I’m casting solo today because Grant just had a baby! Congratulations! He’ll be back next week, but in the meantime, I’m going to talk about one of the best experiences I’ve had since becoming an online entrepreneur.

I recently joined a forum called eCommerceFuel, a private online community for business owners that’s secure enough for candid business discussion and social enough to connect you with some new and exciting people. I’ve been attending their live events since I joined a few months ago, and this past conference I just attended blew my mind. Beyond the free food and open bar, the conference hosted networking events, group sessions, and keynote speakers discussing everything from personal business anecdotes, economic philosophies, to tips for using Facebook advertisements.

Now, I’m not the kind of guy that likes to speak in front of crowds, but the breakout sessions and mastermind groups at this conference pushed me out of my comfort zone – in the best way! I’ve since joined two mastermind groups, and communicating with these amazing business owners through the forum is a great way to keep in touch and grow your business at the same time. Tune in now to find out how you can join the forum and hear about:

  • eCommerceFuel and their amazing live events
  • Mike’s first-hand experience with eCommerceFuel
  • Mike’s favorite speakers and breakout sessions from eCommerceFuel
  • Travel tips so you can get the most out of your e-commerce events
  • What mastermind groups are and how valuable they can be

You can apply for the eCommerceFuel forum online at www.ecommercefuel.com. You don’t have to be a member to hear their podcast, so tune in and test them out to see if they work for you.

Leave us a review iTunes and head over to our site www.ecomcrew.com for more news and updates on what’s working for e-commerce today.

Full Audio Transcript

Mike:   Hi, this is Mike Jackness.  Welcome to this week’s edition of the EcomCrew podcast.  This week I’m going to be doing my first solocast.  Grant actually just had a baby and obviously doesn’t have a lot of time these days to do the podcast, but he’ll be back next week with another episode that he’s going to be doing with me, and then the following episode I’ll actually be doing another solocast that’ll be some stuff following up from my trip in China that I’m going to be doing, so that’ll be kind of cool.  I’ll be doing a couple episodes from over in China and filling everybody in about that.

But this week, I want to talk about eCommerceFuel and the eCommerceFuel Live event specifically that I just went to and kind of do a trip report on that.  If you’re not aware of a site called eCommerceFuel, I highly recommend that you check them out.  They have a private forum over there for ecommerce store owners if you will.  They have a minimum requirement of $100,000 revenue in order to join but that’s a fairly low requirement.  That’s basically what?  About $8,000 a month in revenue.  And basically, you know, the community’s kind of poised to be a private community for people that are doing between $100,000 and $5 million in annual sales, which is definitely us.  And for me, it’s just been, you know, a great experience.  There’s, you know, several hundred people in the forum, you know, it’s behind a password protected firewall so, you know, there’s a lot of candid discussion in there and people are asking a lot of really smart questions and if you have a question, you know, people just kind of jump on top of it and help you out.

You know, beside going, you know, and posting in a forum, my first experience of just meeting some of these people was southern California meetups that happen typically every couple months.  We’re getting together up in San Clemente, California, which is about an hour north of San Diego and about an hour, maybe an hour and a half south of L.A.  So it’s a good regional meeting.  There’s been, you know, usually about 10 to 15 people that show up there and a couple of them, you know, have come multiple times.  I’ve been to every one since I joined the forum and found out about it and, you know, that was really super rewarding and I got to meet up with this group in Chicago as well at IRCE and, you know, as it turned out, you know, for me, IRCE was just basically a big waste of time but, you know, the one thing that, you know, made it worthwhile was meeting up with these eCommerceFuel members there.  We had a little party that Andrew, the guy that runs the forum over there, put together in a bar there in Chicago.  And, you know, besides that, got to have breakfast with a couple people several of the mornings there and dinner one night with some people in my mastermind group, which actually is a good segue into the other thing I wanted to kind of talk about here which is masterminds and how valuable they can be, and it’s another thing that eCommerceFuel does as a value add.

You know, basically when you join the forum, the lady over there, Laura, who, you know, helps run the forum behind the scenes will help pair you up with four or five other people that, you know, make a lot of sense for you to be working with; people basically that are running equal sized stores or have, you know, experience and kind of can help feed on each other.  And for me, you know, it’s just been incredibly rewarding.  I mean, you know, the people in my mastermind are not only awesome people but they’re really smart.  They all run, you know, very different types of stores and one guy’s selling insects and stuff for frogs.  You’ve got another guy that sells, you know, high-end paper, another guy who sells fireplace hearths and, you know, outdoor type furniture and stuff like that.  And no one’s stepping on anybody’s toes but we’re all, you know, doing the same type of thing: selling stuff for ecommerce.

So incredibly rewarding and because of that, I actually went to another event later in the year called the One-Day Business Breakthrough and met several people there and enjoyed another mastermind so I’m actually in two now where once a week we’re getting together every Friday morning and just kind of doing a hot seat round-robin format that’s been pretty cool.  So highly encourage you, if you haven’t heard of eCommerceFuel, go over there and check them out.  Just want to kind of go over the event and why I’m, you know, so high on this eCommerceFuel Live event that I just got back from.  And just going to kind of go over the schedule for the three days that the event was there.

You know, for me, I got there a day early.  You know, I was flying across the country and I wanted to get there early just to get more acclimated with time zone stuff.  I didn’t want to be sleepy through, you know, the first day after traveling all day and it worked out really, really well.  There happened to be a couple other people that got there early as well, which I was kind of banking on.  Got to have some really great conversations with these guys that I met that, one of them actually was from Ireland, the other guy from Omaha I believe.  Yeah, just had some great conversation and then, you know, Andrew came in later that night and we all were able to go out and grab dinner and we had, you know, a little bit too much to drink but we didn’t have to do anything on the next morning so we kind of got up and had a late breakfast and then, you know, a lot of people starting flying in the day of the event.  So I got to, you know, have lunch and meet with other people, you know, right before the event started and then, you know, the first day of the event was just kind of a kickoff party where, you know, it was open bar and we all got to kind of meet.  I probably met a good, you know, 30 to 40 people that first evening, just kind of went around and shook hands and introduced myself to as many people as I could.

And then the first, you know, full day of the event, you know, breakfast started really early so I tried to go to bed at a decent time the night beforehand, didn’t get too drunk if you will.  Just sat down at a table with a bunch of, you know, random people that all obviously did ecommerce and had a couple really great conversations.  And then the event kind of kicked off with Andrew just giving an overview of the event and then the first real, you know, talk, if you will, started at that point, which was by a lady, Miracle.  That’s her real name.  Super sweet lady who, you know, obviously again runs an ecommerce site but has been doing a lot of stuff with Facebook and I think she blew a lot of people’s minds.  You know, just a really great talk about, you know, all the things she’s done with Facebook and the things that she’s had success with and failures with and, you know, a lot of actionable takeaways from that talk not only for myself, but I think pretty much everybody in the room.  You could hear a lot of, you know, oohs and ahs in the room.

The next talk was by a gentleman named Paul, who runs a site called Pearls Only, and man, it was one of my favorite talks of the event.  You know, his was more of just like a motivational talk or a story just kind of telling you about, you know, his growth and his site and, you know, his talk really just resonated with me.  I mean I think a lot of people might’ve disagreed with his philosophy because there’s obviously different ways to run a business.  And, you know, his philosophy is a little bit more aggressive and, you know, basically when you’re going through your growth phase.  And he had this piece of ClipArt with an arrow that was kind of shooting up and a guy that was holding onto this arrow like with his fingernails, which is kind the growth phase that we’re in right now in our business.  And I’ve been through this before with other business that we’ve been in and, you know, I don’t know, it was a great talk.  It was just an opportunity to hear someone else that has gone through the same thing that we have and yeah, I mean it was just reassuring, if anything else, just to kind of see someone else running their business in the same way.  Sometimes I talk to other people and they think I’m crazy sometimes just, you know, thinking of the larger picture and not worrying about as many small details in the earlier stages because, you know, if you try to do all that, then you’re sacrificing growth and that’s not something that I want to do right now.

So after Paul spoke, we had lunch.  Again, that was all provided by the conference so that was another nice thing about this conference.  There was no nickel and diming.  You know, every meal was covered – or at least breakfast and lunch was.  And again, I got to meet a bunch of really great people at lunch.  And then after lunch, there was another, you know, just kind of storytelling presentation by a guy named David, who runs a site called Filter Buy, which was incredibly fascinating.  You know, he’s basically started this site from the ground up and also created his own manufacturing plant down in Alabama.  Yeah, just a really, really fascinating story just hearing about a business going from zero to where it is.  I mean I love these types of stories and it was just really, really awesome.

So after his session, there was a breakout session.  There were four different choices to go to during that time.  And I went to – let me look at the session here but I think it was the one on – it’s the leveraging video for exponential results was the breakout session.  I couldn’t remember what the title of the breakout session was but, man, did that blow my mind.  It was a great – probably from a direct cause and effect, you know, after going to the show and what we can implement in our business, I think this is going to have the biggest impact the quickest.  They got really into specific things that they’re doing with YouTube and leveraging YouTube personalities that have, you know, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people on their channel and basically pay them to create a video and they, you know, got into what they’re paying them and, you know, exactly how many click they’re getting from each video and how many sales and, you know, 500% or 600% return on ad spend.  Pretty impressive stuff.  So yeah, that was a really, really great presentation.  Two different guys came up and talked about a little bit different things on video.

And from there, we went out and had dinner.  There was basically assigned groups for dinner that Laura, the community manager, put together.  And I think there were five or six people in my group and it was, again, another just great opportunity to meet more people and kind of talk with them about their businesses.  There are buses that took us downtown to downtown Nashville that also brought us back after dinner.  And that’s actually one thing I didn’t mention is where the actual venue was for this event.  Last year, from what I understand because I didn’t get to attend it, it was in Austin, Texas.  And this year, it was in Nashville, Tennessee and they used the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center and Hotel, which is the largest hotel outside of Las Vegas in the United States.  Place is massive.  Like it reminded me a lot of the Venetian like places, just gorgeous.  Like I mean you’re expecting to see gambling tables somewhere at some point because like, you know, how the heck do they pay for all this stuff?  But I mean obviously everything in there’s a little bit pricey, but definitely, you know, very high-end hotel, just beautiful place.  And that’s in a great location.  You know, it’s close to the airport, close to downtown.  So that was the first full day and then let me just kind of do a recap of the second day.

The second day, we started a little bit later.  It was a 7:30 start instead of 7:00AM start because a lot of people were out late from the night before, and I certainly appreciated having that extra half hour.  Met with a bunch of really great people at breakfast, you know, again, not assigned seating or anything, you know, that was formal but just, you know, had a really great breakfast, got to meet some awesome people.  And then the first presentation was by a guy named Drew that runs a site called Nerd Marketing.  He has started an ecommerce site that he sold and now does some independent consulting and it was another really great presentation, probably my second favorite, you know, actionable items to take away, presentation from the conference.  He, you know, talked about since he’s been doing consulting for nine-figure stores, like what they’re doing, how they’re evaluating their data and he basically was talking about whales and, you know, how obviously like the 80/20 rule where, you know, 20% of your customers provide you 80% of your revenue and how to identify them.  And it was even more extreme than that.  I think it was more like 5% of customers were providing like 90% of revenue in a lot of instances where, you know, you have these repeat buyers that just are brand fans and, you know, as they tail off that behavior, you know, using Winback Series and stuff to get them back.  That was really, really interesting.

Then the next presentation was a patent and trademark lawyer, and that’s actually the only presentation that I actually skipped the whole conference.  I have a lot of background and knowledge on trademark stuff just because we’ve been through some trademark stuff ourselves and we’ve already trademarked all of our stuff in our business.  And I was actually going to still sit through the presentation because I always feel like there could be other things I could learn but I got pulled off to the side by someone I wanted to talk to anyway at the conference.  We just kind of met in the hall right before this and I was like, “Okay, well, you know, let’s chat.”  So we ended up just spending that hour out in the hallway talking about this, that, and the other.  It was a really good conversation.

So then we broke for lunch.  You know, same ordeal; lunch was provided.  This particular lunch, though, there were some people that kind of were looking to get another mastermind together that I wanted to join, so we kind of had the initial talks at this lunch about the mastermind, and since the conference has happened, we actually got our first meeting together and I think it’s going to be a really good group of people to bounce things off of every couple weeks.  And then when we got back from lunch, there was a guy named Robert that runs a site called MP3 Car and it was more of, you know, just kind of storytelling.  The guy was talking about like how he almost destroyed his business and he almost went out of business and how he turned things around, which, again, just awesome hearing these types of stories because, you know, we’ve all been there and I really enjoyed his talk.

And then there were some more breakout sessions and on this particular day’s breakout sessions, I was invited to speak about how to find, negotiate, and close your next ecommerce purchase.  The talk was led by a guy named Bill and then there were a couple people on the panel.  I was one of those and got to speak there, which was fun.  You know, I’m typically not a person that enjoys speaking in front of a larger audience or even, you know, more than five or six people at a time.  I don’t know why.  You know, I’m confident.  I have no problem obviously doing these podcasts and stuff but, you know, the thing that kind of pushed me to do it, you know, I was talking to Bill, I was like, “I don’t know, man.  I really don’t feel like doing this thing.”  And Bill’s like, “You know, you’ve got to push yourself outside your comfort zone, man,” and I did it.  I’m really, really glad that I did because it was fun.  And by doing that, actually got me a free dinner, which was also cool.  Anybody that was part of the event got – the guys that hosted the event of eCommerceFuel Live took us to like a private room at a restaurant there in Nashville and had a great meal and got to speak with all the people that did speak at the event, obviously really intelligent people, and some really great conversation came out of that.  Actually got me to kind of change my plans around for China and had I not been at that dinner, you know, I probably would’ve, you know, wasted some of my time in China.  And basically, the outcome was that, you know, besides just the Canton fair, which we were planning on going to, there’s another fair in Hong Kong, which is regarded to be just as good, if not better, in a lot of ways better because they’re really targeting western buyers and so it’s higher quality products.  So I’m really looking forward to that.  We changed our plans around.  Luckily, you know, we were already flying into Hong Kong and, you know, we didn’t prepay for any hotel room, so we were able to change our plans around with no additional cost or anything.

So, you know, and then the event ended with, you know, a party out at a local bar and that went to another bar and eventually, I ended up back at my room at like 3:30 in the morning.  You know, had to get up and get on a plane a couple hours later and landed back in San Diego and I pretty much lost my voice and, you know, it was pretty hard to hide form my wife that I had had too much fun at this event.  But definitely the most professionally rewarding event that I’ve ever been to, and I know that’s saying a lot because I’ve been to a lot of events.  But, you know, back in my online poker affiliate marketing days, you know, you would go to these types of events and, you know, you’d be around all these industry insiders and people that were doing similar things to what you were doing, but at the same time they were all like direct competitors.  I mean they all wanted to eat your lunch and they were all looking for ways to de-throne you or to take your business.  And, you know, you certainly didn’t want to talk openly in this type of environment versus in the ecommerce world with this type of event, everyone’s doing the same type of thing but no one’s really competing directly with you.

I mean there obviously are people out there competing directly with, you know, CuttingBoard.com or IceWraps.com or with our, you know, new coloring book line.  But, you know, no one at this event was specifically competing.  You know, it’s other people out there.  and even if they are, like I don’t ever profess to think that we’re going to have 100% of all the cutting board sales ever to happen in the world or United States in 2016, nor do I think we’re going to get anywhere close to all the ice wrap sales.  So, you know, it doesn’t really matter.  I mean as long as you’ve carved out your little niche and you’re getting your sales, you know, I’m not really too worried about whatever everybody else is doing out there.  So, you know, it’s awesome to just be completely open and honest and just tell people, you know, what you’re doing and, you know, I’ve found that, you know, by being as forthcoming and honest and helpful as I possibly can be that, you know, it comes back around full circle.  Every now and then, there’s been some really great tidbits that I’ve gotten that have, you know, made this journey really worthwhile.

So I want to wrap up here in just a couple minutes.  I want to kind of close out by just kind of reiterating a couple things and really making a point that as entrepreneurs and, you know, you’re dealing with your day to day business and, you know, there’s that whole like your business is running you, you’re not running your business, you end up spending, you know, a lot of your time focused on your business and yourself and you don’t really, you know, spend time doing career development and personal development.  You know, I’ve been working on my own now for like 13, 14 years and, you know, I don’t have a boss or someone else telling me, “Hey, you’ve got to advance your career of you have to advance your skill set.”  And, you know, events like this like really push you to do that.  So, you know, it was kind of a New Year’s resolution.  I’m not like a New Year’s resolution guy, but it was around, you know, the start of the year when I was doing my yearly planning, I was like, “You know what?  In 2015, this is something I’m going to really focus on.  I’m going to carve out a huge block of time to get involved in the ecommerce community.  I’m going to carve out a huge block of time and budget to go to different events, whether they’re ecommerce specific events or other business related events.”

And, you know, we went to a convention in Chicago for houseware goods, you know, which was really, really fruitful.  We went to IRCE this year, which honestly was a complete waste of time but, you know, I’m glad that I did it because now I know it’s something that I don’t want to go to in 2016.  If there’s a lot of other people like actually from this eCommerceFuel community that go, you know, I’ll probably fly up there for a day just to go to an event, you know, or a get together and come back.  You know, every one of these I’ve been to so far have been well worth the time and effort.  you know, if I spent $300, $400 on a ticket and a couple hundred dollars for a hotel room, you know, just one thing makes it worthwhile and every time I’ve met with this group, I’ve got way more than one thing of value out of it.  So I could see going just for that thing next year.

Another thing that I went to this year was the One-Day Business Breakthrough that Pat Flynn and Christ Ducker put on here in San Diego.  That was another incredibly rewarding event and if they do that here again this next year, I can see myself going to that again.  You know, just a lot of really great ideas.  It wasn’t ecommerce focused but, you know, our business isn’t 100% ecommerce focused.  We still have other things that we do outside of ecommerce.  Even though ecommerce is by far and away our biggest focused right now, you know, it’s still neat to see how other people are running their business and, you know, I’m a huge fan of Pat Flynn and Chris Ducker.  Actually, the podcast we’re going to be doing, I think it’s next week, Grant and I talk about not being a superhero and let’s do a thing that Chris Ducker always talks about: shutting off some responsibilities and getting, you know, virtual assistants or other employees to help out with things.  And, you know, Chris has been instrumental in my life to finally, you know, push me over the edge with something that I always knew was problem but, you know, until you really sit down and think about it, you know, I hadn’t really focused on making improvements in those areas.

So, you know, really just want to kind of instill in everyone that, you know, personal development is incredibly important and, you know, the masterminds that I’ve joined – I’m now a member of three.  I’m probably going to cut that back down to two at the end of this year, you know, keep the two best ones and, you know, get rid of the one that isn’t helping me as much or I’m not able to help the group as much.  But, you know, definitely going to stick with that throughout all 2016.  Just been incredibly rewarding.  And then also, you know, going to these, you know, events, whether they’re meetups or the eCommerceFuel Live event, you know, even if they do it twice next year, I would go to both of them.  I mean they’re just – you know, it’s an opportunity to get away and really just get around other like-minded people that really, you know, show you like all the things that you aren’t thinking about on a day to day basis, things you can do to improve your business and, you know, it helps keep you grounded.

And, you know, for me, it was just like amazing being around all these people that are just way smarter than me.  I love that.  You know, on a day to day basis, you’re not necessarily surrounded by those types of people.  You know, if you have employees that are, you know, filling stock orders or doing, you know, just things that you’ve taught them basically, you’re not learning anything from then necessarily and it’s not a bad thing.  They’re obviously smart people and good people but, you know, going to these types of events, you know, being surrounded by people that are basically turning the firehose and just, you know, shoving knowledge bombs down your throat at a million miles an hour, it’s really impressive.

So yeah, if you aren’t a member of eCommerceFuel, the private forum over there, I think it’s like $25 or $30.  I highly recommend checking that out.  Just a full disclosure: you know, I don’t get any, you know, referral fees or anything for promoting them.  We don’t have any type of relationship set up with them, it’s just something I get a lot of value out of myself, so much value that even as an affiliate marketer, I’m happy to talk about it even if I get nothing out of it and I hope to see a lot of you over there in the private forums.

So with that, I’m going to sign off.  Next week will be Grant and Mike back together again and then I think the following week it’ll be just a solocast again with a trip report from China.  So until then, everyone, have a great week and we’ll talk to you later.