eBooks are all the rage in B2B marketing, which is why we are thriled to feature this guest post from our friend and fellow blogger, Jonathan Kranz, who just published an eBook on eBooks.
On the marketer's content menu, eBooks are the main dishes - the entrées that can give your company entrée onto the prospect's short list of worthy vendors. When executed correctly, eBooks establish a credibility that earns prospect trust and establishes your company's authority. Executed poorly, your eBook becomes a collapsed soufflé - a time-consuming source of frustration.
The right preparation makes all the difference. Before you commit a single word to paper, consider five issues you cannot afford to neglect:
1. Find the intersections
The best topics are NOT about your products or services (or about your company at all), but address the urgent needs of your customers. Look for the intersections, the topic areas where your expertise crosses the hopes, fears, desires and frustrations of your target audience.
In a recent conversation, John Fox of Venture Marketing added another important point: consider your prospect's buying process. Good eBook topics not only tackle customer-centric issues, but speak to relevant concerns at various points along the decision-making cycle, from initial research to closed contract.
2. Begin at the end
Don't publish for the sake of publishing. Define, precisely, the next step you would like readers to take as a consequence of reading your ebook. It can be as hard as a direct offer, as soft as an invitation to continue the conversation on a blog or via Twitter, or something in-between, such as an invitation to participate in a webinar or demo.
Whatever it is, be sure to articulate it clearly and give the reader precise instructions for taking action.
3. Exploit conflict
"Boy meets girl" is not a story. "Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy goes through hell and high water to get girl back" is a story. In order to sustain interest in your ebook, you need conflict. Problems. Trouble.
Certainly your eBook will be driven by a desire - to show readers how to achieve a certain objective or overcome a particular liability. But in order to create drama, you need to show your "but": the challenge that stands in the way of success. By articulating the problems (which you will ultimately resolve), you create the necessary tension that pulls readers through your story.
4. Make it digestible
That long, linear essay - so impressive, so respectable. So boring. And unlikely to be read.
Make your eBook modular. On a macro-level, organize your main theme into smaller units or chapters. Then on a micro, page-by-page level, add color to the dull sea of text by making liberal use of subheads (as in this post), bullets, callouts, sidebars, illustrations and more.
5. Be a good citizen
When your ebook is ready, you'll want to tell people all about it. And social media is a great way to get the word out. But you don't want to be the party crasher no one knows, hawking a message no one cares about. (Take a look at just about any LinkedIn group and you'll see exactly what I mean.)
Practice safe social media: find the places (blogs, groups, etc.) where people are talking about issues related to your eBook. Take time to READ, first. Then start leaving informed, relevant comments that genuinely add something meaningful to the conversation. Get to know the community and let the community know you BEFORE you hustle your eBook. Otherwise, you won't face applause - you'll get the door slammed in your face.
About the author: Jonathan Kranz once told ghost stories to visitors of Georges Island in Boston Harbor. Now he creates content for B2B, financial services, IT and other clients. You can read more about eBooks in his new, free eBook, The eBook eBook: How to Turn Your Expertise Into Magnetic Marketing Material.