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?
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.
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.
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.
My hilariously ignorant goals
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:
Super impressed with #LiftOffSummit! @bobWP & @BFTrick have done an amazing job curating speakers, sharing info, & keeping audience informed
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.
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:
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.
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.
It's easy to get carried away with automation. One of the best ways to connect with your audience is to create & send personal video messages.
When people talk about automation in the marketing world I sometimes get a bad taste in my mouth. Because it seems like they want to automate everything. And that's not something I believe in.
I want to be empathetic and I want to help people. And for me that means talking with people and not at them. Automation is powerful but you need to know when to use it. I believe you should automate systems not relationships.
Now in an ideal world there'd be a positive connection between the personal welcome videos and someone purchasing a product. And I was curious if this would help. So I actually ran a little experiment.
I sent 1/2 of the people a personal welcome video + welcome email. And the other half just got the welcome email.
And from the data here's what I found:
Lift Off Summit had 448 viewers (at the time of this writing)
I sent 209 personal video welcomes.
159 videos were opened
84 videos were watched
And 54% of the sales came from people who had a Bonjoro sent to them
But with the number of sales I had. That number is not enough to be statistically significant. So take the above with a grain of salt.
In terms of what it cost me. Bonjoro is free (with some nice features under their premium plan). The real cost was the amount of time. My typical welcome video was 2.5 minutes.
And sending 209 welcome videos at ~2.5 minutes a piece that's 8.7 hours!
So based on the ROI this wasn't a good investment. In fact if you're just looking to make money off of people online do not do this. It's not a good use of your time.
Luckily – that's not the best thing about Bonjoro. At least that's not where I found value.
Deep Customer Learning
Bonjoro is great at building authentic connections. People don't respond to welcome emails. Those are automated and companies rarely respond. If someone takes time to send you a personal welcome message you might actually respond to them.
I sent 209 videos. And I received 21 email responses to the Bonjoro welcome alone.
I learned so much about my viewers. I learned about their businesses, the products they're selling, how they found me & what they wanted out of my live event.
Ellen sells fragrances:
Thanks for checking it out! Everything is still in its incipient stages, so a lot of it is word-of-mouth based right now. Marketing and self-promotion have always been some of my biggest challenges, so I'm looking forward to the Summit and hoping I can learn a lot!
Carla sells furniture:
I’ve been doing my own websites for years, but this e-commerce stuff is fairly new. Even with some professional help, I’m amazed at how much extra time this takes! I just wanna get on to the fun stuff – making videos, blogging and connecting with people – so any shortcuts, or tips for managing inventory, customers & reporting would be helpful.
Looking forward to the summit – I’ll let you know when I come up with any more questions.
And Cara runs a small agency that wants to build more eCommerce sites:
I own a small web agency with one small WooCommerce e-commerce client. I noticed that Rebecca Gil and Chris Lema will be speaking at Summit and the schedule has such valuable content — just could not afford not to take part! So much to gain and to give back to my client base. Plus, I would like to take on more e-commerce sites and this will jump start my process.
This is just a paragraph or two from 3 of the 21 responses I got. I found this information extremely valuable.
Different Than an Email Auto Responder
I made jokes with people. When I accidentally pronounced their name wrong I asked them how to properly say it. And I shared a little bit about myself.
In some videos I was walking around down town and I talked about that, in some I was walking through the art district and I talked about that, for some I was on the patio outside my favorite coffee shop, and for others I was at my parents house in DC and was getting rained on.
Automation doesn't impress us. People taking time out of their day to make our lives better impresses us.
And I think there's another reason. When you give people personalized adviceyou're actually providing value.
Every time I prepared to send a personal video message I looked at the persons email address and if they had their own domain I would check it out. I found a pastry shop, and author, and all sorts of physical good stores. And based on what I found in their site recommended specific sessions at my summit.
So if you're looking to increase revenue don't sent personal welcome videos. If you're looking to be authentic, to connect with your audience, and to help people then use these videos. They're a great way connect.
Note: if you want me to send you a personal welcome email sign up for Lift Off Summit and I'll send you one. 🙂
PS: If you want to know how Lift Off Summit went I'll do a full write up next week.
My link to Bonjoro is a discount link. I get a discount on my plan if you upgrade to the premium plan. As you can see from this post I clearly enjoy the service and would recommend it even if there wasn't a discount available.
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.
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 – getting 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:
And to wrap up the event we go into how you can measure your progress and keep those first customers. We go into:
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
& 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.
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?
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. 🙂
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! 🚀