Jason Stapleton: “Remember your customers are people”

Remember your customers are people. In our industry there’s been a heavy push toward total automation. Automated ads go to an automated webinar which leads to an automated email sequence and finally an on-demand product. At my company we’ve started a process of calling every single one of our clients and checking in to make […]

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Remember your customers are people. In our industry there’s been a heavy push toward total automation. Automated ads go to an automated webinar which leads to an automated email sequence and finally an on-demand product.

At my company we’ve started a process of calling every single one of our clients and checking in to make sure they’re happy with what we’re doing and to learn what we could be doing better. Even if all they’ve purchased in a nine dollar book.

That kind of personal touch has all but vanished from our industry but we’ve used it to strengthen the bond we have with our clients and even as an opportunity to upsell them on another product.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Stapleton, an American Entrepreneur and former special operations Marine living in Los Angeles, CA. His first company, Trade Empowered launched in 2009, and quickly became one of the largest and most respected trading education firms on earth boasting tens of thousands of clients in over 110 countries.

In 2014, while still running Trade Empowered, Jason launched “Wealth, Power & Influence”, a podcast dedicated to helping people better understand current events and how to have more control over their lives. It quickly grew to more than 30,000 daily listeners and hit #1 on iTunes in multiple categories.

In 2018 Jason left Trade Empowered to start his consulting company The Stapleton Agency. Jason works with small and midsized businesses to build authority brands and develop content marketing and advertising strategies to help them gain market share, increase loyalty and improve customer retention.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started my entrepreneurial career in 2009. Prior to that I was working overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan doing security work for the U.S. Government.

While I was there I became a reasonably successful currency trader and had plans to start a hedge fund. But the regulation and cost involved were draconian so I decided to start an education company teaching traders and investors how I made money.

That company quickly grew to become one of the largest and most respected trading education companies on earth, with clients in over 110 countries.

In 2014 I launched my podcast “Wealth Power & Influence” that uses current events to teach entrepreneurial principles to new and aspiring entrepreneurs. Within two years it was the number one show in its category on iTunes with over 30,000 listeners each day.

In 2017 I was plucked by the history channel to host their new series on Nichola Tesla, “The Tesla Files”, a show that took me all over the world uncovering the mysteries surrounding his death.

Then in 2018 I started The Stapleton Agency, a consulting firm that helps entrepreneurs and business owners improve the results they get from their marketing and branding.

It’s been a wild ride but I’ve loved every minute of it.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Most of my clients don’t have a dedicated marketing department. They don’t have a copywriter on staff or someone to manage their advertising campaigns. They’re doing all of it themselves. It’s a huge learning curve and most of them have overcomplicated what they need to be doing. I operated the same way for years.

I realized what we do is very simple. Get a lead, make them an offer, and then follow up if they express interest. It’s not complicated or time consuming. I got tired of seeing all the aspiring ad consultants and social media managers giving complicated solutions to simple problems. I saw a need for the knowledge I had and I decided to get to work helping your average business owner improve his messaging so he can increase his leads and ultimately his sales.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I remember when I was setting up my first website. I was living in Afghanistan at the time and I knew nothing about web development. In fact, the extent of my internet knowledge was how to do a google search.

As you can imagine, the internet speeds in Afghanistan left much to be desired. It was basically a dial up connection.

Each night I’d sit down at my desk and open 3 browser windows on my 15 inch laptop. The first window would have my website. The second window would have the WordPress code editor, and the third window would have a page with instructions on how to change a specific part of the code on my site.

Keep in mind, this is 2008. There was no Wix, no Clickfunnels, no Square Space. If you wanted a website you had to pay thousands of dollars or code it yourself.

So I’d sit there, for hours on end. I make a small correction to the code and clicking save in the editor. Then wait 10–20 seconds for the page to reload. Then I’d go to my website and click refresh, wait another 10–20 seconds to see if the change I wanted worked correctly. Nine times out of ten it didn’t and it was back to the coding blog to see what I missed.

This went on for months. Each night I’d beat my head against the desk, screaming and cursing at my computer wondering why I didn’t just pay someone to do it.

I’m glad I didn’t. Those months locked away in a 10×10 room on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan helped me develop the skills and understanding necessary to launch my first internet company a year later.

I don’t think people realize how easy we have it today. There’s no excuse for quitting. It’s too easy to succeed.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Perseverance always pays off. If you’re going to succeed in business it’s going to come at a cost. Sleepless nights, time away from family and friends, a rejection of what most of the world finds important.

While you’re on the journey you’ll be questioned and ridiculed. First for your idea, then for the lack of your immediate success and finally for what you achieve. Learning to weather that storm and having the strength of your connections is critical.

Those early days, the little wins I had, gave me the courage to walk my own path and ignore the haters and naysayers who tried to keep me from my dreams.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I don’t know if you’d call it a mistake but I remember when I first launched my company. I had a couple of affiliate partners who asked me to develop a trading course to sell. They told me that they would promote me to their lists.

I had been in business for only a couple of months and hadn’t made any real money. I’d only sold small subscriptions to a handful of customers.

These guys wanted me to charge 1,500 dollars for a 90 day trading program and I thought they were nuts but I told them I’d do it.

We decided the best way to introduce me to the list was to hold a two week online seminar where I could trade and talk about my system. At the end we’d offer the course to all the attendees.

Not believing we’d actually sell anything I never bothered to create the course. When the last day came around I pitched them the outline I’d put together.

I sold over 150 courses! In two weeks I’d made more than 220,000 dollars from a course I hadn’t created.

Realizing what I’d done, I asked everyone to give me a week to recoup from the two week seminar. During that week I worked night and day to get the first section of the course done.

For the next 90 days I’d teach the current weeks content in the morning and then work on the next weeks content in the afternoon. No one was ever the wiser.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Not to sound egotistical, but it has to be me. I think a lot of consultants have had success in one industry, or maybe two. But in the last 10 years I’ve built two Muti-million dollar business, become a nationally syndicated radio show host, produced one of the top podcasts on iTunes, and hosted a hit tv show for the History Channel.

I attribute this to my understanding of human behavior and my ability to build strong brands based on that understanding. There’s only one of me and it sets me apart every time I walk into the room.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Slow steady progress. For the first 5–6 years in business I worked 7 days a week. You had to claw me out of the office. I loved it but it was non stop. I put on 30lbs and my health was a wreck.

Part of it was not understanding the processes I use now to be more efficient but mostly it was my belief that everything needed to happen now.

What I try to remind my clients and colleagues is that you’re not building a business, you’re building a life. I get to wake up every day and work exclusively on things that I enjoy but life is about more than that. It’s about great friendship, the love of a doting partner, and having the time and health to experience all life has to offer.

Don’t get so focused on tomorrows goals that you miss today. Because today is beautiful.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve had so many people who’ve helped and supported me along the way. Far too many to list here. If I had to name one person it would be my friend and business partner Darren who helped me grow my first company beyond anything I could have imagined.

Although he wasn’t an owner in the company I consider him a partner in the business. He was with me from the beginning. I remember the first time we met — I didn’t have any money to pay him but I desperately needed someone to help me grow the company. I told him, “I can’t pay you anything right now, but if you’ll work with me and we manage to sell something, I’ll cut you in for a percentage of the profit.”

Darren didn’t flinch. He said, “Sounds good. Let’s do it.” What followed was 8 years of magic. I could not have done it without him.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

  1. Lean into the realization that most things can be done remotely.

Most of us in the online world have known this for years, but for the bulk of consumers and companies this is new ground. In my business we’ve branched out into working with new and aspiring entrepreneurs. Teaching them how to launch an information business based on the passions and skill they already have.

2. Don’t ignore old school advertising outlets.

As online entrepreneurs we tend to focus on things like Facebook and google advertising but in many cases direct mail, radio and magazine advertising can still produce amazing results. If everyone is focused on one or two marketing channels there’s a good chance the real opportunities are the ones nobody is tapping into.

3. Remember your customers are people

In our industry there’s been a heavy push toward total automation. Automated ads go to an automated webinar which leads to an automated email sequence and finally an on-demand product.

At my company we’ve started a process of calling every single one of our clients and checking in to make sure they’re happy with what we’re doing and to learn what we could be doing better.

Even if all they’ve purchased in a nine dollar book.

That kind of personal touch has all but vanished from our industry but we’ve used it to strengthen the bond we have with our clients and even as an opportunity to upsell them on another product.

Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Don’t try to compete on price. That’s a losing proposition. Instead focus on improving the perception of your brand and the connection you have with your customers.

Very few people make purchases purely off of price. But many in the retail DTC market fail to realize this. The result is they become a commodity in a market where they will never be the cheapest product in their category.

Focusing on Brand development sets you apart from the cheaper “lesser” products and give your the price elasticity necessary to thrive in the coming years.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

They fail to recognize the risk exposure they have when they don’t handle key portions of the supply chain.

Many ecomm businesses are essentially drop shipping businesses. They purchase a product in bulk from a manufacturer in China or India, add some custom branding and then market it to the end consumer.

What they don’t realize is that the only part of that company that they control is the marketing and support.

Suppliers are sketchy. Production can be unreliable. And when things go bad they don’t blame the manufacturer or the shipping company. They blame you.

I’ve seen more than one brand destroyed because they failed to adequately vet their suppliers and distributors. In the end the blame always falls on you.

In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Again I’d say it’s paying very close attention to the things you can’t control and the effect it has on how your market perceives you.

Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

I’ll leave that to the those who actually run ecomm businesses. My expertise is in the marketing and branding of those companies.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

Separate your advertising and content marketing into two categories. 1. Cold traffic (people who have never interacted with your brand before). 2. Those who have taken some kind of action on a specific product.

That action could be watching 25% of a demonstration video. It might be clicking on an ad.

Cold traffic advertising is all about creating interest and desire for what you have. We’re not particularly interested in making the sale. What we want is to raise the prospects awareness of your product and build a desire for it.

Once they’ve interacted with your brand then you retarget those people with direct offers to buy.

This increases your conversions while reducing your ad costs significantly.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

  1. Increase the number of touches. The more they see you the more familiar they become with your brand and the easier it is to get them to move into your selling process.

2. Have a human face to your brand. Apple had Steve Jobs. Wendy’s had Dave. Verizon had the “can you hear me now” guy. Even today Amazon is preparing its image by putting its employees front and center of its advertising. Putting a face with a brand humanizes it. Everything gets easier after that.

One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?

Negative reviews are a part of life. The good news is consumers have begun to expect them. The most important thing a brand can do when faced with a negative review is to respond publicly to it. Apologize and try to make it right.

If consumers see a company that is working to make a mistake right it shows they care about the quality of their product and the customers they serve. Consumers will overlook a lot of negativity if they believe the company is trying to do the right thing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Social media has done a great deal of good for the world but with it has come a lot of anger and division. If I could start any movement it would be one that increased the tolerance and understanding in our society. We don’t have to like everything or everyone but we can be respectful and allow others to live their values and express their beliefs without attacking them for it.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Just go to

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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