What if I told you there is a tried and tested strategy that can work wonders for attracting potential customers and doesn’t involve dishonest tactics?
These days, most people hate to be sold to, which makes it tricky to have a conversation about how your product or service could benefit them. However, we also live in a time where people crave information and will spend their time reading, watching or listening to content to learn something or solve a problem.
Businesses are leveraging this inclination by creating content specially designed to appeal to their ideal customer, while at the same demonstrating their expertise, knowledge and credibility, with a tiny sprinkle of self-promotion.
This strategy of creating content for a specific target audience and promoting it to them is called Content Marketing, or more recently Lead Magnets.
The Content Marketing Institute definition “a lead magnet is a piece of content aimed at motivating customers to take action. Lead magnets spark interest and draw a visitor to your brand but don’t necessarily drive a direct sale (e.g. collect contact information, sign up for a newsletter or join a free trial.)”
- Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders
- Content produces brand recall, which increases engagement
- Generates more than 3 times as many leads vs. outbound marketing
- Content marketing drives higher conversion rates
There are many effective formats of content marketing, but today I want to focus on eBooks.
This article covers the what and why of eBooks, along with some critical success factors. Part 2, Step-By-Step Guide for Creating an eBook, details how to create an eBook. Ironically, the two put together is the length of an e-book 😉
What Is An eBook?
An eBook is a long-form piece of content that goes into detail about a specific topic. An eBook is for digital viewing, whether it’s on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, so the ideal format is PDF, slides or an app.
The structure is like a book. However, it’s much shorter and visually appealing with images, lists, graphs and diagrams, etc. As we have short attention spans, the design and layout are just as important as the actual content; it helps readers to absorb and remember the content.
Why Is an eBook Effective for Lead Generation?
eBooks provide a subtle marketing tactic that allows prospects to find you, rather than the other way around. If done correctly, eBooks are an effective strategy for generating relevant leads.
To create value for your reader and attract a warm lead, you need to create high-quality information, be specific and detailed with the solution or answer they are seeking.
eBooks take a considerable amount of time to create because they are educational and in-depth, thus increasing the amount of value delivered to the reader. In turn, this builds trust and eventual sales. eBooks can also be broken down into micro-content, providing longevity for promotion. More on this later.
The Golden Rule: Capture the Lead First
Since you’ve spent a great deal of time creating the eBook with high-quality content, it’s natural that you would like to know who’s reading it. It’s also necessary for the lead nurturing process, so we collect some basic contact information first. Like traditional sales, it will take more than one contact attempt to be noticed by a prospect. If you don’t know who has your eBook, no follow-up is possible.
The term for this is “gating content,” by putting your content behind a form. This is a good way to weed out time-wasters and to build a profile of your reader, which helps to convert leads faster. However, gated content only works if the content is worth handing over an email address in the first place.
You must respect that the reader provided you with their details and not spam, harass or force a hard-sell on them. The longer the form, the more people will drop out, so balance what you need with what you’d like to know.
Basic information to capture:
- Email address
Optional information to capture (but only ask for what you really need):
- Company name
- Phone number
- Number of employees
- Drop-down of questions, such as how much do you spend on X per year
How Can I “Gate” My Content?
Option 1: Yes, I have a website
There are many good options, but I highly recommend Unbounce because I’ve used it first-hand. It’s very easy to create branded landing pages with lead capture forms (drag and drop – no coding skills required).
It integrates well with WordPress, MailChimp, Salesforce and other providers too. You can do A/B testing, and all information is collected in the dashboard. However, Unbounce is subscription based, and plans begin at AUD$49 per month. If you’ll regularly create gated content, then this is definitely worth it.
Option 2: Yes, I have a website, but only a tiny budget
If your budget is small, I’d rather you spend the money on creating an attractive eBook (graphic design, nice images), so here are the alternative options:
- If you use WordPress, you can download a plugin called MailMunch.
The free version has a couple of different opt-in form options, including landing pages, otherwise the premium version starts at about AUD$10 per month. The set-up process is very easy because it has a built in guide that takes you step-by-step and takes less than 5 minutes.
- If you have MailChimp, then you can also use it as a lead capture mechanism.
a) On your website, create a landing page with a summary of your eBook and an image of the cover.
b) In MailChimp, create a new list and personalise the sign-up form with the fields you want to capture.
c) Integrate the sign-up form with the eBook summary landing page on your website.
d) In MailChimp, set-up an automated email that will reply to the person with a download to your eBook (not available with the free version, but you can purchase some credits to make this work).
- If you don’t have MailChimp, this is the bargain basement option.
a) Create a landing page on your website with a summary of your eBook, an image of the cover and specify an email address that the reader should email to receive the eBook. Then you can manually reply using your email address, with a copy of your eBook PDF. On a small scale this is perfectly acceptable, however, if you end up with hundreds of requests to fulfil, you may kick yourself.
Option 3: No, I don’t have a website
If you don’t have a website or you don’t know how to make the above modifications on your website, I came across a free landing page tool. It has limited features, but it can do what we need it to without having your own website.
The tool is Ontra Pages, and it lets you customise the landing page to reflect your brand, create a lead capture form and a thank you page for the link to download the eBook. Your leads will populate in the backend, and you can export them to excel.
Nurturing the Lead: The Follow-Up
Out of all marketing channels, email has the highest conversion rate for many businesses. Treat your email list like it’s gold. You can send a follow-up email to ask if they enjoyed the eBook, if they tried your suggestions or if you can assist them further.
If you have similar content such as articles you can send it to them as well. It reminds people to act, so you may pick up more prospects or gain feedback to make the eBook even better. Ask if they’d be happy to receive your newsletter or similar content in the future. You can also connect with them on social media. Remember, trust with prospects is built over time.
If you have the budget for it (and at least 100 active website visitors per month in Google Analytics), you can implement Google Display Remarketing. Remarketing campaigns are used to show ads to people who have visited your website, so you can remind readers about your business or show a special offer as they browse the internet.
Don’t Forget the ‘Marketing’ Part
Once you’ve finished your eBook, it’s then time to promote it! This is just as important as creating quality content. Please be realistic with your expectations; your eBook probably won’t skyrocket overnight. Your promotional effort will take perseverance and patience. This is often why good content fails to get noticed.
There is so much information out there, and unfortunately, a lot of it is bad, which makes people wary and sceptical. Have faith that you’re one of the good ones and keep chipping away, the warm leads will be worth it. Offering a 1-page preview could help bridge any hesitation.
Be sure to use multiple marketing channels to make the most of your hard work and reach as many of your intended readers as possible.
- Share the landing page link on your social media profiles, and if you have a budget, I highly recommend boosting it on Facebook or sponsoring it on LinkedIn to reach many more people with similar characteristics to your target audience.
- You can also share it to relevant social media groups on LinkedIn or Facebook; there are groups for nearly everything.
- Promote it on your website, whether it’s on your homepage as a banner, a pop-up or a promo bar running along the top.
- Email it to people you personally know that could benefit, such as colleagues or clients (current or past), but don’t make them go through the gated page (you already have their details!).
- If you have an email marketing list, promote it to them too (I wouldn’t use the gated page either, as you’ll know who clicked by looking at your email analytics).
- Ask other people if they would promote it on their website or social media (hint: you’ll have more luck if you offer something in return).
- Use it as a hook for LinkedIn prospecting, reach out to prospects using InMail, offering the eBook in exchange for their email address (soft-sell approach).
- You could also do Google AdWords Pay Per Click, but I wouldn’t recommend it because I’ve seen it fail for content marketing. You’ll get lots of clicks but not very many downloads, which is a waste of money. PPC is brilliant to promote a product or service, but social media has a much better success rate for content promotion.
- Depending on your topic, your eBook could potentially generate leads for years to come and if the advice has a timeframe or becomes outdated, continue to refresh the content and send the updated eBook to your email list.
- Create an in-depth, high-quality eBook written for a specific audience.
- Find and tell as many of these people about your eBook.
- Use a simple landing page and form to capture their name and email address in exchange for the eBook.
- You then start to receive a list of people that are interested in your topic and probably have a problem they are trying to solve; hence these are your warm leads to follow-up.
So, that completes part 1 of how eBooks can help to generate valuable leads. Part 2, Step-By-Step Guide for Creating an eBook, details how to create your eBook.