By David Meerman Scott
Web content sells. An effective content strategy, artfully executed, drives action. Organizations that use online content have a clearly defined goal—to sell products, generate leads, secure contributions, or get people to join and deploy a content strategy that directly contributes to reaching that goal. Content takes many forms including an effective content-centric website, blogs, podcasts, and ebooks.
I’ve been fascinated recently by the power of ebooks. My own ebook The new rules of PR: How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly has been downloaded a remarkable 300,000 times since it was released in January 2007. Imagine how much you would have to pay to get an equal number of people to pay attention to an advertisement.
As a resource for buyers to learn about answers to a market problem, ebooks are a valuable resource. But for many people and organizations, an ebook also has a less-tangible effect. Ebooks do much more than just sell product. Ebooks directly contribute to an organization’s positive reputation by showing thought leadership in the marketplace of ideas. This form of content brands a company, a consultant, or a non-profit as an expert and as a trusted resource to turn to again and again.
So what is an ebook? For the purposes of marketing using web content, I define an ebook as a PDF-formatted document that identifies a market problem and supplies an answer to the problem. The best ebooks don’t sell a product, but rather brand an organization as thoughtful in a defined market space.
In the B2B world, ebooks are like the hip and stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper.
I recommend that ebooks be presented in a landscape format, rather than the white paper’s portrait format. The ebook has more white space, more graphics and images and is written in a lighter style than the typically dense white paper. Ebooks (as marketing tools) have no cost and I strongly suggest no registration requirement.
To develop an ebook, follow these steps:
1. Understand your audience. Consider what market problems your audience has and develop a topic that appeals to your readers.
2. Define your goals for the ebook. Do you want to drive leads? Get people to donate money to your organization? Buy something?
3. Write for your audience. Use examples and stories. Make it interesting.
4. Hire a professional editor to do a second draft and a proofreader to finalize the copy.
5. Have the ebook professionally designed.
6. Offer the ebook on your site. Have easy-to-find links. If you have a blog, write about it there. Add a link to employees’ email signatures.
7. Drive people into your company’s sales process. Have landing pages or calls to action (but do NOT sell anything in the copy of the ebook itself!).
8. To drive viral marketing, alert media and bloggers that the ebook is available and send them a download link (don’t send the PDF directly).
Done well, ebooks deliver authentic thought leadership, branding an organization as one to do business with.
About the Author: David Meerman Scott has written over 100 magazine articles and three books: The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, podcasts, viral marketing and online media to reach your buyers directly (2007); Cashing in with Content: How innovative marketers use digital information to turn browsers into buyers (2005); Eyeball Wars: A novel of dot-com intrigue (2001). He is a graduate of Kenyon College and has lived in New York, Tokyo, Boston, and Hong Kong. He has presented at hundreds of industry conferences and events in over 20 countries on 4 continents. Check out his blog Web Ink Now at www.webinknow.com.