Reports and guides are popular tools for business owners to share their information and expertise. They also make great free gifts for newsletter subscribers, or additions to programs and training materials.
Reports are generally informative in nature. They discuss the features and benefits of a particular topic, include facts and statistics, and quote well known sources.
- Industry Report – discuss the importance of your industry and benefits to your clients
- Market Report – discuss the importance of your market and any recent or pending changes
- Customer Report – important information about changes to your target market or their customer base
For Example, if you are a social media marketing company, then you might create a report on the uses of Facebook, including statistics on the number of users, demographics, and other targeting information.
Another Example, if you are a business coach, you might create a report on the benefits and common outcomes of business coaching.
Guides tend to be more of a how to, walking the reader through the process of making or completing a task or action.
- Technical Guide – walks your audience through a process or actions that is technical in nature
- Instructional Guide – instructs your audience on how to complete a process or action
- Process Guide – walks your audience through the steps of completing a task or action
For Example, if you are a social media marketing company, you might create a guide on the how to use Facebook Insights to better your promotions and posts.
Another Example, if you are a business coach, you might create a guide on how to organize your office or communications for optimal efficiency and productivity.
Here are some key components to creating a report or guide for your business;
- Title – it’s important to choose something meaningful and search engine friendly, but you also want to capture the attention of your target audience.
- Cover Page – this is optional, but does add to the professional appearance of your report or guide.
- Table of Contents – this is optional depending on the length of your report or guide. If your material is greater than five pages, we recommend providing an outline of the content. This outline should link directly to each section.
- Introduction – your introduction should include a summary of the content, and tell what your reader will discover and why it’s important. This doesn’t need to be any more than one page.
- Copyright – you should include a disclaimer about the appropriate uses of your material and any legal or use limitations. This can be included on the cover page, table of contents, or Introduction.
- Content – this goes without saying really, but your content must be valuable, well written, and accurate. If you’re not the best writer, then hiring a copywriter can be worth the investment.
- Formatting – in addition to what you write, you need to pay special attention to the formatting. Inconsistent formatting can be distracting and take away from your message, plus it’s unprofessional.
- Grammar & Spelling – Just like formatting, spelling and grammar are essential to portraying a professional product. Even if you’re an English major, I always recommend having a 3rd party review your content before finalizing it.
- Images – in a report or guide, images should be minimal, but a picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure to include some interesting and appropriate imagery along with your content. Graphs and tables are also key in visual communication.
- Conclusion – your conclusion should include a short re-statement of the mission and purpose of your content, with a statement of what you hope the reader takes from your report or guide. This doesn’t need to be any more than one page and can even be combined with your bio.
- Bio – if you are creating a marketing piece, it’s always important to include your bio and contact information at the end of your content. In addition, you may have a specific ‘call to action’ or next step that you wish the reader to take. This should also be kept to no more than one page and can be combined with your conclusion.
- References – this is particularly important in a report. You should always give appropriate credit to the sources and references you used to create your content.
Reports and Guides, like e-books, can easily be written and designed using any word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, and converted to a PDF version for viewing across multiple platforms.
It may also be beneficial to review our series on repurposing content for additional ideas on creating interesting material.
Feel free to post any questions or comments about creating guides or reports, or contact us if you need help creating your own material.