This year, Digital Marketer hosted their annual Traffic & Conversion Summit in sunny San Diego, CA. This marketing conference had some really great qualities and a few not so great qualities.
First, here are some quick facts about this event if you didn't get a chance to go:
Title: Traffic & Conversion Summit 2015 (TCS2015)
Host: Digital Marketer
Location: Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, CA
Price: $697 "early bird", $997 "super marketer" & $1,997 "at the door"
Attendance: 3,000 +/-
Attendees: marketers, business owners, sales professionals
Now, let's take a look at the good and bad parts of the conference as a whole.
The GOOD stuff...
By comparison to other marketing conferences around the U.S., the Traffic and Conversion Summit was definitely a major player in the following categories.
Marketing Techniques & Insight
For professional marketers and savvy business owners, this conference was loaded with direct and actionable tactics for generating traffic and converting leads. In that sense, the conference accomplished what it advertised it would do in the title. Many of the sessions spiraled off of the central theme of the CPP (cost per pixel) concept. Explaining their CPP approach would require it's own article. Plus, I don't like to steal anyone's thunder...so you can read more about this on their blog.
Upon arriving at TCS2015, the location was an instant hit. Hosted in the Manchester Grand Hyatt, you're right in the thick of the historic Gaslamp District of San Diego, CA -- which is a really cool area. There are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars all within steps of the beach.
We can all agree that a bad registration can cast a dark shadow over an entire conference. From horrendously long, Disneyland-esque registration lines to the classic, "I'm sorry, I don't see your information in our system," things can get nasty during registration time. However, TCS2015 was off to a good start here. It didn't have any fancy technology to it, yet was fairly simple, organized and quick considering the number of attendees.
Sometimes a conference can be really great, but the people just suck. No fun, all business and bad vibes. TCS2015 attendees had great vibes across the board. Lots of peer networking, idea sharing, high-fiving and laughing were found in the hallways. I think this tends to be indicative of marketers as a whole, but the conference and the location made it that much easier to have a good time. There were even a few inbound marketing agencies in attendance.
The BAD stuff...
You came here for a candid review, so gosh darn it, I'm gonna give it to ya. Here's what was not so glamorous about the TCS2015 marketing conference.
Most conferences of this size will have various industry experts, in addition to the host's staff, lead the info sessions. However, Digital Marketer dominated the sessions (with the exception of a couple paid sponsors). This wasn't terrible given that there was still a solid amount of insight gained, but variety is the spice of life...er, conferences that is. The final keynote speaker was Daymond John of Shark Tank fame, who closed the conference out with a well articulated and slightly humorous perspective on business development.
Food & Drinks
Food was not always provided during the day, and when it was, the plates were unusually small (a clear effort to control portions) and the dishes themselves were just okay. Most people chose to eat out at nearby restaurants. The drink situation was also a bit lackluster. Most marketers and business owners are coffee fiends, so that needs to be available 24/7. However, coffee was only offered in short windows of time outside of the conference rooms. Likewise, the open bars were short lived with drink tickets being issued to each attendee. As a side note, TCS2015 was relatively inexpensive by comparison to other conferences, so the food and drink shortcomings couldn't be judged too harshly.
Very few of the sessions started or ended on time, bleeding into lunch, dinner and break times. Some people take this very seriously (especially when deprived of coffee) but many of the attendees didn't seem to mind that much.
While the Digital Marketer team often proclaimed that the selling would be kept to a minimum, it really wasn't. It wasn't overtly tacky either, but was definitely present. The hosts own a number of other companies, who were also in attendance at the vendor booths, ranging from partner programs to Chinese suits (yes, they were selling business suits at a marketing conference). Almost every session included some mention of one of these companies and their benefits. Again, not over the top hard sales, but still more than you'd find at a typical marketing conference.
Is TCS2015 worth your money and time?
Yes. The hosts also made it pretty clear in the beginning that they are a marketing organization and not the most adept at event planning. From what I've heard about past TCS conferences, the event has been improving each year, which is a positive sign for future events.
In short, if you're accustomed to living the high-life at your conferences, eating sushi, chasing it with Patron and gasping every time the host/vendors hound you for an upsell, you may not find this conference enjoyable. But as long as you are going for marketing insight, light networking and some fun about town, you will get a lot of value out of the Traffic & Conversion Summit.