Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?


According to a 2016 Demand Gen Report, 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.

But only the most engaging content will get them to convert.

As an agency that runs lots of tests for conversion, we're generally moving away from eBooks for B2B lead generation.

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?


Because if your company's vertical is suffering from "eBook fatigue," you could be missing a big opportunity to grab attention (and leads) with something new.

"For most companies, eBooks are not a bad idea... but there are better opportunities for something more innovative in lead generation." – Sami Smith, inbound marketing strategist

If you've got a library full of eBooks, don't worry that your efforts are in vain. You have a wealth of content available to repurpose — so twist it into something better!

In fact:

Acccording to Curata, 29% of leading marketers systematically reuse and repurpose content.

Here are 6 better alternatives to eBooks that you should at least be testing out in your toolkit.

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

1. Downloadable kit, tool, or template

Downloadable resources are a great alternative to eBooks.

It's simple:

You'll convert at high rates when you understand your audience and the problems they are trying to solve — then create the perfect tool to help them.

For one client, our inbound strategists devised a Design Kit to replace the typical eBook. It included all kinds of resources to become better at design quickly (a big pain point for the buyer persona.)

Here's how the completed kit was marketed:

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

This kit blew the client's lead generation out of the water with a 50.76% submission rate, generating dozens of new leads almost immediately after its release.

Pressed on time?

You can create much simpler offers with equally great results, such as: 

  • Checklists
  • Easy-to-use templates
  • Curated downloadable lists of resources

For example, I realized a keyword opportunity with the phrase "Marketing Audit Template." This told me that people didn't want to read posts about how to do a marketing audit... they clearly wanted a quick solution, AKA a downloadable tool or template.

So, I created that very template, and wrote a blog post to advertise it and explain how to use it: "How to Rock Your Sales Funnel [Free Marketing Audit Template]."

Here's how it was marketed:

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

This blog post has performed fabulously, with a 20% conversion rate for visitors taking action after reading it.

The post is also climbing the ranks in organic, because people who search in Google usually want a quick, easy answer to their questions. A simple tool, kit, or other easy download can fit the bill.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Steps to Convert Your Target Buyer With Content Offers

There are a few reasons why this works really, really well — especially when your offer is paired with an organically popular keyword.

In fact, I wrote a post for HubSpot detailing why even low-volume keywords paired with downloadable tools can be huge lead converters.

Want more inspiration on different downloadable tools? Check these out:

  1. How to Create a Case Study: The Ultimate Guide and Template
  2. The Social Media Content Calendar Template Every Marketer Needs
  3. How to Write a Press Release [Free Press Release Template]

2. Email course

You've got a lot of knowledge on an industry subject, but if you don't want to make your audience read an entire eBook, an email course is a fabulous alternative.

Basically, an email course could take your existing eBook and dice it into bite-sized sections.

You can then have people enroll to get an email per day, week, or month.

The great thing about an email course is that it's a two-in-one special: You promote your offer (the educational content) and since it's unfolding over the course of several days, weeks, or months, it also acts as a nurture workflow.

You'll stay top-of-mind with prospects while also gradually educating them on your solution.

I tested out this format and created an Inbound Marketing email course to replace a traditional eBook:

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

The results?

The email course has steady open rates and click engagements over longer periods of time, indicating that I had created an offer with longer shelf life than a typical eBook.

3. Long-form web page

One major problem with eBooks is that since they usually live in PDF form, they don't contribute to SEO.

There's a new way around this, though:

With a long-form, interactive web page on the subject.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 53% of content marketers use interactive content.

So why not take your hard-earned content and make it more interactive and web-based?

For example, this long-form content page on Video SEO by Brian Dean of Backlinko was an instant hit after it was published, with hundreds of social media shares and thousands of visits.

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

He says it took ~25 hours to make, but the reward for lead generation (and SEO!) was definitely high.

A long-form web page is simple: It's got all the educational content of an eBook, but in an interactive format. You can jump around between chapters, play various videos, and copy & paste text you like.

Brian Dean chose not to gate his page, but if you feel its best for your company, you certainly can.

How to get leads from a long-form website page

Just create a landing page with a form like you normally would, but instead of redirecting to a "Thank You" page, redirect to your long-form content page.

Also, to avoid people accidentally navigating to your long-form page and bypassing the landing form, make sure to include a "no index" snippet of code in the page header HTML. This will prevent search engines from listing the page:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

This is pretty easy to do in HubSpot, too:

1. Navigate to your web page and click "Edit."

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

2. Select "Settings" at the top.

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

3. Scroll down to the "Advanced options" and click "+ Add Head HTML."

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

4. Then, just paste your code snippet into the editor and save!

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

4. Un-gated content

If you're not converting leads on your eBooks, it's worth asking if maybe the eBook format isn't to blame. Rather, your industry and audience might just be unwilling to give up information in exchange for content.

If you're in an industry where online lead generation is a generally new idea, you might need to coax people with freebies first.

But it's a modern-day marketing conundrum:

"What do you mean I un-gate my content?! How do I generate leads?"

They aren't wrong.

But the benefit of ungating content is still good: You deliver value to your prospects and get more eyeballs on your brand.

A typical landing page converts at about 20-30%... but imagine if you got close to 100% of visitors to download your offer.

You'd get a lot more exposure, although you wouldn't capture information, and wouldn't be able to nurture those leads.

If you want to ungate content, keep a couple things in mind:

  • Create the best possible content you can, so your downloaders think "That was so helpful, I just have to go back to that website." This might seem backward, but no skimping on quality with your freebies!
  • Make your freebie rich with next-step offers. For example, include a CTA to download something even better — something that does include a form.

5. Co-sponsoring a study

Statistics and research reports are one the most valuable things you can offer your audience.

Plus, if you provide brand new insight to your audience, you'll be an overnight industry expert.

So instead of rehashing someone else's stats for your eBook, invest in conducting (or co-sponsoring) your own study.

HubSpot's State of Inbound Report is a huge source of anticipation (and business leads!) each year...

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

...but it comes with a small cost (AKA, entering your information first):

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

You might be thinking: Yeah, that works for HubSpot.

But will it work for me?

Research reports can work for smaller businesses, too.

One of our clients partnered with a local university to create a comprehensive report on logistics data.

This annual, co-sponsored study earns them their biggest lead spike of the year.

The pros?

These are proprietary metrics and data that you can claim as your own... AKA, completely original content.

You can (and should) gate research findings on your website, much like an eBook. This will earn you plenty of backlinks and leads.

The cons?

A research study does require more of a financial investment.

To offset the costs of a research project, find partnerships with other non-competitive companies in your industry to co-sponsor the study.

A co-sponsorship will also double your promotional reach and the views on your content.

6. Report, expert analysis, or challenge

Challenges are hard to resist.

And you can use them as fantastic lead generation tools when they're done right.

One of our clients has a landing page with maximum intrigue: let us hack your mobile device to prove that it's not safe.

(To get the full report, enter your email address and name.)

See how that works?

Another cool online lead generation tool, and my personal favorite, is CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer.

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

You need to submit your email address to use this nifty bot, but then you get unlimited access to the tool:

Are eBooks Dead for B2B Lead Generation?

To keep me engaged, CoSchedule sends periodic emails after I sign up, which encourages me to engage with their blog posts, download more content, and reconvert.

These kinds of offers are enticing, because they offer something tangible (and don't require a lot of reading.)

If you can automate this offer, even better.

And keep in mind that the language around a free report or analysis should be different than a sales demo!

Use these digital "reports" as lead generation inspiration:

  1. WooRank's Website Review
  2. HubSpot's Website Grader
  3. Impact's Blog Title Generator

 The moral of the story?

The old, familiar eBook may be dying — but that doesn't mean B2B lead generation is a dying art.

Try out new lead generation opportunities and then go the extra mile to monitor, classify, and nurture new leads in your system to see what works.