In this episode of the live eCommerce podcast, retired Marine turned live shopping host Jim Fuhs takes us on a journey through his fascinating career and shares how he got into the live-streaming world. Jim talks about his unique approach to live solving, rather than live selling, and how he applies this philosophy to his show on Amazon Live. He recounts his experience during Prime Day and the challenges he faced getting into the live streaming world, including budget constraints and equipment selection.
Jim also shares his insights into repurposing live videos into clips and using them to build brand awareness by sharing them on social media platforms. He emphasizes the importance of diversification and warns the audience about the potential dangers of relying solely on monetizing social media.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to succeed in the world of live streaming, this is a podcast episode you won’t want to miss. Join Jim as he shares his wisdom, experience, and unique approach to live-streaming in this engaging and informative episode of the live eCommerce podcast.
About eStreamly: eStreamly is a Livestream & video shopping SaaS. Your video content is shoppable on your site, a blog, email, SMS, a 3rd party webpage, and now shoppable on social media too (Instagram, Facebook, Youtube)! It’s your data, your eCommerce. Each video becomes an extension of your eCommerce with in-video checkout.
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Live Solving vs. Live Selling: A Unique Approach To Livestreaming With Jim Fuhs
Our special guest is Jim Fuhs, the President of Fuhsion Marketing, who is a seasoned digital marketing consultant and a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel with over 30 years of business and social media experience. He’s also very experienced at podcasting, live streaming, being on camera, and all of these things that Nicolas and I love. We are looking forward to this conversation. Before we kick off our questions for Jim, Nicolas has some updates for you about what’s going on over at eStreamly.
I’m excited to have you, Jim. We are neighbors of the city. We live a couple of miles away. I’m super excited to get a chance to connect with a person who went on the spot before from Creators Legal. It’s going to be a fun conversation. Before we go there, here is an update on eStreamly. We released an analytic dashboard that gives the users who are using eStreamly when they do their live stream and their video shopping the ability to understand what’s going on in the video itself like where is the audience coming from. Who is that audience? Are they engaging with you? What product are they looking at? How long do they stay on each product? What they are doing with it? It gives you a sense that, “Maybe that person didn’t purchase, but they went all the way through the checkout,” or where did they stop in their journey?
That gives you a sense of where you want to go with that data in terms of retargeting and all that. It’s pretty exciting. The reason why I wanted to have you, Jim, is so much so because you have been quite successful with life selling, if that’s the right word of saying it or maybe you are going to say no to that, but with Amazon, and you are an Amazon influencer. I don’t like the word, but maybe, you name yourself differently. I’d love to start from that perspective. How long have you been a livestream creator? Did you start from livestreaming? Where were you a creator before and then you stumble into livestreaming and then into live selling? Give us a sense of your journey to become who you are with Amazon.
As is probably not typical of most of your guests, I had a whole career as a Marine officer. When I first got out of the Marines, I was doing government contract consulting. In about 2016, I started to see all this stuff about social media. I’m sure I’d been on Facebook for a while, but I have always been a geek in tech. It was this whole thing of people getting paid to help businesses post stuff on social media. I said, “I think I can do that.” I started doing social media management.
I went into the social media marketing world in early 2018. At that time, Facebook was telling people, “We want you to go live on our platform. You are going to get all this reach and everything else.” I met a lady named Kelly Noble Mirabella. She started a livestream challenge. I was like, “If I’m going to tell my clients to do this, I have to be able to do this.” I jumped in. Back then, it was just like the webcam and the computer. I don’t even think I was using the phone to do it.
I met a guy through being brought on as an accidental guest on a livestream because there was a program B Live that you could just bring people on instantly. We were talking about, at the time, Instagram TV. He reached out to me. We ended up starting a show in August 2018. So I have been livestreaming almost every week since August 2018. When the pandemic started, what happened was I had a couple of companies I’d been working with on the social side and like, “We got to stay in front of our audience. Can you produce a show for us?” I’m like, “Sure.”
The show I had been doing, The Tim and Jim Show, is still going, we produce our show. We have been using StreamYard for quite a long time, but we also have used Ecamm, which is a Mac product. In July 2020, I have a friend who’s local here that I hope to introduce to Nicolas named Chris Stone. We had wanted to do a show together. I found out that Amazon had started, and to your credit, Nicolas, I don’t love the word influencer program, I applied and got accepted.
I called Chris, I said, “We are Amazon influencers now. We got to come up with a show.” We came up with Dealcasters literally in a couple of hours, and the rest is history. We started going live. As we have learned the platform, learned what works and what doesn’t, we have continued to grow that brand and it’s led to a lot of great relationships with companies. Our show focuses on tech and helping people overcome the fear of technology. Our phrase is, “Don’t fear the gear.”
When we started the show, the idea was we didn’t want to be QVC and HSN. We wanted to be ourselves. We wanted to help others. We don’t like the term live selling. We like the term live solving because the reality is that all of us, as business owners, are helping people solve their problems. When people go search on social or on YouTube, they are looking for a solution to their problem.As business owners, we are helping people solve their problems. Click To Tweet
When we are live, whether we are talking about we are all using a similar microphone, it’s like, “This is going to make you sound better, but if you don’t have the budget, here’s another solution.” We are not necessarily looking like, “We got to make these sales.” I think the thing that we have found the most rewarding in being Amazon Live creators is when someone will say in the chat, “I’m buying my microphone. I’m going to start my podcast or my live stream.”
We have also found another unique thing about the platform is that when you ask someone, like a book author, “How would you like to be on my Amazon live show on the launch day of your book?” Have you ever seen dogs do that sideways look? That’s the look you get. They always say yes. We have yet to have anyone say no because who wouldn’t want to be live on the biggest shopping platform, at least in the United States talking about their book live on the day their book launches?
We have talked to people like Dave Jackson, Chris Krimitsos, and David Meerman Scott, and we have other folks that are going to be coming up. We take those specific interview episodes and we turn those into a podcast, all with the idea that it’s going to eventually drive people back to Amazon to ideally either purchase the book or maybe purchase some of the products that we have had. That’s how it evolved from someone who didn’t do this at all and now I think my preference, and you guys may feel the same way, is I would rather do a video than write something.
In 2023, I’d rather do a podcast than make a video or livestream. I’m very comfortable livestreaming and it feels less overwhelming than recording a video, editing it, and going through all of the work involved. Writing can feel so intensive because editing often needs to take place in that process, or you need to think things through. Maybe you are second-guessing yourself. I’m very curious to know more about that because one thing we have learned through doing this show is the obstacles, the emotional blocks that people have, and the fears that people have.
I thought it was interesting that when you invite guests to your live show, most of them say yes. I thought you were going to say that they would feel nervous about going live. I’m curious. What is the experience you have noticed through having guests on and how have you learned and taught other people to overcome their fears of going live, embrace it, and see how it might be less work than writing or making a polished video?
You almost have to think of when you have someone on a show or maybe someone who hasn’t been before that one is making them feel comfortable. It’s a conversation. It’s not a scripted thing. We don’t necessarily script things like we may have some questions in mind and we will send those questions to the guest in advance. We are not shock jocks. If we had Nicolas on the show, we are not going to sit there and try to put him in an uncomfortable situation. That helps. When you consider how much of our life now has been, for example, Zoom calls and things of that nature, people, in general, are much more comfortable with coming on video.
We like to make it fun. We have video clips and things of that nature. It’s also planned out in advance. As you guys have done here, I knew what to expect. The expectations are there upfront. That’s important as well as to people know what to expect. We’d say, “Give us five things that you have recently bought on Amazon.” We may end up talking about that at some point because maybe it’s something interesting. It’s about the guest. It’s not about us.
That sometimes is where people struggle. We bring the guests on because we want to learn about them. That’s where sometimes, maybe, you are better off being a guest as opposed to being a host because when you are a host, if you think that your job is to sit there and talk about yourself, you are dead wrong there. There are shows that may work that way if you want to be a solo episode or even as a solo eCommerce person if you want to sit there and talk about your stuff. People like conversations. I think that’s where we have been successful.
I love this idea of conversation because we had Matt telling us that story. Back in the day, QVC was a one-person show and then they quickly realized that when you do a conversation, it changed completely the dynamic on the floor, but also the sales side. Having a conversation feels more like something that’s genuine and what’s driving more sales. I can relate to the conversation thing.
I’d love to ask you one thing specifically as it relates to sales because it’s been many years. Your show is predominantly around technology and helping people with tech products, but yet you are bringing guests and you are talking about books. Something completely irrelevant but somewhat not so relevant from a product perspective.
One thing that we have seen quite a bit with some creators that we have been working with when you think about live streaming, I’m sure it’s something you think about the audience has to be warmed up to you, your product, your show and all that before they start buying. You have got a cold audience. There’s the first time they engage with you. They don’t quite know you. They are most likely to purchase it, maybe or maybe not.
The offer has to be big for them to purchase, but then as you create your channel, that audience becomes warmer. They start to know and recognize you. You know each other, and now it feels like a community, and that’s when they start purchasing. That audience has one folk of interest, which is technology because that’s the thing you have built on.
Now you are bringing on someone who is on the book side, which is somewhat derivative or that is not related. I wonder, do you see sales? One of the things that I have seen is that for the creators that are building around beauty or building around their vertical and their audience is trained and understands we see sell. The one that brings everything and nothing, it’s very difficult to see sales. I wonder if you are seeing that. Is it easier to be a generalist or to be a specialist? Is there not a conflict with your audience there?
To maybe reframe it a little bit. What we do is if we are going to interview you on our show as a book author or we have interviewed people for example, we have interviewed Mario from Shure Microphone to talk about their microphones. We are very focused on the type of book author. Dave Jackson wrote a book on how to profit from your podcast, which is one thing we are teaching in a sense when we are talking about products. The same thing with Chris Krimitsos’ books about marketing. We can tie in how you see, as an example, live selling, we might ask the author, evolving. Things of that nature.
It gives the mindset that if you are someone who’s creating a live show or a podcast, “How do I market it?” That’s one of the things that we have to do. We are probably not going to interview someone who just created a cookbook or as much as I love Star Wars, I don’t know, maybe we’d make an exception, but we are not necessarily going to be interviewing fantasy book authors, but there are people on the platform that do that we would look to connect them with. The other thing is we believe in the community piece. There’s more than enough to go around for everybody. We are all about connecting and helping as opposed to like, “We got to get all the sales ourselves,” because that’s just not going to happen.
I’m curious about how you build relationships with these brands. You said that most people say yes. Are you mostly approaching people through cold outreach and saying, “Here’s the show?” The value speaks for itself. Do you have some plan for how you build up those relationships so that you can feel comfortable? Do you integrate them into some community? Is there a strategic avenue in which you pursue this or is it that because you are an Amazon influencer and your work speaks for itself, that’s why people say yes to being on the show?
I think being on the platform helps. I have done, in a sense, some cold outreaches. Even at a conference, I might be somewhere. I walk up and see a product that looks like it fits into our lane. I was like, “Do you guys do anything on Amazon?” I was like, “I just happen to be an Amazon influencer. Would you be interested?” They are like, “Yeah, we need to talk.” People who are selling products know that. On the flip side, I’m very big on relationship building. LinkedIn and Twitter are my top two platforms. I like connecting with people. I like having conversations, I would never be the first thing out of the box of to like, “Nicolas, let’s connect,” and then the next thing like, “I’d like to sell you my services.” That’s where a lot of people get turned off. You have to give time.
What’s happened for us with some of the companies that we have ended up working with, like Shure, Cloud Microphone, and Heil was they have seen our stuff, and then they have someone that we maybe know that’s working with like, “I want to introduce you to Jim and Chris from Dealcasters,” then it’s like, “We’d love to work with you guys. How do we move forward?” There are other companies that we want to work with, but we feel some of it is you have to prove yourself in the sense that it’s important to, as an example, if I’m going to talk about like the Stream Deck, which I use, we need to be using the products we are going to talk about.
We won’t work with just anybody. I’m not going to go work with some cheap microphone company just because they see that we do good videos because I believe in the products that I use. If I think it’s a good solution for some of our audience, I might say, “Let us check it out.” If we think it’s good, we will do that. It doesn’t mean we are like, “I’m going to stop using the Shure microphone to use something else, but it may fit,” because that’s the whole thing. Part of the challenge for people getting into this space, in general, is budget. You don’t need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to get started. You just need to pick the right equipment.You don't need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to get started. You need to pick the right equipment. Click To Tweet
What we look at is, “How do we do this?” The nice thing about Amazon and this applies to all eCommerce people is you need to repurpose your lives. You need to get that stuff out on your socials and YouTube. Even if it’s that clip or short that like, “I need to find out more about this product,” because people aren’t always going to have time to watch that live show or if it’s being streamed on the website, maybe there’s not time for them to go watch it. Get them the information. They need to solve their problem by going back to the live-solving mindset.
I love what you are saying. I want to go a little further into monetization because, in the end, the partnership is about monetization. When you look at your source of income is the percentage of sales or activity of selling your primary source of income, is that enough to sustain you and your family or it’s a combination of the partnership plus all these other things that you are doing together?
I wonder, from an economic perspective, if a creator who is interested in this space should think about this because, in some way, for you, it’s a full-time job. Live shopping is just one element of a bigger, more complex entrepreneurial journey where you have your marketing, consulting, and courses that you are giving. It’s all part of a whole complete solution. I wonder if you can carve out just the selling and say, “I could just live out of that.”
The danger there is it’s no different than, let’s say, a social media platform if you don’t own the platform you are selling on. Amazon could decide, “We are not going to do this anymore.” It’s always dangerous, in general, to put your eggs in that proverbial one basket. As an example, if you have a widget that you sell on your website, what if that widget becomes obsolete? That’s where you had put everything. Diversification is important. That’s why I like doing remote production work. It is not only working with sellers, but companies like, “We want to do a live show where we talk about our service.” We have people like, “I want to do a one-day event. It might be a hybrid event or completely virtual.”
That is not going to go away, in my opinion, anytime soon. There’s still a lot of opportunity there. What’s fascinating, and I’m sure that you both see this, is it’s still a very small percentage of people that are doing this. There’s a lot of room for growth because even though there are “millions” of YouTubers, how many of them are getting successful? It takes a lot of effort to be successful on YouTube.
Sometimes the downside of going back to what platform you should be on is Facebook stopped doing live selling. Instagram, even their whole shop process, has changed. TikTok is thinking about it, but it’s that logistical chain. When I order that item, how does it get to me and how do I get it back? That’s the advantage for us. With Amazon, “I don’t have to handle the stuff,” but if you are a solopreneur or small company that’s selling the stuff yourself, how do you treat returns? If you have a bad experience with a customer, that could have a major negative impact on you. What’s plan B? How are you going to continue? This technology is constantly changing as well.
Speaking of constant changes and deciding what you are going to do and where you are going to do it, I’m curious to know more about how you look at data audience analytics, for example. You mentioned a short video and we have heard a lot of talk over the years about short-form content, which you are doing. I’d love to know how you apply that to the live streams, for example, how long are your lives and how often you do them. Do you use analytics? Is it more of an intuitive or personal preference? How do you make those types of decisions?
When we first started, lives were where we were focused. What we have learned, at least on the Amazon platform, I know this doesn’t necessarily apply to other places is product videos where we are doing a demonstration of 2 to 5 minutes. We will purposely try to keep it under a minute and then Amazon allows us to upload those to the product page.
One of those things that, “Maybe this works off of Amazon,” is if you have videos that go back to solving my problem like, “I’m thinking about buying this microphone, but why should I buy it?” We look at things as an example on product pages like, “What are the top questions people are asking?” We will create videos around that. We will talk about that in our live streams. Livestream-wise, we try to go live for at least 30 minutes. Even with a guest, we will go anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how the conversation is going because if it’s a good conversation, we are going to continue, but we also want to respect it when we have a guest their time.
When you are doing the live like if it’s just me and Chris we could go as long as people are interacting with us. What’s interesting, especially with Amazon, when you get into things like Black Friday Prime Day, we will have thousands of people at least stopping by because we can see how many people are watching us live.
I remember our very first Prime Day when we looked at the analytics, we had 10,000 people watch our show in 1 hour. That was the thing you are like, “I have never had 10,000 people watch me on Facebook.” Sometimes, it’s even that whole idea of going live in more than one place because part of it is an awareness play.
People don’t necessarily know you at first. They have to get to know, like, and trust you before they are going to make that purchase. That’s where I think we go live everywhere. We sprinkle things everywhere because they may not be ready now, but eventually, it’s like, “I need to go check out that show. I know these guys or gals talk about these products that we are interested in and I trust them because they are not sitting there trying to force me to buy X, Y, or Z.”
Sometimes, we don’t necessarily do it on the live show, but on our other videos because we have been growing our YouTube presence as well is like, “What’s the difference in the sound between the MB7 and the MB7X? One is a USB and XLR microphone and then the other one is XLR only. We will do things like that, “Here’s what it sounds like in the same computer and interface,” but can you tell the difference? We do things like that comparison-wise because I think people want to know. There’s a difference in price. Is it worth it?
To speak about this notion that Whitney brings on with preparation and lens of live, and on the analytic itself, how does it look like in the moment of live itself? For instance, when we were talking with Matt from QVC, it was very clear that the way they operate is they are constantly monitoring the dollar per second or per minute. I can’t remember exactly, but if they were not at that threshold, they were moving to the next product.
If they were at this threshold, they were staying on for a maximum of six minutes. They had this idea of optimization of the time on a dollar per minute. I wonder if it’s something that you are also looking at as you were talking about a product. How do you move from product A to product B? Is it just purely because you want to have a good time and talk about this? Do you have some metrics you are looking at to say, “People are not catching on those with that? Let’s move on.” I’d love to know your thoughts there.
That’s a great example. We are able to see and, and it’s interesting because depending on where you are in there, they have three levels in this program. When you at least get to that middle level, the live stream will be playing on the product page that you are highlighting. To your point, if all of a sudden we start to see a spike because we are talking about a certain item, like, “Let’s stay here a little bit longer.”
In the convex, if it’s like, “Nobody is watching us right now because they don’t care about this thing we are talking about.” We will then switch and move on to something else. As you have multiple live streamers, the other issue is that sometimes you are getting bumped by another live streamer because you are both talking about the same product.
That’s something that we keep an awareness of. We plan what products we are going to talk about. We usually have between 10 and 20 products in the carousel. We look to try to hit at least 75% of them during our show, but then sometimes we say like, “This person’s going to be coming on,” so we need to go ahead and change our time because we just know that they are going to take from what we are trying to do. That’s something to be aware of. We also sometimes look at the seasonality of products. If you are a live streamer, it wouldn’t be a good time to be talking about Christmas trees. Maybe in a few months.
Before we wrap up, I’d like to go back to something about the production side of it because, in some way, it’s you and your partner, are doing your show. Do you share responsibility? One is managing the whole production of the event while one is doing the entertainment and the discussion or do you have someone else on the back end?
More generally speaking, how do you recommend a brand that wants to do its live show and how do you recommend the production element of it because you have hours of production? I’d love to know your perspective of what you are doing as a pro, and then where is your recommendation from someone who wants to start?
First of all, it is about the KIS method, Keep It Simple. A lot of times, if we are using a product like StreamYard, we can both be “producers and co-produce.” We will share that responsibility. One of us is managing because Amazon has an app as an example that we have to run on an iOS device. Usually, I’m running that. I’m switching what products are being highlighted on Amazon.
We are both going into the chat on Amazon to talk with the folks. Let’s say, for example, Nicolas, if you were talking and I see somebody is asking a question rather than like saying, “Let me answer this question of so-and-so in the chat,” I just respond in the chat by typing. It’s learning some of those things because you want to keep the show flowing.
It’s also thinking about repurposing. We know we have to be intentional. If it’s a show, we know it’s going to become a podcast. We have to think about those like, “We got to describe this to someone that’s not seeing this.” We don’t always automatically bring in the audience, especially if it’s an interview. We do share production responsibilities to make things easier. We don’t have anyone helping us because it’s something we both enjoy doing, but we work through that together.
For these companies that are looking to do it themselves, you may want to bring in a producer. If you want a high-quality show, you need to think about things like the run of the show and how much time are you going to spend talking about this product. What do you do if you have got “trolls” if it’s something that’s allowing comments? We tend to ignore them. We don’t engage with them. I have helped a couple of people get started in the Amazon program where they are going live and they don’t have the confidence to be doing two things at once.
It’s like, “I’m going to take care of all that for you, let you focus on the camera and on talking about the item.” That in and of itself can raise the level of the production. The question becomes, “How are you going to come to that agreement?” Maybe you are going to give the producer a percentage of your sales. They may want to be paid out. That’s the thing you are going to have to think about because, ultimately, this is a skill that if you want a good show, you are not going to get somebody that’s going to do this for $20 an hour and if they say they are going to do it for that, I’d be a little concerned of how good are they because then it’s even thinking about taking this stuff after. How are you going to repurpose it?
There are a lot of challenges there. It’s better to have people that have been doing it. We have been in this business now for a few years doing live selling and live solving. You have probably seen this on social, people are broadcasting and by that, they are like, “Look at my thing. It’s on sale.” That’s not what’s going to get people to connect with you. It is about, “How can I help you? Let’s have a conversation about this item or this service and how you are going to help people.” That’s what’s going to get people to come back.
There was a big argument being made by a publication that was saying that when you look at live shopping and, in general, live stream commerce, you look at the US market, there are two big misses. One will be all products are the same price. Regardless if you purchase it during the show or on your website, it’s the same price. What’s it for me is if to hear someone talking about it, then I may be interested in it.
They were pushing this notion of, “What can you do to make it special?” Your other piece is most of the show is boring. It’s about, “Look at my wonderful product and put it on your face.” It’s not so much entertaining. People come to be entertained like, “Tell me something I’m not aware of and excite me.” It’s all part of the thing. That makes the whole experience more entertaining.
We call it pattern interrupt, “How can I change things up so it’s not seeing it’s a boring person or somebody like, ‘I’m going to share the website and that’s how I’m going to talk about a product.’” People want to see the product. They want to see you demonstrate it, so maybe it’s creating some B-roll that you can bring in and show them a video because sometimes, even the way we are communicating if there were certain things I wouldn’t want to show you, I couldn’t do it based on the way we are set up. If I had done a video earlier, I’d say, “We are going to pull up this video and I can talk you through what you are seeing.” It’s storytelling.
That is important to think about what’s going to allow me to have the most impact and, in some sense, in the shortest amount of time because of people’s attention spans. What your point is, I would somewhat disagree. Sometimes we are not as focused on price as we are experienced. If I’m enjoying a show, I may pay a couple more dollars because, “I like what this person has done. If we know that’s how they are getting rewarded, we will do that.” I get it. There are some people that are looking for the lowest price and that’s okay. If you are the only game in town, they are going to pay whatever price you have there.If you're the only game in town, they will pay whatever price you have there. Click To Tweet
That’s been a fascinating conversation. I hope it was insightful for the audience. Before we wrap up, I’d love to tell us where we can find you and learn more about what you are doing and how your show is.
If you want to connect with me, LinkedIn is my favorite place. Find me @JimFuhs on LinkedIn. Also, on Twitter, at @FuhsionMktg. If you want to check out what we are doing on Amazon, go to Dealcasters.shop. That will take you right to our shop page on Amazon. You can see our new live streams, as well as all the product videos and other stuff we are putting on the platform. Those are probably the three best ways. I’m looking forward to talking more about what you guys are doing with these eStreamly. It’s exciting.
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