I was talking with a business writer friend about what's going on in content marketing. Both of us have seen some of the best and worst in this arena, but I have to say that I see some of the biggest mistakes in marketing with e-books.
Our conversation prompted me to do a Google search for "marketing with e-books" and "using e-books for marketing." I noticed that many of the top relevant search results were from 2012 to 2015, with very few results later than that. Why is there not a lot more recent chatter?
Usually when a marketing strategy or tactic is hot, there's a rush of blog posts, conversation and product offerings for it. If it continues to be relevant and useful, there will be consistent posting and discussion going forward. If not, it may be declining.
I think there are multiple reasons for this search result that should cause marketers to question whether marketing with e-books is a valid lead generation strategy to pursue.
That's an E-Book?
Have you ever subscribed to an email list just to get a free e-book? I have, lots of times. In some cases when I get the so-called "e-book," it looks like nothing more than a PDF file of someone's PowerPoint slide deck. What a letdown! And if I've seen this happen, it's certainly happening elsewhere in the marketing wild.
So, the e-book email incentive tactic may have gotten a bit tarnished by this content marketing blunder. As a result, prospects may be less likely to respond to e-book email incentives these days.
If you plan to offer an e-book as an email incentive, make sure it's something meaty that can actually be called an e-book.
The Amazon Kindle E-Book Sales Fantasy
In hopes of reaching an ever-wider audience, creating a new profit center and building credibility, some businesses decided to publish e-books on the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. These e-books need to be genuine content, although the inclusion of subtle and infrequent calls to action is usually permissible.
Then the reality set in that creating and selling books can be difficult, and can require a significant investment of time, money and energy. Publishing can also add media liability risk to a business (consult with your business attorney and commercial insurance provider). Also, random readers may not be ideal customer prospects, and response rates may be minimal.
While the e-book bait-and-switch tactic discussed earlier can impact prospects' willingness to join email lists, I think there is a much stronger disincentive: information overload. The stream of content from every possible online and mobile source continues to swell unabated, making the thought of signing up to get even more content in an e-book overwhelming.
All this being said, e-books can still be a valuable incentive and authority builder. However, the investment in this tactic needs to be weighed against the potential results that could be achieved with other methods such as SEO, highly targeted online and mobile advertising, and regular blogging.
About the Author
Heidi Thorne is a nonfiction book editor, and author of more than 20 print books and e-books on business topics. For more information on her books and services, visit HeidiThorne.com.