In 2016, how have we lowered industry entry barriers and aided success for women entrepreneurs? As someone who has worked in software-as-a-service companies for a few years, I have met my fair share of resistance as a woman. But everyday, companies such as Thinkific are finding new avenues for women to meet, share information and gain valuable education and experience at online and offline events.
We reached out to Thinkific to learn more about the WE Online Summit and what it has to offer women entrepreneurs in the industry. Tia Fomenoff, Director of Product Marketing at Thinkific, was happy enough to chat about the process of how their online summit began, the challenges women entrepreneurs face and what tools can improve your online business success.
Kathleen Burns: Tell me about how Thinkific came up with the idea for WE Online Summit?
Tia Fomenoff: We first came up with the idea when we saw the incredible success of female entrepreneurs on our platform – in fact, 55% of our top-performing courses are created by women!
This is in stark contrast to the gender gap we see in general entrepreneurship. We wanted to share these impressive accomplishments with thousands of other women and teach others how to harness the opportunity all women entrepreneurs can have in the online course space.
Has Thinkific hosted or had any experience in online summits or online events before WE Online? How did you tackle the process of learning how to start one?
TF: Yes – we had done a number of different live online events before. We recently ran a program called 30-in-30 which brought together a handful of digital experts to teach users how to build a digital marketing engine for their business and get 30 new course enrollment in 30 days. It was received extremely well with thousands of registrants.
We took what we learned with that event and have applied it to this larger online summit. We also looked at some other summits that were already successful and pulled things from those that we thought worked well while adding our own touch.
How has WE Online Summit improved or inspired a community around it?
TF: Many of our top course creators assert that the majority of their success can be attributed to community building. This ranges from building a community of clients, to crowd funding, to building a strong network of like-minded entrepreneurs that they can learn from.
We see the success of women entrepreneurs in the digital community and have experienced first hand how the success of one woman can give direction and a foundation for a handful of other budding entrepreneurs.
We created WE Online to foster this learning and community formation. Through WE Online, we're able to highlight incredible women entrepreneurs, introduce them to an entirely new audience, and give them a platform to teach others what they know.
We also provide the opportunity for attendees to connect with these established entrepreneurs, ask questions live, and be reinvigorated to keep pursuing their dream of building a great business.
We’ve received outstanding feedback on what this event has meant to so many women and how excited they are to learn from those who've walked (and succeeded) before them. As women entrepreneurs, our best resource is each other! And this event makes it possible.
How do you leverage SEMrush and other core digital marketing practices to help grow your online summit? What features do you find most useful?
TF: The most fundamental part of our success has been the support we’ve seen from our partners (like SEMrush)! By joining together with so many well-respected speakers and brands, we’ve been able to expand our reach by millions beyond our own usual audience. Not only are the speakers and brands providing us with fantastic content and offers to share with our attendees, they are also some of our biggest promoters.
Although the technical part of setting up the whole campaign gets a bit complicated, the strategies we used were straightforward. We relied heavily on a number of tools to help us do our job and there are a few things we know work: using a landing page (created in Unbounce), hooking everything up to an email list through MailChimp, developing over a hundred key partnerships, executing on both earned and paid media.
SEMrush was critical to us when we were doing keyword research—we wanted to make sure our targeting was spot on before we spent a dime on promotion!
What advice do you have for women interested in tech and marketing?
TF: Don't be afraid to try it out, even if you don't feel “qualified.” I originally came from a non-profit and tourism background and stumbled into tech and now I love it. Dorie Clark will talk about this in her WE Online session, about building your personal brand and how it can be important to have a diverse background because it allows you to look at one thing from many different perspectives. The lessons and principles you learn in one industry can be applied to so many others.
There are so many places to learn on your own time and at your own pace, so many free or at least affordable resources – you don’t have to go to a physical school anymore to learn how to be a better marketer, or to learn how to code or even to learn to build your own business.
Find what you’re passionate about and start reaching out to people you admire and look up to.
Growing your network and connecting with other like-minded people can really help you succeed faster. That's why events like WE Online are so important – they give you the chance to start building that network.
What tools do you feel have impacted the way that women entrepreneurs work?
TF: Women that want to build their own businesses are no longer limited by geography when it comes to accessing resources. You’re now able to grow your network so much faster without as much of an investment. Years ago, for example, you might have only been able to get your promotional materials designed and printed by a local printer and hand them out in your hometown – but now the digital world allows you to take control of this process and make it so much bigger.
You can create what you need on your own with Canva, or hire someone on Fiverr or through a freelance network, and distribute your message online via social media to thousands of people at a low cost. I think the SaaS industry benefits women because they are able to pick and choose the tools they really need: whether it's for video conferencing, webinars, design, business administration or marketing, and they are able to manage everything remotely on their own schedule and outsource what they can't.
Where word of mouth used to be challenging to extend beyond your own neighborhood, you can now reach people on the other side of the globe almost as easily as someone two doors down.
What common ways has Thinkific noticed about notable women getting involved in the industry – and what factors are key to retaining them?
TF: One of the most common links we see in every backstory is some element of failure. These women weren’t failing because of lack of intelligence, or passion – they often just didn’t recognize the opportunities that were available to them. Some of them were unhappy at their jobs, some of them didn't progress through the traditional corporate track as quickly as they would have liked, but once the first few had their “a-ha” moments and decided they wanted to be in control of their own lives, that’s where it all begins.
As the success cases have grown, these generous women have then in turn been able to pass down their knowledge to others who find themselves in similar situations – it’s that cycle of positive motivation combined with actionable teaching that has snowballed into thousands of women learning how to work for themselves and make a difference.
One they’ve experienced that kind of life, they can hardly imagine going back to work for someone else.
When starting an online business, what are the best tools women (and men) entrepreneurs can use to gain an advantage?
TF: This growth of the online business industry is being facilitated by all of the new technology and resources that are available out there (course creation platforms, marketing tech, digital summits, etc.) – anyone with an amazing idea, passion and the willingness to put in hard work can be an entrepreneur and build a life for themselves through an online business.
New entrepreneurs should be especially focused on building up their email list: attracting and signing up good quality leads that will become paying customers or clients. Join free communities on Facebook or LinkedIn and actually get engaged in the conversation – you’ll get a ton of inspiration for your own business from others who are already finding success.
All of the partners we worked with for WE Online have amazing products and services perfect for the entrepreneur: Wishpond, Optinmonster, BuzzSumo, Typeform, Grasshopper, Edgar, hover, Buffer, Quuu, Notable Themes and Sparkle Hustle Grow all help power up your business.
WE Online Summit - Oct 24-28th
Did you get your ticket for WE Online 2016 yet? We hope to see you there along with thousands of other women! Join more than 10,000 other female entrepreneurs to learn together how to tackle the most common business mistakes.