Tag Archives: ebooks

Cloudy With a Chance of White Papers

30 Sep
cloud softwareI remember when Salesforce launched at the turn of the century. Okay, it was the early 2000s, but saying “turn of the century” makes it sound a lot cooler.
A publishing business I was working for at the time adopted Salesforce as its new CRM. We had a really young MBA for a CEO and he was always willing to try new things.
Salesforce was one of the earliest SaaS success stories. I recall that switching to Salesforce from our old, custom-built database required a steep learning curve for many of the sales personnel. This was back in the day before clean, user-friendly, WYSIWYG-packed applications were the norm. Workers were not yet hard-wired to navigate a cloud interface.
Switching to a new CRM also likely involved a lengthy contract obligation and manually migrating information from our outdated system. At the time, I’ll bet our CEO read quite a few Salesforce white papers and technical backgrounders to determine if the CRM would be a good fit.

Now My Head Is In the Clouds

Fast forward to 2013.  How many new cloud-based services do you sign up for each month? How many free SaaS demos do you try? As an online marketer involved in SEO, paid advertising, and social media, I’d estimate that I create about five new accounts monthly. Last week alone, I signed up for Trello, Triberr and a silly wedding planning app that shall remain nameless (I am getting hitched in a few months!)
The SaaS model is now ubiquitous. Anyone can demo a complex software solution in minutes for free or a low cost and with very little risk.  User-friendly dashboards and universal design best practices, make it quick and easy to learn how to use new software. In addition, many APIs play nicely with one another. This makes it easy for a Salesforce user to integrate other favorite tools like MailChimp or Google Apps.

So, let me get to the point and ask a few marketing questions:

Are traditional white papers still relevant marketing tools for selling SaaS products? Have free trials and monthly plans significantly lowered the risk of trying new cloud applications?  How have these changes impacted the B2B sales cycle?

White Papers vs. Ebooks and Numbered Lists

Gordon Graham, a.k.a. “That White Paper Guy,” recently authored “White Papers for Dummies,” a thorough guide to writing long form B2B content. In this book, Graham describes traditional white papers, such as technical backgrounders for CTOs or CIOs and Problem/Solution papers for executives. Along with those two styles of white papers, Graham also recommends an ebook, or numbered list paper. This is a more informal document that reads like a magazine article or an extended blog post.
There are still many B2B situations where a white paper makes sense. However, I think that many SaaS providers today, especially smaller startups, may benefit from a numbered list or ebook more than a more traditional white paper. 
Today you can demo a SaaS product, try it out for a month, and then cancel or sign up. In the digital marketing space, I see a ton of software startups with small teams and budgets selling services to other small and medium-sized organizations. In this space, the numbered list has several benefits:
1. Numbered lists are scannable and easy to read and contain actionable advice that will make the reader’s life easier. This will appeal to small business owners, who are pressed for time and always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations.
2.  The soft-sell approach of an ebook or numbered list advances the customers who are already in your sales pipeline. An ebook also works to attract new leads by addressing important industry questions or universal concerns. This is a big plus for startups who are trying to get their name out there and spread brand awareness.
3. Unlike a white paper, an ebook is not an obvious sales tool.  This makes ebooks and numbered lists more sharable and easier to promote on social media.  When you download a white paper, you know you’ll be getting a call from a sales person. A numbered list or ebook does not have the same “salesy” reputation (yet . . .).
What do you think about using ebooks and numbered list content in lieu of more formal white papers? Please share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below!
Photo credit: jojo nicdao

3 Content Marketing Tips to Engage More Readers

14 Feb
content marketing

Photo Credit Flickr user laurentzziu.

I have folder on my desktop packed with slideshares, ebooks and webinar recordings about marketing, social media, and copywriting. The folder keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I used to write “listen to webinar” or “review PDF report” on my to-do list, but I have been so busy, that I stopped scheduling time to sift through these materials.

This conundrum got me thinking about the value of free content. How does marketing with long form content like  an ebook, case study or webinar compare to marketing with blog content. How can businesses more effectively market with long form content? Here are three content marketing tips that will help to engage more readers.

Content Marketing Tip #1: Always capture data

Put free content behind a quick sign-up form to capture an e-mail address and a few data points about your reader. This allows you to re-market to them in the future. Maybe they’ll download your slideshare, save it in a folder and forget about it (like I did!). But if you e-mail them again in a few months with more compelling content, they might have the time or a greater interest in your offering and you’ll grab their attention the second time around.

Content Marketing Tip #2: Repurpose long form content in a blog post

If you’ve got a new case study, white paper, ebook or webinar available on your website, create a quick 700 word blog post around this content. A blog post is more attractive to readers because it is less time-consuming. By adding a blog post, you will reach more people than with a white paper or webinar alone. The blog post also acts as another SEO-friendly page (aside from the content landing page) driving traffic to your white paper or webinar. The blog post shouldn’t try to directly sell the long form content, instead it should encapsulate the main points or takeaways for the reader.  If  you are marketing with an ebook maybe summarize a few pivotal sections. For a case study, summarize the main challenges and results.

Content Marketing Tip #2: Create unique relevant and compelling headlines

Treat the headline for a special report or ebook like the subject line of an email. You have to grab the reader’s attention and say something that resonates with them or they’ll lose interest. Having a great headline also makes it easier to market your free content via social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Use unique, powerful words like “secrets to,” or “crash course,” instead of “guide.” Try to put the title or role of your target audience in the headline and let that person know how this content will make their life easier. If you can, include metrics or percentages in the headline.

Here are 15 examples of powerful case study headlines, many of which can work for ebooks, white paper, webinars and slideshares too!

1. IT Executive Shares Secrets to Mobile Application Development Success

2. How IT Managers Can Increase Conversions by 50 Percent with Personalized Landing Pages

3. The Secrets of A Successful Lead Nurturing Strategy for Sales Managers

4. Leveraging Educational Content: What Online Marketers Need to Know

5. E-Commerce Retailer Generates 500% ROI Using Facebook Targeted Ad Campaign

6. Fortune 500 Executive Uses Project Management Software to Increase Employee Productivity by 20%

7. How Small Companies Can Double Sales with E-mail Trigger Campaigns

8. Lessons from a Brand Manager: How to Build Loyalty using Twitter

9. How to Optimize Your Logistics Program without Breaking the Bank

10. Testing into Social Media Results In 1000% ROI for Chain Store

11. Publisher Generates New Revenue Stream With Webinar Hosting

12. 3 Steps for Marketers to Build Brand Loyalty through Social Media

13. Using Video to Create Traffic and Conversions: A  Crash Course for E-Marketers

14. 10 Recession-Proof Tips for Generating Online Holiday Sales

15. How Point-of-Sale Promotions Improved a Restaurateur’s Bottom Line

(These headlines are excerpted from a guest blog I wrote for SmartBug Media.)

Streamline Your Workflow—and Maximize Your Content—With XML

19 Mar

Originally Published in Book Business Magazine’s Extra E-Newsletter
March 19, 2009
By Britt Brouse

Beyond the printed book, many opportunities exist for publishers today to re-purpose content in various formats and to increase exposure via online search marketing. However, if it is impossible to tag a book for search engine optimization, or adapt a book from a print to an electronic version, without copying, pasting and reformatting 100,000 words, then publishers could waste a significant amount of time and money in pursuit of these opportunities.

Initially preparing a book in XML makes that book a universal piece of content, tagged with the data and information necessary to translate it into other formats and applications. Phil Madans, director of publishing standards and practices for Hachette Book Group, advises trade book publishers to use XML instead of the old, error-prone, costly and lengthy process of adapting a printed book, after-the-fact, into a digital format. In his upcoming session, “XML Workflow Demystified,” at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City, March 23-25, Madans will explain how using XML can help publishers reign in their content and seamlessly deliver it to consumers in any way, shape or form.

Here, Madans talks about the benefits of XML and how publishers can transition to a content-centric workflow.

Book Business Extra: Why should trade publishers move from a print-centric to a content-centric workflow?
Phil Madans: The major message is we should focus on the publishing and not the printing, because we are publishers and we publish content. Printing is [only] one form of publishing that content … . With what we see happening in the industry today, we have to start looking at these other formats. … We basically have a print-centric workflow in trade publishing where everything is geared toward printing that book, and we want move to a content-centric process where we’re really looking at the content and the best way that we can get that content to the most people possible.

Extra: What are some of the myths or misunderstandings that book publishers might have about XML?
Madans: People get hung up on XML because they think it’s hard to understand and it’s [technical]. … They think there’s a lot more complexity built into this than there actually is. They tend to look at the XML itself instead of looking at what the XML can do for [them] … . It sounds intimidating when people try to explain XML and go into the structure of XML itself. … I think what trade publishers want to know is: “Why should I use this?” “What is this going to give me?” and “Is this going to make me more successful?”

Extra: What are the benefits of XML to trade book publishers?
Madans: XML allows you to apply any kind of formatting or design you want to your content. Whether that’s streaming it into InDesign and creating a printed book or streaming it into .epub so [the content] can go onto an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader, or onto an iPhone, Web page or into a widget, or most importantly, so that you can tag up that XML in the beginning to make it easier for people to find your content online.

For most trade book publishers, the opportunity is really in the discovery online. … You can index your text and put it out there … but what’s the likelihood that [users are] going to find your book with all of those other books out there? But if you can enrich your content so you can have contextual tagging in there, then when your book is talking about a diamond, it’s clear whether it’s the Hope Diamond or Neil Diamond or a baseball diamond or whatever kind of diamond it is. … If you can put that information in there, when people are doing searches, you have a much better chance of them finding your content, and once they find your content, then they can buy your content.

Extra: What’s the best approach to converting to an XML workflow?
Madans: There’s different ways [of doing it] and it’s … hard to tell publishers what to do because it really depends on what [their] publishing program is. … I think the whole point of this is that you can go to an XML workflow today, without that much of a problem, if you have the right partners.

It also really depends on your content and how you want to deal with it. That’s another important lesson to take out of this: It really starts much earlier than in the production process. It starts in the whole editorial and creation process when you’re deciding what you’re going to do with this content. … When we’re deciding whether we’re going to buy the content or not we ask, “What is the market?” “How are we going to reach the market?” and “What else is out there?” But we’re looking at it in terms of the print, and if we start looking at it in terms of all the other opportunities that we have in the online world, for search and discovery … then the question becomes, “How am I going to take advantage of having a book in XML?”