An E-book Is Not a Whitepaper - Answering Your Question from 'Content Marketing to Woo the Executive'
(On May 2, Target Marketing hosted a webinar on "Content Marketing to Woo the Executive." One of the questions that came up during it was "How is a whitepaper different from an e-book?" Here is the speaker Johnathan Kantor's response.)
There's a lot of truth to the expression, "perception is reality;" especially with the terms "whitepaper" and "e-book." For most business decision-makers, the perception of a whitepaper is radically different from an e-book, and choosing the right term to apply to a business-focused marketing document can play a significant role in how your target reader perceives its contents.
Unfortunately, for a small segment of B-to-B marketers, there is a lingering perception that the terms "e-book" and "whitepaper" are interchangeable when it comes to business solution marketing. Maybe it's due to the chic trendiness associated with the name "e-book" as opposed to the more stogy moniker of "whitepaper" that has been around for almost 100 years.
To the general public, the term "e-book" is understood to be an electronic book, which is often associated with traditional educational or entertainment-oriented information. For C-level executives seeking information in support of a strategic business decision, the term "whitepaper" carries more weight or "gravitas" than the term "e-book." As someone who has spent over 30 years in the enterprise arena and has worked with countless business executives, the term that gets their attention is "whitepaper," not "e-book."
The answer to the question of terminology is as simple as looking at what leading business marketers use to describe their strategic deliverables, such as IBM, Oracle, or Gartner. They use the banner "whitepaper" and not "e-book."
Leading business marketing organizations know that when C-level executives are handed a whitepaper, they will perceive it as containing factual, well researched and validated information that can be used to form important decisions. Hand them the same information under the term "e-book," and most will perceive its information to be less serious. In fact, I can't think of a single Fortune 1000 corporation that uses the term "e-book" instead of "whitepaper" as part of its B-to-B communications strategy.