Both e-books and whitepapers can be highly effective sales tools. They're also great at establishing thought leadership in your company's area of expertise.

But not all brands know how to drive cross-channel traffic to a new e-book. Others lose visitors' attention after the first few pages. Promoting your e-book​ could drive big returns-- if you do it right.

Most companies choose to gate these types of publications, meaning they ask visitors to submit some information about themselves before they can view the document. This paves the way for future contact with someone who is at least somewhat interested in your field of expertise.

But if you want to convince people to share their information with you, you need to offer up a relevant topic in an appealing format, all the while making it clear what viewers can gain if they choose to download it.

Let's take a look at five strategies that not only will help you create a more shareable e-book or whitepaper, but will also guide you in boosting engagement and results.

1. Include visual content.

Very few people today are willing to sit down and read a whitepaper or e-book that's comprised solely of text. That's why so many e-book fail to turn readers into customers-- if you don't give them something that's visually engaging, you'll lose their attention quickly.

In fact, I'd recommend including no more than 200 words per page in any whitepaper or e-book. Fifty words per page is even better. The more you can communicate visually, the less you'll have to say through text.

What's more, including images will boost their understanding of the information you're sharing. Compared to just text, text paired with images improves comprehension by up to 89 percent.

What types of visual content should you include? Graphs, charts, maps, icons, illustrations, embedded videos and photographs are all great examples.

2. Focus on what's important.

Adding a bunch of visuals isn't enough-- you also have to reduce the amount of text you include. Why? Because when you overwhelm your audience with too much information, they might not remember any of it. One compelling stat is more memorable than 10 so-so stats.

So focus only on the most important takeaways and people will walk away from your e-book more likely to remember what you said, and more likely to share what they've learned.

This rule doesn't just apply to text. When it comes to your visual content, make sure it all works together toward a single message and goal. Try to include too much and it may begin to look like a jumbled mess.

3. Pique their interest.

On social promotions and on the landing page for your e-book​, share one or two of the most fascinating takeaways from your e-book. This will inspire viewers to learn more.

Just remember: the way you share this information matters too. A graph or other piece of visual content will catch their eye more than text. If it's well-designed, it also promises a more enjoyable reading experience by serving as a teaser for the visual content to come.

4. Repurpose your visual content as marketing materials.

You'll want to promote your e-book​ or whitepaper using visual content, since it gets far more engagement on social channels. But don't worry-- this doesn't mean you have to invest a lot of time and money into creating these assets.

In fact, your e-book or whitepaper is a great source of visual content already. Pull some of the most compelling graphs and make mini-infographics optimized for social sharing. Use icons along with that video you embedded on the landing page for your e-book​. Redesign some of the visuals for use on a blog post promoting your e-book​.

These materials will be more likely to attract your audiences' attention and will encourage more click-throughs when you share them on social.

5. Deliver value.

This might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many e-book​ and whitepapers out there promise a lot more than they deliver. So make sure your messaging sets accurate expectations for the information you're going to share. The last thing you want is for readers to walk away disappointed in your e-book. That disappointment can quickly be transferred onto your brand as a whole.

The same holds true for the way you present yourself in your e-book. Great information delivered in a text-only format, or accompanied by sloppily made graphs and stock icons, makes your brand look cheap, unprofessional, or just downright uninteresting. It's the same reason that even geniuses have to dress nicely for a job interview-- how you present yourself matters.

Follow these five directives and you'll not only drive more content to your e-book​, but create a piece of content that truly engages and inspires your readers.

Published on: Apr 22, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.