1 May 2024

White Paper vs Case Study: What’s the Difference?

If you want to create long-form text-based content that informs readers and showcases expertise, white papers and case studies are both great format options. However, you should consider whether a white paper vs case study would be best for your organization’s content marketing efforts.

After all, white papers and case studies serve distinct purposes in the buyer’s journey.

To make the most of your content, you’ll want to choose the format that aligns best with your goals. This can make all the difference in capturing your target audience’s attention and driving conversions.

Today, we’ll be diving deep into the differences between a white paper vs case study so you can figure out which format is best for each marketing scenario. 

In this post, we’ll cover the following topics:

What is a white paper vs case study? 

When it comes to a white paper vs case study, it’s important to know the difference. Simply put, a white paper is a marketing asset that discusses an industry-specific problem and provides a research-backed solution, while a case study showcases a customer’s successful application of your solution. 

A white paper aims to educate readers on a specific topic and offers in-depth information and insights. White papers are highly effective marketing tools, with 51% of B2B marketers reporting that this content format delivers some of their best results.

Check out our white paper writing services.

A case study, on the other hand, is written or video content that tells the story of how a customer is successfully using your solution. It typically starts by comparing the “before” state—what the challenges were before the customer started looking for a solution. Then it describes why the customer chose your solution and what the implementation process was like. And it finishes by describing the results the customer got by using your solution.

Like white papers, case studies are very effective: for the third year in a row, SaaS marketers ranked case studies as the #1 most effective marketing tactic to increase sales—ahead of SEO web content, blog posts, social media, paid ads and other tactics.

Check out our case study writing services.

What is the purpose of a white paper vs case study?

White papers aim to provide thought leadership and offer solutions that position your company as an industry authority. They are often used to influence decisions by presenting compelling arguments supported by data and analysis.

Case studies primarily aim to demonstrate the practical application of a product or service by showcasing real-life success stories. They provide social proof and instill confidence by showcasing how a particular product can lead to positive results.

Who is the target audience for a white paper vs case study?

White papers are typically targeted towards decision-makers and stakeholders who are seeking in-depth insights to inform strategic decisions. They appeal to individuals who are actively researching complex problems and want to learn about innovative approaches.

Case studies, on the other hand, are geared towards prospects who are looking for evidence that a product is effective. They resonate with potential buyers who are looking for real-world success stories to help evaluate the feasibility of implementing a particular solution within their own organization.

What are the key characteristics and structure of a white paper vs case study?

White papers are characterized by their comprehensive research, authoritative tone and formal structure. They rely heavily on data, statistics and expert opinions to support their arguments and conclusions. White papers frequently include sections such as an executive summary, introduction, problem statement, methodology, findings, analysis, conclusion and recommendations.

Find out how to write a white paper in 10 steps [plus 5 examples]

On the other hand, case studies are more focused on storytelling and real-life examples. They often follow a narrative structure, starting with an introduction to the customer or company profile. They then outline the problem faced, describe the solution implemented and highlight the results achieved. Case studies might include quotes, testimonials and metrics to substantiate the success story and provide credibility.

Check out the 9 steps for writing a case study [plus 34 examples]

White paper vs case study: best practices

Regardless of whether you opt for a case study vs white paper, it’s a good idea to incorporate best practices. After all, they can maximize the impact of your content.

When creating white papers, consider the following best practices:

  1. Add a table of contents to set readers’ expectations.
  2. Use visuals, charts and graphs to enhance readability.
  3. Incorporate real-world examples to illustrate key points and add credibility.
  4. Leverage thought-provoking questions to engage readers.
  5. Include actionable insights and practical recommendations that readers can implement in their own strategies.

For case studies, keep these best practices in mind:

  1. Select compelling success stories that reflect your target audience’s situation.
  2. Focus on the customer’s journey, discussing the challenges they faced, the implemented solution and the final outcome.
  3. Use real data and metrics to quantify the results achieved.
  4. Incorporate quotes to add authenticity.
  5. Keep the narrative concise and engaging, highlighting key takeaways.

White paper vs case study: key differences

It’s important to understand the differences between a white paper vs case study when choosing which to create. To clarify the topic, take a look at the fundamental differences:

Key differences between a white paper and a case study

How to choose between a white paper vs case study

Before you create a white paper vs case study, it’s important to think about which format will best help you meet your content marketing goals. Below, we’ll discuss key elements to consider and provide insights to help you make an informed decision.

Factors to consider based on business goals

When you’re thinking about whether to create a white paper vs case study, consider the following factors:

  • Objective: determine if you want your content to serve thought leadership, lead generation or social proof purposes
  • Buyer’s journey: think about what stage of the buyer’s journey you need content for—white papers are best for the Awareness stage, while case studies are best for the Consideration and Decision stages
  • Existing content marketing assets: consider how your white paper or case study will fit in with your existing content marketing assets 
  • Your competitive landscape: consider how your competitors are using white papers vs case studies
  • Content repurposing: determine how you might repurpose content across different channels and formats, maximizing the reach and impact of your content efforts

Matching content format with audience expectations

When you create a white paper vs case study, you need to ensure that your content meets audience expectations. To do so, you’ll need to understand your audience’s preferences and behaviors. That way, you can make sure that your chosen format resonates effectively. 

By aligning your content format with what your audience values most—whether that’s data-driven analysis or real-world success stories—you can create content that engages, informs and ultimately drives action.

So, which content format should you pick?

In the battle of white paper vs case study, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Both formats are valuable B2B marketing tools, offering unique benefits and advantages. By selecting the one that best fits your goals, you can refine your content marketing efforts and drive meaningful results.

Need help with your case studies or white papers?

At Uplift Content, we offer both case study writing services and white paper writing services. Regardless of which format you settle on, our B2B SaaS writers will create high-quality marketing content that supports your business.

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Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads her team in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and blog posts for high-growth SaaS companies like ClickUp, Calendly and WalkMe. Connect with Emily on Linkedin

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