Monetizing Online Customer Relationships with Events

The hidden factors that can determine the success of live events, and how we chose Napa Valley for the Mequoda Summit

Of the nine proven methods used by successful publishers for making money online, the top of the pyramid—and the potentially most profitable—is live events.

If you have a loyal constituency of readers who are paying customers, whose appetite for your narrowly focused, niche information is insatiable, you might want to consider adding a live event held at a “destination” location.

Last year (2008) marked the first in which Mequoda held a second, two-day conference that explains, in detail, the best practices for starting and running a profitable online publishing business.

The Mequoda Summit, held each autumn since 2005 in Boston, was also presented for the first time in Napa Valley, California in April. Both venues were a sellout, with a total of about 130 publishing professionals attending.

Now, everywhere I go, the first question people ask is about how the Napa Summit registration is going in the in the midst of an economic recession. Answer: Very well. Overall, we’ve seen that most publishing companies don’t consider the Mequoda Summit a luxury, but more of an investment in a survival strategy.

The second question is about how we came to choose Napa, a beautiful, but not entirely convenient, resort destination that is about 90 minutes from San Francisco International Airport.

The answer is simple. That’s where you told us you wanted to go.

Eighteen months ago, before we went to Napa for the first time, I attended a Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) meeting in Chicago. I simply asked the assembled group of 25 publishers where they would like us to hold this new, Spring Mequoda Summit.

I offered four West Coast venues — San Diego, San Francisco, Monterey and Napa Valley — and asked for a show of hands for each. Every last publisher raised a hand for Napa Valley.

Several weeks ago in Amsterdam, our European publishing colleagues also expressed an interest in Napa Valley. It turns out that more than a few of them like California wines as well as world-class golf courses. Napa Valley excels at both.

The Silverado Resort, where the Summit is held, offers two 18-hole Napa Valley wine country golf courses, each in the distinctive style of their architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr.

So, we know that some of the Mequoda Summit attendees will stay over for a few days of golf and touring the area’s world-renowned wineries.

Last year’s Napa Summit was attended by an almost equal number of Americans from both East and West of the Mississippi, plus, a considerable number of Europeans. In fact, as many of our publishing colleagues from the Continent attended the Napa Summit as did the Boston Summit.

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So why have we chosen Napa again, you might ask?

Well, there’s the polling data we had from the SIPA execs. Plus, the sellout, capacity crowd who came to Napa Valley last year.

Interestingly, the Mequoda Napa Valley Summit drew more entrepreneurs and business owner/operators than did Boston. These are people running start-up Mequoda System publishing businesses starting ranging from $300,000 and methodically working toward $2 million in annual revenues. Of those that were fully operational for at least 12 months, the largest is doing $3.5 million in sales.

Who are these Mequoda System publishers?

Some are independent operations with three to five employees. Others are larger, corporate-owned publications.

This is our core constituency, and they all seem to love Napa Valley!

What about you? Do you offer a live event for your premier customers?

Don’t underestimate the importance of choosing a very desirable destination.

By the way, will you be joining us at the Mequoda Summit Napa Valley in April? Seats are filling up fast. Details at


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