Are you spending your precious time, money, and mental energy on the right ebook topics? In this series, we’ll explore quick ways to test your ideas.
Coming up with a relevant topic isn’t an exact science. But there are steps you can take today to help maximize the probability that your next ebook will move the needle and impact revenue.
Today we’ll look at the ICP test—choosing a topic based on a clear understanding of your ideal customers’ needs. Continue reading “How to Filter Out Worthless Ebook Ideas—Part 2”
We’ve all been there.
You come up with an idea for a great ebook topic. One that you’re convinced is going to cut through all the noise.
You invest weeks planning, researching, drafting, polishing, designing, and reviewing. Finally, you’re ready to publish! You share the landing page on LinkedIn and your company blog. You promote it with PPC ads. You send it to everyone on your email list.
But as launch day comes and goes, your eager anticipation is replaced by disappointment. Sure, some people downloaded your ebook. But not nearly as many as you had hoped.
No stream of brand new leads into the sales pipeline.
No spike in prospect engagement with the sales team.
No avalanche of shares, likes, or comments.
Just—meh. Continue reading “How to Filter Out Worthless Ebook Ideas—Part 1”
“In 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo looked at more than one million articles published on the web. They found that 75 percent of blog posts had no inbound links, and more than half had two or fewer Facebook interactions.” Austin Mullins, Copyblogger.com.
In other words—crickets.
While the majority of marketing content may have little impact on its intended audience, that doesn’t mean it can’t still have value. A failed blog post or ebook is the inevitable result of a constant cycle of testing, observation, and iteration. Every piece of content that we create is simply an experiment based on a hypothesis: Our audience will care about thistopic, with this structure, and this headline, etc.
If that blog post or ebook fails to achieve its primary purpose (engagement, action, conversion), it can still serve the secondary purpose of narrowing our scope for the next test.
To create something remarkable, we need to let go of the kind of toxic, compulsive perfectionism that hampers creativity. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’ll be unwilling to try anything new.
That’s true failure.
A recent Forbes article states “While business to business (B2B) branding has a reputation for being boring, more companies are taking creative cues from business to consumer branding (B2C). The fact is, we can no longer afford for our marketing to be boring. The buttoned-up, ‘just the facts’ corporate tone associated with B2B isn’t effective anymore.”
When was it that B2B could afford to be boring? Continue reading “Are Facts Boring?”
We get it. That blog post or article was written for one purpose — to nudge us along the buyer’s journey. They want us to click the link, or call them, or sign up for their ebook.
Of course they do. We’re not naive enough to believe that all that content was created without an agenda.
The issue isn’t that there’s a pitch, but how heavy-handed CTAs often undermine the value of the content itself:
- Ads, forms, and autoplay videos that make it difficult to actually read the article.
- Text that constantly shifts up and down to accommodate the next pop-up in the sequence.
- A general lack of empathy for the reader’s experience. “They’ll never be back, so we better get what we can from them while they’re here.”
Blunt force interruption tactics may increase clickthroughs, but they do so at the cost of the content’s real value and purpose. They diminish reader engagement to a metric — a click — rather than the beginning of a long-term relationship built on trust and generosity.
Groundbreaking marketing campaigns are not typically the result of some isolated creative insight, but of trial and error, failed experiments, and the willingness to be wrong. Solving real marketing problems (the difficult ones that matter) requires that we embrace uncertainty. The catch is that not knowing the right answer feels really, really bad.
So we play the smaller game and limit ourselves to creating safe, generic marketing that disappears into the void. Then we spend the rest of our energy worrying about being replaced by AI, or an overseas human alternative who’s willing to do our systematized work for pennies on the dollar.
If we want to create real value for our customers and organizations, we have to be willing to do the uncomfortable work, knowing up front that we’ll get it wrong much more often than we’ll get it right.
Once that becomes a habit, coming up short feels less like a personal failing, and more like a sign that we’re doing something worthy of our creative energy.
“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.” The Art of Possibility
There’s no shortage of digital marketing metrics to choose from. Google Analytics alone has 150. Facebook export has 70 columns-worth, and Twitter export has 40 columns.
As we’ve adopted new tools to help us make better decisions, we may have lost sight of the relationship between the data and the reality we’re trying to understand. Is it possible that we’re making important decisions based on numbers that don’t actually mean all that much?
Given that highly-targeted B2B marketing reaches relatively small sample sizes, the results of any one campaign are unlikely to be statistically significant. An email to an ABM list of 47 Tech CEOs has a low click-through rate, and is dismissed as a failure based on the data. The cycle continues, one tiny sample size after another.
So, how can we use the numbers to make better decisions? Maybe it’s by first focusing on being question driven, not just data driven. After all, the data by itself is meaningless without a relationship to a really good question. Focus on discovering that question, and then explore the metrics available to help you answer it. The numbers themselves don’t answer anything. At best, they point us in the right direction.
“…marketing isn’t a controlled experiment — it’s messy, complicated, unpredictable real life.” Loryn Cole
Who wouldn’t be thrilled to wake up one morning to find that their blog’s subscriber base tripled overnight? I certainly would. And yet, my excitement would likely be misguided.
I’m not in the business of adding subscribers to my blog. Tripling the number of clicks, likes, or comments may do wonders for my ego, but it also may be an indication that I’m actually creating the wrong type of content — work that appeals to “people interested in marketing” as opposed to the very select group of B2B marketing professionals I seek to serve. If I earned those extra clicks and subscribers by going wide, how relevant would I still be to my real audience?
“You shouldn’t focus on growing your audience. Especially if focusing on growing your audience leads to superficial goals, such as clicks and views … from people who are not the right fit for your business and will never buy from you.” Stefanie Flaxman
Do we spend too much energy trying to come up with better answers to the same old marketing questions?
“How can we increase our landing page conversion rate by 15 percent?” is a fine question, but is it really the most important question that we can ask? Does it focus our creativity on the juicy problems that scream out for solutions, or does it just happen to be the most obvious question at that particular time?
What would happen if we stopped focusing on marginal gains, and instead explored questions that challenge our most limiting assumptions?
Landing pages, email campaigns, and webinar offers are often just knee-jerk answers to generic questions like “how can we create more content to attract mid-sized companies?” A much harder (and more productive) question may be “who are we really focused on serving, why do we care about this particular audience, and how can we become such a perfect fit for their needs that they’d have no reason to look elsewhere?”
This type of question is more challenging because it forces us to make difficult choices, narrow our focus, and be much more specific with our work. They lead to the breakthrough outcomes that make a mere 15 percent bump in response rate seem comparatively trivial.