4 unconventional business insights from seanwes conference 2017

Last week, I attended the seanwes conference in Austin, TX.

It's been a few days, and I've finally finished compiling and editing my notes.

Today, I want to share a few insights from the event that I plan to implement in my business, and some that simply gave me a good ponder; my hope is they'll be useful for you as well.

But first:

If you’re not familiar: seanwes conference is an annual, in-person event focused on helping entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners grow their team, sales, and impact.

seanwes conference tom morkes - 4 unconventional business insights from seanwes conference 2017

I’ve been to close to a dozen in-person events in the past few years (and even run my own; next one is coming up this November...click here to learn more), and I always love seeing how different businesses, brands, and people host their events.

So I’ll start with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the event itself, then we’ll dig into the lessons learned below:

The good:

  • Amazing lineup of speakers. I’ll share more in the ‘lessons learned’ section below...
  • Great community of conference attendees. As I mentioned, I’ve been to many different events, and not all are created equal. Sean and co did a great job cultivating an amazing community of entrepreneurs and business owners, which made the event more welcoming and intimate.
  • So many tacos (it did take place in Austin, after all)

The bad:

Unfortunately, if this write-up inspires you to join the next seanwes conference, you may be out of luck. This was the last officially scheduled seanwes conference.



As Sean said at the outset of the event: focus.

Sean is planning some big things in the coming months and years, including the release of a new software platform to help businesses run their own online communities, so they’ve made the tough decision to cut out certain things to focus on the projects with the biggest impact for their audience.

(I can say from experience this is never an easy decision, but it’s essential)

That said: fingers crossed they’ll bring it back in future years when they have a bit more bandwidth.

And the ugly:

Nothing ugly about this event. As you’ll see from some of the amateur photos I took, the event was meticulously crafted, and Sean and his team have a great eye for aesthetics.

So now that you have an idea of what this event was all about, onto the juicy learning lessons:

4 unconventional business insights from my time at seanwes conference 2017

In the following paragraphs, I’m going to share my biggest takeaways from the event.

Because I’m consistently inconsistent, I only took photos for some of the talks (my phone ran out of juice before a couple presentations, and I forgot to take pics of some of the other speakers b/c I was too busy taking notes in some cases...shame on me).

Finally, the lessons learned are in no particular order of importance or priority; they’re all good, and relevant for different businesses / individuals.

My advice: take what you can use and what resonates with you, and discard the things that don’t apply to you (they may not at this time).


Let’s go:

Lesson #1. Habits are not the result of time, but frequency

James Clear is the prolific writer behind jamesclear.com. He writes on habit and performance, and has built a massive following (400k+ email newsletter subscribers) around his work.

seanwes conference tom morkes james clear new opt - 4 unconventional business insights from seanwes conference 2017

During his presentation, James outlined the process of habit formation. It goes like this:

Contrary to popular belief, you do not form a habit over time alone, but rather through consistent, repeated action over a set period of time.

For example, let’s say you want to build the habit of writing. So you say to yourself: I’ll get started today, and in about 3 weeks, I’ll have built a habit of writing…

So you get started; you write today, and tomorrow, and the next day...but then you have to travel, so you end up taking the next few days off. You get back to it when you get home from travel, but end up only writing a few times over the course of the week. Wash rinse repeat, and at the end of 3 weeks, while you have written more than you typically do, you’re nowhere closer to a habit.


Because you were not consistent with your writing.

In order to build a habit of writing, you must take the ACTION of writing, and you must do it repeatedly, and consistently. That means writing every day, or multiple times a day, over the course of as many weeks as it takes (which, yes, could be as few as 3 weeks; but only if the proper action is taken).

So what happens after those three (ish) weeks, after you've developed the habit of writing?

You have to keep writing.

Stop writing consistently and you'll quickly turn into your former, non-writing self.

So how do you and I, mere mortals, finally build sustainable and lasting habits?

Here are some tips:

  • Make taking the specific action as easy as possible (don't go to the gym to burn 10,000 calories; go to the gym to walk on the treadmill for one minute)
  • Remove points of friction between you and the action (always hit snooze? Try ….the annoying alarm clock….)
  • Create a physical tracker to help you visualize the action that needs to be taken (every day you write, Mark the calendar with a big X)
  • Plan tomorrow's key activities before you close up for the day. Then Prioritize the most important action; do that first thing in the morning before you move onto any other activity.

Lesson #2. High-performing teams are the result of structure (not high-performing individuals)

There seems to be a generally accepted heuristic amongst developers, or at least those who hire developers, and it goes something like: a great developer can be 10x more productive than an "average" developer. Therefore, a great developer is worth 10x the value of an average developer, thus making it imperative you hire the best developers possible (because their impact is exponentially higher than an average developer).

More importantly, I've heard this heuristic holds true across all intellectual domains.

Chris Lema is a WordPress expert, and someone who has built high-performing virtual teams since the 90's. You can read more about his work at chrislema.com.

Chris is familiar with this truism...

But as it turns out, while an individual may be exponentially more productive than his or her peers, that doesn't mean the team as a whole will benefit.

According to an interesting statistic Chris shared on stage at the seanwes conference, 50% of teams that hire top performers (what I'll generically refer to as a “rockstar”) end up performing WORSE as a team over the next 3 to 5 years.

So that means stop hiring the best people possible, right?

Not quite.

It means you should still hire the rockstar, but make sure the role, responsibility, and expectations are aligned.

Chris used a transportation example to draw the analogy: some people are race cars, some people are trucks / semi’s, some people are vans, and some people are 4-door cars.

Each type of person has his or her own place within your hierarchy.

For example: the race car is fast, but is high-maintenance and can’t carry others with them. The semi, conversely, is slower, but is low-maintenance and can carry a big load…

Each is suited for a particular task.

So recognizing these attributes is key, as is recognizing the task at hand, and being able to place the right person in front of the right problem set.

Bonus tip: in order to grow as a high-performing team, you’ll need to cross-train employees. Aka: make the engineers learn marketing and sales, the marketing and sales team learn support and customer success, etc. etc. Of course, this means performance will degrade in the short run, but is necessary for long term performance, growth, and success.

Lesson #3. Reactive marketing automation will change the future of online marketing

Brennan Dunn is the creator of doubleyourfreelancing.com, and founder and CEO of the very exciting new “reactive marketing” software rightmessage.com.

What is “reactive marketing"?

It's a neologism Brennan coined (to my knowledge) that refers to automatically personalizing the content someone will see based on their personal profile, which is progressively updated over time based on the actions they take.

seanwes conference tom morkes brennan dunn new opt - 4 unconventional business insights from seanwes conference 2017

During the conference, Brennan shared a story to elucidate this form of marketing: when he was in Las Vegas walking down the strip, a bar / club promoter called out to him, saying: "Great news, we’re running a special for guys with beards wearing blue shirts today. Come on inside!"

Brennan had a beard and was wearing a blue shirt.

Of course, this example of reactive marketing is essentially a gimmick…

But it's attention grabbing and demonstrates the power of personalization.

Now let's apply this to something that's not a gimmick.

Say you run a publishing company. Your blog has articles about fiction and nonfiction publishing. Someone comes to your site and reads an article on “the 10 rules to great fiction writing.” This person reads the blog article, then subscribes to your email newsletter at the bottom of the page. This person automatically receives your welcome email, which asks them, via a survey, where they are at in the process of writing: just getting started, almost finished, ready to ship! The person clicks “ready to ship!”

So, at this point, we know this person is:

  • Interested in fiction writing
  • Is ready to publish a fiction novel

The next day, your automated email suggests this person should attend a webinar…

Your generic webinar pitch typically looks like this:

Authors: want to publish a book? Make sure you don't make these 3 mistakes that could cost you thousands.

Not bad.

But by using reactive marketing, you're able to collect multiple data points, which allows you to dynamically change the pitch to something more personalized:

Fiction writers: have a book that's ready to publish? Make sure you don't make these 3 fiction author mistakes that could cost you thousands in royalties.

What's more compelling?

The latter of course.

Now you might say: well of course that's compelling, but Tom, I barely customize my marketing as is, how could I possibly implement this in my business?

If you had asked me that question a year ago, I would have told you to hire a developer and custom-code the solution.

Lucky for you, there's a new, off-the-shelf software solution that makes this kind of dynamic changes possible, without having to hire a devleoper. It's called www.rightmessage.com.

One line of code and you're off to the races.

As you can guess, I'm pretty excited about this software, and already have beta access. As I test it out in the real world, both on my personal projects and client projects (like the upcoming Teachable Summit 2017 - more on that later), I'll share more inside my free newsletter.

Lesson #4. Selling information is dead; long live selling information

Scott Oldford is the founder of Leadcraft.co. In the past decade, he's gone from $700,000 in debt to building multiple 7-figure businesses.

Not a shabby turnaround.

Scott is known for his infoproduct courses and his use of Facebook to generate 6-figures in profit monthly from his courses…

...but in just the last week, he's shut it all down.


Maybe not…

You see, Scott has decided that in the future, all content will be free, or essentially free because it can be found online. Further, in this future, people won't be looking to spend money on information, but rather will put a premium on customized solutions.

So Scott has shifted his entire business to selling tight ticket (5-figure or greater) custom marketing plans, and generating his ideal client by producing lots of content (as in, daily blog posts; daily social media comments / commentary, etc.) that he gives away for free.

I like this model; it's something I've been doing for the last couple years and I have no shortage of clients...

But I also sell digital products (books, courses, etc).

So you can consider me somewhere in the middle (if the dichotomy is: strictly digital products vs. strictly coaching / advisory).

So if this strategy is appealing to you, how do you implement it?

Use content to attract your ideal customers; create a ton of content and share it for free; be the only person in your customer's mind when it comes to X (whatever it is that you do); create a personal “blue ocean” where there are simply no competitors because you have earned the trust and attention of your ideal customer; sell high-ticket, done-for-you or done-with-you solutions.

I still think great books and great courses can fit into this mix; and I think this shift in strategy will actually improve your digital product offers...but it does mean getting over that emotional anxiety that wonders “am I sharing too much?”

The answer: you can't. So keep sharing.

BONUS -> Lesson #5. Tell better stories

Ha, and you thought I would only share 4 lessons.

Well here's a bonus lesson, all about effective storytelling...

Kevin Rogers is a comedian turned copywriter, and founder of copychief.com.

During his presentation, Kevin shared his strategy for creating effective, story-driven content.

His story writing structure follows this formula:

  1. Identity
  2. Struggle
  3. Discovery
  4. Result

Here’s Kevin’s bio which applies this structure:

Iʼm Kevin Rogers, I spent years as a dead-broke stand-up comedian, until I discovered how a simple joke formula can be used as an irresistible sales hook and began teaching marketers how to use it to skyrocket sales and grow their businesses. Now, Iʼm one of the most in-demand sales consultants online, earning more in one month than I once did in an entire year.

The best part about this formula? You can customize the struggle, identity, and result based on context.

I'm still working on an iteration of this for my website, and specifically for my “elevator pitch” - unfortunately, I don't have anything ready to share just yet. But when I do, I'll share my experiments in my newsletter.

Your Turn

What do you think of these ideas and insights?

Which do you plan to implement yourself?

And last but not least: should I share some more of my personal notes from events, conferences, and the like in the future?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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4 comments on “4 unconventional business insights from seanwes conference 2017”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights, Tom! I've seen the same shift in the market when it comes to information vs. customized solutions. At the same time, I believe that we'll still succeed with digital programs if we teach a system rather than information, and if we also add a community component to the programs. Hope they bring the conference back!

    1. great point Cloris. There are some people who are crushing it with digital products still; it's just more competitive than ever to sell a $100 or $1000 course now. Doesn't mean there's not a ton of potential if that's your focus, of course 🙂