I'm starting to plan next year's Lift Off Summit so I've been talking to customers as well as looking at what other summits are doing. And what's interesting is that they paint two different stories. So I thought I'd take you through my though process as I decide how I can make this summit valuable for attendees and myself.
The other day a friend asked if I could hang out. So I pulled out my phone and started looking through my calendar.
scroll past a week
scroll past another week
scroll past yet another week
Well I can hang out with you next month how does that sound?
Does this sound familiar to you?
I've been spending a lot of time at conferences over the last year and I wanted to do a little digging and see how I could optimize my time so I'm still learning & networking and I can also spend time at home with my friends & family.
I've been using this blog as a place to record my own thoughts. A place to document so that I learn and also so that others learn. And today I want to document a feeling.
I feel guilty.
I feel guilty about my job organizing WordCamp Denver. This past year I was speaker wrangler. That means I set up the procedures so the organizing team and myself can pick speakers and add them to the schedule.
And this is the 3rd year doing this for WordCamp Denver and 4th overall. So I have a good idea what I'm doing. The reasons they didn't go smoothly don't matter too much. But in short we tried a different schedule and that led to a lot more work.
What is so strange about me feeling guilty is that I'm used to projects going sideways and encountering obstacles. I'm okay with “failure” because I know I can improve and do better next time. So why do I feel different this time?
It's the end of summer. A whirlwind of family trips, conferences, and barbequeues are coming to an end. And that reminds me of something.
I've been working for myself a whole year – where did the time go??
I've been doing this a year and I'd like to take in my surroundings. Poke my head up from my computer screen and see where I arrived after a year of work.
This post covers the SEO & marketing strategies around how you should protect content with WordPress.
A few days ago someone asked me a good question about SEO. When they have premium content is it best to de-index the page or to use a membership to control access?
I do have an SEO question. I've got a free 10-part marketing course. People sign up on the email list and the autoresponder sends them a lesson each week.
My means of protecting the content is to make each page an un-linked stand-alone page. But then Google can't search it.
I've been thinking about how I want to run Lift Off Summit next year. I had a few technical headaches with Gumroad and I think I could have a much nicer experience using WooCommerce. So I started adding together all of the individual pieces of software I wanted to add onto their site.
- WooCommerce (free!)
- WooCommerce Stripe (free!)
- WooCommerce Memberships – $149.00
- WooCommerce MailChimp – $49.00
- MonsterInsights – $199.00
- AffiliateWP – $99.00
- Yoast SEO – $69.00
- OptinMonster – $108.00
And when you add it all together it costs $638.00 per year. And for an event that made a little over $1,000 in profit last year that's would cut my profits in half. Of course, I expect to make more money next year and some of these plugins might even help me sell more.
This is a story about how I'm terrible with introductions and how I'm going to fix that.
I was at a conference recently. And before the conference a group of attendees got together to form a sort of mastermind group. We were there to talk about business problems and I was really excited to be invited to this group.
Since most of us didn't know everyone we started with introductions. And the host asked us to share our name, where we live, and what we do. Pretty standard stuff right?
Well as I was listening to other people introduce themselves I started going through my introduction in my head. Do I share this detail? Is this job title too boring? Should I be funny? How funny?
My palms started sweating and I was only one person away. I pan the room as all of the eyes turn to me. It's my turn. And here's the pile of garbage that came out of my mouth.
I'm Patrick Rauland from Denver Colorado.
Off to a good start! I said my name & where I love correctly! This introduction is going to be amazing!
I'm not the smartest guy I just make a lot of mistakes.
The host mentioned that we were all smart people which was why we were invited and I tried being humble and making a joke about it. It probably would have been funny if I pulled it off. But if you don't well you feel like not the smartest guy.
I used to do a lot of stuff with WooCommerce. So yeah that's what I'm doing now.
And when I finally said the most important part of the introduction I totally flubbed. I still don't have a solid definition for what I do. It's a bit of a challenge because I don't do one thing. But what came out of my mouth was terrible.
A few weeks go I went to Craft + Commerce. It was put on the people behind Convert Kit to help bloggers make money. And I loved it. There were 200+ attendees. Mostly professional bloggers and people who want to sell things on their website. The only thing they have in common is that they value email lists.
Last week I wrote about my experience running an online summit. I talked about marketing tactics, money, and even the hours I put in. One thing I didn't touch on was how educational Lift Off Summit was.
I've been in eCommerce for over 5 years and I'd like to think I know a lot but when it comes to marketing I'm still learning. A lot in fact.
There were three things I learned while recording the interviews for Lift Off Summit which were so powerful I immediately implemented them. And I want to share them with you.
Two weeks ago I launched my first online summit, Lift Off Summit, along with BobWP. And I'm writing this recap primarily for me so I learn something from this experience and can make future projects better.
Let me start with some goals I wrote a few weeks before the summit. I thought it would be a good idea to have some benchmarks to shoot for. And as I look at them now it's hilarious how far off we were.
We were way off in traffic. This is the number we got most wrong. And it's ironic (and embarrassing) that in a summit about getting traffic the biggest weak point was traffic.
Having said that I don't think we did anything wrong strategy wise. We had lots of traffic from social, affiliates, and guest posts. We just completely botched how long it would take it to come in.
Why did I think it would be good to announce the summit and launch it 2.5 weeks later?? Who was possessing me at that moment?
That was a big learning lesson. We could have announced much earlier. I think we could have gotten twice the traffic with exactly the same strategies if we just announced 3-6 months earlier.
Impact is hard to measure. We can talk about vanity metrics like page views & email subscribers but ultimately I did this project for impact. I did it to help people.
Getting a technically functioning store up and running (as in making sales) was the biggest issue I saw when I was WooCommerce Product Manager. It's heart breaking to hear someone invested thousands of dollars for their dream store and no one visits.
And while it's hard to set goals around impact. Just in the last few days I heard from a couple of the attendees:
— Brian Richards (@rzen) June 28, 2017
So I consider the impact a complete success.
Before we launched I was most worried about this area so I spent a good deal of time developing an on-boarding sequence of emails so they knew what they would see.
Conversion rate was pretty good at 7%. Between the emails, the marketing, the speakers, and a few other things people trusted us. I'm really happy that we put in the effort to make this work.
Bob and I were able to keep the whole operation quite lean which meant we kept almost all of the money we made. So even though we only made a little bit of money we got to keep basically all of it.
Pre-selling was definitely a good idea. In fact almost all of the sales came before each price bump.
- 23 sales pre-summit
- 8 sales mid-summit
Note: we've only been “post summit” for a week and in that time we've redone our website and just finished a new welcome email sequence. So there is definitely an opportunity to make some sales post-summit.
Now if I just whipped Lift Off Summit together in a few hours then 1K sounds like awesome money. But it took quite a bit more than that.
- Finding, approaching, & managing speakers: 10 hours
- 21 interviews at 2 hours each: 42 hours
- Writing pre-summit emails: 4 hours
- Writing daily (mid-summit) emails: 6 hours
- Writing 4 guest posts: 16 hours
- 4 podcast appearances: 4 hours
- Wrote marketing copy: 10 hours
- Created & scheduled the timed content: 4 hours
- Sent welcome videos to attendees: 9 hours
Total: 105 hours.
My hourly wage: $12.52.
Considering I could charge $100 an hour for coaching or eCommerce development it's not a great money maker.
If I want this event to continue I have to work on profitability.
I'm thinking about doing this event again next year and since getting traffic was my biggest issue I want to look heavily into the marketing we used and what worked and what didn't.
I've always been a bit skeptical when it comes to promoting your own event. You can't just deluge people in your posts. And with certain channels like Twitter you have to constantly tweet out the message or it gets missed. So I didn't have high hopes.
I did want to give Twitter a try though. So I came up with some nice looking graphics like these:
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) June 5, 2017
— Patrick Rauland (@BFTrick) June 16, 2017
Social was our biggest traffic channel (after direct) and it was mostly driven by Twitter & Facebook. So I'm pleasantly surprised by how effective it was.
Both blogging & guest blogging took a lot of time but were incredibly valuable.
- I put up a single post on my site & Bob made a podcast episode. It drove 267 visits and 46 signups.
- I wrote 4 guest posts which drove 96 visits & 24 signups.
You could make an argument that blogging wasn't impressive. But unlike social this is much longer lasting. Anytime someone is looking through my posts, or reading through the Printful or they WooCommerce blog they could stumble onto Lift Off Summit. They could purchase the All-Access Pass or get on the newsletter for next year.
I also think the social proof that other people are talking about us is incredibly valuable.
Referrals were our #2 channel (excluding direct again). Between guest posts, our posts, and other people writing about us 161 people signed up.
Affiliates were the #3 channel and I'm happy about that. But I relied way too heavily on affiliates. I assumed they'd bring in 75% of my sales. Instead it was closer to 13%. That was a huge assumption on my part.
Since they drove biggest driver of traffic I'm definitely keeping the channel. But unlike this year I'm not going to count on traffic from affiliates. I'm going to make sure I can get all the traffic I need with my own marketing strategies and look at affiliate sales as bonuses and not plan for them.
Bonjoro let me send personal video messages which were great.
I used Chatra for live chat. I had 23 chats and solved all sorts of issues. A few email deliverability issues which I would have never known about if I didn't have some other way for users to contact me.
It also means I didn't have to build a contact page. 😛
Gumroad for an Online Summit
I love trying new toys which is why I wanted to break Gumroad in and see how it works for an online event.
Let me start with why I picked Gumroad. It's great for affiliates. You create a link for your affiliates and Gumroad saves that money in a separate account and pays them automatically. It's awesome.
Gumroad is good for certain things like the affiliate program. But there are some key pieces of functionality that it lacked (at least for me).
The tracking was disappointing. You can enter your Google Analytics code into Gumroad and it does send an eCommerce event to your account. Unfortunately, it's a separate session. So I see the transaction coming from someone with no history. That means I have a lot less data about what marketing channels are actually working.
And I couldn't figure out how to send eCommerce data to MailChimp. That means that I had to manually mark customers as VIP in MailChimp after they purchased so I could segment the list.
Those two features combined means I'll be playing with a new toy for the next event. It could very well be a membership system since that's what some of our viewers asked for. It means a bit more maintenance on my side but I will get better results.