Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And that is exactly what the COVID-19 shutdown was for Robin “Relentless Red” Robins. Just three weeks before the opening night of the 13th annual IT Sales and Marketing Boot Camp — one of the IT industry’s largest events — they were forced to shut down.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and sending her entire team home because of stay-at-home orders, she shifted the live conference she’d been planning for over a year to a virtual one. This year’s theme of “Fight Club” turned out to be a very appropriate one.
Making this pivot not only required finding and testing an appropriate platform for the virtual event but also finding an available studio to handle the high-level requirements of such an event; renegotiating contracts with 80-plus vendors, 1,200 previously registered attendees, and several hotels; and rescheduling speakers and production technicians. She and her Technology Marketing Toolkit (TMT) team built a new website, changed the agenda to fit the problems facing the IT industry right now, and even replaced George Foreman last minute when he couldn’t attend. Skepticism about whether a virtual event would deliver the same value forced her to shell out $658,000 in refunds in cash within 30 days — an obligation she made good on. But that’s not the only situation she had to deal with.
Robins, despite her already heavy load, rose up and led her team, creating 12 spectacular new webinars, lead generation funnels, call scripts, and offers during the same six weeks they were creating a virtual boot camp experience. Mind you, they did this with no role model, no templates, and no prior experience doing a virtual event of this magnitude.
Champions Train Every Day
As Robins entered the stage on opening night — just six weeks after the shutdown — wearing boxing gloves and a boxing robe embroidered with “Relentless Red” and shared the intimate details of her own fight, I felt inspired to find my own courage to fight during these tough times. It also made what I was about to witness all that more impressive.
“When we picked ‘Fight Club’ as our theme … I had no idea what we would be facing,” Robins confessed during her opening remarks and state of the union address. “It has been a back-alley, bare-knuckle, hardcore, no-holds-barred fight.”
Despite the difficulties, she was able to ramp up registration to a whopping 4,872 attendees, secure nine NEW sponsors, and land Marcus Lemonis as a keynote speaker. Most people wouldn’t have been able to pull this off with a year of planning. Robins and her team? Six very short weeks.
Boot Camp Attendees Didn’t See This Coming
When first entering the virtual platform, I was wowed in the first five minutes by the innovative boot camp the TMT team created. A visual representation made it easy to navigate through eight stages, the vendor exhibit hall, a networking lounge, a help desk, and a replay library.
A virtual briefcase provided a quick and easy way to save the dozens of materials, templates, speaker slides, tools, and resources provided.
But this was just the tip of the iceberg. From the breakout sessions to the main stage, the speakers tailored their presentations to help the 4,790 MSPs in attendance, focusing on what the IT community could do to thrive in this new economy. The presentations delivered powerful, essential material to the IT community and highlighted opportunities and solutions for cybersecurity, client and monthly recurring revenue (MRR) retention, member concerns, marketing, lead generation, and closing sales in these turbulent times.
The Fight Matters More Than Ever
Robins, along with the other speakers, made it abundantly clear that while the needs of the customers, the cost of acquisition, and the people you are selling to will change, there are a few things that won’t change:
People are still spending money. Multiple MSPs revealed they’ve closed impressive sales amid this crisis.
The fundamentals of marketing have not changed. In fact, it is even more essential to understand them and apply them now.
Whether you fail, survive, or thrive during this time is entirely up to you and how you respond. “Success is behavior-based,” Robins said. “It’s all based on you and how you behave. The majority of people do nothing. They cut costs and hunker down, lay people off, starve their marketing out of fear, and stop investing in themselves … There are a lot of opportunities for IT right now, but you have to be ready for it, you have to be prepared for it, and you’ve got to pivot fast, just like we did.”
To Be A Champ, You Must Believe In Yourself Even When Others Doubt You
Despite vendor concerns about engagement on a virtual platform, the TMT team delivered an extensive vendor hall rich with a variety of experiences. With 61 vendors, the platform provided capabilities to chat live, make video calls, save resources, view demonstrations, and more. Each vendor made incredible offers, which added up to thousands of dollars in savings for attendees. Robins even threw in thousands of TMT bucks as an added incentive for attendees to visit every booth. Attendees gave overwhelming approval in the live chat, and after chatting with vendors, it was clear the experience exceeded their expectations too.
“Virtual boot camp was a learning experience for us all but an extremely positive one,” Dan Tomaszewski, VP of channel success and Powered Services at Kaseya said. “Being able to talk with all our partners and prospects who were excited about our newly released Powered Services for VSA or RMM at this year’s event was tremendous. Robin and the entire TMT team did an amazing job pulling this from an in-person to a virtual boot camp. We saw thousands of MSPs looking at our collateral and asking for more information on Kaseya’s IT Complete, which is saving MSPs on average 30% with all our solutions.”
Dana Liedholm, chief marketing officer at ID Agent, a boot camp sponsor for the past three years, provides a suite of people-centric cybersecurity solutions for MSPs on their comprehensive Digital Risk Protection platform. Liedholm said, “We were concerned about attendance and engagement with a virtual platform. However, I can’t say enough good things about Robin’s team and the support, encouragement, and just on-the-fly pivot they have done. We are getting the most from our sponsor dollars, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised at the large number of booth visits (over 1,000 by Day Two), meaningful conversations, and interactions with the content and demos in our booth. Nothing compares to a live boot camp, but our team is really happy with the turnout.”
Fight Smarter By Doubling Down On Your Marketing
Over 80 educational trainings were provided during the five-day boot camp to ensure attendees left well prepared for what they are facing in this new COVID-19 economy. The impressive lineup of speakers included the following:
Founder of Technology Marketing Toolkit Robin Robins gave six hard-hitting presentations on what to do now to generate leads, sell, and protect yourself and your profit. Providing dozens of examples for attendees to model in one powerful presentation, Robins revealed the four marketing oil wells that will double IT sales, profits, and MRR in the next 12 months — methods that have been tested and proven to be the most successful. Robins also revealed secrets for ensuring these campaigns work in your business, including three things you must STOP doing. “You must stop trying a bunch of new things until you get core campaigns producing results,” Robins said. “Stop innovating and changing the campaigns we give you. IMITATE before you INNOVATE. And stop leaving BIG, wide gaps of time between one campaign and the next.”
Jocko Willink, Navy SEAL and co-author of the book “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” talked about leadership and how to get your team to take complete ownership of problems.
Donald Miller, author and CEO of StoryBrand, provided clarity on how to get your customer to buy from you, reaffirming that clear messaging will always win in marketing.
Mike Michalowicz, serial entrepreneur and author of “Profit First: Transform Your Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine,” gave an informative talk on a crucial small-business recession response strategy.
Sales expert Dave Dee laid out the steps on how to create a webinar asset (a tool performing well to profit and thrive now) on autopilot.
Speaker, author, entrepreneur, and financial expert Greg Crabtree revealed his Simple Numbers© prescription to achieve 100%–200% return on invested capital for the MSP industry.
Marcus Lemonis, host of “The Profit” and CEO of Camping World, gave the following IT-specific advice to not just survive but also thrive post-COVID-19: “Press on the gas as fast as you can. Because what you provide to the marketplace isn’t optional anymore. What you provide is the only way other businesses are going to survive. And this moment now, I would encourage you to double down on your marketing.”
Every Move That Starts With Heart Earns Applause
Feedback from attendees on the virtual format was overwhelmingly positive. Frequently, you’d see “CMAO!” (clap my ass off) in the chat roll. The words “fantastic,” “phenomenal,” and “blown away” were repeatedly used by attendees to describe their experience.
Ten-year boot camp veteran Jennifer Holmes summed it up well when she said, “Every year you just blow us away with what you do. Your team pivoted beautifully like you’ve been preparing your whole business career for this crisis … I really didn’t think boot camp could get any better. Every year you raise the bar and provide such a world-class experience to so many people … and what’s special about this community is we are just trying to be better.”
Every session throughout the entire conference ran a live chat that made you feel as if you were sitting next to the top performers in the room. Unexpectedly, this added to the experience tremendously as exchanges drove the point home, helped attendees understand better, and allowed speakers to more actively interact with the audience. Many attendees expressed this was a “fantastic format,” even requesting the live chat be added to future live events. “Being able to chat during sessions was very useful,” Dan Izydorek said.
During an emotional live exchange, Raul Olave said, “You did a phenomenal job. At first, I was scared of the format, but you delivered in every single department. The community has meant everything to me.”
Better Your Best Teaches Us To Never Give Up
One of the highlights of the event was hearing the success blueprints from the Better Your Best Competition finalists Tom Glover, Charles Swihart, Pedro Nunez, Will Nobles, and Peter Verlezza. Finalists competed to win the Technology Marketing Toolkit spokesperson of the year and a new Aston Martin. During the award ceremony, each finalist was awarded an engraved heavyweight belt. Charles Swihart earned the title. A two-time finalist, Swihart has focused on increasing profit. He credited TMT’s rapid implementation workshop as a key to his success. “It’s all about the marketing,” Swihart said during his acceptance speech. “You’ve got to do the work. Keep picking another thing and another thing and just keep knocking it out.”
Champions Fight For Others Who Can’t Fight For Themselves
Despite being hit financially, Robins donated prizes for a silent auction and pledged to match $30,000 of her own money to donations made by boot camp attendees to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A total of $115,000 was raised during boot camp. (So far, Robins has raised $655K for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital toward her $1 million goal.)
It’s A Tough Fight. What Will YOU Do To Win?
I applaud Robin Robins and her team. While others sit idly by and wait for the world to go back to “normal,” Technology Marketing Toolkit soars forward.
For MSPs, I highly recommend following Robins’ lead. Do not give in to adversity, doubt, or fear. Instead, focus on what you can control and how you can profoundly impact others. Don’t sit on the ropes. Get out in the ring. Be stubborn and persistent. Double down on your marketing efforts. When you do, no matter what opponent you face, you’ll win the fight and rise and become the champion MSP in your IT market.
As world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.”