For quite a while, e-books and whitepapers were some of the most common ways to enter the content marketing arena. This was especially the case in organizations that relied on business-to-business transactions for a large source of their revenue. But the truth is, most whitepapers and e-books aren’t done well. In fact, most of them are long and BORING….without super useful content. Although they have a bad wrap for being boring and monotonous, they can still be useful – especially if you include new or useful information. If you choose to go this route, here are some tips to help make your content more engaging to the user.
Give Good Data
If you’re doing true “content marketing” your e-book won’t be only about your product. Rather your content should talk about broad topics that impact the entire industry. Perhap you have a collection of data or access to research that is difficult for others to get their hands on. Some of this may be proprietary, but some of it may be useful for attracting new customers. Figure out what you are willing to share, and then share it.
People do not read your whitepaper because they expect to be entertained. The word “whitepaper” has boring written all over it. So be sure to include useful data. Potential customers are trusting that this data is going to be useful to them, so don’t let them down. Also, don’t be afraid to spice up the paper with some visuals…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Data is worthless without insights. It’s just a collection of numbers and figures. It’s nice of you to make the data available, and you will likely get some people willing to download it, but your customers want insights, not just data. If you can help break down that data and give useful insights, users will be much more likely to be able to use your content. Once they come to use and rely on your content, they are much more likely to come back again – and make a purchase.
One of the biggest problem with traditional whitepapers is that they are boring. They are pages and pages of data, but that much data is difficult to process. Think about it: most white papers are written by busy people for busy people. Why would you want to make it long and boring if you can make it short and informative? If I’m managing a company, I probably don’t want to take 3 hours to sort through your report on the state of our industry.
The best way to boil down information is to use visuals. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a designer to create an infographic, but it means at least take some time to pull the data into Excel or Google Drive and create some charts. These charts help make the data actionable and manageable.
If you’re creating a report that you think will get a lot of traffic (and if you have the budget), spend a little bit on graphic design. A little splash of color can go a long way in making your report look awesome. Since graphic design is so simple and easy today, your content needs to look great in order to help build trust in your organization. If a 15 year old can make a report look great, your company should be able to at least at your logo.
Give a Call to Action
This is technically a marketing piece after all, so be sure to give a clear call to action. Perhaps you offer something for free (like a free trial or free consultation) or maybe just give a clear description of what your company offers and the relevant contact information. At any rate, be sure you ask for something at the end. If you created a genuinely useful document, most people won’t mind. They understand that you’ve created this for marketing, and they are happy that you made it available for free. The people who are interested in your product or service will have a great way of getting ahold of you, and they will know exactly what you do.
Creating Your E-book or Whitepaper
Fortunately, e-books and whitepapers are some of the easiest documents to create. After all, you really just need a word processor for most documents. Yet I wanted to give you a couple other ways to create e-books that you may not have thought of yet.
Powerpoint or Keynote
Powerpoint and Keynote are both great software applications for creating e-books. You can use the custom templates for the slideshows as a starting point, and then customize them from there. Remember however that you are making an e-book and not a slide presentation. So you’ll likely use much smaller fonts and actual paragraphs instead of bullet points.
Using a presentation software also has another advantage. Usually you can easily export the files as a PDF, which is one of the most traditional e-book formats. PDFs generally display well on a variety of devices including tablets and phones – meaning your readers can save the file and read it on the go. PDFs (if exported properly) are also readable by the search engines, meaning these documents can drive additional traffic to your site for Google or Bing search results.
Finally, PowerPoint and Keynote export the documents in landscape format. Depending on whether you expect people to view the document on a mobile device or computer, this may be an advantage or disadvantage. However, on a computer, this allows you to use more of the screen real-estate and requires less scrolling. It also makes the document feel like it was actually designed for viewing online instead of a print document you just repackaged.
Microsoft Word/Other Word Processors
Of course the standard tool for creating e-books is some sort of wordprocessing software. These software packages work well, and almost everyone has access to one. Even if you don’t have Microsoft Office, there are several free packages including OpenOffice. As we mentioned earlier, try not to have endless pages of text, but use headings and subheadings to break up the text. Also include photos and other visuals as appropriate.
Although not as popular as some other forms of content marketing today, whitepapers and e-books can still be great ways to share insights, data, and information. As usual with content marketing, be sure to actually include things that are valuable to readers. Make the content interesting, visually appealing, and include a call to action at the end. If you follow these steps and keep creating regular content, you will begin to engage followers and develop valuable sales leads.
About the Author
Tyler Brooks is a SEO and video production specialist at Proof SEO.