Writing an eBook – or a good one, anyway – requires a combination of style, substance, and purpose. You want to entertain your audience, but not so much that they’re distracted from your point. You want to create something weighty, but not bloated. You want something sincere and edifying that will nonetheless compel your prospects to buy from your company today and forevermore.

To learn how to write a successful eBook is to learn how to balance these considerations. It’s worth doing: though they’re tough to get right, they’re also a reliable way to generate quality leads for your sales team.

If you’ve ever produced longform content that doesn’t deliver, read on. These five steps illustrate how to write a successful eBook that gets your target audience on the hook – and keeps them coming back for more.

Step 1: Set clear objectives

One of the most important questions you can ask before writing an eBook, or any piece of content for that matter, is also one of the most obvious: “Why?”

Many eBooks exist because the marketing manager expects them to burnish the business’ reputation, or because they believe they should be producing longform material of some kind – regardless of its substance. This is misguided. Your goal should be more specific. If you aim to generate leads, think about the particular kind of lead you want to generate – are you servicing companies with high turnovers? Are you looking to service companies in a subsection of a specific industry?

When you have answers to these questions, you can move forward. HubSpot advocates using SMART goals, and we agree (hail HubSpot, full of grace, blessed art thou amongst marketeers). So, your objective should be:

Specific. It should be unambiguous and communicate exactly what’s expected. Why does your objective matter? Who cares about it? Which limitations stop it from being achieved?

Measurable. If your goal doesn’t have tangible milestones, then you can’t really tell whether you’ve achieved it or not.

Attainable. AKA It’s Just an Ebook, Dude. Set realistic expectations, okay?

Relevant. If it doesn’t matter to your customers, it doesn’t matter. Period.

Timely. Set a date for achieving the goal. Deadlines help!

Step 2: Understand your audience in order to inform the content

This step essentially amounts to ‘do your research’. Know your ideal customer, and better still know what challenges they are facing, and you’ll be better-placed to win them over.

When you’ve compiled a list of their prickliest pain points, pick one – ONE, you don’t want it to become too scattershot – and design your eBook to tackle it.

Is your target audience having difficulty getting noticed? Is it struggling to turn leads into customers? Is it lagging behind competitors? Find out where they’re hurting, and make your content the first stage of the healing process. NOTE: this pain point does not have to directly relate to your product/service offering – you’re looking to capture their contact details so you can nurture them – this can take time and involves you moving them through the sales funnel with carefully curated content.

Step 3: Draft and design

Your eBook needs to be structured for readability. The average human being, per NewsCred Insights, only spends 37 seconds perusing an article or a blog post. Keep sentences short, snappy, and densely packed with interesting, relevant information.

The design of your eBook is almost as important as the content itself. It’s crucial that your eBook is as aesthetically presentable as possible. If it’s not visually appealing, if long chunks of text aren’t broken up by fact boxes and images, then your target customer will get bored and tune out.

Step 4: Craft the perfect landing page

Here’s the thing about learning how to write a successful eBook: the writing is only part of it. Once you’re done drafting, editing, redrafting and re-editing, you need to create an appealing landing page to get those sweet, sweet contact details from your target prospects. This is the most important part of the whole process – after all the quality of eBook content doesn’t matter if no-one downloads it.

The main function of your landing page is to provide an enticing introduction to your eBook – it should show a little something of it, without revealing the full package. It should also have an image – images always improve click-through rates – and include social sharing buttons.

It should include relevant keywords in the header and the meta description (and scattered strategically throughout the text) in order to optimise it for search engines.

The form for your contact details should ask for enough information – but not too much. Never ask for more than you need, or more than data protection legislation will let you have. NOTE: the amount of information you can ask directly correlates with the value of content you’re giving away. If you’ve got what everyone wants then you can ask for phone numbers, job titles, decision making capabilities, budgets etc. If you’re giving them access to something they can probably find elsewhere fairly easily, then limit what you’re asking for to name and email address. You can always collect more information as the nurture process continues.

Step 5: Promote, promote, and promote again

Promote your eBook across all relevant marketing channels. “If you build it, they will come” is not a principle that applies to content marketing.

Here are a few key tactics to help promote your eBook:

  1. Create optimised blog content to promote it. Take an interesting, largely self-contained excerpt from your eBook and turn it into a post. Find a highly searched (but not too competitive) keyword for your blog entry, use it in the title, and scatter it at relevant, logical points in the text. It’s an easy way to get more eyes on your content.
  2. PR it. Identify some publications that might be interested in topics that your eBook covers, and offer to write original content for them – include references and links to the eBook in the text.
  3. Run paid social campaigns. If your audience is on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, you can launch a low cost advertising campaign to target them specifically. Seize this opportunity.
  4. Email it to your database. Make sure to exclude current customers from the email if they’re not suitable recipients for the content.
  5. Add it to your email signature, and ask everyone else at your company to do the same.
  6. Research relevant groups on LinkedIn and start sharing it at opportune moments.

If the above steps sound like a lot of work, they are. But writing an eBook is a serious undertaking, and it ought to be treated as one. There’s nothing preventing you from creating something readable, shareable, and (eventually) profitable. Commit to the project and commit to your audience and you’ll get great results.

If learning how to write a successful eBook is too much hassle, get a great content marketing agency (if we do so say ourselves!) to do it for you. Get in touch with one of our content marketing specialists today.