In our last article about John Lawson's Business (E)ssentials Boot Camp, attendees shared their experiences at the first two-day boot camp. Their reviews were fantastic. All the attendees told us about the actionable information they gained and the steps each planned to take to improve their operations.
The sellers also talked about the power of the networking experience, itself, and how enriching it was to work together in small groups that were reconfigured frequently and often included the presenters. For this article, we spoke with Lawson of ColderICE Media about his thoughts for putting his boot camp together and the insights he gained from his first session.
You know you're going to come to a 'boot camp,' and you'll leave having become better
We also asked Stephanie Inge, a long time eBay educator, to share her thoughts about the boot camps she offers in her home state of Texas. (Inge is the founder of the seller's group The Dallas eBaybes & eMales.) With two such stellar e-commerce merchants and educators, we knew there would be a lot to learn.
Educators see a need
Lawson wanted a deeper relationship with his followers when he began planning his boot camp. His goal was to take the round-table part of conferences—so often well received—and focus a whole learning session on that.
"The networking would be amazing," he notes.
Inge shared the same idea. "There were no eBay boot camps being offered in Texas," she explains. "I thought there was a definite need. My college eBay classes are usually offered four times a year and not as in-depth as I would like, so the boot camp could fill the gap."
The experts called their sessions "boot camps" for similar reasons. Lawson had attended a workshop promoted as a boot camp.
"I asked the presenter why he chose that name, and he said because nobody wants to work and 'workshop' had negative connotations," he recalls. "You know you're going to come to a 'boot camp,' and you'll leave having become better."
It all comes down to two components: the product you sell and the marketing to make people know about the product. If nobody sees it, it's not going to sell
Inge thought the name was trendy, but even more important it says "hands-on training," she says.
"I do not use PowerPoint, as everything is taught live, and students follow along on their own computers," she adds. She selected the name "Auction Success Boot Camp" for her sessions, which she has presented twice.
Boot camps focus on different groups
Each boot camp targets different markets. Lawson's targets small-business owners.
"If you're a hobbyist, you'll still get a lot," he says, "but there's a difference for business owners."
His sessions are for both e-commerce sellers and owners of brick-and-mortar shops. "It's come to a place where all business owners need to use social marketing," he explains. "We had a few at this first session who weren't online. They add value because they have another perspective from e-commerce."
Inge's goals are a little different. She offers a comprehensive boot camp for beginners. "My goal is to take a complete novice through each and every step, including digital photography, photo editing, customer service best practices, packing and shipping, and where you can get all your shipping supplies for free," she says.
Inge targets all types of newbies from stay-at-home parents to displaced workers to retirees and soon-to-be retirees. "Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit," she continues.
Lawson's boot camp focused mostly on marketing strategies. "It all comes down to two components," he explains, "the product you sell and the marketing to make people know about the product. If nobody sees it, it's not going to sell."
That was another reason why Lawson found the mix of online sellers and brick-and-mortar merchants compelling.
"You need a good product and a way to get the word out about it," he notes. "We're not as different as we think we are. We're in the same family."
Two days versus one
The relationships they made in the Mastermind groups became a very strong bond for them as businesspeople. They left with a trusted network of peers with whom to keep in touch
Seeing these two groups of merchants coming together to share insights and strategies was an exciting experience, and one of the main reasons why Lawson made his boot camp a two-day session.
"The reason it was two days instead of one was the Mastermind group," he says. "That's when I split them up into smaller groups and each of them got to talk and get feedback from the group, itself. The sessions were spectacular, but the relationships they made in the Mastermind groups became a very strong bond for them as businesspeople. They left with a trusted network of peers with whom to keep in touch."
Inge will extend her single-day boot camp to two-day sessions to "give the students more time to absorb and implement what they're learning," she says. "One day really isn't enough."
Lawson and Inge plan to continue their boot camps. He will keep his small. "I actually like smaller events," he notes. "The first one was for 50 people, and we had about 38 who actually attended. I looked at the room and thought I could double that, but not go any bigger."
Lawson's presenters had 90 minutes each, which allowed them to really engage with attendees. "They were really able to deal with the attendees' questions, and then they hung around for the rest of the day," he adds. "You actually got to talk to the people who presented."
More boot camps to come
Inge generally offers her boot camps in September or October so she can help get people up to speed before the prime selling season. "Boot camps require a lot of planning, and I highly recommend creating a student manual to hand out to everyone," she says. "Also, make sure that you find a venue that is quiet and has high-speed Internet."
She's planning to ultimately record her classes and upload them to be purchased and watched online for those who can't attend. The recordings will be free to all attendees, so they can reinforce what they've learned.
Lawson is planning multiple boot camps in the next year or so. He has one scheduled for Dallas in August and another in Atlanta in October. In the next year he plans to have the boot camp in Las Vegas, San Jose, CA, New York and Chicago. He doesn't plan to make his materials available online, and considering the focus his boot camps place on professional networking, that makes sense.
It's almost like going to a concert. There is no replacement for being there
"There is something to be said about being in the room," he notes. "It's almost like going to a concert. There is no replacement for being there." He adds that since his boot camps are in beta testing, the price to attend is lower than it will be in the future.
Inge's sessions will keep their $149 price tag.
Which boot camp should you attend?
Considering that these two dynamic and well-experienced sellers and educators are addressing their boot camps to different audiences, there is likely to be something for everyone. If you're just starting out, you'd be hard pressed to find a better guide than Inge, who has been educating new eBay sellers for years.
If you've got a business up and running, but you need a better understanding of social marketing, SEO, video presentations and branding, Lawson's sessions will deliver all of that and a whole new network of peers you can turn to for help.