Should You Host Your Own Conference? | Ep. #400

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In Episode #400, Eric and Neil discuss the pros and cons of hosting your own conference, and why you need to accept the reality that you’re going to lose money at the front-end.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:28 – Today’s topic: Should You Host Your Own Conference?
  • 00:36 – If you’re just starting out, the best option is to stay away from conferences
    • 00:40 – The conference business is difficult and you’ll probably lose money
  • 00:48 – Eric personally thinks that conferences aren’t that valuable
  • 00:51 – Eric shares his experience with Treehouse
    • 00:55 – Ryan Carson, CEO, is known for hosting conferences
    • 01:08 – Conferences are a good way to build network
    • 01:19 –Sean Ellis is known for hosting growth hacking conferences too
  • 01:27 – Conferences are exceptionally valuable if—and only if—your business is already making money
    • 01:34 – HubSpot has thousands of customers will benefit a lot from holding a conference where they can invite their customers
  • 01:56 – Consider hosting a conference only if your business is established and getting $5-6M in ARR
  • 02:25 – Alternatively to conferences, you can throw in a dinner or small events
  • 03:04 – There are also virtual conferences where you don’t have to spend money on venue and can retail virtual tickets instead
    • 03:22 – With a virtual event, the email list that you build can be repurposed
  • 03:45 – When you’re starting out, you don’t necessarily have to pay people
  • 04:11 – Marketing School is giving away a free 1 year subscription of Crazy Egg which is a visual analytics tool
  • 05:07 – That’s it for today’s episode!

3 Key Points:

  1. If you’re just starting, instead of conferences, try to host dinners or small events.
  2. Conferences are beneficial if your business is stable and already earning at least $5M in ARR.
  3. Virtual conferences are also a thing – it’s cost efficient and you can use the leads for future use.

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Full Transcript of The Episode

Speaker 1: Get ready for your daily dose of marketing strategies and tactics from entrepreneurs with the guile and experience to help you find success in any marketing capacity. You're listening to Marketing School with your instructors Neil Patel and Eric Siu.

Eric Siu: Welcome to another episode of Marketing School. I'm Eric Siu.

Neil Patel: And I'm Neil Patel.

Eric Siu: Today we're going to talk about if you should host your own conference or not. I'm inclined to say no based on how, if you're starting out you probably don't want to do that because the conference business is actually pretty difficult. Most often times in the very beginning, you're probably going to lose money. If you're lucky you'll break even on the first shot, but that's not to say I don't think conferences are valuable because a company I was at before called Treehouse, the CEO Ryan Carson, he used to throw his conferences called The Future of Web Apps, and he would get guys like Mark Zuckerberg, Gary Vaynerchuk, and things like that. He was able to build a lot of strong relationships, which parlayed into his business, right?
Neil and I talk about the importance of in-person all the time and I think a conference is a good way to do it because you are that front facing person. You are the conference, the event thrower. We both know a guy named Vasil who throws conferences around growth marketing or growth hacking, and also Sean Ellis as well. Neil?

Neil Patel: The cool part about conferences is they're exceptionally valuable if you already have a business that's making money. So, for example, if your company is a hubspot where you have tens and thousands of customers, throwing your own conference and inviting all of your customers is a great way to increase your lifetime value, increase the loyalty. You get people to pay more money, especially if you have a high LTV, lifetime value of a customer, conferences are amazing and you should consider them, but more so consider throwing them once you're already established and you're generating at least five or six million dollars a year in revenue.

Eric Siu: Yeah, and be careful. You can easily lose your shirt when you're throwing these conferences because some people are like, "should I hire an event planner? What kind of person should I hire?" Thinking about the logistics actually gives me a headache and probably gives Neil a headache as well, so think about that.
When I think about the benefit, like what Neil's saying, the in-person benefit with people definitely is going to increase retention. If you can't throw conferences, maybe an alternative is you throw dinners with your current customers. Or you have smaller events, maybe like fireside chats and things like that. Maybe you can eventually work your way towards conferences. I definitely think they're valuable because there's always a couple of conferences that I look forward to each year. Probably the best one I've ever been to is Summit at Sea. Even though they don't have the boat anymore, I'll always remember that one forever because of the experience that it brought. For me, I think I'd be a fan or a customer for life. Neil?

Neil Patel: If you can't afford to throw your own conference and you really want to do something, you can even start off as a virtual conference. It doesn't really cost you any money. You don't even have to sell tickets, you can make it for free. Once you get the attendees, you get the people coming there, you're educating, you're building the loyalty, you can later on expand it into the upcoming years from a virtual event to an in-person event.

Eric Siu: Yeah, the good thing about the virtual event too is that you get all the email contact information and you can figure out what you want to do with that afterwards. Plus, you get to build relationships already with a lot of these influencers. Neil's thrown some kind of marketing conferences in the past. If Neil decides to throw a conference in the future, he can just call on these people and say, "hey, you did a great job with my online conference, how about we do a live one? And we're doing it here."
Often times when you're starting out, you don't necessarily need to pay people. If you actually know these people, you have relationships with them, you're actually friends with them, then it becomes a lot easier. So think about how you can cultivate those relationships in the beginning or else you're going to start paying a pretty big buck down the road if you're trying to get a big speaker that you have to pay fifty, a hundred grand, three hundred grand to or something like that. Neil, anything else?

Neil Patel: Nope.

Eric Siu: Alright, so that's it for today, but before we go we have a one year annual subscription of Crazy Egg that we'd like to give away. It's worth close to $1,200, but before I give you the details, Neil, what is Crazy Egg?

Neil Patel: Crazy Egg is a visual analytics tool. It shows you where people click, where they don't, what's causing elements on your webpages to cost sales and conversations, and what elements you have on your webpages that are hurting your sales and conversions. Through Crazy Egg you can make changes to your site from a design and marketing perspective using the WYSIWYG editor, which means you don't need a technical bone in your body to make these changes. Best of all, you can also run A/B tests to make sure that your changes are helping increase leads, revenue, sales.

Eric Siu: Right, so if you want to get access to this, we're giving away one of these every single week for the next year. Just go to singlegrain.com/giveaway. The cool thing about this is that you can get multiple entries. So if you want to learn more about this, it's worth close to $1,200, just go to singlegrain.com/giveaway to learn more and we will see you tomorrow.

Speaker 1: This session of Marketing School has come to a close. Be sure to subscribe for more daily marketing strategies and tactics to help you find the success you've always dreamed of. Don't forget to rate and review so we can continue to bring you the best daily content possible. We'll see you in class tomorrow right here on Marketing School.

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