How does a small agency regularly pull in $100,000+ from small, 20 to 40 person events?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Oli Billson shares how he has brought in over $1 million dollars in new business revenue from a series of just five small, workshop-style events.
Oli is the Founder of Oliver Billson Marketing and a popular marketing speaker featured in conferences around the world. His small educational events for entrepreneurs have become a significant driver of revenue (both one time and recurring) for his business, and in this week's episode, he shares the exact process he uses to plan, promote, and monetize these events.
This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live, the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel. Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS".
Some highlights from my conversation with Oli include:
Oli speaks at a lot of marketing conferences around the world, and uses that as an opportunity to hold local events in the conference cities for area entrepreneurs and business owners.
In the past year, he has run 5 of these small events around the US and Canada.
Oli's events are two-day workshops designed to help businesses go "from inspiration to implementation." At the event, attendees get the "Automation Playbook," a pre-built, pre-packaged, well-engineered marketing that they could go and put to work immediately in their business.
Every attendee is also given a free, 30 day trial of Oli's monthly membership program called "Player's Club."
After the initial 30 days, membership continues at $400 per month. The average attendee stays in the membership program for 9.5 months.
Attendees are also given the option to upgrade and join Oli's mastermind group at $15,000 a year.
In most of the cities where Oli has held events, he does not have a lot of local contacts, so he relies on a two-step direct mail campaign targeted at a list he purchases from InfoUSA. The response rate for this campaign was 60%.
This is coupled with a text and ringless voicemail campaign aimed at driving registrations.
The key to monetizing events like Oli does, is to have offers that you can use to upsell attendees. In this case, Oli's offers were structured in a way to deliver recurring revenue to his business.
Once someone registers for an event, Oli sends them what he calls a "shock and awe" box with event swag and a "stick letter" reaffirming their decision to register. This has contributed to a 90% attendance rate.
Resources from this episode:
Save 10% off the price of tickets to IMPACT Live with promo code "SUCCESS"
Exclusively for Inbound Success Podcast listeners: Gain a free, 24 hour pass to Oli's exclusive video training on "How To Predictably Drive A High Number Of Qualified Leads Into Sales Appointments Using The Phone Funnel Framework" Click here for access
Listen to the podcast to learn the exact marketing plan that Oli uses to generate six-figure revenue from small, workshop-style events.
I'm your host Kathleen Booth, and this week my guest is Oliver Billson, who is the owner and founder of Oliver Billson Marketing, and a serial entrepreneur with a fascinating background, welcome Oliver.
Oli Billson (Guest): Hey, thanks for having me on. I'm looking forward to it.
Oli and Kathleen recording this episode
Kathleen: I'm looking forward to it too. So for my audience, I first met Oliver at a Digital Marketer's agency training day about a month ago, and he gave a fantastic talk on how he's driven traffic to these local events that he's been holding, and then the impact that that's had on his business and revenue growth. And so I was, as soon as I heard it I was like, "Ooh, I need to share this with my listeners!"
About Oliver Billson
Kathleen: But before we jump into that, can you talk a little bit about yourself, because you have a fascinating background, and I was interested to read on your site the evolution of you as a businessperson and how you wound up doing what you do now.
Oli: Yes, sure, so it is a bit of an interesting story, I guess. I've never actually worked for anybody, I started my first business when I was 15 years old, building computers out of my mom and dad's back room, and that was my first foray, really, into entrepreneurship. And I, as well as having a passion for computing and building computers at that age, I also had a passion for cars, I absolutely love cars, still do to this day, and so what I did was I started an automated after-market business, and really kind of understood at that point, building that service-based business, the importance really, the lifeblood of every business, which is getting and keeping customers.
And I was really lucky to be exposed to direct response marketing at a fairly young age, I was only about 19 years old, actually, when I read my first book on direct response marketing, immediately applied it, and really had some profound results from implementing that type of marketing. And it kind of defied conventional wisdom and popular belief, in terms of my circles at that time, the people that I knew that were building businesses. And they were quite amazed at the growth and the catalyst that that had had on my business, and so we grew those businesses and I kind of became known, now I suppose, for building businesses inside of businesses.
So we started out as a service-based business, then we started helping other people in my niche at that time, start, grow and scale their own businesses, then we'd create another business inside of that business, which was our exclusive franchise, which we took from zero to 170 franchisees internationally in just less than four years, so very quick growth there.
And then inside of that business I built another business which was a marketing agency out of the capabilities I built around marketing inside of that business, and then we transcended that into membership, and selling information and knowledge and expertise online through our memberships, and then into where we are today, which is nextlevelbusiness.com, which is an e-learning business where we help, obviously, service-based businesses, client-based businesses scale.
Kathleen: Wow, it is so clear that entrepreneurship runs in your blood, very strongly. I love hearing stories like that, because there's an interesting pattern I've noticed in, I've now like 90-some-odd episodes into this podcast, and I interview different people every week, and they're all people who are getting phenomenal results with some kind of marketing. And what I've started to notice is that a lot of them, probably the majority of them, are not trained as marketers. They are people who have that very entrepreneurial spirit, they're very naturally curious, they're the kind of people who jump in and want to know the answers to things and figure things out, and they love a problem and figuring out how to solve it, and I feel like that is so what I'm hearing from you. It's great, it's-
Oli: Yeah, absolutely. It's all about solving the problems for people, you know?
Kathleen: Yeah, well, [crosstalk] and I think that's what makes you a great entrepreneur, is figuring it out and taking your business to the next step, because let's be honest, as an entrepreneur you're constantly going to be faced with, somebody once said to me, "As your company gets bigger, you don't have fewer problems, you have maybe the same number of problems but they tend to be bigger problems." And so there's only more things to figure out, so you've got to love that.
Oli: Absolutely, yes. Yeah, totally agree with that.
How Oli Grew His Business Through Events
Kathleen: So let's talk a little bit about what I heard you talk about at Digital Marketer, which is these events. And this started out as something very small, that you quickly saw you were getting results from and then it expanded.
Can you kind of rewind the clock and maybe share with the listeners what your original objective and idea was when you first began?
Oli: Yeah, sure. Probably like a lot of people, I love attending events, and for those who know me well, I'm fortunate enough now to be asked to speak at events pretty much all around the world, so I love speaking at them, I love attending them. I think there's something special that comes with events in terms of the bond that you can create with people, potential customers, with the proximity that they bring.
And there's lots of benefits to running events, from a sales, customer acquisition standpoint, of course, and they're often used as a vehicle, and over the years I've helped lots of other people actually put on their own events, and put butts in seats, and monetize them and have the whole strategy behind it.
But although I knew all the benefits of running an event, I was actually a little bit shy to actually do my own events, for a number of different reasons, and probably those reasons were many of the reasons why people don't ultimately do it. Perhaps they're worried about attracting enough people to actually attend the event, they're thinking, "Well maybe I don't have a large enough list of potential people to attend the event," or maybe, "What happens if I can't get people to register for the event, what happens if I can't get them to show up to the event, and what happens or if it was a failure, how would I be perceived in the market if it was a failure?"
And so, all of these are the common fears, really, that were running through my mind, and probably run through a lot of minds of the people that may even be listening to this.
And really what happened was I was speaking at an event in San Diego, and a good friend of mine said to me, "Look, Oli, you're missing a huge opportunity here to really share your knowledge, expertise, wisdom, experience, with people when you come and speak at these other marketing events," and that's really how this initially evolved was, why not leverage my time in putting on a small workshop ahead or bookending it, really, to somewhere where I was already going to be?
And for those of you who can't tell, this isn't an Australian accent, I'm from the UK, so I spend a lot of time over in the States, and most of our clients' customers are in the States. So I wanted to use this as an opportunity to run these events. But I was kind of, really what had stopped me before was all these falsehoods, really, that come with running events.
And I thought, okay I'm going to do this, and the first one that I, at this point to just kind of just zoom out, we, over the past 12 months we ran five of these small events in the format that we'll go ahead and talk about here. And the first one that I ran was actually in San Diego. I was going to be back there again in a few months, almost a year from the day, actually, that we're doing this interview, now.
And what I guess I didn't quite imagine would happen was exactly how well they would go, and whether it was just by luck or by some level of judgment and strategic thinking, we really did things quite differently to the way that most would go about this, and it really really had a very big impact.
I think right now, just to, not brag, but just to kind of say as it is, we went from really going, I think one point, about $1.2 million in revenue from doing these small, big money, from these small events, really. In the format that we're going to hear.
So it really does work, and it was done in a way that was very different. And what I mean by that is, I'm sure we've all attended the events where there's a, people have to make sales, right? They just have to make sales, they bring in other speakers, there's lots of pitching, and it creates sometimes not the best experience for the people that are attending.
What I knew I wanted to do was stay true to our values and our business, which was really to provide lots of value, to provide a great experience for people who were there. And if they wanted to continue the journey with us, they could.
So we all, we were kind of very clear on those principles before we started putting this together, which I think really helped us to stay grounded towards what we actually wanted to try and create, really.
Kathleen: All right. That's great, I love hearing those specific revenue numbers, it's definitely not bragging and I think, the feedback I've gotten from my listeners is the more specific the data, the better, because, [crosstalk] it's one thing to come on and say, "I'm getting great results," it's another to be like, "This is how much money we're making off of it," so keep that coming.
The Event Format
Kathleen: Let's talk about the event format, because I think that's really the next thing here is, exactly what do these events look like, where were they held, what was the cost structure, how many people did you target, et cetera?
Oli: Sure. So we can run through them in detail. So the first event that we ran was in San Diego, and it was a two-day workshop. And it was sharply focused on people being able to go from information to implementation.
So rather than just going to the event and getting information, that they would take home and hopefully execute themselves, we would largely be able to give them pre-built, pre-packaged, well-engineered marketing that they could go and put to work immediately in their business.
So we could almost do a lot of the work for them, and create these marketing campaigns that they could deploy themselves, but take away a lot of the strain and the struggle that comes with doing it themselves.
And so we called the event The Automation Playbook, because really it was largely about creating this predictable lead to customer journey, and having these playbooks, these campaigns, put into their business.
And so what we decided to do was run these events so they were very, they were easy for people to be able to make the decision to come. So the price point was only $97.00 to attend the workshop. But because of-
Kathleen: That's a no-brainer.
Upselling Event Registrants
Oli: Absolutely, no-brainer, right? But in order to make this a different, you know we're not going to get rich, and you could also argue how much value can you really also give for $97.00?
And so what we did was, something that really goes against what most people will tell you about these events. And so what we did was, we actually got people to take a free trial of our membership at the time, of Player's Club, which was a inner-circle, my inner-circle, which was $400.00 a month.
So what it meant was, just so you understand how it looked, they came and registered for the workshop for $97.00, but they also took a 30 day test drive of Player's Club. And it so happened the things that we would talk about at the workshop were the things that they'd get as part of membership. So they actually get these campaigns, these playbooks as part of membership anyway.
So we obviously wanted them to continue the journey with us beyond this. But that meant then, we were really converting the workshop from a sales mechanism, to actually being more of a membership event. So it was a very different feeling.
We actually spent most of our time at the event engendering them, indoctrinating them to the value of membership, and really getting the results for them that they wanted with the time that we had together.
So it meant that after the 30 days, they would then hopefully continue as a member. And that's really where our revenue was going to be based in the back end, rather than in the front. And so it was on us to perform, and we did that, we did that very well.
Oli's Event Marketing Plan
Oli: What we ended up doing, to give you the exact numbers, and how we got people to the event, was, we have a little advantage, maybe, over some because I have a name in the industry, I suppose, speaking at different events. But, so we have a small list, in California, we had about, and a little wider than that, we had a list about five and a half thousand people, which is not insignificant, but they were people that were on our list.
But we also knew that we wanted to go out to the market and meet them where they were, so we actually procured a list of 1200 businesses in the local area. So a very targeted list that we purchased from InfoUSA, to be able to target people with direct mail.
Now a lot of you might be thinking, "Well in a digital age, why, why would we do that? Can we find other ways of doing this?"
Well, we did a two-step direct mail campaign to these people, which actually prevailed to be the most expensive people to actually put into the event, but have subsequently, now we know all the numbers on the back end, actually prevailed to be the best long-term members and customers for us. And that worked extremely well.
So we did email to our house list, to our targeted list of people that we'd already got, we also did some internal lead generation with text messaging, so asking people on our list, "Text the words San Diego," or "Diego," whatever it was, back, and then we would send them the information and invitation to then event, and then we also did ringless voicemail as well.
So we did a recorded message that would show on their phone. And we got them then to text us back from that ringless voicemail, for us to then send the information about the event. So all in all, the net result was we ended up having, we ended up doing, what was it now, let me have a quick look here, I had to make a note of it for you. We sold 32 tickets to the event.
Measuring Event ROI
Oli: Now again, on high-level you may look at that and think, "Gosh Oli, 32 people? It doesn't sound like a lot of people in the room, how'd you make that work?" Well least we forget, they paid $97, which liquidated the cost of running the event for the two dates. You know, to get the hotel, and refreshments and that kind of thing, liquidated the cost for us.
But also, because we promoted this in a four-week window, remember they were taking the 30 day trial of membership, they weren't actually charged their $400 for the membership, until after the event.
Well what that meant was, only 10 people out of the 32 actually canceled membership, because they loved the event, they loved what we delivered, and they wanted to continue being a member. And that was fantastic because now we've got reoccurring revenue, obviously, from those people.
And we also took the opportunity at the event to offer them an opportunity to apply for our Mastermind. So what it meant was 10 people out of the 32, they applied to become a Mastermind member at $15,000 a year, and six of those people actually bought. They didn't buy to pay over the year, they actually paid in full.
So it looked like out of those 32 people it's a massive number per delegate that were there, of course. $93,000 in revenue, up front revenue, was generated from the event. And then, $8,000 of recurring revenue on the back end!
And what I can tell you is, that model and that run rate, the stick rate, the attrition, was a nine, ended up to be a nine and a half month stick rate at $400.00 a month.
Oli: So, fantastic lifetime value for using an event as a way to acquire members as well, and get them to stick. They actually ended up to be very, very good members, because not all lead sources are obviously the same, and what I'm trying to say here, if you get my point, is if we'd have acquired members through Facebook advertising, for example, then the cost of acquisition might have been less, than running an event, but the stick rate might not have been the same. It could have been three months, two months, as it has been in some circumstances. So, worked extremely well.
Kathleen: Yeah, I have so many questions for you. But the first thing I think that really jumps out at me from listening to you talk, is that events, one of the reasons that events probably have a terrible reputation, is that I think too many businesses hold events thinking the event itself is going to be the money-maker. And what I'm hearing you say is really, the event is just essentially the gateway drug or the tripwire, to what is really a bigger offer that you have, and so if I'm listening to this, I think the first thing that I would be thinking is, "What is it that I'm really trying to sell?" It's not the ticket to the event, that's just the promise that the person's going to show up and the way to cover the cost. I need something bigger, longer term, perhaps recurring, that I'm really looking to sell to them, is that right?
Oli: Yeah, absolutely. I think you've always got to start with the end in mind, and if you think really about this, the journey that you want to take people on, and the experience, on that journey, that you want them to have. I think what I really like about events is, and I'm totally sold on this now of course, but what I really like about these types of events is really the proximity and the bond that you can have with people, because you find out so much more about people's fears, frustrations, challenges, objections, and that then allows you to be able to iterate and change your offers and the way that you talk about things, in a much more accurate way to mirror and match those problems that you're solving for people, because of the time that you're spending with each other.
Using Events for Audience Research
Oli: And of course, you can also, I found out, find out very succinctly why people are also taking advantage of these offers, why they're continuing in membership, what they really thought about the experience, because they're going to give you that feedback.
You're going to get it a lot quicker than you perhaps would in terms of some level of delay from a webinar, for example, or a post, you know, an NPS follow-up. Which are all great by the way, but there's nothing quite like events to be able to have that interaction with people.
Kathleen: That's a really good point, because there's a big difference. You know marketers talk a good game about doing persona research and audience research, and there's a difference between setting an appointment and saying, "I'm going to call you and ask you 10 questions for my audience research," and sitting and having a cup of coffee with somebody before a workshop presentation. I think in the latter case, you get a much less guarded, more candid set of feedback than you do when you're in a structured interview setting. So that's an interesting point that you make there.
Oli: Yeah, I think we also really embodied that feedback loop, because when you do an event like this, you get to know very, very quickly whether or not something works or it doesn't work or it resonates or it doesn't.
And I remember listening to, I actually asked the question at the event, "Is there any reason why you wouldn't continue the journey in membership beyond this point? Is there any reason why you would cancel, I'd love to find out." Not to, if not for any other reason than I don't feel that we will have done our job, and it's my duty to find out how we can best serve you, and so I'd love to know your candid feedback, so please give that to me.
And I think because I was just very authentic with that as well, that helped. But because it was different, you're face-to-face, toe-to-toe with these people, it really, you don't need to be something that you're not, right? You're engineering something for their benefit. I think people could tell that and see that, that you actually cared.
And I think... You've got to go into these things in the right way, and I think the thing that we did that, somebody's looking at adding information, education, training, mentorship, whatever to their business, and they were thinking about doing this kind of model with a ticket and then a trial of membership, I think it really gave people the opportunity to find out whether or not we were right for them.
It gave them a taste of, so rather than doing a lot of indoctrinating, a lot of reselling, a lot of reaffirming when they onboarded as a member, now we could do that in the confines of an event. That's probably the reason why it worked so well long term.
Using Direct Mail for Event Promotion
Kathleen: Yeah. All right, I'm going to shift gears, and I want to ask you some more kind of nitty-gritty questions. You talked about some interesting things in terms of how you acquired registrants, or put butts in seats, as we like to say. You talked about direct mail, and you mentioned you got your list from Info USA, which is definitely a source that I'm familiar with, and to clarify, you really purchased that list to do direct mail, not to do email campaigns, correct?
Oli: Yeah, that's right.
Kathleen: Yeah. So how many different direct mail pieces did you do, like for one individual recipient?
Oli: So we did a two-step direct mail campaign, so sent an eight page sales letter to begin with, to all of those people, and then we followed that up with, anybody that didn't respond, with a postcard, a typical postcard, to again take people to, the actual call to action was one, to go to a vanity URL just so we could track the traffic and then obviously the opt-ins, and then secondly, to text a keyword. Because pretty much when people receive direct mail these days, they're not far away from their mobile phones, let alone going online and keying something in.
You'd actually be surprised that the majority of people actually text in to receive the information for us, and then we have an automated text conversation, to then get them to the point where they had the opportunity to purchase a ticket.
Kathleen: Now, if my memory serves, I seem to recall you mentioning that having two steps in that direct mail sequence was really important, because, even though you had the eight page sales letter, which would seem like, boy if anything was going to convince them it would be those eight pages, and then you followed it with a very simple postcard. Am I right in remembering that on that second step you actually had a really good response rate?
Oli: It was almost double.
Oli: It was almost double. In fact I think for this first event that we're just talking about here, it was like 60%.
Oli: So, it was a lot, lot better response than just taking the first step. So we would have basically not, we would have got a whole lot less registrants from the direct mail. It would've almost meant that it wasn't profitable almost to run the first step.It would have just been one step.
So actually by investing into two it actually paid dividends. And to be honest, multi-step, multi-media follow-up works every single day. So having this mix really works, and of course once they were in the funnel, once we'd actually lead-generated them, then they weren't just getting, they were getting all sorts of media as well to get them to convert.
And the thing that we should also talk about, really is, and you're probably coming on to it, is how we got people to actually show up, because one of the big things with events is, and you'll hear this a lot in the industry is, they'll be like, "Yeah, we can get registrants, we just can't get them to actually show up,"
Oli: And our show up rate across five events now, is 90-odd percent-
Kathleen: That's huge!
Oli: I can't remember the exact number.
Kathleen: That's so huge! I run a HubSpot user group where I'm located in Maryland, and my rule of thumb is to expect about 50% of the people to show up. Now I don't charge for it, which probably if I charged money, I'm not allowed to do that, but if I could? It would probably make a little bit of a difference, but that's huge.
Oli: Yeah, yeah. It's so big, because, and you have to invest into that, it's a little bit like the lead generation on the front end, you know that it's going to be a higher cost of registrant, for example, but arguably a higher quality. It could be the least cost of, it could be the lowest cost of acquiring a customer, as well, so that is a consideration.
We did direct mail when people bought a ticket, we actually sent a box in the mail. So you can imagine, you buy a $97.00 ticket to a workshop, you're not getting any direct mail from that. Because we knew our numbers on the back end, we knew the value of the membership, we know how we can really help people, it meant that we could invest in that relationship.
So we did a shock and awe box in the mail. We even did a customized tee-shirt, as well, that was sent to them. We had a whole welcome package that was sent over, a whole bunch of, it was like a box of goodies, really, that they got before they even got to the event.
Because really what we're doing is, we're not just welcoming them to buying a ticket, but now we're reselling them on the benefits immediately of becoming a member, which clearly works well.
Kathleen: All right. So you did these two direct mail pieces, how far apart were they sent?
Oli: So we did, it was about five days, there or thereabouts.
You could send them in slightly closer succession, the thing with direct mail is that there's a little bit of latency, where there's kind of the factor that they hang around, a little bit.
See the funny thing is with it, is people that didn't respond to the first direct mail piece, they got the second, but sometimes that we actually found that they actually came back and actually responded from the first, because we used a way to track the difference, to discern the difference between the two direct mail pieces that we used. This is actually interesting numbers, that they got the second piece but didn't respond, but did from the first, even though they got the second.
Kathleen: Yeah, it just gave them that nudge that they needed.
Oli: Nudge, yeah. Just like an eight page sounds like, it doesn't really kind of go away, like it hangs around a bit, you know?
Text Campaigns for Event Promotion
Kathleen: Yeah. Now, you mentioned you directed them to a vanity URL so that you could track, and you also mentioned getting people to text. What was the platform that you used for the texting campaign?
Oli: So we used Fix Your Funnel for the text campaign, but if you wanted to use something that was more HubSpot centric, then Yeti Text is a great alternative. It's made by the same people but just more focused into HubSpot. And that would be something to consider.
Kathleen: And did the same platform also provide you with the ringless voicemail?
Oli: Yep, they do ringless from there as well, but we didn't actually use them, we used a company called Slybroadcast which actually, funnily enough they actually use on the back end of their service anyway, so truly integrated. Yeah, and that's what we used for the ringless voicemail.
I was very intentional with the ringless voicemail, was to say, "Hey it's Oli Billson here, I just wanted to reach out to you, obviously I've got your voicemail, but I just wanted to leave a quick note just to say I'd love for you to attend the Automation Playbook Live in San Diego, which is coming up in a few weeks. And right now is a great time to lock in your spot because we've got a few spaces left. Just text me back on this number, and I'll make sure that we will send you a link to find out more information."
So what I did very intentionally was, the number that I called from doing the ringless voicemail, is actually the unified number for two-way texting, so I knew that when they picked it up, they could just text their number back that actually gave them the voicemail in the first place and that match really worked well.
Kathleen: Now this is a really nitty-gritty question, but I need to ask it, because I've played around with texting and ringless voicemail campaigns, and a lot of the providers that I've worked with, they don't necessarily give you a full phone number, they give you a separate, special number for texting that doesn't look like a phone number? But I feel like, with ringless voicemail it doesn't seem like that would work as well, because it wouldn't look like a real person's number. So in your case, what did that look like?
Oli: Yeah, so what we do is we buy, we bought a local number, that was local to where the event was. So when we did this in Toronto, we bought a Toronto number, and when we ran it in Austin, I bought an Austin number.
And so, what that meant was, yes it was a local landline number, but we were just telling them that they could text back on that number. And it worked, it worked insanely well. I guess somebody's thought process wouldn't be, "This is obviously not a mobile number," but they do know that it's the local number, and they're tying in, "He said San Diego, this is a San Diego area code, I am in San Diego, okay."
Oli: Regardless of whatever he said I could text in, and you know there's a match there in some way.
Kathleen: Yeah, thanks for clarifying that, because I think it's like those little details that really matter when you're doing these things, and they're the things that are the easiest to screw up if you haven't done them before.
So you got people to come to the landing page, they engaged with the text campaign, they got the ringless voicemail, if they signed up you then sent them the box? What was in the box?
The "Shock and Awe" Box
Oli: Yeah, so, a bunch of, a bunch of things. I think most people wouldn't have expected to see everything that we put in there.
So we had a branded tee-shirt. So we had a tee-shirt that was printed by us from, I think it was Custom Ink, was the website. And it was a lovely like, a really nice tee-shirt, it wasn't just like a crappy Fruit of the Loom thing, it was a nice branded tee-shirt.
And then we had an agenda, for the event, a printed agenda for the event.
It also had a stick letter, which is a letter, really that they'd read that we know that they would get, congratulating them on the decision that they'd made, and again in kind of reselling the benefit of the event.
And then we put a bunch of testimonials, like a whole brochure, a 32-page brochure of testimonials from people that, if they're marketers, they would probably know who they are.
So if somebody was like an Infusionsoft user, then they would know the CEO of Infusionsoft, we have a testimonial from them. If there was, just all sorts of different people who are like celebrities I suppose, in the marketing space, I have testimonials from them because they paid me for consulting or whatever it may be so I've got testimonials. And then also a bunch of transformative testimonials as well, from just normal people that they can relate to in lots of different industries, service-based businesses, client-based businesses as well and that I've helped over the years as well.
So I sent them that for proof, and that really helped as well. And then we sent them a couple of of gimmicky things, like a little bookmark that they could use that was branded.
We were going to do, like usually when we do this stuff we usually like to appeal to people's taste, so you could send some cookies or something like that in the box. We didn't do that in this particular case, but it's something that you could do in the future and you could tie them eating that to something in the letter, like you could reference it.
Kathleen: Like "Take a bite out of your competition" or?
Oli: Yeah, exactly. Yeah yeah yeah. So we just tried to create a situation that, all of the different pieces are paid for and everything in there, they all feel like, it's only a little thing, but they all feel different, that's more of a tactile thing. So people wanted to go through it and keep seeing what was in the box, and it had pink shredded paper-
Kathleen: Oh, crinkle?
Oli: Underneath it, they all sat on top of that. Yeah, that's it. So it didn't, they weren't rattling around in the box, you know what I mean?
Oli: And the box itself, I was on a podcast a couple of weeks ago with my friend Bill Glazer, and Bill was like, "I've still got the box!" Like, he's actually got it there, right? Because it was a high-quality, printed, branded box that we had. And, yeah. And we sent it FedEx as well, so again, all of those things kind of matter, because you know that it's like Christmas when somebody is opening it.
Kathleen: It's so funny, I used to own an agency and we did a lot of, we called it dimensional mail, but it's essentially direct mail in a three dimensional package, with stuff in it, right? And it's amazing, the difference in response rates and reactions to people who get a box, than from people who get flat mail. I mean we used to have response rates of like 15 to 20%, and direct mail as you know, it's usually like 1 to 2%. Because everybody likes getting a box, they think it's like, "I might be getting a present," right?
Oli: Exactly, yeah.
Kathleen: And boxes get past gatekeepers, which is also a great thing.
Measuring the Results of Oli's Events
Kathleen: Well I love this, so I want to just circle back and recap, and let's talk again about what it cost you to put the event on, and then what your results were because I want to just drive that point home, of what this meant in terms of ROI.
Oli: Sure thing. So the first event that we ran as I mentioned, $93,000 in front-end revenue and just under $8,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
So then what we did was, I replicated exactly the same model in Toronto so I looked at another area, like another hub that would work, and I wanted to try Canada, so I did exactly the same thing. And in this case we generate 53 ticket sales, not 32, and it meant that we had 35 people out of the 53 continue in membership, so that was like $13,800 in recurring revenue, that we had from that event, right, because there was a lot more tickets that we sold, and $80,000 in front end revenue because nine people applied for Mastermind and five people became members at 15 grand each. So again, another 80 grand plus another nearly 14 grand a month in recurring revenue, which was great, okay?
So those are the two results that we had, and I was like, "Don't stop now!" You know, don't stop doing this.
So I was speaking at the ManyChat conference in Austin at the end of last year, and I thought, well I'm speaking at this conference, it was super last minute, super last minute, but I decided to put on another event. And I only had two weeks to promote it, so I knew that I wasn't going to sell like 50-dd tickets, 35 tickets, but because of how good the back end was on doing it, I thought, "What the Hell, I'll do it anyway." So I ran it in Austin and we only sold 17 tickets, which again, might sound like, ugh! That's not great-
Kathleen: Well you're already there, anyway. Yeah.
Oli: I'm already there anyway, right? But from that, 12 people that continued their memberships, out of 17, that was like $4,700 a month of recurring revenue, which was great. And six people applied to become Mastermind members, and five actually became members. So it was a little over $75,000 there from what was, and that was a one-day event because it was all very much last minute, I couldn't do my usual two-day event, so that's like $75,000 for one day, and then also then of course we've got $5,000 coming in from the recurring, from one day, so it made sense like, this is great, keep doing it.
Kathleen: Yeah. It sounds like it's about $100,000 or more in revenue, per event. Can you, have you ever quantified fully what it costs you to put in on, not just the hotel and the catering, but the cost of acquisition?
Oli: Yeah, sure. So for a two-day event, the first one that we ever ran, we ran on a real shoestring budget. So we didn't do catering. We put it in a really nice hotel, we did it at the Andaz Hotel in San Diego, which is downtown, it's a lovely place, great experience for a place, but we just didn't do lunch and we didn't do coffee and we didn't do that type of thing. We actually went to Starbuck's and bought the coffee ourselves, it was like, that kind of ghetto.
But our cost for running the event was like, three and a half thousand dollars, that was it. That included room hire, we didn't do food and beverage with the hotel, we managed to negotiate it all, so that was really light. $3500 is negligible, right?
What it worked out to in Toronto and Austin for those events, Austin was a bit different, we ran it at the Fairmont for one day, so it was a little bit more that what you'd expect to be half of that cost, and we started to put lunches on them.
So what we found was, some people that wanted to consider joining Mastermind, we actually used that as a vehicle to then bring them into a lunch, so that I could actually get to know them better, not just what was on paper. We actually wanted to buy them lunch, because I wanted to find out more about them and whether or not we could really help them, and a great way to do that is to get to know people over lunch, after they've made their application.
So there were some other costs, but I think on average, for a two-day event, it was under $5,000, for sure.
Kathleen: Wow, that's insane ROI, so, there you go. That seems like a no-brainer! And you've been pretty generous in sharing, I know online and in different places, some examples of some of the things you've sent out, and so maybe I'll try and see if I can dig up some of that and include it in the show notes.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: Before we wrap though, I have two questions that I always ask my guests, and I'd love to know what you have to say. I talk a lot of people doing inbound marketing on this podcast, when you think about inbound marketing today, company or individual, is there a certain person or company that stands out as doing it really well right now?
Oli: I think from an inbound perspective, I think that you can really learn a lot from the education that, obviously HubSpot is such a big player, and you're so involved in their ecosystem, they're doing great stuff.
But people like Marcus Sheridan, people like that, great people to follow, great people to model, and there's no, we're not short of great examples of inbound from those guys at all really.
And some of the things, I was just on your website actually, earlier today, and you were, what was I searching? Oh, I was searching some definitions, this is how powerful inbound can be, I was searching some definitions for sales teams stages. And I was just setting up a new pipeline, and you were like the first result. IMPACT was the first result for discerning MQLs, SQL, and so I was like, "That's just the power of that." We're on a podcast together now, which is great, but that's amazing, isn't it, you know?
Kathleen: It's cool when this stuff actually works.
Oli: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely.
Kathleen: No, it is. Well the other question I have, and I always love, I love asking this because selfishly I want to know the answer, is digital marketing is just changing so quickly, there's so much happening. It's like drinking from a fire hose, and the biggest complaint I hear from marketers is just, "How do I stay up-to-date?"
And so, how do you personally stay up-to-date? Do you have any go-to sources of information that you rely on so that you're always current on what's happening in the world of digital marketing?
Oli: I think that people can really get hung up on doing a lot of learning, and not enough implementing. I would say again, none of us are short of resources and advice that we can go and get for free, or paid, whether it's programs or courses or groups or whatever. Or podcasts we could listen to, but really the learning comes from doing.
And what I'd say, my advice to somebody is, really you don't have to spend too much time in this field to figure out what you could do, you just need to figure out what you should focus on, and go and do it. And make your own distinctions as you go, on what's working based on the numbers and the data to guide you on where the deficiencies are, so that you can plug those gaps and get help and support where you need them. And then hire in help for people to help you who have those specialist skills, to be able to do it.
So I think I'm really big on implementation, and information's great, but there's nothing better than actually doing it.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's great advice because I do think that it would be very easy to spend, as you say, spend all your time trying to learn and then really falling victim to shiny object syndrome, and thinking, "Oh, I just learned this, I need to try that," like you've got to kind of pick a few things and test them, and then if they work stick with them. So, great advice.
Well Oliver I have learned so much, I learned so much when I listened to you speak at Digital Marketer, but it was, I'm actually really glad I got to hear it a second time around, because there were some new details that you shared that were so interesting, and we do a lot of events, so hopefully you feel like imitation is the sincerest form of flattery [crosstalk] because we may try some of those things.
How Connect With Oli Billson
Kathleen: But if somebody is listening and wants to learn more about this or about what you're doing or check out information on your events or your company, what's the nest way for them to connect with you online?
Oli: Sure, so they should go to nextlevelbusiness.com/learn, and I actually put together a free resource for people that are there, who may want to learn about how to drive qualified leads into sales appointments, to actually have good quality sales conversations and that's using our framework called the Funnel Framework. So I've prepared a bit of training to give to your listeners, which it was previously a paid-for premium training, but you can go and get access to it, get a 24-hour pass to it at least to go and watch it, at nextlevelbusiness.com/learn, and you can go there and go and check it out.
You Know What To Do Next...
Kathleen: Perfect, I will definitely put the link to that in the show notes. Thank you so much, this was really fun, and great to dig in on all the details. If you're listening and you enjoyed what you heard or you learned something new, of course I would appreciate it if you would leave a five star review on Apple podcasts for the Inbound Success podcast, and if you know someone doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them.
Kathleen: Thanks again, Oli!
Oli: Thank you, cheers.
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