How Big Is the Opportunity for White Papers?

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Every so often, someone asks me the size of the White Paper market.

It could be a student with a question for a project, “How many White Papers are published every year?”

It could be an aspiring writer doing due diligence, “How much do companies spend on White Papers in a year?”

I always give the same answer: I have no idea.

Listen, that’s like asking how many drops of water flow by in the river outside my window.

The Thessalon River has been rolling along for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. It’s been here since well before 1900 when my house was built.

And there’s no end in sight. That river will run as long as I’m on this earth, and likely much longer.

You know, that’s a lot like White Papers. White Papers have been published for well over 100 years, and I can’t see any end in sight.

So, here are seven answers for all the people who ask me the size of the White Paper market.

1. White Papers have stood the test of time.

Starting in the 1880s, White Papers were short, factual reports and policy papers from the UK government. Many covered particular industries.

Businesspeople liked their authoritative voice and sweep of research, so companies began to produce White Papers of their own.

Since then, White Papers have become a standard tool in the B2B marketer’s toolkit.

In fact, annual surveys since 2013 have shown that two out of three Business-to-Business marketers use White Papers.

2. B2B buyers expect White Papers.

I was talking to a prospect yesterday.

When I asked why he needed a White Paper, he said he wanted to land more government contracts.

And when he had talked to his main government contact, she said, “Okay, send me your White Paper.”

She didn’t ask if he had one. She just assumed he did.

And until he got a White Paper, he’d be out of the running.

Business buyers are the same. They highly value White Papers, especially for technology products.

And these days, a vast range of products have some sort of technology component: software, embedded chips, links to the Web, and so on.

Technology often needs explaining. Hence the expectation for White Papers in that domain.

Even beyond tech, any big new idea can use a White Paper.

That could be a new idea in construction, finance, HR, insurance, retail, wellness, or any other business domain.

If a company needs to explain an idea to its business buyers, they can use a White Paper to do it.

3. White Papers are a key item in content marketing.

Content marketing is already booming, but many believe it still has room to grow.

The content side of every marketer’s budget continues to siphon dollars away from traditional activities like direct mail, print advertising, telemarketing, and trade shows.

That’s bound to continue for the foreseeable future. Why?

Because good content, especially things like a case study or a White Paper, can generate qualified leads for less money than sending a team to a trade show, for example.

A company no longer needs to shell out so much for plane tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, and restaurant meals. Instead, they can post a White Paper on their website, where it works away steadily 24/7 for a year or two.

White Papers have made the leap into modern times.

That’s why more money will pour into them every year for a long while yet.

4. Many, many companies need White Papers.

When I wrote my book, White Papers For Dummies, I tried to find the size of the White Paper market myself.

I used statistics from countries throughout the English-speaking world, including the U.S. Census and the OECD.

And I was very conservative.

I only counted industries that traditionally use White Papers: software, technical service providers, and high-tech equipment manufacturers for things like medical devices and telecom gear.

And I only included companies with more than five employees, no mom-and-pop shops too small to ever hire a writer.

Even with all these limits and caveats, I came up with 613,230 companies that could use White Papers written in English.

And that was more than five years ago. Today’s actual count is probably much higher, likely in the millions.

Think about that. More than half a million — and probably several million — businesses in the world could use White Papers.

Do you think that’s enough for you?

5. White Papers are rocket fuel for social media.

Social media is most powerful when you have something important to say.

A White Paper is the ideal kind of content to promote through social media. All you have to do is publicize the URL to the landing page.

And if a White Paper proves useful, other people can easily like it, retweet it, blog about it, or otherwise share it with their own social networks.

That’s when a White Paper can really catch fire, blast off, and travel far beyond where any B2B marketing team can send it.

Would you say that any B2B social media marketing team would like a great White Paper to promote?

6. That means unlimited opportunities for writers.

What does all this mean for writers?

It means that if you learn how to write White Papers, the sky really is the limit.

The average White Paper fee is $4,200. But who wants to be “average”?

I generally price White Papers at $7,500 or so — about $1,000 a page. (Most White Papers are 6-8 pages long.) That’s a nice fee for something I really enjoy doing.

Of course, when I was just starting out, I didn’t charge that much. I did my first White Paper in 1997 for $2,000.

But I gradually bumped up my fees to keep pace with my experience and my confidence. And you can do the same.

If you have a sample White Paper to show prospects, you can start at $2,500 or $3,000.

If you have trouble landing on at that fee, go lower for your first project or two. Then add another $250 or $500 to every paper you do.

Soon you’ll be billing the “average” fee. And soon after that, you’ll break through the $5,000 mark.

7. White Papers have a great future.

White Papers are useful for generating leads at the top of the sales funnel, nurturing prospects in the middle of the funnel, and supporting evaluations at the bottom of the funnel.

They’re great for getting noticed in a crowd and supporting a product launch.

Do you imagine any company will need those things for the foreseeable future? I do.

White Papers are ideal for describing any B2B offering that’s relatively new, complex, or expensive.

Do you suppose any B2B offering in the future will be new, complex, or expensive? I do.

An effective White Paper can help a businessperson understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

Do you suppose anyone will have business issues, problems, or decisions to make in the future? I do.

That’s why any way I look at this, I come to the same conclusion.

The opportunity for writing White Papers is huge. It’s growing. And there’s no end in sight.

Just like that river flowing past my house.

Now is the ideal time to get started as a White Paper writer. Do you have any questions? Share with us below so we can point you to other resources.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: October 7, 2019

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