Almost every digital or marketing agency now offers free guides via email, on their blog or on their core content pages (though they may call them ebooks, downloadable documents, PDFs, whitepapers or by another fancy name they have devised). There are so many of them that do it, that I could list at least 10 off the top off my head: Hubspot, Content Marketing Institute, Salesforce, Unbounce, Marketo, Smart Insights, Adobe, comScore, Experian, Marketing Profs…the list goes on.
In truth, most of the time, a downloadable guide/PDF is no different than anything you might come by via a natural organic search, say…a ‘how to’ blog post or series of posts. The content contained within might just as well have been a blog post. And surely it would be better for SEO purposes to create blog posts, which consist of index-able content, over downloadable guides, the contents of which are largely unknown?
Be that as it may, these free guides are still gaining popularity, despite the investment it might take to create one and in spite of the additional marketing build about ‘selling’ the guide.
So, what’s so great about ‘closed-up’ e-guides that regular online content just doesn’t do?
The answer is simple.
If you go to any one of those websites I’ve mentioned above, I’m willing to bet a night of sleep and an extra free blog post of YOUR choosing that those companies will ask you to provide a bit of personal information – the stuff they can’t get from Google Analytics – the name of the company you work for, your name, your industry, your age-group…
So, what gives?
Is it just a benefit for them or are you actually getting a great, free resource that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find online?
The truth is – it’s a bit of both.
You give them the data they are looking for, and in their ideal marketing world (a world without budget caps and staffing limitations), they provide the marketing resources to move you along the buying cycle – to ‘capture you’, ‘nurture you’ and then ‘convert you’.
Put like that, it sounds a little bit cultish. But, it’s not a bad thing. After all, as a browser, don’t you want your needs fulfilled? If a company is willing to go the extra mile to do so, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing.
It’s doesn’t mean they’re pressuring you into buying their product at the end after all.
Besides, there are merits to having downloaded guides/ebooks lying around.
1. You’ve always got the information
On the internet, content changes rapidly. Companies add new content almost as quickly as they remove old content. Blogs go down, blogs go up. Pages get de-indexed. If you’re someone who likes to bookmark useful resources, the disappearance of a page you’ve previously used as a reliable source of information might be a common occurrence. In this instance, an e-guide may well be the solution
2. Sometimes, there’s juicy stuff you won’t get online
An example of a company that really does put value into the guides/downloads they create is Econsultancy. Another example is Lyris, though both these companies require users to pay an annual fee. However, for the quality of information as well as the hard data provided, it’s well worth the price.
3. An in-depth look into a particular topic
Most blog posts don’t generally go over 500 words which means that the writer has limited time to get the information across, which in turn means that there’s probably a lot she/he is leaving out.
If you’re like me and like to know the whole story, or to understand something fully, a longer guide/document is a much better resource. Though honestly, many people don’t have an attention span longer than a few tweets.
4. Minimal advertising/no advertising
Sounds too good to be true, but if you read a lot online, you might be dealing with the constant interruption of advertisements, banners, pop-ups, or other similar distractions. In general downloads are distraction-free barring the company’s own call-to-action, generally near the end of the paper. Of course, that’s a small price to pay for a free document, especially if it’s a useful free document.
In reality, most e-guides are just long blog posts with a gatekeeper. To get access to the information inside, you’ve got to provide the gatekeeper with the stuff of life – personal information. Your name, your email, your job, blah blah blah, whatever it is he requires. THEN you can access the chamber of secrets.
If you’re looking for a company who can help you devise a strategy that will turn your browsers into buyers, look no further. Xanthos is ready to help. Find out more about our digital marketing services.