Anatomy Of An Irresistible EBook
Though relatively new on the marketing scene (so new my spellcheck doesn’t even recognize it as a word), the marketing ebook has quickly become a core element of many lead generation engines. If the blog is like saying hello to a prospect, an ebook is like asking them for their phone number so you can take them on a coffee date. In other words, it’s a critical step toward the ultimate goal of updating your status from “acquaintance” to “in a relationship with.”
Usually between 8 and 20 pages in length, an ebook is frequently offered as a form of “premium content” in exchange for the reader’s name and email address. Due to the explosion of email marketing, many readers regard attempts to get into their inbox with the same ferocious suspicion with which my dad once regarded a boy’s attempt to date my teenage self.
In other words, you’d better have an irresistible offer, or you’re going to be asked to dig fence holes for several hours on a hot Saturday, and then still be turned down flat.
(^^The metaphor may or may not have gotten away from me there.)
Crafting such an irresistible offer, however, is well worth the effort. Email marketing is one of the highest value marketing activities you can engage in, directly proportional to the size and quality of your email list. Not only is premium content a valuable way to develop that email list, the premium content provides significant additional value:
- It can be extracted and blogged about almost indefinitely, keeping your blog active and
- engaging with minimal effort.
- It may be printed and passed among buying decision makers.
- It’s highly sharable, multiplying your reach by the number of times others re-share on
- their social networks.
- Sales teams may use it to nurture existing relationships.
Choosing An Irresistible Topic
As with every form of content, the place to start in choosing a topic, is with the audience.
Take the time to understand whose email addresses you’re after. What are the audience’s biggest business problems? Do any of those problems relate to the solutions you provide? Find the problem that keeps your audience up at night, and that you can provide an authoritative solution for, and you’ve got an irresistible topic.
Crafting A Title
“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body.” ~David Ogilvy
In the case of an ebook, the title is the headline. Along with the landing page copy and/or call to action in a blog, it is the determining factor in whether the reader is willing to give up their email address.
Unlike some blog headlines, an ebook title will usually be direct and to the point. You may include the name of your audience (“Small Business Owner” or “Property Manager”), the words “Guide,” “Manual,” or “Handbook,” and information stating what it’s about. Examples include, “The Ebook Writer’s Handbook,” “The Property Manager’s Guide to Saving on Renovation Costs,” “The Small Business Owner’s Energy Efficiency Manual.”
Though the title will be straightforward, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s simple to write an irresistible one. Take the time to think through your options from the point of view of your audience, and come up with a title that will make them so eager to download it that they can’t wait to let their daughters get in the car with you. Or give you their email address. Either or.
Structuring The EBook
In general, ebooks are significantly longer than the average blog entry. In fact, along with white papers, they’re one of the longest forms of popular marketing content. As such, they can be a little intimidating to get started on. Add to that the fact that the reader’s relationship with your company hinges on whether they feel like they’ve gotten good value for their time, and it’s no wonder many marketing departments drag their feet about producing them.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be scary or hard. If you understand the fundamental elements of a high-value ebook, you can produce one in a few hours that will have readers begging you to take their daughter’s hand in marriage. [The metaphor’s reached its limit now. Or yesterday.]
Part One: Lay The Groundwork
Start by introducing the topic and its relevance to the pains, fears, and hopes of the target persona. Don’t be afraid to say things that you think may be “obvious.” Your goal is to establish a common basis from which to work, and your readers will appreciate a recap and a brief preview.
Part One Subsections
In addition to a foundational introduction, part one may include additional useful subsections to draw the reader in. For instance:
- Introduce a Case Study to Illustrate the Problem (Later, you can return to the case study to illustrate the solution and its results).
- Explore Common Mistakes Made in Reacting to the Problem.
- Present Fun/Surprising/Eye-Opening Statistics.
- Discuss the Biggest Hazards of Failing to Act.
Part Two: Review Possible Solutions
Unlike old-fashioned “marketing” copy, an irresistible ebook provides the reader with genuinely helpful information. It answers questions they have, and provides them with a guide they can use.
For this reason, it’s important to address not only the solution you are trying to sell, but also the other solutions they may be considering. This also gives you an opportunity to show how the other solutions compare to yours, and builds credibility for your ebook and your organization.
Possible solutions may include:
- Do nothing.
- Implement a solution using internal resources.
- Implement a competitor’s solution.
- Choose some other type of solution.
For each solution, provide both pros and cons, and be careful to sound unbiased—you don’t want to come off as defensive in regard to the other solutions. You can also use this section to qualify potential buyers. When you present options, suggest for whom each one is ideal. This powerfully establishes trust with your reader, while simultaneously weeding out unqualified candidates.
Part Three: Recommend A Solution
In this section, you’ll start to set reader preferences for a particular solution. Although you will of course be describing a solution that maps to your service or product, be careful to maintain an unbiased tone, so as to build on the trust you’ve established with the reader.
Points to cover:
- Who are the best candidates for this solution—and who is not a good candidate?
- What are the benefits of this solution?
- Consider what objections your personas may have to the solution, and address them.
- What are the common pitfalls the reader should avoid when implementing this solution?
- Why is this solution better than the alternatives?
Part Four: Demonstrate How To Implement The Solution
Now that you’ve introduced your readers to your solution, and shown them why it’s the best one for them, do them the favor of demonstrating how to implement it—or how it will be implemented if they hire a good provider.
While it can certainly vary, this section will often be written as a step-by-step guide, with subheadings of “Step One: [Do This]” and “Step Two: [Do This],” etc.
Part Five: Buyer’s Guide
The buyer’s guide section answers the question of “What should I look for in a provider of this solution?” This is your opportunity to march out your company’s unique value proposition in costume… masked as a “guide to best practices” or “what to look for in your product.”
This section will be based on between three and fifteen criteria that you identify as the defining characteristics that set your company apart from others. It’s important to include the basic qualities that represent a quality organization, in addition to those that set your company apart.
Remember, you want this information to be genuinely useful to your buyer persona, and not just an opportunity to toot your own horn.
This section often masquerades under a variety of subheadings. Some options to get your juices going:
- Buyer’s Guide to [Type of Solution]
- How to Choose a Provider That Will [Provide Specific Benefit]
- Best Practices for Selecting a Solution Provider
- What to Look for In a [Solution]
- [Audience Title]’s Vendor Selection Checklist
Part Six: Introduce The Next Step
This is the first section where you have my permission to begin selling just a little bit. You’ve guided your reader to the point of thinking about selecting a specific solution provider. Now you want them to think about selecting your company as that solution provider.
Even so, be soft. They are probably not ready to click a “buy now” button. As always, think about what step your reader wants to take next. Logical next steps may include a free assessment, another piece of content, access to an online library of resources, or an opportunity for a no-obligation consultation.
Whatever the next step is, no matter how soft it is, you want them to take it. A powerful call to action contains three key elements: Directness, urgency, and a low threshold.
- Directness: Tell them specifically what to do (click here, take this assessment, download this case study, etc.).
- Urgency: The simple addition of the word “now” to the CTA has been proven to increase click through rates. “Today” “Right away” and “Don’t wait” are valid substitutes.
- Low Threshold: You wouldn’t ask a first date to marry you, so don’t ask a reader to immediately commit to a relationship. Point out that their next step is “free” and/or “no obligation,” and make sure it’s something that leads naturally from the action they’ve already taken. In other words, invite them on a second date, and take them somewhere they really want to go.
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Fen Druadìn Head (formerly Heather Head) is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.