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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.

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#88 Merch by Amazon with Chris Green – Part 1


Chris Green, Merch by Amazon expert How did you get into Merch by Amazon? What’s your background?

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.

What is “Merch by 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.

What Makes Merch by Amazon better than alternatives like “T-Spring”?

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.

Can you really make $8 on a product and not put in any of your own money?

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.

Tell us more about the structure. How do the percentages work?

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.

Is there a separate platform for sellers or is it bundled in with Seller Central?

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,

Is it just t-shirts?

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.

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125 How KLT Can Win You Customers Again and Again…

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.

Understanding Markets

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?

KLT: Know, Like, Trust

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.

Know

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.

Like

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.

Trust

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.

Using this Principle on Amazon

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.

Long-Term Strategy

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.

123 Are your products beautiful?

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.”

#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!

#99 Adam Hudson on Amazon Basics Pt. 3

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.

You can LOOK HERE For more detailed training from Adam. 

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)

#98 Adam Hudson of Reliable Education on Amazon Basics Pt. 2

Get Adam’s Latest thoughts HERE

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.

For more details, CLICK HERE

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 )

#89 Why Amazon Got Me Up Early This Morning

Part of the “Summer Episodes”

This quick episode tells you why Amazon got me up early this morning. I’m not going to tell you why here – you’ll have to listen!

This episode is one of the **Summer Series** of bite-sized chunks of Amazon Strategic Goodness!

#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.

#76 Importing to USA, Brand Building & Email followup: Q & A Tuesday No. 12

Q 1 Corinne

First, I am not an American but want to sell [on] Amazon.com

I have sent a few small packages to Amazon FBA.

There was no issue at all until I started sending 15 cartons.

When I sent this 15 cartons, I don’t have Federal tax ID number.

Thereby I needed to spend US$ 500 to have freight forwarder to help me.

Then I tried 8 cartons through DHL which declared $1200 for the customs. However, it is still got rejected by the customs.

It seems FEIN is required if i want to ship my inventory to FBA.

I am not trying to escape any tax issues, but to get a FEIN number, I would need a legal address in US. I am not in US.

How do you guys deal with this?

A freight forwarder isn’t the same as a Customs Broker in the USA. Some companies do both, like Western Overseas Corporation. But it sounds like what you need is a Customs Broker.

You shouldn’t need a US address to get an EIN as a foreign entity (person or company). But if you need one (you do need a returns address for amazon or should at least have one), google. I used myaddressus.com – pretty cheap.

If you send in goods over the value of $2500, it’s a formal import so you’ll need a customs bond etc. At that point, I would use a Customs Broker, at least for the first time. That’s not the case here, but worth flagging up for future reference. 

Q2 Ben

Here is my newbie experience post #3. So I’ve been selling for about 3 weeks in the UK. Where am I?

I picked a great product. It’s flying off the cyber-shelves. I am about ½ way up page 1 for all my main keywords. I told myself to be ‘happy’ with 5 units a day. I was averaging 10-12 units per day, but have increased my price and now average 7-8 units per day. I have had days of 10+ including a day of 16 units. These are not giveaways, all giveaways were done in the first week. So why did I increase the price?

This first ‘test run’ was 500 units. At the current rate, I’m going to run out quickly. So I’m trying to find the balance between maintaining sales, and not running out of inventory. Am still undercutting some competitors at the current price, but also more expensive than some others.

I believe the reasons it’s going well so far are:

1. Branding. My brand is easily one of the coolest, and as I expand I’ll grow as a brand, rather than as “Bob’s generic stuff” which several of my competitors are doing

2. Social media. Many ‘gurus’ say – avoid social media until you are well established on Amazon. This is not a good move, in my opinion. I have an active twitter and Instagram account, and a new facebook page. OK I haven’t got many followers, but t’s growing and I’m getting a bit of engagement.

3. Branding. I said it again because it’s so important. Branding is everything. Cool brands get bought. Generic crap doesn’t.

Comments

Alex  You are doing well, but don’t talk about brand building. People don’t care. You drive them in your page and they just see information, reviews and price. Just set Ppc automatic. If doesn’t work move on.

Suzi I love to hear that you are growing a strong brand, and that you understand and appreciate how important it is. I cringe so hard when I hear people say your branding doesn’t matter…nothing can be further from the truth. Have you had any issues with counterfeits hopping on your listing(s)?

My response: it depends! 

If you just want to make sales on Amazon short-term (say next 6 months), I think it’s true that brand doesn’t matter much. Initially, customers will not have heard of your brand yet, and they mostly go with good images and price. Also, it is not realistic to expect Amazon to cross-sell your products even if they are in the same niche.

However, if you want to create a defensible business to later sell, you definitely need to create a brand. Also, even if you’re never planning to sell, if you want to create a Shopify store, to diversify and lower the risk of Amazon controlling your business,  you will need to develop a focussed suite of products. If you have multiple niches, you can develop multiple brand sites, but each one needs some unity for credibility.

Also if you do well, medium term even on Amazon, people can start searching for your brand or pay slightly higher prices for it, as long as you have lots of reviews by that stage.

Q3 David

EMAIL OPTIMIZATION: Hey Everyone…just a quick question regarding your post-purchase email autoresponder sequences. I am currently getting 8% and 9% conversion rates for feedback and reviews, respectively. I would like to increase this and was thinking of shortening each email to make more mobile friendly. Have any of you tested the length of copy an how this alters conversions? Thanks!

First of all, if you’re getting 8-9% conversion, you’re doing well. Average for most people I’ve spoken to about this (which was a while ago) was 5%, as it was for me last time I checked.

Regarding testing, I don’t know whether for example Feedback Genius or Salesbacker will do this for you automatically. I use a different system so I don’t think I have that option.

If you want to do it manually, then make sure you test a significantly statistically meaningful number. So I would be inclined to run three variations, one shorter and one longer, and I would try each of them for about 100 sales each.

Re. email follow-up sequences more broadly, I use three emails. Currently the 1st only offers help and a PDF and says thanks/please get in touch if any issues although Kevin King asks “why did you buy the product” which I may change to going forward.

The 2nd, after ben Cummings’s approach, asks the buyer to just hit REPLY and let me know why s/he bought the product. Similar to Kevin King but after the product has arrived. Only a small %age do but you do get replies in my experience.

THe 3rd then asks for Seller Feedback, which I can then follow up on and ask to be changed to review if it ends up being about the product. It’s a filtering mechanism.

THe point of the 2nd email is that if someone replies to that, they feel more obliged to follow through after the 3rd and actually write a review.

In David’s case, I’d be inclined not to mess with what is working too much but tweak it eg longer/shorter.

Or you could change the 1st email in the sequence. Or the 3rd. Test both variations and let us know!