WTH Is the Diff Between a Product Sheet, a Case Study and a White Paper?



We’ve already established that content marketing is a pretty important thing. With the holiday slow-down inevitably upon us, it’s a good time to take inventory of your content pieces, make sure everything is up to date, and most important of all, see if you’re missing anything you need.

Implicit in this last step is an understanding of how each content piece is supposed to function – what purpose it serves. So today I’m going to discuss three common marketing documents and where they fit in your content arsenal.

Product Sheets

Call it a product sheet, a product brief, a product slick, a brochure. Whatever you call it in your organization, I’m talking about a document dedicated to describing a single product.

My rule of thumb: Every product should have a product sheet. It doesn’t make sense to me to tell a prospect that our product is important enough for you to buy, but not important enough to justify one stinkin’ page of copy.

Of course, like all others, this rule has an exception. If your product has a base module and a bunch of optional add-on modules, it makes sense to explain the entire suite in a single document. Imaging systems are a good example of this. Remember, the whole idea is to make your products easy to understand for prospects. And in any event, every product still gets mentioned somewhere in your marketing materials.

The Big Mistake: The most common mistake with product sheets is the copywriter who provides too much information. Stop the TMI! A product sheet isn’t supposed to tell everything there is to tell about a product. On the contrary, the product sheet should merely pique interest – it should raise questions and spark a conversation with the salesperson.

Case Studies

I love case studies. Out of all the content types you can produce, case studies create the most emotional connection with their readers. That's because a case study represents a peer telling a reader how he or she addressed a situation.

Sure, anyone reading a case study knows it’s just another marketing document created by some company trying to pimp its products. On the other hand, the reader also knows that one of his peers was willing to put his name on the line to endorse the product.

That carries a lot of weight.

The case study format is fairly simple:

  • Describe the problem.

  • Explain how it was solved.

  • Detail the results in quantifiable terms.

If you have happy customers, you have plenty of case study source material.

The Big Mistakes: There are two common case study mistakes. The first is adding a bunch of marketing fluff. For example, instead of saying, “Last National Bank achieved a 10-percent reduction in operating costs,” you might be tempted to say, “Last National Bank achieved a 10-percent reduction in operating costs because our product is so freaking great.”

People get that your product is so freaking great. They understand that’s why you’re writing a case study about it. You don’t need to beat them over the head with it. Step back out of the way and let your customers tell their own stories.

The other common mistake is multiple case studies that tell the same story. I’m all for more than one case study on the same product – as long as each one tells a unique story in terms of problems solved and results achieved. Otherwise, you’re just going to bore your readers telling the same story over and over again.

White Papers

Why do we write white papers? To establish thought leadership, right?


The Big Mistake: Yes, I’m starting this section with The Big Mistake.

If you’re only writing white papers for the lofty goal of establishing thought leadership – i.e., you’re not writing them with the willful intent to market your product – you’re missing the boat.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s no value in thought leadership. What I’m saying is that you need to put some effort into deciding exactly what direction you want to lead that thought. Or put more bluntly, you need an ulterior motive.

I’ve found that white papers are especially useful in two situations. The first is when there’s some broad misunderstanding or lack of knowledge out in the marketplace.

For example, document management (DM) systems and enterprise content management (ECM) systems both compete for an FI’s imaging dollars. ECM systems are much more robust, but they’re also typically more expensive. Do you know the difference between DM and ECM? If you’d read the white paper I created when I was at Jack Henry, you would. My paper explained the difference, but in a way that clearly pointed the reader toward ECM (JHA’s product).

Another great use of a white paper is to espouse the features that make your product unique, but in a very generic way – in other words, to highlight your key competitive differentiators without telling anyone that’s what you’re doing.

For example, suppose the key differentiators of your product are “less filling” and “tastes great.” You might write a white paper explaining why anyone shopping for a product in your product class should only consider products that are less filling and taste great. You sound neutral in the white paper, but the logic inevitably leads the reader to your product, and only your product.

If any of this doesn’t make sense, please feel free to drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you.

That is all.

#collateral #casestudies #whitepapers #contentmarketing

How can I help?

If there's a topic you'd like me to cover in my blog, please by all means let me know. I want this site to be as useful to my readers as possible.


Email me at jmsb@johnsanfilippo.com

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