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Shareasale ThinkTank09: Epic Win!

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Shareasale Think Tank 09: What an amazing weekend. Shareasale once again blew the roof off the joint with another great ThinkTank.

If you aren’t familiar with the Shareasale Thinktank I will give a brief overview. It is basically a conference where Shareasale brings in some of the merchants that work with them, some great OPMs, and some of the top affiliates in the industry to talk about what can be done to improve Sharesale, how the merchants can improve their affiliate programs, and overall affiliate marketing industry type stuff. You will rarely find such a great group of like minded affiliate marketers all gathered in the same place.

Now for the real review:

Thursday: I got to Orange County airport at about noon, got my rental car (BTW, I have never had a real pleasant experience dealing with car rental companies. There always seems to be a problem), and headed to the Pelican Hill Resort. Last year the ThinkTank was at the Grand Del Mar down near San Diego and I didn’t think the facilities could get better than that but the Pelican Hill came very close.

I checked in (and got offered a hot towel) and then headed up to my room. The resort is pretty spread out and we were all in bungalows. Mine was about a 10 minute walk from the main lobby up at the top of the hill. I got to my room and I think it is probably the nicest hotel/resort room I have ever stayed in. Super comfortable beds, huge bathroom, comfortable chairs, and a nice balcony with a view of the freakin ocean!!! Doesn’t get much better than that.

After I checked in I headed down to the Coliseum bar to grab a bite to eat. I met up with Scott Jangro, Jeremy Palmer, Tony Pantono and some of the Shareasale crew (Jessica, Emilie,David, and Jason). This restaurant overlooks the pool. This pool is a 136 foot diameter circular pool which is the biggest in the world and it has over 1,000,000 pieces of hand cut, hand laid tile. Pretty impressive.

The Pool at Pelican Hill

The Pool at Pelican Hill

Then it was time for the Yankee-Angels game. The crew going to the game consisted of me, Brian Littleton, Scott Jangro, Missy Ward, Melissa Salas, Eva Klein, and Jeremy Palmer. The group was split between Angels and Yankees fans so we had some good banter going back and forth. We got to the game and were sitting in the front row in right center field right on top of the wall. Awesome game. Probably the best I have ever seen in person. And the Angels ended up winning.

I a limo on the way to the Angels-Yankees game

In a limo on the way to the Angels-Yankees game

One of the best parts about the game was Scott was decked out in his Red Sox gear and Jeremy was in his Yankees gear. And Scott got much more crap from the crowd than Jeremy even though he was rooting for the Angels. Then back in the limo and back to the resort.

We convened in the bar for a bit and then headed back to Jeremy’s bungalow to continue the party. Missy Ward broke out her iPod and it turns out we have nearly the exact same taste in music and I thoroughly dominated everyone in Name That Tune. Off to bed to get ready for a big day tomorrow.

Friday: After 4 hours sleep it is time to golf. The resort has two courses and Brian Littleton, Scott Jangro, Tim Storm and myself tackle the North course. I have some good holes (including a nice chip in) and some bad ones as well. Brian hired a film crew to come follow us around and record some of the “highlights” and of course the catch me on what would be my worst hole of the day. I think I ended up with a 10 including 2 lost balls on that hole. And every one of them was on film.

Brian hitting the green from 207 out

Brian hitting the green from 207 out

 

Brian and Scott walking off the tee. I think we all had decent drives on this hole

Brian and Scott walking off the tee. I think we all had decent drives on this hole

We get back and I grab a quick shower and it is time to head down to the welcome reception and dinner. I get to see a bunch of old friends, many of which I have known for many years and some I have only known for about a year. I always look forward to seeing this group and catching up.

Just a quick side note: I can’t think of an industry I would rather be in and the primary reason for that is the people. Nearly everyone of the people I meet in this industry are awesome. Of course there are a few bad eggs here and there but overall this is an awesome group of people. I can probably easily count 20-30 people in this group I would consider good friends and a bunch more that would probably get into that category if I were to hang out with them more.

So we feast on a great dinner including roast beef tenderloin, some roasted chicken (which was the best non-fried chicken I have ever eaten), lobster and scallops, fajitas, sushi, and much more. Also they showed the golf video that was filmed earlier that day. And yeah, they showed a bunch of my bad shots and none of the good ones but at least it wasn’t as bad as Asif or Mark who hit the ball between his legs. At around midnight I head back to the room to maybe get a few hours of decent sleep before the next busy day.

Saturday: This is the day where much of the work gets done at the conference. We start off with breakfast out on the patio which is overlooking the golf course and the ocean. Pretty sweet way to start the day.

We start the first sessions of the day which is mainly a time for the merchants to present their programs and talk a bit about their target markets, what they do, how to best market their stuff, and so on. Pretty short presentations though. There are 4 or 5 merchants on a panel and they are broken down into 4 categories: Marketing to men, marketing to women, Learning and training systems, and home and office. Not all the merchants fit perfectly into these categories but it was good enough.

I really liked these sessions because it gave a lot of the affiliates a chance to find out a bit about them before we began our afternoon meetings. I was nice to hear from all of them instead of just talking to a few of them.

Lunch was next and we had burgers, chicken, salmon, and some of the best mac and cheese I have ever eaten. Each table was assigned to a vendor, an OPM, an agency or something like that so we could find out a bit about them. We were supposed to rotate through tables but that didn’t really pan out. I sat with the facebook advertising group for a bit and then headed to my room to relax a bit before the afternoon sessions.

In the afternoon we all convened around the pool and had meetings with the merchants in private cabanas. I met with 3 merchants and the purpose of these meetings was to give some feedback to the merchants on their programs and also to find out how we could best work together. We had 2 or 3 affiliates meet at a time with the merchants for about 20 minutes.

These are the cabanas we met in by the pool. What a rough life we lead

These are the cabanas we met in by the pool. What a rough life we lead

I got together with Matt McWilliams from Legacy Learning Systems (along with Jen Goode), Madeline from CSN Stores (with Scott Jangro), and Jed from The Fruit Company (with Wade Tonkin, Stephanie Lichtenstein, and Jen Goode). All three of these merchants seem to really have their stuff together and I am pretty sure I will be doing something with each of them in the near future.

Saturday night we all split up for our individual dinner plans. Some groups went to nearby restaurants, some ate at the hotel, and I went on a boat ride. Mr. Mackin and his wife Ruth Ann invited Emelio Yepez, Michael Coley, Kellie Stephens, Eva Klein, Scott Jangro, and myself out on a nice, relaxing cruise in the Newport Beach harbor. We docked at a restaurant, got our food, and just cruised around the bay for a couple hours. It was a great time and great food. Thanks again Mackin.

On a boat with Emelio, Michael, Eva, Kellie, Scott, Ruth Ann, and Mackin

On a boat with Emelio, Michael, Eva, Kellie, Scott, Ruth Ann, and Mackin

When we got back to the hotel it was time to hit the bar. A lot of the crew was there and we hung out there until around 1:30 when I called it a night and went to bed.

Sunday: Up early again for another great breakfast. Waffles, omelets, fruit, bacon, and much more once again out on a patio overlooking the ocean. Can’t really express how beautiful the views here are.

Breakfast out on the balcony

Breakfast out on the balcony

Then it is time for the “What can we fix” session where Brian sits and listens to comments, questions, complaints, and suggestions about what Shareasale can do to improve and make more money for their merchants and affiliates. Many of the suggestions are pretty good and many of them will probably never apply to what I do but it is always nice to hear some great perspectives from other affiliates.

In the afternoon I head to the pool with Stephanie Lichtenstein and take in the great view and relax in the sun. We are soon joined by Wade Tonkin and after about a half hour of floating around in the water we relax in our lounge chairs and are joined by Roger Snow, Gretchen from FatWallet, Jared from Jenson USA, Todd Farmer, and Lisa Picarelle. Good to relax a bit and just sit and soak up some sun.

And of course there is a Yankee-Angels game tonight so I head to a sports bar with Todd Farmer, Stephanie Lichtenstein, Jeremy Palmer, Kim Rowley, Lisa Picarelle, Angel Djambazov, and Kellie Stephens. I order 1 pound of wings and a plate of fried pickles. I end up eating the whole plate of wings and then realize they brought me the two pound plate. Add a bunch of fried dill pickles and some fries onto that and I am STUFFED.

We meet back with some of the rest of the crew back at the hotel bar to catch the last couple innings of the game and after about an hour or so we head to piano in the lobby so Brian can wrap up a conference the right way.

He sits at the piano and I gotta tell you, he is pretty impressive. We spend the next 2-3 hours shouting out songs and he just starts playing them. Everything from Green Day to Billy Joel to AC/DC to Kenny Rogers. Other guests at the resort stop by every now and then and we are constantly hearing rounds of applause coming from the bar. Awesome time.

We decide the night is still young and Brian Littleton, Missy Ward, Angel Djambazov, Gretchen from FatWallet and I head to Eva Klein’s room for a bit more fun. We don’t want this to end!!! We hang out there for about an hour or so and enjoy some more music and then it is off to bed for the last night at the resort.

What an awesome time!!! First off the facilities were amazing. In many ways I think these facilities overall might have topped the Grand Del Mar from last year but for this type of conference I would probably choose the Del Mar again since it is a bit more intimate and not quite as spread out. But don’t think I am complaining about Pelican Hill!!! I would come here again in a heartbeat.

Actually I would go to wherever Brian decides hold Thinktank without hesitation. He could have this event at a Holiday Inn by the airport in Fargo North Dakota and I would still love it. The facilities are nice but the best part about this conference is the people and the great connections that can be made at events like this.

Is 2000 words enough? Not quite. Don’t worry I am almost finished!!!

First of all I want to give a sincere THANK YOU to Brian and the rest of the Shareasale crew. You won’t find a better group of people anywhere to work with. All of them are awesome people, good friends, and they really know their jobs and do them well. Do yourself a favor and if you aren’t working with Shareasale go sign up with them today.

And I also want to say thank you to all my friends in this industry. When I go to conferences like this and see all of you I realized how blessed I am to be in a business like this with people like this. There are way too many of you to list here and I would be afraid I would forget someone so just realize that I do appreciate you all. If there is ever anything I can do to help any of you out or if you ever have any questions about anything please let me know. I want to do what I can to help you.

Here are a couple more recaps from some of my other friends who attended:

Matt McWilliams – More ShareASale ThinkTank Recaps and Pictures #ThinkTank09
Missy Ward – Shareasale Thinktank 2009 Wrap-up
Shawn Collins – Shareasale Thinktank 2009 Recap

How did you like ThinkTank? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Comments

  1. Great write up of the event Joe! I totally agree that Brian deserves undying gratitude for bringing all us industry peeps together for great sharing, learning, networking, food, fun, etc, etc.. ShareASale FTW!

  2. Wow, great review Joe. It was good to see you there and was an amazing event.

  3. Great write up Joe, thanks for coming and for taking the time to write this post!! Looking forward to Hawaii next year. 😉

  4. Great recap Joe! I mentioned your Rainman-like ability to name that tune in my recap:

    http://www.legacyaffiliateblog.com/news/shareasal

    It was so awesome to meet you finally and I really enjoyed talking to you and Jen on Saturday.

    Thanks for not hitting into us on Friday!

    See ya soon 🙂

  5. Awesome recap Joe. Should I ever lose my iPod, I know who I'm going to steal one from 😉

    See you soon!

  6. Nice recap Joe! Glad I was able to hang with you and check out your impressive name-that-tune abilities. Even when we handicapped you, you still made us look like amateurs.

    • Thanks Eva. Glad I got to meet you and hang with you also. Maybe next time I need more of a handicap.

    • Gretchen Darrell says:

      I'm actually surprised that our dance moves didn't make the highlights, Eva!!!
      Joe, what's up with that?!! In all fairness, I totally enjoyed reading this recap and can't wait for our next amazing adventure in this crazy world they call "affiliate marketing".
      It is Gretchen Darrell, btw. 🙂

      • Well, I had to keep some memories a secret! BTW, when I got home and was plowing through the recorded programs on my DVR I was watching Glee and they did Bust A Move. I will never listen to that song the same way again.

  7. Great recap, Joe. While we did not experience each of the activities you did, we all had great experiences of our own because there was so much to do. You described the reason d'etre of ThinkTank perfectly. It is "the" ultimate industry event and you captured that tone. Thanks for sharing.

    One suggestion, though: If we do go to Fargo next year make it a Holiday Inn "Express" so we end up just a bit smarter…

  8. It was great meeting you Saturday afternoon. I agree with you 100%. This was a great weekend and it wasn't just the venue. It was great meeting such a cool group of people! Thanks for for the great recap.

  9. Nice write up and pics. I should have used Shazam or some other music application to save face 😉 Great meeting you again. Looking forward to seeing you at Affiliate Summit West!

  10. Wayne Porter was there? I didn't get a chance to say hi to him. Awesome post about the event, this industry has a lot of great people in it and Brian gives us the opportunity to get to know each other much better, plus puts us in situations where we can better address the needs of affiliates. Being able to have a conversation without doing "the pitch" each time is priceless. Real time to really find out who is good for us and allow affiliates to get to know what merchants are a good fit for them.

    Affiliate Summit is a great event, but this event allows us to "get to know" each other a lot better.

  11. Fantastic recap, Joe! We didn't chat much at all, but I hope to rectify that come January at Summit.

  12. def a great write up!! great to meet up!

  13. Kellie Stevens says:

    You are my food hero….I bow before your greatness. You did us proud at Rudie's.

    Great seeing you again as always. BTW…guess what I got today at the tob store? The legacy version at that. Just had one. Hmm….was that legal??? 😉

    Keep going to the conferences & doing the excellent recaps..so we can just refer to you.

  14. This was my first time attending Thinktank and I was also blown away by the whole event. I wish I had met you while I was there. Maybe next year.

    I have to agree that the friends that I met have helped me so much in taking my business to the next level. I am so thankful that I was able to go to this event.

    Your photographs are beautiful and your write up made me remember how much fun it was.

    Thanks for inspiring me again. I am also very fortunate to be in this business and experiencing success. I just love it and never dreamed that I could actually work on something so rewarding.

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