Update October 24, 2007 - My ebook The New Rules of PR has now been downloaded 300,000 times.
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 Web site, blogs, podcasts, and e-books.
I've been fascinated recently by the power of e-books. My own e-book The new rules of PR: How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly has been downloaded a remarkable 75,000 times since it was released in January. Imagine how much you would have to pay to get an equivalent number of people to pay attention to an advertisement?
As a resource for buyers to learn about answers to a market problem, e-books are a valuable resource. But for many people and organizations, an e-book also has a less tangible effect. E-books do much more than just sell product. E-books 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 e-book? For the purposes of marketing using web content, I define an e-book as a PDF-formatted document that identifies a market problem and supplies an answer to the problem. The best e-books don't sell a product, but rather brand an organization as thoughtful in a defined market space.
In the B2B world, e-books are like the hip and stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper.
I recommend that e-books be presented in a landscape format, rather than the white paper's portrait format. The e-book has more white space, more graphics and images and is written in a lighter style than the typically dense white paper. E-books (as marketing tools) are free and I strongly suggest that there is no registration requirement.
Here are some examples of e-books:
The new rules of PR: How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly by David Meerman Scott
Tom Rants: Summer 04 by Tom Peters
Flipping the Funnel by Seth Godin
The Balanced Life by Clay Nelson
Search Engine Marketing for Publishers by Pam Springer, CEO, ECNext
To develop an e-book, 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 e-book. 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 e-book professionally designed.
6. Offer the e-book on your site. Have easy-to-find links. If you have a blog, write about it there. Add a link to employees e-mail 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 e-book itself!)
8. To drive viral marketing, alert media and bloggers that the e-book is available and send them a download link. (Don't send the PDF directly).
Done well, e-books deliver authentic thought leadership, branding an organization as one to do business with.
Oh, one more thing. If you create an ebook, please let me know so I can add it to my reading list!