The 'Umbrella & Strut' White Paper Strategy

Updated: May 03, 2011

If your organization hasn't produced a white paper before, my suggestion is to develop what I call an "umbrella & strut" white paper strategy.

Each term refers to a unique type of white paper. Taken together, they form a cohesive strategy that can form the basis of a long-term B2B lead generation and solution marketing strategy with white papers.

The first one out the door is called the "umbrella" white paper.

The Umbrella White Paper

Just like the image of an open parasol, the umbrella white paper is a broadly encompassing vision message, from which all subsequent white papers will reference and reinforce.

Just like a large physical umbrella, it can cover a lot of ground. As a result, the marketing vision provided by the umbrella white papers can be used across a variety of markets, industries, or customer segments.

Your broad umbrella-like message should include your overall corporate vision. This would comprise a broad, strategic message that allows your prospective customers to clearly understand your most important market/industry differentiation.

There can only be one vision white paper for each strategic marketing initiative. It should answer any/all of the following questions:

• What does our company stand for?
• What sets us apart from our competition?
• What was the original goal(s) of our founder(s)?
• How does that legacy impact our current business/market strategy in this area?"


As an example, if Baidu.com,the popular search engine in China planned to launch a U.S. marketing campaign, they might start with an umbrella white paper that would educate online users to their unique differentiation. It might include strategic points on how they differ from the current U.S. based leaders, Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

A sample "umbrella" title might be:

Applying the Asian Model to Search

The Strategic Vision and Differentiation

The Supporting 'Strut' White Paper(s)

After the initial umbrella vision white paper has been developed, subsequent 'strut' white papers would follow and provide support. This would be analogous to the metal struts that lie underneath, provide support, and allow the physical umbrella to remain open and work effectively.

The strut white paper would summarize the more important strategic points outlined in the umbrella vision white paper and apply them to a specific niche industry, solution category, or short-term market direction.

There can be several 'strut' white papers for each white paper campaign depending on the targeted solution categories, industries, or markets identified by the marketing organization.

To maintain consistency, it is critically important to provide a hyperlink at the end of each 'strut' white paper that allows the reader to access the original umbrella white paper. This is because as marketers, we do not know which white paper a prospect will download and read first. What if your prospect reads the "strut" white paper BEFORE the "umbrella" white paper?

To solve this problem, in the event that a prospect may download, say a vertical market white paper first, they will eventually be given the opportunity to link to, read, and understand the umbrella vision behind that vertical 'strut' strategy.

Continuing with our Baidu Search Engine analogy, an appropriate topic for a 'strut' white paper that supports our original umbrella white paper might be:

Using the Asian Search Model for Healthcare
Applying Baidu Search to Assist Doctors,
Patients, and Providers

Finally, subsequent 'strut' white papers would identify and target each market niche targeted by the organization. For example, if Baidu wanted to target several niche markets, their collection of strut white papers might look like:

Strut White Paper: The Baidu Model for Finance
Strut White Paper: The Baidu Model for Construction
Strut White Paper: The Baidu Model for Insurance
Strut White Paper: The Baidu Model for the Tech Sector

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