A Review of LessConf 2012

February 28, 2012

This past week I spent 2 days at LessConf in Atlanta. I had never heard of this conference before going to Panama City to speak at the meet-up a few months ago. Allan Branch, the person that organized the meet-up, started LessConf about 4 years ago. He is business partners with Steve Bristol at LessEverything and they are a hoot!

I will admit I was a bit confused about what the conference was going to be focused on. There seemed to be a lot of hub-bub surrounding the conference but no speakers were announced and there were not really any old videos of speakers to give any indication of what it would be like. Having said that this conference was probably one of the best I have been to. Turns out the conference is about helping and fostering growth in people that have start-ups. And while EllisLab is not necessarily a start-up there is a lot to be reminded of in how start-ups think, behave and operate.

Spike Jones was the first speaker of the conference. He was easily my favorite. He is active in the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. In his talk he shared about how he helped Fiskar (maker of scissors... of all things) create a word of mouth initiative that fed off of the scrapbooking community.

He also talked about the ins and outs of this. How they created a barrier to entry by making the ambassador program small (4-5 people) to make the Fiskarettes feel special. How they personalized some scissors and sent them to them. How they created a new level in a scrapbooking forums especially for them. And ultimately the positive effect on the Fiskars brand that they carried into scrapbooking community.

He also talked about how to tell stories with powerful identities. His example was the State of Texas. Love them or hate them Texas has an incredible marketing campaign. Don't mess with Texas, Everything's bigger in Texas etc. He talked about a great brand as being polarizing. This idea resonated with me...

Rob Walling was the second speaker (don't worry I am not going to write about all 10 talks). Rob's talk was excellent for a different reason. Rob runs 5-6 small startups. His talk was all about Cost per Acquisition, Lifetime Value of a customer and how to use the information those numbers provide when making decisions about your business. If I remember correctly he also talked quite extensively about A/B testing and using CPA and LV when doing your A/B testing so that you know whether your changes are working.

He also talked about leveraging low budget ways to get word out about your product (Podcasts, Guest posts etc.) using relationships that you might have with apps that are integrated with yours to get word out by cross-promoting to each other's communities.

John Crawford talked on the second day about not forgetting your friends. My major take-a-way from his talk was a quote:

Your friends have awesome powers - They can create alternative Universes - Let them

The quote builds on his talk about how the people around you can often open doors or take you in different directions by introducing you new people. In his case it opened up some doors that led to 1.5M in funding. smile Not bad if you ask me.

The final talk I wanted to tell you about was the guys from Intercom.io, Eoghan McCabe & Des Traynor. They talk about how ability and hard work will only take you so far. That without passion you will not acheive as much. And I was struck by something.

The team at EllisLab is a team of positive thinking and passionate people and I am proud to be associated with them.

They discussed the idea that starting (or running) a business is like working on a piece of Art. That there is no scientific forumula that you can follow to get from point A to point B. And that like most pieces of art it only acheives it's true potential when it is complete. Some really good stuff in this talk...

They also mentioned that Des has called every single one of their (thousands of) customers. That proactively reaching out to their customers is one of the best ways to delight them. I would love to experiment with this. I may not be able to call every new customer to ExpressionEngine but I would like take more time to reach out to the community members that are NOT on twitter. Twitter contains such a small fraction of our community and I often wonder what the rest of our wonderful community is up to (nothing against my twitter friends smile ).

Their final thought (and they were the final talk)? Was that you must be customer obsessed. That we are entering into an age of the customer. I agree with them. Businesses that stand out for me are the ones that provide ridiculous customer service.

For me there was a common thread in all of the talks. My main take-a-way was to focus on the customer/client in a more personal manner. The EllisLab community is waaaay bigger than a lot of the communities the speakers at the conference deal with, but that shouldn't matter. We not only need to be Bacon, but I also need to take a chance and personally connect with our customers. But that means I have to put myself out there, and that is a bit unnerving...

LessConf was awesome!