"Build" Guide - how to Build your Private Label Business
It’s more than just growing your business on Amazon. You have to actively contact and cold call retailers in order to sell your products. It’s the next step in the process. You’ve sold on Amazon, you’ve diversified through other channels, and you’ve built up your brand. If you want to become a wholesaler, you have to take the time to build your brand. It’s not an overnight task. It takes a lot of time to build a brand.
It might not be a good idea to start large chains like Tesco or Wal-Mart. The better idea would be to find a smaller one in your area. Make contact with the owner or decision maker, and set up a presentation where you can make a pitch on your products. A fallback would be to create a PDF that goes over all the information. You can them email the document to them and follow up a few days later with a phone call.
You may not have the money to get a booth or a stand, but you can go as a guest. You can find local retails and get their contact information. Then you can send them an email and PDF where you talk about your company and make a pitch. One vital aspect, in order to become a wholesaler, is making these connections.
You can’t go to these retailers and sell some generic widget. It needs to be unique. It also helps to have several products in your catalog before you become a wholesaler. Bear in mind that even though it may take a year or two for your wholesale business to get going, the payoff happens when retailer orders tens of thousands of products at once.
The great thing about wholesale is the potential. It really is possible to to do great things with it. Whether you want to do it to make some extra income or make it into a large operation. Manuel has done this. He currently does about $300,000 on Amazon, and close to $1.5 million in wholesale. When you factor in his consulting and sourcing income, he is making around $2.5 million a year. The potential is there if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Get in touch with Manuel at importdojo.com and get a free eBook and newsletter.
As we discussed in the previous episode, building a brand away from Amazon is a very good idea.
Amazon owns you and your listing. They control everything. They can suspend your account at anytime. If you sell exclusively on Amazon, that puts you in a difficult situation. It’s a good idea to have multiple selling channels. That way, if any one goes down for whatever reason, you have other sources of income. Amazon only accounts for about 20 – 30% of Manuel’s income. Now, if something happens to his Amazon account, it wouldn’t shut down his business.
Another reason for building a brand is that Amazon is a race to the bottom on pricing. If you come up with a new product, in a couple months a lot of sellers have copied it and now everyone is lowering prices to get sales. If you have your own ecommerce site or wholesale, you can dictate the prices as long.
When building a brand, there are several options when it comes to other sales channels. There is jet.com where you can signup to be a third-party seller. Wal-Mart recently bought them for $3.3 billion. You can also sign up to be a third party seller on walmart.com. When it comes to these these third-party selling routes, it’s important to bear in mind that it may take awhile to be ungated. For those in the UK, you can use tesco.com. The downside to these platforms is that you are still a third-party that is subject to Wal-Mart or Jet or Tesco, etc.
The best security would be owning the platform with Shopify. That way you control everything. It takes a lot more work than with Amazon as you don’t have the benefit of them shipping everything. However, the big issue is getting traffic. You can always find people on Amazon, but getting them to come to your site takes work, like all aspects of building a brand.
You have to work on SEO in order to be found. One strategy is to go to other sites where your target audience is. You can find forums or go to Reddit and talk to people that are interested in your category. For example, Manuel is selling VR products so he goes to a Reddit forum about VR and talks to people about a new headset Samsung is releasing. This can drive traffic to your Shopify store which will help your Google rank.
Ads are another way to boost rank and drive traffic. Google or Bing as are effective. You can use Facebook ads for conversion and email signup; not so much for selling products.
It can be more expensive and it takes a lot of work. But if you have good content, good SEO and traffic you can easily rank on page 1 or 2 of Google. That is building a brand that has visibility on the most powerful website on the planet: Google.
Today on the show we have Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo. As Will Tjernlund mentioned during his interview, Amazon wants to increase their own private label operation. As Amazon become a larger competitor, you’ll want to establish your brand off-Amazon. Once you have a strong audience, this will not only help you sell more on Amazon, but give you the leverage you need if you wanted to sell on other channels. An important step to this, is creating a social media strategy.
There are differing opinions on social media. Some people say it’s a complete waste of time while others say it’s the cornerstone of their business. Social media can be a huge driver of traffic for your listings. When creating a brand, it’s important not to overlook the critical component that is social media.
It’s understandable that people may think that social media is a complete waste of time. You’re not going to get instant results. You won’t see anything in a couple months. However, if you stick with your social media strategy, and keep building your social media presence, you will start to see in impact in a year or two. Manuel Becvar doesn’t run PPC ads anymore because of the success of the success of his social media platform. Now he can take the money he would have spent on ads, and use it on continuing to build on social media, and put it into his products.
You will have to invest in your social media. Whether that’s you putting in time, or paying someone to do it. Either way you decide to do it will still be beneficial. Even if you’re paying someone to put out content every week, you will still make more from sales than you would have if you put that money into ads.
If you’re creating a brand, then you might not have the audience for it to make much difference. However, you can always outsource it. There are sites, like Famebit, that will bring you together with influencers. These are people have have very large following on social media. You write up a campaign and get offers from different people. They will then review your product and send it out to there tens of thousands of followers. This can drive 2000 – 3000 people to your Amazon listings. Manuel Bacvar estimates that this led to 60 -70 additional sales in the first week. Well worth the $500 he spent on it because he wouldn’t have gotten that kind of return with PPC.
You could even contact them directly. If you go on social media and look up people that have a large audience and send them a message. This will let you target those that would buy your product.
As much as we all love to get a quick turnaround on our investments, you have to understand that your social media strategy takes time. Again, you can outsource this if you’d like. You can hire people to run your social media accounts and they will post new content weekly and maintain it.
There are a few techniques you or your VA can do to help grow your audience. The first step, obviously, is to post regular content. You need to be posting at least once a week on most platforms. Go onto other accounts that target the same audience to post similar content and follow their followers. The idea is that once you follow them, they will look at your content and will be more likely to follow you since they are already following a similar account.
When planning your social media strategy, it’s important to target the right people. One way to do that is to target people that have purchased your products. This way you know they are interested in the category you’re selling in.
Manuel has grown his mailing list to over 800 subscribers in 2 ½ years. It’s very simple. As we all know, we need to put information in the packaging. This way we can encourage buyers to leave a review on Amazon, or to contact us, rather than Amazon, if they have an issue. Manuel goes a bit further and offers an additional 6 month warranty if they signup for his newsletter. His products are all coffee based. So now he has over 800 people that he can market to, who are also willing to buy coffee related products. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be a warranty. If you sell kitchen supplies you could offer a recipe ebook. You could simply offer a discount on their next purchase if they subscribe.
You can use Google Trends to help you build an audience as part of your social media strategy. You can look up your keywords and find out where they are popular. Then you can buy Facebook ads targeting those locations. So if you’re looking up hiking and you find that people in Manchester search hiking a lot, you can buy Facebook ads targeting Manchester.
Facebook ads are really good at building your audience and a following. They are effective if the user doesn’t have to buy something right away. So they aren’t useful for directing people to your Amazon listing, but if you direct them to your site and have great content, then they will be more likely to buy your product.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The longer your business has been around, the better
The more profit you’re bringing in, the more attractive your business will be
Diversified traffic sources
The strong the competition, the more wary investors will be
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.
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.