The Visual Studio 2015 ebook: behind the scenes

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In August SSW released its first ever ebook, entitled “The Visual Studio 2015 (Anti-inflammatory) Check List”. We set out to create something that was unique, visually pleasing, and straight to the point, so you get the top 5 pieces of information quickly. From conception to delivery, it was a collaborative labour of love, and the outcome was so beautiful that even I was surprised.

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Figure: This beautifully designed ebook informs developers of 5 cool new things within Visual Studio 2015

Marketing can be a bit of a black art. It’s everywhere and is a necessity in the business world, but it’s hard to do well. We’re always looking for new ways to reach our audience, which is where the ebook comes in. We released it for free, as part of our marketing for our Brain Quest course.

google ads alone won't do it

Figure: Bad example: only posting a few ads on google is a bad marketing practice

Typically, when companies have a new course or product, they share it on social media, add it to their newsletter, or put up a google ad. This is akin to putting up a sign outside an ice cream store saying, “We have ice cream – come buy it”.

P1210168-recommendedThe problem with doing it this way is that it can feel like you’re talking *at* your audience, not engaging *with* them. It can feel like you’re begging to get a ‘share’. But if you give your audience something for free, like the ebook, if they find it valuable, they’ll naturally want to share it. Like getting a free sample from the ice cream store, the ebook gives developers a bite-sized taster of the course. Most guys won’t enrol in the course, but they’ve still gotten value from our interaction, and will hopefully remember us well with a sweet taste in their mouth.

To acquire the free ebook, the user enters their email address and receives a link to the download in their inbox. We use the email addresses judiciously to provide further value.

As part of this, we set up a workflow that automatically sends 3 follow-up emails over the ensuing 2 weeks. Each email is only sent if it adds incremental value that builds on the ebook, and reinforces why the course is awesome.

They also receive the SSW newsletter, which goes out once a month, and provides more value in the form of blog posts relevant to their interests, information about courses and upcoming events, and sometimes even secret bargains and discounts. The receiver of these emails can easily unsubscribe at any time, but so far the rate of unsubscribes is low and we’re motivated to keep it that way.

We learned a lot from creating and distributing this first ebook, and we hope that our audience find it educational as well. It was a big undertaking but the finished product was well worth it, and we’re already hard at work on our next ebook, this time about Angular. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

In the meantime, you can download the Visual Studio 2015 (Anti-Inflammatory) Check Listpdf. If you like what you read, the Brain Quest course will be running again in March 2016, but if you’re nowhere near one of the course locations, the ebook alone is well worth a read.