Discover how Traffic and Conversion Summit scaled to 6000+ attendees by programming personalized content that speaks to the interests of attendees in this webinar recap.
At the beginning of April, we spoke with Richard Lindner—President and Co-Founder at DigitalMarketer—about how the DigitalMarketer team scaled their annual flagship conference from 190 attendees to over 6,000. Along the way we discussed:
- Creating Valuable Online and Offline Content
- Scaling Events with Content
- Finding the Right Speakers
- Repurposing Event Content
- Balancing a Multi-track Agenda
- Event Personalization
- Cost-benefit Analysis for Speakers
- The Challenges of Growth
Below's a quick recap video in addition to several other highlights from our conversation. Watch the webinar recording for the full discussion.
Meet the Panelist
Richard Lindner is the President and Co-Founder of DigitalMarketer—the industry leader in global digital marketing education. While running a global team of more than 50 professionals worldwide, Richard also is a sought after executive leadership expert, working with some of the world’s most exciting brands like Uber, Harper Collins, Entreleadership, Marapost, Ethiad Airlines to name a few.
Creating Valuable Online and Offline Content
RICHARD: When we started our blog we hired a managing editor and we said, "Hey, here's the deal, create something that we can sell every week and then publish it and give it away for free on the blog. If it's not good enough to sell, it's not good enough for the blog." That was just where we again planted our flag.
If we can't have good un-gated free content, there's no reason for anyone to believe that our premium content, no matter where you're consuming it, is going to be any better. Our mindset has always been your free content should be good enough to charge, you just decided not to.
Scaling Events with Content
RICHARD: Most people don't know that traffic and conversion summit came before DigitalMarketer.
We had a goal and that was to produce the best marketing event anyone had ever been. The way that we determined success—I would say the first few years, but we still use that same grading scale—is are people leaving and saying that's the most up-to-date actionable content that I've ever heard. I've gotten more than I know what to do with if I implement just one thing, I know I'll ROI this event.
I think it is, at 6000, next year at 10,000, I can tell you the organic growth. It's just become the event where other gatherings happen around it, but none of that would have happened if it weren't for the content. If we would have dialed in the content, if it wouldn't have been held to that standard, people wouldn't come back.
If you don't have a high volume of return visitors, if you're churning out attendees, then eventually you're just staying at a flat growth because you can't add enough for the ones that you lose.
Finding the Right Speakers
RICHARD: It's not enough to be an expert at what you do, you have to be an expert at what you do, you have to be a good communicator and you have to be able to convey what you do in a way that's consumed by non-experts and in a way that can be taken and implemented. Because other than that, it's just not valuable.
We use the blog and the podcast for a training like almost a testing ground. If they can't write an article, then are they going to be able to come out? Maybe we'll say, "You know what, you're not great at writing articles but maybe you're just not gifted at communication through the written word, so let's do a podcast."
I'll tell you, if you have an event and you don't have a podcast and you don't have a blog, then a couple of things. One, you're missing an opportunity to test out potential speakers for your stage. Two, you're missing an amazing opportunity to engage with your audience 365 days a year, not three days a year.
Repurposing Event Content
RICHARD: We have a broadcast booth set up backstage, well, backstage but in back of house at the hotel. The second that someone comes off stage, they go back, they sit down with Garrett Holmes, who is the host of the DigitalMarketer Podcast, they record a podcast.
We'll take the session, we'll send it over to copy editors, we'll have copy editors transcribe, and actually create blog posts from those sessions. Not as detailed because we don't want to invalidate or make people who came and gave up that time feel like they could have just read it on the blog. But we'll pull out short content from there. Every session can be repurposed into three to five pieces of content. You want to make your speakers feel great, and it's a benefit for them.
Balancing a Multi-track Agenda
RICHARD: I think it's very important to plant your flags and say, "If I look out at my audience who I have now and where I want to go, two steps away as I start to expand, what is their average day?" Because your tracks and your agenda, that's marketing, that is marketing. Your event needs to have a transformational process. Before you come to the event, you're this, after you leave, you're this.
Then your agenda and your sessions need to validate that promise. If that's how you market your event you say, I mean, it's quite literally a portal, you walk in one way, you walk out another.
What is the average day of a person? What's that struggle? What are they concerned about every day before they come to your event, and how can you promise the day after will be better? Because they really don't care what the sessions are until they believe that promise, then go in and start to build tracks around that. We make sure that where it used to be a very niche event with 200 to 1000 people as we started to grow into 6000 and this next year it'll be 10,000, we had to broaden that content but still save very narrow. That's how we came up with our tracks
RICHARD: For us, the personalization comes along with as you create the tracks, you start to lay the guidelines of these different sessions, you need to not only name them, but say who they're for.
We'll hire matchmakers for our highest level attendees and matchmakers for our highest level sponsors. That matchmaker that's talking to the attendee is saying, "What are your goals for the event?" They're helping them build that agenda, they're matching them with other attendees who may have either similar goals or have overcome the problem that they're dealing with, we're matching them with vendors and sponsors who have a solution that can help for what they're there for.
If you want someone to feel special, do something special. I think having those one on one phone conversations, that's not overly scalable, but it is a hell of a service. You feel pretty good and it is personal. I think as AI evolves, as people are catered to in a more personalized way online, they're going to start to expect that offline. I think that we're going to be looking to technology partners to help us solve that.
I don't know that content is going to solve that alone, I think it's going to be technology partners that enable us to get the data on what type of personalized content we need to be created, and how to almost siphon those people off on a different path, on a choose your own adventure. I think while it's up to us to get the data and make the changes, it's going to be up to the speed of software, the speed of technology to allow us to know what we need to change.
Cost-benefit Analysis for Speakers
RICHARD: For us, they fall into a couple of different categories. Sometimes you're looking to ROI, sometimes you want to say this person is going to sell tickets, so I'm going to expect to receive or to experience it, just a definitive ROI, on the cost of this person.
Other times, it's going to be a brand or status elevating for you to have that person but they may not sell tickets. Then other times it's going to improve the attendee experience of the ones who come, but it may not help to sell tickets.
I think the first thing is to establish those categories and then start to fill them up and be very intentional ahead of time to say which category does this person fall into?
There have been times where we've had speakers that we had to pay, that I knew of, but I knew that they weren't just well known. They didn't sell any tickets, but the people that saw them speak never forgot their name, never forgot what they said and it just way heightened the attendee experience.
That's it for this recap. Watch the webinar to get the full conversation.