Keep it simple, stupid.
Scott Hilse has been taking this philosophy very seriously.
Over the past year and a half, he built a six-figure ecommerce business and transformed his life.
And he did it all by selling just one product.
Starting From the Bottom
Scott is a buzzy 22-year old, full of energy and confidence. As he speaks, he jumps quickly from one topic to the next, bouncing around ideas, bringing up different friends and stories, and speaking openly about his moments of doubt. It’s easy to tell that he’s got big plans for where he wants to be in life, and what it’s going to take to get there. But even now, his success seems to surprise and delight him, as if he’s still processing how exactly it might have happened.
In reality, the path to Scott’s success wasn’t straightforward. And if it wasn’t for a lingering thought in the back of his mind telling him to go ahead and just try, he might never have experienced any of it.
Winding back to just over a year ago, and Scott is in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, bussing tables at a restaurant. He’s making a measly $1,000 a month and hating every moment.
“I was the lowest of the totem pole at the restaurant, and I have this thing where I hate when people tell me what to do, ” he says. “So that gave me lot of motivation to get out of there and start something.”
He often found himself dreaming of a future where he’d be freed from the limitations of life working for someone else. “When I was a busser, I would go away on a trip with my girlfriend and I would have these visions about how crazy it would it be if I could be making money on my phone right now.”
Now, he’s got a term for what he was thinking of back then. “Location-neutral income automation” is what he calls it. This type of work would let him earn money any time, from anywhere, and with as much of the work automated as possible.
This thirst for independence first lead towards social media marketing. He enrolled in an online course that would arm him with the skills he needed to start his own social media marketing agency.
But as he approached the end of the course, when faced with the prospect of starting work for social media clients, Scott felt uneasy.
“I got offered to do social media for this luxury car dealership. But I felt awful after I got that offer,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘Why do I feel like this?’”
“I got the gut feeling that I would not like social media marketing work at all,” he says.
Plus despite the fact that he’d be managing his own clients, he knew that his success would still be tied to his clients and how well he could meet their demands. “That’s another thing, again there would be someone telling me what to do.”
“It took me a long time to realize that if ecommerce is my dream job, why would I not just try and go for that?”
Deciding to Do Things Differently
Following his dream, Scott decided to enroll in an ecommerce course, where he would learn step by step how to start a general store on Shopify using the dropshipping business model.
Dropshipping, which allows entrepreneurs to run an online store without needing to invest in inventory, seemed like an easy first step into ecommerce.
As part of the dropshipping program, he was also given access to a Facebook group where other participants in the course could chat and share ideas.
Quickly, he realized there was a catch.
In the group, there were 25,000 other entrepreneurs.
Each one following the same advice.
The same approach.
The same tactics.
That makes 25,000 people primed to be his top competition.
“And this is just one group,” he says. “I’m assuming around 200,000 to 500,000 are following the same advice and doing the same general store.”
Now, he knew he had to be different. “I thought that I’d follow some of the things that are being taught, but I have to do something different than these 25,000 people.”
The Books That Changed It All
The most successful people in life are also avid readers, often committing to reading at least one book a week. These people recognize the power of great books to expand your knowledge and open up your world in ways you’d never imagined.
For Scott, there were three books that sparked something huge for him:
- Insanely Simple by Ken Segall
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- Made in America by Walmart’s founder Sam Walton
He credits these books for helping him change his approach, setting into motion the course for his incredible success.
Both Insanely Simple and Just One Thing emphasize stripping away the unnecessary, and focusing on making things simpler. If you can focus on just one thing, they say, you can do that one thing really well.
This message resonated strongly with Scott, who disagreed with the teaching in his dropshipping course that a general store, stocked full of different items for different audiences, is the best approach for ecommerce beginners.
“The classic general store, that never really seemed simple to me. It seemed like a whole bunch of products thrown in. That allowed people to click away, they’d come to your store then click this product and then this product, and lose interest and leave.”
Scott also found inspiration from Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. “I read this book by Sam Walton about the pricing structure, about how he would decide his price by looking at his competition and undercutting them.”
Following the advice of the books, Scott decided that the next step was to strip away the unnecessary, and focus on doing things simply.
“I combined those two ideologies and built a Shopify store with one product,” he says. For the pricing, he planned to look closely at his competition and undercut them on price.
The Journey Towards the Single Product Website
If you’re going to have a single product ecommerce business, you should make sure that the product you choose is really, really good.
But how do you go about choosing that one perfect product for your store?
Scott followed a few golden rules for his store.
“I would never ever ever sell a product that I could get at Walmart or any average store that’s around. I go for impulse buys.”
And Rule 2: “Find a product that most people haven’t seen before and makes for a good video. Especially starting off, you don’t want to start with a really boring product. You want something that’s fun.”
To narrow down his product choices, he thought first of the potential of the market. What’s something that a lot of people have? What’s something they use every day?
One product stood out to Scott. It’s something that millions of people are carrying around in their pockets and holding in their hands every day. Their iPhone.
“I chose a niche that was huge. I mean, how many people have a iPhone in this world? It’s millions,” he says.
(In fact, it’s around 90 million in the US alone.)
Thinking simply, Scott knew that he wanted his product to be uncomplicated and unlikely to break, as well as coming in at a low cost.
He ruled out electronic accessories such as headphones and chargers and focused his attention on iPhone cases.
While choosing a case, Scott looked for one that was genuinely useful, rather than gimmicky. “I saw an iPhone case that had a fake chicken nugget on the back of it. I’m not gonna be selling those,” he says laughing.
After settling on his perfect case, he did some research and found that two other major brands were selling a similar product. His initial concern melted away when he looked a little deeper and found that they hadn’t been active with their marketing for almost a year. And plus, from what he could see from the comments, people loved the idea of the product.
It was the perfect opportunity for him to come in with a new offering.
Using Oberlo, he found an online supplier for the product and added it to his store, carefully setting the price lower than the competition.
“They were selling it for $20, and that’s when Sam Walton’s book came in. They were selling it for $20, but the cost of the product from the supplier was $2-3. So I was thinking I’ll just Sam Walton them and just come in at $10 with $2.95 shipping. That gives me a profit of $10 each after.”
Next, he began designing his storefront. He chose the free Shopify theme Jumpstart, designed for businesses with a small amount of inventory. It was perfect for a single product website. He stripped it back, removing anything unnecessary and reducing his store down to a single landing page. He didn’t want anything on his website to distract from people scrolling down and clicking “Add to Cart”.
He was ready to go.
He set his site live, and immediately launched into Facebook advertising.
Scott’s first strategy was to run Facebook advertising with a fun video explaining the product. He’d set up his ad to generate engagement on the post, which generated a huge amount of likes, comments, and shares.
As people watched, they got interested in the product and clicked through to his website, which was designed to funnel them down into purchasing.
It wasn’t long before, ka-ching! His first sale.
Then came two sales. Three sales. Four.
Scott was pumped. This thing was actually working! He added more budget to his ads, hoping it would help him ramp up his sales.
But Scott’s ad strategy was optimised to get him likes and comments on Facebook, rather than a lot of sales. So eventually, despite spending more, the sales slowed down.
“I started losing money, so I freaked out and ended it all.”
Scott pulled the plug on his ads, and the sales stopped.
His four sales felt great, but he didn’t know where to go next.
Besides, Scott had bigger plans now, as he was about to pack up his life and move across the country.
He shut down the website and put all his ideas on hold.
Moving to the Big City (feat. the Uber Period)
Ever since he was 10 years old, Scott dreamed of living in LA. He first caught the LA bug after watching the movie Lords of Dogtown, and was inspired by the relaxed beach culture of the city. In the 11 years since, his mind was set on getting there.
So in summer 2017, he packed up his things in St Louis, and drove west towards the coast. In LA, he quickly found himself absorbed into city life.
He moved into a room in a shared apartment, forking over $1,300 a month in rent. To support himself, he took up a job driving an Uber, shuttling people across the busy city. He loved the idea of working as his own boss, with the freedom to set hisju own schedule. But in reality, he says, “I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just trying a whole bunch of different things.”
And quickly, he found that it wasn’t making him happy. “Three months after I moved to LA, I’m driving Uber and I realize that it’s awful,” he says.
The whole time, itching at the back of his mind was his ‘“location-neutral income automation” dream. This Uber thing wasn’t getting him any closer to it.
He remembered the iPhone case store he started back in St Louis. Maybe he was onto something?
“I started thinking I should just relaunch that old website and see what happens,” he says.
Okay, Time for a Relaunch!
Back from the grave came his old store.
He felt confident that his iPhone case had potential, so he pushed his site live for the second time with the same product.
Scott felt that the key to his success lay with optimising his website to allow Facebook’s pixel to gather as much data as possible. This pixel, which is a line of code inserted on the site, can track who is visiting your store, allowing you to build up a profile of the people who are interested in your product. Then, using this profile, you’re able to create Facebook advertising that is super-targeted and hyper effective. Really, it’s the key to Facebook’s strong ad game.
During the first run of his store he’d already started to gather some valuable information about his website audience. So when he launched back into Facebook advertising he was able to use the data from his pixel to target an audience who were most likely to be interested.
Scott was still driving for Uber, and between trips he keep a close eye on his phone to monitor his business.
It was slow, but he was making progress and getting sales. And it felt satisfying to be building something of his own.
“I’d be getting four sales in one day and I’d be like, ‘This is amazing!’” he laughs.
As sales started to pick up, he became nervous about the product’s longevity. He knew that there were two major companies selling a similar product, who had enough marketing budget to crush him and his fledgling business.
He remembers thinking, “Maybe I should just try another product. $400 worth of sales is probably as much as I’m going to get out of this.”
By this time it was November 2017, and he’d been back running the store for a few months. Things were getting tough in LA. The place he was living was about to get a major rent hike, and he was still hating his Uber job. And so, with the holidays coming up, he decided to pack up and move back home.
He set off on the five-day journey back to St Louis. “As I was driving back I was at 10-15 orders a day, and thinking this was pretty crazy,” he says.
When he finally arrived home in St Louis, he checked his phone. He’d made $189 that day.
But then things really started to take off. One day he plopped down $440 on ads, and when he woke up the next morning, he already had $650 in sales. A few hours later, he was up to $890.
“I was like, ‘This is gonna be a good day!’”
“So I picked up my buddy Logan who I grew up with, and I was like, ‘Let’s go to the best restaurant, let’s go do a bunch of awesome stuff today!’
“As I’m doing all this stuff I’m looking at my phone and I’m at $1,200 in sales. Then it’s at $1,400 worth of sales. At the end of that day I was at $1,648 from one iPhone case. So I’d made $900 in total just during a day of having fun. That blew my mind.”
That was December. Now, seven months later in July, Scott says his sales are “as strong as ever. I’m still doing between $500 and $1200 a day. It’s almost a year later and I’m still selling the same product.”
Set on the Path for Success
Even for him, Scott’s success with single product ecommerce model sometimes felt surprising.
“When I hit 100 orders I was thinking, ‘I don’t know if I’ll sell too many more of this.’ When I hit 1,000 I was like, ‘You know I think it’s kind of getting exhausted.’ When I hit 5,000 I was thinking that there’s no way I could sell more than this. And now it’s at over 9,000. I don’t know when this is gonna stop!”
But he believes in the power of his approach, and that keeping it simple is the most obvious approach for new entrepreneurs.
As Ken Segall says in Insanely Simple:
“The reality is that providing too many choices is a quick way to drive people to confusion.”
Thanks to his rapid success, Scott has caught the attention of some business heavyweights. Tai Lopez, ultra-famous business guru and today’s answer to Tony Robbins, noticed Scott’s business was growing quickly.
“Tai Lopez reached out to me. I got a message on Facebook asking if I wanted to be in his invite-only 300 Group of absolute top performers. He invited us all to his $30 million dollar Beverly Hills Home, so I flew out there and about 10 of us were there with him and we had an awesome dinner for four or five hours.”
Now Scott is using the skills he’s learned with his business to teach others how to build their own ecommerce stores using the one-product model. He’s just returned home from a trip around the US to meet with other entrepreneurs and help promote his Simplified Dropshipping program. He says his message to them is simple, “One product is literally doing all this for me.”
Four Keys to Scott’s Single Product Ecommerce Website Strategy:
- Don’t be afraid to be different. “I wouldn’t recommend the average general store. I’d recommend the one product format. I built my entire store in two hours, and I built everything else in four. I haven’t touched the website since. In 4-6 hours you can have this all set up.”
- Start simply, be patient. Especially at the beginning, when you’re trying to understand your audience, uncomplicate things for yourself. “My advice is to sell the cheapest product you can in your chosen niche market. Make it so you’re making at least a little money. But as you’re making sales, you will be seasoning your Facebook pixel and building your email list. It will boost your confidence and get the ball rolling.”
- Optimize your site for Facebook. The one-product approach is all about teaching your Facebook pixel who to optimise your ads for. “If there’s simply just one product, users can’t really do anything else but just buy or leave, and that’s good for the pixel. And that’s good for you, too. It really funnels them down to this one thing.“
- ‘Lookalike’ audiences are gold. “My main goal from the beginning was to use a Purchase Lookalike Audience. The only way to do that is to get 100 purchases. I knew that once I got 100 purchases I could start doing the lookalike audience. When I got to that part, that’s when everything changed.