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Hands On

Your E-Book May Be A Snore Fest

E-books are (still) a very effective marketing and retention tactic, but it takes talent to make them valuable to the client. Replace those Zzzs with oohs and aahs by following these simple techniques

Lauren Dowdle
February 12 2018

As someone who’s written more white papers and eBooks than there are cats in a hoarder’s house, I know how real the struggle can be to create engaging pieces that your audience will actually find valuable. Heck, sometimes it’s hard enough trying to put one together that doesn’t put you to sleep in the process. What’s the secret to creating engaging white papers and eBooks? Try incorporating these five tips the next time you put together a digital piece.

#1 Start with the Basics

Everyone has their own way of kicking off a writing project, whether it’s by making an outline or creating a page of notes and links. And before you get started on an eBook or white paper, you need to get some of the basics out of the way, as well. Here are some of the main questions you need to answer:

  • What’s the goal with this content piece?
  • What customer concern or question am I trying to answer with it?
  • Who am I trying to target (ex. new, existing or top customers)?
  • How many pages/words should it be?
  • Who or what will be my source of information (ex. industry influencer, survey data, etc.)?
  • How will I share it (ex. email or web download)?

You don’t want to go into any content piece blind, so the more you can sort out from the get-go, the better. That will also help you craft a targeted piece that’s sure to keep your audience’s attention.

#2 Prove Your Point

Once you know the who, what and why of your white paper or eBook, it’s time to get down to the business of actually writing it. No matter your topic or audience, your content piece needs to show your company knows its stuff. So, back up what you say with stats and data from other reliable sources. Here are some pointers for choosing sources for your piece:

  • Avoid competitor sites and data.
  • Only cite information from reputable organizations, such as major news outlets, .gov or scholarly databases.
  • Quote or interview industry influencers.

Anytime you can back up what you’re saying with reliable data. You’ll help build trust with your audience. Just be sure the data and information you pick are actually interesting, or your readers will feel like they’re stuck in a boring lecture hall. Find stats and information that will catch your audience’s attention and make them want to share it. As a rule of thumb when picking data, think what would be tweet-worthy.

#3 Break It Down

People like lists — especially ones with numbers. Think about this: Would you rather read an eBook titled “7 Ways to Grow Your Business” or “How to Grow Your Business”? I’ll bet you went with the first option. Breaking down your eBook or white paper into a manageable list helps people focus, instead of having large chunks of text that can make their eyes glaze over. When you add numbers to those sections, you also give them a better idea of how much more there is to read. Numbers also help them remember a certain spot they might want to return to for further reading. You can use bullet points or indented numbers within the main sections to break the sections down even more. Remember: You’re up against short reader attention spans, so anything you can do to help them scan the content for what they’re interested in will help. The goal should be for your audience to be able to skim, browse and read your piece.

#4 Don’t Cut Corners with the Design

You’re in a good place with the content — but that’s only half of the project. Now, it’s time to hand the digital baton over to your designer. Whether you have an in-house designer or work with a freelancer, the importance of having a clean, clear and seamless look for your white paper or eBook can’t be understated. It can be easy for marketers to fall into the trap of thinking they can design their own content piece. We all have access to free or maybe even paid-for design programs that have all of the tools needed to craft an eye-catching piece. But unless you have design experience, it’s best to leave the task up to someone who really knows what they’re doing — even if that means paying someone outside of your company. We all know budgets are tighter than jeans after the holidays, but you can’t afford not to spend the money on a good design. Because if you don’t, all of the amazing text you created for this piece is going to get lost and lose its impactfulness.

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.” – Ralf Speth, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover

Some engaging design elements you can include that will help break up all of the text include sidebars, pull-out quotes, infographics, large headlines and eye-catching images. You want the piece to have a cohesive look and feel, so be purposeful with the elements you choose.

#5 End with a Clear CTA

Remember when you set a goal for the white paper or eBook? Now’s the time to make that a reality. Every good content piece ends with a clear CTA — and it should relate to the piece. For example, if your company provides a solution to the topic covered, share what makes you a good option and contact information. Or, maybe you want to encourage them to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media or register for an event. You can use a clickable button or links to take them where they need to go. Make it as easy as possible for them. It creates a solid ending point for a piece of content that’s sure to leave your audience wide awake and wanting more.

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Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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