Welcome to the e-commerce marketing podcast, everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest, Jay Jones is a serial entrepreneur, author, coach, speaker, and podcast host of “BlackEntrepreneur Blueprint.” Jay works with Black entrepreneurs worldwide to help them launch, build, and grow successful, sustainable businesses. After several years in corporate America as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch and a stint as an advertising executive, Jay decided to “Bet on Himself” and started his first business. Jay believes in the concept of “Do for Self” where people utilize their talents and skills to create businesses, control their destiny, and build generational wealth.

Jay has launched over seventeen businesses and built two multimillion-dollar businesses including a mortgage firm and an eCommerce portfolio consisting of multiple physical product brands and digital products. Jay is also the creator and hosts the number one Black entrepreneur podcast in the world, “Black Entrepreneur Blueprint” where he shares his entrepreneurial journey including his successes as well as failures – and interviews other Black entrepreneurs. Welcome to the podcast, Jay.

Man, that was a mouthful, brother. Thank you all. No problem. Yeah, you’ve you’ve done a lot and you’ve had quite a journey, as I was reading in your intro. It’s always good to see people that have a journey of a lot under their belt and are continuing to do big things. So super excited to talk to you today. Our topic for today is going to be building your e-commerce platform. How do you build a platform?

How do you really get people to be advocates of your brand and then support your brand? And so superexcited to dig into that because that’s really what it’s all about today, especially for e-commerce. Businesses really have to set yourself apart from your competitors. And to do that, you have to create a platform for your brand. But, yeah, before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you got into what you do today, because you’ve got multiple ventures going on right now.

Definitely. Well, you mentioned that I built two multimillion dollar businesses and both of those actually pretty much came off the back of almost losing it all twice. So I’ve had a tumultuous journey, but a good journey. But how I got here today, basically, and what I’m doing is after my mortgage business failed in 2007, 2008, when we had the crash was laying on the couch, man, almost lost it all house cause everything. And I said, man, how am I going to come back and what am I going to come back?

And so I’d always been a teacher by nature, not a traditional teacher, but everybody always used to come to me and ask me, hey, Jay, how do you do this? How do you start this business? So I said, there are a couple of things that I want to do in my next iteration of myself. Number one, I wanted to have unlimited income potential. Number two, I didn’t want to have 50 employees like I had a mortgage business and ten thousand dollars a month rent.

I didn’t want to have one hundred and fifty thousand dollar my payroll and I wanted to share my experiences. So where I am today is, according to Chartable, I’m the number one black entrepreneur downloader black entrepreneur podcast in the world right now. And I started Black Entrepreneur Blueprint to basically share my story and also bring other entrepreneurs to share their stories and not just talk about things, but give people actionable steps to take them from point A to point B.

So that’s the impetus of the podcast and that’s really the platform that I built. And I know we’ll get into this a little more, but basically sharing my experiences and it just kind of morphed into its own its own thing. Its took his own life, you know, in terms of growing and building an ecosystem around the podcast.

That’s awesome. And thank you for sharing that. And I think individuals like you and what you’re doing are super important these days because like you said, what you’re focusing on is helping people with clear, actionable steps to grow their business, to be an entrepreneur, because a lot of that is coming from your background and what you’re doing. You know, you’re not only teaching, it’s coming from your experience. And that’s really the best way to empower people, because you’ve got like you said, you’ve covered the gamut with the mortgage brokerage firm and 50 employees.

I can imagine dealing with that. And so you learn a lot of lessons and those are things that you can definitely impart into business owners and with the shift to our whole kind of. Digital economy, our digital market and the way e-commerce business is just exploding these days, it’s guidance I think is more important than ever for sure. So, yeah, I really wouldn’t want to start off with, because as I alluded to earlier, as far as the topic today, we’re going to be talking about creating that platform.

How do you really differentiate yourself and get people to really support your brand and how do you grow it? And so really, what do you even begin when you’re looking to just create your whole e-commerce platform for your products and your services?

OK, well, the first thing that you need to do is identify what products or services that you want to sell. So I tell people there are only six things. If you listen to the podcast, the only six things with six verticals that you can sell your physical products, your digital products, your services, somebody else’s physical products, somebody else’s digital products and somebody else’s services. Those are the six things. Now, under those six categories, you’re going to have hundreds of thousands of different things.

But the first thing you need to do to start thinking about building your platform is determining what products or services you’re going to sell. So you know what type of platform way may be more successful in connecting with your prospective customers?

Yeah, makes a lot of sense. And it’s really important to just isolate once you deciding what you’re going to be selling, whether there is something original or the original product where there’s a service, whatever it is, you have to really once that’s defined, you get a clear picture of who your target audience is. And I think that’s kind of one of the key things. I know a lot of business owners and you can kind of testify to this as well.

When you’re an entrepreneur, you think you want to sell to the world, you think you have the greatest product and you think everybody can use it. It’s like, why not? But a lot of times entrepreneurs fail to realize that there really is just a specific customer. There’s a customer avatar, if you will, that you have to create so that you know specifically how to market to even though your product, you may think your product is the greatest ever is appropriate for everyone.

When you’re talking about marketing and then creating that platform, it’s very important to isolate your customer avatar because that, like you said, can dictate everything that you do from the channels that you’re going to be promoting and to really how you structure everything in the business. So that’s really important. So once you really have isolated the products and services you’re going to be selling, you’ve kind of created your initial customer avatar of who’s your prime customer, what’s their demographics looking like?

How do you create specific marketing strategies to just grow your platform and who you’re going to be isolating to market to? Great question.

So one of the big things that I tell my coaching students and I talk about it on my podcast also is many times people are so focused on their product or service, so they’re creating a digital online course if they’re creating a physical product brand is so honed in on that they don’t understand that while they’re creating that, they should always already be building their platform, even if they don’t know the exact product or service, if they know they’re going to be in a specific space.

So you want to start building the platform before your product or service is done already? Because I’m telling you, Arling and I’ve seen it a hundred out of a hundred times, as soon as somebody oh, I got my new product or I created this digital product, then they scratch their head and they’re like, OK, who am I selling it to? Right. They had a platform built and you have prospective customers already in place. When you launch your product, then that’s really the way to do it.

Most people do it backwards and I get it. You’ve got to work on your product, but you need to be working on your database or your platform prior to your product launch. So that’s the difference between one hundred dollar product launch and a million dollar product launch. Is your platform to database?

I don’t know if I answered the question directly or not, but that it makes a lot of sense and I think it’s a mistake a lot of business owners make and entrepreneurs make where they come up with the product first and then are like scrambling to create that platform for it to create the buzz around it. Like you said, a lot of times it’s that’s kind of backwards. You want to create the platform first because otherwise you’re going to miss unfortunately, you’re going to waste a lot of time and money if you’ve got the product out there, you’ve invested the funds, the resources into creating it.

And then if you then trying to just I guess you can say kind of inorganically just trying to pour money into advertising across a lot of channels, trying to scramble and build a platform. Yeah, it’s difficult. It’s very difficult. It can be done. There are businesses that get out there and do it. But it’s most effective ways to create that platform where you have that audience that’s already kind of behind you and what you’re going to be doing.

And then it’s a matter of just finalizing your products and services and then selling to them and then continually growing it now. You had mentioned creating this platform beforehand. What are some of the tactics and things that you can do to to start building this platform prior to creating your products and services?

OK, so one of the things that I’m actually doing now, I have a database of over sixty eight thousand subscribers to black entrepreneur, a blueprint, my ecosystem, different aspects of my eco system. But one of the biggest things that I’ve been doing is been a newsletter. A digital newsletter could be a weekly based on your industry. If you’re doing something like sports, that will probably have to be daily. But if you’re doing something else, it could be a weekly newsletter.

And in terms of building that platform, remember, the platform is just like somebody standing on stage and really is just a communication vehicle between you and your prospective customers. So an email newsletter and I think that’s one of the easiest and quickest ways to build a platform is number one, it can be once a week. And the tools out there that you can use, it actually can aggregate and curate content for you where you’re not even creating the content.

Another way or reason that is beneficial to you is number one, you don’t have to be the face of that newsletter. How many people that are watching or listening to this today subscribe to a newsletter and they don’t know who that writes or edits the news doesn’t matter, right? If the content is good and it speaks to that audience, then that’s all that matters. So now what you’re doing is you’re building up an audience, you’re building your platform.

In addition to that, you’re giving quality content, actionable steps, quality tips or whatever, and you’re helping people move from point A to point B. So your newsletter, just like everything else you should do, should help people sell. You’re selling the transition. You’re not selling your product or service. You’re selling transition from here to here, whatever that transition. So with building that platform, you gain trust. People will follow you as long as your stuff is good.

And it’s it’s cheaper to sell to an audience that already knows and likes your product or your content versus paying for ads. So there’s so many people I know all in that are spending money on ads and they don’t know what the heck they’re doing, that they’re losing money. Why not create a platform and start selling to the people that have it tied to that understanding like what you’re doing? So building a platform and I didn’t learn this until after the fact, but if I knew this when I first started a business man.

But that’s why you need to build a platform so it’s easier to communicate with people that know and like what you do. And it’s like turning on a faucet. And I’ll talk about later on my black entrepreneur blueprint eco system. So any products or service that I have that my audience tells me they want, I create and it’s like turning a faucet on dialogue. It’s to back and forth, correct?

Yeah, that’s very powerful stuff. And like you said, it’s a matter of creating this community where people know, like and trust what you’re doing and they kind of get behind it because they see that you may be a somewhat of an authority in a particular subject. And so it’s very important to create that connection because once you have that connection, then it’s like you already said, it’s just like you’re turning a faucet because in essence, you already have them sold at that point because they’re trusting what you’re telling them.

They respect your opinion. And so that whole I guess more than half of the sales process is already done by just gaining their trust and then getting that trust multiplied across a lot of different individuals. So that’s very key. You also mentioned another thing that I think is important to point out, too, with regards to newsletters, because I know a lot of business owners struggle with that and struggle with the content creation. And what is it that I provide to this audience?

What are they going to be interested in? You know, there’s a number of things that you can do when you’re creating a list. You really want to speak to them. You want to speak to them, to what they want to hear. The one thing you can do to do that when you’re starting to build your list, you can use surveys, you can query your database to find out what are some things that they’re interested in so that you’re not just spitting back useless information that they’re not interested in.

And so you have to be query them, get an idea of what’s important to them so that can help you tailor your content. You also mention that these days when you’re creating newsletters, there’s a lot of systems out there that are content aggregators that will help you put together content that you can put out there, because a lot of times it’s difficult coming up with good content. It takes time, and especially if you’re small business, it’s hard to do that yourself, you know, if you’re not versed in that.

But one thing that also want to point out is you never sell yourself short with regards to creating unique content these days. There’s a lot of ways to create content, even if you just want to pop on your video cam or use your phone and empower people with just what you know or maybe giving. People, some lessons based on your experience, so you can come in a variety of different ways these days, so it’s not about only just coming up with a written newsletter.

So that can be put together as well. Now, speaking of creating these newsletters and putting all of this together, there’s a number of ways you can go to do this. So what are really some tools and resources that other specific tools and resources that you would recommend in creating this whole platform?

One of the tools, the greatest tool, one of the greatest tools I’ve found is a newsletter creator platform. It’s called Rassa, Io, RSA, Io and what that IO is, you hit it on the head to all and so you don’t have to sit and create content. So a lot of sites, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Drudge Report Report, all that is, is an aggregation of links to news. So I forgot his first name.

He doesn’t create content. So all he does, he aggregates. So you go to his site and you can pick and check out all the news you want, as opposed to go on to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC. So one of the things that I love about Rozz is and there are other platforms similar to that is that you go and you pick the sources of the content. So if I wanted to do I have a newsletter called Philly Sports Roundup.

So I’m tapped into all the Philadelphia newspapers, a lot of the Eagles sites, Philly Sixers Flyers and all of that stuff. So what happens is you have content now that comes into your back office every day. When it comes out from that source, it’ll come into your back office. Now, all you have to do is go through. You can read it, make sure it’s good and you’re doing the curation. Click a button. Yeah. I want to put this as one of the eight or ten articles in my newsletter that you can change the newsletter, you can write captions and you can edit it and all that type of stuff.

But what happens is you literally can set it and forget it. So the newsletter can be set to go out at, say, nine o’clock in the morning. It’ll cut off all of the sources, the news from the sources you create at eight a.m. and that’ll give you a chance to go and check. And now you can the newsletter sends automatically. But what I love about Rassa and I’m not a paid spokesperson on the Philly, which I probably should.

But what Raashid does is based on the way articles that you open in the newsletter, it’s now going to use EHI and start serving you more those articles to increase your open rate. So once again it’s a set it and forget it type of concept where anybody can start a newsletter literally in about an hour that’s building a platform, it’s building. And as long as you make sure the content is good, where you’re getting the sources from, now you’re building up all in Robinson’s newsletter or whatever your newsletter is.

And I’m telling you, that’s one of the greatest tools that I found within the last six months. And I’ve built newsletter lists like Philly Sports round up like 7000 people in about two and a half, three months on the newsletter. And I don’t even monetize it. I just did it as a test.

Yeah, that’s awesome. And that’s some powerful stuff because as I mentioned, it’s definitely a pain point for e-commerce business owners. I talked to e-commerce business owners all the time on a daily basis, and I’m looking at their sites and I see what they’re doing in a lot of people. They’ll have the newsletter sign ups. But then, you know, when I ask them, OK, what type of things do you send off and you send it out, it’s kind of far and in between when they the last one they sent out.

So it’s difficult. And that’s the main point is how do they come up with the content? They don’t have a writer in house. And when you’re talking about that, a roster. Yes. Awesome. Where they can aggregate some things that you can specify that we’re going to be interest to your audience. So, yeah, really, really good stuff there. Well, now, as we get ready to kind of wrap things up, I’m always an advocate of looking at other successful e-commerce businesses that have created a platform because, you know, you can learn so much small or large, you know, just looking at kind of what they’re doing, how they build their community.

So can you point out some other e-commerce businesses that you’ve either worked with, you’re familiar with, that have successfully created a platform? And how specifically did they do it?

Right. Well, I’m going to start right at home, right here with me. So what better way to tell you than something that I’ve done? Definitely. So my platform, Black Entrepreneur Blueprint, was actually built via podcast. Now a podcast. You’re not going to monetize that for a long time, OK, because you have to. And when I started, I didn’t even start to try to monetize the podcast. It was just something that I felt was cathartic, something that I felt I needed to do.

And over time, when you build a platform, your people will tell you what they want from me. So I started talking about my successor and one of my first physical products brands, people like Jay. How can I do that? OK, let me. Of course, let me do a live trainings and things like that, so my platform was built on the podcast now from that podcast and this is what I want people to understand. You don’t know what people want until you put something into the universe and your audience will tell you.

So from that platform, let me just give you my Eco-System. So the podcast is my main driver from the podcast. I created Black Entrepreneur Blueprint Academy, which is a school with all my online courses. I created multiple online courses and academies. I got Be Smart by Black Dotcom, which is a platform for black product producers to sell their products to black consumers are created hire black freelancers, which is another platform for black freelancers to put their wares and their jobs out there, and black consumers of black businesses can actually use them.

Man, I got so many things on my eco system, but my latest book, A New Black Wall Street, circulating the black dollar worldwide by building successful e-commerce businesses. All of that came from my platform. So when I do my podcast, everything that you hear on my podcast that I talk about is mine. I don’t take outside advertising. I don’t do anything. So I plug my book, I’ll plug my platforms, I’ll plug my academies, I’ll plug everything I have throughout my show.

So having that platform allows me to sell products or services without spending money for advertising. So the platform, if you don’t build a platform, not like you said, you can sell. I can go out there if I didn’t have a platform, put this book on Amazon Drive traffic to it and sell it. But in my building a dialogue or communication or community, no, I’m selling product in the difference between the platform and just selling products or services.

It’s a community and that’s real. Like I said, I can speak best from my experiences. I have a lot of students that have good stuff too, that have built platforms, but I don’t usually talk about things on my podcast online unless I’ve done so. That’s why I want to stay on something that I’ve done so I can tell you from experience and not theory. Gotcha.

Gotcha. I appreciate that. And that’s awesome, because that’s definitely a testament to a real world, testament to the success of creating an e-commerce platform initially and then how you can leverage that to sell your products or services, which is exactly what you did. It started with the podcast. And one thing also to keep in mind that, of course, I know you went through it. You kind of mentioned as well that everybody should know is that it’s not an overnight thing.

You know, like you said before, you got to the point where you were monetizing things and you were selling your product and service. It takes time to get some traction to get the podcasts out there to increase your listener base. You know, it’s not like you’re going to record an episode, throw it out there to the world and you’re going to get millions of listeners. This unfortunate is not that easy, but through consistent efforts of getting the podcasts out there, announcing it across a lot of channels, forming partnerships, you know, it’s a process.

But once you start there, create that platform, you’re going to continually get traction if you stay behind it. And then when you have your products and services ready to go, you know, it’s like you said, it’s turning up that dial and releasing your products and services to that built-In platform that already know, like and trust you as a person and as your brand. And so you’re half of the job is already done by getting them in your whole ecosystem.

Can I add this real quick? Sure. I just want to give people an example, not of me, but of something that you can do. So a lot of times I just said that my audience will tell me what they want from me. Right, because I have the platform in the dialogue. So I didn’t go in saying, hey, I’m going to sell it. I didn’t monetize my platform for two and a half years. I just was out there giving content.

But let me give you guys an example of what can happen. And I’m just going to use a newsletter as an example. So I have the domain name Fix My Looks Dotcom. Haven’t done anything with it yet. Right. So the tagline is how to text tips and tricks to improve your appearance. It could be physical or whatever. Now, if I created a newsletter, which I’m going to call Fix My Looks Dotcom and I’ll have say every week, say eight articles so I can have an article about skin care.

I can have an article about whitening your teeth, I can have an article about losing weight or whatever. Now, all I have to do in that newsletter is put links. Right? So I have an article about whitening your teeth. All right. So I put a link in there to a teeth whitening product, which I can be the affiliate of, or I can actually be the owner. OK, so one of the things when you create a digital newsletter as the base for your platform is that there’s so many monetization aspects from a digital newsletter.

Once again, you’re not just selling stuff. You want to have content that people are interested in everything you put. It doesn’t need to have a sales link to it, but just imagine what I could sell from that Fix my Looks newsletter, teeth whitening, weight loss, skin care, hair. I mean, I could sell a hundred different products in that one digital newsletter. So I want people to start thinking if there’s something that you’re interested in or you have a passion for, it could be Porsches.

One of my body loves Porsches. I should start a Porsche newsletter and you can sell aftermarket parts and all that stuff. So it’s not as you think. And once you start creating and building a platform, guys, people will tell you what they want. So you can build a platform right now on a topical subject without any product, physical or digital product ideas. And I guarantee you, somebody goes, something is going to pop in your head, man, I can probably sell this or do that.

So platform building is where is that, guys? And if you’re not doing it, start right now. Awesome.

It doesn’t speak any louder than that. I mean, it’s clear you got to start right now, build that platform and go. And thank you for pointing out the testimonial, what you’re doing with that particular site. And you just kind of can see how the possibilities are really endless as far as once you have something and then figuring out how to grow it from there. So great info. Jay, I really appreciate you coming on to the e-commerce market podcast.

I know I learned a lot. I always learn to live with it any time I have my guests on. I’m sure our listeners have as well. And so it’s really been awesome talking to you. What I always like to do, just to close things out so people can get to know you just a little bit better. I always have a closing fun fact questions. So if you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact that you think our audience would be interested to know about yourself, a fun fact.

Just the personal fun fact. I’ll tell you, a lot of people don’t realize that I’m real silly. I’m a jokester. So on my podcast, I’ll joke around a little bit, but I’m more serious. What? In my natural state, I’m a clown. OK, I used to be like the class clown, not because I didn’t know to work. It was just because so my kids would tell you, my wife, she’s like, man, every time we go somewhere, it’s like you’re the life of the party.

Now, I don’t want to get people wrong. I don’t have a lampshade on my head dancing around anything like that. But I’m actually a jokester and a lot of people don’t see that when I’m doing my podcast. But that’s good stuff, man.

Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, I don’t know if I would have guessed that as well. Give up as like the class clown, but I appreciate you sharing that for sure. And you know all of these things.

Of course, I want to add this too. I actually signed up for a to take a comedy class to be a comedian. So, OK, I want to try this a skill. So OK. Yeah. So that’s something people don’t know about. Me too. OK, good, good stuff.

I was actually going to ask you about that. Yeah. Have a good buddy of mine that down here in the Orlando area he tried the same thing. They have only a few open mic comedy nights here in the Orlando area. This guy is always super funny, always joking. And we were like, all right, we should go ahead and try it. And he did his bit by ten minute bit was hilarious. Yeah, it did really well.

And so that’s definitely something that you could do. I’m sure there’s plenty of open mic comedy spots in Philly that you could try out. And, you know, there’s something to do, something to try to see where it goes. It could be a side job. You never know. You could be the next Kevin Hart. I know. I’m not officially. I’m telling you. All right. That’s good stuff. Joe, I appreciate you sharing that.

It was awesome having you on the e-commerce marketing podcast. But lastly, before we let you go with any of our listeners, want to reach out to you and pick your brain any more about anything that we talked about as far as building an e-commerce business platform or anything e-commerce business related, what is the best way for them to get in contact with you?

So there’s a page on my website that I kind of shortened. So if you go to beby connect dotcoms like Black Entrepreneur or Blueprint Connect, but Beb Connect dot com on that one page, it has all my social media contact links, it has all my resource links and everything about the black entrepreneur blueprint ecosystem. So Beeby connect dot com.

Great. I appreciate that and I definitely encourage all of our listeners to take a look at that site, connect with you and yeah, just go from there because I’m sure there definitely will be empowered once they get into your ecosystem. So thanks again. Yeah, thank you man. No problem. It’s definitely been a pleasure. We appreciate you coming on today on the e-commerce marketing podcast.

Thank you so much, man. Much appreciate it. Thank you for listening to the E Commerce marketing podcast.

Podcast Guest Info

Jay Jones
Host of Black Entrepreneur Blueprint Podcast