If you’re formulating an end-to-end content marketing strategy, eBooks are going to be part of the equation – there’s just no way around it. They’re the perfect vessels to showcase thought leadership, provide in-depth analysis and build up your brand’s authority – all while creating opportunities to identify verified sales prospects.

None of those rewards will come to fruition if you trot out a tired, uninteresting or irrelevant topic. Keeping a steady stream of eBook ideas flowing is where a lot of companies get tripped up, either settling for subpar products or perpetually delaying their projects until that mythical brilliant idea emerges.

You don’t need to be a creative marketing genius to generate compelling eBook ideas at a healthy clip. Want to know the secret to never running out of eBook ideas? Then you’ve come to the right place.

The value of eBooks in content marketing

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Well maybe I don’t actually need eBooks, if I’m going to have to go to all this trouble,” let me stop you right there. A content marketing strategy without an eBook is like a “Die Hard” movie without an English actor playing a German-speaking villain: It never lives up to your expectations. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you’ll fall ass backwards into a “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” but you’re more likely to have a “Live Free or Die Hard” situation on your hands.

And no one wants that.

Keep in mind that eBooks serve a very different function than top-of-funnel content like blogs and infographics. It’s about more than driving organic traffic and getting eyeballs on your site. The focus of eBooks should be to educate and inform, providing readers with unique, in-depth content they can’t find anywhere else.

It’s safe to assume that anyone downloading a branded eBook is pretty far along the buyer journey and is close to making a decision about what product or service they’re going to purchase. Ebooks are your chance – maybe even your last one – to demonstrate your brand’s authority on a specific topic and ability to address potential customers’ pain points.

Better yet, when positioned as free gated content, eBooks enable you to capture qualified leads through download forms. Want to know which prospects are ripe for conversion? Ebooks can give you that insight.

You can get the most out of your eBook content by promoting through your social media networks and including them in your drip email campaigns. With the latter, be discerning about who you send eBook links to and when they receive them. You don’t want to hit someone with a complex, in-depth piece of content too early in the sales funnel.

 

Ebooks also help you craft an email list filled with quality targets. If someone took the time to download and read that kind of bottom-of-the-funnel content, odds are good they’re interested in hearing what your brand has to say.

Where to start with eBook ideas

When brainstorming eBook topics, it’s important to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What do they care about? What problems do they cope with? You may think you have the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t resonate with your target audience, it’ll never gain traction with the right people.

Your customers’ pain points are arguably the most fertile ground for developing eBook ideas. Whatever issues they struggle with that you can help solve should serve as inspiration for your next eBook.

Even though eBooks have a long shelf life, make them timely enough to still be relevant to your audience. Let’s say your customers are worried about complying with the E.U.’s upcoming GDPR rules, why not create an eBook that acts as a primer for GDPR compliance and walks them through the process step by step?

Whatever problems your customers are dealing with, if you take the time to really consider their perspective, you’ll always be able to come up with compelling eBook ideas.

Lean on your internal teams

Even the best content marketers sometimes find themselves in situations where they’re not quite sure what specific topics would be most relevant to their target audiences. Just because eBook development falls under your purview as a marketer doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. Plenty of other people in your organization have incredible insight into your clientele and what matters to them. Take advantage of that knowledge!

Talk to your sales team, for instance, and ask them about the conversations they’re having with prospects and leads. What’s resonating with those individuals? What pain points keep coming up over and over again? They have a level of insight into the mind of your target audience that you may lack, so pick their brain every chance you get.

Use the cumulative knowledge of your marketing department to get the creative juices flowing. Here at Brafton, it’s not unusual for our design, graphics, video and account management teams to hold brainstorming sessions to bounce ideas off one another. That collaborative environment really supports the creative process, helping bring interesting ideas to the surface. It’s all about teamwork.

Tap into existing content ideas

If you’re really struggling to come up with solid eBook ideas, draw inspiration from other pieces of content your team has created. Have a blog that really resonated with site visitors? There could be a kernel of an idea there that could be spun into a full-fledged eBook.

Repurposing topics across different content types takes a deft touch. You don’t want to poach ideas from your other material wholesale. Ebooks should provide their own unique insights and perspective, not rehash well-worn topics.

Still, using successful content as inspiration is totally fair game, and it gives you a good starting point for brainstorming sessions.

You don’t have to confine yourself to your own content either. It may be tough to admit it, but your competitors have probably put out some great content themselves. Now, obviously you don’t want to go so far as to repackage the competition’s ideas, but their success can be your inspiration.

Tips for the writing process

Many promising eBooks have crashed and burned despite having solid concepts at their center. Why? Because somewhere between ideation and publication, that core idea got lost in translation.

It’s helpful to create an outline of your eBook before actually sitting down and working on the copy itself. Going page by page and breaking down exactly what will be covered helps writers conceptualize the eBook at both granular and macro levels. Pass it around to your team members and get their input. Maybe you overlooked a key topic to include or perhaps one section isn’t quite as relevant to the discussion at hand. Just don’t get bogged down in the approval-by-committee process. Too many cooks and all that.

When writing your eBook text, remember you’re not working on a white paper here. Ebooks are inherently more design-focused, meaning more graphics and less copy. A good rule of thumb is to keep your copy down to somewhere around 125 to 150 words per page. Any more than that and the final design will look cramped.

That same breezy approach should apply to the document’s overall length as well. Eight to 10 pages is a good baseline length for an eBook that’s informative without overwhelming the reader. You can certainly go longer than that if the topic requires more exploration, but you don’t want your audience to tune out the material or miss important details. The more you stretch out that document, the better chance your reader will only skim the content, rather than consume it.

Good eBooks also balance depth with readability. Again, this isn’t a white paper (although, you wouldn’t want a white paper to be a boring slog, either). What that means is while your eBook should be well-researched and feature a smattering of compelling statistics, it shouldn’t be overbearingly academic. Quality eBooks are informative but relatively quick reads. Readers can scan them and easily find relevant information.

Channel your inner Holly Gennaro and keep it punchy.

Since we’re talking about a graphics-heavy piece of content, it’s extremely important that your eBook has an eye-catching cover to grab people’s attention. You don’t want your carefully crafted document to disappear in the white noise of the internet.

Speaking of which …

Promote your eBook

Once you have a finished product in your hand, it’s time to get the word out about it. Easier said than done, I know.

First things first, gate that sucker so you can get the contact info of anyone who wants to read it. Your sales team will thank you for it.

Social media channels are obviously very valuable for promotional purposes, but it bears repeating: If you’re not sharing your content over Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms, you’re wasting a golden opportunity to get more eyeballs on your painstakingly created content.

As we discussed earlier, email newsletters are great delivery services too. Once your prospects find their way far enough down the sales funnel, that eBook can help guide them closer to making a purchase.

Creating eBooks may seem daunting at first, but once you get the recipe down, it’s a breeze. Soon, you’ll be cranking out quality content with the best of them.

Just remember: It all starts with a good idea.

Jeff Keleher is a writer and editor at Brafton. A man of simple tastes, he enjoys playing guitar, playing video games and playing with his dog - sometimes all at once. He still hasn't gotten over Illinois' loss in the 2005 NCAA National Championship game, and he probably never will.