooks. Today, we look at the similarities – and differences – between white papers and case studies. They are very similar in some respects, but also very different.

White Papers – What Are They and How Are They Prepared?

white paper format

One thing that both white papers and case studies have in common is that they are content written to focus in some way on solving a problem, but they take a somewhat different approach.

White papers are designed to be very objective in tone, rather than a personal recounting. People attracted to white papers are interested in a deep exploration of a topic, and are looking for specific information or strategies that can help them to address the needs they have in that area.

White papers make use of a standardized presentation format: There usually an executive summary which gives a 1-paragraph summary of the contents of the entire white paper. After that, there will follow the largest section, which is a detailed analysis of the problem situation as well as recommendations and recommended strategies. There will also be a concluding summary, which can often be more promotional in tone, with suggestions for follow-up and contact or next steps.

Overall, the approach of a white paper is to do a lot of “giving” to the reader, in the form of real-world help. This helps to establish and strengthen the credibility of the company and its brand as an industry expert voice.

Source material for a white paper could come from several separate articles or blog posts, but this will usually require heavy editing to fit it into the traditional white paper presentation. White papers can be packaged as PDF’s, workbooks, and also presentation slides. Logos and color design must be professionally executed as “image” is a big part of what makes white papers impressive to prospects!

What Exactly is a Case Study and How Is It Different From a White Paper?

Like white papers, a case study is also focused on how to solve a problem. But in the case of a case study the content preparation takes the form of a “story” or narrative about a specific client or situation.

preparing case studies

The narrative of a case study provides detailed information about the problems and challenges facing someone who began working with you. You describe what issues they were facing, what solutions were proposed (including a description of other solutions they tried that did not solve their problem), and the results that were achieved.

One major difference – other than in the form of how the information is presented – is that a white paper is designed to appeal to someone looking for general, but actionable recommendations/strategies applicable throughout your industry – whereas case studies are really a form of “proof” that what you are doing works, that you can achieve the results for clients that you promise them.

With a case study, it is perfectly acceptable to put your company on display, in a way. But with a white paper your company is kept to the background, and may only make a brief entrance in the conclusion, “reach out” or next steps section, in order to keep the objective tone of the white paper intact.

Some Ways in Which Both Case Studies and White Papers Are SimilarĀ 

white paper vs case study

Both case studies and white papers are great for use as downloads and freebie offerings. White papers especially are great for gated content (i.e., that one must sign up to receive) as they have a higher perceived value. Case studies can be a useful offering for folks a bit further down in the sales funnel – who have an awareness of your company and an interest in using your services, but who need “proof” that you can do what you claim to do. Each in their own way, they can, when used properly, be effective in persuading “tire-kickers” to take the plunge!

One important note we will leave you with: Always make sure that you provide ways with your white papers and case studies, for interested parties to contact you if they have questions or require further follow-up. Without being overly-hyped, make sure your contact information is present and can be found easily and quickly.

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