How to Launch an eBook All Wrong—Plus How to Do it Right

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Marketer to marketer, I’d like to share a story of vulnerability: a time when, despite the best intentions, my team launched a campaign that wasn’t up to par.

This story involves a few dashed dreams, some Agile pivoting, and—best of all—the start of what might be a happy ending. It’s a pretty dramatic narrative, as far as marketing campaigns go.

A Poor Attempt at Updating Existing Content

First of all, let me self-justify a bit: we had a good strategic reason for our choices. We knew that marketers were hesitant to put in the hard work required to build an advanced content operation, so we thought: let’s enable marketers to convince their own teams of the benefits of content operations.

Ever fans of repurposing content, we set about revamping an old eBook, Setting the Stage for a Content Operation. The copy, we resolved, didn’t need much of an update, but the design was off-brand and some key statistics needed to be updated. Overall, it wouldn’t take extensive resources to produce a killer asset—a win-win!

So, we launched the new asset at an impressive turnaround, Building the Business Case for a Content Operation. It included lots of awesome stuff:

  • How to identify key stakeholders and understanding their motives
  • Where a content operation fits in your technology landscape
  • Scripts to follow when pitching an executive audience

But, despite our high hopes, it performed pretty averagely. In hindsight, the name (though accurate) perhaps is a bit too bland for marketers, which could have affected download rates.

The lack of engagement deepens, though. As responsible marketers, we didn’t just rely on vanity metrics like total downloads. We tracked how it affected the customer journey, and we were painfully disappointed that it didn’t seem to be enabling marketers as we had intended. We couldn’t find any evidence of conversations starting around content operations across key accounts.

Explaining the Failure

A crucial part of data investigation is playing sleuth. With our Sherlock magnifying glasses, we began to comb over the campaign. The launch emails followed best practices and had gotten enough traction that we knew we needed to focus on the pillar asset: the eBook itself.

After spitballing a few different ideas, a particularly insightful idea was brought up: Who are we trying to reach? We knew we were enabling the marketing team members to talk to leadership about content operations, but which team members?

I’m sure you’ve heard marketers preach about how vital it is to know your audience. In fact, not knowing the persona you’re addressing makes creating content pretty much impossible.

Yet, we had made an incredibly basic error in the eBook: We picked the wrong persona. We geared it towards the content creators. To be fair, it’s not a totally crazy idea—content operations hugely benefit creators, enabling them to create less content that has a higher impact.

But, when we really thought about it, do content creators have the platform to sing content operations into the decision-makers’ ears? Certainly not at all organizations, and likely, not even at most.

And so, our mistake became clear: We were enabling the wrong people. Fortunately, this is just where the story gets good.

Using the Opportunity for a Win

Identifying the problem is often the biggest hurdle. Solutions—though sometimes difficult to implement—are usually pretty clear. In this case, we were fairly lucky as the solution was to retarget the asset for a more suitable audience. And, as I’m sure you know, marketers love repurposing, even more than they love updating existing content (which, if you remember, is how this story started).

Almost all of the content we needed was there, just ready to be tweaked to suit the needs of a different segment. Not to mention, it would be less work that still results in a fully function asset that covers an entirely new strategic context.

Admittedly, we did quite a bit of overhauling, but the bulk of the work had already been done. Which, since we were hyper-focused on getting the asset ready for 2018 SiriusDecisions Summit, turned out to be really helpful. In three days, the asset was ready for the printers.

(And all the marketers said “Woooow,” half inspired and half jealous.)

We upleveled the content to speak to an audience that was better positioned to speak to leadership and effect change. We changed the title because a new amazing asset deserves a fitting title: The Definitive Guide to Building a Content Operation

And, the best part? It was a huge hit. People loved it.

But the most important result? The right people loved it.

The people at SD Summit were our exact target audience, and it went flying off the (booth) shelves. Someone told us about using a full page in a deck they made for their own leadership team, pitching content operations.

Key Takeaways

Let’s recap: an eBook that just needed design updates and copy tweaks ended up getting a full makeover to truly hit home with a different segment.

What does this mean?

Never just update existing content? Always put massive effort into changing content even where it might not be needed?

Alright, I answered my question while asking it.

But—and I cannot stress this enough—marketers need to be smart about their content. After the first failed launch, we could have scrapped the eBook entirely. The only reason we didn’t was that we were fully invested in moving forward. That meant looking backward, being Agile, and acting on our data to produce fantastic content.

The best way to do that? Of course, with a content operation. You’re already pretty well acquainted with this eBook, but I’ve very sneakily left out most of the meat of it. Here’s a teaser of what has resonated so well with your fellow marketers:

  • The difference between content marketing and a content operation
  • How a content operation enables your teams to plan, create, distribute, and analyze impactful content across complex buyer’s journeys
  • Actual statistics that can help you prove the ROI of your content

Check it out and see for yourself what repurposing looks like.


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