GE 202: How the Growth Marketing Conference Brought in $2M in 2 Years in Such a Competitive Space (podcast) With Vasil Azarov

Vasil Azarov

Hey everyone, in today’s episode I share the mic with Vasil Azarov, CEO of the Growth Marketing Conference, a must-attend for startup founders and marketing execs.

Tune is to hear Vasil discuss how the Growth Marketing Conference gets a 30% attendance rate from their 100K community of entrepreneurs and marketers, why events are essential for generating attraction if you already have a product, why he believes that events are the future of marketing and sales, and the best way to build an audience fast.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How the Growth Marketing Conference Brought in $2M in 2 Years in Such a Competitive Space TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:46 – Review, rate and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • 01:03 – Eric introduces friend and special guest, Vasil Azarov, CEO of the Growth Marketing Conference
  • 01:29 – Vasil has been in the marketing and event space for the last 10 years
    • 01:50 – “Events are the future of marketing and sales”
    • 01:55 – They are the vehicle for connecting people and Vasil is very passionate about events
  • 02:09 – His previous event was sold to United Business Media
  • 02:19 – Vasil met his cofounders and joined them at Startup Socials—the company his partners were involved in at that time
  • 02:36 – In 2013, Vasil began with a startup marketing conference and they grew it to The Growth Marketing Conference
    • 02:44 – Their events bring in 2,000 people
    • 02:48 – They host events in 15 cities around the globe
    • 02:58 – This year their large event is in San Francisco
  • 04:10 – How are they different? They connect startups with larger enterprise companies under the umbrella of growth marketing
  • 04:46 – How much does it cost to attend the Growth Marketing Conference?
    • 04:51 – Early bird for $400 – $1,200
    • 04:59 – With a Lexus pass, it’s $700 – $2,000 (includes speaker dinner and workshops)
    • 05:09 – $300 for self-funded partners
  • 05:18 – How many attendees have they had go through their events so far?
    • 05:29 – 100,000 supporters in total, 30% have gone to our events in person (small mixer, workshop or larger conference)
    • 05:50 – Some subscribe to the blog and others to live webinars
  • 06:26 – Vasil started events in 2013, the large conferences took off in 2015
  • 06:45 – They have earned close to $2 million total with their growth booming in the last two years
  • 07:34 – The best way to build an audience is to invest into community building
  • 07:38 – “It’s never about just one single event, it’s always about thinking what is next—how are you going to engage your community after it’s over?”
    • 07:45 – They plan their events a year in advance
    • 07:58 – They have a lot of events leading up to the main events
    • 08:02 – Logistics and experience are important for planning events, but how you engage the audience IN BETWEEN these events is of the utmost importance
  • 08:38 – Vasil lists his core events for the year (inc. New York, San Francisco etc.)
  • 09:11 – How is he building his clientele today? It has been through virtual summits
    • 09:29 – It’s a fast way to build an audience quickly around a very specific topic
    • 09:37 – It’s an advantageous way to build relevant content, as well
    • 09:53 – Word of mouth—create an unforgettable experience
    • 10:12 – We send speakers gifts—wine that has the Growth Marketing logo
    • 10:40 – When you give a good gift, they remember you
    • 10:55 – Be very thoughtful about the gifts and swag you give your speakers
  • 09:50 – Eric refers to the book Giftology and highly recommends it to everybody
  • 11:54How does he structure the main events?
    • 12:07 – The art is putting the guests/content together, so that the whole day really makes sense
    • 12:17 – Vasil uses his conference from 2015 as an example – the conference went from user acquisition to conversion to customer retention
    • 12:50 – They include actionable workshops and work really well
    • 13:01 – They put everyone in one room for these workshops, so that attendees can build intimacy with speakers
  • 13:46 – Should you aim to break even or plan to make a profit?
    • 14:20 – It depends on the goal of your conference
    • 15:07 – When you’re starting out, breaking even is totally fine
    • 15:23 – Vasil advises people new to business of event planning should commit to doing this type of business for a couple years to see growth
  • 15:30 – What kind of people should those new to event planning hire?
    • 15:45 – Vasil just held a conference called Event Marketing School
    • 15:58 – Vasil recommends discovering the business by yourself
    • 16:22 – If your long-term goal is to make high quality events, hire a consultant to help you, not some event planner to do the work for you
  • 17:13 – What’s one big struggle he’s facing right now? – Vasil needs to build an infrastructure to plan and organize the events so that he can scale his business
  • 18:21 – What’s one big change he’s made in the past year that has impacted him or his business in a big way? – We heavily rely on email when it comes to ticket sales
    • 18:45 – They created a very clear process on data scrubbing so that they could clear their bounced emails in a short amount of time
    • 19:03 – They want the bounce rate to be fixed within a 2-day timeframe
    • 19:33 – This has helped them keep their list clean and convert the email list into attendees
    • 19:46 – He also puts all his tasks into Google calendar
      • 20:13 – He has 10 main goals that he wants to accomplish at the start of the week, check in on those goals mid-week, then track his progress at the end of the week and use this as the basis for his next week
    • 20:56 – One tool he’s added in the last year that’s added a lot of value? ZenProspect—they’ve tried Salesloft, Persist IQ, but ZenProspect is their #1 choice
    • 23:05 – One must-read book (and podcast) Hard Things About Hard Things
    • 24:49 – One blog he reads regularly? Growth Hackers
    • 25:33 – Connect with Vasil on Linkedin and on his website

3 Key Points:

  1. If you don’t have passion in what you’re doing, you won’t make it.
  2. It’s never about just the one event, it’s about having that next step or level of engagement with your following.
  3. The key to a successful event? Make sure your event structure and progression of topics make sense AND plan for high-level engagement/actionable workshops.

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Full Transcript of The Episode

Show transcript
Vasil Azarov: So, this is one of the most important elements, organizing the whole agenda, not just bringing really random famous people together. Although they might be relevant, but the art is really to putting them together so it reads like the whole day really makes sense.

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Hello everybody. I have a friend and a special guest today, his name is Vasil Azarov. He's the CEO of the Growth Marketing Conference and he has a lot of other things going on, which I'll let him speak to in a little bit. Vasil, how's it going?

Vasil Azarov: Great Eric, good to be here.

Eric Siu: Yeah, thanks for being on the show. So, why don't you tell us a little bit about ... Well, tell us what your story is.

Vasil Azarov: Sure, well let me tell the story from the very beginning then. I was in marketing and event space for the last 10 years. I was involved in production of some of the largest digital markets and events back in 2009 and I was always passionate about events, people and marketing. I personally believe that events are the future of marketing and sales in general, because their experiences and events are the best vehicle to connect people. This is something I was passionate from pretty much as long as I remember myself.

One of the days when I decided to go on my own and was looking for my new venture, a previous marketing event got sold to United Business Media. I met some guys who eventually became my partners, they were running a small community up here in Silicone Valley, called Startup Socials and they were really passionate about connecting and empowering entrepreneurs. I joined the team and eventually connected the dots by bringing together marketing element to it, producing Startup Marketing Conference first, in 2013, which eventually outgrew into Growth Marketing Conference, which now brings together over 2,000 people every year. We host events in 15 different cities around the globe, starting from small marketing workshops, leading up to our big event happening in December every year. This year we're doing it in San Francisco.

Eric Siu: Awesome. So, there's a couple of marketing conferences out there, there's a lot actually. Why go into this space? It's a really crowded space. I guess, what kind of differentiates Growth Marketing Conference from the others? Vasil Azarov: Yeah, first of all just to answer your first question, why to go into crowded space. I have never seen a person who would just decide all of a sudden, I'm going to do an event specifically if we focus on generated having it as a lifestyle business, or generating revenue directly from event, that would not be passionate about it. This is more of my inner calling and this is something that when I wake up, I know that if you don't have to pay me for it, I will do it. Events are extremely hard and extremely stressful too, but I love the stress, I love the challenge, so that's my main reason. That being said, the events are also great in generating attraction if you already have a product, if you have a community.

My story's slightly different because events are actually our core product. What differentiates our Growth Marketing Conference from other digital markets in events, I think something that we do, we connect startup marketers and entrepreneurs, as well as some larger companies, enterprise companies and under the whole umbrella of growth marketing. My definition of growth marketing is all about the mindset. It's all about the mindset, it's all about some sustainable growth tactics that both enterprise companies could learn from startups and startups could learn from enterprise, so yeah.

Eric Siu: Awesome, okay. So, how much does it typically cost to attend a Growth Marketing Conference?

Vasil Azarov: We start early bird from $400 and it goes up to about $1,200. Also, depending on if you'd like to get a Lexus pass, it starts from $700 and goes up toe $2,000. We always do a speaker dinner and tactical workshops on day one, that's why it's a little bit more expensive, but we also reserve some tickets for self-funded founders, which are $300.

Eric Siu: Awesome, okay. How many attendees have you had actually go through all of the events that you've put together so far?

Vasil Azarov: Oh okay, good question. I was actually doing a little bit of analytics on it. Our community right now is over 100,000 of tech entrepreneurs and marketers, but I would say maybe 30% of them, they've been to our events in person, either it would be a small marketing mixer, a workshop, or a larger conference. The rest are the ones who subscribe to our blog and attend some of our virtual events or webinars.

Eric Siu: Got it, okay. So let's see, 30% of 100,000 people right, so we could say 30,000 people. Is that about right? Then we could say maybe your average attendee, maybe we could say I don't know, because you have all different ones and I'm assuming you give free tickets too. So what is that, $500 or $600, is that fair?

Vasil Azarov: Depends, because some of the mixers, they would be $20, so it's really hard to come up with one hard number like that.

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