Okay, one more time: an eBook is not just your weird cousin’s self-published novel that he couldn’t get a literary agent to look at. When utilized correctly, eBooks can make up a key aspect of a company’s marketing strategy.

What’s an eBook?

As the name implies, an eBook is simply a book that is published solely in an electronic format instead of being physically produced, bound, and distributed. Though some eBooks are as short as 2,500 words, the vast majority start at 10,000 words and go up from there. There are two common types of eBook formats: PDF, a common file type found on all computing devices; and EPUB, which are specifically designed for tablets (like the iPad) or electronic reading devices (like Nook.)

You can put all of the words in these books into a single eBook that can be viewed on this tablet.

What’s In an eBook?

In terms of content marketing, eBooks generally cover one or more topics on which a company, group, or person is an expert. Because they are produced in an electronic format, eBooks can include videos, animation, audio, and links to other online content; thus making a more substantial impact on the reader than printed material can. The most effective eBooks provide a healthy dose of information and/or entertainment to the reader; and in doing so disguise the fact that they are used primarily for content marketing.

Where Are eBooks Found?

Once an eBook has been created, it can be distributed to its target audience in a variety of ways. It can be downloaded directly from a website, emailed to potential customers, provided to current customers as a “bonus” of sorts, or even accessed through an online advertisement on some other site. Though some eBook producers charge a small fee to download the document, the majority of content marketing eBooks are given away gratis.

How Do eBooks “Work?”

After all, an eBook succeeds much like many other promotion strategies: by giving people something of value in exchange for a bit more consideration – and the hope that the reader may patronize the eBook’s publisher in the future. This concept of “meeting the consumer halfway” makes this content marketing approach more palatable than other forms of advertising which just hurl information at the public. Moreover, a high-quality eBook demonstrates to the reader that the person or organization behind it is quite capable of providing a worthwhile product or service.

Many customers learned about a product by reading an eBook before they ever spent a dime on it.

What Are the Advantages of Using eBooks for Content Marketing?

There are other reasons why eBooks make up a popular form of content marketing for people and entities:

  • Affordability. The cost of writing and assembling an eBook is minuscule (or nonexistent), which makes it extremely budget-friendly for someone who can’t afford to spend a big chunk of money on traditional marketing.
  • Scalability. Unlike physical publications, eBooks can be updated, amended, and otherwise improved constantly and immediately. This is ideal for eBook publishers who want to furnish timely data on their topic, create worksheets or other supplemental materials related to the subject matter, tweak the contents to respond to reader feedback, or even expand the document by adding on a new section edition, or volume.
  • Convenience. Well-produced eBooks have at least one “call to action” statement or function in them. And unlike traditional marketing channels which require a consumer to call or visit a physical location, all a reader has to do is click on a button or link. This simple step can funnel consumers to a social media site, give them a discount or coupon, or generate a warm lead for a company’s salesforce.
  • Quantifiable. With marketing channels like TV or radio, it’s difficult to determine how many consumers an ad actually reached. But with eBooks, you have simple metrics like number of downloads, IP address locations, and frequency of visits to linked material and sites – making return on investment easy to compute.

Can Your Company Benefit From eBooks?

Now, here’s the big question: is an eBook a practical choice for you? If you sell physical goods, an eBook can highlight their advantages and offer direct access to an e-commerce site where they can be purchased. If your company provides services, an eBook can facilitate a direct meeting with a reader, giving you a chance to promote your company directly to a potential customer. And if you have any online presence at all, an eBook can enhance your social media footprint and online reputation – which will boost your entire brand’s profile.

In other words, a properly-designed eBook can fulfill the content marketing needs of almost anyone or any company. And chances are, you have already created the raw material or information necessary for an eBook; it only needs to be tweaked and repurposed before distribution. So why not give eBooks a try? After all, what have you got to lose? (Here’s a hint: NOT a substantial outlay of cash.)

A future customer is curling up with a good eBook.

Chris Martin is a freelance writer about topics ranging from online reputation management to entrepreneurism to business finance solutions.