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211 What legacy do you want to leave?

Your legacy matters

You only have one life so what you do in that life can either become a great legacy. One that is remembered for its greatness or one that people have no respect for. It is quite thought-provoking because once your life is over there is no going back. You can’t just say one day I’ll do this or one day I’ll do that. You have to take action because the clock is ticking. What is very striking is that there was a wonderful presentation by a wealthy man. But what was really great is that his family also presented their thoughts and words. Then there were also words from Charities that he had helped as well.

One example of this great man’s Legacy is a charity he had help in the late 90s. There was a charity in great need for help. A great London institution was about to close their doors. In fact, the board had already voted to close their doors because of financial stress. The chairman of the board had a meeting with this great wealthy man. After hearing the needs of the Institution the wealthy man sat down and wrote a check for 4 million and a check for 1 million, but requested that they didn’t touch the reserve. The 1 million he said was theirs to spend. He gave this institution a new starting point and what they needed to be financially secure.

Family Life

His son’s talked about what it was like having him as a dad. They talked about different experiences and one where he flew in by helicopter. The entrepreneur had just got his helicopter license at this time. He flew in and picked up his son from the school playing fields. On their way home they had a bit of an adventure with some bad weather and it was just a really cool experience. Nevertheless, they made it home and it was really a good day.

What will your legacy be?

The great question everyone should ask themselves in life is, “what will my legacy be”. You know, Seeing a wealthy man so willing to give his wealth to charity should inspire every human being deep down in their soul.

For some people and their legacy might mean leaving their wealth or a big lump sum of cash to their son or their daughter. But, that’s not necessarily the things that are going to get remembered. Although, on the other hand, if you don’t really have a lot of money you’re not really able to contribute much to the capitalist society that we live in. There are other currencies in wealth and power than money, but that is what people noticed the most.

Then ask yourself how does your Amazon business fit into your legacy plan. They say Chance favors the prepared mind and preparation meets opportunity. Just remember if you have a clear vision of the person you want to be and where you’re going in life then it’s not all about making the most money you can right now. It’s about the money you do have and what you can do with what you have. You just need to have a vision.

Know your direction

No one will climb the ladder to success for you or give you all of the answers. You will have to work and fight for what you want out of this life. So start creating your life blueprint today and take that first step up the ladder. This is how you create your legacy…this is how you will be remembered. In this life, you can either make yourself vulnerable and pushed forward toward the things you I want out of life or stay in the shadows and remain invisible. Know your direction, work every day if you have to just figure that out.

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

190 How to Sell in Amazon Europe with Gil Lang Part 2 of 2

Today we will be delving further and looking at Amazon Europe. In Part 1 we spoke with Gil Lang of Private Label Journey, a German Amazon seller about the mindset of German consumers and the challenges and opportunities of building an Amazon business in Germany.
Read More

154 Time Management for eCommerce with David Aggiss Part 2 of 2

The great thing about running an Amazon business is the freedom it allows in your personal life. You can go on holiday as you want and you can take a day off as needed. You set your own schedule and make your own deadlines. That also creates one of the more difficult aspects of your job as an Amazon seller, time management. Today on the show we have David Aggiss and we’ll be discussing time management techniques when you’re running an online business.

Time Management for eCommerce

If you are first starting out, the challenge is finding enough time to work on your business. You have your full-time job, maybe a spouse and children, then your Amazon business on top of that. It’s going to lead to some late nights and long days. That’s the struggle of it. It’s important to set aside time-blocks for specific tasks. If you start working without this, you’ll end up working on a number of things and accomplishing nothing.

Customer service is a daily task. You’re probably going to be in Seller Central a lot anyway, which is a good thing so you can respond to customer questions and other issues as they arise. Once a week, you want to look at your listings. See if there is any way to improve them. You should take a look at your PPC and keywords to make sure they are performing how you want.

Time Management when Expanding Your Business

Expanding your business is an evening job. If you are looking to research new product lines or find new suppliers, make sure you have a few weeks available where you can put in some serious evening hours. You’re going to have to work everyday with emails back and forth with your suppliers, especially if they’re in China. Unless you can get on a Skype call, this process could take a week or more because of the time difference.

Skype is recommended to help speed up this exchange. However, keep in mind that if you’re looking into several suppliers, that Skype could get overwhelming. It is easier to maintain all the information if you limit it to email since that has understood, built-in limitations. Also, you will have a record of everything discussed.

Outsourcing

If you find that you don’t have the time to handle everything that you need, consider outsourcing. Be aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are. Focus on your strengths, outsource your weaknesses.

If you are making enough money from your Amazon business that you can afford to outsource, then you are probably pretty proficient at the day-to-day Amazon tasks. Then you’ll want to continue to handle those. If your background is in web design, then build your website yourself.

If, however, you don’t know the first thing about building a website and you have no idea how to work on social media, outsource those. Chances are you can find someone that will do it better and faster. If a task is going to take you a week, but someone who is an expert can do it in a day, pay them to do it. The task will get done several days soon and you now have that week to work on something you’re an expert in.

Focus Management

While time management is important, focus management is as well. Like I said before, you have the freedom to make your own schedule, but you don’t have a boss to keep you on track. It’s easy to lose focus and let your business suffer because of it. You have to keep in mind why you want to run your own business. Whether it’s to have a luxury house, nice cars, or to simply spend more time with your family. Whatever it is, whether it changes over time, always remember that and let it be your motivation to stay focused.

143 Selling on Amazon 2017 by Brad Moss of Product Labs – Part 4 of 4

What are your big picture things that you’re looking out for in regard to Selling on Amazon 2017?

Brad’s very first day at Amazon, he was working next to a guy named Tor. When asked what he was working on, Tor responded that he was working on the GCID program. It stands for the Global Catalog Identification system. This means that people can have a brand, and put their own brand on Amazon and have these account numbers linked to their brand. Brad says that this was the start of the whole brand revolution that has happened over the past three years. People have discovered that private labeling is much better than competing by the box. Instead of people competing over the same item using the pricing algorithm, many have moved to private label and own the ASIN. Now they get all the sales.

This year, with all the fraud stuff going on, Amazon is figuring out brand protection and brand control, and those are big things coming from inside Amazon; trying to get more brand control and brand protection. Big brands, like Sony, was the originally intended beneficiary. These companies have a lot of products with fraudulent listings. Then they realized they could extend it for a lot of people.

Amazon has gotten more into brand gating, and brand content because of these sellers. This is likely going to be the beginning of a program that sellers love. Amazon will get that feedback and keep building more and more around your brand. This also builds consumer trust.

Consumer trust is a big thing lately. A lot of people have come out about getting defrauded by Chinese sellers not being forthright about the authenticity of their products. Now Amazon has a big PR battle to deal with.

That’s a big issue. That’s a major differentiator between them and eBay. eBay feels more like the wild west whereas Amazon was more in control with actual brands. So consumer trust is one of, if not the, biggest thing on Bezos’ mind.

When things like that come out, all the big heads come together and institute new programs to solve whatever problem. Amazon is trying to solve the fraud issue with brand gate and brand control.

You said there were two things about where Amazon was heading. What was your second thought?

It’s not so much about where Amazon is heading, but rather the minds of the brand owners needs to be going in. You have a lot of these large brands that really understand brand management because they have been doing it for 50 or 100 years. Amazon has enabled these new sellers and they are powerful and effective at building their brand.

The idea, for the last couple years, is that these people have gotten a certain part of the brand going and now they have to determine where to go from here. Over the next couple years, you’ll see more sophistication in the brands. Who the brand is, who identifies with it, what’s the target audience.

You mentioned the Chinese sellers. Obviously, Amazon is courting them, and trying to create a link to them. They’ve gone so far as to open offices in China. How can we, in America, the UK, or anywhere else in the world, compete with the Chinese sellers trying to sell direct on Amazon?

It comes down to what do you mean by compete. If you think about what the Chinese are good at that those in the UK aren’t. They have manufacturing there with some very competitive costs. There are other manufacturers in the world that have better prices, but they’re harder to reach because you can’t look them up on Alibaba.

The bigger question is, if these manufacturers can cut out the middlemen and sell direct to consumer, where does that leave these middlemen that are trying to create a brand? That’s what the majority of these sellers are.

Many of these manufactures don’t have the acumen to be that middleman. They’re not very good at it. The middleman is very valuable. They are doing the work to build a brand and they’re doing the research on what’s going to be a big seller. There is a place for sellers. Remember, just because these manufacturers can make the products cheap, middlemen are still needed to figure out what products need to be marketed.

There is some worry about counterfeit. If a seller does all the research and comes up with a brand idea, and what if someone else takes the idea and sell their own. Brad spoke with some attorneys when he was in Hong Kong. They said that you can actually set rules and regulations of your products with the manufacturer. That way they can’t take your product and sell it to someone else. You can work within the Chinese system and shut down other manufacturers if they copy what you’re doing.

Just remember what they can do, what your can do, where the value lies, and how your brand can gain consumer trust. How often is a Chinese manufacturer gathering emails, and sending emails to their customers. That’s a very western idea and way of thinking.

You can email Brad at brad@productslab.net, or use the contact form on their website, productlabs.net. If you would like to use his video service, please go to amzproductvideo.com.

 

140 Brad Moss’s Lessons from Running Amazon Seller Central – Part 1 of 4

Brad Moss was the Business Head of Amazon Seller Central itself. Which we all are at the mercy of. He built the Amazon Seller Central mobile app. He now does consulting company for Amazon sellers, Product Labs.

Tell about how you got into Amazon Seller Central.

Brad got his Masters in business. He did some entrepreneurial things, launched some companies which won a few awards for some of them. He was successful in small realms and wanted to see if he could have an impact in a bigger realm, like Amazon. When he first go there he built something that no one has probably heard of because it didn’t launch. It’s called Gamification for Sellers. It was a really cool system that was held up because middle management was fighting over some resources Brad had. It would have made selling more fun and would have been able to track yourself.

When he finished, he had learned so much about Amazon Seller Central and how the system works that they decided to put him over Amazon Seller Central. Amazon had 168 teams that were dispersed through Seller Central. Each team was adding to the system, putting new tools here and there, without a real overhead strategy. That was Brad’s job.

He started putting frameworks down, and added the advertising tab. That team came, for sponsored products, saying they wanted to put it in Amazon Seller Central. Brad felt it was big enough that it should get that spot on top. Seller Central has become a beast unto itself. He wanted to overhaul the entire system, and scoped out how to do that. That only got so far when they starting think about the future. What’s the future of selling and the future of devices. At that time, mobile had come up.

There were a lot of people trying to do mobile at Amazon. They decided to focus on mobile and Brad made a case saying that they would make a lot more money if they focused on mobile. It would be more accessible, people would be able to check their seller account, they’d be able to scan things, and put new products up on Amazon. They passed the idea to the VPs, got the funding and built the Amazon Seller Central mobile app.

That’s a heck of an achievement. Millions of us use that app on a daily basis. Now, you said there was 168 teams, why so many? Why not just one? That seems to be different than how almost any other company does it.

Those are systems and programs. So one team may have five systems. The internal structure at Amazon is really cool. It works really well in some situation, not so well in others.

When you’re there, you’re free to take your program, and figure out how to make it happen. When I was working on the gamification, I had my own team. I made the business case that it would improve the business for Amazon. Then we had to figure out how to get this new system, into the existing system.

We had to find the two engineers that were running the front page of Amazon Seller Central. Then we found several engineers that were running the back-end with the listing services. We had to go to all these different teams asking them for a day of their time to help us get into their systems. Amazon promotes that kind of culture where it’s very entrepreneurial. It’s up to you to figure out how to make it happen. It’s not coming from the VP telling certain teams to do this thing. They had to figure out the best way to get these systems to work. They had to negotiate and bribe with drinks after work.

That sounds a lot like a connection. I run a mastermind and belong to another and it sounds like a situation I’m in now. Asking another member to help me with Facebook ads, because they specialize in that and I’ll help them out with what they need.

It’s almost like the wild west in a way. It gets even worse when you have different VPs that have their own goals and directives, and it all comes down into one system. That’s where Brad was with in Amazon Seller Central. All these different VPs were all trying to pipe into the same system to accomplish their goals and there was no central authority to facilitate it. It’s pretty wild.

The perfect example is if you look under the reports tab, and there is business reports, and payment reports. Then there is this thing called fulfillment reports. If you go to Fulfillment Reports, it takes you to a new page with a lot of reports on the side. That section is owned by the FBA team, which is a different vice president than the marketplace team. The FBA team wanted to be able to keep adding new reports without having to go to seller central or the marketplace team every time. So they built a new page that they have full control over. However, it doesn’t make much sense from the user’s perspective.

Well that explains a helluva lot about Amazon Seller Central. A point I made earlier is that it’s important for sellers to understand things from Amazon’s perspective. You mentioned that you had to made a case to Amazon demonstrating how they will make more money. What are the drivers? Obviously money is a big driver for any company, but what other factors help push the senior management to green-light things?

When Brad first started, he was looking into a business case that someone had mentioned. He looked really deep into and thought that it would be really great. He made his report, show the analysis, and told them it would be a $30 million business if they do it. His director just shook his head and said no. That unless it was $1 billion over three years, they wouldn’t go after it.

That’s what made mobile so difficult. It was a really hard case to make. If a majority of the money comes from huge sellers on the marketplace, how would they use mobile, and how would mobile enable them to make more money because a lot of them just use API and feeds anyway. That’s what made the business cases so important.

That’s what is great about Amazon is that the mentality , from Jeff Bezos, is “It’s day one for the company.” The idea that they are still laying the foundation and groundwork for the company. If you do enough diligence from the business side, which was Brad’s job, and look at various things to be building, you can find these opportunities. Don’t settle for $50 million opportunities when you can find a $1 billion one.

You can see how that would trickle down. While working on Amazon Seller Central, people would propose improvements. The question came down to, how many sales will be generated by adjustment. If they can’t prove that it will increase sales, then they don;t get funding for it. So it’s pretty difficult to get funding to make those nice visual adjustments. There are resources called “Keeping the lights on”, that is some resources allocated to keeping things running, and they might be able to scrape resources from there to make those minor adjustments.

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.

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