Reading on an iPad

Ebooks are awesome. They're power tools for lead generation, help build bonds with your target audience, and position you and your company as experts.  As a startup or small business owner, you may feel that you don't have the time or money to create one for your brand.

There are plenty of resources out there to help you. You can enlist freelancers, hire designers, and surf the web for info on how to create eBooks (hey! isn't that how you got here!?).

With a really great strategy, your eBook can put your brand on the map.

If you're looking to get the most out of a lean budget, make sure to follow these four tips:

1. Know What Your Audience Wants

Content is easier to produce when you're writing for an audience. Before you start writing, do some research into your market.

Why don't you...

Whatever you do, don't feel like you need to brainstorm alone. Think of your customers, prospects, and intended audience as key content partners.

Check out this eBook from OpenView Labs as an example. The goal is to help their target audience, B2B software companies, generate more returns from their lead generation efforts. OpenView Labs was clearly targeting their customers, evident from quotes on its website:

OpenView’s eBook will help you determine if outbound lead generation is right for your organization and has everything that you need to create and manage outbound lead generation efforts that get results,' -Brian Carroll, Executive Director for Revenue Optimization at MECLABS.

By featuring quotes like Brian Carroll's on your site, you'll demonstrate a clear customer connection that encourages prospects to sign-up and download.

2. Know Your ROI

Why are you writing your eBook? You need an answer that's more substantive than ''because that's what everyone's doing.' Marketing should never be for kicks – everything needs to be tied to a goal.

Direct sales will be an impractical metric, so focus on download rates, follow-up numbers, and leads generated from sign-ups. Make sure you know what you're getting for the time and money you're investing.

Copyblogger requires registrations in exchange for their free eBook on content strategy. If you're going to give something away for free, make sure that there's a clear ROI.

Here's what Copyblogger is willing to trade for an email registration:

Why not invest the time in educating your audience? They'll love you for it and think of your small business as a highly trusted brand.

3. Don't Write By Yourself

Sure, you can write a blog post, but a lengthy eBook? Yikes! That's tough. Don't feel like you have to do it all yourself. There are a number of amazing writers out there who would be happy to help you out.

Make sure you interview a few candidates so that you can select someone who truly aligns with your business's goals, style, and expertise. Keep communication open with regular check-in meetings so that your writers can stay in the loop.

Contently and Elance are two companies that connect businesses with writers. They're both easy to sign up for. You can also hire a full-time or freelance writer to tackle all of your website copy, blog posts, and marketing needs. Check out LinkedIn as a place to start your recruiting efforts. If you read blogs online and like the writer's style, contact them directly.

4. Prioritize Distribution

If you make the investment in creating an eBook, you need to recruit eyeballs to read it. Make sure that you fit your eBook into an overall marketing strategy.

Maybe you can partner up with complementary organizations to promote it. Perhaps your email list of subscribers is a powerful distribution tool. You could even devote a small paid advertising budget for it.

Clarity released an eBook that features interviews from the company's target audience – entrepreneurs. The core strategy? Interview 100 entrepreneurs and get them sharing their stories. The strategy naturally led to 100 people sharing the book. It was a win for the featured entrepreneurs and for Clarity.

Jump In

Ready to jump in? Awesome. Feel free to suggest tips and ideas to fellow entrepreneurs in the comments section below.

What have been some great eBooks that you've come across? What are you most excited to write about?