When I first launched the Sellers Summit last year with my partner Toni Anderson, I was terrified.
I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to sell tickets.
I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find high quality speakers to talk at the event.
And I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to find sponsors willing to support such a small, intimate conference.
But what ended up happening was that last year’s Summit went so well that I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to reproduce the same results again.
I was terrified that the expectations would be too high for 2017. And I was terrified that the ecommerce conference landscape had become too saturated.
Editor’s Note: As you can tell, I live in a constant state of fear:)
Here’s the thing.
There are hundreds of business conferences out there already. Just the other day, I was looking at my Facebook feed and I came across advertisements for 5 business events. 5!!!! And they were all targeting the ecommerce space as well!
Well guess what?
The world does not need yet another ecommerce conference.
And in the saturated world of events, it’s imperative that you stand out somehow.
As I tell all of the students in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course, there’s no point in doing anything unless you have a strong unique value proposition and a specific goal in mind.
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Action Not Inspiration
So for this year, Toni and I took a hard look around, made some improvements from last year and doubled down on what was already working.
First of all, our mission for the Sellers Summit is to provide an actionable, curriculum based experience. And we want the Sellers Summit to be known as the ultimate learning conference.
There’s no fluff and we never invite speakers to talk about their past successes. In fact, we purposely avoid inspirational talks altogether.
To me they are a waste of time and I strongly prefer someone teach me strategy rather than tell me stories of past glory.
I honestly had no idea the Sellers Summit would be so amazing. Great attendees and lineup. Came home with TONS of actionable steps.
It’s also important to have access to the speakers. Unlike other conferences where the speakers are nowhere to be found after their talks, every speaker was accessible and willing to help.
I liked the networking and the fact that all speakers and attendees are open to visit. It’s a fantastic group of people and most are very open to helping others.
Editor’s Note: You can access all of the Sellers Summit sessions now by clicking here. We are also holding a live Q&A webinar for virtual pass holders on June 26 with Scott Voelker, Greg Mercer, Mike Jackness, Jeff Cohen and myself.
The Ultimate Networking Conference
We also focused our efforts on improving our networking . Our entire event is designed to place you in situations where you can’t help but develop deep relationships with other attendees.
Using the same tried and true formula from last year….
- We Held All Sessions In Close Proximity – By holding all the sessions in the same area, people were encouraged to mingle in between presentations.
- We Made Everyone Dine Together – Lunch was catered in every single day so people were inclined to eat with each other. In addition, we had sign up sheets for dinner to encourage group dining for attendees.
- We Had Open Bar Every Night – A little alcohol always encourages people to loosen up
- We Encouraged Participation In Our Private Facebook Group – This year, we purposely made a bunch of Facebook live videos leading up to the event. In addition, the speakers made videos as well which made the FB group much more lively!
Personally, I enjoy observing the body language of attendees over the course of the weekend. A lot of people arrive at the conference apprehensive and shy.
But by the end of weekend, I love seeing people hug each other and joke around like old friends. It makes me really happy!
In fact, attendees kept coming up to Toni and I to tell us that our event was SO much better than other ecommerce conferences because of the networking alone!
It was really cool to be able to randomly have lunch with people. I also liked that it was overall smaller conference.
This is why holding smaller events is so powerful!
Looking back, the greatest periods of growth for my businesses occurred after I started learning from other like minded entrepreneurs.
After all, it’s hard to run your business in a vacuum and everyone can benefit from sharing ideas and strategies with others.
So this year, we decided to run a special mastermind session for attendees with established ecommerce businesses.
What exactly is a mastermind session?
It’s a hands-on event with a very small group. Basically, we took a handful of established entrepreneurs and spent an entire day together improving each other’s businesses.
We catered in lunch, locked ourselves in a room and helped each other solve problems. And by the end, everyone came away with direction, a list of action items and a rolodex of new friends!
In fact, this mastermind offering was a HUGE hit and we sold out almost immediately.
Have you ever attended a conference session and found yourself too shy to ask a question?
Have you ever wanted more time to talk to your favorite speaker but never got a chance?
It’s happened to me many times in the past which is why we introduced a special round table session for attendees.
What exactly is a round table session?
In a nutshell, it’s just a large table with 8 people where the discussion is run by one of the speakers. And attendees have the opportunity to ask their questions in a more intimate environment.
Now from a logistical perspective, it was difficult to get everyone matched up with their favorite speakers but Toni pulled it off and the round tables were a huge hit!
In fact, we had several attendees tell us that the round tables alone paid for the entire event.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of the event was hearing the success stories of past attendees.
There were a bunch of people who attended the Sellers Summit last year with no product and no sales and are now on track to make 6 figures or more!
For example, Dean Watterud started selling in June, 2016 and made over $250K in less than a year!
It was also great to see successful students in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course in person as well!
One student in particular, Carlos D, has been kicking butt and will hopefully join us for our mastermind next year!
The Tradeoffs Of Running A Small Event
Despite the overall success of the Summit, we did experience a few hiccups and I wanted to give you an inside look at some of the tradeoffs involved in running a small event.
First off if you take a look around, you’ll notice that most conferences are either extremely large or extremely small. There are very few in betweens and the primary reason has to do with economics.
In general, running a conference is a terrible way to make money. By the time you factor in the hotel costs, the food and most importantly the time commitment, the numbers just don’t add up.
Most conferences will try to offset these high costs by getting sponsors to help pay for the event. But the problem is that you can’t get sponsors to sponsor you unless you can attract a huge audience.
That’s why most conferences often try to sell as many tickets as possible because more people leads to more sponsors and more $$$.
Most conferences are also very skimpy with food and alcohol because those are the largest expenses for any event.
Editor’s Note: Catering lunch and having cocktail parties every night is non-negotiable to me. But just to give you an idea of costs, a gallon of coffee costs $91 from the hotel. Crazy right?
Because the Sellers Summit is so small, we have very little leverage to negotiate price breaks from the hotel. And in general, it’s must easier to attract sponsors if you hold a much larger event (which I absolutely didn’t want to do).
But fortunately over the years, I’ve established strong relationships with some incredible companies that I want to recognize below.
- Gen.Video – A platform where you can easily find influencers to promote your products. What’s unique is that Gen.Video gives you the rights to the content and you can add these videos WITHIN your Amazon listings.
- Big Commerce – A fully hosted shopping cart that I recommend when it’s time to start your own ecommerce store
- Product Labs – If you attended Brad Moss’ talk, you know that he knows his stuff. His company Product Labs will take your Amazon business to the next level
- Seller Labs – I believe that I’m using every single Seller Labs tool out there right now:) The ones that I’m finding particularly useful right now are Scope and Ignite.
- Well Insurance – If you are worried about your Amazon account getting suspended, then consider buying suspension insurance for your company.
- FEInternational – The best place to buy and sell your ecommerce business
- LawTrades – The place I went to for registering my trademark and getting legal advice
- Import Dojo – If you need to find something in China, Manuel is your man.
Ultimately for me, the Sellers Summit is all about the community and bringing sellers together to establish real relationships.
I’m more than happy to sacrifice a little $$$ to put on the best event possible!
Watch My Keynote Speech
To end this post, I leave you with my keynote speech for 2017.
If you enjoyed my keynote, then you’ll love the rest of the content!
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.