The ongoing discussion about what topics to cover typically revolves around familiar categories like new product features, company news, current trends in your industry or maybe something of interest to the community around your product.
Then, of course, you have to think about SEO factors like using the right keywords, adding internal links to your existing content and other things that influence how well a piece of content performs. Remember, it’s all about connecting with an audience, creating traffic to your site and simply sparking the kind of interest and attention that leads towards conversions.
But there’s one consideration that’s frequently overlooked in the content creation process that can also have a strong influence on how it is received by your audience and well it helps to meet your marketing goals — what format the content will take.
Too often, marketing teams assume that the familiar blog post is the default choice for whatever content they want to share. This is perfectly understandable since blog posts really are the ideal format — they’re long enough to get your point across, not too long for short attention spans and perfect for sharing on social media.
Still, there is another format that is underused for a variety of reasons and that should be considered more often when creating content calendars — ebooks.
ebooks give you an opportunity to present a more comprehensive look at a given topic. They may require more time and effort on your end, but they can also deliver results far beyond the possibilities of even the best blog content.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of making ebooks a bigger part of your content strategy.
The upside of ebooks as a content format
ebooks aren’t some strange, exotic new entry in the field of content. No one’s going to say “A what-book?” when they see what you’re offering.
ebooks are a familiar, established format
It’s likely that most of your audience has already downloaded or accessed an ebook at some point and they have an awareness that ebooks are long-form and more detailed than a blog post.
ebooks are viewed as a better, more “premium” form of content
Customers perceive ebooks as being more valuable than “regular” types of content, like blog posts. ebooks take more time to prepare and everyone knows it. The upside of this is that customers are more likely to appreciate the time and effort put into it and have higher expectations as to what they can get out of an ebook since it's typically a much deeper dive into a given topic.
Since ebooks aren’t published so often, it’s easier to get attention with them when you do create one. The “special occasion” aspect of ebooks can be turned into greater engagement and allow you to connect with a larger audience than a blog post on the same subject would.
ebooks are much better for lead generation and data gathering purposes
Since ebooks are usually gated content, you can use the email address you get in exchange for sharing them in a number of ways. Everything depends on what the ebook is about and how it fits into your marketing goals, but they can help generate direct leads for your sales team, expand your contact database or provide additional information about existing customers. Try doing all of that with a regular blog post!
ebooks are the perfect format for showing what your marketing team can do
With all the extra room that an ebook provides, you can really unleash your creative abilities, both in terms of words on the page and their presentation. Not only can you get deep into details and examine everything more closely, but you can impress with nice graphics, charts and other visual elements to better illustrate your message. Dry facts and figures can supplement your topic when you add a touch of graphic creativity.
ebooks are great for branding
As we mentioned already, customers are impressed by ebooks in a way that blog posts can’t match. Publishing an ebook makes you look good even to customers who don’t read them because they show that you share content that educates and informs, not just tries to make a sale.
ebooks are a great way to show that you’re an expert in your field. Making them available helps to establish your brand as a thought leader. In some fields, publishing ebooks might even be an expected standard and failing to offer them can raise questions about your credibility.
The downside of ebooks as a content format
ebooks require a lot of time and resources
Somebody has to plan, organize and write the ebook. This means quite a bit of research, possibly including your own original work. Don’t forget that the writer of the ebook has to work hand-in-hand with a graphic designer to plan the look and feel of the finished product.
This can mean that you may or may not have the resources to write a great ebook and, even if you do, you may not be able to let a large part of your team work on one project for an extended period.
The quality bar is higher for ebooks
What we mean here is that expectations are higher for ebooks than they are for, say, blog posts. Readers have to invest more in an ebook — sharing their email address to get it, spending more time to read it – and so they rightly feel that they should benefit more from it. It’s better not to publish an ebook at all than to publish a weak, unimpressive ebook.
The first time a customer downloads an ebook from you and is disappointed will be the last time they download an ebook from you.
Not every topic is a good fit for ebooks
ebooks are a long-form format, so it’s obvious that you need a lot more information and overall substance than you need for a blog post or standard article. There’s not exactly a rule about how long they should be, but if your ebook is too short it just looks like a long blog post. When this happens, readers are confused and maybe angry that they traded their email address for something that doesn’t impress them at all.
If the topic you have in mind doesn’t provide the amount of content you need for an ebook, then it’s best to keep looking for something else that does.
Many customers don’t want to share their email address for gated material
Be clear about the fact that ebooks are part of a trade — your knowledge and expertise in exchange for someone’s contact details. That’s what they’re for and just about everyone understands this. That’s why ebooks have to meet the higher standards we’ve already described.
Still, many customers don’t like to share their email address for reasons that you surely already know — they don’t want to get salesy emails that will flood their inbox if they sign up for your ebook. This is simply part of the risk-reward scenario you have to consider, that there will be a substantial number of people who are interested in your content but don’t want to “pay” for it with their email address.
The quality of the leads you generate may not be what you expect
Here’s a scenario that you’ll recognize because you’ve almost certainly done it yourself. When you offer an ebook in exchange for an email address, many customers will share a secondary email address that they use for such situations. This will allow them to access your content without having to worry about the emails you plan to send. Clever, right?
Well, yes, but the result is that you have an email address that will never turn into a sales lead and cannot be used in any productive way. This is unavoidable and must be part of your calculations.
We hope these pros and cons of ebooks have both reminded you of their importance and made you aware that there are some guidelines to follow when you decide to create one.
Your content production should be a balance between different types of formats but where exactly that balance is can be hard to determine. Blog posts, articles and ebooks should all be in the mix but the exact proportions are something you need to work out for yourself.
When done right, ebooks can be an extremely effective way to communicate with current customers and attract potential customers. But the higher standards and expectations they bring with them mean that a bit of extra planning, time and attention are musts.