How to Write a Lead-Generating E-Book

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I was speaking to a client the other day who joked, “E-books are the new white papers.” He was kidding, of course. He knows all too well there are significant differences between e-books and white papers, and even e-books and free reports.

That being said, there’s no ignoring e-books. They are all the rage these days, especially in lead-generation where they are working particularly well.

So how do you write one of these things?

The first step is to come up with a topic. People read e-books offered by companies because they want a quick education on something specific. They want to learn how to solve a problem, complete a task, make the right decision, deal with a difficult situation, improve sales performance, reduce costs, and so forth.

And your topic needs to reflect that expectation.

When I’m working with a client on an e-book, the first question I ask is, “What’s the most pressing problem your prospects have that your product or service can solve – or at least make better?” That typically leads to some focused brainstorming and then, finally, a topic.

Your best topic – if you’re fortunate enough to come up with several – is one that involves a problem, need, goal or want that is a high priority for your prospects. You want the e-book to be content a prospect will eagerly fill out a landing page form to get his hands on.

For example, a complaint I hear from clients who write their own marketing copy is that the process is slow and painful. As one client put it, “It’s like a visit to the dentist. It’s agony and it seems to take forever.” So I’m planning an e-book on how to write copy super fast and actually enjoy the process.

Once you’ve chosen a topic the next step, of course, is writing the e-book. If you’re accustomed to crafting white papers and special reports, here are some differences you need to know.

  • Get to the point quickly. You don’t need an executive summary as you would in a white paper. Simply state the problem or goal and then jump right into explaining “How to.”
  • Add visuals. Charts, pictures, illustrations, and infographics help readers – especially today’s busy business reader (and I’m one of them) — absorb information more quickly.
  • Use examples, scenario and stories. They bring the facts to life, and make the information – and your company – linger longer in the prospect’s mind.
  • Break it down. Create tips, step-by-steps, formulas, instructions, and takeaways that make it easier for the reader to implement the information.
  • Focus on how-to, not why-to. You might need to explain “why” in a white paper to build your case for a particular technology or methodology, but in an e-book, the reader just wants to know “how”. Another way to look at it: white papers are about strategy; e-books are concerned with implementation.

To enhance conversion rates – in other words, to get prospects to call or email with an interest in your product or service – I recommend adding a “pitch page”. This is a separate page, usually the last in the e-book, that describes your company.

Now a lot of companies get lazy here and simply insert a boilerplate blurb – similar to what you’d see at the end of a press release. What a waste! You can do so much more with this page. I suggest creating a special offer and including that as part of an inviting call-to-action. Also, include a client testimonial or two. The idea, of course, is to get the prospect motivated to take a clear next step.

For a client recently, I beefed up the pitch page on two e-books they were using for lead-generation, and increased their conversions by 62%. Clearly, this page is important!

So those are some basics on writing a lead-gen e-book for your company or client. If you have tips to share, please let me know. (I may be writing an e-book on the subject!)

© 2013 by Steve Slaunwhite. All rights reserved. Steve Slaunwhite came to appreciate the value of great marketing when, at age 16, he wrote a sales letter for his dad’s business that doubled sales. These days, as a marketing strategist, he helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses via his consulting and copywriting services. Steve is the author of several books including The Everything Guide To Writing Copy and 101 Writing Tips For Successful Email Marketing. Visit to download his free Copywriting Workbook.

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