John wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but this did not stop him from being successful. Today, let me share with you this interview that I did with him a few months ago in hopes that you’ll be inspired to aim higher.
How do you motivate yourself to be nothing else but successful? When John Lawson, President of ColderICE Media and Author of Kick-Ass Social Commerce for E-prenuers was still in high school, he used to be among the few students who had a car. He used this opportunity to charge rides to the mall to gain some extra funds. Others called him cheap… little did they know that at a very young age, John Lawson was already doing entrepreneurship.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you do what you do.
The name is John Lawson. Some people know me from Colder Ice. I am an online merchant and seller. I started on eBay back in 2001. I was one of the first to sell in the third-party platform of Amazon here in the US back in 2007. In 2009 and I did some speaking. Ever since then, I’ve been speaking, training, teaching and consulting in the e-commerce space and particularly in the social commerce space for the past six to seven years.
That really came out in a book that I wrote which was “Kick-ass Social Commerce for E-prenuers”. Don’t ask me what an e-preneur is. That’s something that the publisher came up with that I thought was cute. But it is really about using social for selling, not just to get more likes or spread. But it’s really about making the cash register ring using social media.
Q: You really are a self-made millionaire. You grew up in a single-parent family. Your mom worked two jobs to make sure that you guys have a pretty decent life. Tell me a little bit about the drive behind becoming a self-made millionaire and what made John Lawson want to break the mold?
First, let’s make it perfectly clear: I don’t have a million dollars in the bank – that to me, is a self-made millionaire. Rather, I sold millions of dollars online. I think I’ve always been driven to do something a little bit different than most people.
I just remember back when I was a kid, I was among the first ones in high school to have a car, so for me, it was about an opportunity. Because if I hJohn ad the car and other people wanted to get to the mall, I could take all the kids to the shopping center, and they wouldn’t have to walk. So I used to charge them to give them rides back and forth to the mall.
People used to call me cheap, but I figured out a little bit better that I was enterprising because I was always trying to find a way to do something and make more money and use that as an opportunity to grow.
My mom worked extremely hard to keep her children fed. I think I learned something from both of my parents about being entrepreneurial because when I look back at it, my dad was always doing things in the weekend to supplement his income. I think I got some of that from him. But I’m not going to lie… There is a question out there whether entrepreneurs are born or made, and I definitely was born entrepreneurial.
Q: You’ve been an award-winning social media strategist. Tell me a little bit about the awards and most importantly, what are the top three tips for retailers for this modern-day social media – with or without budget?
For one, you don’t need a budget. Time is money, so it does cost you something… it costs you time. But it doesn’t cost you money. Social sites were built around the “freemium” model. Now, if you want to advertise on those sites, then you can scale up your advertising by using money.
What the core thing are for social media is you’ve got to recognise that it’s all about engagement. It’s all about you getting an audience that will listen to you, that will vibrate with you, that will feel you. And once you get them, you get them to know and like you, and ultimately they will trust you. And when they trust you, they will do business with you.
What’s the fast way to do that? One of the fast ways is that most of us have an audience already. People have purchased from us, people already have an experience that is great and phenomenal with us – it really is about using that same people and getting them engaged with you in social so that they will become repeat buyers. But more importantly, so they will become brand advocates for you.
Finding those guys are one of the greatest things you can do in social. So when I’m saying, “get engaged,” find those cheerleaders and then turn them into brand advocates. Because it’s not enough that they like your product, I want you to tell somebody else about it.
When you get those three things going, it becomes a perpetual win-mill. They’re winning because as you start interacting with them, you start tapping on them when you got the new product, and you want to get it to the public. We give them products to test, and they give us feedback. It’s just a really good environment for you and your people.
That to me is the easiest way to use social media right now. When we first started, it was 140 characters. I was a big Twitter fan, and it was just 140 characters. Now you’ve got things like Periscope. It comes on, and I can broadcast with video and audio worldwide on my cell phone.
It gets better and better, but the core principle is all about engaging your audience.
Q: One of the things you mentioned was about finding cheerleaders for your brand that I think is incredibly important. With a lot of marketers now complaining about organic reach being down and social sites working so hard to generate revenue from a massive customer database, how do you find those cheerleaders? What is the best way to do that?
Usually, it’s about getting people that will respond to your questions. It’s kind of a unique thing. Here’s the deal:
Kids have a unique ability to ask questions. Even if you don’t want to be bothered, they will ask you questions. The thing is, the way the brain words, when the question is asked, your mind automatically starts to figure out the answer. So, one of the best ways to find cheerleaders is to ask questions. You don’t ask them about cheerleading, you’re just asking them about “hey, how was our service?” And immediately, there will be several others that will respond and others that will totally ignore you. And then you go into the next phase by maybe asking, “How can we have served you better?” So now, they’re getting engaged in the process of purchasing with your company.
Suddenly, these people feel like the fact that you asked them this question, means that you care about what they think. When you find those people that will respond somewhere in that crowd, you’re going to find that brand advocate.
I really believe that if more businesses took the time to ask those two questions, it would change everything. It’s really that simple, start the conversation there. Cause we can start the conversation in all other ways – come like our page, come follow us, hey, spend this coupon. None of these things are as engaged as asking somebody’s opinion.
“How does this dress look on me?” Once you ask this question, you get people engaged in what you’re wearing. The same way in your business.
Q: You’ve also written a really incredible book which is called “Kickass Social Commerce for E-prenuers.” What drove you to write that book? How did that come about?
There is a lot of books now about social media and social marketing. I didn’t want to write a book, somebody told me to write a book. I was in an environment like this right now where I was being interviewed, and they were asking these questions and I was giving answers and they were like, “man, you should write a book about that.”
I’m like, “There are so many social books out there. What do I have to say that’s new?” As I started thinking about it though, you know what… I have a unique voice to come out into this crowded space. And my voice was really focused on selling. We talk about marketing, but it is really broad. There are more things to marketing other than just making a sale. I was like, how do you get to the point where you’re actually making the sale? I want the actual conversion rate to be “somebody bought something”. And that was the overarching thought in that book. So once I have that, I thought, okay I could break this down and take people into on journey from where we start which is from ancient history to the tools that allow us to amplify.
Q: There are more teenage millionaires than there’s ever been in any time in the history of the world. People who think like you are the ones who get there. So if you could go back and talk to little John when you were still 16 years old, what pieces of advice would you give yourself?
The first thing I would give is… I would tell John, “it’s okay, you’re not crazy.” I think we don’t nourish and help the entrepreneurial mind. I didn’t realize what was going on with me, why I thought so different, and why I would get bored in class. All these things that were very enterprising, I thought were “something was wrong with me.” The fact that you’re thinking differently is the thing that’s going to make you successful. So don’t feel like you have to get a job and work for somebody without a goal other than the fact that you’re working for somebody.
If you get distracted from work, and you’re always thinking about doing something different and bigger, that’s cool man, do it.
We used to live in an environment where the legos where locked in a cabinet somewhere and somebody had the key on it and would only let you play when they allow you play. It was the only time when your mind could build something unique. Today, the legos are wide open, they’re just laying on the floor, and you can build whatever you want.
You’ve got the cloud access, social applications, and you can literally build a business in your bedroom, part-time at night, while you’re going to school or while you’re working on your job. That is a fantastic environment to be in. But at the same time, it could get you off-focus. So, what you have to learn now (which I think we had because we didn’t have so many distractions), is focus. What you’re going to have to do to be different is be focused, because everybody is so unfocused now.
If you learn to really focus in what you want to do and accomplish and complete it, then you have the upper hand on everybody else that is all over the place. I don’t believe that there is anything beneficial in being a multi-tasker. It’s beneficial in being a task-completer.
Don’t quit school, kids!
Alita: Don’t quit school, kids. But if you want to break the mold, that’s okay too!