Editors note: This is a guest post from Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, co-founders of the Affiliate Summit event which twice-annually brings together 5,000+ in the industry. They are also probably the only two people in the industry who enjoy Madonna-like “First name only” status… to learn more about Affiliate Summit visit http://www.AffiliateSummit.com – Enjoy!
The Affiliate Summit conference turned 10 years old this year, and there have been many lessons learned over the years, as the events have evolved. The beginnings of Affiliate Summit trace back to the Affiliate Force cruises that ran through 2003.
Both of us were helping out with them, and when we tried to share suggestions on improving it, we were rebuffed.
Open your ears and close your mouth
We thought we had some great ideas, but they were not well received. So, we took our ball and went home. Or rather, we started our own company, and built it on those ideas. We also made it a practice from the beginning to constantly solicit advice and whenever possible, we have taken action on suggestions we’ve received.
We also made it a practice from the beginning to constantly solicit advice and whenever possible
The current way isn’t always the right way
After the first year, Affiliate Force took place on cruise ships out of Miami. Affiliate marketing conferences took place on cruise ships in the minds of many. We fell into the same trap early and tried it on a ship, and we quickly realized that it didn’t work for many reasons, not the least of which were the inability to scale, expense and low speed of Internet, and that many companies saw cruises as boondoggles and wouldn’t send their employees on one.
Slow and steady wins the race
The first Affiliate Force took place on land in the Miami Beach Convention Center. It was a huge space with a small crowd. They tried to be too big out of the gate, and it looked bad when they fell way short. We decided to start modestly and scale as the market demanded, and it has worked for a decade.
Tap into the wisdom of the crowds
Sometimes the crowds are not right, but they are a great resource to avoid tunnel vision. That was something we saw with Affiliate Force, as they had many of the same speakers over the years. Early on, we picked each of our speakers, but we were concerned that we were being biased towards the people and topics we preferred. So, we formed an advisory board to vote on the speaker proposals, and also opened the voting to the public. We’ve seen a wider variety of content and have “discovered” many speakers we probably would not have considered.
Under promise and over deliver
The last Affiliate Force took place in 2003. There was another one scheduled for 2004, but it never happened, and many companies were left hanging with travel plans and paid sponsorships and registrations that were not returned to them. While this was unfortunate, it reinforced to us that we should never overextend what we can do, but rather to make realistic promises, and then strive to exceed them.
We should never overextend what we can do, but rather to make realistic promises, and then strive to exceed them.
Work for the community, not your bottom line
Affiliate Force was nothing more than a conference and tradeshow — an annual event in which the attendees shelled out dollars for a few days of networking. Our goal was much loftier in that not only did we want to eventually run a profitable business, but we also wanted to foster the growth of the industry that we chose to make our living in. By building a vibrant affiliate marketing community that interacts with each other throughout the year to facilitate the achievement their goals; providing an avenue in which they could share and receive free affiliate marketing knowledge; offering leadership opportunities to support the community; and creating a culture that gives back by championing important causes, it reinforced to us that no business can thrive when the relationship is one-sided.
Those were some of the lessons we learned from a business that we tried to help, but one that ended up failing.