There are few figures in the e-commerce world who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk as much as Ezra Firestone. As the CEO of Smart Marketer, Ezra is behind a myriad of e-commerce businesses and, with 70 employees on his team, is currently seeing over $25 million per year in revenue. It's not just about the numbers for him, though. In our conversation, we got to hear about the questions that really matter and how others in the e-commerce space can maximize their own potential by providing real value and planning for long-term success.
Ezra entered the e-commerce industry in the early 2000s and began in the world of SEO, e-books, and, ultimately, dropshipping from American manufacturers, where he made his first million in 2008. It was when he began documenting his journey in 2012, however, that he began down the path for which he is perhaps best known today, as an e-commerce guru.
Too often, Ezra says, those in e-commerce adopt a turn and burn model — that is, they're looking for the next trendy product without an interest in building a brand, retaining customers, or adding value to the marketplace. While this model can generate a cash flow, it isn't ultimately a business that will take you very far.
To combat this urge, anyone looking to build a business should be looking five years out, instead of just twelve months ahead. Collectively, we need to recognize the value in slow growth, in watering seeds and building something over time rather than going for the instant profits. We also should work to provide original, quality products that add value to the marketplace, which is ultimately how we can separate ourselves from the competition.
When it comes to marketing, Ezra is all about storytelling. Your business should be engaging with people who are sharing a collective experience, and your marketing content should comment on that experience. By combining meaningful content that resonates with your audience with a product that is unique in the marketplace, you're able to build a community around your brand.
Who that community is will, in part, dictate where you tell your story. For example, while Instagram ads may offer remarkably good returns for many businesses, Ezra's target audience — women over the age of 50 — is not on Instagram, so he focuses his efforts elsewhere. It's important to remember that between paid amplification, press, organic content, and the range of social media available, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing.
Ezra's one exception to this rule, however, is Amazon. Thanks to its enormous role in e-commerce — and the fact that a third of online shoppers only buy from Amazon — it's worth any business's time to have their products available on the site.
As Ezra points out, it's easy to get caught up in metrics that are irrelevant. In his mind, what matters most is repeat customers. Both your new and repeat customers should be going up. If one of those numbers begins to dip, you likely have a problem.
More than sales metrics or how much money you're making, though, Ezra focuses on three basic questions: Are you enjoying yourself? Are you making really great products that add value to people's life? Are you profitable? If those three aspects are present, you're going to be successful.
On a similar note, Ezra has an invaluable bit of wisdom for anyone starting a business of any kind, e-commerce or otherwise. Know that how you approach your business is how your business will be. Too many entrepreneurs are overworked, anxious, or burned out, and that means they don't have any energy to bring to their brand. While it's easy to think that you're sacrificing your free time or your social life to your business, in reality, you're only hurting both yourself and your work. Build boundaries into your daily life to make sure you have the energy — physical, mental, and emotional — to really show up for your business. By taking care of yourself, you'll ultimately be more capable of success, and you'll be better able to enjoy that success in the moment.