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¬†ūüźĽ

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. ūüėõ

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.

 

Announcing Lift Off Summit

Lift Off Summit

I remember my first sale.

I was doing a lot of WordPress development at the time. During the day I worked for an advertising agency and we built high-end WordPress sites. In the evenings and on the weekends I was building smaller websites for friends. And it was exhilarating. Every day it felt like I learned something amazing and new. And that fueled the next days work.

My first premium plugin.

I built a plugin and launched it on WordPress.org which was fun. I happened to see a blog post from Pippin about Ninja Forms. I turned some custom code into a Ninja Forms plugin and they started selling it on their site. And in the summer of 2013 I got my first sale.

I think I earned something like $13. Not much. But enough to feel valued. Gradually over a year or two I developed a few more plugins and was generating a nice little income on the side.

I realize now that I was lucky because I partnered with a company that was doing all of the marketing. I was a developer for hire and they sold my plugin and took a cut.

But most people aren't that lucky.

Unrealized Potential

I spent the past couple years talking to eCommerce entrepreneurs. And time after time I'd hear about a store owner who spent hundreds or thousands on their store and they have no traffic.

They didn't know they should think about traffic. They thought if they built their website they'd automatically get traffic.

I don't blame them. It's an unknown unknown.

But when it happens – all that unrealized potential can be quite painful.

So when I left WooCommerce last year I started thinking about what I can add to the world. Curing cancer would be great but I have no idea how to do that.

Helping eCommerce entrepreneurs on the other hand is in my wheelhouse. I can do that. So I spent a few months playing with a few different ideas. And I figured I'd start at the beginning.

How do you get that first sale? How do you get the same feeling of exhileration that I got when I sold a tiny little plugin?

You have your logo, you have a product, you have quality product photos, and you even figured out how to setup an autoresponder in MailChimp. Now you just need your first customer.

Lift Off Summit

That's exactly what Lift Off Summit is about Рgetting your first customers.

I teamed up with BobWP and I interviewed ~20 marketing & eCommerce experts on how to get traffic to your site. We cover every major marketing channel and we compare the costs, the time to implement, the skills needed, and what type of products and industries work best with those channels.

We go over:

  • Content marketing
  • SEO
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Newsletter marketing
  • Affiliate marketing
  • PPC
  • Local events
  • Amazon
  • Etsy
  • and more

And to wrap up the event we go into how you can measure your progress and keep those first customers. We go into:

  • Google Analytics
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
  • Customer retention
  • & Postcard marketing (for realsies)

When & Where?

We already covered what. The event is a virtual summit. That means you can be naked and learn at the same time. It's like naked cooking without the cooking.

The event is June 19th through the 23rd. That's a full week. Each day we'll release 4-5 new interviews which you can watch. The interviews will be live all week and you can watch them as soon as they come out.

How Much?

What I'm really happy about with this event is that we're making it free. Anyone can tune in & learn about whatever marketing channel they're interested in for free while the summit is live.

Yup. All of those interviews above ^ are going to be available for free during the week of the summit.

What's the Catch?

No catch.

My goal is to make such great content that you want to get the All-Access Pass ($97 before the event) so you can download the content and keep it forever.

But if you watch it live. It's¬†free. ūüôā

Enjoy

I've spent the last couple of months putting this together. I hope you get something out of it. Even if no-one buys the All-Access Pass as long as people get valuable content and launch their store I consider that a win. So grab your free ticket¬†and I'll see you at the summit!¬†ūüöÄ

Learn how to use Shopify on Lynda.com

Over the past couple weeks I've been pretty busy. So busy that I completely forgot to do those traditional business things like get business cards. facepalm

That's okay though Рbecause I'm able to announce two projects this week.

I've spent part of my time consulting for some amazing e-commerce businesses (<- future post). And I've spent another part creating e-commerce content for Lynda.com. And today I'm happy to announce that we created and launched Learn Shopify: The Basics.

Continue Reading…

WordPress eCommerce Fundamentals Course Released

Just over one year ago I released the WooCommerce Cookbook and I heard from lots of store owners about how much they liked it. And after hearing the feedback I decided to create something a bit less technical and more abstract. Something that would help people understand the fundamentals of e-commerce. Several months later I'm proud to say that I published WordPress eCommerce on Lynda.com.

The Course

The course covers everything you need to think about before you build an e-commerce site for yourself or for a client:

  1. Understanding Your Market
  2. Marketing Your Site
  3. Selling Products
  4. Shipping & Orders & Taxes
  5. Securing Your Site
  6. Using WordPress for eCommerce
  7. Testing & Optimization

This is a video course so all of the lessons include me showing example sites and visual aids. It's over an hour long so there's plenty for you to digest before you make your first e-commerce site. Chapters 3 & 4 go into lots of detail about the types of products you can sell and the best way to do it. Ex. How can I sell a monthly subscription box? And which way is best?

Here's a sample video:

 

Why I Created This Course

I created this course is because e-commerce is no longer limited by technology. You aren't spending your time figuring out technical problems. The technology is relatively straight forward and as a store owner or a developer building a store for a client you have to figure out marketing & positioning problems to make sure that your product solves a need and that people can find it.

Only once you know that people really want to buy your product and you can get them to your site do you worry about the technical problems.

For those people who just want to know all about the different WordPress platforms I cover WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, iThemes Exchange, & WP eCommerce.

I also cover third party platforms that can integrate in your WordPress site such as Gumroad, Clickbank, and Shopify.

If you're a store owner this course will make you ask questions about your product market fit and what you need to do to sell as many widgets as possible.

If you're a developer you will learn all of the same lessons which you can pass along to your clients and make them successful. Building a $10,000 site is great but it's even better if you can build the right site for $10,000 and get more work next year after your client's product makes a killing. ūüôā

If this sounds good¬†sign up for a free 10 day trial of Lynda.com and get access to this course and many others – or if you're already a member just watch. ūüôā

Delay

If you're detail oriented you might notice that this course actually came out last summer! I held off on the announcement of this post because it came out right around the time of the WooThemes acquisition and I was quite busy with all of that. Not a good excuse I know but better late than never right?

Happy selling!

WooCommerce Terms & Conditions Popup

One of the cool things about writing a blog is that you get instant feedback. Usually people ask for my help customizing plugins but sometimes the feedback can spin up a new project. That's what happened with a blog post I wrote back in December. I mentioned that it would be possible to open the WooCommerce Terms & Conditions in a popup and I got email after email asking me how to do it.

After a dozen emails I decided to dig into this and came up with the WooCommerce Terms & Conditions Popup extension.

Continue Reading…