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Cutting-Edge Web

Superhero Summit Origins: How We Started & What We Did to Become Successful [Interview]

A month ago my good friend Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing asked me the question:

Where did the idea for the Superhero Summits come from?

Followed by: 

How do the summits make money?

What are the numbers that you’re doing at this point? 

And a bunch of other questions… that have me revealing the exact strategies we used to build the Superhero Summits from the ground up in way that has:

• put our business on the map

• created long-term partnerships with A-list marketers

• generated over 10K opt-ins

• and $100K in profit per event

Listen to the audio above or read the transcripts below

Danny Iny: Where did the idea for the Superhero Summits come from? There are telesummit type marketing campaigns going on all the time. I get invited to be on them every week if not multiple times a week. It’s always the same script, “I’ve got this great opportunity to invite you to be on this telesummit with a bunch of people you’ve never heard of and you just have to send two solo emails to promote it, but it’s a great opportunity for you.” I’m always like, “Okay, yeah right.” Call a spade a spade. If you’re asking for a favor, you’re asking for a favor but you’ve created this series of summits that are really in their own breed and their own category. They work totally different. They feel totally different. You attract really top talent, people that I am really excited to be on the lineup with. How did you do that?

Marisa Murgatroyd: Well, it’s really interesting. The very first one we did—and now we’re on our fifth summit— was the Video Superhero Summit. A friend of mine actually came up to me and asked if I wanted to produce a Summit with him. He was a video marketer. His name is Matthew Peters and he was a video marketer. We were going to call the Summit something really boring like Video Marketing 2013.

And I said, “Well, I’ve heard summits are kind of a good thing to do and I’m open to the idea of doing the summit but I’m not going to do a summit unless we have a hook.”

Matthew had this whole idea to build a new technology platform that would allow people to create different kinds of sales and marketing videos from their cell phones using pre-built template. I thought, well, honestly, creating a whole new app for the summit that give people video marketing capacity, it’s an awesome idea but I just think it might be beyond the scope of what we can accomplish right now.

So, I thought about it and I thought about and I thought about it. It was just in the back of my mind for a few weeks because I kept thinking, “I’m not going to do it unless we got a hook.” There are all these people doing summits and honestly, I’m tired of them and I barely watch any of them myself and you get like twenty people on the line and they’re all talking about kind of the same thing but they don’t make all that much sense and you don’t learn anything. I just didn’t want to do that. It didn’t appeal to me. 

I don’t know what the stroke of inspiration was but the idea just struck me of doing something called the Video Superhero Summit. I just thought, “Well, what about Superhero Summits where we turn everybody into a superhero and we just draw them as characters.” Once we got that core idea, that core hook and positioning in place, the business model behind it really evolved from there.

So, from that point on we thought, “Okay. We’ve got a really cool hook and we think that we can attract great people with this hook because who doesn’t want to be turned into a superhero?”

So, our very first summit, we actually did something really bold. We didn’t have the relationships that we’ve got today so we went ahead and drew all the people we wanted to be in the summit in character form before they even agreed to play. We basically said, “Here’s the superhero version of you. Do you want to be in the summit?” and I recorded audio introductions for each one that was specific to that person. So we invited that person based on who they were and what we knew about them to participate and went ahead and drew them as the character.

On that very first summit, we had Don Crowther, we had Jason Fladlien and we had Andy Jenkins—a pretty good lineup for a total newbie who had three thousand people on her list.

Danny Iny: It’s a very impressive lineup. It’s a brilliant, brilliant strategy. You did a few things there I like and I want to unpack this for our listeners. I’ve never heard the story before but I’m really impressed. You showed them that you’re serious—because you put effort into this, you produced these really cool cartoons. You peaked their interest and I’m sure you did probably a bit of research and everyone’s got their favorite superhero. It’s really brilliant. I’m impressed. We talk often and I’ve never heard this before. So, I’m excited. 

Marisa Murgatroyd: Yeah, and that’s the whole thing. I think that the biggest problem with most summits is that they really are thinly disguised way for the host to build their mailing list. There’s no benefit whatsoever for either the other presenters or a lot of times the participants themselves. 

So, for me, thinking about who were the kinds of people that I want to actually attract in the summit and listen to myself. I spend ten days of my time live on screen hosting for three hours a day and I’d be bored stiff if we sat there talking about completely useless stuff, which a lot of these summits do. 

So, obviously, I wanted it to be something that I was going to learn from. I wanted to bring on people that I really wanted to talk to and interview and learn from.

And have everyone doing this over live streaming Google Hangouts on Air. So the way that that came about is that we were doing the Video Superhero Summit. This was back in—we were planning this in January of 2013—so Google Hangouts were brand new. Nobody had done a summit on Google Hangouts and someone asked me, “How can you possibly do a video marketing summit and not use video? You’re really going to do this as a teleseminar or GoToWebinar?”

So we were kind of looking around for people who are experts in Google Hangouts and at the time there weren’t a lot of them. We ended up realizing that we could take it on ourselves and do all kind of moderation in the summit ourselves because I’m married to a technological Jedi, Murray. We call him Neo, Master of the Code in superhero speak, and we decided to give it a try.

So our very first summit streamed live over Google Hangout on Air so people could see us and interact with us via live chat at the same time as they were training and presenting these webinars. And that was something that nobody had done before, it was a little bit risky because technologically all of it was new and it was buggy and sometimes every time we logged into Google something had changed in the platform, but we were able to do it without a hitch. Nothing really went wrong on the Summit so we streamed for ten days straight during this live event. That also made our Summit note-worthy. 

So it wasn’t just the hook and the angle and the people that we brought in and the curation of the content and the presentations — because I choose ten people who were each going to present on complete different aspects on a very specific marketing topic — but it was also the format, and the branded environment that we created for the presenters to deliver their content and also for our audience to actually engage with the presenters and the content and build a community right there around each and every event.

So that was a totally new way to do it as well. The reason that came about was just simply, it was the Video Superhero Summit and we thought it’s not that congruent or aligned to do a Video Superhero Summit and not use video. So we just chose the best technology at the time and then that turned out to be something that’s gained more and more market interest with time.

Danny Iny: How do the summits make money? They’re not just about building an audience, they’re actually very profitable activities for you, right? 

Marisa Murgatroyd: Yeah, yeah. So, there’s a few different ways that these summits make money. The very first way, of course, is sales on what we call the Superhero Pack. The Superhero Pack is the recordings from the sessions. It’s not just the video recordings, we get them transcribed. We also do video and audio downloads for people in single speed and double speed audio because we know some people like to learn fast. We price that at $97 pre-summit; $147 during summit and $297 after summit. Each price change is displayed through countdown timers on our site and in our emails that create a whole flurry of new sales.

So, pre-summit, people can get an amazingly good deal at $97 and then announce that it’s going to switch over to $147 during the summit so we get a big rush of sales, and then we’ll announce that, as the summit is nearing end, that’s going to switch over to $297.

That’s a big enough jump to sort of inspire more people to invest and the Superhero Pack sales will cover the entire cost of producing the summit and we don’t really to do things on the cheap. We’re a branding company and we really want to do things at the highest possible level so we spend more money than most people spend to create the characters, create a really awesome website, and to do everything that we do to create really good emails, text messages, voice broadcasts and everything else that we do to inspire a large audience to turn out live. 

Danny Iny: Can you share ballpark like how much money—how much goes into doing something like this?

Marisa Murgatroyd: Well, probably our hard cost is less than $10K a Summit once you include everything but that doesn’t really include our time, which is most valuable piece of all. So, we’ve got me and my husband working on this and we’ve got customer support—I think we counted something like three thousand support tickets that came in during the last summit. So we have a team doing that. We’ve got transcription. We’ve got the character art. We’ve got the websites. But this point, we’ve actually developed our own theme so we only have to re-skin it each time and we can re-use the code from each summit, one to the next, so we can automate more and more pieces of that so it gets easier and cheaper to do with every Summit.

So, hard costs are probably around $10K and maybe a little bit more or less—I’m not a super big numbers person but the actual hard cost of the event are covered by sales off the Superhero Pack. We give away fifty percent of that to our affiliates.

The second area, which is the most profitable area is that we get commissions from all of the sales that our presenters make. So, we’ve got ten people making offers of $200 or less. The reason why it’s $200 or less is because it’s a 10-day summit and we don’t want someone to kind of blow their wad so to speak, on the first day and spend two thousand dollars and not buy anything else. That’s not really fair to everybody else. 

We also want to create a little bit of what I call the App Sumo Model in the sense that they create irresistible offers that you can’t get anywhere else. A lot of times, our presenters, our superheroes are really excited about being on the summit so they’re offering a product that’s using $1000 or $500 or $400 for just $200. So, that’s creating a real incentive for people to invest.

The biggest challenge, actually, is to find 10 presenters who have really amazing webinars that they can give that are high value but also know how to sell from the webinar without making people uncomfortable or anything like that and at the same time have high quality products that are in that price range that they know how to fulfill on. So, that’s our biggest challenge with each summit is to find 10 people who really fit the bill in a specific area of marketing like traffic or social media or video. Online business was easier obviously because it’s a broader topic—so that’s really how we make money.

We make 50% commissions on that person’s sale, but we do something really unique in that we have a profit sharing model, and the reason why is we understand that for a lot of the A-level presenters that we have on, 50% of replay pack sales—even if they do super well—is not a lot of money for them. 

We also recognize that their relationship with the audience is super valuable, so we actually split our 50% commission with the referring partner. So, Danny, if you refer someone to the Summit who buys five other presenter products, you’ll get 25% of the sale on those five products. We get 25% and the presenter gets 50%. We usually have one person on each Summit who hits a total home run with their presentation and makes $45K, and then we get a check for $20K-something just from that one presentation.

There’s usually one or two duds—I’ll be completely honest—someone who doesn’t do that well. Then there’s usually one or two kind of out of the park presentations and then there’s a lot of people kind of in the middle, who do alright. But, basically, the replay covers our cost. That one person who does amazing makes the event profitable, and everybody else is kind of icing on the cake.

Danny Iny: Marisa, as I listen to all this, like the marketer and even the copywriter, and you can’t, like,  resist. It’s like the copy is writing itself in my head. Are you going to be releasing like a Summit Superheroes Training Program that walks people through all the pieces and it costs only this much, but for this much extra, they can also get your premade technologies that cost you $10K to put together for your summit that they get it for this amount. Like, is that coming?

Marisa Murgatroyd: I’ve had a lot of people ask me this. It’s just probably a hint that I should do it, but right now, it’s not aligned with what we’re creating in the business. So, for me, chasing the tiny opportunity is a little bit less appealing than actually continuing to build our core product lines and funnels. Who knows, when we have seen these through, maybe I’ll add it on, but I don’t have the bandwidth to creating this now.

Danny Iny: I’ll tell you what, as disappointed as I am—and many of our listeners are probably to hear you say that—I think the economy of the world would be in much better shape if more entrepreneurs had your discipline. 

Marisa Murgatroyd: Thank you. Well, I have to say that one of the pieces of why I think the Superhero Summits have been so successful is that we create a rinse-and-repeat model, where we automate and systematize and optimize every single time we do a summit, so each one grows 20% to 30%. We do 20% to 30% better in terms of the number of leads captured and the number of sales with every single summit.

What I see—and I think it’s a big mistake—is that people are reinventing the wheel each time they want to do a summit like this. They’re creating kind of a one-off event that may or may not be related to their sales funnel and their product line. Then, okay, you’re doing events, which is great, but you’ve just done all of this work for this one-time thing. Now what? If you want to do another summit, you’ve got to start all over again because it’s a different topic and a different sphere of the world, and you have no market recognition. You have no momentum that you can build on.

By doing five summits in the course of two years, we’ve actually created a whole brand that’s recognizable. And, each summit, we get higher and higher profile people because they’ve heard about it, and they want to be a part of it—and they want their Superhero character. 

I have someone every week probably writing me to figure out who the artist is, who designed our characters and where they can get a character done of themselves. My answer’s always the same: The only way to get one of our Superhero characters is to be part of the summit. We give that free to our presenters. We will do them up, but we don’t offer that as a service. We don’t give the names of our artist. We keep that completely close to the vest, and the only way to have a character is to participate.

Now, we’ve got big-name people like Mike Filsaime, Andy Jenkins, and Jason Fladlien, who are using these characters in their marketing because they’re so cool and so well-done. That, in and of itself, is enough to inspire some of the people to say “yes”.

Danny Iny: I can absolutely see that. What are the numbers that you’re doing at this point?

Marisa Murgatroyd: We’ll get a minimum of 10K people to register for each summit, so that’s a minimum. I don’t know—we’re on the verge of a new summit that you’re going to participate in. We’ve just opened the page about 24 hours ago, and I think we’ve had 1,500 registrations in the last 24 hours, but that’s only from my community. Basically, from my Live Your Message and the existing Superhero Summits community, we’ve had 1,500 registrations in 24 hours, but the rest of the presenters probably won’t start promotion until next week. 

I would say, at a very minimum, I think Summit #3 had 9,500 registrations; by the time this podcast comes out, I think it’s going to be on Summit #5. Summit #4 will do well beyond 10K registrations. In terms of total profit, actually, I still haven’t calculated the total profit from Traffic Superhero Summit yet, so I don’t know exactly.

Danny Iny: It’s okay to keep those numbers close to the vest, too. I get that. I didn’t mean to put you on the spot for that. I do want to draw and just underline for the audience something that you alluded to, and I want to make it explicit—about doing these summits over and over again, whereas a lot of people, though, play with the idea of doing the summit. The summit is a big complex thing, with a lot of moving parts, so they’re not going to get spectacular results right out of the gate, especially if they’re new to it, then they move on to the next thing. 

The really smart strategy, the brilliant wisdom inside of what you’re doing is that, whereas a lot of people are chasing after the shiny object, looking for what the next big thing is, you are making a concerted disciplined effort to look at the last thing you did that worked—and do that again but do it better. Again, it’s one of those disciplines that if more entrepreneurs have, I mean, you know, the sky would be the limit.

Marisa Murgatroyd: Totally, totally agree. Honestly, there are times when we’re tired of doing a summit—do you know what I mean?—but at the same time, it’s like we’ve created this amazing reputation in the marketplace. I can walk into a room and people know who I am, just from hosting the summits time after time again. We’ve built our list by maybe 20K-something in the course of a year, just by doing these summits. We have added a couple extra hundred thousand dollars to our bottom line. We have built amazing relationships with the A-players in our industry that can turn into ongoing joint venture partnerships. And, we’ve created an enduring brand that, for me, models the work that I do for other entrepreneurs in helping them message and brand and position themselves. So in a way, it’s a showcase for my own skill set, my own superpower. People ask,

“Well, who built you website?”

“I did.” 

“Who branded that?”

“Well, I did.”

Because we’ve been able to create this for ourselves, people say, “Okay, so she’s good at that. She can help me with that.”

There are a number of things that the Superhero Summits have done. Revenue is a piece of it. The list build is a piece of it. Reputation is a piece of it. Brand-building is a piece of it. Relationships and partners are a piece of it—and so is this opportunity to really display what I do, and I have a lot of fun doing it because this is a really fun brand. 

My main brand Live Your Message, which I adore, is more serious. The Superhero Summits is serving a different emotional market, this emotional market of fun and adventure, which is a really powerful driving factor behind why people buy and why people choose to engage, and I’m having so much fun doing it.   

Danny Iny: Absolutely, and I’ll tell you for myself, I’m thrilled about the exposure that I’m getting by being in the summit. I’m thrilled about the sales made. I’m thrilled about the relationships. I’m thrilled about all of it, but honestly, I would do it all just so I can be Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Marisa Murgatroyd: Well, that’s really it. That’s enough—just to have people do it. It’s such a simple kind of idea, such a simple hook. And, of course, part of it is the execution. I’ve seen so many people try to do drawings that are horrible. Actually investing and getting proper drawings done, something as little as turning everybody into a superhero can land A-list presenters on your summit, which is pretty extraordinary.

One more thing that I did want to add that I think is a really important piece of the Superhero Summit model is if you go to any of our landing pages, you’ll see that we’re not just promoting the summit. We’re actually giving people an immediate piece of value before the summit even starts in that we do these playbooks related to each of the summits—we did the 2014 Traffic Playbook, and we did the 2014 Online Business Playbook—where I did a series of pre-Hangouts with all of the presenters to test the technology and kind of illicit from them the material that we needed to better market them, including information about their presentation and I asked each of them to give us one actionable juicy strategy for the playbook that we then get transcribed and written up into something that gives an immediate experience of value. 

Because we have this playbook as the main squeeze page for the summit, we’re able to get conversions of up to 94% on those summit squeeze pages, which is pretty extraordinary if you know anything about conversion. We have optimized and fine-tuned it. We do split tests on headlines. We have honed in the actual design over the course of a few different summits. We’ve done that, and it really, really works. 

So, that’s something that you can consider if you’re doing a summit, too. What can be a lead magnet that’s not just the event itself, but something that’s immediately and instantly usable by your audience? They’ll sign up just for that, even if they never take part in the summit. The reality is that a lot of people sign up for summits, and they never actually come to a live event or watch any of the events. 

Part of the strategy of the playbook is not just to get the lead, but it’s also to start encouraging consumption—so we’ve got a whole email campaign devoted to encouraging consumption of the playbook—and really engaging people around these strategies that our presenters are speaking about. And that, of course, leads into their presentations, so it gets more people excited to come out live.

Danny Iny: That’s fantastic. Marisa, I’m super, super impressed by what you’ve built in the time span that you’ve built it. We could talk forever. Whenever we get on Skype, we book an hour to talk about whatever the specific topic is, and it takes half an hour of just exploring whatever is going on before we even get to the topic at hand. So, we could go on forever, but we’re already well past time. 

For our listeners who have been completely thrilled and enthused and excited about what they’ve learned from you today and who are so excited and grateful for your generosity in sharing your experience and your ideas, where can get more? Where can they find more of the amazing stuff that you put out into the world?

Marisa Murgatroyd: Sure, Danny. Thanks for asking. Just go to I’ve put together a white paper on how to go from best kept secret to number one in your field using strategies like what I’ve talked about today. So you can get started in turning your expertise and knowledge into a thriving business that expresses who you are and allows you to really be the change that you want to see in the world. 

Danny Iny: Awesome. And, of course, they want to hear more about your Superhero Summit, if they need to get on your list or stay on mine, because I’m a repeat presenter, and just pay close attention to what they’ll receive. 

Marisa Murgatroyd: Definitely. Thank you so much. 

Danny Iny: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the show. 

Marisa Murgatroyd: Definitely, and go out there and Live Your Message.

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About the Author Marisa Murgatroyd

Marisa is the founder of Live Your Message, where she turns entrepreneurs into Online Superheroes, and the creator of Start With You where she helps people just like you to discover the business they're meant to build, not just the business they can build. At 4’11 and a quarter, she’s called the shortest woman in marketing — and that doesn’t stop her from having huge ideas. She’s the “go to” brand builder for industry luminaries and heavyweights such as Justin Livingston, Callan Rush, Danny Iny, Alexis Neely and Susan Peirce Thompson. Marisa helps entrepreneurs create a business that is authentic and aligned with who they are, to empower them to turn up the dial on their “inner superhero”, so they can be the superhero to their tribe, as well as in their own lives.

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