Lessons Learned Running My First Online Summit

Rocket Launch

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.

Goals

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.

Lift Off Summit Goals

My hilariously ignorant goals

What Happened?

Traffic

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

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:

Testimonial from Aurora Myers

Testimonial from Aurora Myers

So I consider the impact a complete success.

Conversion Rate

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.

Money

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.

Time

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.

Marketing

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.

Social

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:

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.

Referral

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

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 🐻

Bonjoro let me send personal video messages which were great.

Chatra

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.

 

6 thoughts on “Lessons Learned Running My First Online Summit

  1. Patrick, you closed with, “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.”

    That’s an intriguing idea. A membership structure would open up the opportunity to have follow-on workshops and other forms of conversation among members. As a participant, the amount of information presented in the Summit is almost overwhelming. In part, that’s because I’ve discovered so many actionable ideas. Having the ability to continue the conversation over time would add another element of value.

    Thanks for doing this, and thanks for the opportunity to participate!

    • I’m definitely thinking about a membership system with webinars and/or coaching. 🙂

      As a participant, the amount of information presented in the Summit is almost overwhelming. In part, that’s because I’ve discovered so many actionable ideas. Having the ability to continue the conversation over time would add another element of value.

      A few people mentioned this. Some people were only able to watch one or two talks. :/

      It also brings up an interesting point about me delivering knowledge. I can’t help people implement it in anyway. And I wonder if there’s a better format so that people actually implement the knowledge. Maybe an email course or something like that.

      Thoughts?

  2. One suggestion i might make, if i’m not remembering things incorrectly is to separate out the lists of the pre-event sales emails and the event schedule emails. That way if someone unsubscribes from the pre-summit sales emails they still get the emails for the day of the event.

  3. 1. I’m so honored that you used my testimonial! I’m so glad I could help out in that way.
    2. THANK YOU for posting all of this information. Transparency and authenticity at its finest. I’m learning a great deal from you and you have a true fan here.

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