The Ebook: The White Paper's Stylish Younger Sister
By Collin and Christina Canright
Ebooks have gotten a lot of attention over last the month with the excitement of the Apple iPad. Yet marketing ebooks have proven themselves as business-to-business marketing tools with distinct advantages over the traditional white paper.
Now we are not discussing ebooks as the electronic books read using the Amazon Kindle or Apple iPad. Instead, we are referring to electronic books, generally published by individuals or companies in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, that are used to show thought leadership, explain a subject, or take a position, much like traditional white papers.
Like a white paper, a pertinent and relevant ebook is a powerful lead-generating tool. The marketing ebook is essentially a unique twist on the white paper format, but is different, especially from a design perspective. A white paper is like a journal article. An ebook is more like a magazine article.
The ebook format provides a more engaging experience for the reader, builds a case, and uses a more design-intensive format. It's fun, too. You can use the best of visuals developed online and in magazines to attract readers and compel them to read the concepts you are laying out for them. This is definitely not white-paper style.
But like a well-formed white paper, an ebook tells your prospects that you are a credible source of information, giving you that sought-after expert status. The best part about an ebook is that it is distributed widely for free and is intended to educate, generate interest, and inspire action. Ultimately, an ebook is a way you attract people in order to get a relationship.
In "The New Rules of Viral Marketing," David Meerman Scott goes so far to say, "ebooks have become the stylish younger sister to the nerdy white paper." He further stresses the importance the ebook serves by stating that, "ebooks have a great deal of importance to readers. People can instantly see the value of a product that looks like for-purchase content but can actually be downloaded for free. In my opinion, ebooks should be material people want to read...."
Although Scott dismisses white papers, we believe that white papers and ebooks each have a place—each are valid tools. White papers, for instance, are still the top source of information for technology buyers, according to the Eccolo Media 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey. It all depends upon the specific marketing message and the audience you are trying to reach.
The release of an ebook can also be a web and social media catalyst. People prefer to consume collateral from their computers: Only 1 in 4 surveyed even print out an online document, the Eccolo survey shows. And content is as much a source of social media outreach as conversation and customer service.
To learn more about ebooks and how to put one together, register for our webinar How to Publish an Ebook for Your Business, 11:00 am CDT, Tuesday, April 27, and presented with Forward Progress.
In the meantime, here are links to some ebooks to get you thinking:
16 Must-Read B2B Marketing Strategy Ebooks
A survey of ebooks from lead generation to case study writing.
10 Must-Read eBooks for Social Media Lovers
A great list of social media and marketing related ebooks.