Here at HeySummit, we're always looking for new ways to help you make the best of your summits. We're doing our best to feature all the ways HeySummit has been used and loved by our community of users. In this post, we're featuring Alla of Growth Marketing Conference. Read on and get inspired 🏔️
Growth Marketing Conference (GMC) began organizing its signature marketing conferences officially in 2015, having spent three years organizing various events for other companies in different industries, from tech to sales.
Starting with around 300 attendees in the California Bay Area, GMC experimented with the in-person event format, successfully hosting over 10 conferences within five years. They also recorded the events and sold online access passes to those unable to attend in person. Seeing a gap in the market, GMC added an annual virtual summit, in April, to their calendar. This summit not only expanded their audience but also kept their regular in-person conference attendees engaged.
"Marketers are best known as people who are experimenting all the time, with a need to 'have'. We've been trying to see how we can position our conference from just being a conference to a product," says Alla, Head of Projects and Operations.
However, when COVID-19 hit, GMC had to pivot and turn virtual summits into their product. This meant Alla had to make some significant tweaks to their annual virtual summit. How? That's where HeySummit comes in.
Anatomy of a Summit
Framing is key
"There was a huge shift - 'how do we promote this?', because these virtual events were previously exclusively for lead-gen purposes. We never actively tried to sell tickets to it, as it was a tactic to keep our community engaged. Our product has always been in-person conferences."
Alla and her team approached this challenge from different angles, for example, positioning the virtual summit as a 'video library' and tickets as access to this library.
Generating revenue from summits
"Events are our bread and butter; our main sources of revenue are ticket sales and sponsorships."
With their April virtual summit, there was no time to find sponsors, leaving them to rely on ticket sales. Tickets for the virtual event weren't priced anywhere near as much as the in-person one, and the team didn't feel right raising ticket prices on such short notice. Instead, they set their sights on launching new, revamped iterations of their virtual summit, spread throughout the year.
"We started thinking, how do we market sponsorships for a virtual conference? How do we justify the cost of the ticket, when it's no longer in-person - are we providing enough value?"
The solution? Alla made the first virtual summit free to attend, so it had the added function of being a marketing tool for future summits.
"If you announce from the get-go, 'this is a paid event', you're cutting off probably more than half of your potential audience."
With a preliminary list of speakers confirmed, they opened the event for pre-registrations and started promoting the event.
An efficient event hosting platform
"We needed a broadcasting platform that could be built quickly. We couldn't afford to build a whole new website from scratch - I love that HeySummit is already pre-built, and the entire event can be created and managed from one place, we just fill up all the details."
As growth marketers who love to experiment, she wasn't content to rely on the premade templates. While the templates make it easy for HeySummiteers who want the convenience, the platform is also entirely customizable to suit the brand's needs.
Alla and her small team of 4 - she had a dedicated event coordinator who evaluated all event tools and a marketing expert to build funnels and automation - relied on freelance developers to help with more technical aspects of HeySummit, such as CSS. This is a great strategy to turn elaborate, creative ideas into reality, as the team was able to create a custom subdirectory (https://growthmarketingconf.com/SUMMIT_NAME/) and landing page to ensure the website stood out and drove traffic to their main website - you can check out their most recent site here).
Building a tech stack that works for you
With big ambitions to make this their new signature product, the team worked tirelessly to customize as much of the site as possible. Next up was to gather the digital tools required to start building it. While HeySummit has several integrations, it's also possible to bring in the software you're already comfortable with.
For talks, Alla used Crowdcast for its ease-of-use and customizable options. The team was familiar with the broadcasting platform from previous events and ensuring attendees and speakers had a reliable platform to stream and view talks was vital. Also, they used Brella to encourage attendee networking and boost engagement.
Transitioning from offline to online
Since they had already sold tickets to their in-person summit in December this year, they offered free entry to the virtual version and a guaranteed ticket for next year's conference.
The transition to an entirely virtual affair was slow, and the team experimented with different ticket types and sponsors. In total, GMC has hosted three summits since COVID-19 hit. For the first summit in April, Alla opened the event for pre-registrations and offered free replays for a week. Following that, she created All-Access Passes for year-long unlimited access to the talks. On the second summit, they followed a similar structure but brought in a couple of sponsors, who had talk slots of their own.
The third, and most recent summit, featured something a little different - a funnel.
"It was a great combination of timing, framing, and speaker lineup - the audience also really resonated with our sponsors. I think it's because, as a company, we started realizing that virtual events are the only way right now, and there was a shift in strategy."
Through a bit of experimentation and implementation, they landed on a new way to sell tickets.
These pages were hosted on HeySummit, but tickets were sold on an external platform that was automatically connected to the team's CRM software, which would send out confirmation emails and save all leads. While HeySummit provides the option to send emails to attendees, there's also the possibility of managing these yourself.
When attendees landed on the summit page, there was only one option - a free ticket. After registration was complete, the attendee was then redirected to the 'upsell' page, which had a deadline funnel.
"It was a clock, basically saying that you have 60 minutes to complete this transaction to buy your All-Access ticket at $87. The software tracks the user's IP, and if they don't buy the ticket within 60 minutes, the page would list the price at $127. Then, the clock will say they have 6 days to enjoy the ticket at this price, and so on," Alla explains.
Summit Successfully: Alla's Top Tips
Get the word out
With revenue dependent on sales and sponsorships, the advertising budget was not huge. Alla, a firm believer in community and word-of-mouth recommendations, reached out to several media partners to promote the event for them, in return for participation in their events, or promotion via their social media sites and newsletters. Alla created copy for partners to send out but found the most successful ones were more personalized and increased engagement. One partner eventually brought in over 1,000 attendees!
With over 100,000 marketers in their community, ultimately it was their own email marketing efforts that pulled in the highest number of attendees. Alla also recommends creating an event on LinkedIn and inviting people there. It's also a great site to find and attract people in your industry, and you can filter searches based on job titles.
The networking component of conferences like these is important, and Alla's top tip is to try and keep everything within one platform.
"If you're attending an online summit and you are sitting in this one tab, you don't want to leave that tab. You don't want to go to another app or page. You don't want to register again and again. Give your information once, and that's it!"
Alla has been collecting feedback on this aspect, and the team is still working on enhancing the networking experience of attendees. Another thing on the cards is a gamification of the summit - ranging from virtual scavenger hunts to quizzes.
Have a mix of pre-recorded and live sessions
With a good mix of live and recorded sessions, the summits reaped the benefits of both formats. For live sessions, attendees and speakers can enjoy the vibrancy and dynamic of having two-way communication; while pre-recorded sessions allow the organizer to control and moderate the content being streamed to the audience - plus, if speakers are available to enter the chatroom to answer any questions from attendees, you don't lose out on engagement either.
"It's a very flexible format - we even have videos before and after the sessions sometimes to set the stage, sometimes from our sponsors. We have workshop sessions too for more practical experience. Go with what's comfortable, but don't be afraid to experiment!"
Not all smooth sailing
Alla's biggest challenge came in the form of attendee management. Since attendees purchased tickets outside of the HeySummit platform, the team had to manually upload attendees. With different ticket tiers, it was easy to mix up ticket restrictions and settings. Furthermore, when accessing the all-access pass tickets, many attendees didn't realize they had to sign in to the HeySummit platform to access the talks. Eventually, Alla sent out a screenshot of the login process to attendees. When she ran into challenges like these, she turned to HeySummit's Customer Happiness team, who guided her through the troubleshooting process.
"I'm so grateful for your support team - I think I drove them crazy, absolutely crazy with all these pesky questions, but it's only because we were rushing everything!"
Alla suggests reading up on how to use HeySummit prior to having to build the event. While describing the platform as intuitive, she thinks she felt much more comfortable after organizing the first summit and understanding how the product feels and works.
Next up on Alla's agenda?
Just kidding - she's working on researching new platforms to enhance the summit experience of attendees, speakers, and sponsors alike.
"There is no unicorn platform of course but we're looking into more platforms and software we can use with HeySummit."
With the help of HeySummit's Clone function, the team is thinking of hosting smaller-scale summits in the lead up to their big event in December. GMC also has plans to go into virtual event consulting, offering services such as recommendations for tech stacks and how to position and promote virtual events.
Best of luck, Alla!