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E-books: Take advantage of this emerging trend in Internet marketing

If you're looking for an inexpensive way to promote your skills, consider writing an e-book. Here are some tips for publishing one on your own Web site and promoting it on the Internet.

By Daniel Prins

Say you’re an IT consultant with plenty of expertise in Cisco routers and switches. You’re certified, and you’d like to demonstrate your knowledge to your established client base and drum up some new business at the same time. You might consider writing a beginner’s guide to Cisco and publishing it online as an e-book.

An e-book is a downloadable file posted on a Web site that explains the organization's product or service. Like a regular book, it’s in chapters, and it should be easy to use, download, and copy.

The impact of e-books is formidable: They’re being used by Fortune 500 companies to project corporate image, by distributors to educate prospective franchisees, and by consultants to demonstrate skills. If you’d like to take advantage of this powerful marketing tool, here are some pointers on how to get your e-book out there for the world to see.

How do I write an e-book?
Publishing an e-book allows you to educate your clientele in a noninvasive way, to form strategic alliances with industry partners, and to open a dialogue with potential clients around the globe. Here are some rules to follow:
  • Use .pdf for an illustrated version and .rtf for text only.It’s also wise to offer a condensed version for busy readers.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel.In many cases, your existing sales literature or brochures can provide a starting point.
  • Use illustrations as needed, but not to excess.Lots of cool graphics may make the book look nice but will increase transmitting and download time.
  • Charge for value.It’s wise to charge a fee for your e-book, since a stated retail price establishes a value. This is preferable because “free” often leads people to believe there’s no value. If your primary purpose is to get the information out, however, give your e-book away. A happy medium might be to state a value for the book but to offer it free of charge during an introductory period.

Advantages of e-books
For consultants with clients interested in learning more about technology, an e-book offers compelling advantages:
  • Constant availability:Because it can be posted on your Web site as a downloadable file, an e-book can be updated frequently, and there are no printing or shipping costs for publication.
  • Lead generation:E-books help consultants generate leads at virtually no cost. Simply create a visible icon on your Web site that links the prospect to a registration form. Connect the e-mail address field in the form to an auto response system, such as the one offered by AWeber Communications, for proper follow-up, and add a referral form for your prospects to send the book to others.
  • Continued sales:While your e-book should have an educational approach, don't forget you’re in business to sell your product or service. Make sure you include chapters with detailed descriptions of your products or services, and add a hyperlink to your organization on every page.

Marketing your e-book
Your e-book will be worth virtually nothing without a good marketing strategy. Promote it in your print ads, commercials, pricing sheets, and shipping bills. Include an announcement on your corporate voice mail system and advertise it on your business cards. Send an e-mail or fax announcement to your clients.

It’s also smart to put public relations to work in selling your e-book. Companies like Xpress Presswill send out a news release via e-mail to a customized list of more than 800 reporters for a special e-book promotion rate of $199. The service also buys a link to your release on the Xpress Press Web site for 90 days, where it’s available to both reporters and customers.
  • Put a chapter of your e-book up on your Web site as a teaser.
  • Give your e-book away in exchange for testimonials.
  • Offer to put a download button for your e-book on the Web sites of vendors, clients, and industry associations.
  • Include a short brochure or seasonal offer of your products or services.
  • Include a listing of trade shows you'll be attending or seminars you'll be hosting.
  • Include illustrations of usage of your product.
  • Offer a gift to clients who recommend your e-book to friends.
  • Publish positive reactions to your e-book on your Web site.
  • Call on clients or industry partners to contribute a chapter.

If you find success with your own e-book, you may want to consider offering an e-book writing service to your clients. Most people don't know how to write or don't want to take the time to do it. If you can suggest to your clients that you can deliver them a turnkey, innovative e-book, you might develop an endless list of prospects. Your proposal should provide an exact action plan and should include a solid marketing outline.

Daniel Prins is a business owner and IT consultant who writes frequently about IT marketing. If you have a comment or question for Daniel, send him a note.

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