What is #ICON14? Day One highlights from Infusionsoft’s small business conference

(Read highlights from Day Two here.)

It’s hard to find a company that “gets” small business owners. Most big companies create products and services that they think small business owners want; but we know, when we see them, that they aren’t for us. Even as they are selling to me, I feel like they are looking over my shoulder at the next, bigger company. It’s like I’m the awkward nerd at the prom.

Infusionsoft is different.

So what is ICON14? This week Infusionsoft is throwing a huge conference that’s all about helping small business owners to “attract, sell and wow” their customers. The Phoenix convention center is packed with business owners looking to use the power of the Internet to drive the growth of their business. The level of passion and energy in the room is so palpable you breathe it in–like oxygen in a Vegas casino. (And if you’re not there, you can watch the live stream here)

Infusionsoft ICON14 Conference

Photo credit: Marty Vernon

The conference kicked off with Clate Mask, Infusionsoft’s CEO, who demonstrated just how much Infusionsoft understands, and is committed to, small business. Infusionsoft’s own research revealed 4 characteristics that separate Entrepreneurs from other business people:

  • Entrepreneurs have more passion and drive.
  • Entrepreneurs want more control over their income and career.
  • Entrepreneurs are Innovative – there’s no SIC code for what most of us are doing!
  • Entrepreneurs use their expertise to inspire others and benefit the world around them.

Infusionsoft’s research also recognizes that running a business is hard–in more ways than one. It does not just demand high levels of expertise across multiple areas (and the stamina to keep up with constant change). But it’s lonely at the top! It’s hard to find someone who understands you and your entrepreneurial journey. Your parents weren’t necessarily excited by your choice to start a business–“Why couldn’t you be a doctor, or a lawyer?…”. Your friends thought you were crazy. Your spouse knows you are! Who do you turn to when you are in the trenches?

Needless to say, Mask re-affirmed Infusionsoft’s commitment to the small business owner. And it was convincing. At a time when many software companies are trying to pitch to the corporate kids on the block, Mask said very clearly, “I don’t care about larger businesses. We’re committed to small business.” There’s no question about who they’re wooing. And man, it felt so good to be wooed (and so remarkable to find kindred spirits in the crowd of attendees as well as in the company hosting us!).

But the best was yet to come! Simon Sinek came next, speaking from the themes in his new book Leaders Eat Last and he blew us away!

Sinek called us out as leaders, and as human beings, to make our workplaces safer for our team members. He reached back into our evolutionary history to tell a story about what makes many “normal” business practices trigger defensive reactions from our team members; and how these practices really only serve to undermine commitment and engagement.

Leadership is, first and foremost, the responsibility to keep those around us safe. The team gives leaders special status and material benefits so that they will serve the team and keep them safe. That’s our job.

Sinek took questions from the audience at the end of his talk, and his answers to these questions hit even harder than his prepared remarks. Several of the audience members were in tears as they asked about how to keep their teams safe and engaged. Buy the book! These ideas will make an impact on you as a leader–in your business–and as a person–in your life!

In the afternoon there were many breakout sessions aimed at helping us be more effective Internet marketers. Here are a few of the themes I heard, often expressed by more than one speaker.

Tyler Garns on “Automation that Converts”

  • Automation is not a strategy. Automation makes good strategies more effective.
  • The only strategy that works consistently is to help your prospect get to where they want to go.

Brad Martineau on 6 Secrets of Successful Online Marketers

  • Write every email, and every web page to one person. Segment your list until each member of the segment will respond as if it’s written to them.
  • Never let any page go to waste, especially a thank you page (after an opt-in or purchase). Use it to:
    • Ask a question that helps you understand what segment the person is in, or qualifies their likelihood to be a good client.
    • Sell them something (from an opt-in) or upwell (from a purchase).
  • People buy from people they know, like, and trust.
    • Tell your story so people can get to know you!
    • Talk about Why you do what you do. People trust you more when they know your why.
  • Never sell one thing. Always upsell. The second sale is easier than the first.

The rest of the afternoon was just fun. Each of the Small Business ICON Finalists made presentations about their businesses and told a bit of their story. I think all of us in the room saw our stories reflected back to us through the stories we heard. It was affirming, instructive, and inspirational.

I can’t wait for day two! So much to learn, so many folks to meet and learn from! I wish you were here at #ICON14. And if you are — give me a shout! I would love to meet up with you. Tweet me at @blfarris.

(Read highlights from Day Two here.)








Brad Farris

As principal advisor of Anchor Advisors, Brad Farris has experience leading businesses & business owners into new levels of growth and success. Through his work with over 100 Chicago area small businesses he has experience in guiding founders and business owners through the pitfalls and joys of growing their business. Prior to joining Anchor Advisors, Brad spent over 10 years managing business units for a family-owned conglomerate with sales of $2 million to $25 million.
When not working Brad enjoys cycling, cooking and the NFL. He is married with 5 children and lives in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • MartyVernon

    Great post Brad – you totally nailed the mood during Clate and Simon’s moving talks! Really enjoyed reading and reliving the experience that was ICON14.