4 Alternatives to eBooks Businesses Should Stop Neglecting

Alex Sobal
Posted by Alex Sobal on August 26, 2014
Back side of a person sitting at a conference table. In front of them is a large window with a lens flare effect.

After your latest set of blogs were a huge success with your audience, the content marketing director at your company has decided to create an advanced content piece that complements them all. She hasn't decided exactly which type of advanced content piece she wants, but she wants something that will really catch your prospects’ attention and convince them to convert.

Sound familiar? Instantly your mind starts racing trying to think of an idea, and before the marketing director has even left the room, you’re already thinking about writing an eBook. And while this certainly isn’t a bad idea for an advanced content piece, you have to ask yourself: Is it the best?

Before you get the impression that I’m about to lambast eBooks for being a terrible advanced content idea, let me say that eBooks can provide tremendous value for your business. They’re great for providing comprehensive solutions to your audience’s pain points that are too robust for a tip sheet or white paper, and their format makes the information easy for readers to digest. Because of this, they're a safe bet for content marketers looking to create an effective piece of advanced content. However, as content marketing becomes a more widely used strategy by businesses, many new content marketers are confusing these safe bets for content marketing best practices. In other words, eBooks are becoming the go-to piece of advanced content, regardless of the situation. In fact, when you search the term “downloadable eBook” in Google, looking at all results between January 1, 2013 and today, you'll find there's almost double the amount of results than any other related advanced content search terms (e.g. downloadable case study, downloadable tip sheet, downloadable whitepaper, etc.).

To help your company take a more thoughtful approach to creating advanced content your audience will love, we’ve highlighted the benefits of several non-eBook content pieces to illustrate where eBooks sometimes fall short. Rather than jumping the gun and instinctively making an eBook whenever you need some advanced content, make sure you take these 4 other advanced content types into consideration as well:

1. Tip Sheets/White Papers

Whenever you create a piece of advanced content – whether it’s an eBook, tip sheet, or webinar – you have to consider your target audience’s current stage along the buyer’s journey. If your target audience happens to be prospects at the top of funnel (ToFu), you’ll want to create simple content that answers a specific question, addresses a pain point, and doesn’t try too hard to sell your brand. At this stage, buyers are just gathering some general information and aren’t ready to make a final decision. That being said, it’s also likely that they aren’t ready to read a 50-page eBook yet, either. When it comes to attracting prospects at the top of the funnel, remember the KISS principle (“Keep it simple, stupid.”) and lean more towards content like tip sheets and white papers.

2. Case Studies

If you follow our blog closely, you might already know that I’m a big fan of developing case studies. There are several reasons why I think they’re ultra-effective for businesses, but the main two reasons are that they naturally incorporate brand storytelling and the stories they tell are based on cold, hard facts. And though both case studies and eBooks are typically considered middle-of-the-funnel (MoFu) resources, they’re both better suited towards two different types of people: learners and decision-makers. Whereas an eBook is commonly used to help teach something/answer a question, case studies tell a success story for your brand that would convince a prospect to use your services. If your target audience is full of results-driven professionals (e.g. CFOs, Production Managers, etc.), don’t try to sell them by teaching them more about it; prove to them that your business is capable of achieving results.

3. Webinars

Though case studies and tip sheets are typically set in their positions as ToFu and MoFu content offers, webinars are great because they can address buyers at every stage along the journey. Are your ToFu prospects struggling with a simple problem? Create a “________ 101: An Intro to ________” webinar. Want to push your MoFu prospects to the bottom of the funnel (BoFu)? Create a webinar that showcases how your product/services can specifically solve their problems. Want to improve customer retention? Offer webinars that focus on helping current customers understand your products and services better. There are many different targets a webinar can be promoted to, and there’s a wide variety of ways that you can use them. Most importantly, webinars allow you to visually explain something while personally interacting with your audience. An eBook might be able to describe how to do something, but a webinar can literally show them.

4. Product Demos/Free Trials

When addressing leads at the bottom of the funnel who are ready to make a purchase, it’s usually going to take more than a helpful resource guide to get them to commit to the sale. They have most of the answers they’re looking for, and now they just need an answer as to whom they’re going to choose for the sale. Though an eBook can certainly highlight “X” amount of reasons why they should choose your brand, how about you just let them choose your brand without fully committing to it? In other words, put your money where your mouth is and prove that you can do it for them. But not just with statistics or words; by actually letting them experience what you have to offer! An eBook can’t do that, but a free assessment, product demo, or free trial certainly can.

eBooks are one of the most popular pieces of advanced content for a reason. However, just because they’re great for many things, doesn’t mean they’re great for all of them. Carefully consider the audience you’re targeting and the type of content they’re looking for before you decide to crank out yet another eBook for your company. I’m sure your prospects will appreciate your change in pace as well.

Create compelling stories with our easy-to-use case study template

Topics: Content Marketing

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