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#100 Adam Hudson on Amazon Basics Pt. 4

To find out more of Adam’s own strategies and tactics, CLICK HERE

Reviews are a major part of any strategy and you mentioned earlier that you want enough reviews to seem viable. Is that correct and could you expand on that?

Yes. It hard to seem credible if you have five reviews and everyone else has 100, so you have to work for those reviews.

How much is enough? And what do you do now that incentivised reviews have been removed?

How many depends on the product. It depends on what page one looks like for you products’ search terms. There is still opportunity out there. There are a lot of products with low reviews that are still dominating. Adam would use ilovetoreview.com, which he also owns, to get 25 reviews for products in the UK and 50 in the US.

Find out more of Adam’s latest thinking HERE

It’s only in the US that incentivised reviews are gone and it’s only compulsory reviews. There are other services that never guarantee the review but would push out your products at a discounted rate or for free. It’s not clear how it works, but it seem that after you get around 25 or 30 sales in a day then you products get a jump start and the sales keep rolling in. So even if you’re not getting a guaranteed review, there is still value in pushing your products out at a discounted rate.

Adam can only speak to his community at ilovetoreview.com, but the reviewers have been doing this for three years where they use the coupon, get the product, and write the review. So, they will probably continue to do so even though it can no longer be required.

Companies will continue to do this even if the review rate drops in half. Adam’s company has a review rate of 87% meaning 87% of products that were pushed out came back as a review. With these new rules, that will likely drop. And if it drops in half that means you will just have to send out twice as many products. This is a one-time investment for something that can generate income for life.

Another tip from Adam is to follow up with you customers via email. Especially in the UK, they are very responsive to this. Zonguru (which Adam also own) has this automation built in.

Every time you make a sale it can send an email when it ships, six days later following up with any issues,and 14 days later asking for a review.

Not only will this help in getting reviews, but it allows you to get ahead of any issues with the product, say if the box was damaged or the product wasn’t right, allowing you to take care of the issue without before going through Amazon’s return system.

Adam tries to casual in his style in his emails. Just a quick “Hey, how are you doing? Just wanted to make sure everything is good with the product.” He doesn’t try to sound like a big company with huge copy in the email, just a quick message like you would send to an acquaintance. 

The bogeyman in all this, as Adam puts it, is that Amazon can change this against this type of thing. They have already sued a bunch a review companies last year. All they have to do is make a change in the algorithm that scrutinizes those reviews that have reviewed an above average amount of products, and out of those, how many used a coupon and just wipe out those reviews. They can just remove reviews of people who are just reviewers.

No one knows how things will work out, but sellers will just have to adjust. They will still have to do product launches, just like every company in the world when they launch a new product. You just have to follow up and encourage your customers to leave a review. You only need 25 – 50 –  if you need more than that you’ve gone into the wrong niche.

As you say-  Amazon has the ability to wipe out these reviews if it chooses. It just drives the point, that at the end of the day it comes down to organic reviews and organic sales.

Yes. Just make great products that people like. It’s that simple. And don’t be impatient. Adam likes the way this is because it knocks out all the people that think they can get rich quick on terrible products. It’s about putting in the work. Putting in the effort. That gives him the freedom to sit around all day, and look at his seller account and see that he made $3,000 in  a day.

You mentioned earlier that you teach this stuff. How do you do that? Is it live webinars, live courses, group training?

He has a company called Reliable Education. The aim is to give people a realistic expectation going in and tell them the truth.

On the website, you can enroll in a free training program that is four videos where he shows you his home and drives you around where he lives in Australia.

He educates you on what the Amazon opportunity is, how to find products and his criteria for that. He teaches you about “Velicity Retailing” which is how to compound your capital over time.

All this leads to a paid programme which is an online course where you get access to about 90 videos that show you Chinese factories and how a 3D printer is made and a lot of very cool stuff.

It includes a private Facebook community and will link you with a mastermind group that they cap at seven people. Everyone signs a NDA so they can freely talk about what their companies are doing and talk on Google Hangouts or in person, and they’re all trained with the same philosophy of not being opportunistic, not get rich quick. They are solid people that want to build solid businesses.

They also have 12 coaching webinars with each member of the course. They have an onboarding program for every new member. There are two guys whose job it is to call every new member and talk to them and get a feel for them. They also have a program where they loan money to a 3rd-world entrepreneur, interest-free, and gets paid back over time. People seem to find a lot of value since their refund rate is less than 5%.

How do listeners get hold of you or find out more about you?

Just at reliable.education. Adam doesn’t really use Twitter etc. so you can’t catch him there – sounds like he’s more likely to be on his boat!

#99 Adam Hudson on Amazon Basics Pt. 3

So you mentioned you started with $20,000 when you started your first company and I often tell people that you need at least $5,000 to start, which is a manageable figure for many people, but is that a viable number for people to start out with?

It is. You just need to do a lot of research. Adam uses Zonguru, which he owns, which is similar to AMZ Tracker and Jungle Scout if they had Feedback Genius built in. You need to track something like 100 – 200 products.

Spend hours tracking products and going to Amazon and Alibaba.com Use Pinterest, that is a great resource. If you want to sell coffee cups, just do a search for cool coffee cups, and people have built boards with all these designs they like. They are literally giving you the products they want to buy.

Adam isn’t interested in tracking the number 1 product. He’s is looking at the number 4 or 5 listing and he sometimes goes to the second page. He doesn’t like tracking products with a lot of reviews. He prefers niche products where if you were to count all the reviews for every product on page one, he wants the average to be below 60 or 70.

You can LOOK HERE For more detailed training from Adam. 

In the UK, you would probably adjust those numbers down. Simply put, it’s not worth it to go into the huge niches with a lot of competition and products are doing $20,000 or $30,000 a month. He is more interested in a smaller portfolio of products where each product is doing $5,000 or $10,000 a month. He’s happy having ten products doing $3,000 a month. A more stable business with lower, but consistent sales day in and day out.

Some sellers in the US have found their products have a life cycle of about three to six months. Have you found similar results? And how do you defend against competitors coming in, driving the prices down and advertising costs up?

Adam hasn’t found that in his experience. Most people want quick success and they aren’t willing to do the labour that he does. He will labour over a logo and package design and he will take a month to get another sample and other people just aren’t willing to put in that kind of work.

One unique thing he does when he gets a quote from a supplier is to offer them more money. If they tell him that it’ll be $4 if will ask if they can do it for $5 and explain that he wants the best possible product. The best quality control and the best possible outcome. No cutting corners. Taking that extra step to make the product the best it can possibly be.

The response he gets is remarkable because that extra dollar could double their margin and it’s only a dollar that he has to get back on the retail end, and he could get $10 because of the superior quality.

One thing you have to be wary of with these gurus is their ability to misrepresent their earnings. They could talk about how much of a margin they’re making but leave out the cost of acquiring new customers. Sometimes they may be losing money whenever the get a sale from an ad because the ad costs are so high.

Find out more about how Adam gets these results.

In the US many sellers aren’t making any money from sales that come from ads, and it seems like the only money they’re making is coming from their organic sales. So, tell us about what needs to be measured, and once you measure it, how do you deal with it?

The first step, with any business, is to write down what kind of life you want to have. You may want to make as much money as you can. But that means you will be working as much as you can.

Adam made his decision early on that he didn’t want hundreds of products because it’s too much stress. He also didn’t want hundreds of keywords that he was bidding on in PPC because he didn’t want to spend his day going through PPC reports and optimizing his keywords. For his products, he bids on 10 words, exact match. He doesn’t do any broad match advertising.

He is aware that he is missing sales but he doesn’t care because it will be eating into why he got into the business. Because of that, his ACoS is really low he hardly spends anything. Be sure to read Adam’s blog post about how advertising costs can eat into your margin.

You cut off everything that doesn’t make a profit, so how do you drive sales volume? How do you drive traffic to your listing?
Amazon does it. He has twice the conversion as everyone else because he only does exact match keywords, so if someone sees his listing they are looking for that exact product. Lke he mentioned before, he is charging twice as much as he next competitor. Therefore, it is better for Amazon to drive traffic to him because they can send have the amount of customers and get the same conversion and make the same amount of  money per sale. It all comes back to having the best product.

(More of Adam’s insights are at reliable.education)

#98 Adam Hudson of Reliable Education on Amazon Basics Pt. 2

Get Adam’s Latest thoughts HERE

So, the first thing is to have a great product, what’s the next thing?

The next thing is to have great photography. Not good photos, not the best you can do, but great photography.

The best that you can possibly get. If you look at AirBnB for example, one of the decisions they made early on was to send professional photographers to the homes to take photos. In the beginning, people weren’t booking because the photos weren’t good enough. As soon as they started offering that to the AirBnB hosts, their business took off.

Another flaw in the course gurus is that they sold Amazon short. They said you can come in with $1000 and be making $30,000 a month in six months and that’s just not true. What Adam tells people is that is you can start with $5,000 and in the first year you can rotate that money at 30% margin in a year, that’s a win.

CLICK HERE for more details on Adam’s approach to Amazon on his “Reliable Education” site.

Warren Buffett is the greatest investor in the world and one of the richest men in the world. If you look at his record he is trading at 20% a year. If you’re doing it at 30% then you’re doing better than Warren Buffett. As you get better you’ll be able to rotate that twice in a year then you’re doing 60%.

If you sit down with a compounding calculator and do the math on if you start with $5,000 or $10,000 you can see that you have an amazing vehicle at your disposal.

However, a lot of these “gurus” are telling people they’re failures if you’re not making $20,000 or $30,000 a month in your first year.

You mentioned that you started with 6 products and turned that into a million dollars a year, so I would assume that you put substantial capital into that.

In fact, it’s at $1,000,000 a year “run rate”, ie, it now turns over about $83,000 a month.

Adam figures that he started that business with about $60,000. This was a different company. He has a completely different brand that he’s been running for about three years and he started that one with $20,000. At this point, he hasn’t taken any money from it. Except for a $20,000 loan from Amazon that he accepted just to see what it was about, he has been compounding that initial capital. Right now he has hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory paid for in distribution center around the world.

The only other person I’ve talked to about compounding your money is Will Tjernlund. If you took that $60,000 and after a year turned it into $80,000 a month that clearly is a tremendous success. How on earth did you manage that?

Adam is experienced at this point, with his numerous business adventures, and experience comes from activity and time and anybody can learn to do that if you stick with it (learn more from Adam here at Reliable Education)

The difference, according to Adam, is that Will farms a product. He’ll throw 20 or 30 products out there and two or three will be a hit. He clears the rest out and starts over.

Adam wanted to build a brand with a small number of products. He currently has six products with an average cost of $8 and retails for $40 with one about $129. Adam’s strategy is to build his brand around a few products and get them to page one and keep them there. Last time he checked, Will had around 1700 SKUs. He didn’t want to think about what that was like, to wake up and have to monitor 1700 SKUs.

How do you find potential products?

To be successful, it’s about paying attention to the details and being objective. If you look at AirBnB and everything that makes it successful, then reverse engineer that and unpack it to find every component, that kinda what you have to do with Amazon. For example, AirBnB hired pro photographers to go every single place listed on the site!

Too many sellers go in with the wrong mentality. They go in think they need to make this product in this price range and that’s all wrong because you’re building a product around your limitations and needs rather than the wants and the desires of the customer.

Adam as two or three products that are on page one for the biggest term they’re on. Now, the top couple spots are taken up by his products and he sells them two in a box while his competitors sell it four or six to a box. His product is $40, the next person is $20, and everyone else is cheaper than that. He is at least twice as much as his competitors and is selling half as many.

For more details, CLICK HERE

This almost mirrors Kevin King in regards to the ideas behind the photos and going against conventional wisdom. How did you find these products in the first place?

Some people will misunderstand what he is saying, and you can find out more in his course at reliable.education. They think they just need to charge more. However, you must have a clear reason that a customer will give you more money. It’s more than headlines or you saying it’s better.

Many of these products are bought as a gift. The person is intending to gift the item to someone. Like with a ring from Tiffany’s, you paying for the box as much as you are the ring. So every aspect needs to be thought about. Don’t get on Fiverr and pay someone $15 for a logo. His philosophy is pay once for the best.

Write amazing briefs for everything from accounts to designers. Articulate exactly what you expect from them. If you hire a designer, the work is only going to be as good as the brief you give them. If you spend a little extra on the packaging, you can really impress your customers and all this goes to building a brand.
Sellers make the wrong assumption that no one has money and are looking for the cheapest product and that’s just incorrect. Now, this doesn’t apply to all products, not all products need to go to the extent, but at least make sure your logo is top notch.

(To get more training from Adam, go to reliable.education )

#96 Amazon Mindset Learnings from Musicians

Having just played piano for music auditions in London recently, it struck me that the Main mistakes made in auditions are the same as those made by many beginning Amazon entrepreneurs. mindset strengths or  mistakes and doing it well – needed for auditions for peak performers  are the same as those needed for Amazon

Mistake #1 Failure to prepare

Solution: Prepare!  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Xmas sales are big in retail. Plan your inventory accordingly. Plan your cash accordingly. If you’re just launching a Private label business, plan your capital needs upfront (hint: £1000 isn’t enough for private label! Don’t believe the hype – it’s designed to sell courses, not make you money!)

Mistake #2 Getting put off by mistakes

Solution: When you have a basically sound plan  – keep going! Mistakes are not reasons to lose focus or momentum. Or rather, they can be  – but don’t let them! Stay focussed and learn fast!

Mistake #3 Expecting to be great first time out

Solution: Practise! The best way to do a great audition is to do several – some good, some bad, some mediocre – and to learn from the experiences. The best way to do pick an Amazon product or do an Amazon launch is the same. Plan accordingly (don’t put all your money into one product, for example), start manageably and scale up with experience.

A great bit of advice is to start with Retail Arbitrage (retail arb or RA) or Online Arbitrage (OA). I haven’t done it this way so I can’t guide you properly, but if you are US based, Jim Cockrum is your man. Check out his site My Silent Team.

Mistake #4 Not getting training (or just learning from Podcasts and Facebook group aka “Drinking from a firehose!”)

Solution: Get the best training you can afford. Yes, podcasts and Facebook groups are free and an excellent place to gather info. But it’s too much to absorb and nobody can really structure it to be step by step in those formats.

I would get training from someone who knows what they are doing, preferably geared to your particular finances, circumstances and experience.

Above all, I would get myself a group of peers who you can grow with (find out more about the Amazing FBA London mastermind- on waiting list only at the moment). For me personally, this has been the single biggest success factor so far, hands down.

95 Amazon Reviews Update – DON’T PANIC!

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you will have gathered by now that Amazon has done a major update, basically banning “Incentivized Reviews”.

From What I’ve seen  on the Facebook groups, as usual,  in response to an Amazon shifting of goalposts, the usual panic and “The sky is falling!” mentality abound.

My advice is: Don’t Panic! There are and will be multiple ways remaining of gathering the necessary reviews.  I’ll be going into detail on that in the next couple of weeks.

More importantly, as I focus on in this episode, is to put reviews into perspective in the first place.

  1. The main purpose of giveaways as part of a launch is, and always was, to get Sales Rank by getting sales! Simple! Reviews were, apart from being a nice bonus, mainly a plausible reason for a drastic price reduction.
  2. We don’t necessarily need hundreds of reviews to compete. THis idea is, according to Kevin Kind, just “Hogwash!” In reality, I think it depends on the competition. In some markets, maybe you do need 100-150 reviews. But if you are that worried, simply avoid markets where you need 100s of reviews just to look plausible on page 1.  Go for lower competition niches, which is generally good advice anyway unless you have pots of cash.
  3. The average review (no. of stars) is way more important, in my and others’ experience, than the number of reviews. I’ve seen my conversions drop from 30% to under 10% in response to an average rating change of just 4.8 stars to 4.2. Quality not quantity!
  4. The quality of the individual reviews that FIRST display on your page is also crucial for better conversion. As Kevin King said,  you need to have a video review or two in there (it’s the only way for most of us to have videos in our listings at all). And customers’ photos are seen as way more reliable than our own, so those are very important too. You only need a few reviews to get selling anyway, so these are the ones to go for first. How? Watch this space and I’ll tell you, but for now, just know there are still multiple options open.
  5. Apart from anything else, organic reviews tend to have a flavour of authenticity (apart from not saying “given in exchange for a discount” which always looked lame anyway). SO have an email follow-up sequence in place to get them -and get selling! I’ve had around 3-5% conversion on this, so not huge. Some people have better, some worse. But it adds up. For example, if you sold say 10 units a day (300 a month) for 3 months and got 5% of those customers to leave reviews, that should give you around 45 genuine reviews. With judicious use of other methods of reviews, that gives a nice solid feel to your listing.
  6. Basics: Differentiate and make sure your product is good! That way, you will end up with high average reviews. Remember – the average review is CRUCIAL. Way more important than raw numbers.
  7. Finally, don’t forget, this update is (for now at least) only for amazon.com. SO if you sell in .co.uk or .de or any other European marketplaces, I would gather reviews while I can in the old-school way to get ahead of the game before the inevitable transfer of this new policy to Europe. Nevertheless, the quality of your first 10 reviews is still way more important than getting a ton of mediocre “in exchange for a discount” reviews. And organic reviews will ALWAYS be best.

#92 What are your Amazon Business Daily Rituals?

When you work on your own, it can be easy to fall into bad habits and drift or even go backwards.

Ideally, one key thing is to be sure you aren’t on your own too much – you need to connect to fellow entrepreneurs. Join a Facebook Group, get a mentor and or join a Mastermind group.

But there are inevitably weeks and days at a time when you’ll need to get and keep yourself going.

For me, that is simply taking a walk first thing in the morning and making phone calls to fellow entrepreneurs (nowadays I also often make a call to my business partner).

What are your rituals? Let me know in the comments below.

This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#87 The Amazon Reviewer’s Perspective with Augustas Kligys – Part 2

Can you tell us about any products that you get asked to review that are over-saturated and there are too many of them out there?

It can depend on the season. For example, during the summer he was getting a lot of review requests for money pouches and passport holders that you would use when you travel. As we get closer to Christmas he will likely start getting a lot of requests for lights and other holiday items. Keep this in mind if you have seasonal items.

For instance, let’s say you are going to sell neck pouches for traveling. You know the summer is going to be the busy time for travel so you want to plan ahead and start getting reviews in spring or even winter. You want to get ahead of the competition.

If you wait until June, the reviews will have received several requests for similar items and may not want any more. Also, reviews may take a couple weeks for the reviewer to get around to it. If you wait until June, it might be in July when the review comes in. At that point, you have already missed a good portion of the traveling season. As a bonus, if you get your reviews early, you are prepared for customers to start looking to buy these items. Click here for more information on the European summit if you are looking for tips on breaking into the European market.

Other items he gets requested a lot include flashlights, bike lights, headphones (bluetooth and wired), LED lamps, garden lamps, solar/ battery powered lamps.

Amazon has banned the use of super URLs, have you had any issue with this?

(A super URL is the address Amazon uses when you search for items and listings get ranked higher based on the keywords people search for. There are tools that will mimic this super URL and makes Amazon think people are finding your product based on keywords that they didn’t search for and thus these products get listed higher.)

Augustas hasn’t seen much of this lately. It used to be that the requests would give instructions directing you to go to amazon.de/keyword and it will be the third item down. This would build your ranking for that keyword but it was very inconvenient for the reviewer and often Augustas would ignore the instructions and simply locate it by the ASIN. He doesn’t get these much anymore and there is even a service that will mimic that URL so you don’t need to go through all that. However, be warned that Amazon is cracking down on the tactic and has even started removing listings.

A tip from Augustas for sellers that do fulfilled by merchant rather than FBA. If you have a good relationship with a reviewer, you can use them to make sure your staff or external warehouse is doing a good job. Augustas had a seller that had his own shop and staff that packaged everything. Augustas would give him feedback on the packaging and ways to improve it or if something was missing. It’s a good way to test for quality assurance. It’s better to get private feedback from a reviewer rather than a very public negative comment from a customer.

How important do you think reviews are in general for listing conversion?

Some people may not believe a review is genuine. As a reviewer, it might be difficult to leave a bad review if you have a good relationship with the seller. So rather than giving a 4-star review, you may give 5 because of the customer service.

As a customer, Augustas will always compare reviews especially if one doesn’t seem genuine. And if he sees a short review from a customer that hasn’t left many other reviews, it will hold more weight because it’s a casual shopper that wanted to leave their experience rather than a top reviewer. He noticed on one particular item that he was giving 2 or three stars and the reason why, and he saw the rest of the reviews were all 5-star reviews from top reviewers because they were getting free stuff.

Do you think, as a shopper, that the quantity of reviews is important for conversion? Or is quality more important?

Augustas will look for 2 or 3 quality reviews. If it’s just 2 or 3 lines he will often skip it and look for someone that wrote a couple paragraphs. If he sees that the person got the product for free in exchange for a review then he will look for another one and compare. But definitely, he wants to see a few quality reviews.

Augustas was looking at another product some time back and noticed they were getting close to 50 reviews a day. However, they are said they got the product for free. This went on for a while, around 50 reviews a day and they had around 1000. About 6 months later he went back looked and found that they almost completely stopped getting reviews. They might have gotten another 50 organic reviews which showed that they might not be getting many sales. They invested a lot to get all those reviews but that didn’t translate into actual sales because they weren’t quality reviews.

As a buyer, how important is the quantity? Are you looking for 100 reviews or are you happy with 5 as long as they are long quality reviews?

A few good reviews are great. If he can get a good idea about the product from a few well-written reviews then it doesn’t matter if there are 50 more reviews.

For more info on the European Private Label Summit, click here where you can learn other tips for succeeding in the European Amazon marketplaces.

What about photos and videos? Do you think they make a big difference to the impact of a review?

Oh yes. Since sellers cannot upload their own videos they really like it when the reviewer does one. Some sellers have approached Augustas about reviewing their products because they saw the videos he did.

Now Augustas will upload about 10 photos and a video for each review he does, and as a buyer, it holds more weight than what the seller uploads because it is an actual customer’s unboxing rather that the photoshopped images the seller is putting out. Depending on the product, in his video, he will show how the product is used. This could be particularly beneficial if it can be complicated. This way buyers can watch how it’s done rather than be dissatisfied with your product.

Does it make a difference to Amazon if you have a lot of top-reviewer reviews?

Probably not. It’s unlikely that Amazon would weigh top reviews more than regular reviewers. In fact, Amazon doesn’t really like these free reviews. He did an interview with a private seller that used to work in Amazon and according to him Amazon is all about the customers, and when reviews are getting free products then they are losing the true connection between the product and the customer. It may be, that in the future, it will be more difficult for this type of reviewer to exist.

Even as sellers, we know that these reviews aren’t completely genuine. It’s different than when as a customer, you buy a product, you really like it, and decide to go and leave a review. It’s likely that Amazon will make it more difficult and in fact, in the US, they are starting to require that sellers can only give a 50% discount for reviews.

Tell us about the private label online summit

Augustas wanted to start his own private label business but it ended up not working out and he got into reviews. He noticed that people often had a lot of questions about Europe and there wasn’t one place you could go for consolidated information about getting reviews in Europe, different languages, taxes, and many other topics. Augustas decided to help out by gathering experts about all these different topics. He has about 20 speakers that will be sharing their knowledge. He has some sellers from the US so you can hear their stories and follow their paths. There is a lawyer from Germany that will discuss some of the laws and regulations you have to follow, especially in Germany where they are a bit stricter.

He decided to go with a virtual format because it’s easier to set it up, it easier for the speakers to be there, and it’s easier for the audience to be able to get all the information.

If you have had any desire to sell in Germany, this is a great resource to learn what you need to know. If you’re a UK based seller, you can still be based out of the UK and sell in Germany. Your orders will be fulfilled by the UK warehouse. If you are in the US, don’t let the language barrier stop you, it’s not that difficult to work around.

Click here for more information on the European Summit

Do you have any websites/events/places that people can learn more from you or contact you?

agustaskligys.com

European Private Label Summit

Any parting words of wisdom?

Treat you reviewers like your customers. Forget you are giving them something for free and treat them with respect. You will get more and better feedback from them.

#68 Post Brexit thoughts for Amazon Sellers

Brexit has hit UK based entrepreneurs, like everyone else in the UK.

But I think it’s time to start reflecting quietly on what this means for your Amazon business. There will be threats and issues – but also opportunities.

First and foremost: Don’t panic. Don’t despair. Respond but don’t react! Assess everything with a cool business brain. Don’t be a Polyanna; don’t be pessimistic, either. Just be aware of events and stay aware of threats and opportunities. When you spot the latter, act decisively!

Threats & Solutions

The USD/Pound rate

  1. The pound now buys you about 15% less in USD (at time of writing) than before Brexit (about 1.30 USD).
    1. So now is not the time to start selling in pounds (UK) and buying in dollars from China (nor in fact in RMB, the Chinese currency, which has more or less tracked the dollar).
    2. If you are already selling in the USA, and are having funds paid into your UK account in pounds, set up a USD account in the UK Fast (I use Metrobank simply because it was so quick and easy to set up an account; others use HSBC with success) and set up a receiving account with a decent currency exchange (I use Currencies Direct, who are the most cost effective and quickest out of all solutions I’ve tried).
    3. If you already have dollars in reserve, I would be inclined to use them to get more dollars, ie sell in the USA.
    4. Having said all of which, always analyse each individual opportunity (market research) for profitability/cash needed. There will almost certainly be some amazing opportunities in the UK, just be very careful to analyse  the unit costs from China.

The USD/Euro exchange rate

1. For now, if you’re selling in Euros (if you have inventory in the UK or other European marketplaces) and are selling into  Germany, France, Spain, or Italy, again, get yourself a Euro account in the UK and set up Currencies Direct or similar to receive your payouts from Amazon. Euros are for now worth more than before Brexit.

2. However, I would say that medium term (who knows exactly but I guesstimate within 6-18 months or so), the Euro itself will be hit by crises and thus lose against the pound (worth less to you  if reconverted) and against the Dollar, which you need to pay Chinese suppliers (to an extent it has itself been hit by Brexit).

I almost guarantee a crisis, if nothing else, because of the Greek debt situation. I’m no expert but it’s pretty obvious that if they couldn’t pay their debts last two crises,   next time (when they will have expanded), they will simply have to be written off to a degree (in a “haircut”). The markets are going to hate this and they will punish the Euro.  It will probably bounce back, I suspect, but that is way harder to predict.

3. Of course, one way to mitigate Euro currency risk is to sell in wealthy Euro countries on Amazon (eg in Germany) AND buy in Euros from lower-cost countries (eg Estonia). This is something I’ve been exploring in depth but I’ve no practical experience yet.

Opportunities:

Simply put, tough times thin out the herd. We aren’t in a recession yet, but for people converting pounds to USD, their dollar costs just rose 15%. That may drive some people out of the whole business model.

If there is too much competition for your liking on Amazon UK, or from UK sellers on Amazon, this is one way that it will get reduced. It may indeed be the right decision for you and your business to shut up shop. Assess objectively if you can. But equally, if you can ride it out, you will have less competition at the end of the process.

If you sell and buy in dollars, you are effectively outside the UK economy and outside the pound’s relationship to other currencies. Congratulations! You still have to deal with the intense competition on Amazon.com but if you can handle that, there is money to be made.

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#59 Kevin King Part 3 of 3: Expanding your business and the future of Amazon

Kevin King part 3 of 3 show notes 

What’s working best in your business now?

Kevin encourages people to focus on Amazon. It is the biggest platform for online shopping and if you focus on maximizing on Amazon first, it will pay off. People are already there with their credit cards out wanting to buy. Since Amazon is always changing things, you need to keep tweaking your listings to keep up with the changes. You can’t just post your products, sit back, and watch the money roll in. It doesn’t work like that.

Once you maximize on Amazon, what do you do to expand off Amazon?

Kevin is working on getting into some big-box retailers as well has having his own Shopify site. Kevin has also found success using JoeLister. Using this tool is Amazon items are automatically submitted to eBay. Any sales from eBay are sent to Amazon for shipping and sends the customer the tracking number. It’s all automated. It does a relatively small amount of sales, roughly $1000-2000 a month. However, since it is all automated he doesn’t require any additional time and effort to get those sales. It’s free for the first couple listings and after that it’s only $29 a month.

He also has his own branded site to go along with his Shopify site to add legitimacy to his brand. That way if first-time buyers try to look him up they will see that his are valid products. However, these are just tools that support his Amazon business. Again, the main focus should be Amazon.

Another great tool is Amazon Assistant for Firefox.   This is a plug-in for Firefox that allows you to download your reviews from Amazon as well as the video reviews. He then takes those videos and puts them on his YouTube channel and links those back to the product listing.

Kevin has found that Amazon is a great way to refine and improve your products for another stage. He is looking into getting into big-box stores like Sears or Wal-Mart and has been taking feedback from his Amazon customers to make sure his products are at the highest level. The last thing you would want is to get into a big store like Wal-Mart and have a low quality product. You are going to have a lot of returns and the stores aren’t going to want to carry your products anymore. So use the feedback you get from Amazon and tweak and improve your products.

His long-term goals is to create a strong brand in these big-box stores so that he is covered if something happens with Amazon. If you’re looking to make this a full-time job then at some point you will need to expand beyond Amazon because at anytime Amazon could decide to unlist you. Therefore, in order to survive elsewhere, it is important to build a strong brand. Kevin is looking to take his brand to $10 million a year by the end of 2018 and he is well on his way to reaching that goal.

Kevin explained that he doesn’t want to have a huge business with a lot of employees. He tries to take care of as much as he can by himself because bringing on other people will really eat into his bottom-line. So he isn’t a big fan of outsourcing too early. However, many people don’t have the same background and might need help with shipping and freight and will need to rely on outside help.

Kevin is also looking to expand his business into the UK. Once he gets his VAT number he will be ready to test the waters in Europe. Europeans have very similar cultures to that of the US and are just as willing to spend money. The UK has the highest ratio of online shopping to income in the world. That means that they spend more of their money online than anyone else. Plus there are 60-70 million people buying that have similar cultures and buy similar products, so the UK is a great opportunity for expansion.

A big advantage to selling in the UK is that it will be much easier to expand into other parts of Europe. Customers in, let’s say France or Germany, will have the opportunity to have their products shipped from the UK. When his sales reach a certain point, he will have to open accounts in each of these countries, but until that point he can base it all out of the UK.

A word of warning is that you need to make sure that your products can have a high enough margins because your costs may be higher when selling in other countries due to regulation cost, but more importantly, currency exchange rates. For Kevin, he will be buying everything in USD, but selling them in the UK with GBP. If he has a slow moving product and ships 1000 units, it may take him a year to sell through them. In the meantime the pound gets stronger against the dollar and now he’s losing money. For UK sellers, certain political events are having an effect on pricing, e.g. the Brexit.

What can listeners do if they want to get a hold of you, or find out more about you?

Kevin has considered consulting but doesn’t feel strongly about continuing that. He recently offered a free 15 minutes session and got about 30-40 hits on it from all over the world. Over a few days he worked with each of them, looked over their listings and helped them improve. He quickly realized that you can’t do both. You can’t do consulting as well as selling. For Kevin, consulting isn’t scalable. He can’t make money while sleeping unless he makes a course. At the rate Amazon is changing the course will quickly go out of date so he will focus on that. He is considering starting a mastermind group in the future where people can come in for a four hour session but that would be it.

Other than that you can find him on several of the American Amazon FBA groups on Facebook or just look him up on Facebook, Kevin King in Austin, Texas.

What do you see coming in 2016 and 2017 in the future of Amazon?

  • An increase in the cost of pay-per-clicks as more and more people and brands begin to see the value in it.
  • Amazon will likely clean up the catalogue. This has already begun with limitations on titles and bullet points. Kevin believes it will go even further by cracking down on images. You’ll probably see fewer banner ads and such and a heavier enforcement of guidelines.
  • Part of the problem is private-sellers who are both good and bad. Third-party sellers make up more than half of the sales on Amazon which means more money for Amazon. However, you have a lot of products that are the exact same thing just under different names. To address that you might see higher barrier to entry.
  • One such barrier could be a crackdown on UPCs. Rather than buying official UPCs from GS1, sellers are buying duplicates on eBay. So rather than being another seller on the same listing, they put it under a different UPC and have its own listing. So one thing you might see to combat this is to unlist the product if the UPC doesn’t match the database.
  • Another prediction from Kevin is an increase of big brands. Right now these small private sellers are able to compete because the big brands don’t have much focus on Amazon. They have some low-level employee putting generic information on the online store just so they have a presence. One change could be the brands putting more focus on Amazon and having a stronger presence. This could be an opportunity for some sellers. If things aren’t working under their own brand, they could approach these big companies with their experience and offer to handle their Amazon business.

Do you have any final words for Amazon sellers?

If you are willing to work hard, put in the time and dedication, and have a little money to play with, you will succeed. Just stay positive. take your failures as they come; learn from them and get better.

3

#58 Kevin King Interview – Part 2 of 3 – Finding a Private Label product, Keyword Research & Profit

What would your advice be to someone just starting off with, say $10,000 and 20 hours a week, but still has a day job? How can they get started?

The general advice is to start small. Most people would say to start with something that can be air-shipped and fits in a shoebox. Kevin believes that is the wrong approach because that’s what everyone else is doing. Instead you should go where others aren’t. The items may be a bit larger therefore you might have to ship them by sea to reduce costs, but there will be less competition which means more potential for success.

Kevin has products in the kitchen category – he’s actually doing things that go on the stove, weigh 3-4 lbs apiece. Can sell for $10-20 profit per sale rather than $4-5.

Kevin is very emphatic about ensuring the quality of the products. Never, and he means never, ship products from China without an inspection. Whether it’s the first time working with the factory or the 6th. Always get an inspection.

Ensure that you take all these costs into consideration, and then make sure you can mark it up at least 3x. Preferably 5X Also, avoid any item that has been used as an example in a training course because there will be many people that will try to replicate it which in turn means more competition. Like Greg’s bamboo sticks or Manuel Beaver’s example product.

Finally, get good images. Pay to have high quality images of your items because it will make a difference and it will pay for itself through additional sales. Use all 9 images, at least 1500 pixels a side so they are zoomable.

Even if you spend $500 for great photos, and you sell one extra unit a day at $10 profit, you have your money back after a month and a half.  A lot of people don’t read your copy. Kevin has put codes for 100% off in the description and only one person used it out of 50 orders. A vast majority of people will based their decision on the title, price, and picture.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that 60-70% of sales in the US are from mobile devices which limits how much copy people actually see. So you need to make the first little bit compelling. You have the first 200 characters of your description, and the first 3 bullet points (they have to click a button to see the others) . Make them count.

Make sure you have good packaging. Your logo should be everywhere you can put it as well as instructions for the product that prompts the customer to register the product.

Put an instruction sheet in with your packaging, that asks for a review on the back.

What advice can you offer about product launch?

Product launches are very important. Don’t skimp on product quality. You may get away with it for awhile but eventually the returns and negative reviews are going to catch up to you. Make sure to test the product yourself to ensure a high quality. The more you know about, the easier it is to market. Especially if you develop a product yourself.

As soon as there are 10-30 units of product ready (whatever fits in a case), he gets those sent over and then goes and looks for top reviewers – like Review Sniper, AMZSuite has something to look up top 10,000.

Or Google: Take competitor’s ASIN,  Search string is something like:

URL=amazon.com  ASIN “top 500”

Reach out – let product speak for itself. Customise it to person – send out 15 emails to top 500 reviewers – Kevin gets say 11 out of 15 to respond.

Don’t say “It’s great”; customise e.g. Milo is dog’s name, so put in “Great new product for Milo” in subject line.

Email:

Hi Michael

We’ve got a great new product that Milo might be interested in trying out. 

Here’s the link:

www.amazon.com/B00ABCDEF

Let me know if you’re interested in receiving one in exchange for your honest opinion.

Thanks, Kevin

Don’t try and sell them on it. Let them click on the link – if they like it, they’ll get back to you.

Some of them get 200 emails a day. Some of it is garbage!

Kevin doesn’t chase them. Maybe 6-8 will write a review. He might do one follow up a week later.

Follow-up email:

Hi Michael 

I hope the item arrived okay. Let me know if you have any questions.

Looking forward to your comments.

Thanks, Kevin

Don’t say things like “I sent this to you for free – why haven’t you reviewed it?

The next step would be to invest heavily in pay-per-clicks for a few days.

He will bid say $5 a click for a few days on an Automatic campaign. Then dial back pay per click to say 50 cents a click. This will boost your visibility on Amazon. Any sales are just gravy.

All you really need is 5-10 reviews.

It will boost the SEO value of your product which will lead to high conversion rates. You may be losing money on these sales but it will establish you in the search results. At this point you will want to incrementally increase the price back to where you intend to sell it.

Reach out to your competitors customers. Look up top reviews of competing products and contact the top reviewers about your product with a personalized email. You can offer them the product for free for their opinion on it. This will help validate the product and get the ball rolling. The best would be to get a video review. Kevin recommends hiring a service that can connect your with reviews. He recommends getting two or three reviews per variation of your product.

It’s critical to have a good video review, on the first page. If you get one down the road, it may get buried. If you get it early on, it’s likely to stick to the first page. Kevin uses a service that has keen video reviewers. Even if it’s a boring simple product, a 45 second video makes a big difference.

Once he has several reviews,  he’ll discount the product say $45 product down to $19,  and go for PPC aggressively. He’ll start getting lots of sales for say 4-5 days, any reviews will be verified reviews. Low price boosts conversion rate. Losing money on each sale but cost of entry to market. Run for 200-300 units. It goes into algorithm.
Then raise to $24.95, $29.95 back up to $45 and that’s where it will stay.

If you go “out of range” (too high) with your price, you’ll lose the buy box, even if you are the only seller! Amazon flags it as an error. 

Kevin looks at first shipment of say 1000 units as a cost of entry to a market. You have to buy your position. It’s an upfront investment. He’s got onto page 2, Kevin will spend a bit more to get to page 1, after which he will be into big profits.

You can have a product that is not in a competitive category so you don’t have to do much advertising. Just run a low bid ad campaigns.

Kevin had a sports category  product that sold only 1-3 units a day, he played with various things till it took off. Now it sells about 20 a day at $14 profit per unit after advertising cost.   Kevin recommends “Hello Profit”.

The importance of cost analysis (esp. advertising costs)

Kevin explains that the number of sales doesn’t matter. Profit does. People who run Facebook groups who boast about sales numbers don’t interest Kevin.

A lot of people have cashflow but they aren’t making profit. You can have 100 sales a day, but if you don’t factor in advertising and other expenses into your cost, you might just break even or actually be losing money.

Kevin uses spreadsheets to track his costs, once he has the data, he builds Advertising costs into Cost of Goods Sold. Kevin adds up what the overall cost of advertising is over all units sold. He knows therefore what his maximum spend on Amazon Ads can be to break even or to make a profit.

Don’t use ACoS to work out real ad costs.

EXAMPLE: Kevin has a custom product made in china for $20 each, $1.50 to ship, a few other fees, so hard cost is about $23. He sells it for $59. Amazon takes about a third roughly.

SO Amazon is roughly paying him $40 cashflow. Now he knows how much PPC costs – he can spend $7 a unit sold on advertising to make $10 per product. If say his PPC sales are ⅓ of his sales, he could spend $21 per PPC sale and still break even. 

Don’t go off ACoS to work out true Ad cos per sale – you need to break it down. Export search term report into Excel or Google numbers etc. and create a pivot table.

Brian Johnson (PPC expert) shows you how to do it in this video …and Greg Mercer (of Jungle Scout) wrote a blog post about it.   

You need to factor in COGS and changes of sales price. Lifetime ACoS is almost meaningless.  You need to see what you’re making on every single sale: how much you made and how much you spent on Ads.

If you can’t or don’t want to do this analysis, hire someone else to do it.

  Kevin recommends Hello Profit .   It is a great tool that will factor in the advertising costs, manufacturing costs, refunds, fees, and everything else that affects your profit. Kevin logs in 3-4 times a day and it will automatically calculate COGS, Amazon ads, Returns etc.

It’s not perfect or as good as Xero or Quickbooks but it’s the best thing to do to keep an eye on what’s happening. Kevin uses it to adjust PPC. If you have more than one product, at least try their 21 Free or $1 trial. Don’t forget to factor in Refunds!

What is your process for keyword research?

Do it before you order. Once Kevin decides on his product,  he does the research. Before he places his first order. Using Keyword Inspector and Scientific Seller , he will do research on his competitors to collect keyword data. Google Keyword planner is good for research, as is  Merchant Words, but some of the words are not associated with your product.

Taking all the data gathered he uses Helium 10 to makes sense of it all to find the best keywords. It de-dedupes it [removes duplicate keywords]. He’ll use this tool to build out his listing. Kevin doesn’t repeat keywords in his listing.

Amazon is always changing so it’s important to stay up on the trends. Right now the title is very important. Everything in the title will get indexed by Amazon. If you have a title like “Blue Garlic Press”, it will also index you for “Garlic Press” – some are giving away 200 units to rank for 10 keywords.

The next thing to get indexed are the bullet points. Amazon tells you they don’t index those but that’s BS.

In most categories, they do not index The description doesn’t get indexed completely. Only part of it so you need to make sure that your strongest keywords are in the first or second line.

You can type in your ASIN in the Amazon search bar next to a keyword and see if  your listing is getting indexed for that keyword

e.g. into search bar, put:

B00HEZ888K Soft-handled Garlic Press

Trust but verify!