Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing entrepreneurs, but no one entrepreneur has had a bigger impact on my personal entrepreneurial thinking than JR Ridinger, CEO of Market America. JR Ridinger thinks BIG and lives even BIGGER, but he does both with as much energy, enthusiasm, and passion as I’ve ever seen.
Those of you who read this blog, follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or have gotten to know me personally know that I am a big supporter of personal achievement and development. I believe that each of us has unique talents and that our personal and professional success is a direct correlate of our ability to think BIG, take action, make a difference, and live with passion. You also know that I am very selective (as you should be) with the mentors in my life. In general, a mentor should be someone that you strive to be like and learn from – someone who is kicking ass so incredibly in an area that you are interested in or admire, that the mentor helps and supports your personal growth in dramatic ways.
JR Ridinger is one of those mentors for me. As you’ll read below JR was just a normal guy w/ a dream – he took an idea, worked his tail off for years, dreamed BIG, associated himself with amazingly talented people, and built one of the most successful companies in the world. The company JR founded, Market America, is now one of the top 100 internet retailers in North America and he’ll tell you he’s only gotten started.! I love it!!!
Aside from being one of the great entrepreneurs of our lifetime JR is so much more than Market America. My wife Robyn and I have had the opportunity to spend time with JR (and his amazingly talented, equally infectious, and beautiful wife Loren) and we both left those encounters inspired by what is possible – JR and Loren live a life that very few people ever get to live, yet both are equally motivated to inspire others to dream BIG and live even BIGGER!
I hope you enjoy my exclusive interview with JR Ridinger. I look forward to your Highlights and comments! The more interaction we get here the more likely I am to pull some favors and interview some of my other inspirational mentors and friends. So make sure to follow JR on Twitter HERE, and be sure to share this post w/ your friends on Twitter and FB.
Question #1: What is Market America? How can an average person make money with Market America?
JR RIDINGER: Market America is a Product Brokerage and Internet Marketing company that specializes in One-to-One Marketing. We provide an online one-stop shopping experience unlike any other with over 2500 exclusively branded products, as well as 50 million products across 3000 Partner Stores. Market America’s acquisition of Shop.com has positioned us to be the leaders in social shopping, and there are four main things that differentiate us from other e-retailers.
1. We pay people between 2 to 50 percent cash back on purchases to shop through our Portal, and we pay shoppers ½ percent on the purchases of all referrals. Not only will shoppers save a lot of money, but their referrals can create a steady stream of residual income.
2. We combine real “people power” with the best in online shopping technology to better serve the customer. Our model truly pushes the envelop in regards to the high-tech, high-touch concept. Every customer has a Shop Consultant that knows the site, the customer’s needs and is there to assist them like a personal shopper in finding the best deals. We are focused on customer retention, satisfaction and lifetime value.
One-to-One Marketing is the process of matching products to people’s interests, and matching people to product. We want to provide the customer as many things as we can at the best price rather than always looking for new customers. We want to have a greater customer share than market share, and accomplish this by building relationships, learning about them and then making relevant product recommendations.
3. We capture customer information through interactive relationships that allow us to determine the commonalities among customers. We are still able to treat every customer individually, but use all the digital permutations to leverage the power of numbers.
For example, we are able to determine that 100,000 people want “Widget A” and source it out as a product broker. Not only do we have the numbers to make the highest quality product at the best price, but also we know exactly who wanted it. It is practically already sold.
4. There is one other ingredient that drives our business and sets us apart, and that is entrepreneurial passion. We offer people with an entrepreneurial spirit a turnkey Internet marketing and online shopping business. We train them to be One-to-One Marketing professionals. Rather than having one site run by a company like Amazon where you don’t really see nor have any contact with the customers, we provide each entrepreneur a Web Portal with the company’s unique, embedded identifier tracking all of their sales and customers. The customers coming to markertamerica.com or Shop.com are captured and assigned to a Shop Consultant. We call these entrepreneurs UnFranchise® Owners or UFOs. Additionally, the UFO can individually promote their own sites and drive their own customers there. We basically provide them a customizable homepage; a Shop.com or Amazon.com-like shopping site in a box. They have the technology, products, SEO, marketing, fulfillment, metrics and support. The UFO then focuses on the customer and promoting the site.
We call it the UnFranchise because the model offers the same systemization, standardization, visibility, products and services at competitive prices with the marketing, uniformity and support of a franchise model. However, it eliminates the traditional risk and limitations of huge franchise fees. In fact, we do the reverse, as there are no franchise fees, only a few hundred dollars in overhead and startup expenses that can be quickly recouped. We also eliminate paying royalties to a franchisor. In addition to retail profits on orders, the UFO is paid a residual check on the weekly-accumulated sales volume on both Market America’s exclusive brands as well as the 50 million brand name products from our Partner Stores.
Of course, there are no territorial restrictions, or need to man a store for 80 hours a week. Their Market America business is open 24/7. The phenomenon of entrepreneurial passion driving online business is not exclusive to Market America’s model, as it was largely responsible for eBay’s growth through Power Sellers (although the lack of controls and standardization backfired) or Amazon’s Associate program, which drove sales into the billions. Plus, ma® brings an army of entrepreneurs and customers to social networks to discover product interests and trends.
Market America provides our 180,000 UFO’s with tools to promote their business, such as:
· Widgets for products that can be put on blogs, third-party websites or social media, and link back to the Universal Shopping Cart landing page. Customers earn Cashback and the site owner is credited with the referral.
· Customized personal product websites to promote their business and products, which links back to the Market America Portal.
· ma Network Facebook application for social shopping. It’s a recommendation engine that links back to the UFO’s Portal
· Social Media toolbox, content and campaigns.
· Campaigns for 2 million registered Preferred Customers with customized offers and Hot Deals based on their likes, profile and interest.
· Online Home Shopping List that finds all the products one buys and puts them into an auto ship list with free shipping, Cashback and compared lowest pricing.
*The pic above is a recent pic of 23,000 UFOs converging on Miami’s American Airline Arena for four days to learn about the Market America/Shop.com partnership, new technology and products. This is the first of Market America’s two yearly events in the U.S.
Question #2: You are one of the most inspirational, successful entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, possibly in the world. What inspires you to do what you do?
JR RIDINGER: Thank you, however, we feel like we are just beginning. I believe in entrepreneurs. They are the heroes and high priests of society. They drive the economy, create jobs and opportunity, and determine the future out of thoughts, risk-taking and decisive action. They make it happen. The greatest realization in life for me was that we literally become what we think about and that we can manifest anything through the law of creation. Simply think, envision, visualize or dream something and believe it to the point where the conscious mind accepts it. That may require figuring out exactly what has to be accomplished each year, month, week and day to accept it. Then demonstrate it thorough action, and you will attract the answers and circumstances for it to be manifested into reality.
Most people say don’t dream big because you will only disappoint yourself. One of my mottos is: “Think big, as you will never be bigger than your thoughts.” I believe that we can change the world through entrepreneurism. We can create our own economic ecosystem and sub-economies by working together and growing through cooperation rather than competition. I believe in vertical marketing rather than horizontal marketing. I believe that governments, politics or ideologies cannot solve the world’s problems. The only solution is through economic opportunity; making money with each other. No one is going to “shoot” his or her check! The Internet and digital world changes everything, and the economy is no longer controlled strictly by supply and demand.
I teach my team that if you want to be successful, identify a trend or paradigm shift that will change the future and position yourself to lead the parade, rather than getting in at the tail end of the parade. Creating an entrepreneurial opportunity based on something everyone does (shop) can change the economic future.
Question #3: Please share with us your thoughts on mentorship. What makes a great mentor? Who are the three most influential mentors you’ve ever had? Please tell us about each of them.
JR RIDINGER: Mentorship is leading by example. I never ask anyone to do something that I have not done myself. Mentorship can be passive or active. Passive is when you model yourself after someone. Active is when a coach takes an active interest in you and takes you under their wing. But the recipient has to be coachable. I was actually a great follower and followed right into leadership. The heart of mentorship is the desire to learn. You do not know what you do not know—you don’t even know that you don’t know it. The brain and nervous system of mentorship is confidence—to become confident through guided experience. You get good at something by doing it over and over and correcting your mistake. You don’t need a mentor to make it, but it is a shortcut to success and should seek one out. The soul and purpose of mentorship is to duplicate success. We build our organization and company based to mentorship. It’s a tremendous responsibility, so you must limit active mentorship to the most dedicated.
I had a mentor once that was charismatic, persuasive and dynamic, but always lived on the edge and would not keep commitments. He self-destructed multiple times. He was resilient, but he taught me what I didn’t want to be or become. Years later when I ran into him, I thanked him. That is more valuable than positive mentorship. Some of my mentors are unknown, but they were people who pulled themselves by the bootstraps and made it happen.
Of course, I am inspired by icons of technology and industry that changed the world—people like Gates, Jobs, Edison and Einstein. My dad was a famous high school football coach, teacher and a great mentor. He taught me never to do anything “half-assed,” and to think positively, never to give up and that perseverance was the key to success. His philosophy of life is to find the good in people.
Question #4: Despite being the CEO of one of the largest and most successful Internet retailers in the United States, you seem to have an extraordinary work-life balance. Please share your secrets for maintaining that balance.
JR RIDINGER: This is an interesting question, as I am often accused of being a workaholic. I have to correct them: I am a playaholic. My work is my play and my play is work. We are having fun. I cannot distinguish or differentiate them. One of the keys of living big and freely is to find your passion and follow it. When you are doing what you are passionate about, it isn’t work. Another great discovery is that you do not have to live in one place. Variety is the spice of life. If you read my blog, there are recent posts on how we work in paradise and enjoy the journey. We can work anywhere because we take our digital office with us, stay connected and be more productive.
I don’t want to preach here, but success is worthless without health and life is meaningless without spiritual enlightenment. I put nutritional supplementation at the top of my priorities each day because it gives me an edge in life and a degree of insurance from disease and aging. I put 1-2 hours for myself ahead of everything else to exercise, run, do yoga and meditate. It is so easy to get swept away by the events and interruptions of the day, but I have learned that I have to put myself first. The hour or two for myself is easily displaced with work, but doesn’t make a difference in what I accomplished that day. However, the two hours for myself makes a huge difference in my health, attitude, which I am, and how I feel and perform.
Question #5: Tell us about the Market America Cashback Program? What makes the program unique versus other Cashback sites such as Ebates or Fat Wallet?
JR RIDINGER: Market America’s Cashback or Paid to Shop program is the best out there. First, for a paid-to-shop program to have real value, you need to be able to find what you want. Our program includes over 50 million name brand products between Shop.com and Market America; with the best product search anywhere. There’s intuitive navigation, comparison shopping to get the best deal, reviews and recommendations, you have a Shop Consultant that will guide you, and we pay between 2 and 50 percent cash back on purchases. There are hundreds of merchants that offer 5 to 25 percent back, so it is real and not hype. Every week, Market America posts higher Cashback deals on both Market America products and popular brands. You can go on the Portal and see your Cashback account and exactly how much you bring have in Paid to Shop credits. You can spend it immediately on another purchase on the site or request a check when you have at least $10 accumulated.
But that is just the beginning. If you like the experience, you can’t help but want to share it with friends, family and people that you like so they can get paid to shop also. You get ½ percent on all their purchases forever, and it can accumulate to a substantial amount. Loren got Kim Kardashian on Paid to Shop and she tweeted for a month. We gave her a promo code and she was surprised when she got a check for over $3700 after a month.
Being paid to shop is not of real value if you are overpaying for a product, so having comparison-shopping showing you pricing lets you make the best decision. Go to this link http://bit.ly/aWG2mB
or to marketamerica.com and click on Paid to Shop to see Loren—the online shopping queen, Market America’s Senior Vice President and my wife—explain how easy and fun Cashback is. Then there is an extremely simple tool that you can use to invite others. Market America has a Widget program called the ma Associate program similar to Amazon’s that allows anyone with a website, blog or social network presence to put a widget up on the site for a selected product line and offer Cashback. The site owner gets the ½ percent on all future sales from these customers forever. Plus, we have the best coupon code program anywhere with coupons built into the site that can be entered on the order that you are getting cash back on. A Shop Consultant can assist in doing this.
Market America’s Paid to Shop program is in a league if its own. Other programs like Ebates or Fat Wallets don’t have: 1. As much product selection. 2. Search across millions of products, brands, merchants or stores, and styles. 3. Comparison shopping, which is the only way to make a paid-to-shop program valuable. 4. Coupon code listings and integration built in. 5. No referral incentive for inviting others to shop. We pay you on those you invite shopping forever.
Question #6: Market America recently made international news by acquiring leading online retailer Shop.com. Please tell us more about the Shop.com acquisition, including why you decided to buy Shop.com and how you see the acquisition influencing the future of Market America. Also, please share why this acquisition has been referred to as “The Billion-Dollar Roll.”
JR RIDINGER: Wow! That’s a question dear to my heart and the answer a game changer. But it isn’t a short answer. I think it was best answered in a three-minute interview in Bloomberg TV:
The acquisition and partnership with Shop.com is in my mind a match made in heaven. We not only acquired the most advanced shopping technology, but a team of IT engineers and marketers who pioneered online shopping. Just look at what was paid for similar companies when considering the value of Shop.com. In June 2005, E.W. Scripps Co. paid $525 million in cash to acquire Shopzilla Inc. eBay bought Shopping.com in August 2005 for $620 million. Experian acquired PriceGrabber for $485 million in December 2005. Venture capital firm Providence Equity Partners acquired a two-thirds stake in NexTag in June 2007 for $830 million.
The partnership makes us an online shopping experience like none other and it positions us to change the way people shop forever. First of all, just consider the history and benefits of Shop.com:
• Shop.com currently attracted over 7.6 million unique visitors to their site during the holiday shopping season, which is potentially 7.6 million new Market America customers.
• Shop.com technology provides an award-winning shopping experience for customers
• They currently have the patented OneCart technology (Universal Shopping Cart), which will provide more stores to offer Instant Cashback and IBV
• They were instrumental in developing Amazon Marketplace.
• They are pioneers and recognized authorities on Internet shopping.
– They are pacesetters for Product Navigation and Search.
– They will provide even faster search and better navigation for shopping. It is simple and intuitive.
– The model functionality, merchandizing displays, speed and content for assisting in shopping decisions are unrivaled!
The combination is undoubtedly synergistic, multiplying the strengths of each company, while eliminating any shortcomings. What we needed, they are great at. What they needed, we are great at! I whimsically sometime tell friends that I think that it is the smartest deal since Bill Gates bought the DOS platform. You see, it isn’t just the technology or what he paid—it is what he did with it, turned it into, how he used it and how it impacted the computing world. What we have created could change the e-retailing industry. We are poised for explosive growth, challenging the existing giants of online shopping.
· Market America’s people power with 180,000 entrepreneurs focusing on the customer…with…50 million products and 3000 merchants and vendors…. PLUS…Market America’s exclusive brands.
· Entrepreneurial people power is atomic energy in marketing and we have it. It’s economic glue with customers being paid and economic glue with residual income to the UFOs.
Shop.com brings five times the traffic and 7.2 million customers, but instead of those customers finding what they want from Shop, and then leaving the site to order directly with the merchant, now they will buy on the site and be assigned to a Shop Consultant. Remember that Shop.com’s IT and engineering team are the best at using SEO and SEM to drive a continuous flow of customers. The difference will be that Market America will capture and retain the customer with tender loving care. We focus on the lifetime value of the customer by providing an addictive shopping experience, paying them to shop and building a personal relationship if they want it. It’s a magnet for attracting and retaining customers. That means millions of customers are added to Market America’s Preferred Customer database. It also means millions of more customers are exposed to and buying Market America brands, which are profitable!
Look at where we are right now: annualizing at $450 million wholesale and $600 million retail. With Shop.com’s traffic and our marketing, we will exceed $1 billion next year. Undoubtedly, this is the beginning of our OUR BILLION-DOLLAR ROLL. We believe it is a GAME-CHANGER for the online shopping industry, revolutionizing the shopping experience by bridging the gap between outstanding customer service and cutting edge technology. So, it’s a win for the customer, it’s a win for the merchants, it’s a win for Shop Consultants, and it’s a win for Market America and Shop.com.
Question #7: Please share with us what we can expect from Market America over the next three years. Take your gloves off and help us dream.
JR RIDINGER: Our focus this year will be on optimizing the shopping experience to make it more engaging. People won’t be able to live without it. We plan to emerge as the leader in social shopping, which is already a paradigm-shifting phenomenon, but no one is positioned to do it like Market America. Social Sopping happens naturally when people share their feelings about products, brands and prices through social networks. Technology allows us to aggregate info about products, prices and deals, and then share it with others.
Consider that Market America already has a monetized network of 180,000 Shop consultants and 3 million registered Preferred Customers. Social Shopping is when you involve friends and others in the shopping experience, and we already have the community in place. Combine that with Shop.com’s compison shopping engines and their amazing social shopping platforms like Trend Shop or the patented E-gifts. Then add the magic of Market America’s Paid to Shop and it takes it to a whole new level!
We believe it challenges online shopping giants like Amazon. You may think that is a lofty or even unrealistic goal because of size and positioning. We are currently ranked #54 on the Internet Retailer Top 500 and they are #1. However, we were rated number #1 Most Improved in 2010, and that was before the acquisition and partnership with Shop.com. We plan to move into the Top 10 this year and then to the top. Now, that may be a David and Goliath story. Of course, we are David, but we have the slingshot, the stone and the careful aim. Remember, David won!
In the long-term, we have a second major play in mind that is even bigger than shopping. Providing a solution to retailers, affiliate marketers and other shopping portals by supplying them with data feeds to power their sites. In order to accomplish what we have planned, we need to vertically have the best data feed and channeling program along with affiliate and order tracking. Shop.com already has an amazing program for merchants to upload their products and accommodate any set of business rules. We plan to be the best at this for our vertical application and plan to enter the space horizontally to provide the best data feed management, tracking and channeling capability, and incorporate One-to-One Marketing to improve conversions for the merchants.
Question #8: If you could trade shoes with anyone for one full month, who would it be and why?
JR RIDINGER: Mark Zuckenberg of Facebook or Twitter founder Jack Dorsey because they are in a pivotal position to change paradigms and the world, and are having so much fun. It proves again that anything is possible. I believe we can play a pivotal role in using social media to merchandize and even be source of monetization for social networks. I would love to know the internal workings and get in the right people’s minds to interface social networking and e-retailing in a very unobtrusive or transparent way. Changing the way people shop is our mission.
Hope you enjoyed our interview!
Connect and stay in touch with JR:
Follow JR on Twitter
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Follow JR on MA Chatterbox
Dont miss JR’s inspiring personal blog – Being JR Ridinger
Keep up w/ JR on his Market America Web Site -Portal
Check out photos of JR and the MA Family on Google Images