top of page

3 secrets to writing better B2B ebooks (plus an extra secret)

In my past life, before being a full-time content strategist, I was a CMO at a credit union and a VP of Marketing at an investing startup. I downloaded a lot of gated B2B ebooks to learn about vendors and industry research.

It always felt like rolling the dice. Give 'em my email and see what I get.

Most ebooks were a waste of time -- you've probably seen these. Three to four pages of regurgitated industry data that I'd already seen and then one page selling the crap out of the firm's SaaS platform.

But a few ebooks stayed with me. Saved in a folder. Forwarded to co-workers. The luckiest ones were printed and stapled on my desk with notes written on them like a college textbook.

So what made the lucky ones, lucky? Well, it wasn't luck.

Now, after writing ebooks for clients, I have three secrets that far too many ebook writers don't seem to know about.

Secret #1 - Make the content "shareable and savable"

"Shareable" means the reader forwards your ebook to others. "Savable" means the reader finds so much value in your content that they print it, save it, or bookmark it to refer to it later. This requires work. You need to be original and think about what your prospect would value. Some solid ideas are:

  • Industry analysis: Provide the reader with a competitive analysis or research that your team has conducted. Make it something they can't get anywhere else.

  • Strategic planning questionnaires: Develop a list of four to six questions that your prospects can review with their management team to help develop their firm's strategy. This can be the golden ticket...having your brand's name thrown around during your prospect's strategic planning session.

  • Capabilities analysis: These are designed to help your prospect self-reflect. Develop a list of capabilities that your prospect can score their organization's performance. Based on their answers, you provide tips for improvement.

  • Evaluation tools: For complex services, creating a worksheet to make evaluating your company can make buying easier for your prospect. It's all about saving them time and showing your value.

  • ROI worksheets: If you understand the costs and revenue opportunities of your prospects, you can help them calculate the ROI. Using a worksheet format, you can create a high-level ROI framework within an ebook.

All of the above pieces of content provide value to the reader. They are tools to help the reader be better at their job, and the reader may even share your ebook with peers if the content is good enough.

Secret #2 - Align the content with your sales process

One of the easiest ways to end up with an unsuccessful ebook is to not align it with your sales process. Ebooks are generally best for top and middle-of-funnel engagement.

  • Leads/Prospects: Consider broader messaging aligning your firm with industry analysis, trends, best practices, and educational content. Broad doesn't mean vague. Your ebook should still have a very specific message that resonates with your audience. These ebooks may have minimal sales content about your service.

  • MQLs/SQLs: Focus on topics that are important to in-market buyers. It's important to understand what decisions your readers are making and how your service fits into those decisions. Ebooks in this stage should create a story using analytical and anecdotal messaging to make the reader feel something. Feel like they need to buy. Feel like they need to see a demo. Feel like they need to visit your website.

When you align ebook content with your sales process, you'll realize something: you probably need more than one ebook.

Secret #3 - Use "open loops" starting on the cover

Open loops are fun to write. They get the reader's attention and get them to stick around. But what is an open loop? An open loop can start a story, ask a question, or plant an idea in the reader's mind. It keeps that story, question, or idea "open" until you "close" it a few pages later in your ebook. (EX: The "extra secret" in the title of this blog is an open loop that I'll close for you in the next section.) It's important to avoid your open loops being clickbait. You are not tricking. You are engaging, carrying the reader along, keeping them interested, and then providing them value.

I recommend having two open loops in your ebook to move the reader along:

  • Open on the cover, close near the end: The cover is a great place to use a callout box for content you want to feature. For example, say page 10 of your 12-page ebook has a strategic planning worksheet. Your cover callout could read, Featured Content: See page 10 for a strategic planning tool. The cover callout communicates value and increases the likelihood that your reader will at the very least scroll through the entire ebook to see your featured content, forcing them to glance at all of the content.

  • Open ~1/3 of the way through, close ~2/3 of the way through: Shorter open loops help keep readers engaged. You can tease content that is coming later in your ebook. For example, previewing a statistic on page two from a data analysis included on page six of your ebook.

Truth is, most people will not read our ebooks word-for-word, cover-to-cover. Open loops help increase the likelihood that your audience will scan your content, getting them to interact with the document.

The extra secret: Plan to repurpose your content

When you, or your writer, sit down to put the words on a screen, distribution should be top of mind.

  • That shareable and savable strategic planning tool or ROI worksheet makes for a great blog post.

  • That industry analysis paired with a catchy headline could be an engaging LinkedIn post or email.

  • That product overview or evaluation tool might help your sales reps as a one-pager or as content in their sales deck.

Think through your marketing and sales needs. Document a plan before you start writing on how you will use the content across channels. This increases your content's ROI and helps your team sell.

Put it all together

Not every ebook has to follow the same format. The goal is to provide your audience something with valuable, to get them to think about their world differently and how you fit into it. The more engaging you make your content, the easier it is for your audience to see the value.


Have questions? Want to learn more about writing ebooks?


bottom of page