When discussing content marketing campaigns with clients, we frequently get the question “Aren’t eBooks and whitepapers basically the same thing?”
The confusion is understandable — both forms of content work on your behalf to provide valuable information to your customers, generate leads and work to build trust and loyalty in your brand. And both are very prevalent in today’s marketing environment: 71 percent of North American B2B businesses across industries are already using them, reports the Content Marketing Institute, and 62 percent rank them as their most successful form of content, surpassing case studies and social media posts.
That said, eBooks and whitepapers are different animals; each presents information in a different way and offers different advantages in your quest to build your client base by helping your audiences understand the ins and outs of your products, services or overall industry.
When deciding which vehicle to create, consider these common characteristics of the two very effective content forms:
eBooks: Informative and easy to digest
Think of eBooks as short-form digital books, designed with visuals and created as PDFs, that can be effortlessly viewed on any computer, tablet or smartphone. Marketers choose to use eBooks for the following reasons:
- They are often written in a conversational way that’s easy for readers across industries to digest.
- Strategically designed visual elements break up the copy and provide personality to an eBook, while also highlighting the most important points.
- Products and services are not explicitly promoted, which makes them useful tools that your audience will be happy to download and keep for future reference or link to on social media.
- eBooks come in all shapes and sizes — they could be a short 3-pager on a hyper-focused topic, or a 20-page in-depth manual covering a larger topic.
As CMI puts it: “eBooks are unique marketing tools because they don’t seem like marketing tools.” Many eBooks are educational, but by nature, they’re often fun to look at as well, with eye-catching art and smart writing.
Whitepapers: Packed with high-level knowledge
Think of whitepapers as knowledge-building guides based on solving a given problem or issue and/or helping their readers become more advanced. They can be up to 50 pages long and tend to be more serious in tone and more heavily researched than eBooks, with formal structures and visual elements such as informational graphics or charts instead of photos or art.
Like eBooks, whitepapers stay away from promoting a specific product, though their ultimate goal is often to sway readers to a particular point of view or conclusion through the logical presentation of facts. Whitepapers tend to require more production time than eBooks because they require more research, are chock-full of information and take deeper dives into industry-specific terminology and issues.
The more academic versions require carefully documented references, and information sources are limited to closely vetted industry experts. Some whitepapers also incorporate case studies that help them make their point more clearly.
What do whitepapers and eBooks have in common?
Executed correctly, whitepapers and eBooks both offer tips and educational information that solidly establish your brand as a helpful authority in its field. You can add even greater value by presenting exclusive research, conducted or sponsored by your company, that can’t be accessed elsewhere.
You can also build credibility for your company by quoting one of its subject matter experts or otherwise presenting your organization as an industry thought leader. In some cases, that can lead to speaking opportunities and/or media interviews related to your area of expertise.
When you require audiences to provide their contact information before they can access such content (turning it into what is often called “gated content”), you automatically generate qualified leads from individuals and businesses with proven interest in that expertise. They’re much more likely to become customers than those who simply view a free blog they’ve found via organic search.
That information exchange should be friction-free on both sides; in one recent report, for example, 76 percent of B2B buyers said they’d register and share info about themselves in exchange for whitepapers, 63 percent for eBooks.
Once your eBook or whitepaper is ready to roll, enhance the value of your investment by promoting it via social media and repurposing the content in the form of webinars, emails, YouTube videos and/or related blogs posted to your website.