Practical Ecommerce’s Ignite 2015 conference is less than three months away. The agenda contains 39 sessions on topics critical to small and midsize ecommerce merchants, to accelerate revenue growth and compete against larger companies.
In addition, we’ll feature two visionary keynote speakers. The first one, on opening day, is John Lawson. He’s an ecommerce entrepreneur and a social-selling guru. His address, “The Beyoncé Principal: Social Selling Funnel for Massive Results,” will emphatically answer the question of how smaller ecommerce merchants can harness social media.
I recently spoke with Lawson about the topic, and his keynote.
Practical Ecommerce: Why social selling?
John Lawson: Back in December 2013, Beyoncé released an album totally untraditionally. She did it by putting out one post on Instagram and a post on Facebook and that was it. Within 72 hours, she broke the record of Internet sales or just sales on iTunes. She did that by building a tribe — a list of people — and then pushing out to them.
I was up that evening when she put it out, and I knew it was going to be some kind of massive event. I also knew that for a social selling perspective, it was going to be something that would be a good case study. I followed it, I did a lot of research around it, and then I tweaked it, pulled it out, and made it applicable for ecommerce broadly.
PEC: Merchants often tell us that they don’t receive conversions from social. What would you say to them?
Lawson: That’s because they’re trying to sell in social. I don’t believe social is a great place to make sales. Social is a great place to engage an audience. Once you have that audience, then you can get them interested into your products and it’s just a whole funnel. It’s a flow that you have to do. It’s not a great place to post, “Hey look at my stuff. Buy it.” It’s a great place to get engaged with people that are interested in the stuff that you sell and then get them where they like and trust you. Once they trust you, they will buy from you.
PEC: Is that true even for the most routine consumer products?
Lawson: Absolutely. Procter and Gamble that has made a billion dollar business out of doing nothing but repeatable, boring products. You’ve got to create a brand around those kinds of products. This is how you do that.
PEC: Switching directions, how did you come to ecommerce, and social selling?
Lawson: Back in 2001, I was in a period of financial craziness. I was on a job, working 9 to 5 and I thought I was going to be able to flip a house. Everybody was telling me, “Flip a house, you’ll be rich.” I’m like, okay. Fine.
I bought a house and tried to flip it. But it didn’t flip. I got stuck with a second mortgage. I was on this single job, had one paycheck, and I had to find a way out. I started selling used products on Ebay. Then I started doing retail arbitrage and selling those products on Ebay, too. Long story short, in 2004 I left my job and went full time in ecommerce and I have not looked back.
Back in 2009, somebody asked me to speak to an audience about my experiences. That started a new segment of my life, which has been speaking, teaching, and training worldwide to people on ecommerce and social commerce. That’s how I got started.
PEC: Do you still sell ecommerce products?
Lawson: Yes. I own and manage the Shoe String King. It’s ShoeStringKing.com. That’s what I sell online.
PEC: Readers of this interview are likely small to midsize ecommerce merchants. What do you say to them about Ignite, as they contemplate attending?
Lawson: They need to get there; they need to register before it gets sold out. The key thing is, you’ve got to think about getting together and being in a environment where you can be with people that understand and know your business like you do.
Many of us in this ecommerce world are in places — in a home office or other offices — and we don’t get a lot of time to really network with people that are in our business. That’s one of the biggest things that you get out of a conference. You get to network with the people that are in your industry. Plus you get to see all the latest and greatest tools and techniques that are out there by talking to the vendors and of course listening to those of us from the stage, that have something to bring to you.
Ignite is a great opportunity. It’s in Dallas Texas, my hometown. That’s where I grew up. My dad still lives there. I can’t wait.
PEC: We’ve mentioned your ecommerce site, ShoeStringKing.com. You’ve also run a site for your consulting. What is that URL?
Lawson: Just Colderice.com, or my name, JohnLawson.com.