In this Prime Talk Podcast Sponsored by GETIDA – Liran Hirschkorn – Founder & CEO – Incrementum Digital talks about Going From Finance and Insurance to Growing Brands on Amazon, also more information about his life’s journey. #liranhirschkorn #IncrementumDigital
About Liran Hirschkorn of Incrementum Digital – Success on Amazon requires the right advertising strategy. Work with an Amazon advertising partner who manages millions in ad spend. The team at Incrementum Digital will apply expert methods to increase your sales while saving you time. Liran has been selling on Amazon since 2014. Since then, he has successfully launched multiple million-dollar private label brands. As the CEO of Incrementum Digital, he applies his expertise to empower other Amazon sellers. He also enjoys giving back to the Amazon community through his podcast and E-commerce mindset.
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Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today, I have a special guest. Today I’m having Liran Hirshkorn. Liran is the founder and CEO of Incrementum Digital. He’s also a host of an e-commerce podcast called Ecommerce Mindset podcast which also has its own unique, robust Facebook group with the same name. Incrementum Digital. The company was founded as a marketing agency for brands that want to sell on Amazon. So, a really special guy, really great talent. I’m happy to have him here. Liran, welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me on. I’m excited to be here.
Same here. Thank you so much for your time. All right. So today’s episode is going to be all about you. You’re going to share with us who is Liran, where are you from, where were you born, where did you grow up, how did you begin your professional career station by station, until you get to where you are today with e-commerce. So, I guess without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Sure. So you want to go back, going far back?
Yeah, the very beginning. Where were you born?
Yeah. So I was born in Haifa in Israel. When I was six years old, my dad was sent from his company to come work in the US. It was supposed to be a two-year contract, and at the end of that two years, he bought a business here in the US and my family ended up staying here as a result. My mom …
Let me stop for just a second. So, the company, what was it called? Maybe I know it. Is it still around or…?
The company was originally was called Elscint. I think they were later bought by GE, but my dad was an expert at working on the MRI, CAT scan machines and fixing them. He studied electrical engineering and they would send him all over the world. I think at one point he kind of came to them frustrated about growth opportunities in the company, and so they offered him… He was going to leave the company if they didn’t kind of offer him a growth opportunity and they offered him this opportunity to come to the US and work here for two years, and so that’s how we ended up.
Where was that when we call it relocation back in Israel?
So, you got relocated. What year was that and where did you guys move?
That was 1987 and we moved to Fairlawn, New Jersey. I think he was given a few different options in the US. One of them was New Jersey and I think the company was based in Hackensack. If you’re familiar with New Jersey, Fairlawn’s not too far. It was also a Jewish community there and so ended up there and for me, I was just starting first grade in the US. I didn’t know much English or anything, but I started first grade in the US.
Nice. So, this was what you said in 1987?
That’s what you started first grade. And then growing up, you probably went to the public school there and Fairlawn High School?
No. I went to a Jewish school growing up, so I went to Yavneh Academy in Paramus, and then I went to MTA, Yeshiva University High School.
Where is that? Is that in the city?
That’s in the city, Washington Heights and my senior year there, I convinced my parents to let my dorm in the school. So, I lived there my senior year, which is a really good experience living in the city as a 17-year-old.
So as a 17-year-old, you go live in New York City pretty much?
17-year-old, yeah. Living in New York City. It was a fun experience. Not sure I would let my kid do that. I was carpooling to school with a few other guys and they were a year older than me, so by the time I was a senior, they had graduated, so I convinced my parents based on that to let my dorm in the school considering I might not have transportation or whatever. So I went to MTA. From there I went to Queens College.
Before we jump into college and actually, we’re going to attach along to the year. So your father kept working for Elscint the whole time, throughout the whole …?
No, So after two years…
Which is 1989, right?
Yeah. 1989, my dad bought a business.
What was the business?
He bought an appliance repair company, and basically from there on was self-employed, running this company and through my mom is actually how we got the opportunity to stay in the US because my mom was a Hebrew teacher actually at Kushner Academy in New Jersey, and she was Jared Kushner’s teacher – fun fact – and she worked with a lot of the Kushners and the family and through her, we were able to get a green card and get sponsored because she had kind of a special skillset where you need somebody out the US, and that’s what led us to get citizenship.
So, when your father bought the business, is it after you guys were on track to get citizenship, or this is before? Because that’s maybe risky if you buy a business and you’re not sure if you going to be able to legally stick around. Do you remember?
We may have already been on track to get the green card or already had it, I’m not sure, but I’m assuming we already could stay here beyond his original visa.
Okay, that makes sense. All right. So, father’s an entrepreneur at some point. Runs his own business and your mother, she’s teaching. And then once you head into the college/ university years, growing up anything entrepreneurial you did or unique, or you were mostly like a geek at school? What was your dynamic growing up?
One of the things I remember doing in elementary school as an entrepreneur is selling candy in the school. My brother would buy it. My brother also went to MTA Yeshiva University High School in Washington Heights. My brother would buy Red Hots and those Alexander the Grape and stuff for 10 cents each in packs, and I would sell them in school for 25 cents each and that…
And your brother is older? Younger?
Older. Six years older, so he was in high school. I was still in elementary school, and that was one of the first entrepreneurial things I can kind of remember doing until I think I took away enough business from the school gift store or whatever, where the school had it shut down and other people started to do it too. And eventually, they announced you can’t sell in the school anymore.
Yeah, like Amazon. You’re now a trusted seller and they crackdown and they take the market for themselves.
Yeah, exactly. I got shut down, but I remember that as far as one of the first things entrepreneurial, I guess, that I did.
Nice. Got it. Right. So, let’s touch on university years. What year did you start?
I think maybe I graduated around ’99 from high school. That makes sense. Yeah, around ’99 and then went to Queens College. At Queens College, I studied media and I was in their honors business program. They had something called BALA, which was like Business and Liberal Arts. You had to get in separately outside of just being in the school, and I was going through. My goal was to finish school very fast, so like in three years or less so I took a lot of courses. I had an internship, I think, at the President’s office at the college which gave me additional credits. I had a professor that liked me in business and through him, I got an internship at Citicorp Investment Services, and that’s what kind of led to…
Citicorp, I think they had their headquarters actually in Queens, Megatower. Is that the place you had to go to?
Correct. No, but I did go and have some meetings at that mega tower, Long Island City. Growing up, I always wanted to be a stockbroker. My dad had a friend who would day trade, and like a kid in the nineties, the market was kind of like on this crazy bull run.
Yeah. I just want to give a little bit of context to that. You started university in 1999 and that was the heyday of the beautiful days of the dot-com bubble. There were IPOs everywhere. Crazy money being flushed in, so I guess that was the spirit of the times for you, but beyond that, anything on the history side? On the things that you read about, you learned about, about the stock market? What was the passion that was driving you into that space?
Yeah, I think the passion was… You know, as a kid younger than that, probably when I was like 10 or 11, my dad had a friend who was a day trader, and my days off, my dad would spend time at his house. They were friends and on my days off from school or some days that I had off, I would go and sit next to him and watch what he did, and at the time you were not even doing the trades online. He would call up the broker and he had CNBC and he had the ticker and he would buy a stock. He would buy a thousand shares of stock. It would go up to $1 and he would sell it. And if he bought a stock at $50, $50,000, he would sell it. He made a thousand dollars. That was his goal.
Gordon Gekko is in the flesh for you.
Yeah, exactly. The market was doing well, and I think as a kid, being 10, 11, this kind of gave me like, wow, I want to do this. I want to make money. I want to be a stockbroker. I want to be trading or doing something in that kind of realm, and this opportunity that I had in college was kind of leading into that because it was an opportunity to be an intern for two financial advisors at Citicorp Investment Services.
This is what? After the second, third year in college, or what was the actual year?
This is probably my second year, maybe. My second year in college.
So, 2001-ish after the crash, after the bust?
Yeah, I believe so. Yes. After.
Interesting times. Very interesting times.
And actually, I remember working there also during 9/11, so yeah, it was during I think, and after maybe that I was working there. I remember a lot of events from there, but yeah, I had the chance to work with two financial advisors, and ultimately it led to me getting into a career and getting a full-time job at Citicorp Investment Services at the beginning of my working career.
So, when you graduated…let’s stamp the year you graduated and I guess entered into the professional world with Citi. Take us there.
Oh, well, almost. I ended up dropping out of college. I was doing so well at Citicorp. I became their sales assistant. They sponsored me for my Series 7, Series 63, 65. I eventually got my Series 24, which allowed me to supervise people that have the Series 7, life and health insurance licenses. I became a sales assistant to them. Then Citibank bought another bank called EAB. There’s EAB Plaza if you know in Uniondale. That was originally called EAB Plaza that Citibank took over, but they bought another bank and they had another branch location in Great Neck and I became the financial advisor there. I think I was probably the youngest financial advisor in the company; I may have been like 21, and I was working in Great Neck New York, which for those who don’t know, it’s kind of like an affluent area. And so, I was also …
All this time, you stayed in Washington Heights or you already either shifted to Queens? What was your …?
So now I was living in Queens and going to Queens College, I had rented a basement apartment when I was going to school and I was working at Citicorp. Eventually, I started taking courses at night. Eventually. I just couldn’t keep up with both the full-time job and going to school at night, and I dropped out of school just to pursue the opportunity to be a financial advisor with Citicorp.
That makes sense, yeah. You’re in it for I guess the career path, and if that was already established, school sometimes becomes secondary. So, what was the year, I guess you dropped out and said, that’s it. I’m at Citi full time?
Yeah. I don’t know. That was maybe around – could be 2003 or so. It was not that far away. I already had probably three years’ worth of college credits because I was doing 18,21 credits a semester, including summer. But yeah, I just had this opportunity and I took it.
Got it. So, you grew into Citicorp, got all these licenses. You moved into the Great Neck area. Very, very affluent. I believe they have nice also a bay area with all these yachts and boats. Very a unique kind of gem in the New York area. Take us to Citi. What was the progression for you? Where did you peak and what was the next station?
I was there for I think a few years at Citicorp. Eventually, I went to CHASE, and then CHASE got bought out by Bank One. A lot of people left and I ended up at HSBC where I was there for the next five years, and I also moved over to the banking side. I was working in a bank branch as a financial advisor. I eventually moved over to the banking side and kind of worked my way up to be a bank manager. I was at HSBC for about five years.
Hold on. Let’s summarize Citi. You started dabbling with it around 2001, 2002. 2003, ready go full time, but one was a switch from, I guess, Citi to you said it was CHASE afterward.
Yeah, I think I was at CHASE maybe a year, like around 2004. And then in 2005, I went to work for HSBC. I was there five years
Until 2010-ish. Along the way, at one point with HSBC, I left and came back. so entrepreneurial kind of continuing to talk about entrepreneurial all during this time. I was also interested in making money online and learning different ways in how to market and do things online. So, I was on Warrior Forum and just learning. I had taken Frank Kern’s Mass Conversion 2.0. I went to his live seminar in San Diego. I was just learning, learning. Learning internet marketing and trying different things, some that had some short-term success, but nothing with long-term success from flipping domain names…
So even though you’re in massive corporations and the financial side of things in the financial mecca of the world in New York City, your entrepreneurial bug was simmering inside and leading you to all these tracks that you were experimenting and trying out.
Yeah. I was still working on side hustles that I wouldn’t say anything greatly materialized into anything successful enough to leave my job. In 2008, I met a guy and got involved in a network marketing company. and
You’re talking about MLM? Multi-level marketing?
Yes. Multi-level marketing company. I was one early people to get in, which I think can help, and basically, the company didn’t have all the marketing tools available for you fully built out. It was a very small company. I found a guy on at the time maybe it was not called Upwork, Elance, or whatever it was, and I had a website built and I started to market it, and I had success with that. I became the number one enroller of people in the company. I think I had one of the biggest downlines I think it’s what it’s called in the company, and I left my job. When I left my job, my boss told me to look, you have an open door here. if things don’t work out, you can come back.
Well, when you left, the dynamics were this is financially so rewarding I feel confident leaving, or I believe it will be so rewarding, I see a little bit of money coming in? What was the shift?
I was making enough money where I could leave my job basically, and try to grow it and pursue it further. So, then I started to travel the country with …. actually, some people you might know of were involved in the company. Jim Kwik, you might know of. He’s wasn’t as well known then, but he was involved in the company. Wrote the book Limitless, and he’s a more famous today public speaker. At the time, he wasn’t well known. David Wolfe, who also was known in the health world of raw food. Written books, et cetera, were also involved, and so I would travel with them a lot across the country to where my downline teams were, and I built a lot of it online. We would do these meetings and get people that they knew in, and built up this thing until the company basically couldn’t sustain it. They didn’t have enough capital to keep it going. The founders developed the products, but they didn’t have, I would say a lot of business savvy. They brought in a CEO and it was kind of too late at that point.
And you said this was around what? 2008, 2009.
I also want to bring some more context into the mix. Another meltdown financially. The financial world had a big enough meltdown. The financial crisis was started by mortgages that collapsed. So, in the spirit of the times, you have this other hustle that’s kind of growing, shifting. The financial world seems a little shaky. I guess that also was part of the dynamic involved in what’s going on. You said that you guys peaked and then the beyond really didn’t fulfill, and there was, I guess, maybe discords or the need for you to shift back into finance.
The company, that network marketing company wasn’t able to sustain. I mean, they wanted to do things very eco-friendly. For example, they had glass bottles, but then they shipped liquid in glass bottles across the country in the winter, and the bottles would burst and they just had issues, logistics, and finance issues. And so I went back to banking and I did that until 2010. In 2010, I decided to take my entrepreneurial kind of pursuit further and decided to investigate online into how I could kind of marry my internet marketing skills that I now had, and I built this whole sort of network marketing business online, and how could I marry my skills of online with my background in financial services? And I discovered an insurance forum where there were insurance agents that had independent online businesses doing that. So, I somebody who became kind of a mentor to me in that field and started a website, building an online insurance agency, and that’s where I went sort of all in on entrepreneurship, 2010 working for myself full time.
Explain to me again or for the audience, what were you bridging? What was the, as we said here, what was the [foreign language expression; 20:14]? What was the innovation here?
Well, the innovation is that as far as the service I provided, so I was focused on high-risk life insurance. So the idea is that today you are a healthy guy and you want to get life insurance, it’s pretty easy. You can go online, you can get a quote, you get a medical setup. But if you have, you know, multiple sclerosis, it’s very important on which company you go with because there are 20 different companies that you can go with, and each one is going to rate you differently based on how they view multiple sclerosis and the risks associated with it. And so, there’s a benefit to you in consulting with somebody who understands how each of these companies’ rate somebody, basically an agent, where you might not need an agent in a lot of other cases. You can kind of just go online, get quotes and not have to talk to anybody.
But in some sense, it was kind of bridging the gap between companies like Select Quote™ that every time you called, you got somebody else versus like a relationship with one person, and the ability to direct you to the right company. And for me, the way I had contracts with 30 insurance companies, so I made pretty much the same money whether I sent you to MetLife or another company. But I learned basically through the main broker that I worked with that was based in California, they had a guy there who knew he had a book of how all the companies rate. And so I would initially call him a lot and kind of ask him when I had client situations. And then I learned and kind of developed expertise into which company to go to for what situation, and so I built a business where I wrote a lot of content. First, I wrote myself and I hired writers and I did YouTube videos. You can still find them on YouTube targeting SEO traffic around these specific issues that people might be searching for online where they kind of need the help of an agent who knows the field a little bit. So that was kind of the value proposition specializing in this high risk.
One of the other benefits to high-risk insurance from a business standpoint is that you might be paying $1000 a year for insurance, and when you have somebody who has issues, they might be paying $5,000 a year for the insurance.
But the premium might get jacked.
The premium is higher, and because the risk is higher at the same time because the premium is higher, the commission to the broker is higher. Commissions were somewhere around 80% to 100% of the first year’s premium, so commissions are really good. If you sell somebody an insurance policy and they’re paying $3,000 a year, you’re going to make $3,000. So that’s what I did basically from 2010 until I got into Amazon at the end of 2014.
So almost four years into this business model. Once again, the business model involves the insurance industry. You’re able to bridge it and create on a digital space. Get new clients and new business through content. Deliver content, and also have a specialty track where it’s for high risk. So you carved a niche.
Yes. And you had to. Basically, in the business, I had to drive lead-through content because insurance costs per click on Google are extremely expensive. At the time, it was maybe 20 bucks a click. I imagine today it’s significantly higher for sure, and so the cost for generating leads was much more cost-effective by writing content and driving free traffic, as opposed to paid traffic. In this particular niche, you could not compete with the big insurance companies who are taking up all the space in the ad space. So, it’s all content-driven, and being in a niche kind of helps you stand out, and it’s easier to rank in terms of SEO for content when you’re…
You have to be known for that niche and it is very clear and apparent, so you get the traffic right in and it converts and you go from there. So, 2014, I guess, is a breakout year for you where it’s the moment I usually say e-commerce. You were in e-commerce in a way already, but e-commerce as we know with Amazon at least comes knocking on your door. So take us to these moments. What happened?
Yeah. So I saw a course on Facebook in 2014, an e-commerce course. It was called Drop Ship Lifestyle. It still exists. I took the course, started a Shopify site drop shipping. I did kid’s bikes. Started dropshipping it from manufacturers in the US that would drop ship to the client. Got a kind of taste. Did pretty well that fourth quarter and then really started to learn about e-commerce. I didn’t know anything about Amazon or FBA or …
You still kept your business, or this was a side hustle that started moving?
Yes. Still had the business. The nice thing about the business too is even today, I still get commissions from the insurance policies that I sold seven years ago.
Yeah, residual. So, I had money coming in. I started Amazon as a side hustle. In the first quarter of 2015, I learned about arbitrage. The dropshipping was good, but the margins were very small. I learned about Amazon FBA and learned about the arbitrage model. I didn’t know anything about private labels and started to go out to stores. On the weekend, I would take the stickers off the pricing with my wife in the living room, send stuff into Amazon. I got an amazing education, and I was kind of hooked to this opportunity to make money while you sleep, versus my insurance business, which I generated leads and it was how many people can I talk to in a day, as far as driving the business? I was doing it from home. I wasn’t planning on kind of building out an agency or hiring people to work for me. It wasn’t on my mind at the time, and so I saw this opportunity. By the summer of 2015, I saw Amazon becoming a great opportunity and what I did was I outsourced all my insurance leads to this mentor that I originally met and he basically sold the leads and whatever he sold, we just split the commissions 50/50. I was still able to generate, and basically, the business was to some extent on autopilot at that point. I already had traffic; already had leads coming in, and so it was just a matter of somebody to talk to at least. So I could have hired someone instead of just outsourcing it and split the commissions 50/50. I was able to not have to take money out of the Amazon business and keep rolling money that I was making back into it because I still had my lifestyle, which is I think a lesson here in terms of starting on Amazon is …
You bootstrapped and compounded your income or your profits straight into the business because you had the other vessel, the financials to support you.
Yes, exactly. And I think I ended up selling him the insurance websites, I think in 2016. So I still basically had all that. And then I had some money coming in also from the sale of it and that helped me fund getting into private label, as well as selling the insurance websites. I guess in the summer of 2015 is when I started to kind of go all-in on Amazon. and I think sometime in 2016 was actually when I launched my first private label products. I ended up launching two brands. One I sold, but I still get royalties from patents that I developed, so I ended up developing some patents. At the same time, I got connected to Andy Simons. I was in his private label course. and met him at a conference in 2016 in Orlando. Chris Green did a conference. Met Andy in person and kind of developed a relationship. And eventually, Andy asked me to join him … invited me to a private label retreat that he did. It was $5,000. He told me just to come free because I developed a relationship with him. I helped them develop some of the content for it, and after that, he asked me hey, let’s partner up and help me improve some of the training that we’re doing. He had his course, et cetera, and that’s kind of how I got into the world of going from just being a seller to also putting out content and doing more.
I actually looked back recently at some of the posts that I made when I first got into Amazon in 2015 in the ScanPower group actually, and even then, I was posting, sharing, just something I kind of have a passion for. When I look back, even on the insurance side of things I was on a podcast, my friend who mentored me and got me, he got a small sort of override on the business that I did so he sort of helped mentor agents as well, and I was also starting to put out content with him. So I think it was just something I enjoyed because I look back and see myself doing it in the insurance space, and then eventually I ended up doing it in the Amazon space. The parallels of running an insurance agency to now running an Amazon agency, I see a lot of parallels in terms of what I did before and what I do now.
Yeah. The first I guess chapter doing it was your Bootcamp or prep course doing it in this arena in which you’re exploring and succeeding in. But I guess there are two components here. I guess you were able to identify that you have a comfort zone. One of them, the first one is creating content. You did that in the digital, insurance, and digital insurance business, but also you gradually started doing it with e-commerce and selling on Amazon, so creating content. But the second thing I would say, or component that’s important to distinguish is the community approach and being involved in a comfortable community. You’re part of it and then you contribute to it, and that is a huge dynamic that goes around selling on Amazon, which is vital for many, many, many entrepreneurs and sellers out there. You also have a component with insurance so that is something that will become more prevalent with e-commerce.
Yeah. I mean, I had some of that. So, my friend, Jeff Root is his name. He developed a forum for agents, and I remember even being very active in that forum, posting videos. He had a podcast called Sell Term Life podcast. There’s an episode you can go back and listen to, and he interviewed me about how I got thousands of leads a month in the insurance business. I was starting to kind of move more into some of that role within the agent space, so I see that’s something that I subconsciously must enjoy doing or have a tendency to get into doing, but definitely, the way I drove my business in the insurance space was around content. Different than the content I put out today in the Amazon space because it wasn’t social media content. It was mostly article writing.
Professional world in a niche. It’s very organized and it has its traditional channels, as opposed to where we are today, where social media, so you are getting to the professionals, but so many want to become professional. So, it’s almost between two worlds – the ones who are in it, the ones who are about to go in it, and then they get sucked into it and they join the ride. Okay. So, in 2015, 16, you began getting into the content side and the community side. Take us, what was the next session for you?
Yeah. And so I would say in 2017, Andy and I started to develop some services. Until then, we pretty much had courses and started to develop services.
Let me touch on the courses. The courses when you were developing them, the mission was? What was the priority, that we’re making money, or is it more of an educating or kind of both, a mix of both?
Andy already had a course, and his mission has always been to help sellers. Developing a course, yes, it’s also a business and you also make money on it. But I think you have the marketers would just put together free information that’s out there, versus people that are doing it and sharing what they’re doing. Both Andy and I were selling seven figures and sharing the things that we were doing on the priv