Back when we started Affiliate Summit in 2003, we didn’t have money or experience in running conferences. But we had an even more valuable asset, the desire to be better than the other options out there.
At the time, the standard for affiliate marketing conferences was an event called Affiliate Force. There were positives to it, but Missy Ward and I saw lots of areas for improvement, and we wanted to create something we would want to attend.
A lot of the early feedback was focused on what we were doing “wrong”. Well, the perception from some people that we were doing things wrong was because it was different from what they were used to.
We had no plans to emulate what we saw as a broken model. Sure, it was the most successful of the affiliate marketing events out there at the time, but that wasn’t saying much.
This was a passion project that we had to squeeze in on evenings and weekends while we paid the bills with our day jobs. There was no way we were going to sacrifice our time and opportunities to champion mediocrity and be another Affiliate Force.
No, we were going to be Affiliate Summit.
One important lesson we learned was that we didn’t know how to do it the “right way”, so we just did it the way we thought it should be done.
Based on our own experiences and tapping into our friends in affiliate marketing, we worked up a list of the problems with conferences and figured out solutions. That made more sense to us.
We employed a five-step process: listen, adapt, pivot, rinse, repeat.
Simply by asking people what they wanted and giving it to them (within reason) became our secret sauce. And people liked the taste from the start because it was literally what they wanted in a conference and tradeshow.
We still focus on feedback to evolve, and it’s genuinely odd to me that people are surprised that we ask for feedback and then follow-up with more questions to double down on the good stuff and fix the bad stuff.
Missy and I had frustrations with the tunnel vision of Affiliate Force, and that led to more of a crowdsourced approach for Affiliate Summit. Despite being admonished by people for doing things differently, we continued on our path. We didn’t want to be them, we wanted to beat them.
And it’s a good thing because by the time Affiliate Summit was a year old, Affiliate Force ceased to exist.