New Research, How White Papers Influence Buyers

By Michael Stelzner

A recent study by IDG Research revealed some interesting findings regarding how businesses use white papers in the decision making process.

The report identified five stages of the decision making process, which are general education, business case development, implementation scenarios/evaluations, shortlist creation and final decisions.

The role white papers play are outlined here:

First it should be noted that this study was focused on IT buyers.  In addition, technical white papers and market/trend white papers were identified separately.  The study examined 19 different content types.

Here’s how white papers play out in the different stages:

General education: 48% declared that they were most interested market/trend white papers (5th place on the list of 19 content types) and 40% in technical white papers (7th place).

Business case development: 39% declared that they were most interested market/trend white papers (3rd place) and 34% in technical white papers (5th place).

Implementation scenarios/evals:  48% declared that they were most interested in technical white papers (1st place) and 27% market/trend white papers (12th place).

Shortlist creation: 30% declared that they were most interested in technical white papers (6th place) and 20% market/trend white papers (14th place).

Final decisions: 20% declared that they were most interested in technical white papers (11th place) and 17% market/trend white papers (13th place).

Key Results:  This study shows that businesses place great value on white papers when they are early stage of the decision making process, which pretty much confirms all the other studies profiled here.

Click here to view the slides.

What are your thoughts about this study?

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  • J.D. Meier

    Good stuff.

    It’s nice to see the numbers line up with what we might intuitively expect to be true.

    J.D. Meier’s last blog post..Concrete, Abstract, Random, and Sequential

  • Y. Monterroso

    I really appreciated finding your site. Your white paper and blog provide many valuable tips that will help me formulate my next white paper. One thing I’ve struggled with lately is the blog entry vs. white paper debate. I would love to see an entry on your thoughts of when one is appropriate vs the other.

  • Michael Stelzner

    Not sure I follow the debate Y. Can you elaborate please?

  • Y. Monterroso

    Primarily, the purpose of the white papers that I am looking at are client education – identify some common issues in the industry, describe how products (such as ours) can address the issues. Straight forward white paper – right? Use the blog to talk about industry happenings and some things that I am looking at. So far the lines are fairly clear.
    As a product manager, I am both an expert and an information seeker. So, as I try to determine the format for putting information out, I debate whether a more inclusive white paper or short blog entries are appropriate for my purposes. Perhaps, it isn’t an either or situation but a dual approach to get much of the same information out to clients in multiple formats?

  • Michael Stelzner

    For sure both are the way to go as each serves a unique purpose.

  • http://N/A Ntarugera François


    It was a good to write in one of our Newspapers, but it lacked some stimulating ideas from other people not from you. How White papers influence the buyers(Business communities) sound as a good stuff to educate people on how to do business.


  • Erik | Taylor

    True. I don’t think it’s an either or situation. Both white papers and blog entries have their place. I do view white papers as more authoritative sources of information, while the blog entries I read tend to be more focused on keeping track of what’s current, but not in as comprehensive a manner.

    Erik | Taylor’s last blog post..Taylor Vaifanua

  • Bindoo ZIJA

    A good timely study. We generally use white papers on our project preparation stages. We try to grab maximum input to take a decision on the strategy, technology and methods on initial stages. Once we have our awareness levels improved and explore others’ views on the subject we are ready for the project planning. Then these white papers not really influence us further.

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