In November of 2015 I attended a conference where the speaker presented her favorite list growth strategy- an online summit. I was in my second year of business and had heard of this before but frankly, it always sounded a little “old school” to me.
What about webinars? Facebook ads? And isn’t Gary Vee rocking SnapChat?
But she seemed to know what she was doing and I had seen this done plenty of times online so I decided to try it out… and was met with great success! In just one month I went from 2,400 email subscribers to 3,600.
And guess what? Since that time I’ve continued to regularly grow my list at a faster rate. I also obtained two speaking gigs from the summit and positioned myself as an expert in my field.
While I did follow the summit strategy generally recommended, I made a few tweaks that I think were crucial to my success and want to share them here.
Don’t Rush Things
First, I spent about four months letting ideas percolate in a Google doc. If I thought of someone I’d like to interview while I was out shopping, I’d open the app and jot their name down. If I was feeling inspired to write an introduction or email invitation, I’d add it there.
This gave me time to play around with different ideas and collect enough information so that I wasn’t struggling to find interviews. Quite the opposite, actually! I was also prepared before reaching out to experts for interviews.
After my percolation time, I went into action following the standard summit format, with my own twist. I chose to focus on a broader topic for a narrow audience, mental health clinicians in private practice. And so the Road to Success Summit was born, with the goal of providing tips for every area of private practice.
Here are the tried and true suggestions I followed:
I interviewed a large number of experts. Most large summits are about three weeks long. This allows you to interview a large number of people, which obviously increases the reach of the overall audience. I ended up with 17 interviews and released a different interview each day from June 1-17.
I shared the summit everywhere, every day. I blasted social media for three weeks before the summit and the entire month in which I ran the summit. The result? Other people started sharing it, too, and there was big buzz around it.
I made my current list opt-in. My goal was to grow my subscriber base but I also wanted to let my current subscribers in on the goodness, without annoying those who may not want a daily email for 17 days straight. I sent a simple announcement to my current list with an easy one-click opt-in. I continued this for three weeks leading up to the summit.
I provided templates to all the interviewees. Every expert I interviewed had one job- show up to my interview prepared and share their knowledge. I did everything else for them. I sent them templates to email their own list, as well as graphics and suggested posts for various social media.
I provided a direct link to schedule the interview with me. This was really key for efficiency and my own sanity! I set up times for interviews each week in Time Trade and included the link to schedule with my invitation. Only two of the 17 people emailed me wanting more info before scheduling.
I kept my emails succinct. This was a hard one because there was so much I wanted to share, but I made each email to the experts as short as possible and gave very clear instructions or requests.
I had something to sell after the summit was over. After providing a ton of great content and interacting with you regularly, people are ready to buy. And since I didn’t provide anything related to my specific expertise during the summit, I offered an online workshop the following month.
Here’s what I did differently:
I didn’t ask (or care) about the size of anyone’s list. This goes against everything anyone will tell you about using summits as a success strategy. Most business coaches will tell you not to waste time with anyone who has list of less than x (typically 5,000). However, I knew some experts who would provide killer value but they had just started up their list building. I decided to focus on providing value and variety, rather than going after list size. The result was that I received multiple compliments on the content and excitement leading into the summit about the various topics.
I didn’t sell the summit videos. This was more a personal choice but selling the videos would have created more legal hassle and I decided for my first round, everything would be free.
I didn’t remove access to the videos within 48-72 hours. People need urgency to act. This is definitely true, but people are also busy. I hate when I miss something simply because I’ve had two busy days so I decided to leave all videos up for an entire month. And it absolutely increased the total views.
I didn’t require my experts to do any promotion if they didn’t want to. This is another big no-no, but I realized that people hate the “send a minimum of five notices to your email list” type requirement and it makes them say NO. However, they are happy to share when it’s something of value and they see themselves as part of something bigger.
I provided all the experts with a summary at the end. After the end of the month, I put together an email with all the stats on views, website visits, attendees subscribed, testimonials, etc. I received multiple replies thanking me for the information and this increased follow up later on with some of the experts.
In a nutshell, my approach was to make the summit extremely valuable, easy to attend, and easy to be part of as an expert.
If it seemed like something was getting complicated, I stopped and considered ways to simplify it. If I was only doing something because “that’s the way it’s done,” I decided to be an innovator.
I also created something I would personally like to attend. If a rule or way of doing things annoyed me, it was out! That’s the whole point of being your own boss, right?
So, I would definitely recommend using a summit for list building, but don’t be afraid to do your own thing.