The Case for Shifting Tech Marketing Budgets from Online Events to Content

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Tech startups tend to focus a big chunk of their marketing budget on attending in-person events and conferences to network, build their audience, and grow brand awareness. But as the world collectively deals with the coronavirus pandemic, a vast majority of conferences and events planned for 2020 have been canceled, postponed, or moved online.

Yesterday, on Twitter, AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr officially announced AWS re:Invent 2020 will be entirely online, free, and will take place across three weeks in November and December. (re:Invent fanatic CEO Ofir Nachmani will offer his opinion on that decision in an upcoming post.)

Many tech marketing professionals this year are finding they need to pivot their 2020 marketing strategy and allocate their budget in other ways.

It might seem logical to jump into creating online events and webinars in an attempt to recreate the in-person events everyone’s missing out on, but in the current environment and with ever-increasing “Zoom fatigue,” making this your primary focus may not be the best time or money investment.

So where should you be focusing your marketing efforts?

Of course, a content creation agency like IOD will say the answer is content. However obvious it is to us, we want to explain logically why it’s the answer for you.

In the long run, content always brings your business better ROI, but now especially, content truly is your most reliable marketing investment.

Why Not Just Webinars?

You’ve probably been invited to dozens of webinars, online workshops, or demos over the past few months. But how many have you actually attended? And let’s be honest, even when you’ve attended online events, how present and attentive have you been?

Yes, the tech world tends to love online events, with roughly 29% of all webinars put out by software and technology companies. (To put that in perspective, financial service providers trail behind in second place at only 14%).

But here’s the truth: 78% of those webinars that businesses invest so much time and resources in end up with 50 or fewer attendees.

Moreover, the tech industry is oversaturated with webinars right now, as companies scramble to move in-person events to the virtual world. 

Webinars can certainly be a very useful part of the funnel and provide good ROI in a short amount of time. But that’s only if they’re successful. Organizing and promoting a webinar is a lot of work, and unfortunately, the vast majority of online events turn out to be a waste of time and money.

Plus, it’s very difficult to get organic traffic to a webinar. In order to get people to sign up, you usually have to also create content around the webinar or promote your event through paid ads that can eat away at your budget.

The Case for Content Right Now

Any tech marketing professional knows that content creation is a long-term investment, but one that’s certainly worth it. Stellar evergreen content can bring in steady traffic for years to come.

While an online event can certainly be recorded and later uploaded to your website and social media, these videos quickly become out of date, especially if they are billed as a conference, and focus on timely issues.

Moreover, video content cannot be updated easily as can written content—this would most likely entail producing a completely new video. A blog post or white paper, on the other hand, can easily be updated and enriched, and at a minimal cost.

Consistently putting out high-quality written contentwhich according to Google’s criteria should be expert-based, backed by reputable sources, original and uniquepositions your company as an industry thought leader. While promoting and producing a single webinar can set you back $3,000-$5,000, you could produce a number of high-quality blog posts, for example, for the same price.

How-to articles, e-books, and white papers written by people who are your target audience will give you credibility, bring in more organic traffic, and help you build up your global community. You’ll generate discussion that won’t be dependent on time zones, as with live online events.

Reaping the Benefits of Events Through Content

In-person and online events both allow you to meet up with colleagues, make new connections with industry peers, and share knowledge so you can advance professionally and promote your brand. But these same benefits can be achieved through content if the content is created with strategic distribution and sharing in mind (think Reddit, Twitter, and HackerNews).

Knowledge Sharing Through Expert-Based Content

One of the main goals of participating in conferences and online events is to establish yourself as an authority in your field and thus build the brand. There are a number of ways to achieve this through strategically shared content.

Expert-Based Blogs

Marketers that prioritize blogging efforts are 13 times more likely to see positive ROI. But blogging alone will not bring value if the content is weak or lacking real value. 

Investing in expert-based content will bring value to your readers and great ROI for your business. Content written by the people who need and use your product/services—whether it be a software developer, DevOps engineer, or cloud security architect—lends credibility to your brand, establishes you as an industry leader, and drives organic traffic to your website.

You don’t need to be pumping out dozens of blog posts to achieve this either. For example, Ahrefs publishes an average of two new blog posts each month, ensuring it’s the best content that exists on the subject they’re covering. As a result, their blog consistently brings in around 400,000 monthly visitors from organic traffic.

Figure 1: Ahrefs blog traffic (May 2020)

Updating Your Website and Content

Updating your content is another way to achieve this, which of course is no secret to the seasoned marketer. In addition to creating two new blog posts a month, Ahrefs focuses on updating old content. With the new Google May 2020 core update, this content marketing method is more important than ever.

It’s possible you’re already sitting on a goldmine of content that could be easily refreshed but you simply haven’t had time to attend to it. Now’s the time to take advantage of that unused event budget to do an audit of your entire website and all its content to see what needs updating and how to improve the UX/UI. Revamping your website and updating old content with new, useful information is something your readers are sure to appreciate.

Too much on your plate right now? Consider hiring an agency to help you with the revamp and advise on ways to make your website more user friendly. And ask some of your tech experts, whether from your IT department or outsourced, to spend an hour or two updating and enriching an article. Doing this for just a single blog post can have a massive payoff in a short time. For one company, this resulted in a 260% increase in organic traffic in just two weeks.

In addition to updating the content itself, consider enriching written content with new images, screenshots—for step-by-step tutorials, for example—and adding more white space and headings for clarity and better SEO.

Need expert-based tech content? IOD is the solution for many tech brands who are looking to supplement their blogs with article written by technologists for technologist. Contact us to learn more.

Create a Knowledge Base

Want to show your brand is an authority in your field? Creating a knowledge base is a great way to achieve this. Not only can this improve customer experience, it can also reduce MTTR and thus save your company time and money.

Beyond helping existing customers resolve issues faster, knowledge bases can also be huge organic traffic drivers.

Already have a knowledge base? Now’s a great time to invest in improving and expanding it. Not only should your knowledge base be informative, it should also be user-friendly and easy to navigate, as in this sample from the Microsoft support page.

Create High-Value Tutorials and How-To Guides

Create in-depth how-to guides and tutorials, both articles and videos, that address the needs of your target audience. A blog post on how to track costs in Azure may be helpful if your readers are new Azure users. Or, if you’re targeting cloud architects, for example, you might want to create a step-by-step video tutorial on how to configure a VPC endpoint for Lambda functions.

Not sure where to begin? Consult with your support team to determine the most commonly asked questions and issues your customers experience or need help with.

Even if you lack the resources to create this content in house, the work can be outsourced. In fact, 84% of B2B marketers choose to outsource their content creation.

Do this consistently, and your company will position itself as an industry thought leader that people will flock to for expert guidance.

Networking

The connections we make at conferences are just as valuable as the knowledge acquired. Networking with industry experts and getting your brand’s name out there are important reasons for attending such events. Here are some ways to use that event budget to achieve this through content.

Invest in Your Social Media Strategy

Since we can’t network in person right now, now, more than ever, building up your social media presence is critical in order to reach your target audience. It’s also a great way to invest your freed-up events budget.

  • Hire a social media coordinator: Perhaps you haven’t had the budget to hire a designated social media expert up until now. Consider hiring one either in-house or on a freelance basis to ensure the content you’re creating is reaching your target audience.
  • Paid ads: Consider investing in PPC, promoted Tweets, banner ads, and more.
  • Influencer marketing: Pay influencers in pay-for-play collaborations. Or, check to see if any micro influencers are already following your brand and reach out to see how you can work together.

Email Campaigns

In times of uncertainty, it’s especially important to keep your audience informed. Email campaigns have the potential for a huge ROI—for every $1 spend on email marketing, businesses get an average return of $51.

Part of your events budget can be used to hire an agency to help you create these campaigns–including the content itself, design, and tracking KPIs. Or, if you prefer to do it in-house, you can invest in (or upgrade) software to help you with this.

Of course, in these sensitive times, email marketing must be done right and in good taste. They shouldn’t be overly promotional to avoid mass unsubscribes.

Ask your customers how you can help, and encourage your readers to reach out and ask questions as well. Responsiveness is key here.

This customer feedback can also guide you in any adjustments you might need to make in light of the situation. It may even help generate new content ideas.

Guest Blogging and Collaboration with Other Companies

You don’t have to focus on your own content channels alone. Consider using your events budget to contribute to relevant tech sites as an industry expert to connect with a wider audience and gain valuable backlinks.

Guest blogging is considered one of the most effective inbound marketing strategies. Content marketing strategist Gregory Ciotti managed to add 36,733 more subscribers to HelpScout’s email list through guest blogging alone.

Getting featured in publications like Forbes, Hackernoon, CIO, DevOps.com, and the New Stack have the potential to bring in a ton of new traffic to your site and is an effective way to get your brand’s name out to the world.

Not only can you hire an expert/writer or agency to produce this content, you can also pay to help get it placed in a reputable publication geared to your target audience.

Another way to network is to reach out to other companies to see how you can work together to better serve your customers during these difficult times through a joint marketing campaign. For example, Adobe, IBM, and a number of other tech companies recently collaborated with AIIA to help support business continuity for Australian enterprises by providing free services, advice, and tools.

Making the Best of Your Marketing Budget in Uncertain Times

While moving events online might seem to be a good choice–and we at IOD are super curious to see how #awsreinvent pans out–the ROI of online events is questionable. Text-based content, however, when done right, can establish your brand as an industry leader, generate discussion, and build your community. It’s the safest investment, and reliable, in such uncertain times.

Get started with expert-based content to maximize your reach.

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