I’m working on a few ebooks for different customers at the moment, so I’ve been involved in several similar conversations about what makes content desirable. I think there are three essential ingredients:
1. Desirable content makes people feel good
Life can be pretty hectic and these days, as well as the demands of our everyday lives, there’s the noise of social media to contend with too.When I log on to Facebook, for example, there’s an almost overwhelming array of offers and irresistible freebies to choose from, or articles to read. Which should I choose? Which will be worth my time? My inbox is becoming busier by the day, so – before I give away my email address by signing up to a new mailing list – I ask myself what I stand to gain.
The most desirable content is that which talks to my pain points and shows me that my life will improve, however slightly, as a result of reading/watching/listening* (*as applicable).
For me, the clear winners in terms of desirable content are the articles, ebooks, podcasts or videos that make me feel better as a result of choosing them. I love reading a new blog article and feeling as though I’ve had a good time or learned something of value. I enjoy anecdotes I can relate to, uplifting stories that are relevant to my personal interests, or even just seeing beautiful images.
I especially value reference or how-to content when it comes to downloads and have a folder packed full of amazing free content that I often use for reference purposes – things like Twitter guides, Pinterest guides, headline hacks (all things which build on my existing knowledge) are great for me.
On the flip side, there are some downloads that make me feel cheated. I recently saw an advert on Facebook for a free SEO check list. The company made some pretty big claims, which immediately made me cynical (e.g. you’ll get the Google top spot for your chosen keywords if you use this check list – something no-one can guarantee!) but I was intrigued to find out more.
How comprehensive would the check list be? Would they share insights that had passed me by? Could I possibly create something comparable for my own customers? I duly added my email address and clicked on ‘Download’. What I got did not live up to the hype! Two widely-spaced sides of A4 paper with advice about keyword densities and article submissions (Google Hummingbird had obviously passed this company by), as well as some very basic information that you can find on any number of blogs without having to go to the trouble of signing up. I felt bad for people who may not know that some – not all – of the the advice could actually harm their rankings. I swiftly unsubscribed.
Fortunately, this is a rare case. If I sign up for a free download and think, “I have to save this because I’ll want to go back to it”, then the business that provided the content finds itself firmly on my radar. There’s also a subtle message that if this much value is given for free, just how much would you get if you paid for their products or services?
2. Desirable content delivers in the moment
Although there is some great content out there that takes the long view, when it comes to downloads, the majority of us want content that can be used and make a difference straight away. If you’re planning an ebook, for example, think about what your customers would find of most valuable in the here and now. What do they ask you about a lot? What do you know that would make an immediate difference to their lives?
They want easy, fast, actionable, and solution-focused. This is why how-to guides and tutorials can work very well as an irresistible freebie in exchange for signing up to your mailing list. If someone has gone online actively searching for an answer to their problem (e.g. affordable marketing tips, relaxation techniques, help to get their baby to sleep, low carb recipes, birthday party game ideas, wedding planning advice) and you are able to provide that answer, then your download will be instantly desirable, plus you’ll generate a huge amount of goodwill towards your business.
3. Desirable content looks and tastes good
Even when you’re giving your customers content for free, whether it’s a blog, an ebook, a video, a slide show or a podcast, it should still look and sound as polished as possible. Yes, I agree that sometimes, in trying to make things perfect we can procrastinate to the point of paralysis (or, at least, I know I can) so it’s better to get things done, even if they’re not perfect. But free shouldn’t mean inferior quality because inferior quality just reflects badly on your business.
If you’re writing an ebook, make sure that you proofread the content carefully, or get a friend or colleague to help. I always read aloud to hear how the words flow, but also check the punctuation, grammar, that any links are correct and that any images you’ve used are properly credited and covered for commercial use under the Creative Commons license. It’s these details that make downloadable content look and taste good. Again, you’re sending the message to your customers that if this is how polished and professional your free content is, just imagine what value they’d get from paying for your products or services.
How often do you sign up to new mailing lists? What do you want from downloadable content? Have you ever downloaded free content and felt cheated? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below or over on my Facebook page.
Ice cream photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc