Merch by Amazon is only one of many ways that Chris Green has been selling online. He started out as a seller on eBay actually. After Amazon opened their platform to other sellers he began listing there. He found that it was much lower maintenance on Amazon as he wasn’t getting a ton of questions from the buyers and he began listing more and more.
The major turning point for him came from being a buyer after signing up for Prime. With free 2-day shipping he and his wife order a lot from Amazon and realized that if he was hooked, other people would be as well. With the introduction of FBA, he and other sellers would have access to these same benefits and knew this was a golden opportunity. The fees were lower, it was much less work, and his customers would get the product faster. He was all-in after that.
With Amazon doing so much of the work, he found he had too much free-time. He would then go to bookstores and yard sales and scan books to send for Amazon. After that, he was bored again and wanted a better way to scan for products and came up with ScanPower, the leading FBA software tool where you can scan any barcode and it will tell you what you can sell it for on Amazon.
He got his start as a public figure after self-publishing a book, Arbitrage, teaching how to make money on Amazon. It started as a simple book that answers the most common questions about selling on Amazon and ended up being the go-to guide for people wanting to get started on Amazon.
Merch by Amazon is a very simple concept and Chris gets a lot of questions about it, mainly because it seems too good to be true. That there is no way Amazon would do this, or if you’re hearing about it then it’s too late and there is no more opportunity. That is all false. This is the ground floor of this platform because no one has heard of it.[Compare it to Prime and FBA.] Prime is a household name. There may be a few people that have never heard of it but it’s relatively commonplace, and it’s 11 years old. Most people don’t know what FBA is or have never heard of it, and it’s 8 years old. Merch by Amazon has been out less than a year.
Basically, all you need to do is come up with a design, make it a .png, and upload it to Amazon. They will then sell this as a physical product that people can buy and you get a cut of the profits. All you have to do is make an image that is 5400x4500px and 300 DPI png file. Then you upload it, make a listing and that’s it. You can pick 5 of the 15 colors in every size. If it sells, you get a royalty check. If it’s a $20 shirt, you’re looking at an $8 payout.
FBA wasn’t a new idea just like the t-shirt print on demand isn’t a new idea. There have been warehouse fulfillment companies for decades before Amazon got into the industry. However, Amazon has a huge customer base and has Prime which these other companies can’t compete with. That’s why Merch by Amazon is going to be so huge. People aren’t going to hop onto T-Spring and buy your stuff but they are going to Amazon and there they can buy with one click and get free 2-day shipping.
Yes! With FBA you have to get the product, buy hundreds of units, prep it, pay for it to get to Amazon, and hope it sells at a price that will return a profit. With Merch by Amazon, you don’t pay for anything. If you don’t sell a shirt, you’re out the time it took to make that image. You can make almost $8 on a $20 sale and not use any of your own money.
The only investment for Merch by Amazon is the image. You can now get Photoshop for $9.99 a month and they have their own tutorials. Or you can get on YouTube and find hundreds of videos on using the programme. If you go to http://merchshirts.com/ you can search for a keyword and see every item on Amazon for that word and you can see what’s selling.
You choose your selling price with Merch by Amazon. The royalty has to be at least $0.01 and a max of $49.99. There is a 15% fee so the final cost will vary depending on the royalty cost. When you make the listing, you put in what the final cost will be and it tells you what the royalty is. You can adjust the price based on what you are trying to get out of it. If it’s a brand t-shirt, you might price it lower so that you can get more sales and get your logo out there. You might price it higher if you are trying to make a profit. The most common price is $19.99 so if you don’t know what to price it, start there. If you’re going to charge more than $19.99, you better have a reason.
Different options will affect your royalty. The example Chris gives is a $19.99 Anvil shirt, with front side image. Cost plus listing fee is $12.31 giving you an estimated $7.68 royalty per unit. Even if you pay someone $5 for a design, as long as you sell one shirt you are making a profit.
It is completely separate. Go to merch.amazon.com and request an invitation. As of right now, due to the popularity of the program, they have a waiting period. In order to slow things down and to scale properly, they decided to limit how many new sellers are coming in.
As of right now, it’s tied to a buyer account. So if you use your personal buyer account to sign up, you may not want to bring people on because you would have to give them your personal account as well because they are tied together and cannot be changed. But only the login. If your account gets suspended for whatever reason, then your merch by Amazon won’t be affected. The best advice is to make a brand new account just for merch,
The term merch came from the concert scene where bands, in order to make money, would sell their merch after a show. At the time of this recording, merch is only t-shirts. However, there is a huge demand for other products. They didn’t call it t-shirts by Amazon so expect to see other items available in the future. Probably not in the near future due to logistics. Right now the have 15 colors, in 5 sizes, for men, women, and children. If they decide to do another type a shirt you’re looking at over 1,300 blank shirt options that they have to stock and keep track of.
Amazon has the data and has determined that t-shirts are the place to start. It is likely they will add more types of merchandise but it will be slowly.
You can see this trend in Amazon’s history of expanding from one product type outwards . Amazon started as a book company. Jeff Bezos was debating on 7 different categories and decided to start with 1 and getting established in that. Then they expanded out gradually into other categories.
To find possible best products to sell online, as Greg mentioned in the previous episode, you can look at Amazon’s best seller, or look for trends in your everyday life. If you have time and are cost conscience then that works. However, the Jungle Scout web app was created to solve that problem. There are a few tools in the Jungle Scout web app, which is different than the Chrome extension. It’s more like traditional software. It has a database tool which is a recreation of the Amazon catalog. It’s available for the European and North American marketplaces.
What they’ve done is rebuilt Amazon’s catalog so it’s more user-friendly for sellers. You are able to search by metrics that sellers care about. You can search for all products that sell more than 500 units, have less than 50 reviews, have a poor listing, and weigh less than 5 pounds. You can put all that in and get it down to 5000 listings. From there you can get ideas of the best products to sell online. What people are are some really obscure products that people would have never thought to look for.
There’s a few strategies you can implement. One is finding a product, and improving on it. This is the age old practice. Take an item people are already buying even though it’s crappy, and just improving upon it. That’s what’s great about this day an age. 20 years ago, big corporations had to spend a lot of money doing research to find this same information that any average Joe can get by reading product reviews.
Just find a product to sell online that is selling despite poor reviews. Then filter by 1-star reviews and find out what everyone hates about it. Then contact a factory in China and have them make this one simple change. Put it on Amazon, and now you getting 5-star reviews while your competitors are getting 3-4 star reviews.
You’ll also find that anything with a higher barrier of entry will have less competition. If it’s a larger item that need to come in containers, those will have less competition, but will come with headaches. More expensive items will have less competition. The U.S. is the most competitive out of all the markets, so Greg has been expanding into Europe. According to an Amazon representative, if you combine all the European stores, they do about as much volume as the U.S.
We have Greg Mercer on the show again. You can listen to our previous interview on product research, as well as one on supplier negotiations. Greg studied civil engineering at university and had a corporate job that he hated. He began selling on Amazon as a break from his day job. He managed to quit his day job and just do FBA full-time. He did that for about two years when he was frustrated by trying to find products to add. The best way to scale your Amazon business is by adding more products. Greg didn’t have a lot of capital to throw around so he wanted to find ones. Out of this need, Jungle Scout was born. Now he joins us to help us find the best products to sell on Amazon.
Today, Greg is still selling on Amazon. He has released a few products in the last few months. He’s been working on Jungle Scout, and that has expanded into a quite a tool for Amazon sellers. There is Jungle Scout, which a research tool. Jump Send is a deal site to get you additional sales, as well as a follow-up sequence. Splitly is an AB testing tool for Amazon sellers. Fetcher, which is profit analytics. It calculates what you’re really making after refunds, promos, etc. All the numbers Amazon likes to hide from you.
That’s a common issue. Everyone knows how good of an opportunity Amazon is, but it’s finding products to sell that is a struggle. The best products to sell on Amazon are ones that have existing demand, that means Amazon customers are already searching for it. You want products that have low competition and that have good margins. Those are the main things. Other things you may want to consider are whether they may infringe on any patents, and they don’t need to be licensed. Think of liability; if a person can hurt themselves with it, you may want to steer clear. Lighter, smaller items are generally less complicated. They are easy to ship and you don’t have to worry about oversize storage limits.
Jungle Scout was created to solve that issue, but you can look on the Amazon’s best sellers page. You can get ideas from Pinterest, look at what people pin a lot. You can hang out in big cities where trends start first. Once you do that, make a list of product ideas and go to Amazon. There is actually a free way to find out how well a product sells. You can click on a listing, then look at the best sellers rank under the product description. Then you can go to junglescout.com/estimator. It’s a totally free tool, you don’t even have to put in your email. You put in that sales rank and it will give you an estimated amount of units that product sells on a monthly basis and see what the demand is.
For demand, you want to look for products that are already selling on Amazon. A beginner mistake is that people “know” that a product will do well if it gets on Amazon. A small percentage of the time, that might be true, but more often than not people are wrong. It’s much safer and less risky to go with something that is already selling.
I want to see 2000 units a month, being sold on Amazon. Let’s use a coffee cup as an example. If you search “coffee cup” on Amazon. Then take the top 10 listings, or however many are relevant. Let’s say 8 are selling coffee cups. Then click on each of the listings, get the best sellers rank. This is helpful because it tell us how well this product is selling. This number, by itself, is very difficult to interpret. However, at Jungle Scout, they have come up with an algorithm that can estimate how many units are sold based on that number. It changes on a daily basis and they have a full-time data scientist that is always updating this. So, get that number for each listing, find the units sold on Jungle Scout and add them up. If it’s more than about 2000, then the demand is there.
The first thing is to look out how they drive these algorithms to estimate the sales. Depending on the category, they collect between 200,000 and 500,000 data points every month for that category. This is the relationship between the unit sales and the ranking number for that day. Then they run a regression analysis and they come up with a line of best fit to estimate the sales based on the rank.
The best sellers rank changes on an hourly basis. The way they estimate sales is that if a product continues to sell as well or as poorly as it has for the past few days, this is how many units will sell in a month. If, last week, your product was selling 10 units a day, but this week is selling 1 unit a day, Jungle Scout will estimate based on the 1 unit per day. So you’re sales might be 60 units that month, but Jungle Scout will only estimate 30. It’s the best they can do with the limited data Amazon gives out.
Some people will get on there and see their products are 10% more than Jungle Scout’s estimate and will conclude that you need to add 10%. That’s not true. If you look at the regression analysis, there are some points that run above the line, and some below. They’re taking the average of hundreds of thousands of products in a particular category. So, your 1 product may not fall on that line, but if you average the whole category, it will be on that line.
Exactly. People get caught up, too much, in the tools. Keep in mind this is still just an estimate. You’re using this tool to determine a ballpark range on a product’s sales. Jungle Scout may estimate that a product does 900 units a month. In reality, it might be 800 a month, or 1000 a month, but you know it’s in that range. It helps with forecast and it help determine if there is good demand in there.
This is difficult. One tool that helps is Google Trends. This tool allow you to see how a search term has trended over the years and seasons. This is a fairly good gauge of how items will sell on Amazon. As many people know, Greg has done public case study selling bamboo marshmallow sticks called Jungle Sticks. Based on Google Trends, you can see how the sales have changed based on the seasons. January to February are the slowest times. July and August were the highest times. And if you look at the sales, you can see that matches up. So can look on Google Trends to determine if this is a high season or a low.
The reason I like to use the 2000 or 3000 units, is because people like to answer “It depends”. It’s too arbitrary if you’re a beginner. At the end of the day you’re looking for the item with the biggest spread between demand and competition.
If I was a complete beginner looking to sell my first product on Amazon, I wouldn’t worry about that. That’s more higher level strategy. Focus on getting your first product up on Amazon and learn the rest later.
If you’re already have your products on Amazon, and you’re trying to figure out forecasting, that is a good idea. Two good resources are Google Trends, and Keepa. Keepa has a really nice, free database of how sales rank has trended. A lot of products have two years or so of data. You can look at the and see how the sales rank has trended over the months and seasons. You can try to start estimating how well your product is going to sell.
Some products you can tell by common sense. If you’re selling lawn products, then the summer months are going to be the best. Other products, like the marshmallow sticks, it’s not as clear when they’ll sell well and Google Trends can help with that. If Google Trends shows there is twice as much searching for marshmallow sticks in the summer months, then you know to order a little extra inventory.
Reviews are a great indicator of competition. That’s probably the biggest thing to look at. On top of that, the quality of your competitors listings. If they have a poor listing, like one picture, a really crappy title, than that is someone that would be much easier to outrank. As opposed to someone with a really good listing.
The first thing to look for is how many reviews they have. Older, more mature products that have been selling consistently well, are harder to outrank.One way to tell how mature a product is, is how many reviews it has. An older product that sells well, is going to have more reviews. A product with 1000 reviews is going to be much harder to outrank than one with 15. A rule of thumb is to look for something, where 3 or 4 of the top reviews have under 50 reviews. That signifies that it’s probably a young niche.
One thing to understand is how Amazon ranks the listing. They use keyword relevance. The sales velocity probably makes up about 50% of the algorithm. That would be the number of sales per day. Another factor is the conversion rate of your product. Now the sales velocity and the conversion rate depends on a number of factors. Those including the quality of your pictures, the price, the social proof, the average star rating. If you competing against other listings that have a lower rating, then you’re probably have better conversions and more social proof. People would much rather buy a product with a higher average rating than one with more reviews.
Yeah. Visually, if you have a 4.9 average,Amazon displays 5 stars. But a 4.7, they show 4 and a half stars.
Today, we have one of the giants in Amazon, Will Tjernlund. He’s a man that is always ahead of the curve and is always willing to help the rest of us catch up. This isn’t Will’s first time on the show, you can find his last interview in episode 45, and episode 46.
The big trend coming to 2017 will be selling to Amazon directly using Vendor Express, Vendor Seller, AMS, and all these other buzzwords we have to learn now.
Will says that it’s inevitable. Eventually, Amazon does want to source and sell themselves. If you can get ahead of the curve and get on their side early, it will only help you in the future. It’s one of those things that you know you’re going to do it three years from now, and you’re going to ramp up three years from now, why not go ahead and do it today. Will’s of the mindset that if you’re going to have to do it in three years, then do it now and be the expert in three years when everyone has to do it.
Because it’s their game plan. If you read The Everything Store, Jeff Bezos’ biography, he talks about it being the game plan to make it easier for third-party sellers to sell on their marketplace, take care of the annoying aspects like fulfillment, customer service, storage, and marketing.
Then, all they need is us third party sellers, essentially, glorified sourcing agents, to find the best SKUs and see what sells the best. Then they start from the top and decide if this product is easy enough to manufacture that they just want to come out with their own Amazon Basics version of it, or if they want to work with the biggest brands in that category and source their products directly.
So, if you’re not selling directly to Amazon, eventually they are just going to try to squeeze you out.
Third-party sales are becoming a bigger part of Amazon, something like 50% of sales were from third-party sellers this past Christmas season, but from the different advantages Vendor Seller gives you and the heads up if gives you, and also that it works better with Amazon’s business model, it’s for sure, the way of the future.
Right. Just think of a general catalogue, think of kitchen knives. Like a block with 10 knives in it for $29.99. Amazon can come out with that knife block for $29.99 and then there will be, like German manufacturers with brand names.
The customer has to decide if they want to get those cheap Amazon knives, do they want to get the expensive German knives, or something in between. That’s were you, as a third-party seller, has the advantage. You can offer that middle product that better than Amazon’s version, but not as expensive as the German brand. You make sure it’s good quality and all your packaging looks good, and Amazon buys directly from you because you’re filling a gap in the market.
It’s different for every category. For that category, that may be the best route taken. Also, think of it this way, when you jump on Vendor Express and get upgraded to Vendor Central in six months and you’re selling directly to Amazon, then everyone else who is selling those mid-level knives will get blown out of the water because yours are going to be shipped and sold by Amazon.
Two or three years down the line you’re going to have a lot more reviews than everyone because you’re shipped and sold by Amazon. They do different sales and they do different marketing things to push your products. Then, when these other mid-level sellers try to jump on Vendor Central, Amazon doesn’t want to work with them because you’ve got them covered.
Will’s been taking a roundabout way by looking for big brand names that have terrible accounts and I go and consult with those companies. He will offer to run their Amazon accounts. He will then optimize their listings, fix violations, and get everything back in stock. From their, he’s been using these big brand companies as his private label arm. He will suggest new products. If they’re selling a bunch of kitchen accessories, he will suggest another one, which is smart for them since they own their own factories. They then will fly to China to get samples, and then buy every product on the first page of Amazon as comparison.
Right now, Will is looking for niches of these companies that he is already consulting for, let them handle the research and development, and he looks for products that are within their wheelhouse, but not being manufactured yet.
Let’s say they sell 40 different types of ladles, he will suggest a slotted spoon. He’ll look up that product on Jungle Scout, and find their review-to-revenue ratio. Check the revenue to review ratio: Let’s say slotted spoons have 10,000 reviews and $100,000 revenue a month, so $100 revenue to review ratio is good. He takes that information to the company and shows them that there isn’t much competition, it has proven sales, and it’s in the category they are already selling in.
Will uses the review-to-revenue ratio as a way to quickly gauge the lifecycle of a product and it’s maturity. Determine if it’s easy to ship. If every listing on the first page is being sold by Amazon, then you’re probably too late. From there you look at every facet and see if will work, and if you can’t find anything wrong with it, it’s worth a shot.
Will likes to find products that you have to explain what it is. It’s that niched down.
It wouldn’t be unusual within the niche. For example, a little tool that is only used for cutting fly fishing rod lines. Yeah, it’s a weird product. It’s a small piece of metal with a blade. It’s costs $.50 to make and the guy is buying it for $10. Not much by the way of sales, but there’s no competition and it’s $8 profit.
It also has to have a very specific keyword that the customer searches for. A woman recently came up to Will talking about her product that was a wireless bluetooth headset that you can sleep in. When asked how a customer would search for that, she replied with “bluetooth sleeping headphones that are wireless.” The problem with that is it’s too specific, no one will search for that, and you can’t rank with “bluetooth headphones” or with “wireless headphones” as as that’s too general/generic. Since she didn’t have a keyword in mind, she could even do a revenue-to-review ratio because she did know where to start.
Exactly. Will recently started climbing and there is a tool called a grigri. Now, no ones knows what a grigri is, but if you’re in mountain climbing, everyone know what it is. Plus, how easy is it to rank for this very specific word, grigri? No one else is going for it. Anyone who searches for it, knows what it is and wants to buy, and if someone doesn’t know what it is, they wouldn’t need it anyway. Also, if no one know to search for it, then there isn’t any private labelers nipping at my ankles, looking it up on Jungle Scout.
Yep, and it works really well with US brands. Will contacts these climbing brands that have been in the niche for years, and they’re selling these harnesses for $140 when they sell them wholesale for $40 because they have this established brand. So, no one knows who Black Diamond Climbing is, but every mountain climber knows who they are. So when someone searches for them on Amazon, they are astounded that they can get the entire cataloge because no one else carries as much. From Will’s perspective, it’s amazing. There is high demand, he doesn’t have to do any research and development, and he can still make huge margins, and he only has to place an order once a month with a U.S. based distributor.
Many of these distributors have very small minimum-order quantities. One particular company said their average yearly order volume from one of their distributors is $2500.
Will finds them by searching through Amazon. As he’s looking for climbing stuff, he notices that these major brands have three of the five bullet points filled out, their out of stock, or they have one of the five images. All sorts of these red flags exist and they tell you that these Amazon accounts are being managed poorly and they don’t understand the Amazon ecosystem.
It’s easy enough to contact these companies, become a distributor, and send them a message. Tell them who you are and that you were looking to buy one of their products on Amazon and saw that it was a mess. Let them know about the issues you found and that you can help them get their account in order. Ask them to make you the only distributor on Amazon, you won’t screw over the brick-and-mortar store by selling their product too low, you’ll pay up front, and keep their product in stock. All the things you can promise them that their distributors can’t promise them. These other sellers are only using them and not adding any value whereas you can actually add value to their company. You can be this A+ consultant, but you’re paying them instead of them paying you.
Another selling point is that it’s in their best interest to work exclusively with you. You can make sure to keep their listing looking good and their prices at the right level. They wouldn’t let big-box stores carry their products if they didn’t know who was selling it, at what price, or what the packaging looked like.
Imagine you’re a big mountain climbing company that specializes in making the best carabiner. You have been in business since 1975, you have 10 people working in manufacturing, 1 person in accounting, 1 person in HR, and 5 people in sales. Each salesperson has their region in the U.S. and they call up local shops asking if they want to place an order. Their whole job is to get as many accounts under their belt as possible. Then, all of these distributors start selling out the backdoor, and now they have 40 people selling on Amazon. This puts the company in a tough situation. They told these stores that they can only sell in the store. They can’t cut them off because they have been doing business for 40 years and they want as many accounts as possible. However, the Amazon market is hurting their brand.
These old-school companies will gladly sell to you because they still have the mentality of “sell to everyone,” but some will question the sale if you are selling it on Amazon because of this issue.
A lot of these companies don’t know the first thing about Amazon. They will contact seller support and demand they stop sellers from selling their products.
There are some gated brands like Nike or Louis Vuitton, and there is no way you can sell their stuff on Amazon. You can go onto Amazon and gate your brand. If you explain that customers are getting hurt by counterfeits, then they will likely approve it. Make sure to put in the customer first mentality and use the word counterfeit and you’ll have a better chance.
It depends on the company. When Will calls up these companies, he just feels them out on how they want to go about it. They might just want him to be a distributor, that’s fine. Or they might want him to be a distributor only if he can keep the price high, that’s a different conversation. Or they might want him to run their Amazon account, but it’s all going to be under their brand. Each time a company will ask for something different, and usually he will say yes because they are simple things. You just have to feel the company out.
If they’re making $20 million in sales on Amazon, then they’re making enough money to go and hire a whole team. Until they get to that point, it’s better to hire a someone like Will to handle it. It’s not worth it to take six months to hire and train a team when they don’t even know what to train them on.
Exactly. Amazon is like this big scary monster in retail. Instead of them trying to deal with it, Will is like the band-aid on the wound. They are sick of dealing with it, it’s not working with their business model. Just hand over that part of the business to an expert that will take care of everything. All they have to do is deposit a check.
Today I am bringing you another episode on marketing fundamentals: KLT. Know, Like, Trust. Once again, this isn’t a mindset for you, but that of your consumer which is really important to understand. Stepping back, the most important thing to understand is what marketing means. Marketing isn’t about creating a widget and figuring out how to sell a lot of it. It may look like that, but marketing is really understanding markets. Simply put, supply and demand.
If you start by understanding the markets, and find what people are looking for, then create a product that fulfills that need, that it truly smart marketing. To take a pre-existing product, and then try to sell it is much more primitive and difficult to do.
Last episode, we talked about message to market match. If you are the only person selling red dog bowls, even though a lot of people are selling dog bowls, you win. The caveat to that is credibility. I gave the example of trying to sell the world’s best dog food to cat owners and how you won’t find success with that.
Now, imagine you have that same dog food in a room full of dog owners, except that you are trying to give this amazing dog food away for free. That puts the questions in people’s minds. Why in the world would someone be willing to give away this great product for free? How can this dog food do everything it claims?
There is a simple marketing principle of KLT. Know. Like. Trust. These are the elements we need to have in place before people will buy from you. Amazon puts a spin on this that you should be aware of.
If people have never heard of you then it’s going to be harder to get people to buy from you. This is difficult to do when you only have a listing to do this with. If you are the only person selling a red dog bowl, it’s less important. However, you won’t likely remain the only one. If there is any sort of competition, you will need to work on your brand marketing off Amazon. You will need to have a website. You need a social media presence and you will want to get YouTube videos up.
The next step is getting people to like your product. It is possible to accomplish this entirely on Amazon. You must have great looking pictures and amazing packaging. No longer can you get away with putting dreadful products on Amazon and sell it. You really must make sure that you have a good quality product.
The last element is trust. If you’re going to sell dog food, and make some big claim that it’s going to make your dog live five years longer, then you need to back that up. Be careful on how to try to backup these claims. Amazon supplement sellers were leveraging the trust people had in Dr. Oz after he claimed vitamin c serum was the next big miracle drug. Soon these sellers started getting cease and desist letters from his lawyers. If you’re going to reference an expert, be sure you have their permission to do so. A long-term strategy might involve referencing celebrities and big names in your industry and paying them for permission to use them.
Let’s bring it back to the simplest stick: how to I make my listing more likely to convert? KLT. The know part is a long-term strategy. If you are around for a long time, keep showing up in Amazon results, dominate a niche, then you gradually become known to people and they start searching for your brand name. That is when you know that you’re starting to build a brand. When you’re sticking in people’s minds to the point they search you out specifically.
To get people to like you, you have to have a remarkable product. Since you, likely, aren’t well-known, your images and packaging have to look simply stunning.
Trust is much harder to build, but you are leveraging Amazon’s trust. Which isn’t the same as your consumers trusting you or your brand. If it’s on Amazon, and it has good reviews, you are leveraging the trust generated by other consumers in their reviews, and the general trust people have in the Amazon platform.
This principle of marketing is harder to implement on Amazon, but it is vital to understand it you are wanting to build a business and if you are planning to sell that business. The more of a brand value it has, the more differentiation it has from any rivals, the greater multiples you can get when you go to sell. That could be the difference between selling your business for 2x your profits versus 3x. This is when you get the payoff for all the hard work you put in now.
I want to emphasize that this is not an instant win situation. You will get quick wins with higher conversion, the real payout shows itself long-term with a strong independent business. There are plenty of tricks you can use to circumvent the system, but Amazon is quick to fix that and then you are left with nothing. What I am teaching you today is a tried and true marketing principle that has stood the test of time.
If you are serious about moving your business forward, there are still spaces left for the December meeting of the Amazing FBA mastermind in London. In January I will be expanding to include a high-level mastermind for those that are serious about creating a strong business.
Are your products beautiful?
If you are selling on Amazon, you are likely private labeling products, probably from China. Although, if you are in America then you might be looking at other alternatives in light of Trump’s plan to raise tariffs. For now, let’s assume you are importing from China. China makes some of the world’s worst products. China makes some of the greatest, such as the Apple iPhone. It’s equally possible to create terrible products as it is to create amazing ones since 80% of the world’s manufacturing happens there.
Have you got a design that is interesting? If not unique, is it at least beautiful? Are you sure you are really checking the quality of your manufacturing?
From the consumer stance, simply put, is your product beautiful? Does it work beautifully? Is it reliable? Is it amazing?
Today, I was out in London and came across the amazing building. It was once a school for choir boys that is now a youth hostel. What makes it truly beautiful is the detail. They put so much care into the details that it is immediately striking. When you really look at the detail, it is magical as well.
Now my question, is your product doing that for your customers? If not, you need to get on that. I am, by no means, an expert in product design, but my business partner and I have some products on their way from China and we are very excited about them. We order samples from about six suppliers and got eight samples from some suppliers. We went through a lot of trouble. We reviewed 60 suppliers! Some were dodgy and their prices came tumbling down from $15/unit to $3; some didn’t have solid business credentials, and we rejected them.
We have a whole complicated system that we use to check out a supplier thoroughly, and I can go into that later if you are interested, but the big thing is to get a sample! Check through different photos on Alibaba, or wherever. Get out of Alibaba, do some Googling, go out and get some samples in real life. Whatever you need to do to get a vision of what would be your perfect vision of you product.
Keep in mind what your market wants. I’m not saying to create something in a vacuum. Never do that! Do research. Look at demand. Look at demand depth. If here a lot of sales in training shoes, but 90% is Nike, forget it. If you want a company that you can sell down the line for two or three times yearly revenue. If, you want a brand that people are willing and excited to buy. When people see your product in their search results, they should immediately be drawn to it and want to click. If you want a product where people will be amazed when they scroll through your photos and want to buy it. They you have to work and sweat and make your product beautiful.
Don’t stint on samples!
I hear complaining all the time about how suppliers want to charge for samples and whether it’s worth paying for. Let me tell you, it is. If you are going down the private label route, you’re going to be spending thousands of pounds, tens of thousands, don’t be cheap about the research. Don’t go too far and get 20 products when you know the 10th is really really good, but take the time to find that 10th products that is really really good. If you can’t afford to get the proper samples, can you really afford to get into private label?
The room is not mass producing cheap crap, it’s being the Apple iPhone of your category. China is the kings of cheap products, but there are still manufacturers where the designs are fantastic and the quality controls are rigorous. Even if you don’t design your own products,at least you can pick one that is still good.
You either have to do research designing your own product, or you have to do research in looking for a great design. Regardless, you have to do the work. Warren Buffett used to say, “You can either create value, or find value.”
So you mentioned you started with $20,000 when you started your first company and I often tell people that you need at least $5,000 to start, which is a manageable figure for many people, but is that a viable number for people to start out with?
It is. You just need to do a lot of research. Adam uses Zonguru, which he owns, which is similar to AMZ Tracker and Jungle Scout if they had Feedback Genius built in. You need to track something like 100 – 200 products.
Spend hours tracking products and going to Amazon and Alibaba.com Use Pinterest, that is a great resource. If you want to sell coffee cups, just do a search for cool coffee cups, and people have built boards with all these designs they like. They are literally giving you the products they want to buy.
Adam isn’t interested in tracking the number 1 product. He’s is looking at the number 4 or 5 listing and he sometimes goes to the second page. He doesn’t like tracking products with a lot of reviews. He prefers niche products where if you were to count all the reviews for every product on page one, he wants the average to be below 60 or 70.
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In the UK, you would probably adjust those numbers down. Simply put, it’s not worth it to go into the huge niches with a lot of competition and products are doing $20,000 or $30,000 a month. He is more interested in a smaller portfolio of products where each product is doing $5,000 or $10,000 a month. He’s happy having ten products doing $3,000 a month. A more stable business with lower, but consistent sales day in and day out.
Some sellers in the US have found their products have a life cycle of about three to six months. Have you found similar results? And how do you defend against competitors coming in, driving the prices down and advertising costs up?
Adam hasn’t found that in his experience. Most people want quick success and they aren’t willing to do the labour that he does. He will labour over a logo and package design and he will take a month to get another sample and other people just aren’t willing to put in that kind of work.
One unique thing he does when he gets a quote from a supplier is to offer them more money. If they tell him that it’ll be $4 if will ask if they can do it for $5 and explain that he wants the best possible product. The best quality control and the best possible outcome. No cutting corners. Taking that extra step to make the product the best it can possibly be.
The response he gets is remarkable because that extra dollar could double their margin and it’s only a dollar that he has to get back on the retail end, and he could get $10 because of the superior quality.
One thing you have to be wary of with these gurus is their ability to misrepresent their earnings. They could talk about how much of a margin they’re making but leave out the cost of acquiring new customers. Sometimes they may be losing money whenever the get a sale from an ad because the ad costs are so high.
Find out more about how Adam gets these results.
In the US many sellers aren’t making any money from sales that come from ads, and it seems like the only money they’re making is coming from their organic sales. So, tell us about what needs to be measured, and once you measure it, how do you deal with it?
The first step, with any business, is to write down what kind of life you want to have. You may want to make as much money as you can. But that means you will be working as much as you can.
Adam made his decision early on that he didn’t want hundreds of products because it’s too much stress. He also didn’t want hundreds of keywords that he was bidding on in PPC because he didn’t want to spend his day going through PPC reports and optimizing his keywords. For his products, he bids on 10 words, exact match. He doesn’t do any broad match advertising.
He is aware that he is missing sales but he doesn’t care because it will be eating into why he got into the business. Because of that, his ACoS is really low he hardly spends anything. Be sure to read Adam’s blog post about how advertising costs can eat into your margin.
You cut off everything that doesn’t make a profit, so how do you drive sales volume? How do you drive traffic to your listing?
Amazon does it. He has twice the conversion as everyone else because he only does exact match keywords, so if someone sees his listing they are looking for that exact product. Lke he mentioned before, he is charging twice as much as he next competitor. Therefore, it is better for Amazon to drive traffic to him because they can send have the amount of customers and get the same conversion and make the same amount of money per sale. It all comes back to having the best product.
(More of Adam’s insights are at reliable.education)
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So, the first thing is to have a great product, what’s the next thing?
The next thing is to have great photography. Not good photos, not the best you can do, but great photography.
The best that you can possibly get. If you look at AirBnB for example, one of the decisions they made early on was to send professional photographers to the homes to take photos. In the beginning, people weren’t booking because the photos weren’t good enough. As soon as they started offering that to the AirBnB hosts, their business took off.
Another flaw in the course gurus is that they sold Amazon short. They said you can come in with $1000 and be making $30,000 a month in six months and that’s just not true. What Adam tells people is that is you can start with $5,000 and in the first year you can rotate that money at 30% margin in a year, that’s a win.
CLICK HERE for more details on Adam’s approach to Amazon on his “Reliable Education” site.
Warren Buffett is the greatest investor in the world and one of the richest men in the world. If you look at his record he is trading at 20% a year. If you’re doing it at 30% then you’re doing better than Warren Buffett. As you get better you’ll be able to rotate that twice in a year then you’re doing 60%.
If you sit down with a compounding calculator and do the math on if you start with $5,000 or $10,000 you can see that you have an amazing vehicle at your disposal.
However, a lot of these “gurus” are telling people they’re failures if you’re not making $20,000 or $30,000 a month in your first year.
You mentioned that you started with 6 products and turned that into a million dollars a year, so I would assume that you put substantial capital into that.
In fact, it’s at $1,000,000 a year “run rate”, ie, it now turns over about $83,000 a month.
Adam figures that he started that business with about $60,000. This was a different company. He has a completely different brand that he’s been running for about three years and he started that one with $20,000. At this point, he hasn’t taken any money from it. Except for a $20,000 loan from Amazon that he accepted just to see what it was about, he has been compounding that initial capital. Right now he has hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory paid for in distribution center around the world.
The only other person I’ve talked to about compounding your money is Will Tjernlund. If you took that $60,000 and after a year turned it into $80,000 a month that clearly is a tremendous success. How on earth did you manage that?
Adam is experienced at this point, with his numerous business adventures, and experience comes from activity and time and anybody can learn to do that if you stick with it (learn more from Adam here at Reliable Education)
The difference, according to Adam, is that Will farms a product. He’ll throw 20 or 30 products out there and two or three will be a hit. He clears the rest out and starts over.
Adam wanted to build a brand with a small number of products. He currently has six products with an average cost of $8 and retails for $40 with one about $129. Adam’s strategy is to build his brand around a few products and get them to page one and keep them there. Last time he checked, Will had around 1700 SKUs. He didn’t want to think about what that was like, to wake up and have to monitor 1700 SKUs.
How do you find potential products?
To be successful, it’s about paying attention to the details and being objective. If you look at AirBnB and everything that makes it successful, then reverse engineer that and unpack it to find every component, that kinda what you have to do with Amazon. For example, AirBnB hired pro photographers to go every single place listed on the site!
Too many sellers go in with the wrong mentality. They go in think they need to make this product in this price range and that’s all wrong because you’re building a product around your limitations and needs rather than the wants and the desires of the customer.
Adam as two or three products that are on page one for the biggest term they’re on. Now, the top couple spots are taken up by his products and he sells them two in a box while his competitors sell it four or six to a box. His product is $40, the next person is $20, and everyone else is cheaper than that. He is at least twice as much as his competitors and is selling half as many.
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This almost mirrors Kevin King in regards to the ideas behind the photos and going against conventional wisdom. How did you find these products in the first place?
Some people will misunderstand what he is saying, and you can find out more in his course at reliable.education. They think they just need to charge more. However, you must have a clear reason that a customer will give you more money. It’s more than headlines or you saying it’s better.
Many of these products are bought as a gift. The person is intending to gift the item to someone. Like with a ring from Tiffany’s, you paying for the box as much as you are the ring. So every aspect needs to be thought about. Don’t get on Fiverr and pay someone $15 for a logo. His philosophy is pay once for the best.
Write amazing briefs for everything from accounts to designers. Articulate exactly what you expect from them. If you hire a designer, the work is only going to be as good as the brief you give them. If you spend a little extra on the packaging, you can really impress your customers and all this goes to building a brand.
Sellers make the wrong assumption that no one has money and are looking for the cheapest product and that’s just incorrect. Now, this doesn’t apply to all products, not all products need to go to the extent, but at least make sure your logo is top notch.
(To get more training from Adam, go to reliable.education )