Affiliate Summit Storms Las Vegas With Largest Conference Ever
Earlier this week, Affiliate Summit held its West conference in Las Vegas. With over 3,300 people in attendance, the organization's largest yet, the conference stuck its middle finger up at the so-called recession everyone's screaming about these days. For those in the dark, affiliate marketing is most simply described as "an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's marketing efforts."
The people who hang in the affiliate marketing space are a motivated bunch. To them, traditional advertising has been long dead for years. In their world, a :30 spot is a pointless endeavor, a foreign concept. If it doesn't work and there aren't tangible, proven, money making results, it isn't affiliate marketing and no one at this conference want anything to do with it.
So let's break it down.
Some would label the conference's venue, the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, the Wal-Mart of Vegas casino. True. But just like Wal-Mart, there's all kinds of good stuff there for everyone. From cheesy karaoke to semi-decent barbecue to a wine bar to good meeting facilities to a really cool rooftop venue, the Rio's got a little something for everyone.
Not to mention a killer view of The Strip if you end up on the right side of the hotel.
The Meet Market
On Sunday, the first day of the conference, the Meet Market opened. The Meet Market removes all pretense of exhibit hall booth glitz and gets to the heart of what most conferences should focus on: helping connect people so they can seal deals.
At the Meet Market, merchants (companies with affiliate marketing offerings) sat at tables, sans booth glitz and affiliates (website owners looking to make money) roamed from table to table to conduct actual business. Several thousand people from the same industry in the same room at the same time doing business. What's not to love?
Once again, as he always does when he speaks at a conference, Wine Library's Gary Vaynerchuk stole the room during his keynote Monday morning. With his fervently motivational persona, Gary, without even having to say the words, delivered his central message: Be yourself. Be good at what you do. And Kill It.
Which was an appropriate message for the audience at the conference. Affiliate Marketing is about making money online. It's not about winning awards at Cannes. It's not about getting getting a spot on the Super Bowl. It's not about writing buzzword-heavy creative briefs which result in nothing more than a pretty picture with minimal meat behind it in terms of making money.
Affiliate Marketing takes a lot of work and a lot of motivation. Gary's message of being true to yourself, focusing on what you love and sharing that with an interested audience drove that point home. If you haven't heard the man speak, you need to the next time he appears at a conference near you.
The Mentor Program Meetup
As part of the conference, Affiliate Summit held a Mentor Program. The program teams seasoned affiliates with first timers for the purpose of helping the mentee get the most out of the conference. Those interested in the program, both mentor and mentee, signed up prior to the conference, were paired, had telephone conversations and met for a meal during the conference. Once at the conference all the mentors and mentees met together.
Part of any conference, the sessions offer attendees the chance to listen to experts talk about what they do and implement it in their own business. On Sunday afternoon, the first day of the show, Revenue Magazine Publisher Lisa Picarille led a panel which helped inform affiliates how to build their business from a public relations perspective. If you want to make money, you've got to have people reading your site.
Important points made: use social media. Yes, it now sounds trite but it's the key to a successful PR efforts. The press release is dead. Social media has supplanted it with a new form of communication and information dissemination.
Shankman humorously described his efforts to promote the opening of Harrah's in Atlantic City which consisted of a Wall Street event where models handed out free passes for each of the 900 pus hotel rooms. Promotion for the event came from once a day tweets to Shankman's 10,000 followers promoting the event, linking to photos of the models, tweeted recaps of client meeting and, the best part, tweets making fun of the other traditional, social media-clueless ad agencies involved in the promotion.
In a panel entitled 10 Success Strategies for Internet Marketers, Ten Golden Rules CEO Jay Berkowitz described a detailed, step by step guide affiliates could follow to build their business. From developing great content with original ideas, breaking news, expert advice and link building to blog monetization through Google AdSense, text links, affiliate links, sponsored content and advertising networks to Micro Selling and customer service with Twitter to Podcast appearances and sponsorships to the importance of keyword usage on a site to building a subscription base, Berkowitz armed the audience with an in-deoth toolkit to take home and put to work. A recent presentation of the topic is here.
Many of the panel presentations can be viewed on Affiliate Summit's SlideShare page here.
The Pinnacle Awards
As part of the conference, awards in several categories were handed out at an event Monday evening. Missy Ward and Shawn Collins, the conference organizers honored people in six categories: Affiliate of the Year, Affiliate Manager of the Year, Exceptional Merchant, Affiliate Marketing Advocate, Best Affiliate Blogger and Affiliate Marketing Legend.
The Exhibit Hall
As with most conferences, the exhibit hall teamed with activity and, along with the hallway outside the exhibit hall and the session rooms, it was the place to be if you wanted to be in the middle of the action. It's the center of the show. It's where all the fancy shit comes out like money grabbing booths, drawings for iPhones, contests, swag, booth babes and the Copeac booth at which all they seemed to be doing was managing invites to their party at one of the suites in the Palms...which was pretty sweet by the way. Thanks for not inviting me.
For anyone who's been to just one conference, it quickly becomes apparent the hallway is where a lot of conference activity occurs. It's where the mascots roam. It's where where strangers meet. It's where acquaintances rekindle. And, yes, it's where business is done. That was no exception at this conference.
At the end of the conference, an event to benefit National Breast Cancer Foundation, a triathalon, was held in one of the larger meeting rooms. The triathlon consisted of grown up tricycle racing, golfing and hoop shooting. Companies could enter for a $100 donation. Many did. Hilarity ensued. Watching drown adults ride tricycles is, well, besides weird, funny. And it's funnier after a drink or two. At the end of the event, Buy.at took the prize home.
Affiliate marketing is the sleeping giant. Traditional marketers and agencies would do well to educate themselves about this space