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Start selling on amazon? – why NOT to start with private label! (Episode #206)

How to start selling on amazon?

Want to start selling on Amazon?  Where to start?

The standard answer for a few years has been – by plunging straight into private label.

As that’s how I started myself – and eventually succeeded, until recently I taught that myself.

I’m no longer convinced

But after 18 months of mentoring people trying to start selling on amazon, and a year of masterminds mostly focussed on those, I’ve seen the struggles up close. I’ve seen inside too many businesses and too many minds. It’s a hard way to start.

All business has challenges starting. That’s a given. You need a tough mindset. I just happen to think that in late 2017, the old model just isn’t cutting for those who are trying to start selling on Amazon now.

Are you still focussed on Private Label?

Yes I am. I believe private label on Amazon is still a big opportunity.  I have many friends making loads more money than me to back that up. It’s not theory.

So I believe that Private label – and even better, developing unique products -works on Amazon.

However, when it comes to how to start selling on Amazon, that’s a different kettle of fish.

I think the irony is that by prematurely plunging into private label, many sellers actually miss out on properly executed private label. How can that be true?

It’s simple really. They  blow their budget on the first budget. They  bust their confidence in the business model, and indeed in themselves. And then they quit too early – and miss out on $10s or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue per month

I’m not talking about what the overall goal is – rather,  it’s about how we GET there!

Start selling on amazon upwards graph on 3 gold bars

Whatever Works is good

Also I’m increasingly happy with whatever WORKS rather than being puritanical about business models.

As I’ve talked over the past two years to many Amazon experts, it’s clear from the sharper people (especially the master himself, Will Tjernlund )  that there are several models that can work. And you don’t have to start with private label.

Focus is good and learning a particular set of skills-  but so is PROGRESSION:

from simple to advanced; from low-risk to higher risk; from quick wins to projects that take months to come to fruition.

There is  a natural progression in terms of risk in the various business models available to ecommerce sellers in general, and ways to start selling on Amazon in particular.

chimp scratching head- Start selling on amazon

Real learning versus the the Art of Aping…

It’s like my old job of piano teaching.

Sure, I can teach little Johnny to seem like an accomplished pianist by teaching him or her three specific pieces and about 10 scales. You get a certificate, you look good, the parents are happy. 


Trouble is, he doesn’t know his way round a piano, he can’t read the music, he can’t play by ear, he doesn’t understand what he’s playing or why…in short, he’s not becoming any kind of real musician. Or any kind of real pianist. 

He’s aping the real thing. But he’s basically little more than a trained monkey.
Put him in any situation that demands real understanding of music, or real control of a piano, and he is finished.

My experience with Amazon sellers who try to learn  how to start selling on Amazon with Private label is remarkably similar.

Indeed, it mirrors my own journey as an Amazon seller myself. And it also mirrors my journey as a piano student/musician to a frighteningly similar degree too.

Vested interests trump real learning

That’s not surprising. There are a lot of vested interests in trying to “pre-package” business building skills and mindset. Same as there were in pretending you can become a pianist, with 20 minutes’ practice a day and three pieces at a time, with some bullshit “grades” scale.

(By the way, I have 7 years’ higher education in classical music, I’m engaged to a pianist – so this is not the ranting of an amateur. On the contrary. It’s the ranting of an ex-professional).

Both things, I’m afraid, while much better than doing nothing in terms of progressing, are basically based on a totally false premise. The false premise being that you can learn the piano by aping much better pianists’ external results – or by aping the actions of advanced Amazon sellers.

Instead, what I’ve seen overwhelmingly is that all of us entrepreneurs need to develop the right mindset and skills. And those come from experience.

Start selling on amazon

Experience is the best teacher (no surprise there)

The truth is that there is no substitute for learning overall business strategies and tactics. Nor is a substitute for learning by experience.

You need to learn to understand what you see in the data; to READ the data. You need to learn the landscape of a marketplace. Everyone has to learn how the mechanics of production, freight and amazon work. You need to get familiar with Amazon’s internal processes.

All this takes time and practice. It doesn’t need however to be a painful, high-risk, uncertain gain experience, like that of the big private label approach.

Practice makes you better. Planning for months, selling nothing, then sending half your life savings across the world suddenly…well, that is NOT such a great way to practise becoming a better online seller. Nor to start selling on Amazon specifically.

15 reasons  to start selling on amazon with something other than private label

BIG RISKS -AT THE TIME OF LOWEST COMPETENCE! 

  1. when you start out, you know little and have little experience. That’s fine. That’s also not the time to take big risks!

    MOQs and freight costs from China –

  2. these nearly always make for a rather unpalatable large upfront order. It’s all relative of course. If you have £10-20K to invest, you might get away with a budget of £2-3K per order plus some giveaway money. Not for any serious product in the USA, though. And for most people, that’s about half their money for Amazon, in my experience.

    Cashflow

  3. It usually takes months to get a decent private label product off the ground. The fastest I’ve personally done it was four months, with a business partner – so we had a combined 4 years of Amazon experience at the time and access to some very experienced people. It’s still challenging enough.
  4. That means no money coming in at all for months.
  5. AND a large lump sum out a few months in.

    TIME TILL YOU START SELLING

  6. It takes months to get a PL product off the ground.
  7. Meanwhile you’re not learning from the marketplace directly – you’re an outsider attempting to learn from the rather minimal data Amazon releases. Data which the rest of the planet is also trying to learn from. This is a huge downside.
  8. You’re not learning to ship in products or deal with Amazon systems. That’s a large learning curve. The sooner you can start the better
  9. You’re not getting access to Amazon business reports with more insider information like conversion percentages
  10. You’re not getting access to the Search Term Reports which I believe are the real value you’ll get from Amazon ads. That’s where you find out keyword-level conversion percentages which is VERY powerful info.
  11. you’re also not earning! See the cashflow issue above.

    The percentage of successes is so low!

  12. This is the real kicker, I’m afraid. I do know several people who started with private labelling and are still at it today and making great money. Maybe 10-15 people. Maybe 20 max.
  13. However, I must have known hundreds people (vaguely known of at any rate) who started around the same time as me, or have drifted into (and out of) the Amazing FBA Facebook group . Most have apparently drifted away without achieving anything. Or worse, they are fantasising about making money for 2 or 3 years – and wasting those years (that was me for years, by the way – which is why I try my best to stop anybody else wasting their life in the same way)
  14. True, most people who start anything don’t follow through. And that is perhaps even more true for online businesses.
  15. Still, it would be nice to see a little more consistency if it really  is going to be advertised as a potential replacement for the day job (by the way, I’m super cautious about what I say to any potential mentoring client or member of a my London masterminds about replacing day jobs. In most cases, I say give it a minimum of a year – and that’s short)

 

Start selling on amazon

Conclusions on Private label as a way to start selling on Amazon

Am I saying private label is dead then? Is it true that nobody should start a private label business on Amazon? Is private label only for the rich or the super-experienced online maverick?

No, no and no.

That is NOT what I’m saying. I want to be super clear. I think the opportunities to make a ton of cash and have the satisfaction of becoming a real entrepreneur (and mastering a tricky but addictive craft) are very real with private label. And even better with original tweaks to a product.

But both models take serious investment of money, time and energy into each product line. 

That is fine, even very important at the right point in your development as an Amazon seller, or as an entrepreneur.

Start selling on amazon - the himalayas

Don’t start with Mount Everest

But you don’t have to START learning to mountain climb by training in a gym for 3 months, studying maps and theory incredibly hard, then attempting the Himalayas as your first set of mountains.

Sure it’s been done – I read about exactly that in the news a while ago.

There’s a clue here. It’s news – because it’s the exception to the rule!

You don’t have to START selling on Amazon by scaling a private label mountain either.

Again, yes there are exceptions. Again, we read about them and the buzz goes around. Because it is NEWS. Because -I’m sad to say, after trying this way for so long with newcomers –  it’s unusual to succeed that way.

There are alternatives

So is this a reason to be depressed and quit?

Maybe – if you are the sort of person who quits easily. In which case, please don’t attempt to become an entrepreneur.

Most people shouldn’t scale the Himalayas and most people probably shouldn’t be entrepreneurs either. And that is absolutely fine. 

Most people don’t have the mindset, stamina or sheer hunger of an entrepreneur, and there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not a rugby player – despite being forced to play it (very badly) at school. Yes, I admire good players – but I don’t feel a failure because it doesn’t suit me (my sports teachers at school had a go of course…)

Most people who are a right for a profession build skill, fitness and experience one hill, one mountain at a time. If they get on well,  they move to the next natural level.

start selling on Amazon - business post-its

Amazon is still business as usual

Business is no different – and Amazon is no different to business. Just because Amazon has built the world’s most amazing traffic and conversion machine shouldn’t blind us to the fact that normal business rules still apply.

The economics and business principles are the usual:

Supply and demand. Risk-reward ratios. Opportunity cost.

The mindset and skills needed are the usual ones too:
The skills of assessing the supply and demand balance in a market; assessing risk vs reward; weighing up opportunity cost (if you go for one opportunity, you tie up the money and time that could go into another);

The mindset of a blend of vision and opportunism; pragmatism with some theory and imagination; discipline with flair and improvisation……and so on…

Go for it – but lower risk and increase learning!

I personally think anyone wants to have a serious crack at building a business and becoming an entrepreneur has never had such opportunity at their feet. And if you want to go for it, I think you should go for it.

There is no reason for anyone to exclude themselves from becoming an entrepreneur.

But wait – isn’t that against everything I’ve been saying in this post?

No again.

I want you to have the maximum chance of success, not to exclude you from the club.

What I am saying is that starting an Amazon business with private label does not maximise your chances of succeeding.

Instead, what you should do is read my next post and consider a much lower-risk way to learn your craft as an Amazon seller!

(Now there’s a cliff-hanger…!)

Thanks for reading.

(By the way – well done for reading to the end. Now there’s a hint that you have some stamina. You’ve passed the first test, oh Jedi. If you’re British, Click here – I think you may have what it takes to join the real business builders.)

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist putting a little teaser at the end too! I’ve got to have fun too, you know…)

Happy hunting.

 

An Amazon mastermind: Why You need one- part 2 (episode 205)

“So are you suggesting I just set my own Amazon mastermind group up?”

Absolutely, you can. I’ve set up my own Amazon mastermind myself, as I mentioned earlier.
Here’s the thing – it’s really hard work. If I were just selling on Amazon, rather than also running a podcast and coaching, I simply wouldn’t do it all again. I’d just plug into an existing group.

But, if you want to create something from scratch, I can give you a ton of reality checks form from personal experience:

Finding new Amazon seller peers for your Amazon mastermind

Firstly, and most importantly, you’ve got to gather together a set of people who are worth being peers with in an Amazon group in the first place.

When I first started out on Amazon, and formed my own peer group of Amazon sellers, I looked through the Facebook group of a course that I was in, and searched for people who lived in or near me (in London). I then tried to check out what they had been posting, to see how active they were, whether they were moving forward with the process, etc.

That took a lot of time and effort. Trouble is, that was just a beginning!

Think about it.

Amazon mastermind hurdle 1- Facebook Monkeys

Facebook Groups aka “The tyre kickers’ Club”

There are a lot of people out on the Facebook groups, even within paid courses, who don’t have enough money, don’t have enough time, and don’t have the right attitude.

They hope they can make some money on Amazon. They’ve often been pitched into the idea that they can easily replace the day job within 3 months (if that’s you.

Sure, it happens- but it’s pretty rare. Sorry to burst your balloon. It’s not a business-like attitude. It’s based on hope. Which, as we all know, is not a strategy…).

What I’ve just described sounds, in fact, like a typical Facebook group of Amazon wannapreneurs.

Which is why my first effort to create a little Amazon mastermind faltered. I had found a bunch of would-be Amazon sellers who lived in London and posted a bit online. Not surprisingly, most of them proved to be very much non-action-takers, and the meetings ended up being people fantasising about starting a business, instead of doing it!

Filtering out the tyre-kickers

What you need is a filtering system. And, guess what, that takes time and effort to build. What I do these days for the masterminds for Amazon sellers that I run (through Amazing FBA) is have an application process for each Amazon mastermind.

I ask every single applicant to fill in a form with questions that I’ve honed over a year of working this process. Then in some cases (all cases, for applicants to my $10K Collective Amazon mastermind ), I have a 20-30 minute interview in which I ask detailed questions.

Why bother? Well, see above. What happens to you if you create (with some effort) a peer group of  under-capitalized, time-poor un-focussed people? Oh yeah…

Finding people to put through your filter

Of course, if you are going to filter people out, you need a way of finding possible people in the first place. If you’re going to manually do that, you need to be going to a lot of physical meet ups and other big groups.

That’s great, but there aren’t a whole lot of good ones in the UK. There’s a fantastic Amazon meetup in London once a month, run by the excellent Andy Geldman of Webretailer. Then there are various other meet up groups, some of which might be good, but many of which, I suspect, are run by wannabes not business owners.

Amazon mastermind meeting venue

Finding an Amazon mastermind meeting venue

Once you’ve gathered your troops, you’ve got to find a suitable venue for your Amazon meet up.

Firstly, it needs to be reasonably accessible for your members. So the geography and transport links matter. Then it needs to be affordable (money is whole other issue we’ll discuss). This all takes quite a bit of time and effort. Even in London, I found it took hours, and we have a ton of business meeting venues in this place.

You need a space that enables you all to think clearly. You could use your own house, of course, if you have the space- and the headspace. But do you really want  the kids -or your husband/wife-interrupting a crucial business point? How conducive to clear thinking is that? It’s cheap but brings its own issues.

You could use a local pub but I’ve found (having been in an Amazon mastermind in the past who met in one) that the noise seriously disrupts your ability to hear crucial bits of information. So I can’t recommend that.

A quiet cafe is better – but although I find that works great for one-to-one meetings, it’s not really the right way for a group of people to work, as they have to basically take over the room to do it. And there’s always a screaming infant somewhere (and why should there not be? it’s a cafe!)

 Venue resources

You need decent wifi of course (although I think it’s less important than most people make it. But you shouldn’t spend your whole time online. You need to think clearly. Online is not the place for that).

I think a whiteboard or an easel with a flipchart is very, very helpful for brainstorming strategies, or capturing key resources (eg websites or online tools) for the group.

Coffee on tap is great -free, good coffee even better! Easily available toilets are a mundane but crucial part of a good venue. And finally, you ideally want somewhere easy for new members to find, not a cramped room hidden upstairs behind a noisy pub!

Why choose an existing Amazon mastermind

Conclusions – a reality-check on creating your own Amazon mastermind

I hope that the above experiences save you wasting months of hard work. Frankly, now I know from experience what I know, if I were just selling on Amazon, rather than also running a podcast and coaching, I simply wouldn’t do it all again. I’d just plug into an existing group. As indeed I did myself about 18 months ago!

The only reason I go to all the trouble it takes to create and run a Amazon mastermind (which I detailed just some of above), is that it’s part of my mission at Amazing FBA.

That mission is to help Amazon sellers and those in the process of establishing their own Amazon businesses to achieve REAL goals. Not just fantasies. And not to take 12 months on something that you could achieve in 3 months (or even 2) with some guidance from experience.

Even then, I couldn’t justify the time it takes away from my Amazon business if I didn’t charge a certain amount for all the efforts. The cost is pretty modest, by the way, if you compare it to the literally £thousands I’ve seen some Amazon trainers charge.

Often they turn out to be not true small group masterminds, but actually groups of 30-60 people. There’s nothing wrong with paying £10s of thousands if you get value in the £100s of thousands, but I’m pretty suspicious of the value most of those so-called “Amazon masterminds” can really deliver.

The “Amazing FBA” Amazon Mastermind

So, I guess that brings me fairly unavoidably to mention the Amazon masterminds that I run for Amazing FBA. Again, I don’t want to be self-serving, but it would be a bit strange for me not to mention them in the context of Amazon masterminds and  masterminds as a whole.

I try to practise what I preach, basically. I said at the start of this article that I believe that a mastermind needs to be interactive; needs to be focussed; and needs to lead its members to action, which leads to their progress.

The secret sauce to a successful Amazon mastermind

From the (sometimes painful) experience of trying many approaches in Amazon masterminds (both as a member and group leader), I’ve found the formula to combine all those good things. Like a lot of good formulas, it’s pretty simple. In fact, that’s partly why it’s so effective.

The secret sauce that I’ve found to combine all those outcomes, is the “Hot Seat”.

I’ve found that to be so effective that we’ve made it the overwhelming focus of each Amazon mastermind meeting.

Amazon mastermind hot seat

The Hot Seat Secret

Here’s how it works:

Each participant gets minimum 30 minutes to focus on their own business. Specifically, to focus on ONE thing. Even more exactly, the ONE roadblock that when they break through it, it will really move the needle. Will really move their business on -substantially. 

So it’s very focussed. That’s one secret. It’s also interactive. Because once the member in the hot seat has outlined their issue, all other members are there to bring their experience and thoughts to the issue.

Of course, it’s very helpful if the other members who don’t have anything valuable to bring can keep schtum. That way,  others who do bring value can help.

But it is excellent business training to encounter business problems and brainstorm solutions. That is the real training we all need as business builders. Not an obsession with the latest trick or grey hat technique (useful as they are, of course). But business thinking and mindset.

There is a huge bonus of having a genuine peer group in an Amazon mastermind. A lot of the people in the group share the same set of problems. So by listening to solutions to another person’s problem, you’re hearing the solutions to many problems of your own.

Win-win. 

Implementation is the ultimate test of any Amazon mastermind

SO, the group members can almost not fail to move their business forward. Provided the participants go away and implement this stuff (another crucial word), they Job done! Isn’t it?

Well, almost. The implementation piece has proved to be a real challenge for many Amazon mastermind members. Which is why I’ve recently added in a simple extra process to make sure people are held to account. In other words, to use peer pressure in a very positive way. To get you to do what you said you were going to do!

KLT

Ensuring members do what they say they will!

We’ve simply added in a quick video call check in once a month. The aim? Simple. To make sure people are implementing what they’ve said they would.

It’s early days, but the results already look promising.

It’s fairly obvious where I’m going with this, so I’ll just come out and say it:

-if you’re convinced of the value of being in an Amazon mastermind

-if you’re not wanting to go through the pain, time & effort of creating your own Amazon mastermind,

-AND if you live near London (or can get there)

then obviously I think you should consider the Amazing FBA masterminds!

I’m not going to make a huge pitch for them here; if you want to check them out, there are now two levels:

The Zero to Hero Mastermind, which is geared to those who have not yet launched, and to those doing just a few thousand $ a month (or equivalent) on Amazon (we may form a separate mastermind for the latter as it grows)

The $10K Collective, which is for those doing at least $10K a month on Amazon.

Conclusions about any Amazon mastermind – done properly

The thing is this. Now, you have a process that means you focus on the biggest win in your business right now. You can get the collective mind to break through blocks and find the actions to get that win. You  have a means to hold you to do that action. 

Now you have a really powerful driver to move you forward.

Like I said,  that may be why nearly all the successful Amazon entrepreneurs I know are part of one.

Wherever you live in the world, I’d encourage you to look for a face-to-face mastermind you can regularly commit to.

The word commit is a key one here too. If you put little in, you get little out.Your peer group will massively impact your wealth and well-being. So Choose wisely who you associate with.  

But once you’ve chosen well, commit to your Amazon mastermind. The more you sweat to rearrange your schedule to get to meetings; spend money on trains or planes to get there; in short, the more you put in- the more you get out.


I can give you a promise from my experiences as an Amazon seller and from running groups. The rewards of a really quality Amazon mastermind are truly many times greater than the effort. And the ROI (for the right group) many times greater than the cost. 

To find out more about the regular monthly masterminds for Amazon sellers led by Michael, click here

Amazon masterminds: Why You need one (episode 204)

Amazon masterminds

Why Amazon Masterminds?

Want to double your revenue? Find the latest tactics and stay ahead of the curve?

These sound like a pitch for the latest high-tech software, right?

Well you’d be wrong. I’m talking about good old-fashioned face-to-face, interactive Amazon masterminds here.

Through Amazon masterminds, I’ve personally found an amazing Amazon business partner, learnt many tactics that have made me $1000s extra, and been offered deals worth $100K+ a month of revenue.

But let me you how I got here…

My background with Amazon masterminds

First, I should give some background and confess. I’ve been a member of a private Amazon mastermind of my peers (Amazon sellers) for about 18 months now.

I also set up and ran (free) peer-group Amazon mastermind meetings myself about 2 ½  years ago, which ran for a while. That sputtered out because the people weren’t really committed. And I was wanting to focus on selling on Amazon, not running a mastermind for uncommitted people.

I took the learnings from both Amazon masterminds and created something better.

 So I’ve been running a successful (modestly) paid Amazon mastermind meetings for about a year via Amazing FBA (I recently set up a new  Amazon mastermind for new sellers, i.e., those who haven’t launched yet)

The reality of Amazon masterminds

First thing: yes, of course I’m going to mention my own masterminds, at least in passing . I run two Amazon masterminds each month. I’m writing an article about how important masterminds/masterminds are. It’s bound to come up! But I’m here to share my experiences of masterminds, not to pitch my own (if you do want to read the pitch for my masterminds/masterminds, of course, click here!)

Second thing: there’s a reason why I run an Amazon  mastermind each month. Because I believe it’s one of the most powerful ways I can truly help Amazon entrepreneurs.

Third thing: from everything I can observe of truly successful Amazon entrepreneurs – it’s (still) true that every one of them is a member of some kind of Amazon mastermind or mastermind!

I guess as a person who needs interaction and inspiration, I’m biased. But…

Coincidence? I don’t think so. 

My own wins from Amazon masterminds

I personally have got so many results directly from being in masterminds. I’ve found an amazing Amazon  business partner; sold thousands from secret techniques shared within the closed walls of a mastermind; and been invited into strategic partnerships to do deals involving $100s of thousands in revenue.

These results are not chance. But they equally would never have come about simply from networking on the superficial level(valuable as that is) at Amazon conferences.

Amazon Masterminds meeting

“What do you mean by ‘Amazon masterminds’?”

First, let’s start of by defining our terms.

‘Amazon’ as a business opportunity can be exploited by a huge variety of business models.  There could be around 14 business models, according to some authorities. That sounds about right. Certainly common ones include Retail Arbitrage; Online Arbitrage; Drop-Shipping; Wholesaling.

When I say “Amazon”, my particular focus here (and that of the podcast/blog and coaching programmes) is selling Private Label products via Amazon FBA.

Secondly, what are we talking about with a ‘mastermind’?

When so-called “Amazon masterminds” are not really a masterminds

I think it’s almost easier to say what masterminds are not. They are NOT, as far as I’m concerned, a mass meeting of 100 people where someone from the front discusses or teaches a lesson.

Don’t get me wrong. Big meetings can be very valuable -and by the way, Andy Geldman of Webretailer runs an excellent London Amazon meet up most months, where they have really helpful speakers. I’ve spoken there recently and was very impressed with the setup. It’s a great place to learn new strategies and tactics, and to network. But to my mind, it’s not a mastermind (and nor does Andy claim it is, just to be clear!)

Andy charges about a fiver to enter his meetings and, while I think that is super-cheap (and he could arguably charge up to £50 or so), he’s not charging hundreds, which I think is appropriate.

I think there are various aspects of Amazon masterminds that make them unique.

Firstly, to be really powerful, they need to be very interactive. So all participants have to think hard and engage their brains in a very active way. It develops their business thinking on a deeper level.

Secondly, they need to be focussed. Generalised excitement has its place, but I would argue that place is at a larger conference-type meeting.

Thirdly, they need to move the participants on in their business. How many times have you been to a large group meeting which inspired you to feel excited about business… and when you got home you did…er…absolutely nothing except talk about how exciting it was (it’s embarrassing but we may as well  be honest with each other – I did that for decades).

I don’t believe that really serves anyone long-term. I think the success of a Amazon masterminds is measured in how much action their participants produce and therefore how much progress they make towards their goals.

Which brings me to another question I’ve been asked a few times recently:

“What extra value does this offer compared to online research? Why bother being in Amazon masterminds?”

I love this question because it so clearly illustrates a number of things. This is a really important question.   

My simple answers: Time; Certainty; Motivation; Action; Progress

Amazon masterminds save time

Amazon masterminds value your TIME

Of course, since the invention of Google (and in more recent years, Facebook groups), in theory you can piece together all the knowledge you need to do anything.
The problem is- reinventing the wheel takes a lot of time.


Let’s say you are researching Product Research methods. Let’s say you manage to gather all the information you would get in a 30-minute hot seat at one Amazon  mastermind meeting by taking a week of Google research.

Great. So you saved yourself £49 (or £97 or whatever the mastermind costs). Let’s say you multiply that over 4 different areas of business.
You just spent 4 weeks doing something that could have taken you 4 days (in fact, more like 20 hours – including travel time!).


If your future Amazon business is going to generate say $10,000 a month in profit in a few months, you’ve just incurred an opportunity cost of $10,000.
For the sake of saving £49 (or £97 etc.) 

“Penny wise, pound foolish” is I believe what they used to call that!

If you don’t value your time, you won’t make serious money. Period. 

Amazon masterminds give you certainty

Amazon masterminds give CERTAINTY

Here’s a simple one: how do you know, out of thousands of Facebook posts, which ones are from a solid source, and which aren’t? The answer is that it’s hard to know! And doing much research on that would take even more hours. 


In an Amazon mastermind, you know who you are dealing with; because of non-disclosure and non-compete clauses, you can find out super quickly who to really follow. 

Assuming you’re smart enough to make sure there are NDAs and NCA’s of course (I really, really  would check this. There’s obviously a lot to be gained for an unscrupulous member to exploit others’ product ideas. Make sure there’s quality control about who the members are, and make sure that someone is responsible for policing this stuff).

More importantly, you can judge over time who is being successful and actually implementing stuff, and who is just spouting theory they “read somewhere” or from some guru. There is some value in the latter; but the former is WAY more valuable. The ability to really be able to differentiate between the two is really one of the high values you get from small groups where you can really get to know each other properly.

Amazon group

Masterminds give MOTIVATION

Be honest – how long have you been  “researching” the Amazon private label opportunity? After a couple of months without even buying a small amount of inventory, I’m afraid that “research” is cover for “fear/being lost”. That’s okay, honesty is useful – but why stay lost?

If you’ve been selling but way below what you know you’ve targetted, again, that’s just called being human. But if you do nothing new about it, nothing changes.

Being with human beings is hardwired into us. We’re group animals.  It should therefore be no surprise that your peer group (who you hang out with most of the time and compare yourself to) has a massive impact on everything about you. Your attitude. Your health. And, of course, your wealth.

Getting yourself a peer group and stay actually excited instead of being isolated behind your laptop is simply following fundamental principles of human (indeed, primate) social psychology. We violate those principles at our risk. Why fight nature? It’s so much more powerful to go with our instincts than to delude ourselves that we can ignore them…and frankly, to stagnate.

Build Amazon businessBuild Amazon business

Amazon masterminds promote action

Masterminds create ACTION

This is the kicker. If you’ve been “researching” for over 3 months without buying something, that isn’t going to change unless you change something.

I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve had with people who are painfully obviously using the word “research” as a fig-leaf for “Fear”. There. I’ve said the four-letter word.

Fear is FINE. It’s nature’s way of flagging up risk. Awareness of risk –  contrary to the happy-clappy, “everything is gold” school of Amazon thinking (which is just BS, apologies for being blunt) is actually GOOD for business. What’s not good is going in circles, or not assessing the risk objectively.

If you don’t have proven strategies (and the latest Amazon hack is NOT a strategy, it’s a tactic. And that’s fine. But knowing the difference is everything).

You need people to inspire you by showing you what’s possible, and hold you accountable. If you’ve not done it till now, why will that change?

Some people seem able to work in isolation and still succeed with Amazon. I can think of about two people who were really doing that on a big scale. Guess what? They are now collaborating with other Amazon sellers to get to the next level.

Amazing FBA Amazon Masterminds

The “Amazing FBA” Amazon Masterminds

So, I guess that brings me fairly unavoidably to mention the Amazon masterminds that I run for Amazing FBA. Again, I don’t want to be self-serving, but it would be a bit strange for me not to mention them in the context of Amazon masterminds and  masterminds as a whole.

I try to practise what I preach, basically. I said at the start of this article that I believe that a mastermind needs to be interactive; needs to focus members; and needs to lead its members to action, which leads to their progress.

It’s fairly obvious where I’m going with this, so I’ll just come out and say it:

-if you know the value of being in one of the Amazon masterminds

-if you’re not wanting to go through the pain, time & effort of creating your own Amazon mastermind,

-AND if you live near London (or can get there)

then obviously I think you should consider the Amazing FBA Amazon masterminds!

I’m not going to make a huge pitch for them here; if you want to check them out, there are now two levels:

The Zero to Hero Mastermind, which is geared to those who have not yet launched, and to those doing just a few thousand $ a month (or equivalent) on Amazon (we may form a separate mastermind for the latter as it grows)

The $10K Collective, which is for those doing at least $10K a month on Amazon.

To find out more about the regular monthly masterminds for Amazon sellers led by Michael, click here

131 Are your Amazon Ads Killing Your Profit?

Today we are continuing with our giving-up list. What are you going to give up in 2017? Before you start doing something, you need to stop doing something else. You must free up your time, money, and mental focus. Today we will be discussing sponsored ads, or Amazon ads. Amazon calls them sponsored ads. Broadly speaking, they are one of a few ways you can that drive traffic that is moderately guaranteed to work.

Amazon Ads

If you have a product with terrible conversion rates and a decent amount of reviews and that’s not shifting over time, and you’re driving traffic with pay-per-click, then you have a problem with your product or listing. But if you have decent sales and the conversion rate isn’t terrible, not below 10%, then what is going to determine your profit will be the balance between the sales price and the cost of goods sold. A big percentage of that is your Amazon ads.

If you increase your price you could negatively affect your sales, however, if you reduce your cost, by reducing money spent on Amazon ads, then you will increase your profit while maintaining your sales. Which is obviously a big win for you. 

It is very important to use negative keywords if you’re using auto-campaign. I always suggest using auto-campaign to start with because you can gather a lot of data and tune the algorithm to your listing.  But after a while (say 1-2 weeks usually) you shouldn’t be spending a large bid-per-click on that.

Using Negative Keywords

Go through your search term report, and anything you’re spending a lot of money on, that doesn’t bring you sales, is something you want to put in negative keywords fairly soon.

How soon? Well, if you are really serious about your products, you have signs of good success on your hands, and deep pockets, you might want to run a loss on that campaign for a rather long time in order to gather data.

If you have 50 clicks on a keyword and no sales, that pretty certain that it’s not working. You’ll want to make sure that’s a negative match keyword. However, to get 50 clicks, you likely spent a lot of money and you might want to have a cutoff at 5, 10, or 20 clicks.

The next thing you want to look at is the keywords that are making sales. These are probably going to be a small percentage of all the keywords you’re using. Over time, you’ll start gathering your long-tail keywords, but starting out, it’ll likely be around 10-15. That all depends on how much you’re willing to spend before you make sales.

Unless you want to be really harsh, after two to three weeks you’ll have your 10-15 keywords that are making you sales. You’ll want to look at those and reduce the bids on those which are costing you too high of advertising cost of sales.

Advertising Cost of Sales Metric

One caveat, don’t allow advertising costs of sales to be your main guiding point. When you launching products, you’ll be raising your prices over time. For example, if you’re spending $10 on advertising on a product you’re selling for $10. That’s 100% ACoS (Advertising Cost of Sales). Over time, you might raise the price to $15 which change that ACoS dramatically. So I wouldn’t recommend using that as a metric. It can be misleading until you land at a stable price.

What I would recommend looking at is the overall spend on advertising divided by the overall sales. A very simple, robust metric that you should monitor weekly at least. 

This isn’t something Amazon will give you because they want you to spend money on advertising.

It’s very simple to calculate. Get the same time period for both; you can get your advertising costs from the seller central “Advertising” tab, and you add up how much you spent. Then you go back to your business reports, and add up the sales you made in the same exact period period. Then just take your advertising costs and divide them by your sales.

The main thing is that it’s not about the advertising cost of sales, it about profit. If my profit margin on an item, before advertising, is $3, then I can spend $3 on advertising before it becomes a loss.

Another thing to consider, is that, if you have a decent selling product, you may be willing to run at 100% ACoS. That is, you’re running a loss on those sales from ads. You will still rank organically because of the ads, and you can make your money from organic sales.

I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not being aggressive and really looking to grow your sales volume. I prefer to keep my ACoS where it is break-even. Let’s say I am selling a widget for $10, and my total cost before Amazon ads, including Amazon fees and fulfillment costs etc, is $7. That means, before ads, my profit margin is $3. I would not want to spend more than $3 per sale averaged over all my ads. That means that all sales gained via Amazon Ads are at breakeven or better, and that all organic sales represent profit. 

Additional Help

I know this is complicated and it’s not really meant to be an instruction guide for pay-per-click ads. If it’s the sort of thing you need help with and you want to get in touch with me, I do offer a one-off call with you through Clarity FM. It’s  $2/minute so it’s an expensive way of working with me. You’d be better off joining my mentorship program if you want ongoing help. Although I’m pretty strict about who I work with,  I do have room for one or two more people. If you’re interested, still apply, and don’t assume I won’t work with you. Just read the guidelines and FAQs first though.

 Another, inexpensive, way to work with me, as well of several others, is to become a part of the mastermind group. The London mastermind is in full swing and we’ve had meetups with about 6-10 people, which is perfect. We have dates set from January to June if you’re interested in working with me and up to 10 other people.

PPC Entourage

One last word on pay-per-click, I am trying out some software called PPC Entourage which they claim will help you manage your pay-per-click very quickly and easily. I haven’t had a chance to really dive into it but I will give it a test run and report back to you. If you want to try it, you can get a copy at http://ppcentourage.com/.

The London Mastermind

Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.

130 When to Abandon an Amazon Marketplace

Welcome to part 2 of what I’m not going to do in 2017, my stop-doing list or my giving-up list, if you will.

The next thing on my list after giving up products that aren’t profitable or don’t sell, is to think about the marketplaces that you might stop selling in as well. Certain marketplaces will be better suited for certain products. For example, if you wanted to sell barbecue equipment in the UK right now, while it’s in the middle of January and it’s freezing cold, you won’t do well. You might get a few hardened people (like me!) that walk around in shirts while it is 5° C, but not many. Certain products aren’t going to work out in certain marketplaces at certain times.

Tune Your Listing to the Amazon Marketplace

It may be that you sell a product in one marketplace and it does really well, then you try to sell it in another and it does poorly. You have to make sure to do the right things. You have to dial in your pay-per-click and your keyword research needs to be specific to each marketplace. Don’t be lazy and transfer over what you already have because it can work quite differently. Especially if you’re a UK seller trying to sell in the US marketplace or vice-versa. Don’t assume the keywords are the same, they often aren’t.

Let’s say, even once you’ve done that, and done your pay-per-click properly, and did a proper launch, your product isn’t taking off. I wouldn’t say to kill it, but maybe pause that listing and let your inventory sell off. This isn’t a product you’d want to re-order.

Know When to Walk Away

Classic example, I had a generic product in the US marketplace, we’ll call it a blue  widget, sold great, but only at a certain price point which wasn’t profitable. If I raised the price, it would drop to page five and sales would disappear. Now a niched-down version of that product, call it a stainless steel blue widget , did much better. I sold 1200 units in six weeks at a 25-30% margin.

With those same products in the UK, it was a different story. The generic blue  widget version did a few sales a day at a profit. However, the niched-down version, the one that sold 1200 units in a few weeks in the USA, was very disappointing. It, maybe, sold one or two units a day, even though it was still on page one, albeit at the bottom. For me, that’s not worth the time and effort to keep doing that. I was then able to reallocate my money and focus into something else.

This isn’t so much giving up an Amazon marketplace as such, but rather, giving up a certain product in a certain marketplace. I encourage you to look at your numbers. Make decisions based on the data rather than what you wish was the situation. Just because you invested a lot of time, money, and effort into something, doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. You have to be willing to walk away if the data shows that it’s not working. It’s called a sunk cost and it’s an incredibly important discipline for all business people. 

Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.

129 My New Year’s Resolutions No. 1

Happy New Year!

I am back after a much needed break. It was nice to get away and spend time with my family and reflect rather than constantly being in action.

I’m going to be doing a mini-series focused on the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I will be changing things up this year and I’m going to resolve to not do things rather than the usual resolutions to do something; I’m going to take away instead of adding.

The Wrong Way to do New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions tend to revolve around exercising more, going running, learning to cook, starting a business. Just stop. Where are these resources coming from? Where are you going to get the time? The money? The mental focus? Where is this going to come from to accomplish these new things?

My philosophy is: you have to stop some habits first. There is still 24 hours in a day. Your bank account still holds the same amount of money. Your anxieties, your stress, your reservation don’t magically reset with the new year. Whilst it is important to have a plan, I think it’s more important to make the space for these new plans. You have to make time, money, and above all, mental focus. While, for many people, mental focus seems less important than time or money, it’s not. Trust me. I’ve been at this game for a couple years now and your mental focus is your most important asset. All the money in the world won’t make you successful if you don’t have the mental focus.

My To-Not-Do List

The first thing I want to stop doing, is trying to pursue too many business models at once. At the moment, I am solely focusing on private label, and I’m basically going to stay with that. I’m trying to do various different things in my life and it’s time to give them up. The most important thing I have given up, is the last of my piano students. I wasn’t enjoying it and it was adding quite a bit of stress. While it’s important to have off-Amazon income, it was taking too much of my focus.

What can you give up from your daily/weekly schedule that will clear up time and mental focus? It might only be a few hours a week, but those few hours can be spent on better pursuits. For me, it means more time helping you out with the podcast, helping my mentees, or focusing on the mastermind group.

Learn to Give-Up Products that Don’t Work

I am giving up products that are a disaster. While that may seems obvious, it’s easy to fall into the sunk cost fallacy

. Launching a new product takes a lot out of you. It’s takes time, energy, and money. Once you put so much into it, you become attached to it and it seems like everything is wasted if you walk away from it. So you keep sinking more and more into trying to force it to work rather than cutting your losses and walking away. You have to take into account what the market will bear. The market being your consumers and competitors and the law of supply and demand.

I tried to make one product work and it nearly put my entire business at risk. It was getting many negative feedbacks (NOT reviews!) which could have led to my account being suspended. That would have put other products at risk that were actually performing well.

I have probably spent several thousand dollars on that product over that course of a year and a half. I put time and effort into it, spent some money and time with a designer,  hired a photographer. None of that matters because the market has spoken!

Another product I eliminated sold quite well around Christmas 2015. However, when I ran the numbers it just about broken even. I realized that if it’s not going to make a profit at Christmas, then it’s not worth the effort I’m putting into it.

Consequently, this year I had a niched-down version of that product and it sold even better. I sold around 1095 units during the Christmas season, and I only have a few left. I turned my cash over in a about three months. From the time I put the first deposit down until now. It was about 25% margin which, while not exciting, is definitely worth renewing. None of that would have been possible if I tied all my money up in that other product that sold, but didn’t turn a profit.

Harden Your Heart towards Your Products

By giving something up now, you can re-purpose those resources into something more valuable. My suggestion is to be hard-hearted about your products. If they don’t sell, cause problems for your account, or don’t turn a profit when you run the numbers, cut them loose. If you haven’t ran the numbers to find out whether you have been profitable, January is a great time to do it.

The London Mastermind

Need more personalised input on issues like this? Live in the UK in or near the South-East? You might want to consider joining us for monthly meetings where we can thrash out all the issues like this one for YOUR business. Check it out here.

127 Why Email is Killing Your Amazon Business

Today, I want to talk to you about focus and your use of your time. Everyone in this business seems to go through this same things: overwhelm. I did a whole series on this that you can find here:

  1. #73 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 1
  2. #74 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 2 – Energy
  3. #75 Prioritising Tasks – Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part – 3

However, today I want to talk about the biggest time-suck in your life, which is email. Email is one of those things that seems like a productive use of your time, and if you worked in a corporate environment, or still do, you can relate to this. Email is one of the most common things in everybody’s life. For many people it’s the first thing you do in the morning.  You go through your email with your coffee when you wake up. If this is you, STOP.

Take Control of Your Agenda

If the first thing that you do in the morning is work on emails, whose agenda are you following for your time? Not yours. I’d say it’s being set by the people that have emailed you which could be anyone.

If you think that your boss or your clients won’t be understanding, then maybe, you can prioritise them and only them by filtering your inbox. Though, I’m not entirely convinced that you have to respond to them by 9 am. However, if you do, them schedule a time for that rather than react to the email coming in.

Chances are though, you could get away with answering emails twice a day. 11 am is usually early enough for most emails; then again at 4 pm. If this makes you uncomfortable and you’re worried you may miss something important, put it in your signature. Let them know that you don’t read emails often and offer an alternative way of contacting you if it can’t wait. Let them know that they can contact you on your mobile. Now, don’t put your mobile number in the email. The people that will need to contact you via mobile with have it. You don’t want to get a bunch of random calls throughout your day. That would defeat the purpose.

The purpose is to take control of your time. By limiting your time spent on email and limiting who has access to your attention, you are able to plan your day as you see fit rather than being bombarded by random conversations that make it impossible to focus.

Limit Social Media

Another thing that people do is check Facebook obsessively. Personally, despite have a lot of Facebook friends because of the podcast, I don’t get on Facebook much. Giving credit to Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour-Workweek, we don’t increase productivity by adding things but rather by removing them.

What this Means for Your Amazon Business

The number one productivity killer is email. If you are letting it take over your life, stop right there. If you are looking for a specific email, say from a supplier, that will help move your business forward, then order your inbox by the “From” field rather than “Date”. That way you can look for a specific person rather than being saturated with all the emails you have received recently.

Another time-trap with email is when you are trying to compose a message to go out. Obviously, you have to go into an email system to do this and then get sucked into your inbox. What I have begun to do is draft the email outside of the system. I will go into notes or notepad and compose it there.

If you are going to be sending similar emails to different people then make sure you are using templates. This does two things. It creates a standardized process so your are simply doing copy, paste, send, rather than typing it up every time. It also keeps you off the email system. So you pull up the template, then dump it into the email system rather than spending too much time in your email.

Don’t Use You Inbox as a To-Do List

Some people use their inbox as a to-do. Their messages are a list of task to be done. If that’s you, don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Instead, make a separate list. During your scheduled email time, make a list of what needs to be done. Use the previous day’s emails to create your to-do list for today.

Take Control

Schedule time to check your email and never make it the first thing you do. Have your own set of priorities that you need to work on that will move your business forward.

I have one space left if you are looking for a mentor and are serious about building a business. Go to http://amazingfba.com/mentoring if you’re interested.

122 Big Business Vision- St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Have you got a vision for you business?

I have to confess. I have spent way too long, jumping from product to product, trying to make a buck, which is fine. However, after a couple of years, I stop and think, “What’s it all about?” This is a very important question you must ask yourself, and it’s something that will change over time.

When I first started, my vision was to make a lot of money quickly and put it back into my life, into other projects that were important to me. While that is still a part of my vision, it has grown. Now my big picture is to build a business that I can sell for a decent amount of money, and be proud to own because it is producing really beautiful products; rather than before when I would grab any product that looked like it might sell.

If you take the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the full vision of the architect was never realized. As beautiful and amazing as it is, there plans were much bigger.

The first thing is, you have to start with a plan

You may not be working with stone and mortar, but it is still very similar. The financial aspects are similar. You have to work within a budget. Maybe you have more than you expected, maybe less.

In your business, you have to worry about competition

There are many other people that are selling the same or similar products to the same customers. You need to plan ahead to combat that.

  • Your plan needs to be fluid

You need to make your plan with the understanding that it will change. Amazon is always changing things, moving the goalposts. You need to have a plan that can adjust to change with it.

  • Be Realistic

You can’t go in with £5000 and expect to turn in into £500,000 by the end of the year. Big visions are great, but you need to make realistic goals. You can’t invest peanuts and expect to turn it into a mint overnight.

While this has always been the location of the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the original burned down, along with a lot of the city, in The Great Fire in 1666. You need to be able to handle setbacks and recover. Sometimes we make a bad product, sometimes we get close to bankruptcy, sometimes we have business partnerships that go bad.

Out of that makes room for something bigger. A lesson to learn from the cathedral is the chance for renewal. When thing go wrong, that can open the door to create something much bigger, much better, and a much stronger vision. You can take lessons from before. Figure out what worked, and recreate those things, and figure out your mistakes and avoid them.

It’s good to make sure you have the right mindset but, I believe, success follows hard work. So e sure to go back, if you haven’t listened already, to episodes 115 to 120, for an overview of how to increase your profits by increasing sales, and reducing costs.

Think big. Act Big. If you are in London or come down to London, consider being a part of the AmazingFBA Mastermind group. My goal is to have two levels, one for those getting started and another for those that are much further along. All that is coming up so stay on the lookout.

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119 Are these Hidden Amazon Costs Killing your Profit?

This is the 4th of 5 episodes in the mini series with One aim: Increase Your Profit!

Today we address the less sexy side of increasing profits: decreasing costs! All of us are to some degree aware of costs when ordering inventory because a sudden spend of several $1000 in one go generally gets your attention!

But there is a hidden profit killer that I’ve fallen victim to too many times: OVERHEADS!

Your overheads creep up over time, it seems, like weeds! Add the latest software product once a month, use a VA for research, add a bank account… and it can add up over the months to several hundred pounds a month. If you are running a huge business, that’s fine – but is it in proportion?

Here’s what works for me: every 3-6 months latest (don’t leave it for over a year like I used to!), I download a CSV of a bank statement. I go through all my expenses and ruthlessly cull half or even 2/3 – anything the business doesn’t really need yet and isn’t necessary for expanding in the next 3-4 months.

For research, having played with many tools, I now use just two paid ones for the majority of work: Jungle Scout* Chrome Extension and Keyword Inspector. (*affiliate link)

Two free tools to track sales and price history: Keepa and Camelcamelcamel.

Other overheads:

Check the best deal for a business address, phone numbers.

Do you really need complex accounting software? I’ve used Xero and A2Xaccounting for 2 years. I still can’t make my bank accounts reconcile with the system – the result is that the Xero accounts are wildly out with reality.

I’m giving up and saving myself £50 a month.

For sales and profits tracking, I find cashcowpro really really helpful at just $29 a month or so.

Bootstrap to start with, get the cash coming in and THEN spend a proportionate amount of money on overheads. You should in any case do things manually to start with so you understand your business numbers and processes.

Face it, we mostly check our sales stats more than once a day! It’s so easy to overlook overheads but the danger is that all your hard-won gross profits get swallowed in your overhead. I’m embarrassed to admit how long I let that happen. Don’t copy my mistake!

 

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