Behind the Summit #14: The Results of My March 2022 Virtual Summit

behind the scenes Jun 07, 2022

That's a wrap! My March 2022 virtual summit is done and I'm excited to break down our exact numbers, why this year was so different, what worked...and didn't!

That's a wrap! My March 2022 virtual summit is all said and done and I'm excited to share all the juicy details with you. 

If you've been following along with the Behind the Summit series, you know I experimented with several new strategies and ideas, and there were quite a few things with this event that didn't go as expected. In the end, I'm happy with the results and lessons learned, and in this post, you'll get all the final numbers and takeaways. 

This is a pretty detailed and number-heavy post where I'll share our exact numbers, what worked, what didn't, and why I think this summit was so different from last year's. 

Here we go!

A Complete Breakdown of All The Numbers

To set the stage, let's start with a recap of last year’s numbers. And I’ll preface that by saying, if you went back to look at my March 2021 wrap-up post to see how it compares to this year, I have to tell you that my numbers I shared in that episode are wrong! We made a lot more money than I thought we did because apparently, I can’t read numbers in ThriveCart or calculate the difference between gross and net profit. Oops! Anyways, moving on: 

Here’s an accurate count of last year’s numbers:

  • 40 speakers
  • 6600 registrations with a 65% registration page conversion rate
  • 1001 purchases with a 15.5% conversion rate
  • $121k in sales
  • $70k in profit

Based on last years numbers, I had VERY high expectations going into this summit. If you followed along with this series, you’ll know that it did affect my ability to be happy with the results I was seeing for a while. But once I stopped comparing the two events side-by-side, I was able to shift my mindset, and in the end I’m happy with these results.

Here’s how this year’s numbers looked:

  • 36 speakers
  • Registrations
    • 4605 registrations
    • 213 of those came from Facebook
    • 66% registration page conversion rate
  • 510 total purchases with an overall conversion rate of 11% - 4% lower than last year
    • 379 higher tier purchases
      • 276 fast-action - 73% of sales
      • 40 early bird - 11% of sales
      • 57 full price - 15% of sales
      • 6 upgrades - 1%
      • 94 order bumps
        • 60 fast-action - 22% conversion rate
        • 13 early bird - 33% conversion rate
        • 21 full price - 37% conversion rate
    • 131 lower tier purchases (more than last year!)
      • 98 fast action - 75%
      • 14 early bird - 11%
      • 19 full price - 14%
      • 6 of those ended up upgrading to the Power Pack after buying so totals might look be off by 6 somewhere
      • 28 order bumps
        • 30 fast-action - 19%
        • 4 early bird - 21%
        • 6 full price - 32%
    • Only 74% went with the higher tier which is a 13% decrease from last year -and I’ll tell you why I think that is in a second
    • 24% took the order bump - 3% lower than last year - I think this is because I experimented with raising the price to $27 in the beginning. The majority of our sales came after lowering the price back down to $19.
  • $50,740 in immediate sales with an additional $1283.50 coming in through payment plans
  • $12,400 in sponsorships
  • Total summit revenue: $64,423.50
    • With more already coming in from people landing on the site and buying the replays

And even though I’m not thrilled with this when I compare it to last year’s summit, I am quite happy with it when I look at it on its own. This summit was for a business that I'm no longer actively running, and my audience for that business doesn't hear from me much in between summits. All things considered, I'd consider this event a success. There were several several factors that I think contributed to lower numbers this year. 

Why the difference?

There are many things that came into play when I look at the differences between last year’s 6-figure summit and this year’s $64k summit. There were 2000 fewer attendees and $57k less in sales. That’s not a small difference.

I think we had saw lower numbers because…

  • We had fewer and many repeat speakerswe had 25 repeat speakers! That’s a lot of audiences that had already been promoted this summit last year.
  • I am disconnected from the business I run the summit forI hadn’t sent an email or been on social media for this business in at least 7 months!
  • We focused back on the goal of the summitthat meant no flashy presentation titles, and interestingly, lower engagement on the earlier days of the event.
  • There were two other designer summits the month before minemany of my speakers had recently spoken at other summits for designers. Their audiences weren't ready for another summit quite yet and speakers didn’t want to promote as much because of it.

All of that combined to lower promotions, and lower all-access pass conversion rates with 13% fewer attendees taking the higher-priced option.

What Summit Expenses Were There?

Of course, as with any summit, there are always expenses. We had about $27,260 in total expenses. The bulk of that went to speaker fees and affiliate payments, with my other expenses only making up about $6,000 of that.

The main expenses broke down like this…

  • $7700 in speaker fees - which is something new I tried this year
  • $3237 in Facebook ads - which I probably broke even with
  • $2388 in Stripe and PayPal fees
  • $1000 donations to UNICEF
  • $988 in speaker gifts and shipping
  • $750 for my designer - a lot of that was spent on the workbook
  • $199 for Chatroll
  • $144 for GSuite
  • $70 for ProveSource
  • $297 for a sponsor contract template

After all that, I was left with a profit of $37,163. When you consider that this is for a business that I no longer show up for, and my primary goal at this point is to experiment with summit strategies for Summit in a Box, I will take it! 

One expense I left off the list was the bonus that I paid Kate for the work she put into making this event a success. I didn't include it because I see that as an optional team expense and not something that should be counted against the summit profit itself. But I’m really happy I did it and it just felt right. If you have an employee helping you run your summit who you know you couldn't do it with out, I definitely recommend doing this! 

How All The Experiments Went

Now, let’s break down all the things I said I was going to try back in the first episode. I tried them. I have data and results, so let’s talk about how they went:

  • 48-hour vs 24-hour presentation access – I don’t think it mattered overall. There will always be complaints about the access and confusion over when the timer ends.
  • Longer fast-action timer – We tried a 1-hour timer but quickly bumped it back down to 20 minutes when conversion rates were low.
  • Refocusing on summit goal – I’m glad we were able to deliver on the promise of the summit messaging, but I think it affected engagement.
  • Letting speakers submit causes – I’m so glad we did this! It made them so happy and moving forward my team and I have a great list of organizations to donate to quarterly.
  • No promo rule – This was my first summit with no promotion requirements and honestly, I don’t know that I’ll do it again.
  • Paying speakers – I gave each speaker a flat $200 and still allowed them to earn an affiliate percentage on top of that. Initially, the speakers appreciated it, but I don't think it impacted speaker engagement or promotion. I know that the speakers had great results in terms of opt-ins and affiliate sales, so it’s not something I’ll do again.
  • Giving them Voxer access to me – I loved this experiment! A few speakers used this pretty consistently. It was a great way to build relationships and they could get a quick answer while working on something versus waiting a day or two for an emailed response from us.
  • Matchmaking - 12 of 35 speakers participated and they were really excited about the opportunities to connect with each other. Not everyone used it, but those who did appreciated it, and it was fun for me, so I'll definitely do this one again.
  • Profit share for Kate – I loved this and it’s definitely something I’d do again.

What Didn’t Go So Hot

I learn in every single summit and event that I host. I purposely experiment and learn so that I can come back and teach all of you. So, after we did all that experimenting, here’s what didn’t work out so well.

  • ThriveCart affiliate link tracking – It’s the worst! The link you get from ThriveCart and the link it redirects to are different and the prettier version doesn’t track, which affects affiliate tracking. There's not much we can do about this other than remind speakers over and over to grab the link directly from ThriveCart and not the URL it redirects to.
  • Bringing on extra affiliates – It wasn’t worth it for me, it only brought in an extra $300 in sales, and it took extra time for both them and us.
  • Too many repeat speakers – We’ve already mentioned this but promoting to the same audience again lowered conversion rates.
  • 8 hours of sessions for 5 days – This is just too much both for us and for the attendees. I learned this lesson last year, but not well enough apparently. I get too pitch happy when I start looking for speakers! Kate and I really like the sound of a 3 to 4-day, morning-only summit, so we might try that for next time.
  • Engagement was low - Most views any single video had was 419…which is actually pretty good percentage wise. But the rest of them are in the 150-200 range, which seems low. 200 views would be 4% of attendees. The Facebook group was a ghost town and the chat boxes had up to 10 of the same people chatting in them each day.
  • Ads – Overall, they weren’t worth the time. 213 attendees came from ads and those ads were expensive! We about broke even with our ad costs, which would have been fine if we were launching something else following the summit. But since we were looking purely at AAP sales, it wasn't worth the effort.
  • PayPal is annoying – When you open a brand-new account, all your payments are on hold until people manually log in and said they receive their purchase, or you manually set each one as a digital product. This year we got flagged because we hadn’t used the account much since the last summit and our limit was quite low. Kate got it raised, but it took until the last minute to have enough in the account to pay affiliates when they were due. I turned off PayPal for evergreen sales.

What Went Well

A lot from my 2021 summit wrap-up still applies here, so go back and listen to that one if you haven’t. Not going to say the same things that I covered there, even though they’re still true.

  • Podcast – We shared the summit presentations as a podcast feed using Hello Audio, and people really liked it. Some even shared on social media as they listened in. As of releasing this episode, we have 489 subscribers.
  • Tech - Even though I’m sick of summits on WordPress, all our tech there worked great. 
  • Sponsors – Our job was to get them exposure and link clicks and we did that. I’ve heard from one sponsor that we were getting significantly better results than another event they had sponsored, and I’ll continue to partner with them. Our presenting sponsor had hundreds of applications for their high-ticket program, and it seemed like a great webinar turnout. (Her cart just closed yesterday at the time of recording, but keep an eye out for a future post where I share the her exact results!)
  • My team is the bomb! They picked up the slack when I couldn’t and I couldn’t do it without them.
  • Speaker t-shirts – Everyone loved them!
  • Learning to read ThriveCart stats – so glad I figured out where the right numbers are!

I Always Learn Something New

One of the biggest lessons I learned is that big success from one event, doesn’t guarantee it again. There are so many little things that you don’t think of that can really have a big impact. That was a good reminder for me.

Another big lesson for me was that paying speakers wasn’t worth it to me. The speakers got good results in terms of list growth and affiliate payouts, and adding speaker payments didn't seem to impact engagement or promotion. In this case and how I did things, it didn’t work.

I also learned that retargeting ads are where it’s at! Most of our results came from those retargeting ads.

And last but not far from being least, a great team will save your sanity. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

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