In today’s episode, I’m talking with Kyrsten, who is the creator of the Launch Brand Grow Community and one of my biz besties! We’re going to talk about her extraordinary opt ins, which are her Creative Virtual Summits. She’s already put on two virtual summits and will be having another one in just a few weeks (the Creative Growth Summit – September 10-13th, 2018)!
She has had awesome success using virtual summits to grow her businesses through email list growth, financial growth and community and network building.
I’m excited to dig in!
Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means that I get a small cut of their sales at no expense to you. Also note, that I only promote programs and systems that I used and/or love myself! Thank you for your support, dear friend!
Convertkit for email Subscriptions
Zoom for video recordings
Samcart for payment processing & affiliate tracking
Chatroll for the chat feature
Greetabl for speaker gifts
Vanessa: Let’s get started. Hello, Kyrsten! Why don’t you introduce yourself a bit.
Kyrsten: Hey Vanessa! I’m so excited to be here today! I’m the owner of Copper Kettle Co and the Launch Brand Grow Community. My husband and I started Copper Kettle Co about 3 years ago as a brand and web design business. Since then we’ve just kind of trickled into this world of having a community and running summits. Our first summit, I was just flying by the seat of my pants. Our small time goal was getting maybe a few hundred sign ups for our email list and making $5,000 to break-even, but it ended up being so much more than that. We’ll dig into the numbers in a bit, but not only was it really profitable, it was also a giant boost to our email list and the beginnings of our community of amazing entrepreneurs.
V: I’m really excited about this, because one of the questions I get most about opt ins is how to avoid giving away too much, but your summit tickets are free and they are quite literally massive. It’s almost a week-long event with free videos, free workbooks, tons of other free value, and you managed to find a way to monetize it. Why don’t you tell us more about how to grow your email list using a virtual summit?
K: One of the nice things about having a virtual summit – just like what you said about giving so much away for free – when you host a summit, you’re creating and planning everything, but you’re not actually creating that much content yourself. You have other people creating the content for you, which is awesome, especially if you’re someone like me, who doesn’t tend to spend a lot of time creating content.
Here’s kind of a run-down of what the summit organization looks like:
One thing that a lot of people are intimidated by is reaching out to speakers. You want speakers who will bring in audience members, but we also really like bringing on people without a large following as well, to help boost their businesses.
We tend to divide these people up into two categories: Keynote Speakers and Breakout Sessions. Keynote sessions are about an hour long and are a little more professionally put together and Breakout Sessions tend to fill in the gaps and are only 10 minutes long. They tend to be a little more casual. We mainly just want people who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do and have something to give to the audience. Typically we have about 40 speakers altogether.
We also make sure to have a very specific theme for our summits. The first one was about branding (the Creative Brand Summit). We had 4 different days and each had a specific topic: Branding & Building Your Audience, Website Design & Copywriting, Brand Photography & Storytelling and lastly Marketing to Attract Dream Clients.
What we found was that, because the takeaway was so specific, we had really amazing results. People were coming specifically to work on their branding. We think this works better than a summit that’s a lot broader and more general. If a summit is too broad, we think it tends to leave people feeling a little bit lost and/or overwhelmed. They don’t know where to start or where to finish or where they’re ultimately going.
So you want to make sure you have a very specific topic and a broad reach. In addition to the summit speakers, you’ll also have affiliates who won’t be presenting, but will be excited about the opportunity to share so much great free information with their audiences.
V: What I really love about this is that it’s almost like a crowd-sourced initiative. I also love that you’re not just going for the high rollers, for the people just talking about making six-figures. You’re really making an effort to include everyone who is passionate and has something to share.
And you said that you were flying by the seat of your pants, so the money you made and the subscribers you gained were probably kind of a happy accident. Why don’t you tell us about your results from the first summit and what you learned from that experience?
K: Yeah! You guys can actually check this out, we have a full breakdown, down to the penny of our income and our expenses for out summits, including the tech aspects as well.
For our first summit, we brought in around 2,500 subscribers, over the 4 day event. I think the subscriptions started happening 2-3 weeks before the event, so it was about 2,500 subscribers in 3 weeks.
V: That is bananas! That many subscribers in 3 weeks is ridiculous!
K: Yeah! It was crazy. And besides the email subscribers, we made around $20,000. That’s one of the main reasons I’m excited about this summit idea. I think the way we run these is different than the way most people think about summits. A lot of virtual summits out there are… I don’t want to say glorified webinars… But they’re kind of like glorified webinars. There’s not a lot of consistency of content or a community aspect. It’s more just a bunch of speakers putting their videos together and having a giant joint webinar.
What I think we’ve done differently, and that people have told us they’ve really loved about ours, is that we’ve tried to cultivate a sense of community. We have speakers actually interacting with the audience during the summit, rather than just dropping their video. We also have a chat box during the summit so that audience members can build relationships with each other – I’ve seen a lot of these relationships last a long time, which is super fulfilling and amazing to watch.
Back to the numbers though, before our first summit, we were at about 400 people on our whole email list. The email sign ups for both of the first two summits were right around 2,500 each, meaning a total list size of about 5,400 not including unsubscribes.
Our revenue for the first one was $24,000 and our expenses were $5,200, so we net profited about $19,000. For the second summit, I believe our revenue was a little lower – about $18,000, and our expenses were also a little lower, about $4,000 so. I think we walked away with about $14,000.
V: That’s one thing about summits too, they help build a community. I was a breakout session speaker for the second summit, the Creative Launch Summit. What I noticed was that a lot of the people who came and watched and interacted with me in the chat are people who still, to this day, email me and reply to my newsletters and purchase products from me. Your summits feel super personal and when you participate you feel like you’re connecting with real humans.
I also love that they’re so themed and specific. That’s vital to good opt-ins, too. Maybe people aren’t coming to the summit to watch all 40 sessions, but they come and they get some great, actionable information.
The best part is, that while you were growing your list, you were making a profit. Some people will look at your expenses, and think, “Oh my gosh, four or five thousand dollars, that’s expensive, I don’t think I can afford this.” Can you talk about how you thought about these expenses? What did you have to pay upfront for the tech setup, etc.? And I’m sure some of those payments were affiliate payments after the fact, so could you talk about that so that people don’t feel so daunted if they don’t have $5,000 up front?
K: Yes! Actually I want to do a little sidetrack – as speakers, a major goal for our summit is to get our speakers as many opt ins as possible, too. The way that we do it is that we don’t just give every speaker the whole list of email signups because that feels spammy to us. We don’t want to put a subscriber in the situation that they sign up and suddenly find themselves on 40 new email lists all at once. That not only ruins our relationship with those initial 2500 sign ups, but also puts more cold leads into our speakers’ lists. Yes, 2,500 people is a great number to give our speakers, but it’s not good if they don’t actually want to be there.
What we do instead is to have each speaker contribute a freebie that leads directly to their own opt in page. So if the audience member loves Vanessa’s presentation, for instance, they can sign up for her opt in right there, while they’re warm from watching the presentation or so that they can get a teaser of her presentation before the summit begins.
And we think this is ultimately better, because the people who end up on each speakers list are much better subscribers who have a much higher chance of becoming clients or customers.
The other side of this is, as a speaker, to make sure that you have an awesome freebie. A great freebie incentive can convert the people who may not have been totally convinced by the talk alone, but still get excited about your freebie.
Now, back to expenses! You totally hit the nail on the head. There are a lot of upfront costs, but it’s not nearly $5,000. If you go back to that blog post where we detailed our expenses, you’ll see that our biggest expense by far was affiliate payments and those were all paid after everything was said and done, and they were $2,200 for the first summit. Honestly, if we didn’t have those affiliates, we wouldn’t have nearly the revenue that we did. They kept selling the all access passes long after I was utterly exhausted and spinning a million plates. In fact, I don’t think I even posted on Instagram at all during the first week of the Creative Brand Summit because I had so much going on. But if you look at the #creativebrandsummit hashtag, there were over 160 posts about it. And we weren’t even doing like a hashtag giveaway or anything! The affiliates were the best part of the investment, definitely.
Also, sidetone, if you’re putting on your own summit, make sure you have stock photos and swipe copy available for your affiliates, it makes it much easier for them and makes them much more likely to promote your event.
V: Yeah, and the good thing about affiliate expense is that it is paid out after you’ve already made all of your money. If you take that portion out, it almost cuts the total expenses in half. Tell us about the other expenses. What do people realistically need to spend to host a virtual summit on a shoestring budget?
K: Let’s see. Our second biggest investment was video editing. This is something that you could do yourself or you could theoretically not do it at all. This is partially what I was talking about earlier where in some summits, speakers just submit their videos and that’s about it. There’s no opening titles or welcomes or synchronicity to the presentations. We wanted the whole thing to be a lot more coherent and on brand, and we wanted all of the keynote presentations to look really polished.
What we did is we have intro slides with the speaker’s picture and the title of their talk, then I come in and introduce the speaker, ask them a question or two and remind people about the speaker’s freebie and All-Access Pass, and then we move into the speaker presentation. Then we have closing slides as well.
This one doesn’t have to be as big of an investment as it was for us. For the first summit I think we spent $1,500 but for the second summit it was only about $500 or so. With our first one, we hired out a video editor, and she was awesome, but for the second one, we were able to have our amazing VA, Angela, do it. Because she got paid hourly and we had a little more of a system in place for the second summit, it didn’t take nearly as much time. For our third one, I think it’ll be even less.
Then we had an office rental that was mostly just to provide a quiet place to record that had a nice looking background. That was $445 for the first summit and maybe $100-200 for the second? Now we actually live in an apartment complex that has a trendy looking conference room that we can use to shoot video. If you already have a nicely lit area, that won’t be an expense for you either.
Our next biggest expense was speaker gifts. Once again, totally optional, but I think it really made the difference with our relationships. We’re asking these keynote speakers to come do something for us, and we’re profiting from their knowledge and their participation, and we really, really appreciate it, so we give gifts to all of our keynote speakers. We used Greetabl, each gift costs about $15. And because the gifts were so cute, several keynote speakers actually did unboxings on Instagram, so we got some additional bonus awareness from that as well.
Our next biggest expense was graphic design. I am a graphic designer, but I was totally overwhelmed so I hired it out. After the first one, we had the templates, so Angela and I took care of what little needed to be done for the second one, so that wasn’t really an expense after the first one.
V: So it sounds like most of it was for the first one, and once you got it figured out and streamlined that really decreased your expenses. You know my whole life is about templates, so I’m a huge fan of that. Templates can save a ton of time and money.
When you’re setting up a virtual summit, you set up everything on your own website, right? You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of hosting video and chat. I think you’re coming out with some resources and I will link to those below.
And the last thing I want to talk about is how to monetize this opt in.
K: Yeah, absolutely, and yeah, just like you said, templates are very important. The first summit, while it went phenomenally, was very rocky – I had to take like 2 weeks off just to recover from that one. The second summit was easier, but it still felt like we needed the training wheels on. This third summit, however, has been a breeze. Having templates and systems in place will make your whole job so much easier and less expensive. And we will have resources coming out to help others with this. I’m super excited about this aspect of our business and the direction we’re pivoting in!
As for making money, basically we had three different money-making tiers. The first tier was sponsors. The second tier was the All-Access Pass. The third tier was the upsell at the end of the summit.
So if you’re looking through our blog post, we brought in about $5,000 from sponsors, $17,000 from the All-Access Pass, and $1,600 from our upsell from the first summit.
Obviously our biggest one was the all-access pass. And for anyone who is unfamiliar, the way you typically monetize a virtual summit is that you offer videos for free – anyone can come and view them and they are live for 24 to 72 hours. After that, if you still want to watch the videos, you need to buy the All-Access Pass. The All-Access Pass (AAP) includes some additional content, maybe some additional freebies, etc. We also do a massive giveaway with 40 different winners where most of our speakers pitch in something that the AAP members can win.
We did an early bird price of $49 before the summit, $69 during the summit, and an $89 evergreen price. We definitely sell the most during the early bird time period and the second most during the summit itself.
The next biggest revenue was sponsors, and sponsors sound intimidating to a lot of people, like you’re reaching out to these big brands and asking them to give you money as a sponsor. But what we ended up doing is we ended up working with our community. We came up with something called the Creative Directory. We have a bunch of free spaces where people get their name and hyperlink listed, then we have two different spaces that are paid. We have a medium sized space where we put a logo, their name, and social media icons and then a larger one that’s a full spread with a slideshow of their portfolio, space for an opt in, the whole deal.
Our sponsors are just members of our community who are slightly smaller businesses who want to get in front of the summit audience.
The last one is the upsell – I highly recommend this! When we did ours, it was actually a last minute thought that we implemented during the summit. If we had done it a lot earlier, I think it would have done a lot better, but we still made a decent amount from it.
V: Yeah, I’m a big fan of upsells, I recently did an interview with Haley from Profit Planner about the importance of upsells during launches, and what I’ve found is that it boosts your revenue around 15 to 20%.
Summits are a great way to create a community and engage with your audience and create a lot of value for a lot of people and as you’ve shown, you can do this and make money at it, even if there are some upfront costs.
So you have a summit coming up, will you tell us more about that and about how people can get signed up for their free tickets?
K: So our first summit was the Creative Brand Summit, the second summit was the Creative Launch Summit and the next summit coming up is the Creative Growth Summit. Basically, we’re talking about how to get published on podcasts and blogs, we’re talking about how to automate and systemize your business, how to get great at blogging and SEO and Pinterest and using that to really grow your business, and then also ways that you can create passive and more scalable ways to earn income, including summits!
For the first time, I’ll actually be presenting at my own summit. I’ll be talking about putting on a summit and I’ll cover a lot of the technical stuff that we didn’t get to today. And Vanessa will be one of our keynote speakers this time, and I’m so dang excited! She’ll be talking about using a live event to grow and engage a community.
V: So if you want to learn more about summits, make sure to get your ticket to Kyrsten’s Creative Growth Summit in September.
So summits can be a great opt in for growing your list and if you do them right, they can also be a quite profitable. If you listen to this and take advantage of Kyrsten’s resources (she has a free Workbook for everyone!), you’ll be able to use your new skills to start your own virtual summit and create an excellent community and turn strangers into fast friends, clients, and new customers.
K: We’re mostly on Instagram and it’s important to be on our list if you want summit related information, whether you want a ticket, or you want to be a speaker, our email list is where all of the summit information comes out first.
V: And guys, if you’re considering applying to be a speaker, do it. My presentation in the Creative Launch Summit was my first time presenting on video like, ever! And it opened up a whole new world of visibility for me and it was really a great experience. Thank you Kyrsten, I’ve loved talking to you today. Thank you for sharing with us!
K: Yeah! Thank you so much Vanessa, for having me, and I hope to see everyone at the Creative Growth Summit in September!
Alright, friends, let me know what you thought of Kyrsten and her virtual summit experience. Have you thought about hosting a summit yourself? She and I would both love to hear more from you in the comments!
Kyrsten and Kelly Sherwood are a wife and husband team who help creative entrepreneurs to start and scale their small businesses.
The Modern Conference program (coming soon!) helps creative entrepreneurs to create truly engaged and enthusiastic communities, network with influencers and create profitable and educational summits to boost their business’s credibility, marketing reach and authority in their market! Their Launch Brand Grow Community offers accountability and education for creatives and infopreneurs with Hot Seats, Masterminds, Courses, Book Club, Workshops, Monthly Goal Setting and more!
Kyrsten, Kelly and their 3 (going on 4!) kids currently live in Scottsdale, AZ and serve creative business owners all over the world.