The Dungeon Master’s Guide to e-Commerce (and Orcs)

Allow us to take a lackadaisical ride on my back-in-the-day-cycle. In the mid 80s, I was… a geek. Make that a capital “GEEK”.

On the weekends, my geeky buddies and I would huddle around an old cup-stained oak table in the dusty basement of my house with pencils, graph paper, little hand-painted figurines, and funky shaped dice.

That’s right, folks. We played Dungeons and Dragons… and I was The “Dungeon Master“. For those who never played D&D, you know how kids these days have the X-box and the PS3?

In those ancient, far away 80s, we didn’t have those game-o-ma-bobs. Back in the day, we needed the geekiest kid to pretend to BE the video game, so all the other kids could play.

That was me. My job was to describe everything in the game so everyone else could “see” the imaginary monsters and the treasure you found after kicking them to pieces.

PS3 had nothing on me, boss. :D

Now even though it sounds kinda weird, playing D&D in-and-of- itself wasn’t what made me a geek…

What makes me a geek is that when I get into something, I get WAY WAY into it. Almost unhealthy-like. Those afternoons spent pretending to be knights and dragons and wizards led to my fascination with real-world Medieval History.

Fast forward to the LATE 80s when I declared a minor in Medieval Studies. My friends in my Film classes thought I was just as geeky as those high school “cool” kids did.

After all - what good is all that useless knowledge of swords and armor in today’s super duper future internet world, right?

I made my first million dollars from selling replica swords and armor from my Medieval Replica and Fantasy Weapons e- Commerce Store. And it made me feel… generous.

I made a list of everyone I could remember who had joked about my lifelong preoccupation with swords and sorcery. And sent every one of them a shiny new hardcover copy of…

The Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide.

How do you think they like me now? It doesn’t say “Dungeon Dummy“… it says “Dungeon MASTER!” :D

Heh. Okay, enough storytelling for today – let’s talk BID-NESS.

When I first opened almost 10 years ago, things were SOOO much less complicated than they are now.

We carried NO Inventory, because everything that we sold was shipped directly from the distributor – so, when we got an order, we just let the drop-shipper do the work.

Writing product copy was pretty easy, too. I mean, I was already pretty experienced at describing awesome magical swords in language that spoke to the geek-at-heart.

But to be honest, I hardly had to use it. Due to some lucky timing, pop culture made “swords and junk” a hot commodity right when I was really hitting my stride.

“Hey, this sword is from The Lord of the Rings Movies. It’s called Sting and glows blue if there are nasty Orcs around. You already know how bad-ass it is, so… Visa or MasterCard?

And all the pictures came from the manufacturer, so, that was like, copy paste done.

And basically, every time the distributor released a new product, WE released a new product – so it didn’t require much imagination or any fabricated reasons to run a “Sale”.

Yet, to this day, that little $50 a month Yahoo store was the first business anyone ever offered big money to buy from me (Mid-Six Figures).

The answer was “NAY, GOOD SIR!”

Even better, that little store is STILL ranked ALL over the place in Google, Yahoo, BING, sponging up all that free traffic.

And because an e-Commerce Store is surrounded by like-themed pages, the quality scores in AdWords are always 7+. And it still makes BANK - Each and every day.

Even though I’ve been-there, done-that, moved-on when it comes to setting up e-Commerce stores, I’m still a huge fan of the business model. And I think it’s GREAT for a lot of beginners.

Here’s WHY: ‘Cause it makes us focus and really work on the ONE thing that us entrepreneurs need to really MASTER – the skills needed to MARKET the HELL out of something.

Think about it – isn’t that where you’ve gotten jammed up in the past?

What product you’re gonna make, how you’re gonna make it, where can you get it made, what is the Unique Selling Proposition, what is the branding, what’s it called, blah blah blah blah…

I think the reason I took to e-Commerce so well is because all it really made me do was MARKET someone else’s already proven product.

Like I said, it didn’t take much to sell a Lord of The Rings Fan a Lord of the Rings Sword. People that searched for Medieval Weapons and found my store, too.

Right below WikiPedia on the first page of Google. Ended up bringing some pretty qualified prospects – cause believe it or not, that kind of search just don’t happen by accident.

Looking back, it was a GREAT way for me to start my Online Adventure, and lets be honest, I owe it a lot of props. Everything I learned there has led to what I’ve done after.

My first ever eBook was all about Yahoo Stores, the first money I ever invested in a Feature Film came from the profits of my e-Commerce business.

E-Commerce taught me conversion, it taught me SEO, PPC - it basically taught me almost all of the skillz I needed to prosper and thrive online…

…and I got PAID to do it. Paid *Well*, I might add. (Like a MASTER!) :)

So, I wonder if you’re trying to figure out where you should start? Getting caught up in the details, and not getting to the part where you DO marketing, and thereby get GOOD at marketing?

Maybe you’re like me, and e-Commerce will help you get out of your own way, and quit *pretending* to be a hero and score mad loot. You can do it in real life. You REALLY can.

Check this out:

There was NOTHING like that when I started. If there had been, I wouldn’t even have NEEDED such a strong passion to hit the ground running. I could have picked something and got right to it.

Who knows, maybe there was something even MORE profitable than sharp metal sticks. I guess I’ll never know… but YOU can find out. Try it. It worked for ME! :D

Andy “Natural 20″ Jenkins

P.S. As “geeky” a reputation D&D has, I didn’t just play the game, but I couldn’t help but study info-marketing too. No lie!

D&D had its own line of info products (rules), a back-end (more rules), conventions, merchandise – even its own dedicated monthly publication! Sound familiar?

Maybe I should go to Hollywood and try to get Video Boss made into a Saturday morning cartoon! :D But that’s where I am NOW.

Where I STARTED, where I could have STOPPED and RETIRED (if it was in my nature)… was e-Commerce, done pretty much just like this:

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  • Raza

    Tell it…

    I’m starting my first e-commerce store and look to and as guideposts. I’m finding that the competition in e-commerce, for very specific products is so low, that it’s no-brainer. In most cases, I’m competing with the product pages of big companies like Target, Walmart, etc. that have no backlinks to the product page (for the product I’m looking to sell). I’m finding that there are many highly trafficed/searched niches like this where I can use a little SEO knowledge to build a profitable business.

    • Jamil

      Hi Guys,

      RAZA, I have tried so many times and seem to get no where, do you have a strategy with finding niches?

      I really like this post by Andy, its so true, the gurus are making great cash selling info products but they also have to market their own products and if they hadnt picked the foundations up (in ecommerce) it wouldnt be successful. Also I find there are so many guys who sell money making products that can’t even turn a buck themselves.

  • Jack | Blog Marketing Guide

    I’m doing things a little different but the strategies you’ve used for your ecommerce site should work well for blogs, affiliate marketing, etc.

  • Joe C

    I have also been successful in starting and running an e-commerce store and I’m looking to transition into other things now. My father and I built this store from nothing in our spare upstairs bedroom into a multimillion dollar a year operation with a 25,000 sq foot building and over 25 full time employees, and like you said Andy, eventually it turns into a complicated pain in the ass. Watching all these great info marketers makes me jealous. Trying to find my way into this business now. Still operating the e-commerce store for now though and I just keep automating it a little more each day. You are absolutely correct though, if you need to learn to market and use PPC and learn about conversions etc, an ecommerce store is a great way to get started and get paid to learn it.

  • Ed

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for the information. seems a great site and I agree with Raza that it is the benchmark for a web store including Brad’s my wedding favor site. What structure have you got on that site? As far as I can see there are two tiers and three sitemaps that are only linked from the front page. Looks cool and some nice sculpting using nofollow (supposedly not recommended anymore because google doesn’t recognized no follow-has this affected you at all?).

  • EverydaySolutionsRx

    You guys are so way, way ahead of me…I read your comments and realize how much there still is to learn. ..and you’re all so generous with your knowledge and expertise. Glad I found this blog.


  • Nicole Smith

    This is a very good article. Next time when you are at it, write about link building more. You started and gave good information. I know, you have a lot to say about it. There’s too much fog going on about link building.

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