ebook (electronic book) - a word in grunge letterpress metal type on a digital tablet with a cup of coffee

Does the thought of writing something longer than a blog post make you stop and catch your breath? Blog posts are just the tip of the content marketing iceberg, so pull up a chair and let’s talk about whitepapers and ebooks.

In general, the agreed definition of a whitepaper is a longer document, usually in the 8-20 page range, that addresses a problem or challenge, provides a solution, and demonstrates the expertise of the author (you!). Ebooks are longer, more thorough, and cover slightly bigger territory.

This month on your 12-month marketing calendar, it’s time to consider ebooks and whitepapers as a way to reach your audience.

Your ebook or whitepaper is a great way to connect with your audiences, grow that audience by sharing the wealth of your expertise, and provide a way for potential clients to test drive your your methodology prior to doing business with you. They are excellent opportunities to develop your professional brand and absolutely worth all the effort. Remember you won’t be giving it away, so the production efforts are an investment in your future. Here are 6 tips for rocking your whitepaper or ebook right out of the gate.

1. Define Your Audience.

Just as an emerging business must define its target customer before drawing up a business plan, your ebook or whitepaper needs a defined and specific target audience. Who is the manuscript for? You will be tempted to skip this step and think “It’s for everyone!” You will save yourself substantial trouble if you avoid this temptation and hone in on your ideal audience member. Draw firm lines that elucidate your audience. This will help tremendously with the next step.

2. Formulate an Outline.

Did you hate it when your high school English teacher asked for an outline with your essays? I used to write my outline after I wrote my essay, but this is not a five paragraph essay! You will save yourself so much wasted effort when you adhere to this step. Your outline is the blueprint that will help your writing stay tight and give you direction when you don’t know what to do next. You may end up moving things around later for clarity. That’s okay. At this stage, you want to prepare to write to the best of your ability.

3. Provide Meaningful Information.

Keep the boilerplate out of this document. You are not making sausage (unless that’s that’s the topic of your whitepaper). When your target audience and outline are on point, you will be able to focus on generating strong, relevant, and informative copy. If you find yourself resorting to fluffy or filler passages, that’s a warning that you need to define your audience more strongly or do some more work on your outline.

4. Use Actual Examples.

This is where your war chest of stories and experience becomes a major asset. If you feel your personal experience is a little thin, use this as an excuse to interview leaders in your field. Talk to your peers and do research. This is how you grow and develop your skills. Include all this juicy information in your article, but remember to change names or identifying characteristics if you don’t have authorization to share details. The deeper you go into your research, the stronger your report becomes. Data strengthens your proposition and silences the voice in your reader’s head that says, “Yeah, but…”

5. Use a Professional Voice & Avoid the Promotional.

With all this effort to be polished, you could undermine your efforts if you use a voice that’s too chatty or too commercial. Avoid sounding like an infomercial for your service, goods, or brand. The tone should be refined, even handed, and objective. While you may advocate for a specific perspective, you must communicate respect for your audience. Your bio at the end of the piece may include information about your website and services or products.

6. Make Sure It’s Well-Designed.

If your document is just a wall of text with few images, you may turn away readers before they’ve even begun. Do research on how other whitepapers and ebooks look. Which ones appeal to you? How do graphics help explain content? Which images draw you deeper into the text? Use these as inspiration. The look and design are almost as important as your content. You can actually increase readability with a well-crafted layout. A good design communicates with your audience much about your attitude towards your own writing. Make sure it’s alluring.

If your goal is to increase your audience and build your brand, you must use ebooks and whitepapers to boost your prominence. They are a great tool for establishing your knowledge and experience in your industry. While there are some initial costs to doing it right, the benefits are enormous. You can increase your newsletter audience, build leads, gain customers, and strengthen your social media presence with a well-crafted manuscript. If you’ve ever thought of writing one, it’s time to start.

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