How B2B Companies Are Successfully Using eBooks

Jakub Rudnik
Jakub Rudnik  |  April 2, 2018

Although every eBook is unique, a host of best practices have developed for the B2B marketing context. Understanding these conventions will help you create a solid foundation from which to engage your audience.

First B2B marketers must learn how to make an eBook. Then, to get the most from every eBook, remember the following principles.

Visually Appealing

One of the biggest advantages eBooks have over white papers: They're much easier on the eyes. Instead of overwhelming readers with long, dense paragraphs, eBooks complement written content with plenty of visuals.

These visuals break up the monotony of page after page of text. But they do much more than that. They distill complex topics so they're easy to understand, giving readers another way to process information.

Remember the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?”

Visually appealing eBooks: 
  • Represent data with charts, tables, and infographics, instead of text alone
  • Don't limit themselves to photos alone (consider charts, graphs, screenshots, or even illustrations)
  • Use pull quotes to emphasize the most important passages of text

Valuable Content

Making your eBook visually beautiful is a great start, but it isn't enough. You also have to back up your presentation with valuable content.

It's tempting for B2B businesses to want to focus on themselves. After all, you've invested so much time, money, and effort developing expertise and the best products possible. Who wouldn't be proud of that?

The issue: readers are self-interested. They are approaching your eBooks from the context of what you can do for them. They have problems to solve, questions to answer, and solutions to explore. They won't spend much time reading if they can't immediately grasp how your eBook will help.

One of the best guidelines to make your content valuable is to always position your reader as the hero of the story. It isn't about you. Better to focus on the research, statistics, and information they need to solve challenging business problems. 

Valuable content:
  • Empowers the reader with checklists, tips, and other practical tools
  • Focuses on actionable insights (readers aren't reading your eBooks for fun)
  • Favors clarity above being witty, beautiful writing, and everything else

In-Depth Coverage

Unlike social media marketing or blog posts, eBooks give you the opportunity to cover a topic comprehensively. This is the perfect chance to demonstrate your expertise while giving readers the information they desperately need.

Remember, most eBooks require people to offer their contact info in exchange for access. Going in-depth about a topic – by providing not just longer but higher-quality content than your standard blog post – makes people feel like the trade was fair. The last thing you want is to have someone download your eBook, only to immediately regret giving you their email address because it's an inferior product. 

In-depth content: 
  • Avoids filler content like the plague (go on only as long as you need to to convey the information; your busy readers will thank you)
  • Doesn't skip around between multiple topics and covers one topic thoroughly (compiling research, interviewing experts, etc.)
  • Breaks down the material and presents it in a logical structure to avoid overwhelming readers

Easy-to-Read Format

The most compelling B2B eBooks embrace the reality of how we read content online. Readers are overwhelmed. They are multitasking. Attention spans are shortening. We don't have the time – or the inclination – to attack walls of text and hope we find a few gems. 

Easy-to-read eBooks:
  • Sticks to a simple font scheme (usually one font for headings and one for body text) and uses it consistently
  • Uses paragraph breaks, bullets, and subheadings to increase white space and give readers' eyes room to breathe (remember, most people will be scanning your eBook anyway)
  • Includes a linked table of contents to make it effortless for readers to find exactly what they're looking for

Targeted Content

It's highly unlikely that a single eBook will appeal to everyone in your target audience. B2B buying committees are a diverse bunch, with different professional skills and preferences.

Before you begin creating an eBook, think about exactly whom you're targeting. This will help inform not just the content you cover, but the tone you cover it in. You'd speak differently to an IT security specialist, for instance, than a safety supervisor at a factory. 

Make sure your content is targeted by:
  • Focusing on the biggest pain points for the buyers you are targeting (these are their true motivations for gathering more information)
  • Speaking their language, with lingo and terms that they use every day
  • Using examples of past customers/success stories who are as similar to the reader as possible

Irresistible Landing Pages

B2B marketers often promote eBooks on landing pages, standalone pages on their website dedicated for that very task – usually in exchange for the visitor's email address. 

Your landing page is basically your opportunity to pre-sell people on why they should download your eBook. Summarize the content they'll find inside, and most importantly, how it will help them with a specific problem.

The most effective landing pages:

  • Summarize all the valuable content found in your eBook, as well as give visitors a sneak peek inside with a few screenshots
  • Focus on one goal and one goal only: get people to download the eBook
  • Remove navigation menus, sidebars, flashy animations, and anything else that might distract from your single goal (getting them to download the eBook)

Tip: Those who are new to landing pages can utilize one of the many great landing page builders available.

Industry Examples

Now that we've touched on the best practices for creating eBooks, you might be wondering how to tie them all together. The easiest way: study other companies that are already doing this extremely well.

These real-world examples, representing a variety of industries, will serve as great models for the next eBook you create. Notice how both the content itself and its presentation adhere to eBook best practices, while still leaving enough room for creativity:

  • Chat/Customer Service. Intercom has an absolutely beautiful design for its eBook on driving customer engagement. The landing page does a nice job of summarizing what's inside, as well as including endorsements from influencers of why people should download the eBook. Check out their example here.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This eBook from Salesforce works well because it covers a single topic (figuring out the right time to invest in CRM software) in-depth. The content is educational without being pushy – perfect for B2B buyers weighing their options.
  • Marketing Automation. HubSpot is the gold standard of content marketing. This massive eBook library (187 pieces of content and counting) has everything businesses need to master inbound marketing.
  • A/B Testing. Like HubSpot, Optimizely uses the library approach for free resources. Its eBooks hone in on specific topics (email marketing, optimizing mobile apps, and so on) and cover them extremely thoroughly. 
  • Cybersecurity. Microsoft takes a data-driven approach for its cybersecurity eBook. By compiling a massive amount of statistics, it identified 10 trends that matter the most to security experts. Talk about valuable content.
  • Payroll and HR. ADP's partnership with Cornerstone has produced some incredible B2B content, including this eBook about the changing nature of learning and development within the workforce. The logical structure and ample white space create an enjoyable reading experience.

Giving B2B Buyers the In-Depth Content They Crave

eBooks are the perfect opportunity to cover a topic in-depth while demonstrating your expertise. It's this in-depth knowledge that is so attractive for sophisticated B2B buyers. 

Now you can incorporate these powerful pieces of content into your marketing strategy. Remember the best practices above, and if you ever get stuck, you can always turn to other great B2B eBooks for inspiration.

Jakub Rudnik
Author

Jakub Rudnik

Jakub Rudnik is an editor for G2 Crowd working in all areas of digital transformation. Away from G2 Crowd, he has written for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. He is interested in why content works and how people educate themselves.