Almost every marketing blog on the internet will tell you this. It's internet marketing 101.
In order to get visitors to hand over their email addresses, you need to offer them something of value in return.
That value usually comes in the form of a downloadable guide.
What every marketing blog on the internet doesn’t cover however, is how to create a downloadable PDF?
With a lack of design sense, low to no budget and even less time, how do you even begin to go about creating beautiful, value packed PDFs that will leave your new subscribers' mind blown and eager for more?
How to Create a Downloadable PDF - The Recipe
Great Content + Good Design = A Value-Packed Downloadable PDF
Unfortunately these two ingredients are often the biggest roadblocks to getting your lead generation machine up and running.
Trying to figure out the perfect content and achieving a design you’re proud of can leave you stuck for months.
We’re going to tackle both of these roadblocks, and focus on the all important JUST SHIP IT principle, so you can grow your email list for all those months instead.
The First Ingredient - Mustering up Great Content
First let's work on what you should include in your free lead magnet. Your free PDF will fall on a spectrum of quality bracketed by the following 2 scenarios:
Low Quality: By the time a new subscriber is reading your PDF, you’ve already received their email address, so you cave to the temptation of providing something of minimal value.
High Quality: Perhaps because you want to prove the overwhelming value of your list to new subscribers so badly, you decide to give away everything you can upfront. Nothing but a 20 page book (that takes you 6 months to create) will do.
The sweet spot is in the middle ground.
Offer some distinct value, but don’t give so much you completely overwhelm your new subscriber to the point of TLDR (too long, didn't read).
Strike a balance: creating your opt in offer doesn’t have to be difficult. It should be a quick read, not a novel, but what information you do offer should be filled with value.
There are three options when looking for content to put in your PDF:
Using content from an existing blog post or page on your site may seem lazy, but I can assure you it’s not. It can be a great way to get a PDF out quickly, and to get more eyeballs on a crucial piece of content.
Make sure you re-purpose the content to fit a PDF style rather than a blog post. Focus on turning it into a take home guide.
Say you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the computer for once and found yourself at a party.
When you tell people about your business, what are the common questions that always follow?
What is an idea, topic or problem within your niche that people always want to know more about?
That, my friend, is your opt-in material.
Just think of what would get your new drinking buddy at the party nodding along with a pleasant mixture of ‘I never knew this’ and ‘holy sh*t, this is gold’.
A few short jabs of valuable information, surrounded by more detailed explanations and a few action steps or bullet point summaries is all you need.
If you’re not familiar with Content Upgrades, check out this post. In short, they are downloads offered on specific posts, expanding on the topic of the post or offering the information in a different form, such as a checklist.
Content Upgrades are great for capturing email addresses on some of your most popular posts. It's a targeted offer for those you know are already interested in the topic (because they're reading the blog post in the first place).
Since it's offered on a single blog post, this type of PDF would include content that adds to, or expands on the original post, rather than just repeating the content.
Content Upgrades can include anything, from summaries or checklists, to quick reference guides or tool lists. The headline swipe file available on this post is the perfect example of a complimenting PDF.
The content for these types of PDF’s should not take you very long at all to create. You’ve already got the foundation (the blog post), you just need to think of a valuable addition to the points raised in the post.
Ultimate Guide PDF Lead Magnet Strategy
If you already have or are interested in creating super long-form content — like an ultimate guide — to better entice new visitors to subscribe to your list, consider using our Open PDF epic content strategy explained here.
Ingredient #2 - Good Design for Bad Designers
I know, I know. We all wish we could be one of those people. The ones that just seem know how to make stuff look good. The ones with that mysterious, seemingly unattainable trait called ‘design sense’.
Back in the day there weren’t many options. You either hired one of these unique annoyingly talented people to spruce up your content (waiting days to weeks to get it back, and paying through the eyeballs), or you settled with a PDF that looked like your three year old used Microsoft Paint to create.
Enter modern technology (Whoo!).
Through the power of templates, and some very clever companies, good design is available to everyone. You no longer need ‘the eye’.
Don’t believe me? Think you’re the exception to the 'anyone can be a designer now' rule?
Created in less than 1 minute with Canva
You just need to know how to edit the templates these programs offer.
Let take a look at three simple, free (or low cost) ways of putting your content together in a visually appealing, professional format.
Canva - The One Stop Shop for Good Design
Canva is a demigod of design resources, with tailored templates for everything from business cards, to Facebook event images, menus and magazines.
Most of the templates are free, unless you want to use their licenced pictures in your design (which average at a dollar a pop).
For a completely free option, you can swap their pictures with creative commons (free use) pictures from a websites like pixabay.
- Existing Content
- New Content
- Content Upgrades
Get Your Design On
Here's a quick tutorial on using Canva to create a PDF. We'll be turning this Thrive Themes blog post on Negative Feedback into a downloadable PDF.
Merge Existing Content Into a Value Bomb
Sometimes the content on your site is already in a format prime for a PDF. By combining separate bits of content into one guide, you can quickly and easily create a value packed downloadable for your visitor.
While this method is no where near as pretty as making the whole thing in Canva, it only takes about 10 minutes to create. So if you’re looking for a quick way to get your opt-in together without a lot of messing about, this method is for you.
- Existing Content
- Content Upgrades
A perfect candidate for the merge technique is a recipe site. Putting your best vegan recipes together into one ‘complete vegan recipe collection’ download will give you the perfect Content Upgrade for your individual vegan recipe posts.
Another example is a business blog. If you have several posts on the different aspects of starting a business, you can collect those posts in order and create a complete guide.
Worried about your audience finding out you're using existing content?
Pat Flynn, the legend himself, also struggled with this problem:
In response to the question 'When are you launching an online course?'
“I don’t know. Probably not for a while because really all the same content I’d provide in a course is free online on SPI (Smart Passive Income). I don’t want to have my audience pay for something they could already have access to.”
Yet for some reason, people were still begging him to create one.
He didn’t realize the value his audience placed on having the content all together in an easily digestible format. When he did finally launch a course, his audience gratefully lapped it up, and it was a huge success.
Get Your Merge On
To begin with, you need to choose which posts you want to combine. Selecting all the posts under one post category or tag can be a quick way doing this.
For this example, we’re going to create an ‘Ultimate Guide to Testimonials’ using the existing Thrive Themes blog posts:
Step 1 - Convert Your Blog Posts Into PDF Format
PrintFriendly is a free tool allowing you to load and edit content from any URL, turning it into a printable format.
Enter the URL of the post you want to use and click print preview.
This will load the content in an editable window, where you can delete any sections that you don’t want to include in the PDF. You can also delete or change the size of the images used in the post.
The Post Editor tool on PrintFriendly
Once you’ve cleaned the post up, click the Print button. Avoid the PDF button for this technique as it adds page numbers to your download which will confuse the reader if you’re merging multiple PDF’s.
In the Print window, make sure you turn off headers to get rid of the 'PrintFriendly' text at the top of the page, then save as a PDF.
All links on the original blog post will still be clickable when saving this way.
Step 2 - Create a Title Page, and a Table of Contents
Step 3 - Stick It All Together
Use a PDF merging program such as ilovepdf to save the PDFs together as one.
If you want to add page numbers, you can do that with ilovepdf's page numbering tool.
Want Pretty and Convenient?
If you’re willing to throw down a few bucks, there are some pretty cool tools that are a mixture of Canva and the PDF merge method.
Unlike the PDF merge method, these tools allow you to change the formatting of the blog posts to integrate with a whole new design.
Screenshot from the Beacon demo video
- Existing Content
- New Content
- Content Upgrades
Get Your Customization On
Designrr is a web based app that changes blog posts into PDFs or 'ebooks'. You just need to paste the URLs you want into the program and choose one of their pre-made styles.
Beacon is a WordPress plugin that does much the same as Designrr. The difference is you can select the post you want to use from within your WordPress dashboard.
Both allow you to create new content within the apps.
If you’re thinking of going down this route, I’d recommend watching the product tutorial videos on each homepage to decide which is right for you.
If you want to use these programs on posts you've created with Thrive Architect, you just need to use this quick workaround:
Copy the HTML from the post using the "View Page Source (HTML)" button — pictured below — within Thrive Architect (Click the gear icon in the thin, right-hand sidebar and then click the "Advanced Settings" tab to find it).
Create a new post, and paste the HTML straight into the native WordPress text editor.
Publish the post, and import it into the PDF builder program. Once it's loaded onto the PDF Builder editor you can delete the duplicate post.
This will preserve all of the heading tags and images used in the post, making it customizable within the programs above.
Create Your Own Dowloadable PDF and Start Generating Leads
With all these tools available, it shouldn't take you more than a few hours to create your first downloadable PDF.
Jump on and give it a try.
Let us know how it went in the comments below!
Once you’ve got your shiny new PDF created, the next step is convincing you visitors that it’s worth their email address to download.
To help you do that, here's a free course we created for you...