I'm sitting in the Santa Barbara airport waiting for my flight back home after spending the previous 3 days at the CJU conference. I have an hour to kill so I figured I may as well get started on this post while things are fresh in my mind.
The first event of the conference didn't start until 1PM on Tuesday. I spent the morning having breakfast, getting my hair cut and doing the tourist thing on State Street. I then made an awesome rookie mistake and I showed up at the corporate offices of CJ around noon and announced, “I'm here for CJU.” The lady who answered the door says, “uh, that's down the street at the hotel by the water.” Oops.
I show up at the hotel about 10 minutes after 12 and check in and get my welcome package. It's a CJ bag with a notebook that has a metal cover and the CJ logo embossed on the front. Inside it has the schedule for the conference and about 50 sheets of lined paper. This came in quite handy. Also included in the package were a pen and a tape measure from show sponsor Home Depot. I put the pen and notepad in my messenger bag and left the bag and the tape measure on a table filled with a number of CJ bags with tape measures left inside. A cool gift to be sure, just not something I wanted to carry for 7 hours before I returned to the hotel.
The first breakout sessions were to be held at 1PM. But, I had requested a CJU Lab appointment and they scheduled me for 1PM. CJU Lab is a one-on-one consultation with a CJ employee. They will log in to your account and answer any questions you have. These sessions are supposed to be 45 minutes long. I got amazingly lucky and got to stretch that appointment to nearly 3.5 hours. If I got back on the plane and headed home immediately following my CJU Lab, it would have been worth the entire price of the trip. Big thanks to Risa. She's a CJ Rock Star and really knows how to dig in to the CJ data. She made the mistake of giving me her card with her phone number and email address. She may live to regret that. 😉
Unfortunately due to the length of my Lab appointment, I missed the second set of breakout sessions as well. The next event we took part in was the Mixer that took place at the Santa Barbara Zoo. I made a few contacts and I got to feed a giraffe. Not a bad mixer if you ask me.
The keynote speaker for the event was Guy Kawasaki. I really enjoyed his talk. He kept the mood light, even telling a Microsoft and Mac joke about screwing in light bulbs. I previously wrote about his keynote, so I won't cover too much of it here. I'd just like to say that CJ did a great job picking Guy as their keynote speaker. I urge you to check out Youtube for some of guy's work. Also, he has published a number of books that you may be interested in. I plan on checking out a couple myself.
After a short break we went to the Exploring Affiliate Marketing Opportunities hosted by Jupiter Research. The covered a lot of information about trends with consumers purchasing and how things are looking for the future. This information didn't hold a lot of interest for us, but there were about 200 people in attendance for the session so it held a lot of interest for quite a few people.
Remember when I said Risa was a Rock Star? As we were leaving this session, Risa spots me and runs up and stops us. She had done some research over night to answer an important question that came up during our lab appointment. See what I mean? Rock Star!
After lunch I came back and went to the Web 2.0 Affiliate Marketing in Practice session. This was my favorite session of the week. They were driving home the point of using social media in order to drive traffic to a site. Melissa Salas from Buy.com was a panelist. She is somebody who has completely bought in to the social media phenomenon. She blogs, she twitters, she's in the forums, she's doing whatever it takes to make the connections. Many of the topics that they spoke about I was familiar with, but listening to somebody who is an evangelist for the methods was informative and a lot of fun.
The next session was called Where Do You Rank in The CJ Marketplace? This was focused on the data available inside of CJ and which data you can use to rate your publishers. They also spoke about ways to make your offers stand out in your vertical and how to offer select publishers incentives that can cause them to drive mass traffic to your offer. If the previous session was my favorite, this one was a close second.
The final day of CJU was pretty light. We had a breakfast buffet overlooking the ocean followed by CJU's Believe it or Not. This was a game show like presentation where had 3 advertisers making up 1 team and 3 publishers making up the other team. The host asked a series of questions that each team had to agree if it was true or false. Most of the questions were designed to show off some specific stats for CJ. Things like the number of publishers driving over a million dollars in product sales and other similar questions. Not a lot of useful learning to be had in this session. It was more of an entertainment session.
The final session we attended was called Innocent Until Proven Guilty. This was an interesting discussion. They had 4 panelists who where talking about how top publishers are all using data feeds from the advertisers to create shopping sites. But, their big complaint is the fact that all data feeds basically suck. Rather than the advertiser spending time to clean up the data feed, it becomes the onus of the publishers to make sure the feed is clean. This is a huge time waster and is likely costing everybody large sums of money. Rather than spending their time trying to drive traffic and sales, each publisher is having to spend their time doing manual cleanup of the data. Even though I don't use the data feeds, I can certainly feel their frustration.
After the final session, everybody went outside to have lunch. But, before lunch started they held the drawing for the door prize. A Mini Cooper. I'm quite sad to say that I didn't win.
I enjoyed my time in Santa Barbara and at CJU. I met some great people, I learned some very interesting information and I've come home with a To Do list that's a mile long. I have big plans for our programs and I'm looking forward to digging in and growing the relationships with our publishers and help them earn more money by providing them the tools and support they need to succeed.
I also came away with a goal for myself. By this time next year I want to triple the number of leads being sent in by our publishers. I'm not fooling myself and thinking it's going to be an easy task. However, by putting in some effort and constantly asking how we can help our pubs, I certainly think it's doable.
We shall see.