This is the story of the Guy who started his own online business at the age of 26 and made himself $1 million during his first year without hiring a single employee, and without running any Facebook ads.
Allen Walton runs an online E-commerce store specialized in selling spy equipment. The website has been running since 2014 and has been ever-more successful in the past few years. The company today employs 5 employees who are mostly in charge of customer service as most of the company’s business has been automated over the years.
Automating the business has been one of Walton’s main goals since the early days of the business, and as we can see today, he has been very successful in doing that.
There are a lot of questions we would like to ask Allen, and lucky for us, he has been generous enough to answer them all in numerous podcasts such as the Tim Ferriss Podcast, MyWifeQuitHerJob Podcast, The BK Show Podcast, and many more.
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Thanks to his company’s success, Allen has also been featured on Forbes, Ink dot com, and many other blogs.
So, who is Allen Walton really? And how did he reach the success he is today?
These are all questions you’re going to learn the answers to in this week’s issue of eComSuccess!
Allen Walton was a 21-year old when his parents made him apply for a job back in 2009. One of his first jobs was as a retailer at a store that sold Spy Cameras for $11/hour.
He was the only one at the store, which meant he was responsible for everything including running inventory and making sure the store had enough supply at all times. He was so busy at his job that he often had to leave the store unattended just to be able to grab a sandwich for lunch.
This job will prove to be very beneficial for him in the future as he will use what he learned here to start and lead his own business to the success he’s always dreamt of.
In 2011, Allen was hired by the TV Show Cheaters to make a Spy Camera website for them and has worked for them up until 2014. He was in charge of building an eCommerce store for them which happened to be just the right experience he needed to move on to start his own website and business.
After he quit his job @ Cheaters, Allen knew it was time he started his own thing, and he got to work right away!
Founding the Company
Allen Walton founded his company SpyGuy.com in May of 2014. He was starting on his own with a budget of $1000.
How do you start a business and start making a profit when you only have $1000?
Well, Walton had a lot of costs to cut and he luckily only had himself to pay. He opened a Shopify store and bought a theme for $150. What’s the next step? Supply!
Thanks to his previous jobs, Allen knew exactly where to get his hands on Spy equipment since he had to run inventory at his 2009 job. But there still was a problem!
In the Spy business, it’s hard to know which brand makes what since brands don’t usually want their name on a hidden camera that gets discovered. He learned that the store he worked at got their supply from Asia, so that’s where he went looking.
Allen found it difficult to get his hands on good quality equipment at first since a lot of companies and manufacturers made the same kind of products in Asia, and it was hard to find out which ones he could trust best. He eventually made a few trips there and figured out what kinds of products he was really looking for!
After only 1 month of founding SpyGuy.com, Allen started an apprenticeship with a Google AdWords specialist he found on Craigslist since his strategies weren’t making him as much money as he initially wanted.
This apprenticeship will prove to be one of the best decisions he made at the beginning since he was really looking to automate and grow his business, and he couldn’t have done that if he was always busy running ads for his business.
Is SpyGuy a Dropshipping website?
No! Back in 2014, Allen already had experience of 5 years in the Spying business. He ran his own inventory and used analytics to figure out which products he needed to keep at hand at all times.
He also made sure he always kept an extra supply of the products he sourced from Asia since getting them usually takes time. When it comes to American-made products, he had the luxury of dropshipping them when his stock ran out.
How did he stand out?
In an interview with Allen Walton, he emphasized customer service being a very important factor that leads to his success in the spying business. Sounds ambiguous? We’ll get back to that in a minute!
SpyGuy.com also had the most information on each and every product that they sold. Spying equipment isn’t something your average Joe knows pretty much anything about. So, the website had to provide as much information about the products as possible.
They also provided better product photos than the competition, and they even had their own studio that they used for taking the best product photos in the whole industry.
Since the spying industry didn’t really rely on brand names, and most brands usually sold the exact same products that they got their hands on from Asia, this was one of the few ways where Allen saw he could beat the competition and stand out from the crowd.
But that’s not all, SpyGuy also provided explanatory videos that helped customers learn how they can operate those products and spying equipment. They also always sold premium products that weren’t going to break down the moment you take it out of its box.
How did SpyGuy reach Success?
SpyGuy didn’t become successful overnight. In fact, it took a lot of sweat and tears that made it what it is today. Allen Walton has always been kind and generous enough to share his experiences with the world.
So, this is how he did it!
Remember talking about Tech Support? Well, this was another strong point that SpyGuy had and competitors lacked.
When Allen first started hiring people, he hired 4 people who did tech support. In fact, he even went back to the man who taught him everything he knew about the spying business back at his 2009 job.
The man agreed to start working with him and is still his most senior employee today. His job at first was to train the new employees Allen just hired and get them up to speed on everything they needed to know about the products the company sold.
The company even made internal videos that they showed their employees in order to teach them how their products are used so that they would be helpful with the clients.
The company’s website also had a phone number they could call to ask questions about the products they bought, or if they had no idea what to buy. The person behind the phone’s job was to explain what each product was good for and to find out what kind of products the caller needed.
These calls usually turned into long conversations since most callers were in tough situations and just wanted someone to vent to. SpyGuy got around 20% of the sales it made just from answering these phone calls!
Those employees also provided live-chat support for all the products they sold since they weren’t the easiest thing in the world to operate.
When Allen just started his website, he knew that using SEO was a bad idea since the niche was very competitive. So, his next and best option was paid ads.
One of the first things he did was start learning everything he could learn about paid ads and Google AdWords especially.
Allen started reading books on the matter, watching YouTube videos, and reading PPCHero. He ran things on his own for a while until he got in touch with the Google AdWords specialist from Craigslist a month later.
Relying solely on Google Ads wasn’t a very good idea as their Ad account got suspended more than once, and for more than 2-weeks at a time. This caused a lot of problems for the company, causing sales to suddenly drop close to zero. What made the issue worse was that SpyGuy got more than 70% of its sales thanks to Google Ads.
Luckily, they were able to get their account back and everything was running smoothly ever since.
When it comes to Facebook Ads, the company did not run any even though they have tried to do it before. This was due to how difficult it was to target people who were interested in buying spying products, there was just no way to figure out who those people are.
From time to time, SpyGuy did run retargeting ads on Facebook in order to remind people who visited the website that SpyGuy exists, and they want to buy from them!
This was the only way they could get back at their visitors and make sure they weren’t visiting and leaving the website empty-handed up until 2018.
SpyGuy didn’t have any profitable email marketing strategy 4 years after they were founded. In fact, it was until very recently that they included popups on their website in order to collect emails from their visitors.
Before that, they only sent order confirmation emails, and 2 emails per year: Christmas and Valentine’s Day emails.
Today, their website is well-equipped with the right email marketing strategies to make sure visitors are reminded when they leave the website empty-handed. The website is also equipped with cart abandonment tools that remind visitors to finish placing their orders.
Another way SpyGuy was gaining new clients was the review system they installed on their website. Reviews made it much easier for people to make the purchase since word-of-mouth is one of the best and most trustworthy marketing tools.
A single product on this website has over 40 reviews, most of which are 4 stars or above thanks to their great quality, quick shipping, and the ideal customer support the brand offers.
Another smaller-scale driver of sales was the literal word of mouth. A good number of clients came from people who directly typed SpyGuy.com into the search bar and had already heard good reviews from their friends and coworkers.
SpyGuy didn’t sell just to individuals but had quite the success with the businesses trying to stop employee theft, private investigators, and government agencies such as police departments in the Dallas, Texas area, as well as in the rest of the USA.
The company didn’t have any special way of attracting businesses to buy from them but did keep a note of their business customers in order to get more sales out of them.
They did this by paying more attention to the service they provided them, as well as emailing them and giving them special offers.
Power of the Internet
This section is called the power of the internet for a very good reason, and you’re about to find out what that reason is!
A few years ago, Allen Walton was introduced to a website called Help A Reporter Out (Haro)! If you’re not familiar with the website, it’s a platform where people can get in touch with reporters from all over the world and provide them with stories worth telling.
Allen used the website for a while without ever finding anything all that interesting on it. This was true until one day he saw a reporter looking for a story of a 1-man-business that made $1 Million. Allen thought that there couldn’t have been that many stories about this and he decided to get in touch with the reporter. What encouraged him even more was he saw that the reporter was writing for Forbes Magazine.
He exchanged a few emails with the reporter and made sure he mentioned Tim Ferriss in the email interview as many times as possible since he felt like he owed a lot of his success to Ferriss’ book: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.
But that wasn’t the only reason he mentioned Tim Ferriss all that often!
You see when the article was published, it had around 1000 views after 3 days. That wasn’t enough for anything! So, Allen decided to tweet the article @ Tim Ferriss to try to get his attention.
The first time he shared it was a failure, and the 2nd time was a success. Tim Ferriss read the article and decided to share it with his followers. Another 3 days passed by and the Forbes article went from 1000 views to 300,000 views.
Few days pass by and other websites and blogs start picking up the article. Ink.com picked up on it, CNBC did a story on him, and he was finding himself new fame!
This added fame made the website ever more popular and started to drive the sales very high! Taking advantage of this, Allen Walton decided to make a video of himself welcoming people to the store, since a lot of people started to recognize both his face and voice!