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149 How to Become a Wholesaler with Manuel Becvar Part 3 of 3

How to Become a Wholesaler

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.

Approach Local Retailers

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.

Go to Exhibitions

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.

Build Your Catalog

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.

Immense Potential

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.

148 Building a Brand with Manuel Becvar Part 2 of 3

Building a Brand Off-Amazon

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.

Off-Amazon Sales Channel

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.

Shopify

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. 

147 Social Media Strategy with Manuel Becvar Part 1 of 3

Importance of a Social Media Strategy

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.

Return on Investment

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.

Immediate ROI

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.

Long Term Approach

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.

Finding Your Audience

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.

Google Trends and Facebook Ads

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.

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#53 China Sourcing for Amazon: Keep money safe, Quality Control and Freight – with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo – Part 2 of 2

(Part 1 of this interview for more from Manuel)

#53 Manuel Becvar interview – part 2 of 2:

How do you keep your money safe?

When you place order, tell them you’ll send an inspection team when 80% of production is finished, you’ll have to redo the goods and pay for the reinspection, and you’re not getting the rest of the money until the inspection is passed.

So never do 100% upfront payments; always pay 30% upfront, 70% when the goods are passed. 

Even if you just order $1000, please get an inspection; there are companies that will do an inspection with a 20 page report for $100 for one man-day, eg Trigo  if it’s simple. They send someone to factory and send report. 

Others are more like $300 for one man day eg Asian inspection for difficult products like electronics. But no use for say a comb or a brush.

How do you approach Quality Control for electronics particularly? The advice famously is to avoid electronics from China. [I had about 10% defect rate]

Manuel has 17 years’ experience in electronics, knows what certificates are needed and which components to inspect. He doesn’t recommend it as 1st or 2nd product.
But just get certificates, experts in electronics inspection. There is a higher defect rate – Manuel’s is about 4%. Lots of customers just don’t know how to deal with electronics, so they often send it back even though it’s working perfectly.

Is there a way to reduce defect rates?
Take reviews and customer complaints – Speak to supplier – 5/10 of reviews have this issue, can you improve on this? Also speak to inspection company and have them focus on those issues in future inspections.  

But Manuel does all this and still has 4% defect rate. Anything below 5% is okay  in electronics. Above that, consider abandoning the product.

FREIGHT

Air freight vs air courier -what’s the difference?

Air courier means someone like DHL, UPS, Fedex etc. They have special customs clearance channel and they handle the whole process for you. So it’s more expensive. An “All in” solution – where to pick up, where to deliver.

Air freight is same process but it’s usually a logistics company that works with big airlines e.g. China Airlines. There is more paperwork involved and you need to be involved. You need a customs bond, you are the ultimate consignee. You need to know the process.

Manuel has had rates for air courier of $4 /kg and for air freight of $2.30/kg so it can be a $2 difference.

Simplest solution is to ask the supplier about air courier or freight. Or ask their freight forwarder. Give them USA/UK address, tell them you need duties/import taxes upfront.
If supplier has no Freight Forwarder, just look on Alibaba or Google.

If you have to do DDU [Delivered Duty Unpaid], how do you avoid problems?

Suppliers usually have no idea how to deal with freight etc. – they are experts at manufacturing. Manuel works with a Freight Forwarding company DDP [Delivered Duty Paid]-it’s all in. They pick up at factory, they ship it direct to Amazon. He doesn’t get involved in customers clearance or amazon pickup appointments.

In the beginning he had to explain how to book appointments with Amazon.

So you ship direct to Amazon?

Yes. Always directly from China to Amazon warehouse.

What do you do about damage to packaging from Air Freight?

It’s a small %age. Always put a label saying “Fragile, handle with care” – this helps.

How did you train your Freight Forwarder?
They are based in Shenzhen head office. They knew how to deliver to USA -but they had never delivered to Amazon. Manuel chose based on price and helpfulness but had to train them in delivering to Amazon.  He gave them a clear workflow. After 2nd order, no more hiccups. 

So you don’t want someone who doesn’t know about exporting to USA?

True. If you can find someone with great price and knows about delivery to Amazon, even better.  Manuel recommends Dolphin Logistics, based in Shenzhen. Reach out to Manuel if you want more info.

How did you get $2.30/kg air freight price?

$6 for air courier is average. Manuel gets good prices because he ships 28 m3 a month!

To make it simple, give your air freight forwarders a clear business process. Tell them they need to deal with Customs brokers and make appointments with Amazon.

They can set up a Vendor Express account with Amazon to set up appointments (they can’t just turn up at an Amazon warehouse!)

How do you send inventory direct to Amazon from China? I guess you save money with intermediate steps but what are the risks and how to you mitigate them?
Manuel thinks  it can all be done cheaper in China. Get them to put FNSKU barcode on inner packaging, prepare cartons according Amazon requirements e.g. size, send them the shipping labels from Amazon seller central and you’re good to go.

If you have more than 20 cartons, the supplier needs to palletise the boxes in China, otherwise Amazon will give you a hard time!  If you have fewer, it’s okay for Floor Loading.

How else can you speed up your supply chain?

Don’t take care of the details yourself. If you have 10-15 products and have customer service, taking photos, etc etc – outsource everything you can to inexpensive VAs.

Focus on growing your business:  

  • New products
  • Optimising listings. 
  • New eCommerce Channels
  • Retail! Go to local store and ask if they want say 50 units.

Tell us more about expanding business – selling to retailers

Manuel actually started own business selling to retailers (through his time in HK) because he just thought Amazon was another eBay. It’s easier to start on Amazon, built a brand, built a reputation for products then reach out to retailers, DIY stores etc etc to sell wholesale.

Any other tips on the best way to approach retailers?

Start locally. Look into smaller importers that set to big brands at an exhibition & approach local distributors. If you can’t go physically go to exhibitions, go to exhibition websites and check then names of companies that exhibit, check them out and email them!

“My name is X, this is my brand, I’m importing direct from China, are you interested in buying?”
  

Are there other ways other than unique products and high quality to protect your brand against competition?

One thing is to have Amazon brand registry. Other than that, be better in terms of quality. Don’t give the competition grounds to attack you – quality, customer service – try to be an awesome company. Even if first few months not highly profitable, eventually it will pay off.

What is your prediction for competition in the next year or two? How do we protect ourselves?
Manuel had 6 enquiries last month in his sourcing company for a product that everyone is selling! Nobody has any imagination, it seems!

Be unique, have expertise in your product and be creative. Yes, competition is increasing but so is the market – Amazon has 51% of the (USA) online sales. There will always be a customer for [good] products. The USA population is about 300 million people!

CONTACT

How can listeners find out more about you or learn more from you?

Go to importdojo.com – there is a contact us page – or email [email protected].

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3

#51 Using Amazon Suppliers & Building Quality products with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo – Part 1 of 2

   This episode, #51, is the first of two parts of the interview with Manuel Becvar of Import Dojo. Manuel has 11 years’ experience of sourcing in Hong Kong and China and also is an Amazon seller with several product lines live and selling well. 

EPISODE 51 SHOW NOTES

What took you to Hong Kong?

Went there for a 6 month internship  for an Austrian electronics firm in 2005. He was handling sourcing from suppliers. He fell in love with the city and a woman and never left!

He loved the drive and opportunities of Hong Kong. Very expensive but great place to live.

Do you also sell on Amazon?

Yes since August 2014. Also documented launching a whole brand. He currently has 7 products and 10 more coming in the next few months.

He’s focussed on getting after 3-5 categories in different categories. He launched then stopped a few more.  He has several businesses which were more of a priority till now.

What are they?

  1. Selling on amazon
  2. Sourcing company in hong kong for amazon sellers.
  3. A consulting and import course, step by step guide to import from china and sell on amazon but also sell to retail.

He started out with a consumer electronics brand, selling to retailers in Europe under own brand and their own brand, but also now on Amazon. Now Manuel is focussing on his own Amazon business as it is really picking up.

Tell me about stopping a product?

He used to sell smart phone accessories but then the prices got so low there was not much profit. Electronics can be very competitive.

What’s your process for selecting products? What are your selection criteria? Do you go by the numbers of individual products? Or build a brand in a niche?

Manuel is more old fashioned, doesn’t use Jungle Scout or ASIN inspection so much. He subscribes to relevant product websites. newsletters, goes to trade shows. Also looks at Kickstarter and Indigogo for product concepts.

Manuel doesn’t look into creating a huge brand in one category. Tries out one product in a niche e.g. coffee press. If that takes off, build into that niche. If not, don’t go into say grinders, filters etc. 

Coffee press now selling about 20 a day.

How do you  beat the competition?

you need to stand out to beat the competition.  Tries not to copy the competition. This is his approach. Will Tjernlund does copy the competition, but Manuel is more interested in creating unique products and building a brand.

How can we make a product unique in a simple way?

Example 1: Blue tooth speaker-

The sample looked bad, plastic finish, bad sound, packaging horrible. 

The finish rubber instead of plastic was 20 cents more but immediately looked better.  Then looked at components, sound was bad, different driver sounded much better and cost just 50 cents more.  Used photographer to get better photos. 

He turned a $10  product into a $30 product but only cost him $2 more.

Focus on finish, minor improvements etc.

Example 2 – Coffee Press

There are  lots of stainless steel finishes, but no copper finish.  So Manuel had that done and added in extra filters etc.

Look at the little things you can change.

Tell us about working with suppliers. What’s the best way to approach your supplier about this?

Introduce yourself including company presentation –

Create an excel file or word doc about the product- include bullet points, this is where it’s at, this is what i want instead. 

Also point out that if you improve the product, they will make more sales with other customers as well. so they are more willing to make changes with costs.

So you’re not trying to get an exclusive deal with them?

Amazon sellers are mostly a small part of a suppliers’ business. if Manuel does say $10,000 a year he’s a very small fish. that may be 0.5% of their turnover if you work with a big factory (this is true for his own coffee press. They also work with Tesco’s who order $1m a year)

How do you get an exclusive deal for amazon rights?

He has set up an agreement with the Purchase Order which says – “My plan is to order 10,000 units. Are you willing to give me exclusivity for a year. If I don’t reach 5000 units within 6 months, we can cancel this agreement. “

This give Manuel 6 months to figure out if he wants to place more orders and it means the supplier can make more profit too after 6 months. 

Manuel is okay with that because he would have a head start, maybe 100-200 reviews already. It’s okay to have competition. It’s not all about one item only.

Manuel is happy if he can do 6 months of excellent sales on one product. That repays the time and money invested already. 

Greg Mercer was saying if you get 6 months’ head start, you can defend your product against competition. So you agree with that?

Yes, that does work.

Where do you go to look for suppliers?

Manuel has collected over 1000 business cards for suppliers from previous job being a product manager, when he went to China every 2 weeks.

Manuel also works with a lot of trading companies. He will sometimes be willing to pay say 50 cents more and use a trading company, similar to agent. Some of them work as if you are working with factory, for example if factory doesn’t speak English, don’t know about country requirements eg CE (European Union), FCC (USA), FDA (Food & Drug Administration, USA) approval, doesn’t have experience exporting to a country, etc., etc.

So working with a trading company can make a lot of sense.

Alibaba and Global Sources Manuel does use if he can’t find anyone through his network – you can verify and vet the suppliers. You can still vet them by checking their certificates, asking who they work with,  Which markets they export to etc.

For example, If Manuel asks “where do you export to?” and they say, “Middle East” and you want to export to USA, don’t bother. He wants a supplier

It’s also good to know a few names in the industry eg small supermarket or worked with an Amazon seller before. Check business certificate.

What are the big does and don’ts for selecting a supplier? Assuming Alibaba, Global Sources or HKTDC and someone who is new to the process.

There is a lot of filtering you can do. e.g. a microwave on Alibaba, filter by Gold Supplier, trade assurance, 3rd party verification.

You can also filter by region – say 10 different provinces of China.

Let’s say Guangdong have 5000 suppliers and another has just 10. That shows you where the main factories are for this kind of product.

If a region specialises in making those products, they have the resources and the infrastructure.

Say in Jeijung province, with 10 supplier results, they probably don’t specialise in that.

There are many other filters you can use.

Send out enquiries to 10 suppliers. 3 or 4 get back to Manuel with and answer all his to Qs

Email out “vendor profile”,  asking for:

  • 2 customer references for customers
  • markets. Has he exported to this country before?
  • business certificates, and certificates for prods
  • no workers; when company established; annual turnover.
  • do they do R & D? Have their own engineers? how many product lines?

You get a gut feeling after a while.

This is included in import dojo ebook as a downloadable document.

Import Dojo is actually a 60-page book which is a bestseller on Amazon! It is free at the company’s site. 

 What’s next in your process?

Get a soft copy of any certificates needed – prove he has it!

IF that’s okay, then ask for a sample from at least 2-3 suppliers. Same process with all suppliers.  If all samples are equal, go with most responsive/proactive and helpful supplier, even if price is a little higher. Then place an order. 

So you’re okay with higher prices?

They need to make profit too, they work hard. The factory will be business partner, it should be a fair biz relationship. As long as profit is built into your price, it’s fine to pay a little bit more.

If you have individualised products and with good product price, you can afford
If you’re building a brand, if you squeeze in cheap products, it won’t help. 

I guess it depends on whether you have customised products vs. commoditised products sold en masse?

Yes, I’m building a brand, so selling cheap products to make a quick buck is not part of my strategy.

What is the best tip for negotiating on product price once you have verified that the quoted price is in the fair region? Should simple customisations really cost that much more?

There shouldn’t really be a big difference. Unless the supplier has to invest money into a new tool or a new mould. If it’s just a colour difference, it shouldn’t be much.

To find if it’s reasonable, ask at least 3 suppliers for a quote. IF one is way off on price, he’s either incompetent or trying to rip you off!

To contact Manuel, click here for the Import Dojo contact page.

NEXT EPISODE

In Episode #52, Manuel gives details on keeping your money safe, getting quality control for Electronic Products, simple ways to start with Freight, overall process and predictions for the future of Amazon. Stay tuned!

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