Architecture and Engineering Firms: Successfully Market Your Firm with Lead-Generating E-Books

by Debra Andrews | December 6, 2012

We’re all familiar with white papers, right? Professional, highly technical, and lengthy, but when done right, a white paper can be a great content marketing tool for A/E firms because of the value it provides to the reader (your client or prospect). So, what if I told you that your A/E firm could create a deliverable with all of the lead-generating power of a white paper but in less than half the time? Enter the e-book; described by The B2B Social Media Book as the white paper’s “more modern cousin.” 

Ideally, an e-book is about 10-15 pages in length and more informal in nature compared to a white paper. The main purpose of an e-book is to solve a common problem that your prospects face-something related to your business that you can help them resolve. The best part about this? Most of the content for your e-book is probably already in your head, or at the very least in your email inbox, making the process much faster and simpler. Unlike whitepapers, with e-books there is no need for lengthy research, interviews, and peer review processes. Rather, e-books address an issue that you already know the answer to. Think about the most common questions or issues that your clients need your help on – that is your e-book topic!

For the busy A/E professional, e-books have another advantage over white papers in that they are typically briefer and more entertaining, with images, an informal tone, and easy linking to related articles or landing pages on your Web site. E-books are well-suited for a non-technical audience due to their interactive nature and condensed format. A formal white paper detailing technical processes of design or building processes, on the other hand, maybe outside the comfort zone of your targeted prospects.

8 Steps to Building an Effective E-Book

Now that you understand the benefits of using e-books to market your A/E firm, you’re probably wondering, “What’s next?” Below are my tips for creating an e-book that will generate leads:

  1. Topic: Identify the topic and benefits of your e-book. What is the problem your e-book will address? Who is the target audience? You will need to zero in on these things before you can get started. Create a bullet point list of what the audience will learn. This will not only shape the content of your e-book. It will help you when it comes time to promote your e-book.
  2. Title: Create a title that communicates the problem you plan to solve in an attention-catching way. Infuse your title with keywords your audience might search for on search engines.
  3. Outline: Create an outline that breaks up the chapters or steps into manageable sections. Then use this to draft your content. Don’t forget to include a table of contents to help the reader navigate through the e-book and an “About the Author” section.
  4. Design: Your e-book should have a consistent look that draws from your company branding, logo, and messaging. Don’t forget to include lots of pictures and charts where relevant. You can even use design elements to call out and define certain key terms or to call attention to particularly important pieces of info.
  5. Make it interactive: Include social sharing tools on every page of your e-book so that readers can easily share the content via social media. You should also link to other relevant content, both on your own site and from other industry experts. Remember – this is an E-book so many people will be reading it on their computer and links will be clickable!
  6. Define Next Steps: Clearly identify what your prospects should do after reading your e-book. Should they visit a related page on your Web site, email you to set up a consultation? Give them clear direction.
  7. Share: Be sure to create a landing page on your Web site dedicated to the e-book. It should clearly list the benefits that readers can expect from reading your e-book. It should also include a form that allows them to download the book in exchange for filling out a form. Then, share it everywhere – through social media, on your Web site home page, and even via email to your clients and prospects.
  8. Re-purpose: Once you’ve completed and launched your e-book, that is not the end. Keep in mind other ways that you can leverage this content and share it with more people down the line. Perhaps it could be used to inspire a post on your firm’s blog, or maybe it could be used as the basis for a webinar or a CES course for the AIA or a similar organization.

I hope that you will give these steps a try and create your own e-book to market your firm. I think you will be surprised at its lead-generating power and the ease of creating it. Already created an e-book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works or what does not.