Reflections on Affiliate Summit East 2013 – #aes13

This is a bit of a long article, and more of my own inner perspective on Affiliate Summit and my recent trip.  Maybe some of my insights might prove useful, however if not, that’s ok, please just browse on.  I have been to several Affiliate Summit events.  I have been to two or three Affiliate Summits in the West (aka Las Vegas) and two events in Affiliate Summit East (both in New York City).  This year the event was in Philadelphia.  I had never been to Philadelphia before, so I saw this as an adventure and an opportunity to head back to Affiliate Summit….

To kick things off however, here are some photos from the trip

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Reflections on Affiliate Summit East 2013

I had taken a purposefully temporary pause from Affiliate Summit about 18 months ago.  There was nothing wrong with the conference, it was excellent and getting better.  I was busy on one hand, and my cup was full.

I wasn’t really ready to receive new information at the time, and due to that wasn’t able to get the value out of going.  So I took a break and exercised some of the skills I had picked up at past events.  I got a lot better at writing blog articles and content that solved problems, problems faced by narrow niches of people.  In total, these narrow niches could be rather large in total.

For example, I helped hundreds of non profits get set up with PayPal.  I helped tens of thousands of people learn to create WordPress themes for the first time.  I helped thousands of WordPress users become better at writing content, improving their SEO Copywriting skills and benefitting from good writing, as opposed to trying to ‘optimize’ crappy content.

My Cup was not Quite Full Enough of Knowledge

So after exhausting that knowledge, I noticed that my affiliate performance was flagging a bit.  In terms of transactions it was holding steady.  In terms of dollars it was dipping.  That was largely due to the termination of PayPal’s Affiliate program last fall, one of my most successful, and the problematic affiliate management of another that allowed trademark domain squatters to ruin the landscape of business.  That last hurt the most as I had worked extensively to prove that particular business and make it happen not only for myself but for many many other affiliates.

So this year when I went back, I needed a refresh of spirit, some new tools and abilities to make my existing efforts more successful.  Plus, I needed to expand into a much larger set of demographic channels on behalf of a project that starts in September.  (More on that in a later post).

Affiliate Success in Epiphanies and Insomnia

So my trip to Affiliate Summit started succeeding the week before I left really, maybe even 2 months before.  First, I reached out through Facebook and made contact with a gentleman, whom I had met years earlier.  Neither of us recognized each other online, but we arranged to split the cost of a room for the show, which saved me and him each about $350!

Next, I setup meetings with two different companies.  One is a company that I am an affiliate with and already engaged in a campaign.  My affiliate efforts have not been super successful yet.  I actually started with it 2 years ago when they were a brand new company.  Now, the planets, demographics, abilities of both of us are aligning and suddenly it is starting to fire for me.

The night before the show, I had insomnia.  In the middle of the night around 2am, I thought of an awesome idea for a future campaign for one of the companies.  I wanted to build it on the spot, but having done that type of thing before only to miss something obvious, I decided to wait a couple days until I had a chance to reality check it with with representatives and officers of the company.

So I set up this meeting in part to work through the idea and in part to give them separate feedback to improve their conversions based on the feedback of my own clients who had balked, stalled, or decided against using them.  After that I laid out my plan for the future campaign. My plan involved finding people at a critical point in their analysis and investigation to a technical problem and exposing them to this great service that just so happened to solve most of their tech problems.  (Yes this is very general, and more of a diary about my thoughts than a tell all of my techniques.)

That meeting was one of my last of the show, and it was solid, productive and we will both make money.  Success.

The other meeting was with a new company.  This company offers a tool that I can use both for my own affiliate and marketing purposes, and also in some cases to promote as a direct affiliate myself.  I had found the tool originally at New Media Expo, but at the time, my cup was still close to the top.  I had great ideas on how to use it. Then I got caught up in an unrelated project, and forgot the ideas before I could map them out or execute them.  So in this meeting, I simply needed to be re-inspired a bit.

I sensed resistance from the affiliate manager during this meeting.  He didn’t seem to understand the areas that I was getting hung up on.  I could see some potential pit falls between the service and YouTube and didn’t want to jump into a tool that wasn’t rock solid let alone potentially detrimental.  The owner of the company seemed to grasp most of the dilemma.  He had no solution yet, but I think he left with a few questions in his own head that will probably result in some research and testing that might not only help him make his product more solid, but also help him add an additional bullet point to the value proposition of his company.

Someday it might create yet another big selling point exposing him to an even larger market than he has today!  Success.

Music and Affiliate Summit – 4 Concert Performances

The first night I arrived, we went to a concert.  There were only about 5 or so people from Affiliate Summit that I knew of going to the concert.  Scot Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame had gone solo and was headlining the show.  The opening act was Red Letter something or other.  They had a lot of energy and raw potential, but definitely still an opening act.  I suspect the lead singer might make a go of things some day.

Concert t-shirt from The Last Internationale - concert night before the start of #AES13The second act, The Last Internationale was simply amazing.  Female lead singer that had an amazing voice, strong lyrics written apparently by the occasional keyboardist.  Plus, their lead guitarist was good at first, and then flat out amazing towards the end of the show as I suspect he let the lead singer shine in the early numbers and then demonstrated that not only was his own talent great, but together they were even better.  You can download and listen to several of their better tracks for free on Reverb Nation.

Scott Weiland performing at the Trocadero in Philadelphia, August 2013 before start of #AES13Then Scott Weiland came on and put on a great great show.  His vocals of a cover by Jane’s Addiction called “Coming Down the Mountain” were amazing, maybe as good if not better than Perry Farrell’s originals when Perry was at his prime.  I am not only a fan of Stone Temple Pilots but also a big fan of Jane’s Addiction.  I may see Jane’s Addiction in a couple months at Voodoo Fest in New Orleans.  I’ve seen them in San Francisco in 1991 and in Charlotte in 2011 I think it was at the NINJa tour.

The venue was an old theater called the Trocadero (The Troc) located next to the China town section of Philadelphia and was very close to the convention center.  We sat up in the balcony watching the concert.  The stage was only about 40 feet away.

View from the balcony of the Trocadero in Philadelphia August 2013

Afterwards the four of us headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe and talked for about an hour and ate some food.  The apple cobbler and ice cream was pretty amazing, but the networking and conversation was even better.

Finding Clients at Affiliate Summit

For me things kicked off with a great session by Hunter Boyle from Aweber on email marketing (a topic I know little about).  That pretty much sums up why I was there.  It’s been an obvious deficiency of mine for some time and I needed to get that fixed, so my butt was in the seat on time and ready to learn something and I did!

It’s not Just the Size, But What You DO With It

The next day the conference began.  I also caught a great session by Adam Reimer (@Rollerblader).

How to Choose an Affiliate Program

He had some great tips and methodologies.  Plus, he was one of the people I had a meeting with the next day, so it was an opportunity to say hello before the meeting.  The Meet Market happened later that afternoon.  The Meet Market is sort of like speed dating mixed with an expo hall organized just for networking.  It ran for 6 hours, and I took it in about 90 minute portions broken up with breaks of about 20 minutes in the Blogger’s Lounge downstairs so I could catch my breath and get some water.

That night we went to the Under the Stars party put on by ShareASales at the Hard Rock Cafe.  It was a Rock n Roll themed party, with guitars being giveaway to the best dressed rock star.  I think Elvis won.  :)

ShareASale Party Under the Stars at the Hard Rock Philadelphia for Affiliate Summit East 2013 - Nicholas Cage signature on guitar courtesy of yours truly

I met several people that night, including a couple that as we talked more through the week, indicated that they might even need to hire my services as a WordPress developer.  In general, I didn’t go to Affiliate Summit looking for clients.  There is a no soliciting policy in general for any company that is not an exhibitor, but there is nothing wrong in networking and if people are in need of help, that’s fine.  Regardless, I was not handing out flyers for my services by a long shot and the conversations were very preliminary and casual.  I mention this simply to point out the tone that seems to be acceptable for this particular conference.  If you want to push a stronger sales campaign then you need to be a sponsor or an exhibitor or both.

Monday and Tuesday are already starting to fog over in my memory a bit.  I had my first meeting on Monday and the second meeting on Tuesday.  As I mentioned they both went great.  Monday night saw many more parties.  Amex Business card put on a nice cocktail party that thankfully had some great food at a roof top restaurant.  Then we headed to the Affiliate Ball where there were Philly Cheese Steaks for free and a cash bar.  Busta Rhymes performed around 11 and Evander Holifield took pictures with people.  We later headed to another party at some other club, but as the night was getting late we were running out of energy.  My room mate and I and another friend called it a night and headed back towards the hotel.  We stopped by the 7-11 across the street from the hotel, picked up water, some snacks and ice cream in a tub.

Quick Tip – When you go to a conference, always look for a convenience store, drug store, gas station or something for some of your food and drinks.  You can pay $5 for a bottle of water in a hotel, and get the same thing for a $1 across the street.

The ice cream proved a hit and we shared with some friends in the hotel lobby that were hanging out after all of the parties.

Quick Tip – If it’s late at night and you are thinking about crashing, check the lobby first that’s where some of the best networking usually happens, and if you can take extra food!

Shannon Weidemann & Karen Garcia speaking on Making the Most of Working From Home #AES13

The last day of the show on Tuesday went by a bit slow at first.  I was tired and initially felt ready to go.  I made it to a session featuring my good friend Karen Garcia from GTO Management and her fellow panelist Shannon Weiddemann.

 

Their Presenation was titled Making the Most of Working From Home

Now you might wonder what a guy who works from a dock office on a lake and has been doing that for 6 years might have to learn about making the most of working from home.  Well at first I did too, but knowing Karen I was sure there was something that I could do better and she definitely gave me some great tips!  (Like cooking with crock pot bags to speed clean up during the busy fourth quarter and using an app to help schedule and organize chores for your kids. (Chorma and Cozi Family Organizer)

I thought my cup was full again, but made the rounds on the expo hall one more time and found some additional potential business connections for one of my client projects that I had missed the day before.  It never hurts to continue networking even when you are tired.  Your guard is down, the exhibitors guard is down and some of the BS conversation is thrown out and people get a little more real.  When that happens, you have a better chance of learning something extra useful, which I did.

Motivation in Keynotes

There are many types of speakers and keynote presenters.  Many of them generally fall into the motivational category.  Sometimes they are trying to cajole an industry into some specific direction, sometimes they just want to get people stirred up and moving.

This keynote was like that but very different.  It was presented by @Sugarrae.  She is a long time veteran and leader in the affiliate industry.  She is plain spoken and doesn’t pull any punches when she talks to you in person, or on twitter, or in a presentation or keynote.  F Bombs happen, and a lot more.  It’s not crass or inflammatory or even obscene, its just how she keeps things real.

Her presentation was titled 11 Things My Son Taught me about Life and Business.

There’s a reason why she is the way she is and talks the way she talks.  Life has thrown her some punches that many people never recover from.  Her first son had a double stroke at the age of 2 weeks and subsequently her previously healthy child suffered major brain damage.  She raised him to the age of 15 when unfortunately last winter he passed away.

This was the foundation of this presentation.  She was sharing with us some of the most important insights in her life based on the very difficult challenges that she faced and survived as a foster child herself, as a mother with a GED, as a parent who had to find a way to pay for the care of her child in severe need of many medical treatments, equipment and care every day.

It was a heartbreaking presentation and very motivating in that even just a bit, she helped show just how much a person can do, even when faced with extreme personal challenges.  She showed that is possible to get past all the setbacks, obstacles, and frankly excuses that often end up thwarting the majority of people before they ever begin.  It was that much more powerful, because it was presented by someone most of us knew one way or another.  She’s a great speaker, mother, and a very strong person and you could feel it in the air as she spoke.

It was a pretty dramatic show ending presentation and afterwards.  I headed back to my hotel afterwards to absorb everything just a bit.  I had to switch hotels away from the conference hotel, to a different hotel about 7 blocks over.  Some trendy little Inn brought back to life after originally being built in the 1930′s I think.

I got checked in and then worked my way back to the conference hotel to try and meet up with friends to walk around town, take pictures of the buildings and statues and art work and catch a bus tour.

We never did make that bus tour, missed it by about 3 minutes after running down the sidewalks across town.  However, we did have some amazing deli food, and instead caught a horse drawn carriage tour where we met a fantastic guy named Abe the Rockstar (Abraham Chappelle) and his horse Bubbilicious (‘Bubbs’).  He was also a musician, historian and craftsman that makes guitars.  We learned a great deal about Philadelphia and hung out after the tour and talked for another 30-45 minutes about history and bands and music and horses.

It was a great trip, a great conference and when I got home, I worked like crazy to write this article and follow up with everyone via email.  I’ve been mind mapping out my ideas, meetings, notes and next will be doing the same thing with the many flyers from companies that I plan to work with soon!

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