Premium content can be one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s arsenal. Webinars, white papers, eBooks, or any similar mediums allow you to provide in-depth and valuable information to your target audience.
By definition, premium content should take longer to produce and should require more research and/or data collection than free content. eBooks are the perfect example. While creating one is initially time-consuming, it offers some major advantages. First, an eBook has the potential to turn into evergreen content that continues to generate leads if it’s gated. Second, an eBook can cascade into smaller pieces of content like blog posts and webinars.
Bottom line: Despite the up-front costs, the potential payback of a well-designed, well-packaged, and strategically distributed eBook can be huge for your brand.
But before you head straight to the CMO’s office to tell her you need to create an eBook, let’s make sure you have the tools to maximize its potential to help convert visitors into leads and leads into customers.
Define topic and tone
One of the biggest factors in determining your eBook’s success is the topic. Just like any piece of content, it must appeal to your buyer. But the topic also should be something you can explore in depth to deliver a premium value.
- Why you’re creating the eBook (Don’t just define your own goals, establish the “why” for your audience as well. What will they get out of this?)
- Who you’re targeting and where they are in the buyer journey
Understanding where your target audience might be in the buyer journey helps you refine the content as well as some of the nuances of your eBook, like calls to action and links to other resources. For example, the closer your readers are to buying, the more aggressive you can be with a call to action and the more specific you should be about how your product or service can address their problem. But remember, the goal of the eBook is still to provide real value – not to sell.
When it comes to tone, make sure you’re in line with your own brand persona. From there, decide on what direction your eBook will take. Will it be a more serious discussion about the pain points your audience is experiencing? Or will you take a fun and lighthearted approach, like Marketo’s Big Marketing Activity Coloring Book?
Get the opt-in (Convince people to “buy” your eBook)
In many cases, brands gate their eBooks. Potential readers are required to fill out a form and submit their email address (sometimes more). I look at this as a type of payment. If you expect someone to pay you with their email address, be sure that you “sell” them something of value.
Generally speaking, you should establish whether your eBook will be gated in the beginning. If your objectives are more oriented toward lead generation, then you’ll almost certainly gate your content.
Remember: By putting an opt-in form in front of your eBook, you’re compromising potential reach and brand awareness in favor of lead generation. That’s why it’s especially important to promote your eBook effectively.
Design your eBook
Avoid the temptation to simply convert a Word doc into a PDF. If you have access to in-house design resources, that’s great. If not, there are a ton of free templates as well as tools like Canva that make it easy to create awesome graphics with zero design skills. A few things to keep in mind:
- Create a cover page aligned with the topic and audience.
- Lay out the text in a way that’s easy to read, ensuring sufficient font size and ample white space.
- Include visuals that might be helpful, such as charts, graphs, or images.
Choose a format
Most marketers provide their eBook as a PDF. While this gets the job done, PDFs can’t be tracked and typically aren’t optimized for mobile. Consider using a platform that allows you to increase the interactive elements, boost engagement, and capture readers’ attention. A ton of free tools like SlideShare, Uberflip’s eBook Generator, and even iBooks Author allow you to deliver your eBook in a different format.
Here’s a great example from Visual.ly that shows how it converted a PDF into a more engaging experience.
Provide context and calls to actions
Needless to say, the content within your eBook has to be valuable enough to hook your audience. But, if you’re using your eBook to generate leads, it’s just as important to have contextual calls to action sprinkled throughout your eBook.
What do I mean by contextual? It has to make sense with respect to the topic on the page and the buyer stage. Whether your CTA is simply a link to more resources or a call to try your product or service, be sure that the language and placement are in line with the content and reader.
Here’s an example of how a HubSpot eBook dedicates a page to a call to action that makes sense in the context and is perfectly aligned with the topic, which happens to be (you guessed it) how to create a content machine.
Consider using this ad-style CTA page in your eBook as well as more subtle CTAs if they are more appropriate within the context of the page, such as this quick, less-intrusive call to action to “Start a Video Project” in Visual.ly’s The Ultimate Video Playbook.
Promote your eBook
You can leverage a ton of distribution channels to promote your eBook, but, without knowing your audience, I can’t tell you the best place to start.
What I can tell you is that at Uberflip we get a great deal of traction via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter for our eBooks. We continue to bet on these channels for distribution because our audience consists of marketers (more specifically, content marketers) who spend a lot of time in these channels.
In addition to regular distribution channels, strategically placing a call to action for your eBook alongside related content can be incredibly effective. In this case, it’s all about context – sound familiar? Your CTA must be aligned with what the content readers are seeing if you have any hope of converting that visitor.
For example, don’t do this:
Try this instead:
The next step in the funnel is getting your visitors to convert so they can access your eBook.
A few things to keep in mind:
- Test different ways of gating your content. You can use a traditional landing page, change your landing page layouts, or use other tools, but the bottom line is that you must experiment to see how your target audience is more likely to respond.
- Create short forms for readers to complete because they typically result in higher conversions. If you want to weed out lower-quality leads, use longer forms.
- Tell them what they’ll get. Copy matters. Communicate concisely what readers will receive when they opt in. Use powerful copy to persuade people that “buying” your eBook will make their life better.
Track and measure success
Be sure you have the tools to effectively track and measure people as they flow through your eBook funnel. How many people are getting to your eBook landing page? Where are they coming from? How many are converting, ultimately accessing your eBook? How many clicked through on your CTAs? And how many of those became qualified leads or customers?
If you’re using marketing automation in combination with robust content marketing software, you should have the tools to track these metrics. Work with your demand generation team to build a funnel for your eBook where you can track behavior and interaction from the first click to how many pages of your eBook are read. People who invest the time to access and read your eBook are likely more interested in your product or service, and potentially further along in the buyer process.
Caveat: The reader’s value or place in the funnel also hinges on the topic. The broader the topic, the less likely the individual is ready to buy.
In addition, depending on your eBook-publishing tool, you may even be able to track individual page views, links clicked, heat maps, and average time spent on each page to gain further insight into specific topics or elements that engaged your audience.
More bang for your buck
If you create an original eBook as opposed to repurposing content, you can slice and dice your eBook into smaller pieces of content to distribute across other mediums.
For example, excerpts from an eBook could easily be extracted for a couple blog posts. After we saw our email marketing eBook resonate well, we split up certain sections, elaborated, and refined the content to create an entire stream of blog posts. While we kept much of the in-depth content in the eBook, we were able to leverage it to create broader articles that appeal to our audience.
It doesn’t stop with blog posts. A successful eBook topic can be spun into a webinar, speaking topic, or even an article in your customer knowledge base.
As far as premium content goes, eBooks make a great pillar in your content marketing mix for exploring topics of interest to your ideal buyers and generating more qualified leads for your funnel.
But, you have to lay the foundation for the future eBooks by tracking the success of each iteration so you can determine whether the steeper investment of time and resources is worth it all in the end.
Want to learn more about how to create and “sell” premium content? Check out the CMWorld 2014 sessions available through our Video on Demand portal and make plans today to attend Content Marketing World 2015.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute