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How to name your PDF guide so people actually want to read it

OK, so you need a “lead magnet”.

One of those PDF guides like “10 ways to improve your cash flow” – maybe for good measure, “…to improve your cash flow during the Covid crisis”. There. Bam. You’ve got a PDF guide, a title, and all you need is to throw in a few things you’ve talked to your clients about in relation to cash and you’ll have the new leads just FLOWING in. Right?

Maybe not so much.

Before you get going on your new PDF guide, consider these things:

  1. Why are you writing this guide?
    If the answer is “to have a lead magnet”, your approach is more you-centred than them-centred, and it needs adjusting. Yes, you can have one, but it’s not about having a “lead magnet”. It’s not about creating content which is so cleverly crafted it draws people in magnetically without them even knowing it (or wanting to). That’s not how good content marketing works. That’s not how good marketing works, full stop. Ask yourself how the content in this guide will actually, practically help your readers – or is this more about you having a guide than about them getting help?
  2. What will you actually say which is of enormous value?
    Don Miller talks about this in his excellent book “Building a Story Brand”. He says create helpful content for your prospects and clients – website pages, courses, blog posts, videos, and yes, guides. But whatever you create, the purpose is to give enormous value. To cause the person reading it to find it so practically helpful they could take some action without doing business with you at all, for now. Or ever. (Some people just aren’t your kind of client so you may as well give them a little free help and let them get on their way.)
  3. What’s the absolute best way to get across this information to those reading it?
    A guide may be a great way to share this information: but it also may not be. What do you need to explain? Is pages and pages of written content the best way to get this across? Do you need to combine it with other types of content, such as creating a web page with a video or a series of videos? How will this guide actually help your readers: and is there another way which might help them better?It’s okay to have lots  of different “stackable” content, including a guide. You might have a guide made up of content from a series of blog posts, a video embedded in each post, an online course which comes from the content within the guide, or other formats. The guide doesn’t stand alone. It’s part of all of your marketing.
  4. Have you ever written a guide before?
    A PDF guide is different from an ebook which is different from an online brochure or some other marketing material which is content-heavy. If you’ve never written one before, you’ll need more time, more planning, you’ll need to have a design agency standing ready to help you properly design it. That’s not to prevent you doing it! If you’re writing it to help people and you’ve got information they’ll benefit from reading, just get going. Put it in a Google doc and share that to start. You don’t have to have the Guide To End All Guides straight out of the gate (and you probably won’t).

Now you’ve asked those questions and reconsidered what this guide is for in the first place, and you have some genuinely helpful content which will be of enormous value to your audience and definitely needs to be in guide format…

..how do you name it so they know what’s in it? This thing is going to be wildly valuable! Their business and life may change because of what you’ve shared! How do you get them to actually download it, read it, DO something with it?

Naming the guide is actually a really good place to start your “I’ve decided to write a PDF guide” process. Because the naming of the guide comes from the purpose of the guide. (Back to point 1, above).

It’s okay to write the whole content of the guide and then go back to these questions later when naming it; or you can go through these before you even start. Either way, it’s a reminder you’re not naming your guide to sound like a super cool guide: you’re naming it so the specific people you want to help will know what’s in it quickly. And will get the help you’re offering.

Ask yourself these questions:

(I’ll use the example of a “cash flow guide” since many accountants want to write, or have written, one of those – because many of their clients are genuinely struggling with this.)

  • What’s the number one pain, or issue, the people you’re writing to are facing? What is making life really hard for them in this area?
    Example: “cash flow” isn’t the number one pain. The pain is “will I run out of money, and when?” – “how long can I keep my business going during covid?” – “can I make this purchase/hire this employee and what will happen a few months later?”
  • What do they really want? What is their “ultimate goal” as they come out of this problem issue/area/time?
    Example: “a good cash flow forecast” is not ultimately what they want. They want to be absolutely confident their business will last, or this purchase will help them and not harm them, or this new hire is a good decision.
  • Is there anything which “lights them up” when you talk about it? A tip, a suggestion, an idea, a good question, which has resonated with more than one person who has this problem?
    Example: “we can help you create a budget” might not light anyone up with excitement, but “we’ll plan out all your new hires over the next 6-12 months so you know exactly who you can hire and when, and at what salary”

Pulling these together can give you the core of a really good PDF guide title. Using our example above, you’ve got some of these points to use:

  • Knowing whether you will run out of money, and if so when
  • Being confident you can keep your business going / your business will last
  • Having confidence in what purchases you can make and what will happen when you do
  • Knowing your purchase is a good decision

You can then combine these with your audience. Are you writing to creative agencies? Hospitality businesses? Pubs? Breweries? Retail outlets? Salons and hairdressers?

Whoever it is, you want your guide to speak specifically to them. You could also (if it’s relevant) mention the specific situation they’re in – Covid is an almost obvious example, but don’t use it as a default. Use it if it’s true, and really at the heart of the issue these businesses are facing.

To get to a good title, start by writing out what you wish you could call it. This is going to be a longer, more drawn-out title which probably repeats itself and maybe even sounds a little stupid. That’s okay. You have to start somewhere, and it will keep you human. (Writing things like “37 ways to increase cash flow positivity during a business crisis” is distracting you from your ultimate purpose and their ultimate wins.) Remember Brene Brown’s SFD, and start there.

So your initial draft title might be something like:

“How to know what purchases to make during Covid which will keep your salon going and help you be confident it will last beyond Covid, and even be more profitable than ever”

And then you cut out the duplications, the repetitions, and shift things around a little:

“How to be confident in purchases for your salon during Covid, so your salon is more profitable than ever”

Then review what’s actually necessary to get to the point fast:

“How to know what to spend (and what not to) to have the most profitable salon post-Covid”

…and cut out even more…

“How to spend with confidence (even during Covid) and build the most profitable salon ever”

You could keep going endlessly. I’ve sometimes spent days chopping and rearranging guide titles. My suggestion is to get to a point where you think it’s a really good title, and then leave it and don’t look at it for a full 24 hours. Don’t send it to anyone, don’t ask for suggestions, just leave it to sit.

Then after 24 hours, come back to it, look at it, and think “does that get across everything this guide is about?”

If it does, go for it. Title your PDF and get it out there.

If it still doesn’t, now you can whittle it more, ask a few people what they think. Be careful with asking for input though – remember to ask your target audience .

These are the people you want to read the guide. If it’s for salon owners, ask salon owners. Your clients, in social groups or in a social post. Anyone who is not a salon owner or doesn’t work with them, their opinion has less weight.

It’s going to be tempting to ask friends or randomers, which you could do if you wanted. But ultimately it doesn’t matter if your business partner or team member or sister thinks it’s a great title , if the intended audience – the salon owners – don’t get it. And this even applies to those in marketing, like me! All my suggestions and ideas are based on conversations I’ve had with accountants and guides they’ve written – but ultimately, your client is the hero. Make them the priority.

Finally, make sure to:

Consider whether your guide is an actual guide. 

A brochure is more factual – like a description of a particular service you offer. An e-book is meant to be an actual book, which is being shared online. (I highly stress meant to be , because this word is often misused and people call something an ebook when really it’s 10 or 15 pages with some tips. That’s not an ebook.) Basically, if your online ‘guide’ could be printed out and bound and be called an actual book, then it’s an ebook. But in that case, what’s stopping you from making it an actual book?

Check your use of accountant-speak

It is so easy to fall into using terms your clients don’t use (or they only use them because you’ve taught them to use them). Check everything, and question everything. Is the term “cash flow” what they actually say? What they’re actually concerned about?

When looking at any term (whether you think it’s accountanty or not):

  • Is it an accountanty term?
  • Break it down into what it actually means
  • What does the accountant say and what do they mean?
  • What does the client say and what do they mean by it?
  • What does the dictionary or thesaurus say?
  • How can I make that even simpler?

Then you move from things like “how to improve your cash flow” to statements or questions like “Does your bank balance support what you want to do in your business” or “We want to take money out from the business: can we?” or “Goodbye, money vs hello, money”.

Actually get the guide published (even if the name isn’t perfect)

I’m feeling your pain when it comes to naming a guide: I’ve written one based on the 12 elements of content marketing from our Accelerator course. I’ve written it because there’s so much in that course I want to share with accountants – and because knowing these things makes the difference between ‘doing some marketing’ and ‘doing great marketing’. Because the accountants who go through the course and are educated in these areas always, always do better marketing and get better clients and are happier with their business as a result.

But naming it is really hard. Right now it’s called “ The Accountant Marketer ” to reflect the fact that as an accountant you’re building marketing skills and becoming an actual marketer, not just an accountant who does some marketing stuff now and then…but I feel like that’s not covering what I want to say. I still need a sub-title or more to get across the impact felt by the accountants who have learned these concepts. To deal with phrases like “elements of content marketing” which may mean nothing right now, and turn them into human speak. To do what you need to do with “accountanty” terms, for “marketingy” terms which sound like faff or sound salesy or sound boring or bring up the wrong impressions.

Eventually I’ll just get it out there with the best title i can, because I can always change it. That’s also the beauty of a digital guide. You can change the title as many times as you need until you get it absolutely spot on: as long as the content within it is of enormous value, and people are actually using it, the name is fluid.

Enjoy the process, and enjoy actually helping people with your guide! Feel free to share your guide (or questions about naming it) in the PF Marketing community and I and the team would be happy to share our thoughts to help you get to the best name of all.

Guide examples from other accountants

Here are some examples of guides (or other PDF type documents!) from PF itself and some of our accountant clients:

Strategy sessions PDF brochure (Kinder Pocock): more of a brochure than a PDF guide – explains what the service is and why it matters

Limited company ownership guide (Complete HQ): A true guide, for limited company owners, including what they need to know (including some things they’d need to know about Complete!)

“Far from your typical workplace” Employee book (Farnell Clarke): an employee welcome guide, including the firm’s journey, numbers and stats, how to dress, and the team

Traits of the entrepreneurial accountant guide (PF): The traits to encourage and strengthen when you want to focus on being a business owner and an entrepreneur, rather than simply on being an accountant (with quotes from people doing this already).

Partnership success agreement (PF): How things work at PF, what to know if you’re considering working with us, what you can expect from us and what we expect from you

VIDEO: What is a “lead magnet” PDF guide anyway and why do you need one?