We learn how an international speaker and author John Lawson got his start in
Jesse: What’s going on, Richard, are you ready for another show?
Richard: Oh, yeah, always, actually, I’m excited about this one.
Jesse: Yeah. Yeah, actually, you’ve known this guest for a while now, I think what’s interesting is, we talk a lot about social media. We talk about Shoppable posts and things like that, but I wouldn’t say either one of us are experts in social media. We can talk about it a lot but I think every now and then we need to bring on an expert level to really give our guests something beyond oh, post this tweet. We want to add more to our merchants and give you guys something to think about.
Richard: Definitely, and John, you’ll be introduced properly here in a second. He’s been doing it for a while, I was one of some of the original sellers on eBay and I think John’s one of the few people that actually can say wasbefore me and back when PayPal was actually called X. I think we’ll ask him when he comes on here. But I think he was even using it back then too. But yeah, a pioneer in the space. He’s been doing
Jesse: That’s the better intro than I was going to do. But we will bring on international keynote speaker and author John Lawson. How’s it going, John?
Richard: All right, we don’t have the big conference lights and everything going on with the clickers and timers and all that.
John: Beyonce music, I get it. (laughing) What’s up, guys?
Jesse: Oh, it’s a good day. We gave you a pretty good intro there. I mean, let’s hope you can live up to that now. You’ve been around a long time in
John: Yeah, please do. All right.
Richard: We’ll be stealing some of the link juice though.
John: The link juice! Go for it.
Richard: How about if you start with a brief history of what got you started and then where you’re at today and what you think people in the
John: Yeah, I don’t tell the story all the time, it gets boring if you tell the same story year after year on stage. But the way I got started is I had a friend that came to me and said: Hey, you should flip a house with me. And long story short, this is like 2001, and I ended up upside down with a second property that I couldn’t afford and we couldn’t get anybody to rent it. I couldn’t sell it. And I was about to go bankrupt and I was trying to find a way out of the bankruptcy. Somebody told me: Well, you should sell your stuff on eBay. And I was like Really? Even I can sell stuff? I mean, I knew you could do like used socks or something but to sell stuff… So I had a bunch of used books that I was hoarding in my basement. I’d already read them. I was in IT, so I had those big thick
Richard: Oh, that’s awesome. I did the same things early on with Beanie Babies and baseball cards and same type thing. You kind of wished: Man, I wish it was December every month.
John: And I wish I knew that it wasn’t going to last forever. That’s what I wish I did.
Richard: Yeah, I lucked out, I don’t have a garage full of Beanie Babies still. I’ve switched product, I saw that coming quick. Every fad runs out and you want to do something sustainable. So what got you out of
John: Well, you know what we were like, you said I was looking for repeatable. In fact, I was doing the arbitrage thing which is going around and trying to find a product that I could sell online and make some money. But I really wanted to and I recognized that we needed to do our own products. We needed to do some kind of branding and I tell people, they’re like: Well, what’s a brand? It’s just your name. I’m like: No, but a brand is not your name. A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in a room. That’s your brand. We wanted to build a brand and I started selling a lot of urban
Well, not really, I digress the actual beginning of social media was really AOL, but your audience is probably too young to remember that. But it was the same concept where you would literally join these chat boards and groups and you talk back and forth. And the first platform for social commerce was actually eBay because when you were waiting for the auction to end, people would have these chat boards and you would be talking about the products like they would talk about Beanie Babies. And you remember that was a very hot place to either find new Beanie Babies or to pick up some
Richard: Yeah, that’s awesome and the beauty to that when you created that video, it lives on and I don’t know if people really get that all the time, certain socials the life of that platform is a little different. I mean pitching the choir on this one, but the lifespan of a tweet is the shortest. But it’s very interesting because it’s the real what’s going on right now, live platform. I still when they debate with people back and forth like Twitter going away. It’s like I don’t think it’s going away. And when you compare it to the Behemoth of Facebook, it doesn’t look that big, but would you like to have 50 million active users, I’d take it any day. But YouTube for sure lives on and I’m sure, I don’t know to the same extent, but you still probably get sales because of that video.
John: Well, I probably would but I don’t sell them anymore. But yes, I probably would, it’s still out there to help people. We still get residual money from watches and ads on.
Richard: Yes, and when VR happens again and Tupac’s doing concerts all new start over again (laughing).
John: Bam, and you just gave me an idea.
Jesse: The next platform coming, there’s probably a decent markup on a bandana.
John: Yeah, it was nice to call it God money, it could just fall out of the sky. I mean, it was just so good.
Richard: So there was something you said in the middle of that. I want to dive in a little deeper and it was about the brand and how you create a brand. How exactly to your point you get people to talk about you, what type of content would you recommend people? Let’s kind of segue that direction on what do you recommend when someone’s just getting started and there’s going to be various budget? Some people going to have more money. Some people going to have laughs, but just with the good
John: Yeah. I think that’s the key. It’s about communication with your customer. If you know what they need and you start providing it for them, they will talk about you. That’s really at the simplest level. The reason why Amazon is always talked about it’s not because Amazon has the greatest selection. It’s not because Amazon has the greatest prices. People think they might because they don’t search anywhere else. But the reason why people talk about Amazon and why Amazon is winning at this game is simply because of the service it provides. It is their service. That is the brand. I know if I order something on Amazon and I’m a Prime member, right, Prime is their service, I get it in two days and that’s why they’re winning the game. You have to create an experience for people that can’t be duplicated and add value to the product that you already give. Most of our products get made in some third world country, or China or something like that. Right? Most of us don’t make handmade, our own products. So what the deal is I can find whatever it is you’re selling, that somebody else can make by doing a great Google search and putting my name on that product. And I have a product, that’s like Kevin on Shark Tank always talks about. It’s like what makes you any different than anybody else? Well, you’ve got to figure out how to add value to your product and a lot of times that is going to be the service that you provide. There was a company called Zappos that Amazon never could beat in shoes. Zappos would be kicking Amazon’s butt so much that Amazon ended up having to buy the company just so that they could compete on shoes and Zappos brought their customer support understanding to the Amazon world. Zappos was the ones that had unlimited, you could return shoes no matter when. And everybody’s like Well, why would you do that? Because look, I have something and I have to get it to you in 14 days. Your return policy is 14 days. Guess what for the first 13 days all I’m going to remember is that I need to get that stuff back to these people. But when you tell me that you got six months, guess what, about a time five months goes by I’m not even thinking about that, right? So literally when we implemented some of that stuff when we extended our return policy, we got fewer returns, believe it or not, because at some point it’s not something that’s top of mind anymore. And then after a while, you just like I have kept it as long, I’m just gonna keep it. But the deal is we were beating our competitors because the competitor had this strenuous We don’t take any returns back or we only take it back in seven days. And we’re sitting there going, we’re laughing because now people are recognizing our brand because of the experience that we were offering to that customer. You got to figure out how can your experience be better for customers because today price comparison is not going to win you the game. All that is is a big drain and you’re going to watch your profits go down the drain because somebody’s always going to come back and beat you on price at some point. You don’t want to compete on price. A brand is something that you can slap your name on it and actually charge more for the product. That’s a real brain. If you can’t charge more for a product because of your brand name, you don’t have a brand, you have a label.
Richard: Yeah, it’s so interesting, you say that it’s almost like we’re thinking about this or talked about it ahead of time. The price game, the
John: They know there’s something deeper. They just feel like there’s something deeper. What is it? You’re not telling me, John. (laughing) Yeah. I just told you, told you: you want to build a brand — do what I just said. So what has to be more?
Richard: What would you recommend? Let’s make a scenario up. It was a pretty good tip of the iceberg there with the how to fold a bandana. Do you think you should make these videos about most frequently asked questions or what’s a good starting point for someone?
John: That is the starting point. Find 10 things that are your most frequently asked questions and make 10 videos on it. And the key is you want to name the video how the question is asked. Alright, not how you ask the question, not how you think a question would be at, but exactly how your customer keeps asking you to question. In my case, it was how to fold a bandana like Tupac. Guess what my video is called, How to fold a bandana like Tupac, right? That’s because that’s what people are searching for. Especially in this new era. See we don’t understand what’s about to happen. What’s about to happen with voice commerce, see, because when you had the desktop, it was great. You could type in something and you’ll get a hundred different results. But if I ask for toilet paper to Alexa or to Google home, I don’t want a hundred results. I want one result and what that means is that the ability to do a selection of product is going away. And it’s only going to be the one product because nobody wants a whole bunch of options. They just want what they want. What is really going to be coming so important in this new voice Commerce era, you’re going to have to get the people to ask for your product by name. Because selection is really going away. It’s amazing what’s about to happen.
Jesse: Yeah, that’s it. I love that advice there because, of course, a brand is important but how does it really relate to what’s going to happen in the next couple years? Voice is the perfect explanation for that, because yeah, I get it if you say I want a bandana, you’re going to get the top option from Amazon. If you’re on Alexa from Google, it’s going to be probably something to Walmart or Target. But if you say I want a bandana made by such and such brand. Now they’re going to lead you to that particular website. But otherwise, you’re going to be buried, number two is nowhere. There’s no number two.
John: Realistically, even on Google or Amazon right now the number one result gets more than 60% of all the buys. Just think about that, the number two gets 25%. And all the rest of them are fighting for what is that, eight?
Richard: So do you recommend people start on one platform or start on a platform where their customers are or how do you feel about that?
John: You want to start where your customers are. Absolutely, and the thing is and where they’re buying. I mean our customers, yes, are on Facebook, but are they buying on Facebook? Maybe not? Probably not, but maybe they’re buying on Pinterest. I don’t know. So should we talk about just social platforms right there, right? So you want to find out where they’re hanging out in social. The other place you want to go to of course or possibly marketplaces if that’s something you’re into trying. Then go for it, be on Amazon or Ebay or an Etsy. Those places are pretty good for getting started, definitely good for brand building, right? I think if you’re just getting started, what you really want to do is focus in on one or two platforms because multiplication by zero will get you zero. So many people are like: Look, if I could just put it onto more channels. No, figure out how to sell it on the channel you’re on first. Like what did you say,
Jesse: I think that’s great. Of course, we’re in the business, we know all sorts of stuff. We actually give our customers all sorts of advice on this podcast. But I think the better advice is yeah, there’s a lot of things you can do, but pick one or two that you really like, that your customers are really on. If you think all your customers are on Pinterest because maybe it’s a little crafty or it’s a food thing. And you’re not on Pinterest, maybe that’s the one you want to focus in and learn. But if you’re selling to younger people, you might have to learn Instagram. I mean Instagram is probably a good stock answer.
John: It is a good stock answer for younger people. They are like
Jesse: Yeah, the
John: I know. I’m quitting Facebook. I’m going to Instagram. That’s not working.
Jesse: Yeah, you really showed Mark Zuckerberg there. (laughing)
John: There’s Sally, and I’m gonna date May, even though she’s Sally. (laughing)
Jesse: Yeah. I always get a kick out of that one too. People are gonna switch to another platform. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, now Instagram. So they start out, they get any brand. We get a lot of beginners that are listening to the show and maybe they haven’t made that many sales. Maybe they’ve made 50 sales, a hundred sales total and so. They might not really know the platform where people are hanging out. They popped up a site, got some sales doing some ads, maybe testing the waters with a bunch of social media. How can they hone in? What’s the hot tip here? We can give them to pick that platform. I mean, I know it’s not easy…
John: They want to start looking for groups. You want to start looking for groups like on Facebook. Even if you go back to the old school forums, and find out where people are talking about that vertical of products you sell. So let’s say, you sell women’s apparel. I’m sure there’s a lot of places where people talk about women’s apparel, let’s say blouses. All right. Well, that’s fine what they’re saying about the frustration of purchasing blouses. And find out what they are talking about, how they’re talking about it, what they like, what they don’t like. The first thing you want to do is start listening to the conversation because there’s gold in listening to the conversation. Another place that I kind of like doing some detailed research is actually on Amazon. So if you’ve got a product that is similar to the Amazon product, you go out and look and see what people are saying in the comments and you don’t really want… I mean the good comments are great, everybody’s loving it. Find out the one star, start reading the
Jesse: Got it. No, that’s great advice. I think you created this, you had this idea. Maybe you didn’t think it was your best idea but it took off like wildfire and now just by listening to other people, listening to the comments coming in, you’re able to create other content That was a few years ago, you were creating YouTube videos at that time. Is that what you would still do? If you’re in that business would be doing YouTube videos first or would you be thinking elsewhere?
John: You know what, I probably would not necessarily be doing YouTube videos, but if I found out that yes, this is the issue and it needs to be demonstrated. There’s nothing better to demonstrating something than using a YouTube video, right? Okay, or a Facebook video. And I do say there’s a difference. It’s the same video, you just upload it to the native platform these days. Create a YouTube video and then put a link on to something — that just doesn’t work anymore. Those guys are competing with each other for traffic and they will deprecate how many people see your link based on that. So yes, I think videos fantastic for doing what you do. I don’t think I even said that those 10 videos that I told you, make ten separate videos, not the top ten questions. You make ten separate videos nice and short, three to five minutes at best. You should be able to explain something. I do still like video, I think videos still on the rise and it’s growing. Now let’s say you have some other stuff once you do the video. What I like about videos you can repurpose. I can extract the audio and now I’ve got an MP3 file. I can take that MP3 file upload it to Rev, and that’s Rev.com. I’m not doing a commercial here, but that’s where you can take audio and it turns it into text. And now you’ve got a blog post that you can put out there. So when people do the search, they’ll see your video. They might see you talking through the audio parts and now you’ve got an actual blog post to go with it. I take that blog post. I put it on my site. I take that blog post. I put it on Mention. I’ve given all of these is credible links that go back to your store. Right. Now when Google looks at your store, they’re seeing you got links coming from all of these social channels, which they ranked highly and the more of those you have, the greater your chance you have of being found.
Jesse: That’s great.
John: Just it’s a game. It’s a game. You just got to play the game.
Richard: Yeah, and it’s to your point where, yes, you want to make 10 different videos but it’s more important to actually make sure you’re putting those in the right places and you’re playing the game. Because to your point earlier about brand, you’re seeing even in Google search results they’re heavily favoring brands. Because probably that same reason. Everyone’s fighting for that same customer experience and they will no matter what platform they’re on, they’re trying to protect their customers. Some do it better than others, some don’t do it so well. But that’s what they’re really trying to do. They want to…why you say upload it natively, they want you to stay on their playground. If you’re Google, they want you to stay on their playground. If you’re Facebook, they want to stay on that playground. So you really listen to John there, in that you want to find out first and foremost what the questions are being asked. Use our mouth and our ears in proportion to what we’ve been blessed with two to one at least. Mostly I’d probably say it’s even a little higher than that. But listen and then create content the way your customers are searching for it. Name it the way they’re searching for it and then put that in the places where they’re at. But it all starts with what do you stand for, what are you making and then finding those groups and listening to what they’re saying.
John: I love that. I love the what do you stand for. People love that store. You got to stand for something. And that’s part of a brand like Patagonia. That’s part of their brand. It’s what they stand for and people use that stuff because they are outdoor enthusiast as well that loves to protect nature. Bam. Now you get it. I see these two guys on TV right now right that are cleaning up the ocean. You’ve seen this commercial?
Richard: No, not yet.
John: You haven’t seen this commercial. It is these two surfer guys that were just in Bali and stuff was washing up on the beach, just because where Bali is located a lot of plastics were just on the beach. And they just started a charitable organization where they were going to just start cleaning up the beaches literally in the last I think maybe three years. This company has taken off right even though it’s a
Jesse: Yeah, that’s great. And I think something you’ve mentioned several times now is video, it’s kind of coming back to video here several different places. That is the new medium.
John: What’s the old saying? A picture is worth a thousand words. A thousand. I think today it’s worth ten thousand. Yeah. So video’s not going anywhere. Our kids are not getting smaller people. They’re not. And our video is in our hand now. When you’re seeing people they’re watching something. The amount of time people consume just watching crap is amazing to me.
Jesse: Yeah. Why not be part of that crap? (laughing)
John: We might be part of that crap on these. But the other thing is too, I can’t remember, I saw a study there and they say how much time actually gets wasted from watching videos in stream. Because if you just think about it, you go and you’re going through your stream and then a video starts playing and you give it 30 seconds. Well, you know you do that
Jesse: Yeah, it’s crazy. I was listening to a podcast on the way in today and they were talking specifically about Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories didn’t even exist two years ago and now that’s the dominant way that people are consuming video on their phone and it’s just short little videos.
John: Years ago they recall Snapchat.
Jesse: Yeah, then Instagram stole it and did it. It’s video and it’s super short and people get it. They take it by just picking up their phone and pushing that button.
John: So it’s just telling a story. This is my day. And I mean it’s so simple. And what I was reading something where Facebook Stories are taking off to Facebook. Given that more footprint in your timeline as well. So these are all things that you could do so simply. You can tell the story of how you guys started a business. You can show how you do your packing and shipping. You can talk about how much you love your customers. You can do videos on all kind of stuff. I get it, a lot of people won’t watch it but the few that do could be the ones that you sell to.
Jesse: Yeah, that’s perfect. I know we’ve been kind of pounding the table on this one a little bit too, so I’m glad that somebody else is telling our customers: Yeah, you have to make a video. Social media is not just sending out tweets and typing things on Facebook. It’s a video, it’s just video.
John: Yeah. And the best videos are not the
Jesse:It’s probably a selfie.
Richard: It’s kind of. I’ve noticed it’s at the polar extremes. It’s either the cell phone like to your point, or it’s the Harmon brothers with Squatty Potty or something. To your point, because I don’t want to derail them, highly produced videos still can really do the trick. I mean they’ve done a bunch of really good ones as you know. I’m sure you’ve spoken at some of the conferences where they’ve talked about it. But don’t let that stop you is really your point. You don’t have to make it highly produced, these people are trying to run a business. You need to think back again if we kind of recap on what you’ve said. Listen to the audience of who you’re trying to sell to. They’re going to tell you, what they want and then you create content and you literally… we’re seeing videos super important but you also said audio. You also talked about voice and you talked about transcribing that into a blog post. These are things you can do. One thing and get a lot of use out of that one thing. And then you get really good at that one place but then you also put it in other places. So what we’re really trying to get across to the people here that are listening is you got to start somewhere. And the best place to start is listening to what people are asking for. Then give them what a concept, give them what they’re asking for and they’ll start to talk about you. The beauty of a brand too, that we didn’t really get into but I’m sure you would attest to, is when you get loyal fans you almost don’t have to worry about the troll hate chatter on social because your customers will jump in and protect you faster than you can even get on.
John: Absolutely. Because you get brand fans and brand fans are your best defenders.
Jesse: Yeah, I know. I love it and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in action as well. It’s great because the social media, you do have to be on it. You can’t let people fill up these feeds with a bunch of crap. You get off to fight it but when your customers start fighting back for you. Oh man, then you’re starting to win. It takes a while but you’re starting to get there.
John: It starts with it. Let’s just say one thing about the Squatty Potty video. I get it. But more than anything it had a story. The video was actually crappy compared to a real highly polished video. It can’t be. Happiness comes from the craziness of this video. But it had a great story. Can you imagine somebody sitting there is like Yeah, we’re gonna lick a lollipop or a cone full of unicorn poop. Yeah, that’s funny as hell! But you never know if that’s going to play out. You never know. I remember Dollar Shave Club, that one to me was like Oh my God, I love this video. But I don’t think they could have thought that it was going to be that big. Nobody can really just tell you what a customer or the public is going to gravitate towards. Because at the same time Squatty Potty did what it’s doing. You’ve got the kid in the back seat that’s just got his teeth pulled and he’s still all loopy and that thing has got ten times more than a Squatty Potty video. You just never know what’s going to catch on. And I don’t know how many people have tried to make this Squatty Potty video. Quite successful, right?
Richard: Yeah. It’s a good point there. It’s all in the story. That’s one. And then two, just back to your dollar shave club. Did you see what Dollar Beard Club did with that too? They’re basically…
John: I got to go look now.
Richard: Oh, it’s hilarious. You’ll love it. They literally basically completely make fun of it. Look it up. You’re going to love it. But it’s the same thing. And what do we do,
Jesse: Yeah. I think for listeners here, hopefully, you guys have picked up some of those tips. If you’re you listen to us again and take some notes because there is a blueprint here inside this podcast for you to test things out and start to build your own success. John, I really appreciate you being on the show here either. Any last places where we can find out more about you?
John: JohnLawson.com, my name dot com.
Richard: Thanks again, John.