How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

by Phil Freo

This is the story of how one day of live blogging got us 10,000+ unique views on our blog, 4 hours on the front page of Hacker News, hundreds of free signups and more than a thousand dollars in new monthly recurring revenue.

This post is also a template on how you could use the same tactic for your startup to drive traffic, signups and revenue using live blogging a conference as a marketing strategy.

Sponsoring conferences sucks

Conferences are great marketing opportunities for your startup. But shelling out a bunch of money to be listed as a sponsor is usually not a great idea.

Reasons why sponsoring conferences sucks:
  1. Nobody cares. When was the last time you saw some company’s logo on a big banner and said, “Hey, they sponsored this event? Awesome, I totally want to sign up for their service right now!”

  2. It’s too expensive. The ROI for startup sponsorships is usually low. Sure, it might help build brand awareness and give the team an ego boost to have your logo on stage. But is that really worth thousands of dollars?

So how do you turn a conference into a massive marketing opportunity for your startup without sponsoring it or being invited onstage?

We asked ourselves this question a few weeks ago and decided the answer was live blogging.

Reasons why live blogging rocks

  1. You’re providing value to the attendees and your broader audience. Rather than pushing your marketing slogan down their throat, you’re actually giving your audience something that is valuable and relevant to them: notes from conference keynotes and talks.

  2. You’re creating content for your blog that will keep driving organic traffic. Once the content is published on your site, it will attract highly targeted visitors around the clock. It’s a perpetual lead generation machine that will serve you much longer than a simple sponsorship ever could.

How we did it

How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

Four Close.io team members went to the 2013 Sales Hacker Conference to live blog the talks. Beforehand we looked at the speaker lineup and assigned roles for each talk, and set it up in a rotating system:

How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

  • Transcribing: Once a talk starts, it’s pretty intense. Live blogging is not the same thing as just jotting down notes for yourself. If you’re taking notes on a talk for yourself, you’ll remember a lot of context for your notes. But if someone else reads it, you have to actually share the context and spill out everything, because you can’t assume they’ll understand what you meant.

  • Editing: Basically tidying things up a bit, proofreading, re-wording, adding links, etc.

  • Publishing and promoting: We published each talk as a separate blog post. Then we tweeted a link to the post and included the #saleshackercon hashtag and @mentioned the twitter handle of the speaker (so that the speaker would see it) as well as sharing it on other social channels.

  • Chilling: Fortunately we planned for this too because live blogging can be quite taxing. Taking a break after a round of three talks helped us to stay fresh for the next round.

We prepared one post that simply listed all the talks in advance, and interlinked all the posts as soon as they went live to make sure people could find all the content from the conference.

At the end of each post, we added a call-to-action that we also prepared in advance.

How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

You might want to check out the HubSpot checklist for creating compelling calls-to-action for some solid advice on the subject.

We also submitted the keynote post to Hacker News and were excited to see it spark great discussions there as well.

Aaron Ross, the keynote speaker of the conference, even emailed our summary to his list.

The results

  • 10,000+ unique visitors to our blog
  • 4+ hours on the frontpage of Hacker News
  • 184 tweets
  • 114 signups for our sales email course (typical conversion of 10%)
  • 42 free trial sign-ups that turned to …
  • $1K+ MRR, KA-CHING :)

Apart from that, we also got some sweet Twitter love from some amazing people:

How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

Several people who blogged about the event also linked to our writeups, and the event organizer even emailed all attendees a link to our main post.

This was a big success for us and we’re definitely going to do a lot more live blogging in 2014.

To make it easier for your startup to succeed with this strategy, we put together a conference live blogging checklist.

How live blogging a conference got us $1k+ in new $MRR

Would love to hear from more startups on how this strategy worked out for you.