I recently connected with Cindy Kim, Director of Corporate Communications and Social Media for Lumension (@CindyKimPR on Twitter). After telling me about her company's experience with its first eBook, she agreed to share her insights here into how and why B2B marketers should produce and promote their own eBooks.
Q. What prompted Lumension to produce an eBook in addition to white papers?
A. B2B marketers have traditionally used white papers to share content. While they've been effective for lead-generation purposes, white papers tend to be heavy on content, many times replete with marketing jargon and industry terms.
Web 2.0 prompts us to "open up our kimonos" in terms of how we produce, publish, and syndicate content. Given that content is king, today's marketers must think like publishers and produce compelling, thought-provoking content. Then they need to leverage tools such as eBooks to generate interest and make the ideas go viral and easy to syndicate.
At Lumension, we wanted to focus on thought leadership as a way to elevate our brand. But we didn't want to just produce and sit on that content. We wanted to syndicate it to influential bloggers and journalists, as well as to prospects, with the hope that it would go viral.
White papers don't typically go viral because they sit behind a registration page. My boss, C. Edward Brice, recommended the eBook concept as a way to make it more interactive, content-rich, and viral. Before getting started, we turned to David Meerman Scott, one of the best thought leaders in this space in terms of how to create content and make it go viral. David boiled eBook best practices down to three things: make it easy to read, make it informative, and make it educational.
Lumension is always trying to be on the cutting edge in terms of how we market our content. We decided to publish an eBook since no one in the industry is doing it. The result was 7 Things Every CEO Should Know about Information Security.
Q. What do you think of David Meerman Scott's statement in The New Rules of Viral Marketing that the eBook is the "stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper"?
A. In my opinion, the eBook is the new white paper – it lends a hip air to content. If you properly adopt the guidelines for eBooks, you'll end up with a stylish piece that's easy to read and navigate. An eBook should include sophisticated graphics and multimedia links, and be structured for easy digestion, such as by liberally using bullets, callouts, and share buttons. The structure of an eBook makes it much easier to share. These days, everyone is on the Web, sharing information via various tools and communities. You're much more likely to see an eBook passed around than a white paper. That’s largely because people can access it freely, without providing any information in exchange.
Q. How did the process for developing and promoting your eBook differ from promoting and producing a white paper?
A. First of all, the writing style is completely different. It has nothing to do with marketing or industry jargon. Again, you want to make it simple to read and understand. As far as production, you want to make it a one-stop shop for all related resources.
A writer interviewed our Chairman and CEO Pat Clawson to gather the key points. We also interviewed influential analysts such as John Pescatore of Gartner, Inc. as well as C-level customers to get their perspective on gaps that exist today when it comes to information security. Then we worked with our creative director and a marketing agency – Spark Design – to produce the eBook itself. The agency helped us structure the eBook and embed rich multimedia, with links to video interviews. Within each chapter, you can click on various links that take you to interactive features that give you a better sense of our CEO. We worked with a local videographer to shoot the video of our CEO, and then we uploaded it to YouTube in time for our eBook launch.
Having said that, it's not necessary to go through an agency. There are plenty of online tools that enable you to format an eBook. If you’re on a budget, you can get it formatted for free at ChangeThis.
As far as promotion goes – you can't think about it as a one-time hit. eBook content can live and get shared for a long time. When you're pushing out an eBook, you need to be committed to making others aware of it. That means you need to support a variety of activities on the outreach side.
We took a three-pronged approach to promotion. First, we gathered key stakeholders to come to a consensus on the marketing plan and how we'd measure success. Because we wouldn't require registration, we decided to measure success based on the number of downloads from the microsite as well as the number of video views on YouTube.
Next, our corporate communications group sent out advance copies of the eBook to key analysts and media contacts so they could preview and write about it, and provide feedback. We also reached out to industry bloggers and social media leaders like David Meerman Scott and asked for their feedback.
We had our CEO talk to a local CEO/CFO group as well as TechConnect on why CEOs needed to get on the ball and get involved in Information Security. We also gave out USB sticks with the eBook on them at all major security and CEO events. Plus, we had our creative director design a button for easy, on-demand download, which we added to our homepage and email signatures. We also added the button to Ed Brice's blog and most Lumension employees with LinkedIn accounts added it to their profiles.
Finally, we created a dedicated landing page/microsite that made it possible to track the viral component. We shared the link with analysts, our channel partners, prospects, and customers – essentially every touch point. All our employees included the link in their email signatures. We also included the link in Cindy Kim's blog. We also sent out dedicated emails from the corporate marketing side promoting the eBook and included a link to it in our monthly nurturing newsletter. Plus, we distributed a social media press release that talked about the challenges CEOs face amid the security threat landscape and introduced the eBook. We even included the video of our CEO at the end of the press release.
Q. Has the response been different than what you’ve experienced with your white papers?
A. Since launching the eBook, it's been downloaded over 7,000 times, and the CEO video on YouTube has been viewed more than 5,000 times. We've heard positive responses across the board, from the media, analysts, prospects and customers. It's important to remember that our goal was not lead generation. It was not about selling our products or pushing marketing messages. We are using this platform to elevate and build brand awareness by educating. Having said that, we can figure out the source of downloads through the links in the eBook. By providing a dedicated link on our landing page, we can pull the analytics from our Omniture analytics tool to see how many times the eBook was viewed and downloaded.
One thing to note – eBook content should not include marketing promotions or sell the company or its products. The eBook is really about delivering premium content to educate around a key issue. This helps to validate your company's expertise and thought leadership.
Q. How has the response impacted your future marketing plans?
A. To date, we've published only white papers. But going forward, we'll publish a balance of white papers and eBooks. For lead generation, we will continue producing white papers. These will likely be for technical topics and to drive the nurturing process. Having said that, eBooks don't have to be limited to thought leadership topics. Even if the topic is technical, an eBook makes it easier to digest. Plus you can embed links to so much other valuable content. I recommend all B2B marketers migrate to eBooks.
Q. What can other B2B marketers learn from your experience producing and promoting your eBook?
A. When putting a process in place, think beyond the eBook. You can share your content across multiple channels, such as byline articles, blog posts, videos repurposed on YouTube, etc. Whether you produce a white paper or an eBook, think about how you can syndicate it, share it across communities, and encourage peer-to-peer sharing.
Today's marketers need to collaborate with thought leaders to create and promote great content. By teaming with leaders, you can take advantage of the power of two – those folks will tweet and blog about your content.
Q. Can you give us a sneak peek of your next eBook?
A. We're working on another thought leadership piece about the evolving security landscape. Specifically, we will be getting large enterprises as well as small and medium businesses to consider how their security blueprint needs to change to deal with cybercriminals. It will be 10-15 pages long, and include links to video and a cartoon "skit", which is like storytelling via a cartoon instead of a live person. To get an idea of what that's like, check out Powerhouse PR. I'll be tweeting about the new eBook as soon as it's out the door, so be sure to watch for it!
Read more Savvy B2B posts from Stephanie.