I got a cold call a few weeks ago from a company called BookBoon. They’re looking for partners, and they’re doing something which I personally love on a philosophical level: they’re providing solid content in exchange for sales leads.
The idea is this: they provide ebooks that companies can provide for download, and, in the process, capture sales leads from people wanting the content in the books. The idea is that a desire for the content in the books is indicative of an interest in something the company is selling.
Example: a university provides several books about various technical computing programs. The books are free for download, but they require contact information. Depending on what books you download, you might be contacted down the road about various degree programs the university offers.
Here’s an example of the download pages from a couple of clients (used with permission):
Here’s what I like about this: they are providing something of actual value, in exchange for contact information and the tacit expectation of a future sales contact. In my mind, it’s a fair exchange. You go into it with your eyes open. Yes, you’re opening yourself up to be pitched to, but this is the transaction. So long as the content you got (the book) is of good quality, then it’s a fair exchange for the ensuing pitch.
This is a large engine of how the Internet economy works. The wrench in the gears, of course, is that a lot of content is crap. You seek content, get crap, and still have to suffer the pitch. You feel you got ripped off. So, the equity of the transaction lies in the quality of the content.
In order to prove this, they sent me one of the books: “Control Engineering: An Introduction With the Use of Matlab.” It was written by a retired professor at the University of Sussex. Now, I don’t know anything about control engineering or Matlab, but the book was undeniably impressive. It was very technical, and certainly looked like something that someone in this field would derive value from it.
Put another way, it isn’t crap content. It has value. Their side of the transaction is fulfilled.
A car manufacturer in Europe is using this book (and others) as a recruiting tactic. You provide contact information when you download it, and the company will follow-up with a recruiter to see if you’re interested in a job (presumably as an automotive engineer). Additionally, there are ads in the book for this company, promoting them as a great place to work.
This is content marketing in its purest form. They are providing content of value in exchange for the opportunity to make a sales pitch. This is what the free content economy is fundamentally built on – it’s certainly what the entire advertising industry is built on.
Content in exchange for attention span. Whether you like it or not, this is the economics of content and what drives content forward.
Understand that I have no skin in this game at all – in fact, I couldn’t think of one of my own clients that would be a good fit for it. But I still love this application of the idea (primarily because of the quality of the content), and I hope it thrives. I love good, quality, free content, and this is one way to keep it going.
To that end, I will shamelessly mention again that BookBoon is looking for partners.