Ryan’s Free Ebook Download Experiment

by | Jun 1, 2020 | Customer Growth

Ryan's Free Ebook Experiment

It all started on March 18, 2020. We were in the early stages of COVID-19, and I saw another author offer up the ebook formats of his books for free on Amazon. It was a great gesture, and it immediately got me thinking about how I could do something similar and help out college students who had some extra time on their hands with school on hold.

Now, I wasn’t completely selfless in this idea, I also was interested in growing my email list. At the start of the day on March 18, my list sat at only sixteen people. That’s right, I only had sixteen people on my email list.

My Process

I started by using the same process and tools that we’ve always suggested our clients use. This meant leveraging a landing page and email marketing software. I built out multiple variations of my landing page, this is called A/B testing or split testing.

This allowed me to make slight (or drastic) changes to the landing page and then have two (or more) pages compete with each other. After enough people had visited each page, I would then choose a winner based upon the conversion rate. Once I did that, I would create more variations of the landing page.

There was always a competition between landing pages to find the best headline, image/video, and page copy.

Email Marketing Software

For the email marketing software, I personally use ConvertKit. Within ConvertKit, I built out my automations to deliver the eBook when someone requested it from my landing page.

After testing it out, I was then ready to start driving traffic to my landing page.

Driving Traffic To My Site

This was time-sensitive, so I needed to go the route of paid traffic. I couldn’t rely on SEO to get people to my landing page. This also meant that I was paying money to have college students download my eBook for free. At this point, it was really about helping these students out and building an email list at the same time.

There would be no financial gain from this transaction.

I decided to run ads on Facebook and Instagram. I explored LinkedIn, but it was way too cost-prohibitive to run ads on that social network.

Just like my landing page variations, I also created multiple variations of my ad. I tried image ads with just the book, image ads with me holding the book (like the ad to the left), and I even tried video ads.

After running many variations of ads, the ad below continuously outperformed all of the others. People seemed to like seeing a real person rather than a stock photo.

And, videos didn’t work well for this type of call to action.

Facebook Ad (above): this was my best performing ad.

Current Status

As of May 15, I had over 850 people download my eBook. Some people unsubscribed immediately after downloading the book (which is expected).

Ultimately, I went from 16 people on my email list to over 700 in about two months (see graph below). And, it cost me $1.03 per subscriber.

The campaign is still actively running, and I’ll be over 1,000 subscribers soon. 

Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of industry knowledge. He earned his BBA from the University of Iowa in 2004 majoring in Management Information Systems and later earned his MBA from the University of Iowa in 2009 with a focus on Management and Marketing. When he's not spending time with his wife and three young children, you'll find Ryan pounding away at his keyboard, spinning on his Peloton, or listening to a good audiobook or podcast.

Connect with Ryan on Instagram.

Ryan Glick

Ryan has been heavily involved in the world of Information Technology and entrepreneurship since the early 2000s. From small business consulting to Fortune 500 IT leadership, Ryan has a wide array of industry knowledge. He earned his BBA from the University of Iowa in 2004 majoring in Management Information Systems and later earned his MBA from the University of Iowa in 2009 with a focus on Management and Marketing. When he's not spending time with his wife and three young children, you'll find Ryan pounding away at his keyboard, spinning on his Peloton, or listening to a good audiobook or podcast.

Connect with Ryan on Instagram.

Ryan Glick