Using white papers as backgrounders can be a particularly effective way to share large amounts of information with audiences that would benefits from that knowledge, such as prospects, customers, employees, and the media.

What is a backgrounder white paper?

When we talk about white papers as backgrounders, we’re normally referring to a white paper that provides an in-depth examination of a type of or specific product or service line. As the name implies, a backgrounder delivers background information to people who would benefit from knowing it. A backgrounder usually offers more information than other sources such as a brochure or a website.

It can also serve as an instructional tool, for example explaining how a particularly type of technology operates. Suppose your new product leverages GPS technology, and prospective users who understand how GPS operates will be better able to see the benefit of what you’re offering. By developing a backgrounder about GPS, you can provide that information.

Is a backgrounder a user manual?

There’s a fine line between technical documents such as user manuals and spec sheets and backgrounders. A backgrounder is usually not quite as information-rich as those other types of documents, and it doesn’t provide as much technical detail. Instead, it informs people at their level of understanding.

In reality, backgrounders are usually more of a marketing tool, because they’re designed to support people who need more information before they make a purchase decision. They can also be used to provide useful information to media representatives who may be developing content about your product or service. Generally speaking, backgrounders are not intended for consumer audiences. They’re most effective in the business-to-business marketplace.

Are backgrounders for lead generation?

White papers as backgrounders are rarely used to generate leads. Instead of being designed to pique a potential prospect’s interest, they’re expected to develop knowledge among people who have already become familiar with what you have to offer. Nor are they designed as pure sales tools, because instead of making a case, they simply gather information people who have likely decided to do business with you may need to further convince themselves and others.

Where do you find information for a backgrounder?

One of the best parts of developing backgrounders is that you probably already have – or have access to – everything you need to know to create them. Essentially, what you’re doing is capturing your organization’s knowledge in a formal document, written so people outside your organization can understand its value.

You simply need to reach out to your organization’s subject matter experts (SMEs) to collect what you need to know. That may involve a series of formal interviews or casual conversations. Your SMEs may share the information in technical or otherwise complex terms, and it then becomes your job to convey the same information in layman’s terms.

Your organization’s SMEs can also provide information and other items to enhance your backgrounder, such as graphs and photographs that illustrate the ideas being discussed.

How should you structure a backgrounder?

The nature of a backgrounder as white paper varied with the subject matter being discussed, but most often, these documents begin with a brief summary of what your offer is intended to accomplish. Say for example that your company serves car washes by offering a water purification device that allows operators to generate more suds with fewer gallons of water. That reduces their water costs and is environmentally friendlier, so they can wash more vehicles with lower expenses.

In such a case, you might begin by talking about the growing demand for clean cars occurring at the same time many regions of the nation are concerned about insufficient water supplies. Then you can go into the science about how soap suds are formed and why purified water such as what your device provides allow the production of more suds. You can include evidence from real-world cases to show how much water users are saving by choosing your product over competitors’ approaches.

Make it real 

No matter what you’re trying to share, one of the best ways to capture the reader’s attention and be memorable is to offer real-world examples of what you’re trying to describe. You can talk about things in hypothetical ways, but when you provide some kind of real-world case study examples, you make it easier for the reader to understand how the situation might apply to them. The car wash technology I mentioned earlier is an example. When you present how someone has used your solution, it’s much easier for the reader to say, “Now I see how I could do something similar.” People tend to respond to messages that address the eternal question: What’s in it for me?

How should you end a backgrounder?

Most backgrounders don’t need a formal conclusion, because they’re about conveying information. What can be helpful, though, is letting your readers know where they can get additional information about the topic if they need it. You may include links to relevant websites, as well as email addresses where they can get answers to their questions. They’ll view your willingness to connect as a sign your organization is eager to help them, and that’s a great way to strengthen a relationship!