Currently, there are so many conferences, events, local meetups and seminars taking place that offer a chance to gain knowledge, network and look for new business. It often seems overwhelming.  The real trick is weeding out those that don’t provide value and making the most of those that do. Like all other marketing activities, it’s about the ROI. It seems simple, but it’s not always that easy.

If I had the time, the budget and no other work to for existing clients, I’m sure I could find events taking place all over the country every week that could, in one way or another, offer value, insight, and help grow my business.

Unfortunately, we all have real work that needs to be done and attending conferences requires research and planning to achieve a balance.

Over the last several years, I’ve actually been cutting down on conferences in favor or visits to our clients. I consider that a good opportunity to establish deeper connections with current clients and more fully understand their business in order to maximum how we can help them. But I still understand the value of these large events and just try to make better choices.

Naturally, I still show up at must-attend conference, such as Affiliate Summit and those annual events held by individual networks, as each offers a chance to stay on top of new developments in our specific performance marketing industry as well as meet up with many of  our clients.

More eTail Focused Conferences

But I have also recently seen great value in attending more retail and ecommerce conferences. While affiliate marketing is not fully understood at these types of shows, that offers that opportunity to educate those I encounter about the proven value of the affiliate channel. It also gives me more insight into the mind of ecommerce vendors – their resistance o the affiliate channel, the pain points in their business, their current sales funnel and more.  I usually walk away with some great new service ideas as well as some great leads for new business.

The growth of the overall performance marketing industry, in part, relies on merchants and advertisers. Without new merchants coming into the space, there are fewer offers for affiliates and less business for the networks.  Bringing in new merchants helps my business grow and that is also good for the industry as a whole.

Last week I attended and spoke at the Retail Traffic Summit in Atlanta. The topic of my session: Intelligent Affiliate Marketing: Expanding Your Reach without Getting Burned, also included co-panelist Peter Orlowsky, Vice President of Business Development for Getty Images. We discussed how profitable affiliate relationships demand careful strategy. The session also delved into whether coupon sites are good or bad and how retailers can best utilize these affiliates. We also focused on tradename management in the affiliate channel and the emergence of bloggers as a true longtail opportunity.

The panel was well-received and truly helpful to those ecommerce vendors with an affiliate program and those considering launching one.

A highlight of the event was the keynote by Brad Stone who wrote the book “The Everything Store” about Amazon. One of the top takeaways was a reminder from the book about Jeff Bezos and his chief tenets. It goes something like this: “We don’t have BIG advantages, but if we can take a bunch of SMALL advantages and weave them into a strong rope, we will succeed.” I think this was the best lesson from the book.

I also plan to attend Internet Retailers annual IRCE 2014 event in Chicago next month, which is one of the largest events for ecommerce vendors. I’ve been to several of these conferences over the years and find them truly eye-opening and valuable to my business.

I’ve also noticed that more and more of my affiliate colleagues and peers are showing up at these ecommerce shows. I consider that a good thing. The more we as an industry can enlighten, educated and network with etailers, the more we will see the performance marketing space continue to grow and thrive.