We Asked Our Audience What They Actually Guess of PDF Ebooks: A HubSpot Experiment


I don’t know about you, but I scarcely print anything anymore.

Seriously, think about it — when’s the last period you had to type Command+ P and print out official documents? Between e-tickets, virtual pay alternatives, and online signature tools, I guess the last thing I printed out was the lease for my apartment.

So you can imagine my amaze when HubSpot’s audience started telling us they still like to publish out our ebooks — which are often 20 or 30 pages in duration — instead of viewing them on a web page.

In 2017 — during the era of self-driving vehicles, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence — our team here at HubSpot is constantly striving to exam and implement the most modern techniques for content creation to provide cool, useful resources for our audience. But as it turns out, our perceptions of what our audience actually values when they download out content were a little … off.

In this post, I’ll dive into our hypothesis, how we tested it, and what we’re learning about our audience — and how they actually like to eat our content.

What We Do

I work on HubSpot’s Marketing Acquisition team making content offers — such as our downloadable ebooks, guidebooks, and templates — that our audience exchanges their contact information for that are intended to download them.

If you’re familiar with the inbound marketing methodology we’ve been teaching here at HubSpot for more than 10 years, I operate in the “Convert” stage of the process of helping new people detect and learn about HubSpot 😛 TAGEND

When a person happens upon HubSpot for the first time online — via a blog post like this one, through social media, or by conducting a Google search — they might watch a bold, brightly-colored call-to-action( CTA) encouraging them to learn more about a particular topic or product.

And in order to get that info — from an ebook, a guide, a template, a webinar, or an event — the person has to hand over their contact information. This ensures they can receive an emailed version of the content offer or event enrollment, and it also converts them from a visitor into a lead.

My job is to create content that guests are so interested in learning more about that they exchange their telephone number, email address, and professional background information. And to make sure we keep converting guests into leads for the lives of HubSpot’s business, I make sure that ebooks, guidebooks, and events are helpful, fascinating, and ultimately train our audience on how to do inbound marketing.

What We Wondered

For the most part, my team’s job has entailed making PDFs that visitors can download once they submit a sort with their contact information.

More specifically, the commission has entail making a lot of PDFs.

And although people were filling out forms and downloading our content offers, we started wondering if we should offer them something different — something more cutting-edge — than a file format created back in 1993. And we wondered if changing the format of our content offers would change conversion rates, too.

We decided to run a survey — and a little test.

We wanted to know if our core persona who we marketed these content offers to still liked PDFs and detected them useful. So, how else would we find out than by creating an offer?

I generated two different version of the same content offer — one in PDF format, and one in web page format. Then, once someone downloaded the offer, we sent them a thank-you email, and we asked them which format they opted, and why.

What We Learned

More than 3,000 individuals submitted their information to access the offer, and approximately 9% is a response to our topic, which gave us more than 300 responses to learn from.

And much to our astonish, 90% of the respondents opted downloading a PDF to reading our content on a web page.

We gleaned a ton of valuable information about our core audience from this survey, and the qualitative feedback was incredibly helpful, too. Our key takeaways about format predilections were 😛 TAGEND

Our core persona said that she wished to print offers.

People viewing our content want to be able to download it and come back to it later.

People don’t believe our web page offers seem as good as PDFs.

Some people are potentially defaulting to the format they are aware best.

People liked having both print and online versions.

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