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“Getting the collective opinion of a group can be tricky. Getting everyone to interact on a specific topic can be even trickier.”

DMG 2019 Summit Personal Takeaways

It’s been a little over a month since we hosted the 2019 Digital Mastermind Summit in Jacksonville, FL. I just returned from vacation and wanted to do a quick post and document the experience and some of the takeaways.

The Event

First off, I’ve never thrown an event. I’ve participated. I’ve helped. But I’ve never actually been responsible and the face of an event to the point that if it fails, I look like a clown.

It was daunting. But I wanted to continue the group that has been so helpful to me over the years. And I was lucky that I had a team of people to help me. Well, mainly my business partner and his wife who happens to be an event planner.

And based on exit surveys, it was a resounding hit. But here’s a little bit about what I learned and the overall outcomes.


Speakers are a big draw. I wanted to make sure we had a good mix, but most importantly someone that people follow.

So I chose Michael Gass as the keynote. He’s an industry staple.

Jon and Michael Gass

He’s been a business development guy for 40+ years and agency social media expert for the last 15. And just an all-around hell of a nice guy. But what he really drove home is positioning.

Granted, I’ve heard this from many other experts. But when I’ve heard the “positioning” conversation in the past, I always took it as a negative. Meaning, I have to sacrifice something. “Burn all my ships” as one would say. He put it differently. Simply, build a blog/platform, separate from your website around that of which you want to focus and take it from there. To some, this may sound inherently simple and you may know this, but are you doing it? That was a big take away.


First off, if you don’t know what a BarCamp is it’s pretty simple.

BarCamp sessions are submitted by attendees and voted on by the group:

  • On any topic you want.
  • No more than 20 minutes in length (5 mins talks are cool too).
  • Any format you want (slide deck, no slides, live demo, etc.).
  • Casual and informal.
  • You are encouraged to add your topic and share your knowledge with the group. We’ll vote and hear the most requested ones.

Agencies shared what’s working and what’s not within their purviews. They shared openly and authentically. I couldn’t ask for more.

Two of my biggest takeaways here was a presentation on building a sales force from Ryan Parshall and how Shannon Prager from LeadiT Marketing delivers a brand discovery.

Round Tables

Getting the collective opinion of a group can be tricky. Getting everyone to interact on a specific topic can be even trickier. In this case, I believe it went well. Really well.

The topics centered around competitive employee compensation, agency infrastructure, leveraging verticals and scaling.

Although there’s not too much more I can say here as I want to keep what was discussed confidential, but we’ve already implemented a few things that I’m confident will have a resounding impact.

Venue, Meals & Entertainment

Networking happens everywhere at an event like this. Although I can’t think of a better way to connect with others than breaking bread, or even sharing burgers in the hotel lobby at 2 am after we shut down the local dive bar.

The first night we had a quick meet up that started at the hotel bar and led us to Poe’s Tavern on the strip. It’s a burger joint with an Edgar Allen Poe theme. The weather was perfect. I got to meet new members and see a lot of familiar faces as I attempted to eat the Rue Morgue. It’s a giant plate chili, fries, and a fried egg. The little impromptu experiences like this are what make DMG year over year.

As for the hotel, the One Ocean Resort was the perfect choice. The view of the beach and sunrise every morning was stunning. Breakfast and lunch were spot on. And the hotel staff was easily one of the more notable experiences the group spoke about. Courteous and helpful in every way.

One Ocean Resort, Jacksonville Beach

Lunch at Coop303 was a solid experience in southern cooking, though I think our numbers overwhelmed the staff a bit, we made the best of the extended lunch and doubled down on networking and getting to know the new members.

Each night was capped with a high-end meal at one of the finer restaurants in Neptune Beaches town center. First starting with North Beach Fish Camp upstairs in a private space, the food was outstanding and the libations were flowing (my favorite dining experience of the week). Tuesday night, we enjoyed steaks at Ocean 60 in their private room. This was impressive. The meal was talked about all morning Wednesday.

I wanted the entire experience of the week to focus on elite events for our members, including the location, the venue, and the restaurants. And I must say they did not disappoint.

And all in all, I think one of the most important elements of the event are the meals. Not just because I need to eat, but where else would you have a vacation like experience with people that are equal to your talent if not better where you can pick each others brains?


We lucked out with our Sponsors. They were fantastic. And lucky for me, I can go into a little detail here because unlike our members, these folks want me to talk about them.


My agency has been a longtime partner of SharpSpring. In fact, we were one of the first few agencies to try them out. They are a strong alternative to HubSpot. If you’re on HubSpot and not selling SharpSpring too, I think this is like marketing on Facebook and choosing not to market on LinkedIn when you know you have customers on there.


Another great tool that every agency should be using. This is hands out the best call tracking app for the money. We use CallRail and it turns out a lot of the members of DMG do as well. And the agencies that aren’t using, surely will soon.


Ah…our friends at Accountfully. Well, mainly the managing partner Brad Ebenhoeh. He’s been a loyal supporter of Digital Mastermind for three years now. I believe it’s his goal to have every agency in the group using his service. And rightfully so. I’ve only heard glowing reviews from agencies using Accountfully.


Zephyr CMS like none other. This one is built specifically for agencies. From what I understand, it’s faster than greased lightning. And to boot, the CEO, Michael Reynolds is the former GM of our group.


Save the best for last? Nah. In fact, I feel a little awkward putting my agency on here, but I should. The team at Oyova put a lot of work into this and a little name recognition won’t hurt.

One of the things I loved about the way we include our sponsors, is the way they interact with DMG members. Unlike some events, we encourage them to listen and interact with the group at meals and during roundtables.

Oh and if I had any advice for the sponsors, bring more swag. Kudos to Zephyr. They brought some super soft t-shirts.

Changes for the Digital Mastermind

Some may say I made the mistake of asking for group feedback on opinions for the future of the group.

I like a good debate and I love to hear what people are thinking for better or for worse. Hell, I think every marketer should have this stance. But then again, that’s my opinion. 😉

So there will be a few changes and what better place than to list them here.

  1. Any agency can join the group. You can join the Slack Channel and the LinkedIn Group after a quick vetting phone call. Although you won’t be able to see all of the channels. The only way to do this is to attend an event. All of the previous members that have attended an event, get lifetime access.
  2. We’re starting a blog. In fact, you’re reading it. We’ll post at least monthly and we work with our active member base to contribute content.
  3. Monthly check-ins. After the first of the year, we’ll host webinar-based talks from authors and other speakers with limited attendees.