What’s the Difference Between a B2B Blog Post Topic and an Ebook Topic?

b2b-blog-post-ebookB2B marketers are trying to produce and publish more content than ever before. More social media channels mean more content. More followers mean more content. More content from others means more content. And ever increasing goals mean more content.

In this ongoing battle between more content and better content, B2B marketers sometimes choose the volume side of the fence. When your boss is looking for more leads for the sales team, one way to get there is by producing more ebooks. Even though this can sometimes create an unsustainable model of content that can spiral out of control, I have seen the result of heading down this path.

Blog posts masquerading as ebooks.

Since ebooks are often gated content hiding behind lead forms, it is easy to think that you should turn some of your blog posts straight into ebooks. But that is not the way to build trust in your content or your company. Blog posts drive traffic to your site and the ebook offer converts the visitor. They are not likely to fill out a lead form for lightweight content. The ebook offer needs to provide more depth to the blog post topic, not just be a blog post prettied up by a designer and converted to a PDF.

Here are 10 characteristics of a good B2B blog post topic (Tweet This)

  1. It is about one simple idea.
  2. It can be based on another blog post.
  3. It can be based on one product update.
  4. It can solve one customer problem.
  5. It can easily be divided up into several small sections.
  6. It can easily be presented as a short list.
  7. It doesn’t need complex graphs or charts to explain it.
  8. It doesn’t require more than one author.
  9. It can easily be read on a mobile device…
  10. in a short amount of time.

Here are 10 characteristics of a good B2B ebook topic (Tweet This)

  1. It is about a big or complex idea.
  2. it can be based on several blog posts.
  3. It can be about something one level more general than your product category.
  4. It can solve several customer problems, or one big problem with multiple steps.
  5. It can be divided into multiple chapters.
  6. It can contain lists as examples within chapters.
  7. It can use charts, graphs or graphical elements to better explain or divide it up.
  8. It can have multiple authors to bring multiple perspectives to it.
  9. It is substantial enough that it needs to be downloaded…
  10. and maybe even printed out to read it.

Have you considered creating a PDF of a single blog post idea just to get leads? Did the short term result of leads pay off in the long run with sales?

Photo Credit: Flickr

6 Tips to Creating B2B Ebooks for Social Media Sharing

Anyone using content marketing as part of their social media for a B2B company knows that more content is better than less content. Not only does content help build your audience, but only part of that audience sees your content at any given time. This gives you license to put out more content than you might think any one customer or prospect could read, listen to or watch.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus on creating ebooks. When we say ebook in this context, we mean a shareable document than people can download and read or even print out and put in a notebook. I’ve been told people do this to share ebooks with their teams. And the discussion of whether you should ask for information in exchange for the ebook (a lead) or distribute it freely for wider distribution is one for another time.

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1. Create a Template

The first thing that makes creating ebooks easier is to create a design template that will work for all ebooks. This will also give a coherent look to a series of ebooks. Start by answering the portrait or landscape question. If your ebooks will have a more open layout featuring design elements, landscape may be the better choice. Portrait works if your ebooks are very text-heavy. This template should reflect your company brand, or even just your logo colors if you don’t have a strong brand identity. And if you use PowerPoint to create your ebooks, please don’t use any of the default templates. That’s just like using ClipArt from Word.

2. Collect Existing Blog Posts

If you are thinking about creating ebooks, you probably already have a blog with some posts. Those posts can be the basis for an ebook. Collect 5 posts on a similar topic. What about your five most popular posts? Connect them with a theme, rather than calling the ebook “My 5 Most Popular Blog Posts.” As you flow the blog posts into your template, think about how someone would read them. Use large headlines and subheads to break up the text. Pull out important quotes and put them in boxes. Add takeaways and actionable items so this ebook becomes more than just a collection of blog posts.

3. Incorporate into Editorial Calendar

As you create new blog posts think about how they will be converted into ebooks as you go. If you create a new blog series, or even just a new category, develop it so that the posts can be published as an ebook. By putting this on the editorial calendar, it also lets you schedule this into your workflow, rather than suddenly deciding today is the day to write an ebook.

4. Interview Product Teams

Other people in your B2B company are a great source for information. Create a common series of questions and ask several people in the organization. For example, what are common issues in the industry that everyone is trying to solve or what is their favorite part of their job. Depending on the size of your company or industry, this kind of ebook can be informative and helpful to customers, or it could just show the human side of your company.

5. Gather Industry Trends

You are probably following lots of industry sources and could pull together an analysis of industry trends. This is something that works once or twice a year. Also include thoughts from a senior executive on where things are going. It gives this one more weight.

6. Experiment with Other Topics

The best ebooks provide helpful information or make people think about things in a new way. In the marketing world there are a lot of how-to ebooks. If you market a complex, technical product, how-to doesn’t cut it. You call that documentation. But think broader than your company or even your industry. What can you gather and share in this format that would help people? It could be business advice or quotes from business leaders. And don’t be afraid to try humor.

Have you published any ebooks for your B2B company, and what have you learned?

3 B2B Content Marketing Techniques that Work

B2B content strategy is a part of our overall marketing strategy. Since our company is a marketplace, we rely on customers to make their own informed decisions. Our content provides compelling information to customers and prospects and drives them to our site to learn more about us.

Here are three content marketing techniques that have worked for us.

1. Informational eBooks
It seems that everyone and their mom is producing ebooks these days. However, not all ebooks are equal. Many of the ones I come across lack substance and personality. They are sales tools under a pseudo-informational guise. We strive to fill our credit card processing ebooks with loads of information and tons of personality. We have fun with our brand and our “ninja” personality comes out strongest on this platform. Users who have downloaded our ebooks convert at a higher rate than those who don’t. The ebooks are also very useful customer service tools.

Takeaway: Ebooks are for delivering meaningful, informative content while having fun with the brand.

2. Interactive tools
Credit card processing, our industry, is all about comparison. Business owners want to make sure they are making the right choice by comparing their options as closely as possible. Recognizing this, we’ve built interactive calculators that let business owners compare a variety of merchant accounts and processing services. The calculators let you select variables and easily play around with different scenarios. In essence, we are giving our users exactly the tools they are looking for. In addition to being a great customer service tool, our calculators have served us as a PR hook. When reporters write articles comparing different options, they’ve included links to our calculators so readers can make their own decisions.

Takeaway: Delivering interactive tools based on your customers’ questions can be a great way to show your potential customers value and bring them to your main site. They are also handy tools for reporters.

3. Investigative Blog Posts
Our industry is full of questionable practices. We like to make sure our users stay aware of the latest news and/or expert analysis on how to stay ahead of credit card processors. We not only focus on our industry, but also are dedicated to calling out any business practice we find questionable, like this exposé on the Better Business Bureau. By calling out these practices, we position ourselves as unbiased and on our customers’ side.

Takeaway: Be objective and call out questionable practices with proof and analysis. This will position you as unbiased and will also put the spotlight on your company for its sleuthing skills.

What are other content marketing techniques that have worked for your B2B company?