7th April 2008

I showed up late for breakfast, at about 7:40, which was only 20 minutes before the day was supposed to begin. The buffet (again spectactular) was set up in the hall, so with my backpack over my shoulder, I made my plate, and went inside to try and get a seat.

Much to my surprise, I found that there were less than a dozen people there, compared to the 35 from the previous day. That’s when I realized that my decision to go back to the room at about 11:30 the night before had been the right one, instead of back to the bar. These people were going to miss the beginning…

Scarfing down my food, I went into the main presentation room, and found that yes, there were a lot of people missing; including some of the speakers. In the end, the day didn’t get going until 8:35. That’s not a complaint or a criticism, just a fact.

We started with a discussion about something I already knew… an added value to the Elite Retreat. Every Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 Pacific Time, there is a conference call with a mastermind group, made up exclusively of elite retreat veterans. As attendees we were now going to be invited to that call. Sweet – Now I have to push back the time for my sons team little league practice ;)

My decision to come to Elite Retreat was made back in December, after talking for over an hour one night to a previous attendee while I was at Pubcon. He had told me that while the Elite Retreat itself was fantastic, that being on those conference calls and really been what changed his life.

First up to speak was Brian Clark from Copyblogger, who did a really great job. In my opinion, he was as well-prepared and as polished a speaker at Andy from yesterday, but he spoke about something I was passionate about.

He’s a former lawyer, and he gave some personal history, then talked about a couple of of his new business models, including Teaching Sells and a new-yet-unnamed venture that’s going to be sort of a direct marketing channel for celebrities.

He reminded us of many the opportunities we have and how things are changing so dramatically. It was a short inspirational bit, that would’ve been well-suited for a keynote speech, and then he launched into some juicy details and specifics on how to improve what we were doing now.

He talked about conversion, and how things are changing, and how to do well with permission based marketing, which is really the way things are headed.

“Conversion has to be baked into every aspect of your business model, and if you’re not thinking about it, you’re probably wasting your time.” Smart marketers are getting into more relationship marketing, repeat sales.

He used the phrase “hope marketing” to define simple one-off sales, but pounded into our brains that permission based marketing gets us way past these crappy 1% conversion rates we’ve come to accept.

He also mentioned that he thinks “some day the word ‘blog’ is going to go away”, and I agree totally. For a long long time I’ve been trying to point out to clients that a blog post is just a web page, and vice-versa, and explaining the “difference” between them is silly Websites ARE becoming interactive.

He talked about Early to Rise to illustrate a good example of giving people what they want, and how it’s (past) time to start thinking about affiliate marketing as a way of market testing to see what people really want to buy. He gave some specific dollar figures related to their numbers and affiliates that were astounding

He then got much more specific, talking about the three phases of a business, which he called attention, authority, and acceleration, giving us everything from a few book recommendations to specific steps about conversion, establishing authority, and even developing an exit strategy and outsourcing.

That’s as specific as I’m going to get about Brians talk… Come yourself next time ;)

Guy Kawasaki was the keynote speaker, and the first thing he said was “I don’t really have anything prepared” – THAT’s when I knew it was going to be good… He talked a little bit about his history and his current projects, specifically one called Alltop.

Although some people have been critical of Alltop, I ‘m not here to debate whether or not it’s an original idea or not. The point is, that Alltop is a needed service, and with Guy Kawasaki’s reach and influence, I suspect it’s going to be huge success.

As Guy pointed out, if you don’t agree, then go call your Mom or Dad and walk them through setting up an RSS reader, and telling them how to find and add her favorirte subject feeds.

I will say that something amazing happened during his presentation… When he started talking about how Altop top was created, he said that he had discovered Pop URLs, which is a similar service, but much more subject specific.

Guy found the idea fascinating – to aggregate the RSS content of others in one place and make it available for easier public consumption. Guy said he looked up who owned PopUrls, then picked up the phone, and called the owner, Thomas Marban.

Recounting his conversation with Mr. Marban, he claims he said, something like “so basically Thomas, the way I see it, your goal is just to sit around in your underwear and cash checks”, whereupon Thomas Marban and replied something like, “Yep!”.

The guy sitting next to me then popped open his Twitter, and tweeted something like – “Popurls.com creator Thomas Marban has a life goal to sit around in his underwear and cash checks”.

Within a span of less than five minutes, he then got an e-mail from Thomas Marban, whom he did not know, and neither is a follower of each others Twitter, saying something like “Who are you and how did you know what my life’s goal is”?

He wrote him back to explain, and within a half an hour, they were Facebook and linked in connected too. I found this to be a fascinating demonstration of the power of the Internet and the global instant reach of Twitter.

Just like always, Guy’s presentation was educational and entertaining, and although I had seen him speak twice before, it was never in a room with under three dozen people, where he talked was one-on-one with us, and was asking for questions. He basically talked until we were out of questions and had nothing else to ask. He’s a remarkable guy, and it was thoroughly enjoyable.

There was some time to kill before lunch, so Jeremy filled it up with some specific details about pay per click, AdWords, and the content network, and then through the floor open to questions for all the panelists.

Although the nondisclosure did not say anything about locking those questions and answers later, in my opinion, doing so would be nothing but stupid. I’ll just say that it was a great impromptu session before lunch, that included participation from all the panelists, from Jeremy’s programmer Dillsmack, and even from a few in the audience.

After lunch Jeremy introduced Aaron Wall, claiming to have “saved the best for last”, and Aarons presentation certainly did not disappoint anyone.

I’ve always considered my biggest strength to be organic search, so this was the session I was really waiting for, and Aaron was a huge draw for me to attend…

Aaron talked about an algorithm anomaly that’s been going on for about four months, and how to specifically take advantage of it. I’m afraid I won’t be talking about it here, sorry.

He talked about being a thought leader in your industry and being uber-creative for expanding your network and getting links. In the few times I’ve heard Aaron speak I don’t think he ever mentioned being creative and social as much as he did here.

He talked about a great article to read called, “Is Justin Timberlake a result of cumulative advantage” and explained the philosophy and concept of “things spread because they spread”.

On the plane ride home, I was “reading” Seth Godins book “All marketers are Liars,” that basically illustrated Aarons point over and over again.

He recommended several books and blog articles, talked about writing persuasively and creatively with your headlines and content, and gave specific examples of other sites and companies doing it well.

Then he got to his Powerpoints with his specific ideas and tactics about mixing up our processes, being less than perfect with your SEO, how Google is getting smarter, and then he talked about some tools, and how to use them wisely.

I took a full page of notes before anyone even started asking questions, and once he began answering questions, he exhausted everyone’s curiosity to their full satisfaction. It was an absolutely amazing way to end the formal presentations.

With three hours left to kill, and much to my surprise (since it wasn’t on the schedule) all the attendees were THEN offered face-to-face time with any or all the panelists.

This was great because there may be certain things you don’t want to announce, or domains you don’t want to mention in front of 32 of the most ambitious Internet marketers in the world.

We were able to sit down face-to-face while each presenter had a laptop in front of him, and show specific websites, ask specific questions, and solve specific problems. These one-on-one sessions when on past the 5 p.m. closing time, and ultimately, even though the room closed, never really stopped the entire two days.

DK scheduled a post conference dinner for us all at an amazingly good restaurant for anyone who wanted to attend, and I’ll talk more about that in a wrap up post. However, that may take another day or two because I have a lot of catching up to do.

For now I’ll just say that it ranked among one of the top dozen meals I’ve ever eaten in my life, and was a perfect way to wrap up three incredible days with some extraordinary people.

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    10 Comments    

    • David Mihm says:

      Scott, it sounds like you had an amazing event, I am so glad it was productive for you!

    • Scott says:

      Thanks David – yep, it rocked. I’ll see you at the next SEMpdx event, right? Should be fun…

    • Slaven says:

      Thanks Scott, that’s also a great summary for those of us who were somewhat overwhelmed by all that good advice!

    • Scott says:

      Slavin, it was great to meet you…

      I’m really looking forward to these calls, and to learning what you know too!

      Are you coming down to SMX Advanced in Seattle?

    • Slaven says:

      I wasn’t planning to go to Seattle since I was at SMX just last month but now I might, depending on how much work I get done!

    • Scott says:

      Well good luck making some progress, and do let me know if you’re going. In all the conferences I’ve attended, SMX Seattle has been the best (Not counting Elite Retreat)

    • aaron wall says:

      Thanks for the mouse and the good friendly chat Scott. :)

      I hope you leverage the hell out of that big Google loophole I could not overemphasize enough. :)

    • Julie Davis says:

      Great summary.

      While sitting around in your underwear collecting checks sounds like a great idea when you can’t do it, in reality it is my belief and experience that most people get really bored after one year of that. I would suggest a more worthy goal of getting enough money so you can just focus on the part of your work that you really enjoy and have more freedom to make mistakes and waste time creatively (or even attend such events and not worry about the price!).

    • Brian Clark says:

      Scott, glad you liked the presentation… thanks for the kind words!

    • Zander Chance says:

      Great write-up on Elite Retreat! After reading your recap, I’m definitely signing up for next year..

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