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Guys, I'm so excited. After the total lack of ShareASale ThinkTank in my life last year, it's back and taking me to a whole new city! I've never been to Chicago before, so I'm totally tickled about seeing the Windy City — even if I don't really have enough time to explore (one day, Wrigley, we shall meet).
ThinkTank has played a huge role in my affiliate marketing life — the Denver show in 2013 was my inaugural event, and it's where I met the people who have been integral to my success in the industry. (More about that here.) That first ThinkTank was also my very first foray into any conference having to do with affiliate marketing … and look at what I've done in the time since! I've spoken at four Affiliate Summits and will be speaking at Performance Marketing Summit the day ThinkTank kicks off. Not too shabby, eh?
Needless to say, I've honed my conference skillz to get the most out of every short second at these events — something that took me one or two go-rounds to do. And guys, I was totally overwhelmed at first, but I really really didn't need to be.
Here's how to make the most out of your time at ThinkTank:
- Keep an eye on the agenda. Things are subject to change, but it'll give you a really good idea of what's happening when so you can prepare. Take special note of the networking events!
- Make sure you're in the Facebook group (holler at Erica if you're not).
- When scheduling meetings with merchants, take real stock of who you want to partner with and who you already do partner with. I suggest prioritizing merchants you want to build a relationship with first — this will allow you ample time to sit down and learn about their program, discuss your blog and learn how the two of you can work best together moving forward. Next on the list should be merchants you currently work with but are having trouble. The facetime is a good opportunity for both of you to learn what's working, what's not and explore possible solutions. Finally, schedule your “bullshit” sessions or sessions that you're unsure of the relationship. I usually have a couple of these tucked in just so I can get some solid time with AMs that I already work with, but who might need a break during the insanity (maybe bring your AM a drink. They like that.)
- If you already have a really good relationship with your AM and probably don't need to cover that much biz, try to talk to them at networking events rather than during scheduled meeting times. This frees up availability for you to talk to new merchants and for them to talk to new affiliates. It also helps build the bond between you and your AM when it's more relaxed.
- Attend all the educational sessions — even if you don't think they apply to you. You might get a new perspective or learn something that will surprise you.
- Attending with a bunch of bloggers you know? Switch it up! Sit at a new table during dinner. Find a new buddy during a networking event. Talk to someone different at each meal.
- Bring business cards and a notebook. You really don't need to lug your laptop around all day (though I do) but you will want to take notes.
- Hydrate. There will be booze and coffee involved, so make sure you've got some high-quality H2O running through your system, too.
- Write down any questions you have, either for ShareASale or for your AMs. It can be so easy to lose track amid all the hustle and bustle and get home afterward only to realize you didn't get the answers you really wanted.
- Keep an open mind! Just because a merchant may not seem like a good fit at the outset doesn't mean you won't be able to drive conversions. Think outside the box — way outside! And that goes for hobnobbing with other affiliates too — just because they're not in your niche doesn't mean they don't have value.
In the past, I've found the Things We Need To Fix session at the very end to be one of the most valuable, because it's an honest discussion with the ShareASale team about what works and what doesn't (hint: for those of you who have qualms with some reporting / lack of certain reports, this is a v. good time to bring it up).
Overall, it's a flurry of a couple of days but so incredibly worth it. Brian and the SAS team are amazing hosts and they all do such an incredible job of combining fun, education and entertainment — not to mention they put us up in incredibly stellar digs, which is really awesome. Please make sure to be nice to them (yes, this has to be said — in the past, we've seen some attendees be incredibly rude to the SAS team) and thank them for helping make affiliate marketing more accessible to all of us.
Oh, and one more thing: Don't, whatever you do, do NOT miss the piano singalong (if it happens). You can thank me later (even this knocked up chick is going to make a point of being there).