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Rich Brooks - President of Flyte New Media
Flyte New Media (02:32)
I started the company 22 years ago. Just a guy in his apartment with a computer. I really didn't like working for the men back then and here I am still. I have moved my company from Jamaica Plain to Portland, Maine where I now live. We have project managers, marketers, developers, designers and more.
The Reason Behind Multi-Pronged Approach (03:44)
I became really interested in search engine optimization and then all the other platforms. That was the natural growth of the company because I really wanted to be able to support small and medium-sized businesses.
Then over time I just found that one of the best ways for me to connect with other people was to be up on stage and to see their reactions. So I started putting on local events just so I have some speaking gigs. People also start taking you more seriously when you are on stage.
I started a Social Media FTW conference with a couple of friends and we did that for three years. After that, I reinvented it and called it ‘The Agents of Change’ so we could talk about search engine optimization and mobile marketing along with social media.
I knew that getting speaking gigs were going to be helpful for my company.
Other Business Impacts That Putting on a Conference Has (07:44)
I think when you're putting on your own event, you get to really control the narrative. There's a lot of visibility we have from a branding standpoint when we're promoting the Agents of Change. I think the idea of putting on an event and tying it to your company or brand, it's not something that everybody can do.
The ROI (09:15)
We do run the numbers every year and we look at the money we put into the conference and we look at the money we get out of it. My goal is just from a financial standpoint to break even with the Agents of Change. We come close to breaking even and it’s hard to know exactly because we have different opinions in our company and our consultants on how we should charge for our own time.
The Conference as a Lead Generation and Lead Conversion Tool (12:02)
Conferences are great for raising the awareness of the company in the first place. However, it’s also good for current customers or current prospects. Sometimes we give our current clients free or discounted tickets.
The General Format of the Conference (13:13)
The conference is one day, but we have added a second day of pre-conference workshops. But the conference itself is made up of three keynotes where everybody's in the same room and we start with the speaker, we end with a speaker and then I'm usually right after lunch guy because nobody wants that spot anyways.
And then the rest of the day there are four different time periods, each with three breakout sessions.
This year we have eight different workshops, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Other Costs That Go Into Hosting an Event (15:38)
The two biggest costs for any event are going to be food and space. When it comes to space we have this beautiful location within Portland, at the University of Southern Maine. It has a great auditorium and classrooms for breakouts. It seats 500, although we find that 400 is our sweet spot. Also, the University is significantly less expensive than other venues. When it comes to food, you typically need to go with the venue’s catering options as that’s where they get their money.
However, the university was kind enough to let us get in our own food for the networking events.
We spend about $10,000 on video and the live feed.
Who Should Run a Marketing Conference (21:45)
You need to have the personality type that’s outgoing. You have to be willing to talk to sponsors and attract sponsors. This is very time-consuming. It also requires a lot of money. If you're not in that zone, then this probably isn't right for you.
However, you don’t need to create a large conference with 400 people. You can organize a small event with 12 people.
If you're like me and you're putting on an event because you're looking to generate leads and sales for your business, it's more about creating the right audience than anything else.
I'm willing to put up with a lot of hard work because I know that it's worthwhile in the end and I enjoy connecting people.
What Goes Into Hosting an Event Like ‘Agents of Change’ (02:40)
I want to reiterate that I don't have an event planning background. This is just something that evolved out of my day to day business. What I've discovered over the years is for a successful event, you should really be considering three different things. These are the three S - speakers, sponsors, and seats.
If you're thinking of doing something that's even half a day or a full day, you might not want to be on stage the entire time so you will need speakers.
In the beginning, I used to invite my friends to speak at the conference and today I get daily requests from various people. So I don't have to look anymore. They're actually coming to me.
What Makes a Good Speaker (04:02)
I have a personal connection with at least 75% of the people who are speaking. Also, everybody who speaks first came on the podcast. For me it's kind of like a vetting process.
One of the things that I've noticed about Mainers is that they're not too drawn to specific brand names when it comes to speakers. I bring in some big names and a lot of people have never heard of them.
When I'm putting together my event, I look at the empty sheet and I start thinking about what topics do we need to cover.
We always are going to have something on SEO. We always want to have something on email marketing, mobile marketing, on social platforms, etc. But there also needs to be something new. This year we have something on chatbots.
We have a policy that we don't pay our speakers, but depending on who they are, where they're coming from and what they're doing in compensation, we will certainly put them up in a nice hotel for a couple of days.
Some people don’t wanna do it and I totally understand it. I understand that if this is how you make money, speaking at the Agents of Change may not be a good fit for you.
But on the other hand, if you're looking to connect with some of your fans in a different part of the country or if you're looking to still establish yourself this might be a good chance.
There's usually some extra benefits for people who come out, even though we may not be able to put some hard cash in their pockets.
Negotiating The Payment (07:37)
I have my own budget in mind in terms of what I need to make above and beyond travel. I used to get paid $800 plus travel. Then I realized I was out of the office for three days. That’s 24 billable hours I didn’t work. However, at the same time you need to establish yourself.
Authors whose books ended on the New York Times Best Seller list charge 25k and up for an hour presentation. They might do a few extra things as well, but that doesn't include travel.
Finding Sponsors (11:13)
I've always struggled with sponsorship deals and most of my sponsors have come because of personal relationships. Constant Contact was our long-term supporter. I currently have a very good relationship with a local bank. They want to be in front of business owners in Maine, so it makes sense for them to be there.
If you're trying to get sponsors for your event, reach out to people who would want to be in front of your audience.
We also work with a lot of local traditional companies. We give them tickets or sponsorships and they give us free print ads.
Attracting People to the Conference (14:12)
For people who are just getting started - start small. It's better to have a sellout of a small place than have the same number of people in a large place and have it feel empty. We have tickets that are at one price from May to June, and then in July, August, September and two days before the conference they go up. That feeling of scarcity definitely works.
We also do a lot of promotion on social media and a lot of ads. Over the years we noticed two things. First, email sells. Another thing we’re doing is that we’re trying to do more free live events as a build up to the main conference.
Targeting the Right Customers (17:46)
The podcast helps us get clients from away. Nearly 75 percent of my clients are from Maine. On Linkedin, I make connections with social media managers and digital marketers and I inform them about the conference. We also use paid ads to narrowly target to job positions.
There are lookalike audiences that we can upload too.
Other Things That Go Into the Operations of Running an Event (19:47)
Systems and software are two important things. We use Eventbrite which is the ticketing software. Konvey is our sponsor and the main email provider. We couldn’t live without Google Docs.
We upload all our videos to Vimeo.
The Agents of Change Conference (21:54)
This is a great conference for anybody who's looking to learn more about digital marketing and it takes place in Portland, Maine on September 20th, 2019.
We do pre-conference workshops on the 19th. Also, for the first time ever, we are running a VIP ticket that includes a full day of workshops, the conference and then a full day mastermind with me and one of the other keynotes at my house.
If you use a promo code ‘martech’ we will knock $25 off the ticket.
We also have a virtual ticket, which means you can watch it wherever and whenever you want to.