Buyer's Guide … the one with the Encyclopedia!

Application Notes

Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta

The central challenge for digital marketing is always to get sufficient attention for your products while competing with an unlimited amount of other information. Many try simply by shouting their messages often and as loud as they can, but such an approach doesn't work that well. It is better to think carefully about what could be interesting for your target group.

Types of Documents

Certain types of technically oriented documents can be quite useful:

  • There are simple data sheets or spec sheets which only shortly list some central properties (specifications) of a product. These are often found on supplier web pages or in printed form in exhibitions, but are often quite limited in detail.
  • Application notes can go much further, explaining for what purposes certain devices can be used, what aspects one should keep in mind to avoid mistakes, and what qualities of the devices are vital for success.
  • Case studies are quite similar, giving examples of how something can be applied and generate benefits.
  • White paper is a relatively general term for similar documents, e.g. marketing presentations, openly explaining some matter in a hopefully helpful and authoritative way.

Multiple Benefits

Such documents can be very useful in various ways:

  • Such content, if well written, can capture the interest of technically minded people. It might even be that they will find such documents in Internet searches, when their questions of interest are matched by the content. They will they not only see that content, but diligently digest it.
  • Useful application notes also contribute to the reputation of a company to have the technical expertise and of being helpful. With such documents, you demonstrate that you understand the needs of your potential customers and that you care about them. It is definitely a nicer attitude than communicating that they should just buy your great stuff, but you don't care what they need it for.
  • New uses: Application notes may motivate people to start using devices which they did not use before because they did not see some advantageous opportunities.
  • When authoring such documents, which forces one to think carefully about certain aspects, one may develop new ideas, for example for improvements of the product or its documentation, or concerning additional target audiences.

How Long and in Which Format?

Some application notes are rather short, for example only a few pages. That can already be enough to stimulate ideas and answer basic questions.

Less frequently, we find far longer documents with many dozens of pages, very much going into detail. Even after more than 20 years, I well remember a very detailed and highly useful application note from HP on noise measurements with spectrum analyzers. It must have taken them quite some time to work that out, but it was definitely very helpful and also very much contributed to the impression that these guys really understand what they are doing. For such a difficult technical topic, it can be worthwhile to present a comprehensive treatment, going substantially further than your competitors. Surely this strategy has helped their sales.

In some cases, it may be better to produce many short application notes or case studies, each one addressing one specific application. For example, I have done that for our software products such as RP Fiber Power. I guess that people are not only using it for learning about the product before purchasing licenses, but also when originally searching for some technical information only – which eventually makes them aware of our powerful simulation software.

Often, application notes and the like are presented in the form of PDF documents, offered for download on websites or distributed in other ways, e. g. as e-mail attachments. However, they can also be HTML pages as part of some larger website; the take-away is then not the document itself, but a link URL. That way, there is little data volume to transport, and people will always read the latest version.

Quality Matters

More important than the length is definitely the quality. I often find data sheets and the like deficient in various ways, e.g. containing confusing or incomplete specifications; some of them even tell me more about the competence of the supplier than on the product itself. Similar things can happen with application notes. Obviously, it is quite important not just to produce a lot of material, but to ensure high quality which you can be proud of. Besides using competent personnel, it can be very helpful to have various people with different backgrounds to review and improve such things. (By the way, that also belongs to the services which I offer.) Regularly making improvements after the first publishing can also make sense, for example based on feedback and questions from customers.

Getting Help

Surprisingly, many suppliers e.g. in the area of photonics do not produce any technical white papers, case studies and application notes, although they are clearly so useful.

The difficulty may often be that such technical documents cannot be written by the people who are in charge of the marketing because more technical competence is required for that. So one needs to establish a good cooperation between technical and marketing people, which particularly in bigger companies may take some more efforts. However, it is definitely very worthwhile. Therefore, one should search for ways to get such documents produced, even if it may take some external help, at least for acquiring some additional perspectives.

Promoting White Papers

Once you have worked out a white paper or similar document, you of course want to promote it in order to generate the maximum value for everyone involved.

Obviously, you want to offer it on your website. Some let people download such documents only after entering their details, but a wider distribution is of course achieved if you do not demand that; also keep in mind that search engines should be able to pick up all the keywords.

You may also want to promote documents on other online resources. For example, we present white papers produced by our advertising customers (having the ad package for the RP Photonics Buyer's Guide) in encyclopedia articles which will fit to the topic. That absolutely makes sense, since you then directly reach those people who are presumably interested in the topic. It may not reach that many people within a week, but if you have such a promotion installed for a whole year, it can easily reach thousands of experts in that specialized area.

Social media (particularly LinkedIn) are another possibility. However, before starting that one should be aware that it takes time to regularly produce and maintain such postings. It certainly does not help e.g. to have partially outdated documents floating around, with no one in the company having a complete overview of what is out there. (It is often hard enough to make sure that the own website is properly maintained.) That risk is actually minimized by restricting such postings to the function of short teasers.


In conclusion, there are several reasons why it is very worthwhile to work out high quality application notes and similar documents. There are plenty of opportunities to distribute them and generate maximum value. I therefore encourage all marketing people to work in this direction, and we can also help promoting those in suitable encyclopedia articles. Besides, I can offer an external perspective on some preliminary versions, helping with my feedback to optimize the quality and helpfulness.

This article is a posting of the RP Photonics Marketing News, authored by Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta. You may link to this page, because its location is permanent.

Note that you can also receive the articles in the form of a newsletter or with an RSS feed.

Questions and Comments from Users

Here you can submit questions and comments. As far as they get accepted by the author, they will appear above this paragraph together with the author’s answer. The author will decide on acceptance based on certain criteria. Essentially, the issue must be of sufficiently broad interest.

Please do not enter personal data here; we would otherwise delete it soon. (See also our privacy declaration.) If you wish to receive personal feedback or consultancy from the author, please contact him, e.g. via e-mail.

Spam check:

By submitting the information, you give your consent to the potential publication of your inputs on our website according to our rules. (If you later retract your consent, we will delete those inputs.) As your inputs are first reviewed by the author, they may be published with some delay.


Connect and share this with your network:

Follow our specific LinkedIn pages for more insights and updates: