2024 Ecommerce insights, how to sell to Americans in the comfort of your home? [Chills 155 feat WorldFirst]

Direct-to-Consumer Lessons Learned

We sat down with health and wellness entrepreneur Alvin Huang, founder and CEO of Truegenics, a highly successful e-commerce business specializing in health and beauty products. The conversation takes a deep dive into Alvin’s inspiring journey, starting from his humble beginnings as a student in SMU to becoming a prominent figure in the digital marketing industry. During their fascinating conversation, Alvin shared priceless insights on his journey building successful direct-to-consumer brands.

After starting his entrepreneurial journey by selling eBooks on eBay as a student, Alvin was hooked on the opportunity to build an online business. Alvin recounts his initial foray into online entrepreneurship, sparked by his ex-girlfriend’s illness and his determination to find ways to make money online. He stumbled upon a program called Silent Sales Machine, which taught individuals how to sell on eBay and make a profit. Intrigued, Alvin decided to give it a try. “I followed whatever he taught, and interestingly enough, I was able to make about $2,000 to $3,000 a month while still studying at SMU.”

Alvin explains that he began by selling digital products such as e-books on eBay, gradually expanding into selling subliminal CDs and other personal development materials. This initial success fuelled his desire to explore full-time opportunities in digital marketing after graduation.

“I caught the bug and realised that I could potentially turn this into a full-time career. So, after graduating, I delved into digital marketing.”

Ventures leading to the U.S. Market

Alvin describes the various ventures he embarked upon, including SEO consulting and partnering with a friend to work with Yellow Pages. However, he soon discovered that his strengths lay in back-end work rather than face-to-face sales. This realization prompted him to shift his focus to selling products online, specifically targeting the U.S. market.

Alvin explains the unique marketing approach his company adopted, drawing inspiration from QVC and infomercials. They created videos with a strong call-to-action, enticing viewers to make a purchase through a simple click of a button on their website.

“We put those videos on our website, adopting a model similar to QVC infomercials. It proved to be effective in the U.S. market.”

“We began working with authors to create digital e-books, audio, and video programs in the personal development field. Our primary market was the U.S., as we had learned the American way of selling.”

Unique marketing approach

They created videos with a strong call-to-action, enticing viewers to make a purchase through a simple click of a button on their website. “We put those videos on our website, adopting a model similar to QVC infomercials. It proved to be effective in the U.S. market.”

Alvin acknowledged the difference in selling strategies between countries, noting that each culture has its own preferences and nuances. He candidly shares that while he is based in Singapore, his focus has always been on the larger U.S. market due to its immense size and potential for amplified success. “The U.S. market offered tremendous opportunities. While success in Singapore is possible, the scale and reach of the U.S. market were more appealing to us.”

In 2015, Alvin pivoted fully into health supplements and beauty when he realised “the health market is bigger.”

Here are three lessons he learned scaling in this new arena:

  1. Model Success. Alvin didn’t reinvent the wheel, noting “we see who is successful. We dig in deep, we buy through our products, we understand how they do it, and we just copy.” This proved an effective strategy.
  2. Use Your Database. Alvin’s existing customers provided a built-in audience when he launched supplements. “We could promote, send emails to that existing database and it didn’t translate 100%, but it was okay.” An existing list eases customer acquisition.
  3. Manage Cash Flow Carefully. In 2018, a peak $44M year made Alvin complacent. But a downturn followed changes in operations. “Although I’m losing like $100K a month…if it drops half a million every month, within like 7-8 months, I’m die.” Regular forecasts help flag issues early.

Tips for newcomers

“Focus marketing dollars on optimising ads/landing pages before spending $5K-$10K validating an idea.” And advised white labelling at first versus custom production due to lower minimum orders.

For those ready to take the plunge, Alvin’s story shows how focusing on fundamentals like cash flow management and iteratively improving operations can help entrepreneurs survive – and thrive – in the long run.

You can check their full interview on Chills with TFC, Episode 155 on Spotify, YouTube, Google podcast or Apple podcast to join Alvin Huang’s on his remarkable path to success, as he navigates the challenges of entrepreneurship and finds his niche in the ever-evolving world of e-commerce. Journey as an aspiring online entrepreneur to the Founder of Truegenics.

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