In this interview, we chat with Jesse Willms, one of the most influential and successful internet entrepreneurs over the past twenty years.
During this time, Willms has shown his tenacity and excellent business leadership, specifically in all things related to marketing. His companies have generated well over a billion dollars in product sales across various industries, such as health, fitness supplements, cosmetics, and even computer software.
We had the opportunity to talk to Jesse Willms about his business journey where he shares his best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
How did you get into entrepreneurship?
Willms: I guess you could say my journey into the business world was somewhat of an unorthodox one. It may surprise you to learn that I didn’t go to college and get a degree. In fact, I didn’t even finish school!
My journey began when I was a teenager and I discovered the amazing stories of famous businessmen and investors, especially the people who worked their way up from nothing. These people inspired me deeply, and I took it upon myself to emulate their success and start my own company.
In a few years, I started reselling computer software online that I bought at a discounted price. I hunted for arbitrage opportunities on places like eBay and Amazon, and when I found one cheap enough, I would resell for a handsome profit.
In the space of one year, my company grew to generate over $50m of revenue, and I had over a dozen employees. Looking back, it was kind of a crazy ride as I was only 18 at the time!
What aspect of entrepreneurship do you enjoy the most?
Willms: While people often refer to me as an entrepreneur, I am a digital marketer at heart. The only reason I am in the position I am today is because of the skills I picked up in digital marketing during my earlier ventures.
After my software selling days were over, I set up a multitude of health and fitness companies that primarily focused on selling supplements and other products to consumers. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for them to become a huge success. We pushed the envelope with our marketing strategies, introducing PPC marketing and affiliate programs that drove visitors to our site, which converted to sales.
In just four years, we created over twenty different million dollar companies, and our total revenue was way over half a billion dollars.
It was incredible to see just how far you can get by carefully fine-tuning your digital marketing strategies. We tried to hone in on our target market by regularly running split testing campaigns, improving our SEO practices, and continually developing our product.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Willms: One of the best things about being where I am today is the ability to help other aspiring entrepreneurs reach success with their visions and goals. It’s a privilege to work with people by helping them find access to the support, resources, and strategies that they need to get their businesses off of the ground.
With that said, my number one piece of advice I can give anyone looking to start a new venture is to think outside the box. I have seen a lot of businesses that appear to be a carbon copy of an already famous brand.
As a result, they end up shutting down after a year or two, or they never managed to get off the ground in the first place. Like the late Steve Jobs, the best innovators were great at tracking marketplace trends and acting on them before their competitors.
Do you have any marketing tips to share with us?
Willms: The golden rule for marketing is to add value first and sell later. If you follow this piece of advice religiously, it’s almost impossible to fail.
The key is to learn how to differentiate marketing from sales. Far too often, people get the terms mixed up or falsely assume they are synonyms. They aren’t. The general goal of your marketing efforts should be to engage and capture the interest of your audience. Develop a relationship with them, and then you will have a much easier time converting them into a paying customer.
Secondly, make sure you are always prepared to listen to feedback and adjust when necessary. This is even more important in the current global situation, where customer loyalty is dropping, and consumer spending is unpredictable.
You have to work harder for every consumer dollar, so make sure you take care of your current customer base because, at the end of the day, we are working for our customers. Our decision-making stems from listening to their feedback and fulfilling their needs. By providing top-notch customer service, we can ensure our customers are satisfied and continue to generate a healthy revenue stream.
How do you set yourself apart from your competition?
Willms: With the business landscape continually evolving, there are a few things I do to try and stay ahead of the curve. First and foremost, I do what I can to remain as flexible as possible within all of my businesses. We always strive to internalize and adapt to changes quickly, which gives us an advantage over more rigid business models. By maximizing on new opportunities, we avoid getting ‘stuck in our old ways’ and losing market share.
Moreover, I am a firm believer in investing in self-development. When people stop learning and assume they know everything they need to know about their industry, that’s when things start going downhill. I am an avid reader of business and self-improvement books. Taking advice from someone who has already embraced a path similar to yours can offer excellent guidance.