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#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 )

#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!

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#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!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

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If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask.

#43: Amazon Supplier Negotiation & The Future of Amazon with Greg Mercer – PART 2 of 2)

Episode #43: Greg Mercer of Jungle Scout Interview  (Suppliers & Predictions – PART TWO)

Suppliers

Does negotiating on price ever work much with suppliers or do you have to increase the numbers to get the discount or try to add in extras to get lower prices per unit?

Greg doesn’t worry so much about this now. 10 cents off doesn’t add much to your profit.

But if you keep asking for lower price, the Chinese person at the other end feels more inclined to cut corners, e.g., use worse materials, leading to Quality issues. Or it will get put to back of the queue etc. etc.  If you get moved back to the back of the line so you’re out of stock for several weeks, you could be losing $100 a day in lost profit! This doesn’t compare to 10 cents a unit!

Don’t get hung up on low price if it’s profitable. If there’s something left in it for the factory, they’ll be more inclined to be helpful.  (This ties in with Peter Zapf’s advice – Global Sources).

Actually factories do have rising costs. Going out there has given Greg a perspective.  Your suppliers are a crucial part of your business so treat them well. 

Apart from Chinese new year are there any other times of the year that slow down the manufacturing rate such as the Canton Fair?

Gearing up to 4th quarter in Sept, Oct means longer queues. Seasonal items like patio products would be even worse because that involves Chinese New Year.

Just say to your supplier, I’m planning the year out (and they will like this!) so can you let me know when you will need longer to manufacture? This actually sends great signals: a. you’re organised b. you are planning to order regularly.

Is there any way of ensuring that once you have differentiated a product from a supplier (by colour or design) that the supplier won’t then send your differentiated product out to other customers as samples and then they will just order the same differentiated product (just with their logo on it)?

Short answer: not really! You can try to work with your supplier on this – you can try to get them to sign something which could possibly work. But if you tore them apart about saving 6 cents on something, they probably won’t do it! Talk to them about it. You have the most negotiating power BEFORE you place your first order. Or first large order.

However, even if your factory does that, there are probably 7 other factories making the same product. Don’t get too hung up on that.

So how do you build a defensive wall around your products?

It’s almost impossible to do fully with a private Label product. But if you go into a newish market or you are the first into a market with a modification, you can use the time that buys you (say 3-6 months) to build reviews and sales rank to get a solid head start on the competition.

 An example from Greg: first person to sell a product with metal instead of plastic buckles. For 6 months he was the only one; now there are 15 others doing it.  even though there is tons of competition, he has top rank, 400 reviews, the best pictures etc. So he hasn’t really seen sales decrease.

When I looked on Aliexpress at getting just a few items of the product I was interested in, they seemed quite expensive (like the same amount as similar products were selling for on amazon) and I would be making quite a big loss once I included import duties and FBA fees.

Do people just take this loss to test if a product sells or is there any negotiating on price on aliexpress rather than alibaba?

Greg has never used AliExpress – but it is bound to more expensive because there are no economies of scale! Just treat it is as a market and supplier test. Or to be more cost effective,  you could just place an order for say 100 units with an Alibaba supplier. 

Would Greg recommend going the route of getting an agent to source products from different suppliers, rather than contacting different suppliers individually through something like Alibaba?  If so what is the best way of finding a trustworthy Agent?

Greg for the first year or so just went direct to suppliers. He found an agent as someone he already worked with at a factory. Everyone Greg knows who uses an agent met them through an established relationship. [Same is true for Michael]. In China it’s all about relationships anyway.

There are small advantages to having an agent, such as factories not on Alibaba,  but you do have to pay them a cut!  It’s really  more about outsourcing than money saving.  

How do people find out more about you and Jungle Scout?

Greg writes a solid blog post each week. There’s a cool product case study (“Jungle Stix”). Just comment on the blog or Tweet: @mercer_greg

What are your views and thoughts on trends you see happening on Amazon? What are the most successful sellers doing right now?

One thing successful sellers have in common: if you can make a small improvement on a product, it works really well. Find a product with mostly 3 star reviews. Read the 1 and 2 star reviews; if it’s something simple you can fix, make the improvement they ask for. You can both take away sales and charge a premium for it. 

For example the product with metal buckle vs plastic buckles – Greg sold his for $29 and the competition was selling for $14.95 , and the cost difference to Greg was about 50 cents!

Also larger/oversized items, although there are still opportunities with smaller, unmodified products.

What’s new and what do you see coming in terms of changes that we should be thinking about adapting to?

If looking at 2016, & probably 2017, there will still be lots of good opportunities in the .com store especially with modifications and larger/oversized items. Realistically it probably will start  to get really competitive by say 2018. By then a lot of other marketplaces like UK, Germany, Japan and India will be maturing with more demand, which Greg will be entering in due course. 

Parting Advice:
If you’ve been listening to the podcast and researching for a while, it’s time to get started. A lot of people seem to be worrying about things they don’t need to worry about. You’ll hit little roadblocks but it’s important to keep pushing forward, get your 1st product up for sale. It’s probably not as complex as you think!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on yt sentence.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask

 

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#35 Amazon Sourcing – Big Picture Strategies with Peter Zapf of Global Sources (interview part 2 of 2)

 Peter Zapf of Global Sources has 15 years’ experience of sourcing from his hot seat in the action in Hong Kong.  He spoke with me at the end of March about all things China Sourcing related. In Episode 34, he discusses tactics. But in this half of the interview, he discusses some big picture strategies with huge implications. Required listening for the ambitious Amazon Entrepreneur!

SHOW NOTES FOR EPISODE #35

1)      Product strategies: 

a.       commoditized light vs. differentiated heavy 

Many people are using the same Criteria for product selection,  e.g., light, small, can be air freighted, etc.

The problem is that if everyone uses the same product criteria, you end up with huge competition.  Yes, they’re easy products to start with, but the space ends up crowded.

There is  nothing wrong with starting with RA (retail Arbitrage)  or commoditized products – it’s a great way to learn about importing, working with Chinese suppliers, creating a product listing, PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising etc.  It just doesn’t seem like a long term business to Peter.

If for example you choose large, heavy products, you have to use ocean shipping, which means there currently is a lot less competition.

You’ll order need to place a larger order to make the logistics make sense.  So there is more capital needed upfront and it is tied up for longer sitting on the ocean.

These are problems to solve but they are also barriers to entry.

  Your own design is the next step as an even bigger barrier to entry.

In retail Arbitrage, you’re competing for the buy box with the exact same product.

With private labelling, at least you are not competing for the buy box. But If the supplier designs the product, you are competing for ranking with essentially a commoditised product that others can sell.

Your design will protect you more from the competition if it is harder to copy. For example, a longer or thicker yoga mat is not a very hard difference to copy.  Often this depends on the amount of money you have or are prepared to invest.

If you need for example to use a designer, get regulatory compliance checks done, use lawyers and legal contracts with manufacturer, the supplier needs to make a new mould…this all adds to the cost and complexity and makes it harder to duplicate.

This then becomes more about how to minimize your upfront risk. Say if you create 8 new products, how can you set things up such that you only need 4 to succeed to break even, rather than say 5?

There was a famous example of a company called “Quirky” which went out of business recently.  They spent $400,000 ( http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/24/8488531/quirky-invention-powered-by-quirky) designing a blue tooth speaker – and then sold 30 units!!

Trademarking and Patent protection can be complex.

But Trademarking is much easier, faster and cheaper than patents. It might be that you can get a U.S. trademark something for a few hundred dollars. Worth checking with a company like Legal Zoom

How to minimize your risk/reduce costs

Think about reducing supply chain costs:

  Logistics:  use ocean shipping to improve your price competitiveness (or have more margin to put into advertising).

How can you fill a container to make the max use of the space?

Can you spend $200 to have the pallets of goods delivered from US port to an Amazon warehouse in California rather than $hundreds to go across the US?

Reducing supply chain costs by removing a step:

Flexport recently explained to Peter there are two options:

Option 1: Have freight forwarder take freight all the way to a specific Amazon warehouse (so set up on Seller Central BEFORE setting up freight from CHina) or

Option 2: Freight Forwarder will usually have own warehouse, so get it sent there rather than FBA Inspection etc. then on to the various Amazon Warehouses.

Ocean shipping: If Amazon asks you to send products to say 3 different USA warehouses, if you set that up before finalising your freight/shipping, you can get your supplier to break it into the right number of pre-packed pallets. This means your consignment won’t need reworking inthe USA.

This saves a step/time but also reduces costs: Your supplier is likely to do this at no/low cost.

Order quantity: Order large enough quantities to get a reduced price per unit and economies of scale in the supply chain.

Packaging – can you reduce the costs?

3)      China Suppliers competing with you on Amazon:

There are manufacturers already selling on Amazon. That’s the bad news. The good news is that most of them don’t always want to commit a lot of money and energy to it because they are used to getting paid upfront; on Amazon, they have to wait a longer time for their money! Also, they are not usually so good at listing copy and photos, custom service and the other marketing functions.

HOWEVER there are a lot of domestic China Private Label Sellers (not manufacturers) selling from China.

Peter has talked to them and they say their disadvantage is that they don’t understand consumer needs.

BUT they are very good at commoditized products e.g. Power Banks for mobile/cell phones. So be wary of commoditized products!

Some are creating their own brands and competing on price.

You advantage is understanding your local (national) consumers better, so you know what product changes are needed. To the extent you can take advantage of that, you have an advantage.

Knowing your own customers helps greatly with product selection.

Also you have native speaker language skills, knowledge of good product listings, photography etc.

4)     Differentiating your  products: 

Basically you may need to make some kind of upfront investment to really differentiate your product (time and/or money). Then the key becomes mitigating risk.

Here’s a possible strategy:

1. Crowdfunding- get a design then post it up in Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This validates the idea and you can get the money upfront for an initial production run.

2. Make sales on Amazon to prove product acceptance, margins, sales volume and customer response (reviews)

3. Sell to brick and mortar retailers, leveraging feedback from Amazon volume, revenues and reviews to convince the retailer it’s a great product.

Retailers will also need to know you can replenish inventory within say two weeks. So you would need local warehousing (as your supplier would probably need about 3 months to manufacture and deliver a new consignment of product if you are shipping by ocean).

Parting words:

Don’t let setbacks hold you back. Learn from them, then move on.

For example, an “incorrect” product selection can be frustrating.

But  you’ve still learnt so many skills: product research and selection, finding suppliers, communicating with suppliers, setting up supply chain, creating Amazon listings, PPC marketing, keywords etc., etc., etc. So you can take those skills and move on to the next product.

If looking for products, try Global Sources!

For more help with the sourcing process: go to www.smartchinasourcing.com, which is another website run by  Global Sources.

Global Sources is also running a Smart China Sourcing Summit co-located with their Hong Kong trade shows.  Danny McMillan will also be speaking there.  Information at http://www.globalsources.com/summit

There are many guest posts – look at the links to the authors and follow them, to get more info on particular topics.

For actionable tactics from this first half of this interview, go to Episode 34.

To ask Questions for Peter for his follow-up interview,  go to our Facebook Group.

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For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask.

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PODCAST

A podcast is a free downloadable audio show that enables you to learn while you’re on the go.  To subscribe to my podcast for free, you’ll need an app to listen to the show from.

For iPhone/iPad/iPod listeners – Grab your phone or device and go to the iTunes store and search “Amazing FBA”.

This will help you to download the free Podcasts App (produced by Apple) and then subscribe to the show from within that app.  Every time I produce a new episode, you’ll get it downloaded right on yt sentence.

For podcast enthusiasts – If you already listen to podcasts and have a podcatcher that you prefer, the feed you’ll need to add is: http:// amazingfba.com/feed/podcast.

For those who don’t have a mobile device – You can always listen to the show by clicking the audio file at the top of this page.

If you have any queries, just go to www.amazingfba.com/ask.