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Ep. 032 – Mike Stelzner’s biggest success is the Social Media Marketing World conference: I realized that going to conferences is really the secret sauce to success for so many of us.


Michael Stelzner Show Notes

Michael Stelzner is the founder of Social Media Examiner, author of the books, Launch and Writing White Papers, and the man behind Social Media Marketing World–the industry’s largest conference. He’s also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast, founder of the Social Media Marketing Society, and host of the weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show.

Most passionate about

  • I recently started something brand new, called The Journey, which is episodic documentary – a weekly short documentary about my company and the impossible mission that we are on to take the conference to a bigger place, which seems impossible right now. And every week, I’m documenting the struggle and how I’m breaking through in a short 5-7 minute videos, and so far my community loves it.
  • We plan on doing it for five months, until the Social Media Marketing World conference. I think it’s one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, because it’s a real documentary about a real company that struggling to become successful.
  • Our conference, Social Media Marketing World, had 3100 people there in 2017, and we want to grow that by 62% year over year, and then another 100% a year over year. We want to get to 10,000 people on the conference of 2019, which would more than triple our growth in 24 months. And we hope that, by sharing this journey, people will help us accomplish our mission, and a lot of people would find it entertaining, exciting, and learn from it along the way.

Michael’s Career

  • I started as a writer, and then in 2009 I did what I call ‘my great experiment’ when I was able to secure the website,, for 10 dollars. And I connected some of my friends that were writers and encouraged them to write for this movement that I was starting that was called Social Media Examiner. In 2009, there were not a lot of websites that were giving out a lot of free information and this thing just took off, and in months, all of a sudden I had a crazy successful blog in my hand!
  • And then the rest is history… right? From that blog we were able to launch online conference, and then a physical conference, and then a podcast and live show; all these things that we are doing today, over eight years later.

Michael’s customers

  • Anyone who understands the importance of doing marketing with social media, so it’s typically somebody who is either a self-employed person who has a business and doesn’t have a lot of money, and wants to figure out how to use Social Media to grow the business or it’s somebody who works for a business, and their job is to do marketing for that business. I classify all these people as the label marketers.
  • Social Media changes every week, this is what gives us longevity because unlike other industries, like science for example, where once you discover something that’s true, you can kind of rely on that forever; in the world of social media marketing, things change constantly and as a result, marketers need to keep up with it all and that’s where we come in.

Michael’s best advice about approaching the customers

  • I think that when you get started, you really need to talk to a lot of people to really understand what their problems are. That could be through going to an event where a lot of people that met your customers happened to be and talking with them to understand what the customers’ problems are. If you already have some people in an email list, you can send an email to them, asking them a lot of questions to understand what their challenges are. But somehow survey or ask what the challenges are, I think it’s the number one way that anybody can be successful.
  • A lot of times we guess we think that everyone is like us, which is totally not true, and we say “if everyone is like me then they would be interested in that,” and then we just throw it out to the world and hope it sticks.

Biggest failure with a customer

  • I was already very successful, and in my mind I thought well, I will take what I’ve done here and I’ll just try it in a new space. And I assumed I would be successful, because I’d already done it before.
  • I started a project called My Kid’s and my goal was to create something for parents of young children who are looking to help them do things in a non-digital way… anything that was not a computer screen.
  • And it didn’t work! I spent an enormous amount of money on it, it was a huge failure, and this was while Social Media Examiner was exploding. The lesson that I learned from this is that we must stop something to start something. It wasn’t the right time for me to take this project on. I shut it down, but I learned a lot in the process. It was a great learning experience and very humbling.

Biggest success due to the right customer approach

  • I think that the greatest success that I’ve ever achieved was deciding to not just teach people online but teach them in person too. The year was 2013, I launched Social Media Marketing World, 1100 people showed up and many of them told me that was the best experience they ever had in their life and for me that was a really big deal because I didn’t know if it would work. And now we are coming up on our 6th year here and I know now that it’s the best thing that we do. I had to be willing to try and I’m glad I did because there is no looking back now.
  • The reason I started the conference was that when I launched my website the Social Media Examiner, I went to two conferences and I made contacts with a lot of the speakers while I was there, contacts that became very instrumental in the growth of my company. I began to realize that going to conferences and trade shows is really the secret source to success for so many of us.
  • I saw how poorly many of these conferences were done, and I wanted one for my audience… I wanted such a conference for me… So, I tried to make an event that was done right and would work.

Recommendation of tools for customer focus, marketing, or sales

  • Even though I run a company and conference that are called Social Media Examiner and Marketing World, I think the technology which is the best is e-mail. So many businesses are building their “house” on rented lands – social platforms, and suddenly those platforms change the rules and we no longer are able to reach the audience we want to reach.
  • That’s why every business must have a strategy for building their own email list. For not being dependent on somebody else when they want to contact their audience.

Recommendation of a person, or a book that impacts Michael’s “customer focus” and success

  • There is a really good book by Doctor Henry Cloud and the book is called Necessary Endings; it’s about how there are times we must end things in order to start new things. I don’t read a lot of books, but this book was such an eye opener to me.

The point when Michael stopped chasing after customers and started to attract them

  • You know what? I never chased customers! Let me rephrase; with this company, I never had to chase customers. And the reason why is because I’ve learned that when you all the time give and give and give, you don’t have to do much for those people to want to become customers.

What is your one key success factor?

  • I would have to say truly knowing who our audience is and giving them exactly what they want, for free, over and over again.

Michael’s Mountain

We believe that the best or the right way for entrepreneurs to get a fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, which always reminds me of mountaineering, or conquering the mountain, so I want to ask you if there is a mountain you dream about climbing or a mountain you have climbed already?

  • The Grand Canyon is the mountain that I’m thinking of, and it exactly the opposite of climbing a mountain. To climb down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and up, it’s the opposite of climbing a mountain. I’ve never actually being able to make it all the way across the entire canyon. Someday I’d love to descend into one side of the Canyon and then ascend all the way out to the other side of the Canyon.

Resources Mentioned:

The best place to connect with Michael

Recommended Book:

More resources for Entrepreneurs

  1. Don’t Miss – Customer Focus Strategy & Execution: Market Analysis for Fundraising
  2. Hayut Yogev’s Latest post: The three free, most practical steps to researching and locating your market
  3. Former interview: With Richard Chowning opened Africa Mentor to help businesses get into the continent, succeed, and create jobs, to lift Africans’ standard of living


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