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How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish [Free Ebook Templates]

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How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish [Free Ebook Templates]

Learning how to create an ebook can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to write the content, but you also need to design and format it into a professional-looking document that people will want to download and read.

You might already be familiar with fiction or non-fiction ebooks, but what exactly is an ebook in the marketing industry, and why do they deliver such great results for marketers?

In this post, you’ll learn:

Let’s get started.

36 Free Ebook Templates – Download Now

ebook templates from hubspot

Download HubSpot’s 36 free ebook templates to create an ebook on PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Adobe InDesign.

Ebook Benefits

In 2021, ebook sales increased 38% for publisher HarperCollins, following a trend of increased revenue earnings for the company. Although this is a snapshot of one publisher’s success, it speaks to a more significant movement toward digital content consumption among marketers.

Lead magnets come in many forms, but the ebook still reigns supreme. They give the reader:

  • In-depth digital content in an environment largely overrun with quick headlines and soundbites
  • Visual data that compliments the editorial content
  • On-demand access to the ebook content

Your business benefits from publishing an ebook, too. Turning a profit, acquiring new customers, generating buzz, and becoming an industry thought leader are just a few advantages of this type of content.

Let’s say, however, that you have a fantastic blog full of long-form content. Why in the world would you want to offer your readers an ebook? Is it even worth your time?

Here are some advantages ebooks offer content creators:

  • Unlike long-form printed publications purchased in-store or shipped, an ebook is immediately accessible whenever you’re ready to read.
  • You can put it behind an opt-in or “gate,” incentivizing your website visitor to become a lead if they want the information.
  • In some ways, ebooks have design capabilities like in-depth charts, graphs, and full-page images, which you may not be able to achieve on your blog.
  • After the initial creation of the ebook, you can distribute the file a multitude of times with no additional production cost. They also have no associated shipping fees.
  • You can embed links to other media in the ebook file, encouraging the reader to engage with your content further.

Perhaps more importantly, ebooks offer several advantages for your audience:

  • Ebooks are incredibly portable and can be stored on many devices without any associated physical storage space.
  • The reader gets the choice to print the ebook out if they want to consume the information in a traditional physical format. Otherwise, the digital format is environmentally friendly.
  • Ebooks are more accessible, giving readers the ability to increase font sizes and/or read aloud with text-to-speech.
  • They’re also easily searchable if the reader is looking for something specific.

Moreover, with lead generation being the top goal for content marketing, ebooks are an essential part of a successful inbound marketing program.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of creating an ebook by, well, creating an ebook. And if you’re worried about your lacking design skills, we’ve got you covered.

Got your free ebook templates? Ready to make an ebook? Great — let’s get to it.

What ebook file format should you use?

Ebooks can be saved in one of several formats. Depending on your end-user, though, you might find a use for any of the following file types:

PDF

PDFs are likely the most well-known file type. The “PDF” extension stands for “Portable Document Format,” and is best for ebooks that are meant to be read on a computer (digital marketers, you’ll want to remember this one). We’ll talk more about how to save your ebook as a PDF later in this article.

EPUB

This file type stands for “Electronic Publication,” and is a more flexible ebook format. By that, I mean EPUB ebooks can “reflow” their text to adapt to various mobile devices and tablets, allowing the ebook’s text to move on and off different pages based on the device’s size on which a user is reading the ebook. They’re particularly helpful for viewing on smaller screens, such as smartphones and the Nook from Barnes and Noble.

MOBI

The MOBI format originated from the Mobipocket Reader software, which was purchased by Amazon in 2005 but was later shut down in 2016. However, the MOBI file extension remains a popular ebook format compatible across the major e-readers (except the Nook).

While the format has some limitations, such as not supporting audio or video, it supports DRM, which protects copyrighted material from being copied for distribution or viewed illegally.

Newer Kindle formats are based on the original MOBI file types.

AZW

This is an ebook file type designed for the Kindle, an e-reader device by Amazon. However, users can also open this file format on smartphones, tablets, and computers.

ODF

ODF stands for OpenDocument Format, a file type meant primarily for OpenOffice, a series of open-source content creation programs similar to Microsoft Office.

IBA

IBA is the proprietary ebook format for the Apple iBooks Author app. This format does support video, sound, images, and interactive elements, but it is only used for books written in iBooks. It is not compatible with other e-readers.

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Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts and Graphs [Free Download]

Ebooks can increase the visibility and credibility of your business while positioning your brand as a thought leader in your industry. However, these ebooks can sometimes be hard to write, even though they offer many benefits.

Here are some proven tips to help you write excellent ebooks.

1. Choose a topic that matches your audience’s needs.

Remember: The goal of your ebook is to generate leads for your sales team, so pick a topic that will make it easy for a prospect to go from downloading your ebook to having a conversation with your sales team.

This means your ebook shouldn’t deviate much from the topics you cover in your other content distribution channels.

Rather, it’s your opportunity to do a deep dive into a subject you’ve only lightly covered until now, but something your audience wants to learn more about.

For example, in listening to sales and customer calls here at HubSpot, I’ve learned that creating ebooks is a massive obstacle for our audience, who are marketers themselves. So if I can provide not only this blog post but resources to make ebook creation easier, I’m focusing on the right topic that will naturally lead to a sales conversation.

Here are some sample ebook titles to consider to get your creative juices flowing.

  • X Best Practices for [Insert Industry/Topic]
  • An Introduction to [Insert Industry/Topic]
  • X Common Questions About [Insert Industry/Topic] Answered
  • X [Insert Industry/Topic] Statistics For Better Decision-Making
  • Learn From The Best: X [Insert Industry/Topic] Experts Share Insights

(Note: Replace “x” with an appropriate number.) You can also use our free Blog Topic Generator tool to develop more ideas. Most blog topics can be comprehensive enough to serve as longer-form ebook topics.

For this blog post, I will use the PowerPoint version of template two from our collection of five free ebook templates. Through each section of this post, I’ll provide a side-by-side of the template slide and how I customized it.

Below, you’ll see my customized cover with my sales-relevant ebook topic. For help with writing compelling titles for your ebooks, check out the tips in this blog post.

an ebook template side-by-side with the customized version of that template

2. Outline each chapter of your ebook.

The introduction to your ebook should set the stage for the book’s content and draw the reader in.

What will you cover in your ebook? How will the reader benefit from reading it? For tips on how to write an effective introduction, check out this post.

Some ebook creators say that an ebook is simply a series of blog posts stitched together. While I agree you should treat each chapter as an individual blog post, the chapters of your ebook should also flow fluidly from one to the other.

The best way to outline your ebook is by thinking of it as a crash course on the sales-relevant topic you selected. In my example of creating an ebook, I know I need to cover how to:

  • Write effective copy
  • Design an ebook
  • Optimize ebooks for lead generation and promotion

While my example has a few chapters, keep in mind that your ebook does not need to be lengthy.

Here’s a golden rule to follow regarding ebook length: Write what is needed to educate your audience about your selected topic effectively.

If your ebook requires five pages, great! If it requires 30 pages, so be it. Just don’t waste words thinking you need to write a lengthy ebook.

Let’s now move on to the actual copy you’re writing.

an example of ebook copy within an ebook template

3. Break down each chapter as you write.

Get writing! Here, you can approach each chapter the way you might write a long blog post — by compartmentalizing each chapter into smaller sections or bullet points, as shown in the picture below.

This helps you write simply and clearly, rather than using sophisticated language to convey each point. It’s the most effective way to educate readers and help them understand the new material you’re providing.

Be sure to maintain a consistent structure across each chapter, as well. This helps you establish natural transitions between each chapter so there’s a clear progression from one chapter to the next (simply stitching blog posts together can rob you of this quality).

These practices should hold true for all your other marketing efforts, such as email marketing, call-to-action creation, and landing page development. “Clarity trumps persuasion,” as Dr. Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS often says.

Want to make sure you’re keeping your ebook exciting for readers? Here are some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Use keywords in the title that emphasize the value of your offer. Examples include adjectives like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “ultimate.”
  • Keep your format consistent, so you create a mental model for readers and enhance their understanding of the material.
  • When appropriate, use formatting — like bulleted lists, bold text, italics, and font size changes — to draw people’s eyes to your most important content or emphasize specific points you want readers to remember.

an example of ebook formatting

4. Design your ebook.

Our downloadable ebook templates are offered in both PowerPoint and InDesign. For this example, we’ll show you how to do it in PowerPoint, since more people have access to that software. (If you need a refresher, here’s a beginner-friendly guide on how to use PowerPoint.)

We only have one “chapter page” in the template (slide three). To create additional chapter pages, or any pages really, simply right-click the slide and choose Duplicate Slide. This will make a copy of your slide and allow you to drag it to its proper place in your ebook via the sidebar or Slide Sorter section of PowerPoint. You can then customize it for any subsequent chapters.

an example of duplicating ebook pages in a template

5. Use the right colors.

Ideally, our free ebook templates would magically match your brand colors. But they probably don’t; this is where you get to truly personalize your work. However, because ebooks offer more real estate for color than your logo or website, it’s good to consider secondary colors within your brand’s color palette. Ebooks are where this color scheme can truly shine.

To learn how to add your brand’s colors to PowerPoint, check out this blog post. That way, you can customize the color scheme in our ebook templates to match your brand!

6. Incorporate visuals.

Images and graphics in ebooks are hard to get right. The key to making them fit well is to think of them as complementary to your writing. Whether you add them during or after you’ve finished writing your ebook’s copy, your visuals should serve to highlight an important point you’re making or deconstruct the meaning of a concept in an easy-to-understand, visual way.

Images shouldn’t just be there to make the ebook easy on the eyes. Rather, they should be used to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material you’re covering. If you need help gathering visuals, we have three sets of free stock photos that might help you along the way:

And if you’re compiling a data-heavy ebook, you might want to download our free data visualization ebook for tips about designing compelling charts and graphs for your content.

an example of using visuals in ebook template

7. Highlight quotes or stats.

Another way to enhance your ebook is by highlighting quotes or stats within your design. Just be sure the quote or stat you’re using genuinely adds value to the content.

Whether you’re emphasizing a quote or adding a visual, keep all your content within the same margins. If your copy is consistently one-inch indented on your page from both the left and right sides, keep your designed elements aligned using that same spacing.

an example of a highlighted quote on an ebook template

8. Place appropriate calls to action within your ebook.

Now that your content is written and designed, it’s time to optimize it for lead generation, reconversion, and promotion.

Think about how you got here — you clicked on a call-to-action (CTA) in an email, on a social media post, or somewhere else. A CTA is a link or visual object that entices the visitor to click and arrive at a landing page that will get them further engaged with your company.

Since your ebook readers have probably converted into leads to get their hands on your ebook, use the CTAs within your ebook to reconvert your readers and propel them further down your marketing funnel.

For instance, a CTA can lead to another offer, your annual conference’s registration page, or even a product page. Depending on what this next action is, CTAs can be an in-line rectangle or a full-page teasing the next offer (see both images below).

To hyperlink the CTA in your ebook (or any image or text in your ebook) to your destination URL, simply go to Insert >> Hyperlink in PowerPoint.

examples of using hyperlinks in ebook template

example of including a call to action within an ebook template

We’ve even designed 50 customizable calls-to-action in PowerPoint you can download and use in your ebooks. You can grab them here.

Now, we don’t have a dedicated CTA template slide in the PowerPoint ebook templates … but it’s still simple! You just have to duplicate the Header/Subheader slide and customize the copy or add images as needed. You can also go to Insert >> New Slide and work from there.

9. Convert it into a PDF.

Once you’ve finished writing your ebook — CTAs and all — it’s time to convert it to the right file type, so it’s transferable from you to your recipient.

To convert your ebook to a PDF, click File >> Save As in the ebook template you have open. Then, under File Format, select PDF and select a destination on your computer for this new file.

Why can’t you just attach what you have to a landing page and be done with it? Word documents, PowerPoints, and similar templates are perfect for creating your ebook but not for delivering it. Because these templates are editable, the contents of your ebook are too easily corrupted, distorted, or even lost when moving from your computer to the hands of your future leads. That’s where PDFs come in.

You’ve seen these letters at the end of files before. Short for Portable Document Format, the .PDF file type essentially freezes your ebook so it can be displayed clearly on any device. A popular alternative to PDFs is the .EPUB file type. See a comparison of EPUB to PDF here.

10. Create a dedicated landing page for your ebook.

Your ebook should be available for download through a landing page on your site. A landing page is a web page that promotes/describes your offer and provides a form that visitors need to fill out with their contact information to access your ebook. This is how you can convert your visitors into business leads that your sales team can ultimately follow up with.

For instance, you went through this landing page to access this ebook template.

If you’re still not sure how to get started, download this free ebook to learn more about optimizing your landing pages for conversion.

how to create an ebook - header customization

11. Promote your ebook and track its success.

Once your landing page is all set, you can use that destination URL to promote your ebook across your marketing channels. Here are five ways you can do this:

After your content is launched and promoted across your marketing channels, you’ll also want marketing analytics to measure your live product’s success.

For instance, you should have landing page analytics that gives you insight into how many people downloaded your ebook and converted into leads and closed-loop analytics that show how many of those people ultimately converted into opportunities and customers for your business.

And with that, we’ve built an ebook, folks! You can check out the packaged version of the example I built here:

an animation that scrolls through several pages of an ebook template

After your content is launched and promoted across your marketing channels, you’ll need to have marketing analytics to measure your ebooks’ success. For instance, have landing page analytics that gives you insight into how many people downloaded your ebook or show how many of those downloaders converted into opportunities and customers for your business.

Ebook Ideas

So, what should you write about in your ebook? I’ll answer that question with another question: What do you want your readers to get out of this ebook? To identify an ebook idea that suits your audience, consider the type of ebook you’re trying to create. Here are a few ideas.

New Research

Conducting an experiment or business survey? This is a great way to develop proprietary knowledge and become a thought leader in your industry. But how will you share your findings with the people who care about it? Create an ebook that describes the experiment, what you intended to find out, the results of the experiment, and what these findings mean for your readers and the market at large.

Case Study

People love success stories, especially if these people are on the fence about purchasing something from you. If you have a client whose business you’re particularly proud to have, why not tell their story in an ebook?

Ebook case studies show your buyers that other people trust you and have benefited from your product or service. In your ebook, describe what your client’s challenge was, how you connected with them, and how you were able to help your client solve their challenge and become successful.

Product Demo

The more complex your product is, the more information your customers will need to use it correctly. If your product or service has many use cases or it’s hard to set up alone, dedicate a brief ebook to showing people how to make the most out of it.

For instance, in the first section of your ebook, you can explain how to launch your product or service. The second section can break down the individual features and purposes your product is best used for.

Interview

Are you interested in interviewing a well-known person in your market? Perhaps you’ve already sat down with an influencer to pick their brain about the industry’s future. Package this interview into an ebook, making it easy for your customers to read and share your inside scoop.

Playbook

A “playbook” is a document people can use when taking on a new project or concept that is foreign to them. Think of it like a cheat sheet, full of tips and tricks that help your customers get better at what they do.

When done right, a playbook equips your customers with the information they would need to excel when using your product. For example, a software vendor for IT professionals might create a “virus protection playbook” that makes support teams better at preventing viruses for their respective companies.

Blog Post Series

Sometimes, the best ebook for your business is already strewn across a series of blog posts. If you’ve spent the last month writing articles all on the same subject for your business, imagine how these posts would look stitched together?

Each article can begin a new chapter. Then, once this ebook is created, you can promote it on a landing page, link to this landing page from each blog post, and generate leads from readers who want to download the entire blog series in one convenient ebook.

Ebook FAQs

Are ebooks profitable?

Yes, they can be.

Ebooks are high-volume, low-sales-price offers. This means you’ll need to sell many of them at a relatively low price point to compete in the market and turn a significant profit. Depending on your industry, ebooks can range from free to more than $100.

Before setting a price for your ebook, do some research. Determine who your audience is, what they’re willing to pay, and how many people within your target market might be ready to buy it. Then, determine the platforms you’ll sell your ebook through. Amazon? Apple Books? Your website? You can research how much ebooks usually go for on these sites and incorporate this insight into your pricing strategy.

How is an ebook structured?

There’s no set rule for organizing your content into an ebook. It generally mimics the structure of a novel or textbook (depending on what it is you’re writing about). But, you should be sure to adhere to some aspects of an ebook.

Ebooks typically have a system of chapters and supporting images. Like a blog post, they also do well when further segmenting their text with subheaders that break down the discussion into specific sections. If you’re writing about professional sports, for example, and one of your chapters is about Major League Baseball (MLB) in the U.S., you might want to establish subchapters about the various teams belonging to the MLB.

What can an ebook be about?

Anything. Well, within reason.

Ebooks are simply a marketer’s way of delivering lots of critical information in a form their potential customers are most willing to read.

For example, an environmental company might write an ebook about water conservation. They might also focus an ebook entirely on using their water-saving product or how it helped a customer solve a problem.

Research is a significant part of ebook creation, no matter your ebook’s topic. Contrary to short-form content like articles and videos, the content of an ebook is predicated on trust and evidence. A user who obtains (or requests access to) your ebook wants the full story, not just the bullet points. That includes all the content and testing you went through to produce the ebook.

Can you edit an ebook?

Nope.

An ebook can’t be edited once it’s been saved in one of the major file formats, so it’s best to ensure you have an editable version saved in a program like Microsoft Word.

But why would you want your ebook to be uneditable? Making ebooks uneditable ensures the content remains unchanged — both the format and the information — as it’s shared between multiple users.

You can edit ebooks if they’re saved using an editable PDF, a feature that is specific to Adobe Acrobat — the founding program of the PDF file type. Learn how to edit PDFs in this blog post.

How do you read an ebook?

You can read an ebook on many different devices: iPhone, Android smartphones, a Macbook, PC, and e-readers such as the Nook and Kindle. The latter two devices are typically used to read novels in digital form. Nook and Kindle owners can store thousands of books (literally) on a single Nook or Kindle.

Share Your Expertise in an Ebook

Ebooks are one of the top converting lead magnets a business can offer to its audience. Creating an ebook is all about delivering high value at a low price point to generate a high sales volume.

Ebooks work well for new businesses looking for brand awareness and established companies securing a spot as an industry thought leader.

So long as you and your team have outlined what success looks like for your ebook launch, you’ll reap the rewards of this stand-alone asset for months — or even years — to come. So get started on your ebook using the free template available in the offer below.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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