How One Virtual Event Turned My Business Upside-Down (Part 2)

Note: This blog post is the second of two posts, explaining the background behind the WP Summit and the massive impact it had on my online business.

In the first part of this series I explained the planning phase of the WP Summit, getting the speakers on board, recording the interviews, and configuring WordPress for the WP Summit.

This post will cover the business side of the WP Summit, how it impacted my authority in the field, and how it completely turned by business upside-down.

Let me explain my situation before the WP Summit, and then the transition to where I am now.

Before The WP Summit: The „Traditional“ Online Business

I started my first blog in March 2013 with the goal to earn residual income, but I never fully achieved that goal. I was making a few bucks from affiliate marketing here and there, but it wasn’t enough to pay my bills.

Most of the money I earned came from working in WordPress related projects, helping small businesses and online entrepreneurs build their websites. Those were a lot of fun, but not very scalable.

WordPress is a great online platform though and I can’t attribute missing the goal of earning residual income to my blog, rather to my business strategy.

However, in late 2014 things in my private life changed drastically. In early 2015 my girlfriend inherited a house and I moved in with her. We’re now living with two dogs, two rabbits, and two horses in our backyard.

To the time when I moved in with her, I was already in the process of setting up the WP Summit and recording the first interviews.

The shift in private life forced me to delay the launch of the WP Summit for two weeks and also was the reason that the promotion phase didn’t go as planned.

As I already set the goals for the WP Summit, I didn’t move away from them. I believe that consistency and persistence are key in building online businesses, especially since WordPress gives us so much flexibility.

Goal 1: Growing My Authority Online

In 2014 I was experimenting a lot, testing business models to see what works best for me. I still play around a lot, yet I’m way more strategic in building my WordPress platform online.

Basically there was one major goal I wanted to achieve with the WP Summit: growing my authority in the field of WordPress and online business.

Growing authority leads to growing the business, growing the impact of my WordPress site.

With a growing authority comes a bigger list of email subscribers, more traffic, and the chance to earn more residual income.

I’m going to be totally transparent with you, my goal is to make 10,000€ monthly in residual income. That’s not what most people would consider rich, but it’s enough to sustain an amazing lifestyle in the town I’m living in. And I’m about lifestyle, not the amount of money in the bank account.

To achieve that goal, I have to build an online business that adds a lot of value to its audience.

I have to create an authoritative platform that helps online entrepreneurs use WordPress to its full advantage. And the WP Summit is the first step into doing that!

You can already guess that authority plays a pretty important role in this post. Please don’t get me wrong here.

My goal is not to position myself as someone who’s better than others, telling them what to do and not to look left or right. I believe authority comes from leadership, from the intention to help others achieve their goals and being in the first row myself, implementing my own lessons.

Goal 1a: Getting Featured On Big Blogs

Authority needs to be earned, it’s not given to you. It breeds from doing the work that’s necessary, getting out of your comfort zone, and from building relationships.

Getting featured on big blogs definitely is a way to build authority and grow your popularity in the market you’re in. And that’s what I achieved with the WP Summit.

I didn’t plan this though, it happened 100% organically. I didn’t have guest posting about the WP Summit in mind when planning and preparing the event.

But someday Jean Galea from WP Mayor reached out to me on Facebook, asking me to write a post for his blog. And I was baffled.

WP Mayor is one of my favorite resources on WordPress and according to Alexa is one of the 15,000 most influential websites on Earth. Out of hundreds of millions of websites.

I never saw myself writing posts for sites that big.

I tried to go above and beyond with my post for them. To that time I had 24 speakers on the WP Summit, and I wrote an overview on every single interview. It took me a day to write that post, but it was so worth it.

Then, after getting WP Engine as a sponsor for the WP Summit, I asked them to publish a post on Jason Cohen’s interview on their blog. They did and they even included a preview of the interview!

I started writing guest posts maybe two weeks before the WP Summit started, which made these very hectic times. My schedule didn’t include these hours and hours of work, I will include that work in planning the next WP Summit (yes, there’ll be another one).

Did you hear Gary Vaynerchuk talk about hustle? I did exactly that. Sleeping 4–5 hours for a few weeks, I managed to write posts and interviews for several big websites, while keeping the WP Summit itself on track.

I ended up getting featured on these amazing websites:

I’ll have to update the „featured in“ graphic on my website now 😉

Goal 2: Learning More About List Building

Another online business goal that results from growing authority is building my email list.

From March 2013 to early 2015 I managed to build 180 subscribers, YEAH!

It’s clear that my blog didn’t add much to my online business. Even though I’m a WordPress, I didn’t fully leverage it myself.

Clients found me through word-of-mouth, which is great. But now I’ll also leverage WordPress way more and will keep you with me on that journey.

As I saw that Navid’s Branding Summit got him 2,000+ email subscribers, I set out to reach the same amount.

My goal was to 10x my email list.

In retrospective that seemed a bit too high, as he had a few hundred subscribers already before his summit, and he had 88 speakers instead of 28.

Never mind, reaching for the stars is a good thing!

It turned out, that I got my list to ~1,000 subscribers with the WP Summit.

Mailchimp growth from the WP Summit

That’s 550% growth within 3 months.

A few already deleted their subscription now that the summit is over, which is ok. It’s their fault to miss on actionable WordPress strategies online entrepreneurs can use to grow their online presence.

But most stayed on the list and thus will follow my journey 🙂

I’m very thankful for this growth, as it means a lot when one subscribes to a newsletter. They’re giving me permission to send them emails directly, which is pure gold in today’s crowded world.

Also interviewing Tim Paige from LeadPages for the WP Summit taught me a lot of strategies I can use to grow my list, even without being a LeadPages customer.

I hope to sustain the growth of my email list, at a slower pace though. There’s not much that can keep up with the dynamic of a global, virtual event.

Goal 3: Earning Residual Income Online

As I said earlier, since day 1 of being an online entrepreneur my goal was to earn residual income and use WordPress to build a scalable online business.

I ran the WP Summit with the background of turning it into a product afterwards. The interviews are structured like a course, walking members through the process of fully leveraging WordPress for their online business.

The topics and days build upon each other, and can bring you from not knowing about WordPress to building an online platform that will generate leads and drive revenue for your business.

During the event everyone who was subscribed to it could access the interviews for free, in a 48 hour timeframe. That was enough time to follow along with the interviews, and I even gave an encore of 5 days.

Now that the WP Summit is over, you’ll have to get the All Access Pass if you’re interested in the interviews, which sells at $147.

Given that the All Access Pass gives you lifetime access to 28 expert-interviews with Jason Cohen, Rand Fishkin, Dan Norris, Oli Gardner, and others, the price point is very reasonable.

The WP Summit All Access Pass will play a major role in my future sales funnel, and of course I’ll show you exactly how I’m building it.

I learned a lot about sales funnels myself during the interviews, so I’m pretty excited about taking action on what I learned!

Let me put myself on the spot right here:

My goal for 2015 is to generate 50 All Access Pass sales through my (yet-to-build) sales funnel.

I’m a fan of these public challenges, as they hold me accountable on achieving the goal and give you detailed insights in the process of doing so.

If you want to stay updated on this process, make sure to subscribe to my mailing list using the form on the right.

Running The Next WP Summit In Fall

The WP Summit was a fun experience, and I got amazing feedback from attendees all around the globe.

It seems that the event helped many WordPress users and online entrepreneurs, which motivates me to run this event again.

Even though I was barely getting sleep for 4 weeks before and during the WP Summit, I’ll run another one in Fall 2015.

With the lessons learned from this first event, the next WP Summit will be even bigger.

I’m going to cover more topics on WordPress, have case-studies and slides, and more speakers sharing their experience.

Again, use the form on the right if you want to stay updated.

Personal Takeaways And Lessons Learned

The WP Summit had a massive impact on my online business and online platform.

I’m now featured on SEMrush, WP Mayor, and other highly reputable platforms. My list has grown by more than 500%. And I did 28 interviews with experts who threw countless amazing strategies at me.

Here are my major personal takeaways from the WP Summit:

1. Get clear about your target audience

That’s probably the most important lesson I learned. I was already very clear about the type of clients I wanted to work with, which is why I seemed to attract them without a lot of marketing.

However, now I’m crystal clear about the audience I can reach with my blog.

I know exactly what questions they have, what goals they’re striving for, and how I can help them along the way.

Now it’s up to me to create content that’s tailored just to the my readers (that’s you!) and not to someone else.

Please let me know how you like my posts, and what topics you want me to cover.

2. Create content with a strategic approach

Yes, it’s obvious that content creation is important when you’re using WordPress to build an online business. Yes, I didn’t create a lot of content on my blog. Yes, I didn’t have a strategy for my WordPress site.

But that’s about to change!

I created a content plan that lays out content for two months. I started writing one post a day, creating the content upfront and scheduling it instead of publishing it directly. (That’s a game changer!)

Of course I’ll teach you how I’m handling content marketing now, and how you can create a content marketing strategy yourself. In fact, that’s the next post on my content plan.

Yesterday I wrote 5,5k words for two posts. One will go to my blog, the other one was submitted as guest post to the GoDaddy blog. Speaking of building authority 🙂

3. Powerful WordPress sites need content, not plugins or themes.

Why do you think is Leo Babauta one of the most successful bloggers, with more than a million subscribers?

His blog is so simple, it doesn’t even have a sidebar. Most posts are without images, just plain text.

Despite the simple look, his content is outstanding. And he’s consistently creating new content on a ridiculously high level.

A lesson I learned from Jason Cohen during the WP Summit that I’ll never get tired of sharing is, that neither your theme nor your plugins will decide on your success.

It’s your mission and your actions that decide whether you’re successful.

Too many WordPress users (including myself) obsess over themes and plugins, instead of creating content and just helping people.

Pick a theme that looks good and go with it. If you don’t have a good feeling for design, go with a StudioPress theme - and don’t try to tweak it.

Make sure it has an optin form to collect email addresses and is responsive. Most StudioPress themes have both.

If you’ve got some design skills, you could either try and create a child-theme of Genesis, or go with a theme like The Ken from Artbees. I used it for the WP Summit and for my own blog for a long time.

Of course your site needs to look good and trustworthy, but your readers don’t have a reason to stay on your page if you don’t have compelling content on it.

Guess why I’m writing one post a day now?

These are three of the most important lessons I learned myself from all interviews of the WP Summit.

Now that I’ve shared them with you, I’d love to hear what you think about these. If you attended the WP Summit, I’d love to hear your takeaways in the comments below.

If you’re interested in hearing the three most popular interviews of the WP Summit for free, simply sign up on the website. You’ll get the interviews on content marketing with Dan Norris, design & themes with Alex Harris, and list building with Tim Paige right to your inbox.

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