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Content Marketing Tactics That Work: eBooks

Posted on Oct 16th, 2013
Written by TopRank Marketing
In this article

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    TopRank Marketing drives results with content, influencer, SEO & social media marketing.

    eBook Content MarketingAs a content marketing tactic, eBooks fit the bill for those businesses that need to communicate complex information but in a striking, easily digestible way. Infotaining eBooks raise the bar on “interesting” combined with practical, useful and even inspiring messages that align with the brand.

    Compared to many other content marketing tactics, eBooks represent a longer form of content that can educate prospective buyers about topics important to buyers and the brand. It’s a great way to demonstrate expertise in a creative way and is much more visually appealing than a white paper, yet more serious than an infographic.

    This longer form content marketing tactic is inching its way into popularity, especially among B2B marketers. According to the 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks Report, 34% are using eBooks as a content marketing tactic while 57% of B2B users consider eBooks to be an effective tactic.


    • Establishes your company as a thought leader
    • Offers a comprehensive way to make a business case
    • Creates launching pad for a host of marketing content
    • Delivers dynamic and engaging branded information to target audience
    • Helps with search engine optimization (SEO) because content is searchable
    • Increases potential for increased visibility and engagement because it’s embeddable
    • Provides user friendly content to a searcher on his own terms and in his own time frame
    • Captures target prospect when they are most primed to buy when registering for the download


    • Poor distribution plan may make for lackluster results
    • Lack of clearly defined customer personas can create a fuzzy execution
    • Poor collaboration between editorial and design can produce an incoherent end product

    What the Experts Are Saying

    “The ebook has become the current standard for the long-form content package. A lot of companies are moving away from the verbose white paper to the sleeker, more appealing ebook.” Joe Pulizzi, founder Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

    “E-books are the hip sibling of the white paper.” HubSpot

    “Instead of one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content just at the precise moment that a buyer needs it.” David Meerman Scott, best-selling author

    eBook Marketing Examples: Who’s Doing it Right

    Some examples of eBook successes from TopRank Online Marketing and other content marketing leaders include:

    Content Marketing Institute

    TopRank worked with CMI’s event, Content Marketing World to create a clever, eye-catching eBook to help promote the largest content marketing conference in the world. The eBook included tips and tactics from speakers at the event, many of which represent the top content marketing experts and companies (aka Content Marketing Secret Agents) on the web.   With 85,000 views, it’s clear to me that TopRank knocked this one out of the park.

    Getting it Right

    1. Marketing content to industry peers is no small feat. TopRank crafted compelling content by leveraging a well-loved “Mission Impossible” theme. Who wouldn’t want to identify with Secret Agents?
    2. The content was clever without sacrificing its overall message: gain a competitive advantage when you read these tips.
    3. Displaying a clear call to action in both the opening and the closing slides worked beautifully with nearly 35,000 marketers viewing the eBook from an embedded link.


    One of the world’s most respected and proven marketers share what changes they believe are in store for social media in 2013. For Dell, social media is more than a tool — it’s an extension of their brand, which is all about enabling people everywhere to use technology to grow and thrive. Dell engaged TopRank Online Marketing to create this eBook to communicate to both Dell customers and the community-at-large about future social media trends and aligning social media expertise with Dell’s own social media thought leadership.

    The eBook gathered insights from some of social media’s heavyweights, adding credibility and authenticity and seizing the opportunity to be a social business rather than just a business using social (which was also one of their featured predictions.)

    Getting it Right

    1. Choosing industry experts to provide predictions earned Dell fantastic visibility with 146,000+ total views. It also demonstrated their commitment to the community and strengthened their brand as a global technology and social media innovator.
    2. The content was concise but packed a wallop with commentary from such marketing notables as Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAgent),  Michale Brito (@Britopian), @RohitBhargava and our own @LeeOdden.
    3. Including their unique selling proposition along with a clear call to action on the end slide provided a perfect example of how to conduct social business.


    As with any successful eBook, your business wants to solve a problem through educating your target audience. In their case, Lumension’s research revealed a potential roadblock to sales. While their target audience was technology decision makers, they could not get buy-in from their CEO. Security concerns were a real threat to IT infrastructure but a low priority for many CEOs juggling numerous responsibilities. They created an eBook to demonstrate that security issues are relevant to both industry reputation and lost revenue and backed it up with proof. The eBook was downloaded more than 7,000 times.

    eBook Content Marketing

    Getting it Right

    1. Writing a title that captured security-minded decision makers with information they could bring to their CEO who has ultimate sign-off on approving security expenditures was a smart way to attract and engage both audiences.
    2. Providing interactive content, such as embedded videos and a hyperlinked table of contents, allowed the reader to easily navigate to any section of particular interest.
    3. Updating the first version of an earlier eBook demonstrated a commitment to helping its primary audience (IT professionals) by educating its secondary target audience (CEOs).


    With 85 e-books in circulation and many more waiting in the wings, no doubt, HubSpot could be called the “granddaddy” of eBook marketing. From the beginning, eBooks have been one of HubSpot’s primary lead generation tactics for this inbound marketing automation software company.  A great eBook can garner industry and press attention (Deloitte and Forbes), as well as confer expert status.

    Getting it Right

    1. Simple yet compelling and visually appealing layout makes it easy to understand and inspiring to share (358,000+ views)
    2. Incorporating quotes from HubSpot executives builds brandividual and brand thought leadership
    3. By optimizing its landing pages they can further promote their e-books via social media, paid advertising and drip marketing.

    10 Best Practices for Creating eBooks that Convert

    1. Covers need to be compelling with short, provacative titles that can get people’s attention, even if all they can see is a thumbnail
    2. Make eBooks easy to find, share and act on with invitations to get more information, or participate in an event with deeper content
    3. KISS – keep it simple silly. Anticipate varying screen sizes for eBook consumption and make graphics and text readable for the most common sizes
    4. Lists, tips, and best practices with examples tend to be the most compelling eBook content formats
    5. Include links within the eBook to complementary resources: blog posts, videos, articles and others both from your brand and 3rd party resources
    6. Include tweetable quotes and embed social media friendly links to make it easy for social sharing
    7. Deconstruct your eBook and promote portions in advance through blog posts and social networks
    8. Co-create eBooks with industry thought leaders so there is a built in incentive for them to help promote
    9. Use a clear and relevant call to action according to the eBook purpose. Thought leadership eBooks might only ask for a share. Case studies and best practices eBooks might ask for a consultation.
    10. Provide PDF and embeddable versions of the eBook – Slideshare is an excellent resource

    As more brands mature their ability to publish robust content, eBooks will grow as a powerful asset in the content marketing mix to attract, engage and convert more business – especially in the B2B marketing space.

    Is there an eBook in your organization’s future? If you don’t have the internal writing and design resources to create a winning eBook, TopRank has demonstrated expertise in this area as the examples above show.

    For more best practices content marketing tips, see our list.