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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 [email protected], or use the contact form on their website, productlabs.net. If you would like to use his video service, please go to amzproductvideo.com.

 

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#77 Selling an Amazon Business with Coran Woodmass of The FBA Broker – Part 1

How did you get started with this?

Just over 3 years ago, Coran and his wife left Australia and their corporate jobs and began traveling. They had online businesses at the time and soon began buying and selling websites to fund their traveling. He liked the process of building a company to sell it rather than building to for the income. He struggled to keep his attention on one thing.

For this interview Coran create a package of tools for Amazing FBA listeners at http://thefbabroker.com/amazing. So do check that out.

How did you get involved with sales of Amazon companies?

About a year ago he got into the brokerage side of things after people began asking him to review and vet websites that were for sale and help negotiate the sales. As of about a month ago he has been dealing exclusively with FBA businesses.

Should I sell my FBA business now or hold it?

Most people do this backwards. They build up a business and it’s making money and then they decide they want to sell it. Maybe they want to focus on something else, maybe they want to cash out and pay off the investment. That’s a terrible time to sell. Odds are, you won’t be structured in a way that is attractive to sellers. The first thing you need to think about is who you are going to sell to and what they are looking for.

Let’s say you have a private label business that’s been operation for an year and half to two years. So you have a bit of history and you beginning to think about exiting. Reasons that Coran decided to sell his companies were that he might need the cash flow for something else or he was getting bored with the business.

How do I know if Can I sell my Amazon Business?

Coran breaks Amazon businesses down into three types, retail arbitrage/wholesaling, private label, and unique or proprietary.

For retail arbitrage/wholesaling, unless you have exclusive rights to selling on Amazon, the chances of your income being taken away is very high. What an investor is looking for is a return on investment. They will pay a certain multiple for a business with the intention of getting that money back first. So with wholesaling, for almost all cases, your only asset is your inventory, so if you lose your means of selling it, you’re just stuck with a load of stock.

Private label is the most popular way to sell on Amazon. There is a barrier of entry so your products have a shelf life of 6-12 months. That means that if you have one product that you haven’t differentiated, you just stuck your label on a product and built the brand, it’s not super defensible. So it will sell at a lower multiple. You can definitely sell these companies, you just have to put a little work into it.

Unique or proprietary products are much more defensible. You may have taken negative comments on your products and tweaked them. So you might have a unique mold or something that makes your product unique, that will sell at a higher multiple. The more you can make a private label product better or unique, the better it will be when it comes time to sell.

For example, Greg Mercer at Jungle Scout ran a case study where he made his chop sticks a little longer. While not super defensible, it is unique, and if you build your brand around that it sets you up in a better position.

How long do you need to be in business before selling?

There is a debate among brokers as to what the minimum amount of time is. For Coran, a year is still young. You certainly want 12 months of history. There are a few reasons for this. One, you want to see if there is any seasonality involved. An investor wants to work out their return on the longest history possible. There is also something to be said for a product that takes time to gain traction. Seems a bit counter-intuitive but an investor will look at a product and think, “What’s to stop me from doing this myself?”, so a product that takes time to get established show the investor that this company is worth buying because it will take that much more time to get it going if he/she wanted to start from scratch.

Most importantly, when it come to age of a company, you want the company to be established. For online companies, that typically means 3 years. Compared to offline, like brick and mortar businesses, 10 years is a long time.

Even if you’re not thinking of selling your company soon, now is the time to start preparing for it. A year, year and a half out, you want to make sure your products are defensible and that you have products that will add value to your company when it comes time to sell.

Is there a minimum number of products you should have?

Coran is working on two businesses, trying to get them ready to be listed. One business is completely private labeled, very little in the way of differentiation. It’s just brand. He has 20 products. That business is attractive because of the wide range of products. Out of the 20 products, most of the income comes from three products. It is all on Amazon and bringing in a million in sales a year.

The other company has only one product that is unique. It’s is their own formulation and their own brand. 70% of their income is coming from Amazon. They also sell on Amazon US and Amazon UK. 30% of their income is coming from their Shopify store. So they have several layers of defensibility.

The gold standard, according to Coran, is a third company he is working with. They have 10+ uniquely formulated products. Multiple sales channel. 70% through their e-commerce channel, 30% on Amazon.

The less reliant you are on one thing, the better. Multiple products, multiple sales channels, multiple traffic sources. So if you have a private label and don’t want to focus on unique products, focus on finding sales channels outside Amazon. That way, if one thing takes a hit you have hedged your bets.

How is it valued?

You need to look at it from an investors perspective, they are looking for a return on investment (ROI). Their in for $1,000,000 and their making $200,000 a year on it, that’s the ROI. They way we value Amazon businesses is net profit. The best way to look at this is: what is your annual net profit. If your business has been around a year and making decent profit, that’s not as attractive to these kinds of buyers. The important thing to consider I: what is your profit right now? When working with clients, Coran finds that most people over-estimate their profits. Oftentimes it’s as much as half of what they thought it was once they put in their numbers. If you want to find out what your business is worth, use Coran’s tool for that.

What can make my business worth more?

Type of businesses

Reseller

Private label

Proprietary

Age

The longer your business has been around, the better

EBITDA

The more profit you’re bringing in, the more attractive your business will be

Defensibility

Diversification

Diversified products

Diversified traffic sources

Different niches

Seasonal Items

Competition

The strong the competition, the more wary investors will be

Do you have any tips for determining profit and loss?

Profit and Loss Template – Use this spreadsheet to help determine how much money your are actually making.

It starts with your total sales and revenue. From there it takes out the cost of sales. This is your Amazon fees, packaging, shipping, etc. All the costs associated with selling that item. Then it takes your operational costs out. The is refunds, ads, web hosting, salaries and other drawings, etc. All the costs that are associated with running your business. In the end you’re left with your net revenue.

In regards to salaries and other drawing from your business, when it comes to selling the business you can add that back into your profits. The reason is that your investor might not want to draw anything from the business. So you want to present them with the profits including what you are drawing from it. Then they can decide what they want from it. If they are looking for an income, they can look at the net revenue and determine how much they can draw. If they are looking for growth, they might want to leave everything in and use that to grow the company.

If you don’t add back your salary, it makes it much more difficult for them to find it. You want to make it as easy as possible for your buyer.

#100 Adam Hudson on Amazon Basics Pt. 4

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more of Adam’s latest thinking HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#78 Selling an ecommerce business with Coran Woodmass – Part 2

Who would buy my business?

Typically, from about $20k to $2.5mil, you’re looking at individual investors. Above that, from $2.5 to $5 million there is a bit of a black hole because individual investors don’t have that kind of capital. Some do, but it’s rare. Above that $5 million mark your are looking at private equity firms and larger businesses.

Let’s talk about the $20k to $2.5 million. These individual investors’  primary driver is fear of loss. They don’t want to lose their investment. So they are looking for an ROI better that what they would get if they left it in a bank or mutual fund. Within this groups of investors, you have a few different types.

Retirees

Many of the buyers Coran worked with early this year, didn’t know anything about Amazon. They were former business people that have retired and got bored with brick-and-mortar businesses so they started buying up FBA businesses. This type of buyer has business experience, but may not be tech-savvy or have and understanding of online business. They will typically look for a business that have been around longer.

You may need to educate them on how easy it is to run an FBA business compared to something with staff, overhead, or property. You can offer support and virtual hand-holding until they can run the business themselves. You will also want to upfront about everything, good and bad, about your business because if they find something down the road, they will bolt faster than other types of investors. Like we said, they have that fear of loss.


Another thing you’ll want to do is create procedures. Write them out as if it’s for your grandmother. Stuff like writing out how to log in to seller central. If you have staff or contractors that can transfer to the new owners, that would be awesome. Also, if there is opportunity for discounts from your suppliers for larger purchases, have that as well.

Executives

You also have high-paid executives make $100-200k a year and are looking to replace their income so they can live a life of leisure.

Online Entrepreneurs

Another is actual online entrepreneurs and other FBA businesses that may have rolled other businesses for profit. They have a large pool of capital and are looking for a competitive advantage. They will be looking for ways to boost the business’ profit. Not only are they looking to get a better return than the bank, but are also looking to add value.

Should you have an idea of what kind of buyer you want when you start the business?

Keep the buyer types in mind, but don’t build your business around it. You would limit your buyer pool to one particular type. However, it would be very difficult to build your business so narrow as to limit it to one buyer type unless you built a massive business to appeal to private equity.

What are the main things that you would need across all buyers?

Writing procedures will always be a big help. Have your spouse of a friend, that doesn’t know anything about selling on Amazon, follow your procedure and see if they can do it. Get your staff to write procedures about what their doing.

Let’s say you have a business that’s a year old and you need to sell it, what is the best way to go about it? Should you sell to another Amazon business?

We discussed the gold standard before and how you need to have so many products, be defensible, diverse traffic, and age. As you fall short in different categories, that narrows the pool of buyers as well as lowers the value of your business.

As far as selling to another Amazon business, Coran hasn’t done that yet but it’s an interesting idea. Typically a strategic buyer will be willing to pay a premium because they will be looking to apply their expertise to the business and add value. However, most of the FBA businesses Coran deals with tend to struggle with cash-flow and have a hard time keeping up with inventory. So an Amazon business will have to be fairly large in order to have the capital need to make that purchase.

Also, if you open your business up to your competitors, it will give them an inside look into your business with could hurt you in the long-run.

How do you build a sensible barrier so you don’t give inside information to a competitor?

Coran only works with a handful of qualified buyers and sellers at a time. The buyers are legitimate. They have the cash and have typically bought before and if he brings them the right business then he knows they are buying.

The next level down depends on how you advertise your business. If you’re using a broker, you’ll need to talk to them. For Coran, if that initial buyer pool isn’t interested, but it’s still a good business, he go wider and tap into his network of classified sites and other brokers that may have buyers. In that case, they will talk among themselves trying to find buyers for that business. They keep the information out of the public space as much as possible.

How do you make a product more defensible?

One thing that’s helpful is to add more products to a packet. A recent sale he did was where they had twice the amount of items to package, their packaging was great. If you don’t skimp on the packaging and your brand is strong, it adds a layer of protection that someone will have to get past if they want to compete.

Is brand strength important when trying to sell a business?

Absolutely. Unless you can build out 50 or 100 products, which would take a ton of capital, you’ll need every advantage you can get.

Is intellectual property valuable when trying to sell?

Yes. Brand registry on Amazon is great. Having a patent or registered trademarks is very good. A patent is good because while expensive, and won’t increase the multiple that an investor is willing to go for, it will make it more attractive compared to other businesses. If a buyer is looking at three or four businesses they are trying to decide between, this may give you an edge to sway them towards your business.

Pro tip:

Research existing patents on your private label items. Coran spoke of someone that is looking to expand their product line but is now caught up in a patent lawsuit over a very basic item. If you sell your business, the buyer will be liable for the history of every item so they will definitely be looking into any patent infringements prior to buying. Also, if there is a lawsuit while your selling, any possible sales will be over. If is shortly after a sale and there is an earn-out deal, it will complicate things.

Earn-out deal:

When your selling a business with ongoing income, the multiple they paid is linked to that income. Often, to reduce the risk for the buyer, they will offer you 70% or 80% of the purchase price upfront. Then there will be an earn-out, which could mean different things. It might include 90 days of support, in which you help them run the business until they get a handle on it. Sometimes it will be linked to income, which is something Coran tries to avoid. He has seen earn-outs of up to 12 months. They might leave 10% to you in equity in order to keep you involved in running it.

Since you are, potentially, legally involved in the company for 3 to 12 months following the sale, you don’t want to sell something that violates patent laws.

What are the best ways to protect yourself and avoid having patent issues?

Considering the complexity of patents, and patent laws, the best thing you can do would be to hire an attorney that specializes in patents. It will cost money, but when it’s time to sell your business this is the best way to do it.

As an ongoing business there are some tools that can help you do a quick patent search, but noting can compare to hiring an expert.

How do I find a buyer?

The important thing, if you find a buyer, hire a lawyer. You’ll want to protect yourself from any issues.

You can use services like escrow.com. It’s a very popular service when dealing with these types of transactions.

Flippa.com – The downside is that all transactions are public. So you don’t want to use this with an indefensible private label business. Definitely not recommended. They do have a service called deal flow, which is semi-brokerage. The listings can be confidential and you have access to more buyers.

Empireflippers.com – Coran has worked with them in the past and is highly recommended.

There are individual brokers out there. There are websites that have websites listings, but only if you have a lot of time to invest in it.

Coran, admits he may be biased, but he says the best way to go is with a broker. The deal structures can get complicated and you want someone who is going to be personally vested in achieving a successful sale.

Let’s say I have a business that is doing $5000 in EBITDA profit, it’s got 5 customized products but not original design, and had been in business for two years. What kind of multiple will that get?

As far as any FBA sales is concerned, they range from 1-3x EBITDA. With this situation, err on the lower side of things. Probably expect 2x, and you can move up or down from there. Let’s say the products are equal in revenue and you’re getting sales from somewhere other than Amazon. In this scenario you’re looking at 2-2.5x EBITDA; that would translate to about $120,000 – $150,000. In this. we’re talking about USD since most buyers use the US dollar.

How does it work when selling a UK based company to someone in the US?

We only deal in asset sales. So the company is on top of that and what we’re selling is everything underneath that. That would be your products, your brand, you website, your actual inventory, the central seller account, etc.

A sidenote about the seller central account, you can’t sell it outright. What you can do is transfer it to a new owner. Amazon doesn’t like it if you claim to be selling the account. So you just transfer business information, addresses, in the US it would be the EIN etc.

Things can get difficult if it’s a UK seller. Many in the US will be out automatically so it’s easier to just sell it to a buyer in the UK. However, since it’s an asset sell, you can definitely sell to someone in the US. The one thing that can be affected by selling to someone in another country are your suppliers and contractors. You will need to make sure they are comfortable working with someone in a different country. Some may have terms, like 60-90 day terms that might not be transferable. So you will need to work that out with your supplier. This is can be avoided if your selling within the same country. If your supplier is in China or other parts of Asian, they’re used to dealing with foreign companies.

Since it’s more difficult to sell a UK based company, is it viable to build up a UK based business?

Coran is currently speculating in the UK, he’s trying to build connections with buyers in the UK. In his experience, it is very limited since most buyers are in the US. If you want to build a UK business to sell, it will be difficult.

If you have a business that sells in the US and the UK, can you sell all of it or would you need to split it and sell the US business to a US buyer and hang on to the UK wing?

If you have a foothold in the US, even if it’s not the bulk of your sales, it will attract more US buyers so you would want to sell it all together.

What’s working well right now with Amazon businesses that are selling well?

Coran refers back to the gold standard. Being more defensible, have more products that are unique. People are becoming more familiar with the business model and are looking for where you are beyond Amazon.

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

thefbabroker.com

Make sure to get the toolbox Coran set up exclusively for Amazing FBA listeners at thefbabroker.com/amazing. Also, take advantage of his off to have a one-on-one chat that is only available via this link.

Do you have any parting words of advice for anyone who is considering selling their Amazon business or building one to sell?

Read The Snowball. It’s about Warren Buffet and talks about business and who’s buying and how to be defensible.

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#52 Working out UK Import Duty, Using Amazon Inbound Shipping – Q & A Tuesday no. 5

#52 Q and A Tuesday no. 5

Q1 : ANILA: For products coming from China to UK, how do you work out the duty value to put on the boxes to estimate for the taxes? Not a VATable product

MICHAEL:  Basis for duty is Commercial invoice value = Manufacture cost plus freight (if your supplier is handling freight, it will probably be on the same document). AKA Total Landed Cost (TLC). Then put that value into the dutycalculator website. 

Any freight experts here, please feel free to correct and or refine this statement.

If you are using a Freight Forwarder or even just a Customs broker, obviously ask them how it works and check any nuances for your own product.

Q2: BEN: Hi gang! Thanks for your help with my previous question. Here’s another one. I’ll shortly be sending my first delivery to Amazon. I haven’t finished the ‘send/replenish inventory’ section on seller central yet (as I’m not ready to send yet), but when i am, I presume I’ll end up on a page that tells me how to organise delivery with one of Amazon’s preferred carriers?

Otherwise…the Amazon help pages aren’t very helpful in detailing how I actually get my stuff from my house to their warehouse! I understand that amazon’s preferred carriers offer discounts for going to amazon…which I presume I book through seller central, rather than parceforce.com, for example.

MICHAEL:  Yes that’s right. Amazon’s preferred carrier is just the one, UPS. They give Amazon amazing shipping rates. Something like £1 a kg or less. Get a quote at the Post office or from a courier yourself and you’ll realise how cheap they are.

STUART: Unless, I have missed something but my experience of using Amazon’s preffered carrier, UPS, only applies when shipping from within a particular country.

For example, rates are fantastic when shipping from UK to FBA in the UK. However, when shipping from UK to FBA in the US, there are no special rates. I have found using Transglobalexpress to be very competitive, and they use UPS as well as other carriers.

MICHAEL:  Thanks for the hint, Stuart. May I ask why you’re shipping UK to US in the first place? Is it sending stock from UK you already have here in order to test the market for that product in the US?

STUART: That’s correct. I merchant fulfill in UK, and have sent stock to US FBA to test market.

Q. 3 BEN: Guys, I’d be interested in your take on this idea. Especially MICHAEL:  after the last two podcasts… I have heard some stories of people sending off their branding to suppliers to get branded samples, and then when they choose another supplier, the un successful suppliers have gone and made stuff with heir branding and sold it on to other people, or just gone ahead and stuck it on Amazon themselves.

What are your thoughts on getting samples made with ‘test’ branding. e.g. my branding with watermarks over the top. That way I can still see the quality of the printing/branding process and can still see roughly what my branding looks like, but I’m protected…

MICHAEL:  thanks for raising this point. A few thoughts:

yes that is a danger. It does happen.

Firstly, short-term, nobody really cares about your brand yet. So I wouldn’t over worry about it yet.

However, I like your idea in that you are testing the quality of printing but protecting your brand.

For that matter, if all you want to see is the quality of printing, you could use a different brand altogether!

But The only thing I would say is that by doing this, if you decide to go ahead with a supplier, you probably should get another sample done with your actual logo. Which will delay the process.

You could just trust them to do it well and get it done, I guess.

Overall, I’m basically in favour of your approach.

However, I would say this: I’m not sure how much back and forth you’re doing with Suppliers with samples. But it is really important in the PL market now it’s so crowded to move fast when you spot an opportunity in the market.

SO for speed, I would get my 2-3 samples from suppliers upfront without worrying about branding. Just check out the quality of the product. That should take max 7 days from order to having it in your hand.

Then choose a supplier on the back of that.

If you want to then check the quality of the printing of logos etc from your chosen supplier at THAT point, I would then order a proper sample with your real logo. Unless they really mess that up, I’m going to place an order. If there are minor defects, I’ll have them correct it and then send me photos of the corrected sample.

Then get the order placed and in manufacture

Please understand: There is nearly ALWAYS a trade off between speed and quality.

Yes, it’s good to have a professional process in place and yes you should protect your brand (reputation) and IP (Intellectual Property).

However, if it takes you 6 months to get to market with a good, but not amazing product, which is frankly pretty much the same as everyone else’s, the competition will often have killed off the profit in that market.

You’re better off getting your good but not great product to market, learn about the realities of trying to sell, listing optimization, handling Adwords etc etc and get some feedback from customers.

You may then simply choose

  1. to abandon that product, if quality is too low or it’s not profitable OR
  2. you could go back to your supplier and customise the product in response to customer

3, or if quality and sales and profit are all good, just go back and reorder!

Either way, you get MOMENTUM. Do not underestimate the importance of this.

“Money Loves Speed”. Quality, sadly, does not.

An eternal conundrum. My advice (as a perfectionist): “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good”

Good luck .

BEN:

Thanks for the excellent and in depth response – it really is appreciated.

I have decided that this week I’ll be sending a ‘test’ version of my branding to three suppliers for samples. I expect to get them in 7-10 days, and then I’ll trust the best one to go ahead with the first full order using the real branding.

My ‘test’ version is close enough to my ‘real’ version that I’ll know what it looks like from the sample (it’s basically my branding with a ‘test’ watermark over the top, but in such a way that they can’t remove it’.

MICHAEL: Sounds perfect, good process. I like the thinking.

BEN: Only issue now is finding the guy who is going to design my packaging…wink emoticon

MICHAEL:  By the way, don’t assume that the Chinese will care about the watermark. If they spot a product that will sell, they will be interested. Period. Part of doing business in China. Yes protect your IP to a degree, plus make it clear in your paperwork that they are not allowed to use it. But then you’ve done what you can in practice. Then move on!

Also don’t spend much money on design before you know if the products are worth selling.

First check the sample quality before you invest time money or energy in it.

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