By Joe Gillespie

E-books are some of the most effective tools in your inbound marketing content arsenal. Whether helping answer a prospect’s questions or moving leads along the sales funnel, these premium offers are valuable to any inbound strategy. However, e-books can also be the most intimidating content to produce. They are longer than blogs and require more planning. Moreover, you simply can’t write an e-book and post—it must be edited and designed, a landing page should be created, and the success of the offering must be tracked.

Yes, inbound marketing e-books require an extra effort, but it’s an effort that can produce long-lasting dividends. And it’s an effort shouldn’t be feared. Each e-book should contain some basic elements and goals. Plan those out, start writing, and discover how painless the process can be. Here are those elements that form the anatomy of an awareness stage inbound marketing e-book.

A Solid Introduction

A prospect downloads your inbound marketing e-book looking for answers, which the content will generously provide. However, “book” is still contained in “e-book”—it requires structure to captivate readers, leading them through the narrative and delivering the knowledge you are intending to share. That narrative should start with a compelling introduction. You don’t need to produce an epic; a few paragraphs should suffice. Tell an interesting story from your industry or relay a recent development that will appeal to the reader. This is a similar strategy that you might employ with blogs, but the stakes are a bit higher—a boring intro might not give the lead reason to read the next couple thousand words on an e-book. And if he stops reading, he may not read anything else you send him.

A Connection with the Reader

A prospect has downloaded your e-book because she has a problem and is looking for help. She might not be ready to take any sort of step to permanently solve that problem, but she wants to at least know you understand her dilemma. Therefore, establishing a connection with the reader is essential in not only presenting yourself as a thought leader in the industry, but also building trust in this burgeoning relationship. Talking about trends and challenges prospects may face and identifying leads’ pain points help create this affinity, thus setting you up as an ally and providing more reason for the reader to keep reading.

State the Solution

Once you have established a connection with readers, you can begin to detail a solution to their problems, which, conveniently, is the solution that your company provides. However, this is not the time to put on the hard sell. Remember, the inbound marketing e-book we are describing here is for the awareness stage—a part of the buyer’s journey in which the prospect is barely thinking about making a purchase. Instead, describe what the general solution is and how it can help. You have already established yourself as a thought leader, so this info will be well received by the reader—without any pressure to buy immediately.

Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

Informing the readers of the solution to their problem will pique their interest. Describing the benefits of the solution will further cement the advantages that can be gained down the road. Talk about essential features that should be included in the solution. Highlight the characteristics of the solution that will not only help prospects with their dilemma, but also help them realize benefits they might not have even considered. Use charts, graphics, bullet points, and other devices to further emphasize these advantages. Your inbound marketing e-book will turn readers into experts on your product and nurture them along the buyer’s journey.

Wrap It Up

Every book needs an introduction, and every one should have some sort of conclusion as well. Wrap up your inbound marketing e-book with a few summarizing sentences. This is also the part where you can specifically talk about your company and your solution. If a prospect was so impressed with your e-book that he or she is ready take a big jump into the decision stage, you want to provide that means with some more details, including contact information and a call to action. Remember, e-books are standalone content—you simply can’t click on a website’s navigation to learn more. So, don’t be afraid to tout yourself a little in the conclusion. Don’t go overboard, but don’t miss this opportunity either.

Dynamic Design

An e-book that is just a Word document isn’t an e-book—it’s more of a whitepaper. Whitepapers come with different expectations in terms of tone, depth, and advice; often, this content is more academic than awareness. After you complete the writing of your e-book, the next step is designing it so that it’s visually distinctive, projects the informative tone you want to project, and keeps readers clicking from page to page. Consider colors, fonts, and pictures, and think about generally matching the design style of your website. If you aren’t proficient in design, you may need to enlist some help outside your department. The extra effort to create a dynamic design for your e-book can produce better inbound results that ideally will lead to more sales down the funnel.

What struggles have you experienced in producing inbound marketing e-books?
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Joe Gillespie

About the author

Joe Gillespie is a Senior Brand Journalist for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and is a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. As a Senior Brand Journalist, Joe writes and edits inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.

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