How Laurie Doubled the Size of Her Membership with a Virtual Summit with Laurie Acker

Virtual summits are a powerful addition to any online business. For Laurie, summits are also the foundation of her business with quarterly one-day events.

Virtual summits are a powerful addition to any online business. Not just as a one-time event, but as a bigger piece of your overall business strategy. Many of our most successful clients host 1-2 summits per year as their main lead generator and visibility strategy. But this week, you'll hear from our client Laurie Acker, who has made summits the foundation of her entire business. 

Laurie joined me to share her experience with hosting summits, and how they've helped her to:

  • double the size of her membership with one launch
  • grow her email list to 10k subscribers in two years
  • 10x her annual revenue
  • and change an entire industry by hosting quarterly one-day events!

This one is so inspirational! I'll let Laurie take it from here.

Serving Volunteers and Those Who Lead Them

I serve volunteers in small churches and those who lead them with my business called The Creative Little Church. My first ministry job was as a junior-high youth director in a church of 3000 people. And after serving in children and youth worship and marrying a guy who became a pastor, we have been at the small church we're at now for over 15 years.

I Started With A Little Blog

I would almost say I didn’t have a business when I found Krista and Summit in a Box. I had a little blog and a tiny Facebook community and wasn't generating any revenue.  When I started the blog in 2019, it was just a hobby. But then in April 2020 when COVID hit, I lost my job that I needed to pay bills. So, two weeks later in May, I hosted my first paid online workshop!

It was the first thing I tried as a way to make money and 30 people attended. I heard of Krista a few weeks after that and started binging the podcast in June.

I started with…

And before I hosted my first summit, I had made a total of $900 in my business.

But Look How Far I’ve Come

It’s been about two years since my first online workshop, and now I have…

Hosting quarterly summits sustains everything else I do in my business throughout the year.

In the first year of hosting quarterly summits, I made $12,000. Last year I brought in $96,000. That’s fast incredibly fast growth that I never even dreamed of!

I Didn’t Know Enough To Be Scared

Before hosting my first summit, I probably should have been really scared about the summit itself and the learning curve, but I didn't know any better. I didn't know to be scared.

My biggest hesitation was paying money for somebody else to teach me how to do what I'm already doing.

I ultimately decided to go for it because the testimonies of success on the podcast and how Krista carries herself and runs her business made me feel like I could trust her to help me.

I think it’s so important to learn from people you want to be like, not just people who have the success or are doing “the thing.”

The Beginning of Small Church Summits

The summit experience itself was amazing! But getting TO the summit was such a learning curve. I knew nothing. I had a blog, but I barely knew the difference between a post and a page at the time. As I prepared for my summit, I was Googling what swipe copy and affiliates were and how to create buttons.

Everything was brand new to me!

But now I host summits every 3 months, with my 8th event just around the corner. My events have continued to get better every time.

Small church ministry is a unique niche. If you work in small churches, you wear many hats.  There’s women’s ministry, youth ministry, kids’ ministry, feeding the homeless, and so much more! Because of that, every conference I host is for a slightly different audience, but with a lot of overlap to help people who are wearing many hats with all the different aspects of their ministries.

My Summits Continue To Grow

Every conference gets a little bigger in terms of attendance numbers, is a little more stable, and is a better experience for everyone. I’ve tried something new at each conference, and that’s been fun to experiment with. I don’t have enough history with each edition of my summits to say with confidence that each is growing, but the ones that I’ve done repeatedly have grown from one to the next.

My Summits Are Different Than Most

Rather than hosting a multiple-day summit with pre-recorded presentations, my conferences are always live, 1-day events that I host on Saturdays.

I survey my audience a lot to learn how to best serve them and what they want from me. Most of my audience work full-time jobs, and they're not attending the summit to make money. So after surveying and talking to them, I decided to try a 2-day conference for my first event, but then dropped it down to just a 1-day event for all of my following summits.

After the 2-day conference, people who couldn’t come to one of the days were sad and asking for a 1-day event. So I tried it! Of course, after my first 1-day conference, there were still people who wanted more and asked for it to be 2 days.

In the end I decided to stick to 1-day conferences because I’d rather people leave wanting more than being disappointed they missed out.

How My Membership Launches Evolved With The Summits

I already had a membership before hosting my first conference, but I thought of my summit and membership as two totally separate things. I hadn’t even considered launching it with the conference. But on my 6th summit, I finally decided to launch my membership following the event.

It was fabulous!

It felt so much less salesy to push the membership because it’s a great follow-up to the conference. The attendees want and are ready for more so it's a perfect way to keep things going after the conference!

To build awareness for the membership during the summit I...

  • promoted a year scholarship which made it easy to promote the membership ahead of time.
  • led a discussion panel during the conference with people already in my membership.
  • offered a 30-day trial, which was a difficult decision for me, but I’m glad I did it. I had 47 signups for the free trial, and about 30 stayed in the membership beyond that.

Now I always open the doors to my membership with our quarterly conferences.

Unexpected Benefits

My favorite thing about hosting my summits is that I get to meet people from all over the world! Not just speakers, but attendees too. Being around people who think like you and want to be like you, motivates people.

I feel like I’m raising up and developing voices in small churches that never would have been heard otherwise. With business summits, a lot of the speakers are business owners with at least some previous speaking experience. But for my events, I'm finding people who never would have sought out speaking opportunities like this, but are able to bring so much value to the event and to our attendees. 

It’s also really cool to watch people develop their own businesses in partnership with our community. I’ve even taught speakers how to make a landing page! Who knew I could teach tech?!

We’ve reached people from all parts of the world…

  • Botswana
  • Belize
  • Australia
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Spain

There’s a lot of excitement and momentum that comes from the conferences and I can't imagine not doing them. We've gotten into a really good rhythm now, and hosting our quarterly summits keeps the momentum going for everything else we do.

My advice for your 1st summit

If you haven’t hosted your own summit yet, then I have three pieces of advice. And even if you have, here’s what I’d still say to you…

  1. Do everything Krista says step-by-step. If I can do it with my tiny niche and barely any tech knowledge, anyone can do it.
  2. Don’t quit in the dip. There's an emotional roller coaster you'll go through as you prepare for your summit, but when you hit the dip, keep going. It will all be worth it in the end.
  3. Find support and a community. Sometimes you feel like you don’t have support, but it’s there. You just sometimes have to ask for it, and it makes the experience of hosting a summit so much better.

Where I’ll Go From Here

Everything around the business has grown so much and things keep changing, but we will definitely keep doing our quarterly conferences. Upcoming, we have…

  • A Pastor’s wives’ conference coming up in July
  • Worship and tech conference in October – a first for us!

And we'll keep growing and evolving our summit strategy as we go! 

My dream is to do a 24-hour live conference that goes around the globe like a wave.

Attendees on the other side of the world get upset because they want to join live, but the time zones never work right. Or they're up at 2 or 3 in the morning because they thought they were going to pop in and then they can’t leave because they love it.

But wouldn’t it be cool to have speakers from all over the world like a big wave, for 24 hours?

It's so much fun now that I have the foundations down and know how to host a successful event to be able to dream about new strategies and ways to make our events even cooler and more unique in the future. 

About Laurie

Laurie Acker is a pastor's wife and ministry mentor who helps people in small churches go from burnt out and frustrated to enjoying success in small church ministry. After 30+ years of serving in churches from big to small, she launched a resource website in 2019 called The Creative Little Church. Just a few years later with a growing international Facebook community called Creative Solutions for Small Churches, The Small Church Ministry Podcast, Small Church Summits free online conferences, and The Small Church Academy, small churches have more resources & support than ever before. Laurie & Dan have been married for a few decades, with 3 grown children, an amazing son-in-law, and a very busy puppy named Pesto. They all live in Tucson, AZ where the sun is almost always shining!

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Virtual summits are a powerful addition to any online business. For Laurie, summits are also the foundation of her business with quarterly one-day events.Virtual summits are a powerful addition to any online business. For Laurie, summits are also the foundation of her business with quarterly one-day events.

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