How to Choose Between White Paper, Case Studies, and Blogs

Audiences that are skeptical by nature value reading the appropriate content type very much. Selecting the content type that resonates most with your intended reader for the content subject makes good content great. White papers, case studies, and blogs are three common types of content consumed by engineers. While, as a group, engineers prefer longer form, data-packed content, each of the three forms explored in this post provides unique benefits for the audience. As important as they are, a recent survey by the LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community found that over 20% of responders outsource these formats. Knowing how and where to use each of them is critical to telling your story as powerfully as possible.

Blog Posts (example written by ASKCS)

Marketing Funnel position: Awareness (Top of Funnel)

Blog posts are often the first line of a dialogue between Marketer and Client. Blog articles are often more informal and conversational. One point about blog posts that marketers often miss is that these content pieces are not meant to stand on their own. Blogs provide a platform for releasing consistent content, so each post should contain only one main idea. Quality is a must-have, but too often, the clients revise and iterate with the writer with the goal of perfection. As with any written piece, the state of perfection does not exist. You can always refine the story later.

The primary goals of a blog post are to make a point, support it with data, and compel the reader to engage. You can introduce yourself to your audience with a blog post, but it is imperative to provide a call to action (CTA) to keep the conversation going. When you do, remember to answer questions and respond to comments. The CTA creates the first conversation you have with a prospective client, who has validated your technical competency by responding to your blog post.

Pro Tip: For an idea too deep for a single blog post (~500-800 words), create a blog series. Readers love numbered lists and multi-part chapter pieces, so a two- or three-part series is a great way to encourage your audience to come back to read the conclusion of your point.

Case Studies (example written by ASKCS)

Marketing Funnel position: Consideration (Upper Middle of Funnel)

After the initial interactions and engagement through blog posts, your prospect may want to hear stories of similar companies to theirs, and how you’ve been able to help them. Stories, or case studies, are an increasingly impactful form of content marketing. They establish expertise and trust that you’ve been there before and can help solve your client’s problem. They also help to personalize a problem to show the reader how companies in similar situations reacted.

Pro Tip: The content strategy should select a case study focusing on how your client’s differentiating feature or product solves a problem. Teaching your audience about a new approach or product makes them, in turn, more effective; this is a win for both sides. Use a consistent format in the form of a research paper: Application, Objective and Assumptions, Approach, Results, and Conclusion. Engineers and technical audiences often gravitate toward research-style content. As a result, formatting case studies this way presents the information to them in a familiar structure while offering a personal connection.

White Papers (example written by ASKCS)

Marketing Funnel position: Consideration (Lower Middle of Funnel)

The white paper is the cornerstone of technical content. Engineers turn to this format to educate themselves and others on a specific topic. It summarizes the author’s perspective on a topic and generally offers an opinion with supporting facts that are intended to persuade the audience to agree with the opinion. There are generally two goals of the paper: the direct result of presenting a compelling opinion on a technical topic to win over a receptive (and discerning) audience, and to demonstrate technical aptitude so that the reader wants to work with you.

Pro Tip: Once you see interest, engagement, and traction with a series of blogs, you’ve cultivated an audience thirsty for your content. White papers transition your audience down the funnel from blog posts, which are met to engage your audience and generate awareness early in the marketing strategy, to more in-depth insights to demonstrate your technical chops.

Using these guidelines helps you know which content format to propose to your client for a given topic area, and how to create these content forms effectively. What are some other tips you’ve learned from working with these three forms of content marketing for engineers?

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