E-books: Your Marketing Ally

Anyone can write an e-book, and using your e-book to build your business can be simple. (For the purposes of this post, an e-book is a digital “book” or chapter, whether it’s formatted as a PDF, EPUB, etc., which can be delivered as an email attachment or downloaded.)

Here are five primary ways my clients and colleagues put their e-books to work:

List-building.

Man_at_desk_with_keyboard_and_mouseAn e-book may entice someone into joining a mailing list or subscribing to a blog. Some of my colleagues say web visitors have become harder to bribe with “just” an e-book or a white paper; the only way to know how your audience will respond is to try it.

In a similar vein, you can offer your e-book as a reward to existing subscribers. Creative stock photo site Death to Stock has sent a variety of “Premium Perks” to my inbox, including an inspirational workbook. (DTS offers a free monthly photo pack for regular subscribers; a paid “premium” subscription offers access to the full collection and other special resources.)

Establishing/enhancing credibility.

If you’re already working to become a “thought leader” in the marketplace, consider folding an e-book into your educational strategy. Trust matters, and using your website and digital publications to teach – to anticipate and answer a visitor’s questions – can increase it. A longer-form document can satisfy visitors who want to “go deeper” with their research about your products or industry.

One caution: Be careful about how much information you “gate” behind a completed form or other customer-initiated action. Again, some potential customers may resist filling out forms. Consider your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) when writing an e-book as well, since search engines only care about what they can find. You can optimize a PDF for search, for example, if it can be indexed (reached by search engine “crawlers” inspecting your digital properties).

Assignment selling.

Imagine you’re a financial advisor writing an e-book. You could ask potential clients who contact you to read your first chapter before your initial call or conversation. (This can be a way to pre-qualify those leads with an unwritten compatibility test. By sending them your first chapter or a link to it, you’ve introduced them to the flavor of your philosophy, which allows them to “pre-select” your services. Those who read the chapter at your request are already demonstrating they are motivated and ready to work.)

Introduction or inspiration.

Even if your non-fiction book is more of a memoir than a business “how-to,” providing a short summary on your website (with an option for downloading or purchase) can help customers get to know you and the values that drive your business.

Revenue.

Offering the first chapter as a free preview can give people a taste before they purchase, but, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, e-book prices are generally low. In the world of non-fiction, unique expertise and/or a strong, enthusiastic following can allow you to charge higher prices for your white paper or other e-book, if your online distributor does not have a “maximum price limit.” Higher prices can imply greater value and authority; raising a price also raises reader expectations.

Ready to release your e-book?

After all the writing, editing and formatting, it’s time to “publish.” I do not recommend distributing your e-book, unrequested, by email to new connections on LinkedIn or a similar social platform announcing you have added them to your mailing list (another unrequested action). That’s a bit of “push marketing,” tossing something at a potentially interested person, and I suggest “pull marketing,” such as sharing a link on your website, social media profile or other digital property. Email marketing can be powerful, but a larger list of subscribers may not bring you higher open rates or better engagement.