Jesse Willms has always been an early adopter. In the Dot Com era, like many businessmen at the time, he capitalized on a new and burgeoning market. But unlike those many businessmen at the time, Jesse Willms wasn’t even a man yet. When the entrepreneur created his first website, the online storefront known as eDirect Software, he was only sixteen years old. Everything Willms learned to be a teenage employer of twelve-man operation was self-taught. Willms spent his earnings from his much more typically teenage job delivering newspapers on books by the likes of Warren Buffet and Thomas J. Stanley. His entire eighteen-year entrepreneurial career has been a process of learning, trial, and error.
eDirect would lead to its own perils just two years after its creation. Willms first major entrepreneurial effort would earn him millions, only to come under fire from another software company: Microsoft. The company sued Willms who had quickly become one of the largest resellers and distributors of bootleg and reduced-price operating systems. Without the necessary funds to secure a legal team on par with Microsoft’s, Willms would settle the lawsuit for over a million dollars.
It was a debilitating loss, especially for a young entrepreneur’s first outing, but that would not stop Willms from brushing the dust off his shoulders and moving on to the next project. A good entrepreneur is always on the lookout for a new opportunity, and the businessman from Alberta now living in Las Vegas, Nevada has sought out no shortage of opportunities. Jesse Willms has produced tooth whitening products, supplements, and even tea, each a multi-million-dollar proposition. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the early adopter is still growing and changing with the times. This time he’s set his sights on digital marketing and the power of search engine optimization.
Jesse Willms Takes Advantage of our New Virtual Town Square
The paths to financial success are changing all the time and the way businesses market themselves have changed with them. Truly intuitive businessmen need to be early adopters, and the quickest to make use of the newspaper, the radio, and the television were the quickest to profit. Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.” Now the primary medium for advertising has changed, and the message has changed with it. Whether or not a business chooses to engage with the internet has quickly been rendered irrelevant. Whether or not they do, the internet is engaging with them through third-party reviewing websites, Google’s proprietary yellow pages, or social media. Any business being written about positively or negatively online is a foregone conclusion. The future cannot be altered, beaten back, or ignored. Whether you’re a restaurant owner or a used car dealership, your choice is entirely binary: you can either embrace this new medium where you exist regardless of your involvement and take control of that existence, or you can watch helplessly as your story is told by aggregate and by algorithm, until you go under.
The method by businesses engage with the internet has changed too. Website formats and designs go out of fashion and become charming antiques, like Geocities pages, or become so antiquated that they are rendered almost inoperable, like a state’s unemployment website. To make a real profit and tap into a real market, now more than ever a given business needs to move with the ebb and flow of an ever changing ecosystem. Jesse Willms has based his entire career on moving with that very same ecosystem. His first business came about in the midst of the Dot Com boom, his follow up merchandising in supplements and tea would’ve been impossible without online storefronts like Amazon and eBay. The internet is fickle and ephemeral, but also ubiquitous and undeniable. Willms placed a major bet on the future by playing into human beings most essential use of the internet: as an expansion of our own intelligence. He identified a demand for information that was being sealed behind paywalls by other businesses, and endeavored to undercut their system and support customers directly.
His latest business venture, the Car History Group, and its website VehicleHistory.com, was an incredibly risky maneuver. With it, Jesse Willms offered free VIN reports for used cars, out a sense of personal frustration at having to pay to access a used car’s accident history, but also out of a sense of obligation to an underserved customer base. Any early adopter of the internet will remember the age-old adage: “Information deserves to be free.” Willms put his money where his mouth is in that regard, with that caveat that the business would earn a profit through the ad revenue it receives off of a purported three million page views per month.
While every business venture Jesse Willms has created or been a part of has been a means of identifying a niche and making a profit by meeting the demand of that niche, his career has now taken a turn in ethos. With eighteen years of experience creating business enterprises, Willms has taken an interest in sharing his knowledge with a new generation of entrepreneurs. Not only does the multi-millionaire now offer a scholarship for aspiring entrepreneurs, but writes multiple articles and gives multiple interviews sharing his lessons, but personal and financial, from his years worth of experience in business and development.
In his latest articles, “How to Go Beyond Simple Posting and Leverage Social Media for Business”, and “How to do Email Marketing”, Jesse Willms implements his years’ worth of insights not only valuable to those knew to entrepreneurship, but longtime veterans who might be missing out on the full applications of social media and online mass communication. Time is the only energy that propels ceaselessly forward, and as much as we can culturally yearn for a simpler time, the only way not to be conquered by the internet is to treat it like any other tool, and learn how to use it. Jesse Willms did just that at fifteen.
Jesse WIllms and Market Trends
An old adage in the world of Information Technology goes something like this: “If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product.” In the year 2021, billions of people have been convinced of the value of social media. Any mores about personal privacy, anonymity, and security have all but sloughed off. Many of us have our full names available on Facebook pages and are regularly logging our locations into apps like Twitter and Instagram. Most valuably, billions of customers are expressing their personal preferences, likes and dislikes, and purchasing habits for free on social media. “Social media isn’t just a way for you to spread the word about your brand,” Willms argues in his article How to Go Beyond Simple Posting and Leverage Social Media for Business, “it can also be a place where you can learn about the market in general.” Most social media websites, which are built in part for the express purpose of tracking cultural trends and buying habits, include built in features like the Hashtag and Keyword Alerts to make topics and trends easily trackable.
Jesse Willms Keeps his Friends Close and his Enemies Closer
Jesse Willms suggests you hate-follow your competitors. This is sound advice, as it’s very likely they’re already following you. When you receive notifications or Google alerts based on a search or specific keywords, your finger is suddenly on the pulse of any new marketing a particular brand is up to. Gradually you will learn your competitors marketing techniques and steal an idea or two. This is an excellent strategy for success in the world of social media. All’s fair in love and war and competing brands will regularly imitate each other’s marketing techniques. The multitude of different ways a commercial platform can be used on social media cannot be understated. Suffice it to say, the more different strategies you see in play, the better your own will become.
Jesse Willms Respects the Power of Word of Mouth
Social media can serve as a very powerful equalizer. The average consumer will feel talked down to when a business’s social media presence is used primarily to make announcements. Eventually, that voice will be phased out altogether or the page blocked by users outright. A social media presence offers the rare opportunity for an entrepreneur to engage directly with their clients and develop an energized following. The more interactive a social media environment can be made, the better. This is the internet and the idea of consumers being able to say whatever they want on an business’s page is a terrifying concept, but the risk is ultimately worth the reward. Jesse Willms is quick to note that this kind of interactive, hands-on approach to building a community for your brand requires incredible discipline. Any message the business’s page sends directly to another user should be considered a part of the public domain; it will after all be screen-capped, shared, and disseminated throughout the internet. The best solution in that case is to know your voice and stick to it.
Jesse Willms wants you to Keep Score
Every social media account has its share of numbers and metrics to keep track of. Things like viewer engagement can be distilled to a science and the follower count in particular is a very distinct and specific barometer by which to track your business’s reach and momentum. Everyone from social media influencers to videogame Let’s Players are deeply invested in their metrics as a sign of their growth, reach, and professional viability. A business should be no different. On a personal level these numbers are dangerous and even psychologically deleterious, but from the perspective of an entrepreneur they are a very useful barometer.
Jesse WIllms knows the value of Automation
In his other internet advice column, “How to do Email Marketing” Jesse Willms is quick to disprove the myth that personal emails are viable for a small business owner: “The first thing that you need is a reliable email marketing service provider or a tool. You can’t do it manually for two main reasons: 1. It will cost you a lot of time and resources especially if you are sending personalized email and 2. Your IP address and email address might get blocked for sending bulk emails.” An email list is a valuable thing to grow, and will accumulate value as you add more and more names to your growing following. But a bespoke email for each customer is logistically untenable. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp can automatically insert names of members of the list while giving them copy consistent with every other customer. “The more automated email marketing is, the better” Willms concludes. One of the most important lessons of business operation is delegating work. When you can automate, you should.
Jesse Willms will continue to be an early adopter. He hasn’t slowed down since the rise of the public internet where he unveiled his first business as a teenager. His years of insight into the turbulent nature of the internet and the ways best business practices have grown and changed to suit an ecosystem now dominated by social media sights, have become the bulwark of his mentorship and personal strategy. Now Willms is on Twitter and Instagram just like everyone else. One of the skills he values most as a businessman is adaptability. “I’ve always believed that success comes from working hard to pursue your vision while constantly learning and adapting your strategy,” he said in his interview with Inspirey in January, “Our businesses are going to change over time, so it’s important to be flexible and keep evolving.” The nature of the internet, social media, and marketing will keep changing. One day a company Instagram will seem as old and outdated as a Geocities website does to us today. The future is uncertain, but a safe thing to bet on is the consistency of change. Jesse Willms first online storefront seems as distant and old as a dying star, but he has not stayed behind with it. He’s an entrepreneur who is always adapting and wants his peers to do the same.