Evan Kesner knows the ins and outs of selling on Amazon, and he wants other sellers find the same success using the new tools available to support e-commerce. Together with his partner, Daniel Tejada, he founded Straight Up Growth, a “team of diverse talents that focus on Amazon advertising, additional advertising services outside of Amazon, and advanced analytics and measurement.” In short, they’ll market your stuff on Amazon and the only thing you have to do is sell.
At Straight Up Growth, Evan Kesner has “assembled an expert team with an array of knowledge in the internet sales venue.” With the company’s Head of Amazon Strategy, Daniel Tejada, he uses their team’s pool of talent to “conduct a full audit on your current Amazon account and deliver a straightforward, competitive analysis.” After that, they will “help you establish goals that align with performance metrics and create a customized strategy to optimize ad spend and increase sales.” If you’re an Amazon seller, doing all these things may sound easy, but actually doing it is very tricky. That’s why Straight Up Growth is here to help.
Evan Kesner has already helped a number of Amazon sellers grow their brand online. For example, “owners of a popular pet industry” saw a jump in sales from $15,000 a month to $1,000,000, which equals an impossible growth of 6566%. They also received more customer reviews, from just 12 to 1,600. Straight Up Growth also helped the company take the #1 organic spot for the top search term in their category.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Evan Kesner: I grew up in New York surrounded by a family that inspired me. I always looked up to my dad for being his own boss and knew that was the path for me. After getting my Masters at NYU Stern and co-founding a 7-figure business, and moving across the country to San Diego, I knew I was ready to break out of my comfort zone and into a space that excited me!
It’s kind of funny, I met my partner Daniel Tejada at an “Opt-Out Life Party” in San Diego for aspiring entrepreneurs. We ended up getting drinks at June Shine, he had the idea, I had the team ready to go and we decided you know what, let’s do it.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Evan Kesner: Well, the first few months were a bit nerve-racking, we felt we were on the right track, but with no sales and just myself focused on Straight Up Growth full-time it was a bit scary. The drive comes from belief in myself, our vision, and little wins along the way. In my previous business I pitched 34 deals and struck out 34 times before hitting a winner for $35,000 then growing to $1.5M in 14 months, so I just keep cracking on. Strangely our first two deals for Straight Up Growth closed on the same day and it’s been all growth for us and our customers ever since.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Evan Kesner: The funniest mistake was thinking we were going to meet the majority of our clients at conferences before COVID-19 hit. I had tickets to Prosper Show, Expo West and every other conference under the sun before COVID-19 rained on that parade. We learned we had to pivot hard and fast to survive.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Begin with the end in mind. You need to be able to visualize what you want to create to be great so your brain can start working towards your end goal of greatness. Your brain is a powerful tool. I’m on my second vision board, everything on my first vision board for Straight Up Growth came true.
- Take care of yourself, if you’re in a good state of mind and health you’re much more able to lead. It’s much easier to lead a great company with the right people in your corner, it starts with you.
- Take care of your team, if your team believes in you and your mission and your team will get your back. It takes a village to build a great company.
- You need to be an expert in your field. Your expertise in your subject matter is what sets your company apart. If you’re just average at what you do, you’re fighting an uphill battle (unless you’re selling a commodity). Your use of expert knowledge and processes informed by that knowledge enable your customers to have more success. You need this from the beginning because it will provide you with a better reputation from the get-go.
- When things get good, stay humble. Remember you aren’t Steve Jobs. Your company most likely hasn’t invented the iPhone. You’ve got great customers and you’re starting to make good money now that you’re a good company, but you aren’t god’s gift to earth. It takes a village, your team is critical. You need to stay humble, treat people with respect. Yourself, your family, your friends, your team, your customers are all critical components of your success. Don’t forget that. Stay humble.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose-driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Evan Kesner: Steve Little who has been an incredible mentor to Straight Up Growth has founded and grown 6 successful startups of his own to private 9-figure acquisitions. He shared this with me.
“Company Observation: Culture & Impact Mission
In an in-depth study about the relationships between workplace culture and workers, professors at the University of Iowa revealed that there are a number of key benefits to having a good cultural fit between employee and employer. These benefits include but are not limited to:
Satisfaction: The study showed that satisfaction is one of the most immediate benefits of an employee who fits well culturally at a company. If an employee finds their environment to be satisfactory, they are going to be happier working in that environment.
Increased Performance: That happiness is likely to lead to several motivators for the employee. Because they fit well, they’re likely to be more confident in their work and strive to work harder and achieve more. Because of a good fit, the employee will have an increase in his or her work performance, benefiting the company and the employee.
Reduced Stress: A big problem with a poor cultural fit at work is stress, affecting a number of areas in the employee’s life — from work performance to socializing with other employees. A good cultural fit means the employee will be less stressed at work, likely to reduce poor performance and turnover.
Reduced Attrition: If an employee is happy and fits where he or she is, they’re going to be less likely to want to change that. Finding candidates who will fit the culture of the workforce isn’t just ensuring that the candidate will just work hard — it likely means they’ll continue working hard and remaining committed to the company, with less motivation to leave.
Commitment to Company: Above all else, if an employee fits culturally to the company, he or she will identify that as part of their company experience. Therefore, they are more likely to remain committed to a company because they fit so well.
In addition, the payoff for investing in assessing candidates for cultural fit with your company will deliver candidates who remain happier at work, dramatically reduces turnover, significantly increases performance.
Aside from a myriad of other benefits, these factors alone significantly reduce risk and directly increase the value of the business.
Impact Mission: Nothing is more unifying for an organization than a shared impact mission. It provides a guiding star for the achievement of the kind of success that really matters to people. Whether it’s housing the homeless in an impoverished nation or contributing to the environmental clean-up of the oceans, a mission that is shared amongst all employees provides the foundation for a generative, productive, and satisfying employment experience that further amplifies the benefits listed above and directly improves company valuation.
Socializing the company’s commitment to an impact mission throughout your customers and partners creates a powerful brand association with the mission. Customers and partners tend to ‘buy-in’ to the companies commitment to the mission. This strongly influences a favorable opinion of the company and directly impacts the proclivity to directly or indirectly influence the purchase of more products.
In a recent study published by Goldman Sachs, they concluded:
“We believe excellence is a habit and that companies with superior environmental, cultural and social management initiatives are more successful in operating profits and are inherently more valuable in their respective market than others without them”
Even a vague Higher Purpose helped to propel the Firms of Endearment to outperform the S&P 500 by 14 to 1. A study authored by the former Korn Ferry partner, Elaine Dinos (see summary below) also found that consumer companies with a strong commitment to purpose outperform their sector peers by healthy margins.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Evan Kesner: The increasing conversion rate on Amazon is a combination of a few factors. Visits to your listing, sales, reviews, low returns increase your sales ranks, and the chance of converting a visitor into a sale. Amazon does not differentiate if your visit comes from an advertisement or organically, this plays into the ranking strategies we leverage for clients.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Evan Kesner: Our way to increase conversions in our business is by driving the most Amazon sales revenue companies have ever had on Amazon consistently. That leads to referrals that convert at an incredibly high rate. We hire top talent and invest heavily in training before our team ever place an ad with Straight Up Growth. Our expertise and being fun to work with are our secrets to generating a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Evan Kesner: Find us on straightupgrowth.com and my personal LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!