One of the problems that content marketing runs into is volume. There’s just too much content online.
How many of the genuinely interesting newsletters you’re subscribing to do you actually open on a regular basis?
Online content has a low barrier to entry – you don’t even need your own blog, just get a Medium account and off you go.
That makes it really difficult to get noticed.
HOWEVER – here’s an amazing way to stand out:
Do a printed book
A book for which you ask knowledgeable people you know to contribute on a given topic. Case in point: Benivo and their book “Attracting and Retaining Talent in Times of Brexit”.
Benivo is a mobility solution for early career employees. There are relocation companies who help senior employees relocate from one country to another — Benivo does that for junior people, using technology.
Benivo were looking for a way to feed the top end of their funnel, find more prospects. Their target audience are HR people, recruiters and global mobility teams inside big companies.
And here’s what we did:
We took a topic that is on everyone’s mind in the world of HR and talent, at least in the UK: Brexit. Everyone is worried one way or another. EU citizens are leaving the UK because of Brexit, companies are worried they won’t be able to hire from the EU, there’s a lot of uncertainty.
So we said: what if we compiled best practice advice from experts on how to attract and retain top talent in times of Brexit? Get HR people, recruiters and mobility managers inside big companies weigh in on the topic.
And so we decided to ask them to write 500-600 word contributions on the topic, compile them all in a book, print it, done – a thought leadership piece, a how-to blog post on steroids.
You can download the eBook version here, but let’s also take…
A quick look inside
This is the front and back cover — summary, company logos.
This is where it pays off to have contributions from well-known companies, because you can pop their logos on the back of your book and benefit from the halo effect – of course, make sure you have their permission to use their logos.
Here’s the foreword from the CEO:
And another one from the Deputy Mayor of London:
Here’s the table of contents:
An example article:
Each contributor has a chance to enter their bio and a company description:
And then finally there’s an “About Benivo” page with a call to action:
All the authors promoted the book on their social media channels, and some even posted their contribution as a blog post and linked to the book order page.
The only way someone could order a book was by filling out a form on a dedicated page on the Benivo website. Because we were giving the book away for free, those ordering were quite generous and shared a lot of specific information with us: Their job titles and what their relocation-related challenges were.
That allows Benivo to later target them with specific sales messaging.
The book was immensely successful:
- We did a print run of 1,000 books and those were all taken in less than a week.
- So we did another print run of 1,000 which also was used up completely save for a small amount we kept for the company to give away at events.
- Hundreds of eBook downloads
- Hundreds of brand new leads
- And we’re working on our second book, due to come out later this year
Here’s How Nitzan Yudan, CEO of Benivo sees it:
Why Was The Book So Successful?
1) It opens doors
It’s so much easier to ask someone for a 500-word contribution than just selling to them. it’s much easier to start a conversation with someone if you don’t have to sell to them directly.
2) You build allies
The book has helped Benivo to massively deepen the relationships with the people they already knew. Being asked to contribute a piece of expertise for a real book is a big ego-stroke, and people enjoy that attention and will pay you back in kind. Some of the authors in the book are inviting Benivo to events all the time, give them speaking slots at conferences, and introduce them to companies that might become customers. It’s a flywheel of good publicity.
3) Your allies promote you
All the authors in the book promoted the book to their network, on social media etc. And because they are all in the HR and Recruitment and Global Mobility space, that means that many people in THEIR network will be in a similar space, so it’s an amazing multiplication and network effect. And some of those allies then start actively hustling for you, as it happened with Benivo.
4) It stands out
Small companies usually don’t go around publishing hardcover books. So especially if you’re not big, it can make you look much bigger.
5) It stays front of mind
Even the best eBook or White Paper will be forgotten because they’re so easy to produce. But if you got this book sent to your office, it will be sitting on your desk. There’s a good chance it will be sitting there for many months — a permanent reminder of your company’s existence.
6) It’s hard cover
There’s something in human psychology that creates a barrier when it comes to throwing away a hardcover book. You just won’t do it.
Do it yourself?
If you’re excited and want to do your own book, that’s great! Here’s a few tips
Come up with a good topic
It has to be something that’s open-ended for which there is no definitive answer. “How to retain your best employees” is a great topic because nobody has a real answer. Or anything that has to do with prediction “the state of renewables in 2050”. Also good is something where you combine two trends, let’s say “The impact of AI on renewable energy”. It should be something that many experts can have different opinions on, so that you can create a bit of tension and controversy. At the same time, it shouldn’t be too narrow or esoteric. You want everyone who works in your field to be interested in it. Most important is that the topic is useful, educational, and solves a problem. That’s a good topic.
Write a concise guideline document
You will be sharing this with potential contributors, outlining what it’s about and narrow down the choice of topics and give style requirements. This is very important because otherwise, people will write about all kinds of stuff. You need consistency.
Ideally, interview people instead of having them do the writing
Many people aren’t great writers, even when they are subject matter experts. Those articles where we interviewed people and then wrote it up for them, tended to be a bit better. Just arrange a call, record the call (with their knowledge, of course) and write it up.
Get VIPs and do the work for them
Try to get at least one or two high profile people to write a contribution. Maybe you can feature one of them in the book’s introduction. You’ll have a better chance to secure them if you suggest that you’ll write the content for them.
This is a great way to get the top experts in their field – they usually have published stuff already on this topic. Suggest to them to adapt some of the work they’ve already published. Basically, just minimise their effort and they will do it.
Finally, here are a few questions I usually get:
Why would people write something for free for you?
With Benivo, around 70-80% of the people we approached ended up writing something for us. It’s a good means of self-promotion for them and their company. So don’t worry, you’ll get people to do it for you.
It’s not that much work, after all. It’s a short blog post, and experienced people write a lot anyway. Also, if they seem short on time, offer them to do the interview method I mentioned before.
Now that we’re doing the second book, we get people APPLYING to get featured in it.
What helps in this context is if you don’t plan to sell the book for money, i.e. you don’t try to turn a profit on it. On that note:
Shouldn’t you be SELLING this book instead of just giving it away?
You can, of course. The problem is that then you may get a few potential contributors asking for royalties. That’s unpleasant to deal with.
I think the best recipe is to give the bulk of the books away and sell a small portion of them on Amazon. You can then argue that you are just recovering some of the production cost and that you’re not turning a profit.
By the way. If you do sell them on Amazon, you have to have an ISBN number and a barcode. Here’s how to do that.
Can you reject submissions?
That’s a sensitive topic. Imagine you won someone to write a contribution and they’d be your dream customer. And then their article really sucks. What should you do? It’s a difficult balancing act. It depends on the relationship you have with them and how much risk you are willing to take to potentially tick them off.
What you definitely shouldn’t do is to compromise on the quality of the book – you will damage your brand.
But here’s what you can do: Ask the person who wrote the poor article for a phone call where you ask them to “clarify” a few of the points they made. Ask them to elaborate on the topic and then completely rewrite their piece. Then, run it past them and say you’ve made a few minor changes. Most will be ok with this approach and you don’t burn any bridges.
This is where it’s really helpful to have an agency working with you.
If you work with us, Kontent360, you can, when you reach out to your network and ask them for contributions, say that editorial control lies with this agency, Kontent360, and that you defer to their judgment when it comes to editorial quality. If we then reject someone’s contribution, it won’t reflect badly on you and your relationship with them. Although we will always try to salvage any contribution.
So if you want to work with us, just get in touch and we can work on your book together
Is this only good for B2B and not for B2C?
B2B is better because the pool of potential decision makers is much smaller and each book costs money to produce. I’d say it’s possible for B2C, but only if you’re selling large ticket items. Or if you sell the book, that would work for B2C as well, but then again you will run into the royalties problem.
Speaking of money:
How much does it cost?
If you work with Kontent360, we’ll quote you a price depending on how big the book would be and how fancy you want to get. Ballpark, it’s going to be in the low five digits. Just email us and we’ll get you a quote.
If you do it yourself, without help from Kontent360, I would calculate that one person will probably spend 3-4 months on it.
And then on top come the printing and shipping cost. If you find a good printer, you’ll pay somewhere around £5-7 per book, of course depending on how many you get printed.
Books are a growing market
The last available figure from the UK publishers’ association is for 2016 and that year shows a 7% growth versus 2015. So people still love to read, and a paper book is definitely something that will make you stand out, because so few others are doing it.
So what now?
Let’s work on a book together! Get in touch and we’ll custom-tailor a proposal for you.