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299 Time Management for Amazon Entrepreneurs – 7 Tips from Tim Ferriss

I often find that irony in that a lot of time management systems and advice is that they take a lot of time. So I’m going to keep it brief. The tips in this episode are from Tim Ferris’ The Four Hour Work Week.

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246 Self-Motivation for Amazon Sellers

Today we’re talking productivity and self-motivation. Momentum is a physical metaphor. When you set yourself in motion, you’ll remain in a state of motion. Motivation is what gets you in motion to begin with.

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127 Why Email is Killing Your Amazon Business

Today, I want to talk to you about focus and your use of your time. Everyone in this business seems to go through this same things: overwhelm. I did a whole series on this that you can find here:

  1. #73 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 1
  2. #74 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm – Part 2 – Energy
  3. #75 Prioritising Tasks – Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part – 3

However, today I want to talk about the biggest time-suck in your life, which is email. Email is one of those things that seems like a productive use of your time, and if you worked in a corporate environment, or still do, you can relate to this. Email is one of the most common things in everybody’s life. For many people it’s the first thing you do in the morning.  You go through your email with your coffee when you wake up. If this is you, STOP.

Take Control of Your Agenda

If the first thing that you do in the morning is work on emails, whose agenda are you following for your time? Not yours. I’d say it’s being set by the people that have emailed you which could be anyone.

If you think that your boss or your clients won’t be understanding, then maybe, you can prioritise them and only them by filtering your inbox. Though, I’m not entirely convinced that you have to respond to them by 9 am. However, if you do, them schedule a time for that rather than react to the email coming in.

Chances are though, you could get away with answering emails twice a day. 11 am is usually early enough for most emails; then again at 4 pm. If this makes you uncomfortable and you’re worried you may miss something important, put it in your signature. Let them know that you don’t read emails often and offer an alternative way of contacting you if it can’t wait. Let them know that they can contact you on your mobile. Now, don’t put your mobile number in the email. The people that will need to contact you via mobile with have it. You don’t want to get a bunch of random calls throughout your day. That would defeat the purpose.

The purpose is to take control of your time. By limiting your time spent on email and limiting who has access to your attention, you are able to plan your day as you see fit rather than being bombarded by random conversations that make it impossible to focus.

Limit Social Media

Another thing that people do is check Facebook obsessively. Personally, despite have a lot of Facebook friends because of the podcast, I don’t get on Facebook much. Giving credit to Tim Ferriss of the 4-Hour-Workweek, we don’t increase productivity by adding things but rather by removing them.

What this Means for Your Amazon Business

The number one productivity killer is email. If you are letting it take over your life, stop right there. If you are looking for a specific email, say from a supplier, that will help move your business forward, then order your inbox by the “From” field rather than “Date”. That way you can look for a specific person rather than being saturated with all the emails you have received recently.

Another time-trap with email is when you are trying to compose a message to go out. Obviously, you have to go into an email system to do this and then get sucked into your inbox. What I have begun to do is draft the email outside of the system. I will go into notes or notepad and compose it there.

If you are going to be sending similar emails to different people then make sure you are using templates. This does two things. It creates a standardized process so your are simply doing copy, paste, send, rather than typing it up every time. It also keeps you off the email system. So you pull up the template, then dump it into the email system rather than spending too much time in your email.

Don’t Use You Inbox as a To-Do List

Some people use their inbox as a to-do. Their messages are a list of task to be done. If that’s you, don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Instead, make a separate list. During your scheduled email time, make a list of what needs to be done. Use the previous day’s emails to create your to-do list for today.

Take Control

Schedule time to check your email and never make it the first thing you do. Have your own set of priorities that you need to work on that will move your business forward.

I have one space left if you are looking for a mentor and are serious about building a business. Go to http://amazingfba.com/mentoring if you’re interested.

#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!

#74 Overcoming Amazon Overwhelm Part 2 – Energy

  1. EPISODE #74 : Your personal “state” – assess your personal energy/focus?
    1. how is your health/physical energy?
      1. If you’re exhausted, you may simply have to rest for a day, a week etc to recharge.
      2. If you’ve been living on takeaway food for 6 months (guilty), how about a week of decent eating?
      3. If you gave up on your exercise regime for lack of time, consider working out at least 3 X a week. Someone once asked Richard Branson what to do to get more done. His answer? “Work out”
    2. how is your mental focus?
      1. Lack of priorities means you haven’t really genuinely made big picture decisions (see part 1 episode). Make some. They will mutate, which is fine, but get a clear direction. Then work on the priorities as below.
    3. Be realistic
      1. You’ve just started another business, quit your day job, had a new baby on top of your existing young child? (you know who you are…!) Of course you’re exhausted. You’re going to have to outsource heavily and/or accept that progress will be slower. Doesn’t mean you won’t get there. Just don’t kid yourself you can work 20 hour days for months at a time. Won’t happen.
    4. Get help.
      1. If you have a mentor, reach out.
      2. If you are in a mastermind, reach out.
      3. If you have an accountability partner, reach out.
      4. Don’t isolate. Equally, don’t connect to lots of randoms on Facebook. Connect to chosen people who are focussed and helpful people. Ignore moaners and bullshit artists. HOWEVER…
    5. Cut out information overload. “Increased output necessitates decreased input”  (Tim Ferriss again).
      1. If you’re on Facebook groups about Amazon every ten minutes, cut that out!
      2. Stop reading the news. Especially if you live in the UK. Brexit and other nonsense will carry on whether or not you read news/listen to Radio/use Youtube. 
        1. NOTE: I’m not doing as well at this as I should. I used to think it was “irresponsible”. I no longer do. If you can’t use the information, it has no practical value. When you had to vote, there was practical value in politics. But the referendum is over. You have little control over politics. Ignore it – OR join a party and demonstrate! Choose. Just don’t passively fill your mind. If you are not overwhelmed, by all means follow events. We live in interesting times. If you’re overwhelmed, it’s a toxic luxury.
      3. Cut out social media. Totally.
        1. Facebook is like Crack for addicts. Youtube is even worse for me personally. Twitter not. etc.
        2. Note: These things are designed to be addictive. They are monster business successes because of this. Learn from their example but stop being a victim. Be the creator of addictive products, not the consumer of them.
      4. Replace online crap with exercise for 20 minutes a day
        1. Run, yoga, whatever it is. Exercise is way way more powerful than yet another bit of info. Get into your trainers and listen to this podcast while you run!
    6. Minimize email time.
      1. Tame your email checking times
        1. NEVER start your business day with email. Start with urgent matters followed by business growth tasks.
        2. Limit email to twice a day max. If you’re really busy – once a day max.
        3. Try to take care of it while commuting on a train etc. Or in spare moments. I find I get emails done 3X quicker on my iPhone on a train than sitting at a desk. It’s harder to type for starters! That’s a  GOOD thing. Limit the undesirable!
      2. Put the timer on!
        1. When you check emails, put a time limit on. I generally find in a full 8 hour+ day, I can check emails for 30 mins in am and 10 mins pm and I’m done.
        2. When composing an important email, put a time limit on. I find 3-5 minutes enough for most.
        3. If you spend 10 minutes plus,  because it’s crucial and the info needs to be accurate, make it a template you can re-use. e.g for getting supplier quotes etc.
      3. Be ruthless and systematic when you do touch email
        1. Delete things from your inbox first. Most things simply need deleting. Don’t read obvious nonsense
        2. DO NOT read interesting but irrelevant emails. Archive them and look at them in your mythical “spare time” later
        3. Respond to crucial emails first. If you don’t get to others for a few days, tough. They’ll live.
        4. develop the art of polite concision. Ie without being rude, be simple and very direct
        5. Give clear fundamentals e.g. what, when, how, why etc. – e.g. “I need X,Y,Z pieces of info by A deadline for B reason”
        6. especially, use numbered lists. e.g.
        7. “ Dear Supplier, I need info for my freight forwarder.  Please tell me the following info about product X: 1 weight of each carton in kg 2. Dimension in cms; 3. total value of the consignment; 4. Your address. Please let me know by Friday 22 July latest. The quicker I get this, the quicker I will place an order with you.
          Thank you very much in advance! I appreciate your work. Best wishes, Joe Bloggs”