The 12 Most Common Amazon FBA Mistakes: What They Are And How To Avoid Them

The 12 Most Common Amazon FBA Mistakes: What They Are And How To Avoid Them

We ALL make mistakes on Amazon, and like we’ve talked about in previous episodes of Follow The Data, all have experienced failure in one way or another. Learning from our failures, and learning from our own and other’s mistakes can lead us deeper into our own path of success! In this episode, we’re going to break down 12 of the MOST common mistakes we see sellers making on Amazon. We’ve talked about failures in the past, and while that still applies to mistakes, these are a bit different. Let’s jump in.

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Casey Gauss | Raw Audio: The Successful Seller Mindset, Killer Product Selection and Dominating Search Results

Casey Gauss | Raw Audio: The Successful Seller Mindset, Killer Product Selection and Dominating Search Results

Casey’s had the opportunity to travel, speak, observe and implement some of the highest-level Seller strategies for Amazon. He’s seen just about everything in the Amazon space, and plays an active part in molding what selling looks like for everyone involved in this space. In this episode, we’re playing back a presentation Casey had at a conference called ASGTG. During this presentation, now released in this podcast episode, Casey breaks down what a successful seller mindset looks like, what it means to select ‘winning’ products to sell, and how you as a seller can dominate search results with that winning product. There’s a LOT of great info. waiting for you on today’s episode of Follow The Data!

 

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Amazon Prime Day 2018 – A Data-Driven Approach: What To Know and How To Prepare

Amazon Prime Day 2018 – A Data-Driven Approach: What To Know and How To Prepare

PRIME DAY 2018 – The longest Prime Day in history – More Time, More deals, and more sales. Prime Day is BACK and is expected to be bigger than ever. With a Subscriber base of more than 100 million Prime Users globally, you can expect big things this year. Cameron’s going to break down data resulting from last year’s Prime Day, which can lead us into what to expect for this year’s 2018 Prime Day. Let’s dive into the data, and dive into how you can best prepare for 2018.

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TRANSCRIPT:

 

CAMERON YODER:

You should really be kind of focusing on how can you take advantage of the moment.  Really, Prime Day is one of those levers, one of those easy levers that you as a seller can pull to increase your sales. 

Prime Day 2018, the longest Prime Day in history.  More time, more deals and more sales.  Prime Day is back and is expected to be bigger than ever.  With a subscriber base of more than 100 million Prime users globally, you can expect big things this year.  I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller. 

In this episode we’re going to walk through what you can expect for Prime Day this year.  We aggregated a lot of data from last year’s Prime Day.  We’ll run through what the data is pointing to this year and how you can best prepare for what is to come on the 16th of July.  Let’s jump in. 

What’s up, everybody?  Cameron here.  Today, like I said in the intro, we’re talking through Prime Day 2018.  Now Prime Day 2018 is going to be, or it’s expected to be just a huge day, huge sales day.  Now not too long ago there was somewhat of a leak of the Prime Day date that was on the Amazon UK website.  I believe it was TechRadar that caught the unexpected date for everything going on, and the date on that banner was July 16th.  Now since then Amazon has actually same day has released, kind of put out official information regarding Prime Day, so most people are awake of the day now, which is July 16th starting at 3:00 p.m.  And this does make Prime Day, I believe, the longest Prime Day to date so far. 

So Prime Day is – Prime Day is a big deal.  Why is it a big deal?  A lot of people ask why is Prime Day so hype?  Why do people get so hype for Prime Day?  Now Prime Day as a whole does not guarantee that you as a seller are going to make more money.  That’s not the guarantee.  That’s not why people hype it up, even though that’s why a lot of people think, honestly.  Really, statistics point to increased sales across the board on Prime Day, just for Amazon and for people selling on Amazon in general.  So what can you expect?  Well, you can expect more people to be shopping on this day.  So if more people are shopping across just about every single category, being on Page 1 means that you’re putting yourself in front of all of those extra shoppers.  So why should you care as a seller about Prime Day?  Well, simply because more people are shopping on Prime Day, and if your goal is to simply make money, or if your goal is to make money with selling on Amazon, which I assume that is at least one big part of your business, then Prime Day should be important to you. 

So let’s talk about Prime Day last year.  Let’s talk about Prime Day 2017 because we aggregated a lot of stats from 2017, and we have some stats here just on Prime Day 2017 in general, which we can use to predict how big the Prime Day 2018 will be, at least this year.  So let’s go over some statistics, some data that we have.  Prime Day had more new Prime members join than any other day in history.  That’s big.  If you’re watching our content, we’re kind of keeping an eye on Amazon’s growth strategy.  But one of those honestly is to just get more people to simply join the Prime platform, like with their expansion into Twitch and a lot of different things, a lot of different Prime benefits like Prime Wardrobe.  They’re incentivizing people to join onto Prime or to jump on the Prime train.  And more Prime users really does mean more shoppers for you as a seller, which is important.  So more Prime members equals more shoppers, more potential shoppers I should say. 

So Prime Day 2017 was the largest single sales day in Amazon history until 2017’s Cyber Monday, which was not too far after Prime Day, but it was their biggest sales day until Cyber Monday.  For Prime Day 2017 we actually set up interactive graphics, or graphs, graphics, graphs to compare Prime Day sales to a 30-day baseline average.  Having this, having these interactive graphs and graphics really allowed sellers to keep an eye on sales trends for all categories, combined along with a lot of individual categories as well. 

So our largest – this was last year, again 2017 – our largest tracked seller saw a 6,000% increase in sales through this 30-hour window, basically this Prime Day window that we were tracking.  So again, that was the largest.  But just imagine, that kind of goes to show just the fact that more people are shopping on Prime Day, like a 6,000 increase in this 30-hour window is just literally insane.  This 6,000% increase was measured across a sales baseline from the two weeks leading up to Prime Day.  So we took an average of the same 30-hour period of time two weeks earlier in order to compare sales on Prime Day, and this baseline gave us a feel for exactly how big the sales influx really was.  With all of our drive data we estimated that there was a 252% sales increase on Prime Day across all of Amazon compared to, again, those baseline sales across all categories. 

So breaking down specific subcategories, specific categories and sales increases, the office category saw an increase by a huge 647.26%, electronics 412%, and kitchen and dining 400%.  So a lot of this, again, this does not mean that your sales are going to increase by 6,000% or 600%.  No, not at all.  All of this however simply does point to the fact that there are a lot, a lot, a lot of shoppers coming onto the Amazon platform on Prime Day.  So really you should be conc– not concerned, but you should really be kind of focusing on how can you take advantage of the moment.  Really, Prime Day is one of those levers, one of those easy levers that you as a seller can pull to increase your sales. 

At the same time you don’t want to run out of stock, so you want to make sure that you have inventory in place if you’re going to be competitive on Prime Day.  But also, you should be setting your expectations in kind of a realistic way.  So again, I would say that a realistic expectation would not be to expect an increase in 6,000%, a 6,000% increase in sales for your products across the board.  No, not necessarily.  But I would however expect more sales to come through on Prime Day.  And so really this episode is kind of going over those statistics and pointing to what we can expect from Prime Day this year.  And assuming, well, knowing that Prime, the Prime user base has grown and that Amazon of course just wants to make a lot of money, which, well, don’t just want to do that – they want long-term customers – but knowing that Prime Day is geared towards making a lot of sales, making a lot of money all at one time, we can assume that Prime Day is going to be even bigger this year. 

And so we’re tracking – again, we’re tracking Prime Day this year to see kind of the percentage, the average percentage in sales increase across the board.  And so expect us to kind of follow up with some statistics here.  But what should you do?  What should you do to prepare for Prime Day 2018?  Well, really, by the time this is out you really should have your game plan at least started for what you want to do, but I guess you should ask yourself how much you have to put into optimizing everything for Prime Day.  Like if capturing these extra sales are going to put you in a tough spot financially, or maybe even inventory-wise, maybe reconsider.  At least consider those as factors going into this.  You don’t want to just blindly start competing for a spot on Prime Day because it’s also going to be pretty competitive, or somewhat competitive depending on your product and depending on your category. 

So what should you do to, or what can you do about Prime Day?  What can you do to try your best to capture these extra sales that will be coming and these extra customers that will be coming in on Prime Day?  Well, there are a couple things that you can and should do.  One of those is optimize, get ready to optimize your PPC.  So we always talk about being aggressive.  Prime Day is really one of those things where being aggressive with your PPC makes sense, to put you in front of those buyers, those shoppers.  So I would say maybe optimize or put in a bit more into your PPC budget than maybe you usually do because, again, if you’re putting more in your budget you’re spending more on budgetary things like PPC, but you’re gaining more sales as kind of an end result, then that is a win scenario. 

So I would say run aggressive PPC.  I would also say to optimize your listing and your photos.  Again, maybe double check your keywords that are in your listing.  Double check to make sure that your photos are up-to-date, are competitive because, I mean simply put, if you are competing for a spot on Page 1 on Prime Day and your photos are awful, like we always talk about, then you have a lower chance of converting.  So really make sure that your keywords are optimized.  Update your keywords because keywords, again, keywords should be one of those things that you’re kind of double checking every now and then to really make sure that you have the most up-to-date keyword information and the most up-to-date searches, search information on or for your product just because you, honestly you as a seller cannot control what sellers are searching for or how they’re searching.  And so making sure to update your listing, making sure to update your photos is huge.  Even if your conversion rate is something like 1% higher on Prime Day because of photos or a listing that you changed up, that 1% conversion rate paired with something like an average of 252% increase in sales across the board is huge.  It really does make a difference.  So optimize your listing.  Optimize your photos. 

Lastly, we talked about this – I believe we talked about this last year, but also making sure to plan a launch, something like seven days ahead of time is huge.  So really getting on Page 1 – Prime Day is great because I mean there is, again, a general increase across the board, but even better if you’re on Page 1 for your primary keywords.  So really our advice for now, right now, is to plan a launch something like seven days ahead of Prime Day to make sure that you’re on Page 1 before Prime Day hits because honestly once Prime Day hits that’s going to be that huge spike in sales, and you’re not going to want to run something like a launch to compete with a category or a market that is just running a ton of traffic. 

And so what should you do as a seller that wants to run a launch?  Well, really before Prime Day if you’re serious about getting onto Page 1 for, again, your primary keywords, if you are serious about that run a launch seven days before Prime Day.  And maybe even honestly 10 days before.  I would say 7 to 10 days before Prime Day.  So that would be July 6th through something like the 8th or the 9th you should plan on already starting.  That’s when you should start, be starting something like a launch or a promotion to get you to Page 1 because, again, why is Prime Day a huge deal?  Well, Prime Day is a huge Dale because just more sales in general.  If there are more sales, if you have the potential to capture more sales, if you’re capable of getting there, getting to Page 1, then honestly I would say you should take that opportunity. 

But also there are going to be some pretty good deals, or supposedly some pretty good deals on Prime Day 2018.  So if you’re in the market for buying, if you’re in that market for buying products, then Prime Day is going to be that day, I guess.  So they have some good – they’re going to have some good deals on Alexa Echo, the Show, the Spot and Dot devices, Kindles, things like that.  So if you’re in the market to buy certain things, definitely check Prime Day out.  But also, really in the end ask yourself whether you want to or are capable of capturing those extra sales right now and prepare for just kind of an extra bump in sales.  Again, it’s not like a life-changing day or moment for a lot of sellers, but for some, some sellers are going to see that 6,000% increase in sales, and you never know whether that seller could be you or not.  So at least, at the very least, you want to position yourself to be that person just in case it is you. 

And that’s all we had for today.  We just wanted to put out a quick piece of content talking about Prime Day, making sure that you all are prepared.  If you want to look over kind of more data we actually have a sales tracker on our website.  I’m going to put a link to that in the description.  But it would be awesome – it’s actually really cool to check out a kind of keep an eye on sales across the board for specific categories and subcategories.  But check that out. 

Also, subscribe to the podcast if you really do find value from it.  We love, we love, love, love hearing from you as well.  So go to our Facebook page right now, look up Viral Launch, direct message us any questions or thoughts you have on the podcast.  We love hearing from you.  So go do that.  If you like what you hear, or even if you don’t, leave an honest review on iTunes.  We love, again, hearing just your feedback and what you do or do not like.  So leave a review for us. 

Also, keep an eye out for more content.  We’ll be back next week with more things.  The next big thing that’s going to happen for a lot of sellers is July 4th.  Actually by the time you’re listening to this July 4th  will be over.  But I’m hoping that you all had a great time, whether you were taking a break from work, or working, regardless, I hope you had a great time.  I hope you were able to celebrate in some way.  Thank you all again so much for listening.  Remember, the data is out there.

Financing on Amazon: Breaking Down The Strategy & Risk To Scale Quickly

Financing on Amazon: Breaking Down The Strategy & Risk To Scale Quickly

Amazon is a cash game. Sellers often enter into the Amazon space knowing this, but don’t fully recognize just how much truth is in the notion that a LARGE part of Selling is optimizing where you’re funneling all of your cash. You need to ask yourself the RIGHT questions as you begin considering expanding your business with a cash infusion. There are a lot of different options sellers have used to get an influx of cash, and we’re going to break that down today. What each of them are, the risks associated with these methods, the right questions to ask, and everything in-between.

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Amazon is a cash game.  Sellers often enter into the Amazon space knowing this but don’t fully recognize just how much truth is in the notion that a large part of selling is optimizing where you’re funneling all of your cash.  There are a lot of different options sellers have used to get an influx of cash, and we’re going to break all that down today, what those are, the risks associated with these methods and everything in between. 

I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller. 

Now before we jump in, I do want to stipulate that we’re running with a sort of different emphasis with this episode.  So I’m going to break down the different methods we’ve seen sellers use successfully for funneling cash into their Amazon business.  However, I’m also looking for a lot of input from all of you.  So the different methods that you’ve – go back and get this – so the different methods that you’ve used, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, to increase cash flow.  As you’re listening, when you think of other methods you’ve seen or used yourself, message me.  I’m curious about everything that you’ve seen.  So message Viral Launch on Facebook with any and all of the ideas and just tag me or reference me in the beginning of the message so that I can see them.  So knowing that, thank you all ahead of time.  I look forward to hearing from all of you.  Let’s jump right in. 

Okay, so we’re breaking down funding on Amazon, truly, truly Amazon you’ll hear a lot of sellers agree with the fact that Amazon is a cash game.  Inventory, or there’s a lot of, just a lot of cash that’s tied up in inventory, and oftentimes people don’t have a lot of inventory management experience going into or working into the Amazon space.  Oftentimes sellers are just not involved with that.  And if you are, then awesome.  Good for you.  That’s actually a really good skill to have.  However, for everyone else, managing inventory and cash flow is a new experience, and oftentimes people are asking, when people jump into the Amazon space, the Amazon game, they realize just how much it takes to scale an Amazon business quickly.  And when you see – if you don’t have a whole lot of cash on hand at first, at least when you are investing in products, which is the case for a lot of Amazon sellers, scaling quickly is a really big challenge.  And so today we’re breaking down kind of the different methodologies that people have used to fund their Amazon businesses and increase cash flow to funnel into other products.  And we’re going to break down different risks associated and a couple things that you should ask yourself before you do something like borrow money. 

Okay, so first off, borrowing money to scale your business.  Is it recommended?  Well, that’s hard – it’s really hard for us to give an exact definite yes or no, but we can break down different positives and negatives.  So borrowing money to scale your Amazon business.  Well, the positives are that you get more products and inventory quickly.  That’s just that –  that comes as a part of borrowing money.  So yes, when you borrow money – let’s say you launched your first – let’s say you’ve launched your first product and are looking to grow your business and scale your business.  Well, you can either wait – well, hang on – well, you can either wait and just kind of increase cash flow organically, or you can borrow money from something or someone else to increase cash flow to source another product right away since most of that money that you have available to invest in a product is going to be spent on just buying more inventory over and over and over again.  So the positives with borrowing money to scale your business are you can just get more products right away, throw them up on Amazon.  You can also buy into markets that you couldn’t access otherwise.  So some markets require a large influx of cash in order to get started even, something like the supplements space.  So if you don’t have that cash on hand, at least initially, borrowing that money could get you into more competitive markets and/or markets that have higher barriers to entry simply because of the startup cost. 

You also have the ability to, instead of just investing if you borrow money, you can invest more in aggressive ranking strategy.  So if you get an influx of cash typically you can put that towards either buying a new product to sell, to source, or to funnel – or you can funnel into your pre-existing, you’re already existing products, into being more aggressive, basically, with your launch strategy and/or ranking strategy.  So basically borrowing money allows you to scale very quickly.  More products basically equal or equate to a quicker growth as long as you’re picking, again, as long as you’re picking the right products.  And in that, of course, you’re probably going to – you’re not going to have or pick all the right products. 

Okay, so let’s actually talk about some negative aspects of borrowing money to scale your Amazon business.  Well, number one, it’s risky.  You will incur risk on yourself or your business depending on how you borrow money by borrowing money, basically.  If you want to take that risk by kind of putting yourself at risk – no, hang on.  If you want to put yourself at risk with this method of scaling, I mean honestly for some people it’s worth it.  It’s worth the risk.  For others it’s not quite worth risking that much money.  For example, if you are not in a very good spot financially and you’re borrowing something like $50,000 or $100,000, being in or putting yourself in the position to take on that debt, really you basically as a seller, you should be okay with the amount of money that you’re taking on and the risk that you’re incurring.  And if you’re not financially stable wise, then I would maybe reconsider borrowing money. 

Now you also cannot count on every product succeeding.  So just because you’re – if you’re borrowing money and are funneling all of that money into sourcing new products you can’t count on every single one of those products being successful.  You need to count for – you need to take into consideration the fact that the money you’re borrowing to put towards products might not be successful.  So you also should know what you’re doing.  You should know – you should kind of explore these options before you jump into them, and also you should really know what you’re doing on Amazon.  I’ll touch on that a little bit later.  But also, kind of a negative aspect, depending on how you take money, if you’re taking a lot of money you could potentially have less control of your business.  For example, if you’re giving up something like equity in order for, or for an exchange of cash flow or cash. 

So there are really a couple questions that I would consider asking yourself before you kind of jump into or dive into the entire arena of borrowing money for your Amazon business.  So kind of a first question to ask yourself is have you done everything that you can to increase sales in your current situation?  I know a couple sellers who were just about to borrow – it was about $50,000, small sum, but for them it was a lot.  It was a big amount.  And they had enough cash to really pay it back over time, but they were encouraged by a friend of theirs to actually kind of dive into each of their processes and optimize everything that they could.  They ended up not borrowing the money after they took a step back, analyzed their Amazon business and realized that their processes really weren’t optimized in terms of just their inventory flow, shipping and importing products into Amazon, and also the current cash they had on hand.  So they optimized everything, and actually after optimizing everything they just chose to ride it out organically and ended up scaling fairly quickly.  So it can be done.  You do not absolutely need to buy – or borrow – sorry, borrow money, in order to scale quickly. 

So are you on Page 1 for your primary keywords, for example?  That’s an easy one.  That’s one that a lot of sellers know, but also it’s important to take into consideration.  Do you also know your primary keywords?  Do you know your high opportunity keywords?  Are you taking full advantage of all of those?  I’ve said this before, and you’ll hear Casey and I talk about this, too, but keywords really are the [underpriced attention 0:08:18.5] of Amazon right now, and if you’re not taking advantage of that you really should consider taking advantage of that before taking a large sum of money. 

Are your listings optimized?  Do your listings include both sets of the high opportunity keywords and your primary keywords?  Are your photos incredible for your high-earning or high-potential products?  Do you have inventory management locked down?  Many sellers downplay the necessity to honestly optimize the heck out of inventory management.  So before borrowing money, knowing how and when to reorder units to take advantage of the money you already have is going to honestly be one of the best things that you can do for either when you borrow money in the future to really scale your business, but also in the time being before if you haven’t even borrowed any money at all yet.  Sometime sellers don’t even need to borrow money if they optimize inventory management enough, like those friends that I talked about just a little bit ago.  Now this might be a little bit slower of a method to scaling, but having this in place honestly could help if or when, again, you really do choose to borrow money. 

Another really big thing to consider is if you’ve negotiated payment terms with your supplier.  So a standard payment with suppliers happens within 30 days typically of reordering, and you could potentially negotiate to increase this to something like 90 days.  So this is worth asking.  Honestly we’ve had, or we’ve talked with, I’ve talked with a lot of sellers who have negotiated pricing and payments with their manufacturer, and honestly all it takes is a simple message, really, if they’re communicating with their rep over Skype, even just shooting them a message asking hey, can we expend this to 90 days?  They might not agree flat out to the 90 days, especially if you have some sort of contractual agreement already.  However, they probably will counteroffer with something like, oh, maybe we could do – we could work this out.  So it’s worth a shot.  It’s worth a shot asking your manufacturer to negotiate payment terms, which will kind of open up your ability to use cash flow in a – to use your cash flow in a smarter way, in a more optimal way. 

So we talked about this a little bit before, but another question you really should be asking yourself is how much risk are you able and willing to take on?  So a lot of the methods of – some of the methods of borrowing money incur risk on you, and really kind of the more money you borrow the more risk you bring on yourself.  Let’s say if you borrow money and the product does not work, that could put you in a bad position.  It could put you in debt, which ultimately will be just bad for you and bad for your dreams of freeing yourself as an Amazon seller. 

A fourth and last kind of thing to really consider before borrowing money is that you should have a plan to allocate capitable – whoa, capitable  – you should have a plan to allocate capital, any capital, cash that you bring on hand, that you borrow from somebody or something, you should have a plan for that cash.  You can’t just borrow $50,000 and then not have a plan.  You could do that, but that’s not going to make the most of your time.  If you have a plan, you can borrow that money and have something like a payment period for that money starts when you borrow it, then you’re not wasting time.  You know exactly what you’re going to do with it.  Sometimes even a plan is necessary in order to borrow money.   So for example, are you going to invest in your current products?  Are you going to invest in new products or a mixture of both?  What exactly are you going to put that money towards?  Again, just make sure that you have a game plan for how and where and when you are going to use this cash. 

All right, so we’re going to break down kind of the – again, these are the most, probably the most popular methods of borrowing money that we’ve seen Amazon sellers use.  But again, if you have experienced anything else or something else very useful, go ahead and message me on Facebook because I want to hear.  I want to know.  You’ll be – your question or your – not your question, but your input will be put in the next episode.  So if you want to be on an episode of Follow the Data, then go ahead and shoot me a message, all right? 

So okay, kind of breaking down, I’m just going to summarize everything.  I would encourage you really to – if you’re listening to this for guidance in which method you should pick to borrow money, I would really encourage you to do more research on all of these.  Really, if you do a quick Google search for any of these or just like ask if you have financial advisor or anything like that you can talk to them in depth about all of these.  But, all right, the options.  So you could – option number one, again, is a pretty typical one, but dipping into personal assets or your savings.  So kind of some – or a quick benefit of dipping into your personal assets or your savings if you have them, again, is that it’s quick and it’s easy.  Most sellers, however, run into the fact that it’s limited capital.  But many sellers also [discredit 0:13:31.5] really their ability to kind of just take a little bit more of a risk.  I know a couple young sellers who are in a position to take a bit more of a risk, and because of that – just getting out of college and scaling pretty quickly – because they are able to take more risk they have really dipped into their personal assets, and they’ve taken away their – they’ve kind of taken away that money from, from spending that money on things that are really fun.  Again, they’re young so something like vacation or a trip, they’ve taken the money away from that and put it towards the business.  And granted, they aren’t able to do as many things that they want to do, but even in that they are growing their business because that’s actually what they want.  That’s actually what they want.  It’s actually what they’re looking for.  So personal assets, quick, easy, but limited capital would really consider –  or really consider this, but also really think about the position that you’re in. 

Another one is friends and family, borrowing money from friends and family to scale your Amazon business.  Again, the risk with this is that you’re putting your relationship with your friends and/or your family at risk here.  However, if they are okay with that, then this not necessarily something that I would fully, fully recommend just because, again, it can really put your relationships in a tough spot.  However, there is – however, this method really is quick and potentially easy, depending on your relationship with your friends or your family.  But again, the risk comes with the relationships. 

Now you can also, however, kind of with borrowing money from friends and family, just be in a position to negotiate well.  So you can negotiate your terms pretty well with a friend or a family member.  And of course you would want them to benefit, too, so in the end if you do it and you do it well, this can really end up benefiting both you and your friends.  But again, if that risk of the relationships is worth it to you really consider this. 

Another option that’s really popular are loans or small business loans.  So there is also a lot that goes into borrowing or getting something like a small business loan, something like great credit score, a business that’s been running for years, a detailed business plan.  These are all factors that could go into consideration for actually being able to obtain small business loans.  I’ve heard of a lot of Amazon sellers kind of having difficulty getting a small business loan.  That’s just the word that I’ve heard from the sellers that I’ve talked with.  However, if you have any tips or good experience getting a small business loan, then again, shoot me a message.  I’d love to hear about it. 

Another option that a lot of sellers honestly do – another option that a lot of sellers honestly don’t really take into consideration are utilizing credit cards.  So credit cards can be good, again, depending on the card and the line of credit.  Some cards, for example, have 0% APR for the first year depending, again, on the card or the terms specifically.  A lot of them have rewards that you will get if you’re spending –  if you’re spending or you’re using this card toward something like inventory.  And also it’s a pretty quick method of kind of just increasing your cash flow by a little bit.  The negative aspects of using or utilizing credit cards – hang on.  The negative aspects of kind of utilizing credit cards is that honestly it’s really unlikely to be enough to effectively scale your business.  It’s kind of – credit cards give a good bump, again, depending on I guess how many credit cards or lines of credit you open here.  But this can be enough to give a small bump for the small things if you’re a small seller, the small things around your business.  However, it is a really good method, can be a really good method depending on what you’re looking for.  Kind of also another negative aspect is that the interest here can really be – can be a killer if, depending on, again, the terms of the card, having something like 0% APR for the first year really helps.  However if you are unable to pay kind of the credit back, then it really can kill – this can end up turning around quickly to kill the business.  Also, this does kind of put a risk on you for your credit score, or with your credit score.  Overall, credit cards, I would say pretty considerable in terms of small things that you can do to give bumps in cash flow as a seller who is kind of just starting out. 

Another option is Amazon Lending.  Okay, so Amazon Lending has low interest rates.  And it’s accessible if you’re chosen.  Honestly, if you’re chosen, Amazon Lending is a great option to consider.  The negative aspect of Amazon Lending is that you have to be chosen.  It’s a program that you are chosen for, you’re selected for based on certain metrics for how your products are performing or how long you have been selling.  So Amazon lending basically is Amazon giving you a loan for your business.  And like I said before, it has low interest rates, and it’s really accessible, but you really don’t control the terms.  You either accept or deny what is being offered, and many sellers in the space, at least in the past, will say that they encourage other sellers to just kind of accept the Amazon lending if it’s offered.  Really, in the end if your business is doing well and Amazon offers you kind of this loan or this format for a loan, it makes sense.  It does really make sense to kind of take it, even if you don’t control the terms.  Accepting this will give you kind of that influx of cash that then you will be able to pay off pretty easily through Amazon directly. 

Now another method that a lot of sellers, or some sellers utilize is or are lending websites.  So there are a lot of – there are a wide range of loans that are available on something like different websites.  And there are varying interest rates as well.  Lending websites are typically better for bigger sellers I’m going to say.  However, smaller sellers do end up utilizing these lending websites.  Hang on.  I’m going to look up the website.  I forget the name.  What is it?  Dang, I can’t find it.  Well, all right, can’t find it.  Edit all that out, that pause.  But okay, we’ll continue from here. [0:21:50.7] 

Really these lending websites, depending on what you’re looking for, might be the best option for you, again, as a bigger seller.  However, also Amazon Lending seems to be kind of just one of the best options.  Again, considering the fact that you are given access and that you are chosen, sorry.  In the end there are, again, I’ll just go over these methods real quick.  So saving personal assets, friends and family, loans, small business loans, credit cards, Amazon Lending or lending websites.  Now there are, of course, more options.  I just wanted to kind of outline the main ones that sellers have used and are using, and just some quick benefits or negatives to each of these.  I would encourage you, if you’re interested in any of these, just pull up Google and do a quick Google search.  Really I would consider – hang on.  Really I would encourage you to know what you’re capable of.  Ask yourself what you’re capable of in this moment as an Amazon seller.  Really a lot of sellers haven’t actually considered borrowing money simply because they just haven’t looked into it, or they don’t like the idea of borrowing money from somebody.  However, a lot of sellers that I do know that were able to scale so quickly and that are huge now borrowed money pretty quickly, pretty early on in their business.  Now again, they took a risk by doing that, and some took that risk and kind of, it bit them in the butt, but – hang on – 

Some took that risk and it ended up not working out.  Really, though, I would encourage you to consider taking risks.  Consider being aggressive.  But again, be just flat out aware of the risks that you are getting yourself into.  Borrowing money or financing honestly might not be the answer for you.  Really weigh the options.  Just like those friends that I talked about towards the beginning of this episode.  They chose not to borrow money.  Instead they chose to just optimize all of their processes, optimize the heck out of their listing, get some good photos, take advantage of the keyword opportunities that are out there right now, and it ended up scaling their business quicker than they anticipated.  So really, financing might not be for you.  Borrowing money might not be for you, but it also might be.  Really weigh the options, have a game plan and track profitability. 

Again, this episode was really created to just outline the basics behind funding on Amazon, but I really do want – I created this episode, we created this episode, to hear from you.  I want to know your questions about funding on Amazon, what questions you have, if you’re looking for advice, and/or if you have different options that we did not go over today because there are a lot of options that we did not cover, but I’m curious what you as a seller are using or have considered using to just scale your business, whether that’s borrowing money or optimizing your processes.  I want to know what you have done and what you’ve used.  So thank you all so much for listening.  I look forward really to hearing from you on Facebook.  Also, if you haven’t yet, check out our YouTube channel.  We’re really starting to pump out some content on there, so subscribe to that.  We also just put a video out – I’ve talked about this before, but we talked about reviews a little while back on the podcast.  If you haven’t heard, we now have a video and a blog post out covering kind of the results of our study on what’s happening with reviews on Amazon right now.  So if you haven’t yet, go check out that video.  I’ll see if I can put a link in the description of this podcast.  So thank you, again, so much for listening.  I look forward to hearing from all of you.  Just remember, the data is out there.

How To Grow Beyond $1-5 Million: Why Amazon Sellers Get Stuck & How To Overcome Stagnation

How To Grow Beyond $1-5 Million: Why Amazon Sellers Get Stuck & How To Overcome Stagnation

Every success comes with a series of challenges; roadblocks along the way to test your resolve – to test whether you can progress to the next level of sales, or stay where you’ve been. We’ve been able to accumulate a LOT of data here at Viral Launch. We’ve also had the opportunity to see LARGE sellers scale successfully, AND see the same sellers struggle to progress past $1-5million in revenue. In this episode, we break down why sellers are getting stuck – why they AREN’T progressing. We’ll outline the problems causing stagnation, and solutions to make sure you can keep on growing your business.

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TRANSCRIPT:

 

CAMERON YODER:

Every success comes with a series of challenges, roadblocks along the way to test your resolve, to test whether you can progress to the next level of sales or stay where you’ve been.

CASEY GAUSS:

We’ve been able to accumulate a lot of data here at Viral Launch.  We’ve also had the opportunity to see large sellers scale successfully and see the same sellers struggle to progress past the $1 million to $5 million mark.  I’m Casey Gauss.

CAMERON YODER:

And I’m Cameron Yoder, your hosts for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 35,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 10,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CASEY GAUSS:

In this episode Cam and I break down why sellers are getting stuck, why they aren’t progressing.  We’ll outline the problems causing stagnation and solutions to make sure you can keep on growing your business.  Let’s dive in.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, we’re talking about getting stuck and pushing past the stuck, and to specifically stuck at around the $1 million to $5 million mark.  That’s a pretty big dollar amount.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so if you see me talk at conferences you’ve probably seen me talk on this subject.  This is something that I’m particularly passionate about because it is so strange that so many people literally get stuck in this same revenue threshold or phase of your Amazon business, and I just really want to help people get past that point.  We’ve seen people get stuck in this point and then get past it.  We’ve seen people get stuck in this point and not get past it.  And so I’m really hoping that we can share the tactics that these guys used, or what is the common factors of the people that went far past that. 

And just to give a little bit of context, you know I have a lot of friends that are doing the 10, 20, 30, 40, $100 million on Amazon.  So some of my good friends are doing well over $100 million.  They have essentially four brands that are doing this, so these are very high-volume brands.  I have another friend that did $80 million last year.  They came to us in 2015.  They were doing, I think, $40 million at that time.  So we’ve helped them double their business, and this year they’re already on track to do $100 million, which is amazing.  But you know, there’s definitely like some fundamental differences between these guys that are just having this meteoric rise and the people that have that meteoric rise until they get to the $1 million to $5 million mark.  And so maybe you’re happy at the $1 million to $5 million mark.  Maybe you don’t care to push past that.  But a lot of people do, and a lot of people get frustrated with themselves.  They start to kind of question their abilities maybe as entrepreneurs, or you know, there’s just a lot of frustration in this phase.  And so I just want to help use the data, the experience that we have in walking people through this and watching people walk through this to help make sure that you don’t get stuck there.  And even if you’re not at the $1 million to $5 million mark some of these principles can help you get there, and also you will be more confident that when you get to this mark you’ll be able to just cruise right on pass it to the $10 million mark, the $20 million mark and so on.

CAMERON YODER:

We are at a really good position, in a good position to aggregate a lot of data.  Like again, we’ve talked about before if you’ve listened to the podcast before, you know that we’re all about the data, Follow the Data, everything like that.  But it’s really cool for us to be in a spot where we can talk with all of these high-level sellers and know these sellers, and know what they’ve been through and see the roadblocks that they experience to be able to aggregate data kind of in a different way.  It really is – it’s data from a seller’s perspective.  It’s data from a seller’s experience, so it’s not necessarily numbers.  Or it does involve numbers, but it also involves experience and everything in between.  So like Casey said, even if you’re not at the $1 million to $5 million mark, there is still a lot here that applies to sellers in general.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep.  And again, in terms of data, you know it may be one seller’s experience that they were able to get past the $1 million to $5 million mark, and that may not necessarily be a good fit for you.  And so the advantage that we have is just we’ve seen so many instances of X, and so then we’re able to describe X from this vantage point of seeing different people walk through it in different ways.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, Casey, what is one of the top reasons that these sellers cannot push past that $1 million to $5 million mark?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so reason number one is because sellers are becoming the bottleneck to their business.  And so you know, I have a friend.  Very quickly he went from zero to $500,000 a month, very, very quickly.  I think it took him about six months to do that.  And this guy was absolutely killing it, and I ended up talking to him like 9 to 12 months later, and he was still, you know, he was maybe doing $600,000 a month at that time, but there was very little growth.  And he even admitted to the fact that he was struggling to grow because he was the bottleneck.  Like he was managing his own PPC.  He was doing literally like everything maybe outside of like customer support and stuff like that. 

And so he – and the reason – so I asked him, well why don’t you build a team?  Like you need to get other people in the team so that they can handle these things so that you can focus on the really high-growth levers.  And he said he has such a hard time doing that because he’s a perfectionist, and he knows that people will not do it as well as himself.  And I hear this excuse all the time.  And I totally get it.  So I have a little bit of experience in that.  You know, we have 47 employees now here at Viral Launch.  And so I understand that, but the way that you have to look at it is, you know, look at Mark Zuckerberg, right?  Mark Zuckerberg, probably a great programmer, and Mark Zuckerberg isn’t coding.  He hired people that are probably a lot better coders than himself, and even if not he understands that if he wants to build Facebook he can’t sit there and write code every day.  He needs to be a CEO.  And I want to encourage you to get in that CEO mindset.  If you are amazing at PPC, maybe that’s one of the last things that you outsource, but you need – there are so many things that you are doing that you probably shouldn’t be doing. 

So if you look at things – let’s use some data.  So if you look at things from an opportunity cost perspective, so let’s say you’re a $1 million seller, which equates to, just for simple math, you know, $80,000 per month, and there is around 168 business hours per month.  That’s like 40 hours per week, let’s say.  So if you divide that $80,000 per month by 160 hours, that’s approximately $500 an hour that you’re making.  And so that means that whatever you are doing is worth $500 per hour, assuming that you work just business hours.  Most of us don’t, but whatever.  So anyways, for the sake of the example bear with me.  So basically what that means is if there are things that you are doing that you cannot outsource for less than $500 an hour, you should be doing those.  But if you can find someone to do these particular tasks, whether it is talking with suppliers to make sure that you’re getting samples, or whatever.  So if you can find someone to do that for less than $500 an hour you’re making more money by doing that so that you can focus on the higher-level issues. 

And so this should – I think it’s obviously harder to apply, but anyways this is just one quick example of if you’re a $1 million seller, even if you’re half that, if you’re making basically $250 per work hour, you can hire people.  You should not be hiring anybody that is even close to $250 an hour.  That means almost everything you should be outsourcing.  My friends who are doing $100 million, the only way that they got there was they had a team in place that is doing everything from going and checking – let’s say you weren’t using software.  So they’re going and they’re checking to see, okay, is the product ranking?  Do we still have the bestseller badge?  How are our competitors doing?  How are our sales today?  How are our sales this hour?  How is PPC?  Like, one, you should be using tools to monitor these things for you so you’re not wasting all this time. 

Again, if your time is worth $500 an hour and there’s a software that does it for $40 per month, oh my gosh, like come on.  I know that it’s easy to want to save money, but if you think about it from an opportunity cost standpoint you need to do things to get to that $2 million mark, to that $3 million mark, to that $10 million mark.  And the only way that you can do that is by focusing on the high-value things.  So if you’re spending half of your day going and looking at metrics, going and making sure that your reviews are still good, that you don’t have like bad reviews getting upvoted, all these things.  There are tools that can monitor these things for you, or at the very least maybe you don’t trust the tools for whatever reason.  You can hire someone at $5 an hour, $10 an hour to go monitor these things for you, and now you’re paying $20 bucks a day or whatever, and you’re still getting it done.  And I know that’s $20 a day that’s going out the door, but theoretically now you’re able to focus on the super high-value things, which is maybe new product selection, expanding your brand, like these things that really matter, focusing on getting keyword ranking, or figuring out some method of driving reviews at a better rate.  These are the things that are really, really making your business grow.  And yes, you obviously need to understand how the metrics are performing and stuff. 

Anyways, long rant to say you absolutely cannot grow to whatever you aspire to or – I hope you have big dreams.  You can’t grow to whatever you aspire to without hiring people.  And you know, here at Viral Launch I try to hire people that are better than me at everything, essentially.  And if they’re not better than me, then we’re probably working together, and they’re better at some aspects of that. 

So my favorite thing is product.  We hired a Director of Product, and while she is great at coming up with ideas, she comes up with a lot of ideas and then we just work together to prioritize them and make sure that we go with the best ideas at the best time.  But she’s so much better at organization, execution, and so she’s focused on those things.  And whatever you’re best at, maybe it’s PPC, or maybe it is in product selection.  At first maybe don’t outsource those things, and then what you end up doing is you hire someone that is pretty good at PPC that you can coach through.  You can show them your process, and as long as you’re doing a good job as a manager, as a leader, like you don’t necessarily have to have these fears that they’re just going to take all your information and run.  And even if they did, like they’re going to work for you for some period.  Like I think your worst-case scenario is not nearly as bad as you think, and your worst-case scenario is probably not nearly as bad as you getting stuck at that $1 million mark.

CAMERON YODER:

I think a lot of high-level sellers have a lot of trouble getting over the thought that, getting over the thought of failure.  Like the question comes into their mind.  There’s failure and ego.  So why – the question is why would I bring somebody on that is going to fail?  And I think you, as a high-level seller, need to accept the fact that you will fail and that your team is going to fail at some point in time.  Like you will experience failure.  If you haven’t yet, go listen to our failure episode of our podcast because we talk about failure in that.  But you as a seller, you need to realize that in order to get over that $1 million to $5 million mark, or even to get to that spot as well, you need to outsource, and that when you’re going to outsource jobs, or statistics, or whatever you’re doing, any job, then that person is going to fail.  You have to accept that.  You have to be okay with that.  If you just going to do everything yourself, again, you’re not going to scale.  And if you bring someone else on, they’re going to fail.  So teach them well.  Recognize that they will fail at some point.  And you have to be okay with that failure to grow, to scale.  Now teach them and learn from that failure.  Learn from that failure to move forward, but also don’t let that failure, the idea that failure will happen, stop you from bringing people onto a team.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and if you operate from the standpoint, not that you could hire someone, but if you operate from the standpoint that you have to at some point hire people to do these tasks or to help you run your business, then it starts to become a little bit easier to digest that well, if I am going to be doing this at some point, well now is better than later because Amazon is easier now than it’s going to be tomorrow, than it’s going to be a week from now, than it’s going to be a month from now.  Whenever you quote get around to it, it’s like hire them now so that you can really start to propel your business to the next level. 

So I know that we’re kind of hitting this hard in terms of hiring a team.  So one thing that I want to share from probably the most successful entrepreneurs that I know, these guys that are doing over $100 million a year, and actually the way that they hire is very interesting.  So essentially they go and they will find people that are like $10 an hour, $20 an hour people for the most part, and they just are – they do a really good job of helping them learn how to do whatever their job is really, really well.  So versus going and hiring someone that you have to pay $60,000 a year to do this or that, like they just find someone that is really hungry and will be very thankful for their job, and they just teach them how to be a project manager, how to get products ranking, how to get reviews, how to manage customer service.  And so anyways, like you don’t necessarily have to just go and ball out and spend all this money to hire these people.  You can hire people that are going to be great.  And if you truly feel like you are an expert at PPC or whatever it is, you can teach these people to do it.  And sometimes yes, it is taking one step back so you can take two steps, three steps, 10 steps forward.  Insomuch as yes, you’re going to have to take time to train somebody.  We’ve hired 47 people, so we’ve trained 47 people.  I cannot tell you enough Viral Launch would be nothing that it is if it was still just me, not like, not at all. 

And so anyways, again, I just can’t encourage you enough.  You don’t have to go out and hire expensive people.  You can find those $10, $20 an hour people that can help get your feet wet in terms of hiring, training, getting people going, and then you can start making decisions from there.  Okay, actually I do want to have an in-house graphic designer, or I want to have an in-house logistics person because I’m really starting to move product, or whatever.  Now you can start thinking about maybe these higher-level people that have experience that you don’t have to train that are going to be so much better than yourself.  And I think that I can’t encourage you enough to try to think realistically.  Where are the areas that you are not super strong in?  And maybe that’s probably where you – that’s probably where you should start hiring, and hire someone that has that experience.

CAMERON YODER:

I think once you get a good taste of bringing someone on your team that just alleviates some pressure or some time you won’t want to go back.  Like if you have the time and the resources and you bring someone on and they can just help you live literally just a better life or live with a little bit less stress, or just increase revenue or whatever, then you’re not going to want to go back.

CASEY GAUSS:

And sometimes it can be awkward from the standpoint of like, you know, I’ve definitely felt this at phases of the business.  I absolutely do not feel it right now.  But if you do a great job of bringing these people on you will feel a little bit awkward because it’s almost like, well, what am I supposed to do?  Everybody else is working, and I don’t even have that much to do because I’ve outsourced it.  Like that is the perfect place to be because you’ll see that once you start getting out of the weeds you’re able to think at a higher level, and you’re able to bring these super valuable thoughts and ideas, and this vision or whatever, to your team and start like oh, now I can really start thinking about how do I set myself up for an exit, right?  Now there’s a different mentality there. 

So anyways, one quick example, I just saw a friend of mine on Facebook.  He’s this one, two, I don’t remember, $1 million to $2 million dollar seller, I think.  But he’s growing quickly.  Anyways, he just posted this photo of him and his wife have like sheets all over their kitchen or something, and they’re doing their own photography.  And the amount of time that they spent to set up this white like studio or whatever is, if they’re doing the opportunity cost situation, like they are spending way, way more money by trying to do their own photos, and who knows how they’re going to turn out, versus hiring someone to do your photos.  Of course I’m biased in saying that, but I just can’t encourage you enough.  You know we always talk about you have to do everything as well as possible.  That’s the only way to compete, especially as Amazon continues to become more and more competitive.  But yeah, cannot encourage you enough.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, Casey, we’re talking about, or let’s touch on the next point, launching more products.  Casey, what do you think?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so overall I see, again, so many people get stuck in this phase because they get to the $1 million to $5 million mark, and understandably they want to diversify.  They don’t want to be completely focused or centered or have all their eggs in this Amazon basket.  And so they start to try to diversify.  They start to try to try to build out their Shopify store.  They try to build out Facebook pages.  You know, they’re trying to do whatever they can, maybe get into retail I’ve seen happen.  They try to do whatever they can to diversify their revenue, and I definitely get it.  The problem is of the, you know, however many people I’ve seen go through this phase I haven’t honestly seen anybody that has increased their revenue by more than 10, like 10% to maybe 20% by focusing on these other channels. 

Meanwhile, because they haven’t built that team around themselves, their Amazon business is stagnating.  And so like here’s the thing.  If you’re selling $1 million on Amazon the way you got there was by launching more products and doing, taking – doing a good job of taking care of the products that you have.  And so if you’re trying to get to the $2 million mark just launch the same amount of products, or just launch more products to do exactly what you did to get to $1 million to get to $2 million.  Or let’s say you’re selling $3 million a year and you have 15 products, or it should be high-volume products.  Let’s say you have 30 products.  Just launch 30 more products, and now you’re doubling your revenue or so.  Again, I see so many people that get so focused on Shopify, even these huge sellers I’ve seen where they’re past the $10 million mark, and they go and they spend a ton of money, a ton of their mind space on trying to diversify outside of Amazon.  They have such a difficult time doing that.

CAMERON YODER:

So why do you think big sellers do that, or just sellers in general?

CASEY GAUSS:

Why do sellers have a hard time?

CAMERON YODER:

Yes.

CASEY GAUSS:

Because Amazon is so easy.  So if you learn how to build a business on Amazon who is focused on driving all the traffic for you, all you have to do is figure out how to get in front of it and then have a good offering once you are in front of them versus a Shopify store, you have to do all those things.  You have to have a good offering.  You have to do all of that, but you are now also responsible for driving traffic, and you spend – like the way to really succeed there is you have to build out all these funnels.  And it is such a different game.  And if you really understand that game then you really understand that game, and you could be successful here.  But I would say the majority of, at least the people that I’ve worked with, are people that start their business as an Amazon business.  That is their entrance into e-commerce, and just overall, if Amazon is sending you all the traffic and all you have to do is get in front of it, that takes out half the equation, whether you’re good at the Shopify stuff or not.

CAMERON YODER:

Do you think there’s a mentality that it’s almost too easy and so because it’s too easy they’re like maybe I should challenge myself a little bit more, when in fact the answer to everything is it doesn’t have to – like it doesn’t have to be hard?  Amazon doesn’t have to be difficult.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.  I don’t think that too many people are focused on challenging themselves as businessmen or businesswomen.  I think that most people are focused on how can I build my empire?  How can I make as much money as possible?  And if that is what you’re asking, then I think Amazon is absolutely the way to do it.  If you’re selling a few million dollars on Amazon you have the infrastructure, some amount of infrastructure.  If you don’t, then listen to point number one.  But you have the infrastructure to, again, launch more products.  Even if those products are outside your brand, there are so many high opportunity markets that you could be jumping into very, very easily using the methods that you already know how because you’re at that million or so mark, and you could just continue to expand your revenue and expand your product line. 

You know, I have some friends where they got to the $8 million mark or so, and they went and they spent a ton of time on trying to get into retail.  And while they tried to get into retail they completely neglected their Amazon business.  I don’t really think they launched many additional products throughout this whole calendar year, maybe a couple here and there.  But anyways, their revenue actually had started to decline because they had taken their eye off the ball.  So many things had changed, and they were just so focused on chasing retail.  And throughout that process they landed one retail deal that didn’t even, you know, wasn’t even that great of a deal for them.  And their Amazon business, they had negative momentum, or bad momentum.  And so it took them a long time to like push that rock, get that rock going back up the hill.  And I felt bad.  And had they either put the infrastructure in place so that they continue to launch more products on Amazon and have someone really in the weeds on Amazon, and then the business owners wanted to focus on going outside of Amazon, then that would have been fine.  But it was kind of this binary all or nothing.  We’re only focused on retail right now because we need to diversify, and like that’s really sexy versus what is really sexy is a business that is continuing to grow.

CAMERON YODER:

A business that’s actually growing.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right, exactly.  And also for a while a lot of the gurus were just preaching because everybody wanted to learn, how do I build my Shopify?  How do I go outside of Amazon?  And you know the majority of people are talking about Amazon.  And so the sexy thing for the gurus was to talk about the off-Amazon stuff.  And for a while a lot of people were just pushing; you’ve got to diversify, you’ve got to diversify, you’ve got to build a brand, you’ve got to do all these things.  And people were eating it up because they didn’t know how to do that, or they were trying to do that and it wasn’t working, again, because it’s not as easy for most people. 

And so anyways, if that’s what the gurus are incentivized to share, that’s what they’re going to share for the most part, unfortunately.  But we’re the whole time saying no, Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.  And recently, though, I’ve seen a number of gurus or people building courses or whatever, that are now focusing more and more on Amazon, and I love it.  I think that’s absolutely what people need to be doing.

CAMERON YODER:

It was that period of time, and it still happens, where gurus recommend getting off of Amazon or things that honestly don’t really are not going to drive success or growth as quickly as just focusing on Amazon, but it was really like kind of a closed circuit where gurus were suggesting what the people wanted to hear and what the people were eating up, and the people were eating up what the gurus were suggesting.  So there wasn’t actually any truth in what was happening.  It was just both groups feeding off of each other without an actual foundation.

CASEY GAUSS:

And I think that cycle unfortunately is just a reality of a space with gurus because –

CAMERON YODER:

And that’s not all gurus.  That’s not all gurus.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.  No, no, and I appreciate the people that don’t care about what like is sexy necessarily.  They just want to speak the truth because it’s the truth that is really going to help build the business and help their constituents succeed.  But of course, right?  Like if everybody is reading these types of posts, watching these types of videos, then if your only focus is not necessarily on helping people, it’s on building your audience, then you are going to share that with them.  So I have some other friends that are in this same exact phase.  So they got stuck at $1 million in 2015, which is pretty early days, probably right around mid-2015, maybe late 2015, they hit the million dollar mark, and I just found out that they’re still stuck at the million dollar mark middle of 2018, and they’ve been investing in some of these higher-level masterminds, paying a good amount of money to start rubbing shoulders with these bigger sellers.  And the problem is this one particular mastermind is very focused on selling outside of Amazon and building all this stuff outside of Amazon.  And so these guys, they still have full-time jobs, and so their focus right now is on building all this stuff outside of Amazon versus focusing on what got them to the million dollar mark.  They have an awesome brand on Amazon.  They have awesome products that I think are just – I think they do a really great job from a product perspective, and I think that they could absolutely kill it.  They easily could have surpassed the $1 million to $5 million mark had they have kept their momentum in 2015.  And now they’re spending so much time.  They’re going to what I would call in some cases drastic measures to try to get past this $1 million mark.  They’re literally just at $1 million.  And again, just another example of people that are getting stuck in this stage.  And again, we’ve seen it so many times.  I just want to share as many anecdotes or stories as possible so that maybe one resonates with you a little more than the other, and you can start to see wow, okay, I need to make some maybe mental shifts so that I can get in the state or the flow that I should be.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, so kind of the last point here is just talking about how quickly the Amazon space changes and how much, how quickly that you can get behind if you get comfortable with where you’re at in the Amazon space, with how much you’re selling or where you’re at, or if you don’t really want to grow, or you kind of stay stagnant for a little bit.  The space changes a lot, and you can fall behind.

CASEY GAUSS:

Absolutely.  This is kind of an offshoot to the second point, but essentially we definitely see people that, they get to this $1 million to $5 million mark.  They’re a million-dollar Amazon seller.  They have a million-dollar business.  Probably in the course of a year to two years you should absolutely be proud of yourself, and you should be celebrating that.  But the problem is I see some people that they, again, get distracted.  They get excited about being this million-dollar seller.  They want to go do million-dollar business type things, or they want to go be a rich person, hang out on the beach, and they really lose sight of what is working on Amazon.  And it’s this, you know, three months of not paying attention to Amazon, so many things have changed.  Over the last three months millions of reviews have been wiped off of Amazon.  Now products are getting blocked from reviews.  Who knows?  There’s going to be an algorithm shift when it comes to ranking.  There’s going to be 10 new black hat methods that people are using to get reviews or to get keyword ranking.  I mean there are so many things that change within the course of three months, let alone a year or whatever. 

And so anyways, I see people.  They get to this mark.  They feel amazing, as they should, but they lose focus, or they start hanging out on the beach and say oh, my business is just going to take care of itself.  Meanwhile they haven’t done a good job of putting the infrastructure in place, and they start seeing revenue decline, or maybe it’s not growing like they thought and they try to come back in, and it takes them six months or whatever to kind of turn the ship around because, again, they’re headed towards a revenue decline or whatever.

CAMERON YODER:

So I think it really depends also on kind of what you want because there are sellers here who are okay with just staying at the $1 million to $5 million mark.

CASEY GAUSS:

Absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:

In that case, though, this really, it’s really important for you to be aware of the fact that when you do get behind, instead of staying at the same spot what’s probably going to happen, and what’s most likely to happen is the business will maybe start to decline, like you said, Casey.  And so if your goal is to kind of just maintain a position, there is a level of energy still that is required for you to input into the business, into an Amazon business, to stay up-to-date with everything that’s happening.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, unless of course you put in really good infrastructure –

CAMERON YODER:

Exactly, yes.

CASEY GAUSS:

– so that your team is able to take care of things.  But I’ve seen too many people that don’t do that.  Or one thing that I’ve actually heard a lot again from these people that are in this range is, you know, personal things get in the way.  And so it’s like, guys, if you build the infrastructure then you don’t have to worry about these personal things coming up.  I understand unforeseen things will happen.  Unforeseen events are going to come into your life at some point.  But if you have the infrastructure in place you do not have to worry about that.

CAMERON YODER:

So as a whole, I mean, Casey, this is a lot of information.  And I think it can be overwhelming for people to think like oh, I’ve got to even reach the $1 million mark before I even start to think about all this stuff.  Like there are so many things that I need to do.  So far all these people that might be feeling a little overwhelmed just about their Amazon business and scaling it well, scaling it correctly, what would you say to them?

CASEY GAUSS:

So basically I would have – my suggestion would be to, you know, what’s the saying?  You can’t eat a horse all in one bite, or an elephant all in one bite?  How do you eat an elephant?  It’s one bite at a time, right?  So same with this elephant of a business or, you know, if you think about your ideal business and how it’s running smoothly without you.  It’s growing.  It’s finding the right products.  It’s treating your customers the right way.  You know, the brand perception is there, like all these things.  If you think about this ideal business you don’t just do that in a week or a weekend.  It’s something that is done in the minutia of the day-to-day so that you’re making the right decisions that roll up to a few years from now that you have that business that you – or maybe by the end of the year, whatever, you have that business that you’re aspiring to or you dream of.  And so the best way to get started is to just put down these notes and say like okay, here – or put together a plan.  Here is what I am looking for.  Okay, so I’m looking for a team that can manage my Amazon business without me.  Okay, awesome.  Let’s start with that.  Let’s figure out what is point number one of that?  Okay, you need someone to – you’re still managing customer service.  That is definitely one of the first things that you should be outsourcing.  Okay, go on Upwork or wherever, and start finding that potential customer service person. 

Now there will definitely be hiccups along the way.  You will feel like you’re wasting your time doing this.  It may take – I once tried customer service through Upwork, and it took like three or four people to figure out who was good.  And so maybe it will be annoying because you just had three customer service VAs that were terrible, and you’re like well, this isn’t going to work.  The thing is if you operate from the standpoint of you know that it works, you just have to figure out the right person, or you had to figure out the right process to get it to work, then you will. 

So anyways, yeah, the suggestion is don’t get overwhelmed.  Just get excited about what can happen.  List out the plan of, how can I get there?  And then just start executing on that.  Handle point number one.  Handle step number two.  Handle step number three.  And bring people on board to help you accelerate how many steps you’re taking, or to take on bigger steps that you may not be able to take yourself.

CAMERON YODER:

I think one of the biggest questions you need to ask is – and not everyone that’s listening is going to be at the $1 million to $5 million mark, so ask yourself personally what is holding you back?  It could be yourself.  It could be outsourcing.  It could be that you’re not launching enough products right now.  Wherever you’re at, sit down, think, ask yourself some tough questions and get yourself some really, realistic answers. 

Well, that is all for today’s show.  Thank you all so much for tuning in to Follow the Data.  For more insights and reliable information subscribe to the podcast and also check out our YouTube channel since we’re putting out honestly a lot of good content there.  Also we just put out a blog post update on the review extravaganza, apocalypse, whatever you’re going to call it, that is happening right now.  So we have some really cool facts, cool data points in there to check out.  So go to our website.  Go to our blog.  Check it out. 

Also, if you want to reach out to us, if you have any questions about what we’re talking about or any comments on what we talked about in today’s show, reach out to us on Facebook.  Seriously, just pull up Facebook on your phone right now, type in Viral Launch.  If you’re driving don’t do this.  But if you’re on your computer or your phone, pull up Facebook.  Send us a direct message.  We will get back to you.  We’ll feature your question or comment on the show.  We always love hearing from you.  All right, so everyone, thank you again so much.  We do this for you.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Arbitrage vs. Private Label: Differences in Seller Strategy w/ Guests Garland & Max

Arbitrage vs. Private Label: Differences in Seller Strategy w/ Guests Garland & Max

There are many ways for sellers to sell on Amazon. We often largely explore the pursuit of rising in the ranks for Private Label sales, however this week Cameron dives into what it looks like to scale an extremely successful arbitrage business! He’ll be interviewing two sellers that have established an incredible arbitrage operation and continue to also scale their Private Label operation. This episode is all about digging into comparison between the two selling types, and pulling out how Garland and Max have successfully scaled (and are still scaling) both. 

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Podcast Transcript

The Top 5 Frequently Asked Amazon Seller Questions w/ Viral Launch Coaches Brandon & AJ

The Top 5 Frequently Asked Amazon Seller Questions w/ Viral Launch Coaches Brandon & AJ

We aggregate a LOT of data here at Viral Launch. ‘Data’ can look like a couple different things – one of them being direct interaction with the Amazon Seller community. Viral Launch has a coaching team that interacts with & guides a LARGE number of Sellers every single day, and have a solid understanding of what’s happening in the Seller community as a result. Today, we break down some of the most recent commonly asked questions sellers have been asking with two of the coaches that have been in the middle of it all. 

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Podcast Transcript

AJ:

Consider the source.  Too often we see people come to us with a product that they’re looking to validate that they’ve found on some list somewhere, you know, or they have seen from a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’re finding a product based off of something that’s visible to everyone, everyone else is going to be looking for that product.

CAMERON YODER:

Hey, what’s up, everybody?  My name is Cameron.  I am cohost of the podcast, Follow the Data with Casey Gauss, and today we actually have kind of a different or, I don’t know, just more unique episode.  So at Viral Launch we have a pretty good opportunity to just be in touch with a lot of Amazon sellers.  We have a team of what we call coaches, and I’ll explain this later in the episode, but we have a full team of coaches who are in touch with sellers every single day, in tune with what’s going on in the Amazon space and what people are experiencing, frustrations they’re experiencing, everything in between and what they, what is working, what is not working.  There’s just a lot that our coaches are in tune with.  And so honestly it’s a pretty valuable resource just to bring them into the picture sometimes with content that we have. 

And today’s episode is that, or involves that.  So we actually asked the I asked the coaches to conglomerate a lot of information that’s going on in the Amazon space right now with Amazon sellers into the top five questions that Amazon sellers are asking right now, and it’s what they’re asking right now, and it’s also kind of what they’ve been asking.  So today I bring two coaches in, Brandon and AJ, to talk about the top five questions that they are hearing Amazon sellers ask.  And we go through the answers.  We talk through the answers to those questions.  So that is what today’s episode is.  That’s what it involves.  So enjoy the show.  If you have any questions – I always say this at the end, but if you have any questions on what we talked about or any comments, feel free to shoot us a direct message on Facebook.  We’ll get back to you.  Facebook is probably the easiest way for us to reach out to people.  Just shoot us a DM, any questions, any comments, any ideas, and I would love to hear from you.  So all right, enjoy the episode.

What’s up, everybody?  So I’m here with two of our coaches just to explain a little bit about Viral Launch.  At Viral Launch we have a team of coaches and/or I kind of call them consultants when I talk to other people about our team.  But I have two of our coaches here.  They’re awesome guys.  I have Brandon and AJ.  Brandon and AJ, what do you guys have to say about being here today?

AJ:

I’m stoked.

CAMERON YODER:

Wow, stoked.  Brandon?

BRANDON:

He said it.

CAMERON YODER:

He said it.  He said it.  Well, guys, so you’re coaches.  How would you describe – just to give the listeners some context here, where is your perspective coming from?  Tell us about coaching a little bit.

BRANDON:

I mean I think we pretty much spend all day looking at Amazon, and so through that we’re able to provide a lot of insight as to what we’re seeing in the markets, what we’re seeing in the markets relative to our services, as well as just different product trends and things like that.  So a lot of times outside of the data we’re able to provide perspective on, you know, maybe something – maybe a market looks really great, but at the same time we’ve seen a bunch of clients come to us in the last few weeks with product in that market.  And so it’s probably something to stay away from, whereas the data maybe wouldn’t pick up on that yet because it’s not registering as being oversaturated yet.  So there’s a lot of data, but there’s also a lot of kind of intellectual or analytical insights that play into our thought process and logic in kind of guiding and consulting our clients.

CAMERON YODER:

That’s exactly – that’s a really good way to put it.  It’s a really good mixture of data, handling data, but also being aware, having that human element of being aware of what’s in the market and how to respond to it.  And so that’s the perspective that AJ and Brandon are speaking from today, and so we’re actually going to go over kind of five really frequently asked questions from sellers that our coaches get, and we’re going to answer those questions and talk through those answers to those questions.  And so, all right, guys, let’s just kind of jump into the questions, the five questions here.  So question number one that a lot of sellers give to our coaches, that a lot of sellers are asking right now, from the perspective of a seller who is just starting on Amazon, what do I – the question is so I’ve just started on Amazon.  What do I do next?  I’ve just started selling my products on Amazon.  What do I do next?  What is like the proper timeline after I start selling?  Guys, what do you think?

BRANDON:

I mean, I think the major kind of chokepoint is review generation.  So once you have your product live on Amazon you’ve got to start kind of strategizing ways to get reviews.  There’s not a lot of easy ways, so really just making sure you have good email follow-up sequences in place, you’re providing really great customer service.  You also want to start exploring your PPC options, getting some strategies in place there to help get you a little bit of visibility from the get-go, and then making sure that your content is really well-optimized, that you’re priced to compete within the market, and so you’re really, you know, offering a good product at a good price that’s providing a lot of value to potential customers.

AJ:

Yeah, so I agree with Brandon there.  I mean I think a lot of it is dependent on the market that you’re in, as well.  So obviously reviews are going to be important regardless of the market.  But there are some markets that are just going to be crazy competitive and you’re going to need to do really well with review generation.  So something like a fat burner is going to require, you know, thousands of reviews to do well, whereas something that doesn’t really have a lot of ambiguity behind the results that you’re going to get, like batteries or whatever, you know, you might not really need a ton of reviews to be competitive off the – from the beginning.  So I think making sure that you make every decision within the context of your individual market is pretty important as well.

CAMERON YODER:

In terms of congruent steps, like so let’s say someone – well, let’s talk through the steps.  So I – see, for me to give some input here just on like the steps that a seller takes, step one typically is like establish your business, right?  Not everyone has to establish an LLC, but you can do that if you want, right?

AJ:

Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Establish a business.  Do product research.  Pick the right product.  You source that product, right?  Then you do – that’s like everything post.  After you have sourced the product and you start selling on Amazon, it’s like creatives, right?

AJ:

Yeah, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

So photos –

BRANDON:

Photos, listing content –

CAMERON YODER:

Listing content.

BRANDON:

Enhanced brand content if you have that open to –

CAMERON YODER:

EBC.  Then start generating reviews?

AJ:

Yeah, I would say driving traffic to get reviews.  So they’re not just going to come on their own.  You’ve got to – once you’ve optimized your listing with all the creative stuff you’ve got to find a way to get some traffic to that listing, and that’s where PPC comes in play, external traffic.

CAMERON YODER:

So start generating reviews through traffic.  So that’s around this period of time, like in terms of the congruency stage of selling on Amazon.  That would be like you get your creatives in play, your photos, your listing, and you start generating reviews through something like PPC?

AJ:

Yeah, and I think that’s definitely one strategy.  A lot of people, you know, if you want to be more aggressive, they do start off with something like a giveaway right off the bat, even without the reviews.  There’s just the expectation there that the giveaway is going to get you on the first page presumably, but once you’re on Page 1 you’re going to need to supplement some organic sales with either another giveaway or a really aggressive PPC campaign or whatever.  You know, as you’re on Page 1 you have the visibility there, you can kind of take advantage of that and bring in some organic reviews that way as well.

CAMERON YODER:

What do most people – what do most sellers get wrong in the checklist, the Amazon checklist?

BRANDON:
I think one huge mistake is just not taking the time to develop the content.  I mean it’s pretty crowded on Amazon these days.  So you really need to make sure that you are selling your product as a higher-quality or with better wording, better imagery.  And you know, a lot of people are sourcing from similar if not the same places, so products can be virtually identical, and really differentiating yourself through sort of a value prop, through the presentation of the product is hugely beneficial.

AJ:

Yeah, I think a lot of people jump straight to, you know, they want to get ranking.  They want to get visibility, but the fact of the matter is if your listing is not in a position where it’s converting well once it has the visibility, you need to make sure that that step’s taken care of before you jump on some kind of crazy promotion.

CAMERON YODER:

There are a lot of steps that sellers miss.  Creatives is probably one of the most important ones that either sellers don’t focus enough on or put enough resources into.  Let’s go to question number two.  In terms of question number two that as lot of sellers are asking revolves around reviews.  So it’s kind of a series of questions, but number one, how do I get reviews?  Do I need reviews to launch a product?  And how many reviews do I need?  Let’s touch on the first one of that series of questions.  How do I get reviews?  How do sellers best get reviews?

BRANDON:

Yeah, so I mean there’s – especially now Amazon is extremely rough on cracking down on reviews that are coming from any sort of incentivized places.  They’re really doing their best to track Facebook groups, private Slack channels, private [subreddit 0:10:10.9] channels to really prevent any sort of incentivized reviews.  That’s not to say that your competition isn’t going to be pulling some shady business to get reviews, but it’s potentially a quick way to get shut down and have your business disrupted.  So within the terms of service there’s no way really to quickly generate reviews or a large volume of reviews. 

But that said, there are things that you can do to help kind of be proactive about it.  And so having the email follow up sequence in place is beneficial.  I know – you know, buyers are able to opt out of receiving those emails, but at the same time a lot of people don’t, and so just putting your best foot forward there can help get you something.  I mean I think additionally customer service is one really kind of underemphasized thing for getting reviews and helping to stave off negative reviews, just making sure you’re really proactive anytime somebody is reaching out to you, especially in those early phases of launching a product can help kind of get your footing on review basis. 

And then the other proactive thing that you can do is really just making sure you can get as much visibility as possible.  And so obviously you do that through PPC, and you know a lot of people are concerned about ACoS and spend on ads, but really in those beginning phases you just need to get your product in front of as many people as you can in order to drive the sales, which will in turn hopefully drive those reviews.

AJ:

Yeah, I would say along with that one other kind of quick win or option available to people, if you are brand registered you might look into the early reviewer program as well.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s a good way to get started.

AJ:

Yeah, it’s a good way to get started, and I don’t think there’s any exception, anything you can do outside of getting the visibility.  That’s honestly the biggest thing.

CAMERON YODER:

I think this is a top question that a lot of sellers ask for a reason, and it’s something that’s really hard for a lot of sellers to obtain.  Reviews are the currency of Amazon, and if you want to be completely white hat, it’s one of the hardest, most difficult things to do.  I really do think all of it stems back to having a quality product.  And again, you don’t have to have like the best product on Amazon, right, but if you just have a – if you have a bad product and you put your product in front of customers that are buying it, you’re going to get bad reviews, bad organic reviews.

BRANDON:

But along with that – and this is kind of jumping away from the review point for a second – but a lot of sellers also come to us with a product that is much higher price than a lot of other products on the market, and they try to make that quality argument.  And that is potentially a very valid argument, but it’s also potentially a hard sell, especially when you’re given a limited amount of text and imagery to really sell that point.  And so really understanding your market, understanding what the value of similar products are in your market is going to be crucial to being successful because if you’re really out of line on price point or, you know, even if you’re providing a much better quality of product in a market that has less, you know, quality products, overall it’s going to be harder to compete just because more people are going to buy a cheaper product than people that are willing to spend more money for a higher-quality in most cases.

CAMERON YODER:

It really is finding – it’s finding that balance between – maybe the correct phrase should be don’t have an awful product, right?

BRANDON:

Yeah.  I mean you obviously want one that doesn’t have any problems, but at the end of the day, you know, if you can spend an extra $5 to make something better, it may not be worth it as long as the initial product that you’re looking to source is going to be quality enough.

AJ:

Yeah, I think it comes down to, again, making decisions based off of your market.  So you know, in some markets creating a premium product might do you some good, but in other markets how many people really want a premium coffee mug or whatever?  You know, you have to make sure that all the decisions that you’re making are in the context of your market and the buyer behavior in that market.

CAMERON YODER:

So a question leading off of or into reviews a little bit more, do I need – the question is do I need reviews to run a launch?  A launch being, let’s just say in this case it could be a launch through Viral Launch, but also just like a promotion in general to increase keyword ranking.  Do I need reviews?  Let’s say you’re a seller; you just put your product on Amazon.  Do I need reviews to launch my product?

BRANDON:

I would say no, but with an asterisk.  So essentially you don’t need reviews to drive the ranking.  You can get the ranking on Page 1 with a brand-new product, no reviews given that you’re moving enough inventory in a narrow enough window of time so you’re getting good velocity.  But at the same time your ability to retain that ranking is typically at least semi-dependent on your reviews.  So you know, if you have the ability to, you know, one way or another to drive some reviews within a reasonable timeframe so you’re not sitting with no sales history for a long period of time, we typically would encourage you to try to get a couple reviews first.  Essentially – also you know you get a little bit of a honeymoon period when you launch a product that a lot of sellers talk about, and so it can be a little bit beneficial to ride that out and kind of see where you fall in ranking before you jump into running a launch right away.  But at the same time if you’re really struggling to get those reviews and you’re just not moving any product, the launch can be beneficial in getting you that visibility to help kind of jumpstart you a little bit.  So long story short, the promotion will help to drive ranking either way, but obviously at the end of the day when you’re looking at organic sales, having that review base is going to help to drive some of those.

AJ:

Yeah, I think that’s something that’s really important to reach out to a coach or some kind of consultant on as well because it can all just be really dependent on the product and its position in the market.  So if it’s a really seasonal market and there is a short window of time where you can even get sales, then yeah, by all means get the visibility right off the bat.  Take advantage of that increase in demand.  But you know, if there is some external factors that would lead us to believe that you would really need a very strong base of reviews to be competitive, then we’re going to kind of point you in that direction as well.

CAMERON YODER:

A lot of these questions are really market product dependent.  Like the question of do I need reviews to launch, really it does, it depends on how competitive your market is or if it’s seasonal or traditional.  Really if you’re launching into a really competitive market, then also maybe the number of reviews that you’ll need to start off initially if you start ranking will vary, right?

AJ:

Yeah, exactly.

CAMERON YODER:

You’ll need more – yeah, and more initial reviews to rank well.  So okay, this kind of leads into – actually maybe that answers the question of how many reviews do I need.  Is there a set number of reviews that customers need for their product?

BRANDON:

Absolutely not.  I mean there are some markets that have very, very low review barriers to entry.  I mean just off the top of my head, like you know particularly like adult products tend to be pretty low review because people don’t like to publicly review those.  But there are like newer markets and things like that that you know, if there’s a new product that’s kind of developed and it’s just sort of making its way on Amazon, a lot of times, you know, those reviews haven’t really caught up to those massive quantities that you see in like a lot of supplement markets and things like that.  So it’s really just dependent on the market.  I mean there are some products that you can compete very well right off the bat with no reviews just because your competition is all kind of on the same playing field.  Others, literally everyone on Page 1 has over 1000 reviews, and it’s going to be exceptionally hard to compete there without getting a large quantity of reviews in place.  And yeah, I mean seasonality plays into things as well because a lot of time seasonal products are kind of more flashes in the pan for sellers, and they ramp it up for a short period of time and then don’t really put much emphasis into it later.  So reviews can potentially count a little bit less there.  So it really just is a product by product, market by market kind of analysis on what you need to be competitive.

AJ:

Yeah, so like Brandon said, I think it’s based off of market maturity, so obviously markets where there have been several products live for several years, they’ve just had more time to aggregate those reviews.  But there can also be buyer behavior within each market.  Some things take a lot of social proof.  People are going to want to see a very large number of reviews to actually make the purchase whereas other things they might not need that because they know fully what they’re buying and there’s little to no doubt on how it will satisfy their goals or whatever.

CAMERON YODER:

Reviews are, no doubt, a really hot topic, a really important topic for sellers.  Anyone that’s beginning, or anyone that’s an advanced seller and selling a lot, reviews are going to be a topic for a while, and things are changing so it’s really important to get processes down now and soon so that you can start aggregating those reviews because things are changing, as we talked about in our last, or one of our recent episodes.  Okay, so kind of another question that a lot of sellers ask is how much inventory do I need for my product?  Now that is, again, the question is how much inventory do I need?  That is a very broad question, and of course the answer is it depends.  But guys, what do you have to say to people that are asking that question?

AJ:

Yeah, so I think that question is something that you’re always going to need to have some data to make that decision.  As with any of these that we’re coming up with it’s a market decision, but having the data available, some sales estimations available to see how the products are doing currently that are on Amazon can really help you project demand and lead you to get that initial inventory count that you’re looking for.  So there’s definitely not a one size fits all answer for that.  It’s really just more the things that you’re going to want to look at are how products are performing right now, if there’s any seasonality with them.  The best thing to do is really just look at comparable products to what yours will be when it is live and see how those are performing.  Take into consideration review counts, price, all that kind of stuff.

BRANDON:

Yeah, I mean there are markets where people are – the top sellers are selling 100 units a month or less.  I mean there are markets where people are selling 10,000 units a month.  So I mean it’s definitely optimistic to assume that you would immediately get to that point as well.  So there’s a lot that kind of goes into it, and you know thinking a little bit ahead of time about how aggressive you want to be out of the gate with things like promotions or just driving traffic, getting, you know, spending money to make money essentially.  If that’s kind of your endgame you really want to ramp up fast, then you’re probably going to want more inventory in stock.  If you’re looking to kind of let things develop organically over time, maybe you go a little bit more conservatively. 

And another big thing to factor in is what kind of the pricing tiers when you’re manufacturing are based on your inventory quantities because if there’s a huge jump in price it might be worth it to buy that little bit of extra inventory to make sure that you’re getting a better price and can sell it for a better price.  But additionally, like the time frames can be really wide, so if you’re sourcing domestically maybe you can get something in a week.  If you’re sourcing from China maybe it takes six weeks.  And so you’ve really got to look at market history and what people are doing now and kind of analyze the best and worst case scenarios there.  And it’s a really hard question to answer just because there is no right answer because there are so many variables at play with regards to how aggressive you’re going to be and what the market’s looking like, what predictably it’s going to look like. 

And so yeah, I mean, I think if you’re talking to a coach or somebody that has some expertise they might be able to steer you in the right direction, but ultimately it just kind of comes down to what you feel comfortable with a lot of times, as well.  But I will say that the biggest factor is you don’t want to run out of inventory if you can avoid it at all costs.  I mean there are even strategies around that so you can airship part of your shipment and then freight the rest by sea if you need to get product in quickly.  So there are options, but kind of knowing the timeframe that it’s going to take you to get your products in stock is really crucial into helping to develop that initial inventory order.

AJ:

Yeah, so taking into consideration lead time like that with new orders, it’s sometimes good to look at the number of units you would want to have on hand, but it’s also good to look at it as a how many units do I need for this period of time.  So instead of saying I have 500 units on hand, I have three months’ of sales on hand kind of thing.  So taking into consideration your lead time you’re able to forecast demand and see how many months of supply should I have on hand given that it takes me this much time to get a new order in.

CAMERON YODER:

I think, again, like you guys already said, this question is a really hard one to answer for individual sellers.  I think a lot of this comes down to asking yourself where you want to be in the market that you’re in.  Oftentimes – and also if like I think, Brandon, you said, whether you want to rank organically or whether you want to go for something like a launch because if you run a launch that is going to increase the number of units that you need right away.  Typically – I’m not going to put a number to it, but I was talking to a seller just at a conference last week, and he was asking me about how much inventory he should order if he wanted to do a launch.  And typically a good practice would be to take a look at sales data again, like something like Market Intelligence, right, looking at all the sales numbers, taking a look at the position you can expect yourself to be in realistically.  Maybe that’s like top 15, averaging out those units, maybe giving yourself two months of what that average is, and then increasing, increasing that by the amount of promotional units that you’ll need.  And again, the amount of promotional units that you’ll need will probably come from something like a consultant or a coach.  At least that’s what I would recommend.  But having a typically two months’ lead time for inventory is a good practice to have.  But again, the balance comes from – the balance comes from having enough inventory but also not spending all of your capital to have it all tied up in inventory if you have multiple products on the ocean or being manufactured at the same time.  If you have – if this is your first product you also want to be conscious of how much money you have. 

So can this question be answered indefinitely with specific percentages and numbers?  Not right now.  The answer is not right now.  But talking to – again, talking to someone who knows what they’re doing or can give you those numbers and has seen people succeed or fail, that is the answer to that question.  But the best thing we can talk about right now is best practices for inventory management and what to expect from data. 

So next, let’s go to the next question.  So a lot of sellers ask about – a lot of sellers ask our coaches about validating product ideas.  Basically they’ll come to coaches and say hey, is this a good idea?  Is this a good idea for a product to sell on Amazon?  And there is of course there are a lot – there is a lot that goes into validating a product and validating a market.  But guys, what our – what would you say are some of the most important criteria for determining whether a market is a good market to get into?

BRANDON:

My big starting point is always going to be looking at the average review quantity of listings on Page 1.  So ultimately you want to see something that has, you know, decent sales, something that you feel comfortable with, you know, and that’s different for everybody.  Maybe somebody is happy to sell 100 units a month.  Maybe somebody is looking for 1000+ a month.  But you also want to make sure that there isn’t a huge maturity of reviews on the listings on Page 1 because essentially if you’re moving into a market where everyone on Page 1 has 1000+ reviews it’s going to be really hard to compete.  So usually when I tell people when they’re starting out with a product finder tool like Product Discovery, set a threshold of like around a maximum of 100 reviews and a maximum sales quantity of – or sorry, a minimum sales quantity of around like 500 or so, and feel it out that way.  And you can always tweak those variables to kind of see how things develop or see what other data points you are finding with those results.  But that’s kind of the two most crucial things.  I mean getting more in depth definitely looking at market maturity is a thing because if the market is really mature it can be hard to enter.  If there is a lot of brand name products competing in the space it can be really hard to enter.  I mean if you’re launching your own toothpaste, for instance, you’re not going to be able to compete with Crest.  So you know, you’ve got to find those niches where there isn’t a lot of brand loyalty in place. 

Checking to see if Amazon is a really active seller in the category can be beneficial as well.  If they’re vending a lot of products, then it’s potentially another little, you know, monkey wrench in your ability to rank and compete well.  Yeah, so then beyond that I mean I think it’s just finding products that obviously you also have the margins on.  And so price point is really crucial.  And if something is selling for $20 but it’s going to cost you $15 to source it, it might not be a great idea.  If something is selling for $20 and it’s going to cost you $5 to source it, that’s probably a little bit better.  So you know, determining kind of what Amazon’s fees are going to be, what shipping is going to cost, what manufacturing is going to cost, that all plays into whether something is a good product as well. 

Then the last point that is potentially hard for an average seller to predict or analyze, but this is where we I think provide the best value is being able to validate it in the context of what is being seen as far as popularity of the product.  So a lot of times manufacturers make something for a seller, and then they push really hard to sell a version of that product to a bunch of other sellers to capitalize more on it.  And so you get a lot of sellers entering the market with basically the same or very similar products.  And additionally, you see trend markets that pop up and a bunch of people jump on board, like stuff from Kickstarter that people are able to clone.  I mean the biggest example we’ve seen in probably the last year is the fidget spinner craze.  So you know, for the first few people that were in the market, they made money hand over fist.  For everybody else that got in, they were screwed because they couldn’t get ranking on Page 1 and got stuck with tons of inventory, and it was just really, really volatile.  And so a lot of times people come to us with products that based on the data look great today, but the fact that we’re able to see that, you know, we’ve worked with 10 people in the last week with this product, it is a little bit of a predictor that, you know, maybe by the time you get this product to Amazon it’s going to be pretty oversaturated. 

AJ:

Yeah, I would say along with that, you know, consider the source.  Too often we see people come to us with a product that they’re looking to validate that they’ve found on some list somewhere, you know, or they have seen from a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’re finding a product based off of something that’s visible to everyone, everyone else is going to be looking for that product.  So consider the source.  Obviously, like Brandon said, reviews are huge.  That’s probably going to be the bulk of your research.  Digging a little deeper into the reviews, they can tell you a lot about the quality of the product as well.  If you have a market where a lot of products are very similar and you still think that you can differentiate in some way, a lot of times if you dig into the actual reviews themselves and look at commonalities, reasons why people left negative reviews, you may have been able to find a defect or flaw in a product design that your competition isn’t finding.  And obviously if you bring that product to the market and it’s in a better position to satisfy customers’ wants and needs without that flaw, then you can do well.  So I would say ultimately, like Brandon was saying, there is a ton of stuff that you can consider and just taking in as much as you can, having as many eyes on the product as you can is really just going to do so much for you in the long run.

CAMERON YODER:

I think the final question actually is a good lead-in kind of out of this one, or they relate together really well.  So we talked about finding a good product market, but also really, and this might share honestly a lot of the same things that we talked about or that we mentioned, but fifth question a lot of sellers ask is how can I tell right off the bat that a market is oversaturated?  How do I tell?  So maybe I know how to recognize a good market, but how do I recognize a bad market right away?

BRANDON:

I always think it’s easier to find a bad market, or to identify a bad market.  And it really just comes down to looking at, you know, everyone has massive quantities of reviews.  Sales are really volatile.  So you know, you see some people with huge, huge quantities of sales.  You know, one huge indicator is if you’re looking into like Market Intelligence, you have some people that are selling huge quantities, others that are selling next to nothing, especially when you get to like Page 2, Page 3, that can be a big kind of red flag because the sales are not being shared.  But in general I think a lot of sellers get very excited when they see massive sales quantities, and what is underappreciated there is the maturity of the products that are getting those sales.  And so a lot of times, you know, you look at that, but realistically you probably can’t compete at that level or at least at that level for a very long time.  And so I like to look for stuff that is going to be profitable.  So you know, you’re looking for stuff where the numbers aren’t insane on either end.  So sales are good, but maybe not like, you know, million-dollar month product kind of thing.  And you’re also looking for reviews that are very low as far as the quantity of them.  So I mean I think obviously that’s the biggest barrier to entry.  Those mature products benefited a lot from the previous incentivized review rush and all that.  And so it’s really hard to generate 1000 reviews legitimately today.  And so looking for markets that, you know, the best sellers don’t have that threshold really makes it a good market.  And so yeah, I mean I think the biggest indicator for me is always the review quantity.

AJ:

Yeah, I agree with Brandon.  So not so much on just the looking at the specific number of reviews, but the distribution of them.  So you know, if there are 10 sellers you’re analyzing, 10 products you’re analyzing and three of them have thousands of reviews, everyone else is at 10 or 15, stay away.  Same with sales.  If something is – if the distribution of sales is super wide, that’s probably a good indicator that they are really well-established products in that market.  They’re going to be very difficult to compete with.  At the same time, though, if you see a pretty flat distribution of sales and they’re spread across several products, several products have low review counts and there’s not a clear leader, you know there might be opportunity to make your product the leader.

CAMERON YODER:

I really do think when it comes to whether a good market is a good market or a bad market, there are indicators that we can tell listeners that set a standard.  At the same time, every seller is at a different spot in their seller journey.  Every seller has a different amount of resources, and a good market, quote unquote, for one person might be a bad market for another.  And so it’s really important to stipulate that you, as a seller, need to sit down – and we’ve said this on the podcast so many times – sit down and ask yourself what you’re capable of, how much you have to invest in an Amazon business and how much risk you are willing to take because your lens for a good product and a bad product will change depending on what you’re capable of doing.  At the same time there are those standards that we can set to say hey, you can see, you can spot a, quote unquote, good market from miles away or, quote unquote, bad market from miles away if you know the things that Brandon and AJ talked about.  I don’t know if you guys want to add anything else.

BRANDON:

Yeah, I mean I think that’s a great point as far as where you’re at in the seller journey really kind of depends on what you’re looking at for products as well.  I mean I think if a first-time seller was coming to me and their first product idea was going to be like a face cream, for instance, I would tell them to stay far away from it.  But if you’re a seller that has a really well-established beauty brand and you’re selling really well with a bunch of other products in a similar line, it might not be the same situation because you have a, you know, you have a clientele that is purchasing your products.  You probably have some customer lists that you can market to, things like that.  So you have a lot more resources at your disposal, and you have a brand name that’s recognizable that you can kind of fall back on a little bit so people, you know, there’s a little bit of quality assurance built into that as well.  So it’s a really kind of different scenario for somebody that has an established product line or something like that to move into a market that might be oversaturated for the first-time seller.

CAMERON YODER:

AJ, do you have anything to add?

AJ:

No, he said it.

CAMERON YODER:

Well, hey, I don’t know, guys, do you want to say anything to the listeners before we end everything here?

AJ:

I think just to reiterate the first point, you know we’re here for you.  We have the experience that a lot of people don’t necessarily have, and we can come at decisions with a unique perspective.  So I just encourage everyone to lean on someone, even if not us, someone like us that can purely give you advice that’s unbiased and not self-seeking.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah.

BRANDON:

Yeah, I have two more points of advice that are kind of for the first-time sellers.  So the first one is when you are looking to source a product look for something that you’re maybe interested in, but something that you’re not necessarily in love with.  A lot of sellers that we encounter that may have really cool product ideas, but it’s something that they’re really, really passionate about.  So if you’re like a skateboarder or something and you’re really passionate about skateboarding, you launch a line of skateboard bearings or something like that, and it’s a huge passion project for you, but at the same time from like the capitalist mentality, when you have that emotional bond to a product it leads you to make worse decisions in a lot of instances because you try to make it work when it’s not working.  And so finding something that you maybe have a little bit of interest in but are not overly passionate about is good because if something is not working with it you are less emotionally invested and are able to kind of walk away. 

And so I always kind of tell people don’t necessarily think about what you love when you’re looking to sell something.  Look at what’s going to make you money and what’s going to give you kind of the best situation to succeed, and then as you get resources built out maybe you have more of a position to take a risk on something that you’re really, really passionate about and you can afford to lose some money on it.  But if it’s a first product, you know, stick to something that you aren’t super, you know, emotionally tied to. 

And then my final point is just to – a lot of times like research tools can be fantastic for helping you to find product ideas, but I also like to encourage people just to think.  I mean not in a bad way, but like I just think that there are a lot of really cool product ideas that are very kind of under thought of by your competition that you can stumble upon just by looking at what you use in your day-to-day life, what you would like to have, you know, just very simple things can be huge winners on Amazon purely because they’re so simple that your competition doesn’t thing to look at it.  And it’s not – you know, I like to stay away from the flashy stuff, you know, similar to kind of the fidget spinner thing.  You know there’s huge hype around it.  A bunch of people rushed into it.  You want to be going the opposite direction and looking for stuff that people use and use regularly, potentially use every day or reuse, you know, things that people are reordering regularly, but stuff that’s just common.  I mean the very basic common household things and stuff like that can sometimes be huge hits just because they’re not flashy.  And so thinking about things from that perspective outside of the research tools and then looking at the research once you have some of those ideas compiled can be a huge advantage to going about finding a first product to source as well.

CAMERON YODER:

I think that’s very well said.  I think that’s a very undervalued piece of advice in the Amazon community is simply to honestly take time to stop and think.  Just take a moment to think about it because honestly sellers right now tend to get lost in data, tend to get lost in tools, which are fantastic and really add to the experience, but also you have your mind and your experiences, which no one else has.  And so I think that’s extremely valuable.  Well, thank you both.  Thank you, AJ.  Thank you, Brandon, for coming on the show.  I really value your guys’ time and your guys’ input for sellers.

AJ:

Thanks, cam.

Brandon:

Thank you.

CAMERON YODER:

For sure. 

And honestly, that is it for today’s episode.  Thank you all so much for tuning in.  I had such a great time with AJ and Brandon, and we most likely will bring them in again.  Again, I asked them to conglomerate a lot of information, a lot of different questions that sellers are experiencing, and so we will probably use that as a resource, and we would love to also hear different questions from you because we just love hearing direct feedback from you.  So go to Facebook right now on your phone.  Look up – type in Viral Launch or speak text Viral Launch, whatever’s easiest and safest for you, and hit us up.  Just send us a message even if you’re not following us, but also you should follow us, and shoot us a direct message with just any questions you have on Amazon, anything you want answered, any thoughts on what we’re doing, on what’s going on in the Amazon space.  Really, it could be anything at all.  We’re going to Boost next week.  Next week will be the Boost event that we are attending.  So hit us up there.  We’ll be there with a pretty solid team.  We’d love to hear from you.  We’d love to meet you if we haven’t met you yet.  And as always, until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Amazon Review Changes: Drastic Shifts In Seller Strategy & How To Respond (Part 1)

Amazon Review Changes: Drastic Shifts In Seller Strategy & How To Respond (Part 1)

As a Seller, it’s a serious challenge to grow your business and increase sales while so many changes are constantly happening to Amazon’s platform. Amazon is changing the way that buyers ‘buy’, and sellers ‘sell’. Over the past month, Amazon has been making changes to Reviews. Some of these changes have already drastically altered Seller Strategy. Other changes have the potential to drastically alter Seller Strategy in the future. In this episode, we break down recent changes to reviews on Amazon. We’ll break down what the data is saying, how these changes impact you now, and how they impact your future on Amazon.

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

As a seller it’s a serious challenge to grow your business and increase sales while so many changes are constantly happening to Amazon’s platform.  Amazon is changing the way that buyers buy and sellers sell.  And too often Amazon will make changes without any sort of warning or indication of what’s to come.

CASEY GAUSS:

Over the past month Amazon has been making changes to reviews.  Some of these changes have already drastically altered sellers’ strategy.  Other changes have potential to drastically alter sellers’ strategy in the near future.  I’m Casey Gauss.

CAMERON YODER:

And I’m Cameron Yoder, your hosts for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CASEY GAUSS:

In this episode Cam and I are going to break down recent changes to reviews on Amazon.  We’ll break down what the data is saying, how these changes impact you now, and how they may impact you in your future Amazon endeavors.  Let’s jump in.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, so we’re talking about the review apocalypse –

CASEY GAUSS:

Apocalypse?

CAMERON YODER:

– that’s happening.  No.

CASEY GAUSS:

Review apocalypse.

CAMERON YODER:

Review eclipse.

CASEY GAUSS:

All right, review apocalypse it is.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, it’s settled.

CASEY GAUSS:

Anyways, so guys there’s five major changes that we want to go through.  Candidly, we don’t have all the data, nor do we want to act like we do.  So we want to show you what we’re seeing.  You know, we’re tracking hundreds of millions of products on Amazon, so we want to use this data to help you make better decisions, to really get a good scope or understanding of the scope of the changes that are being made.  And so this is something, probably a topic that we’ll have kind of an updated post on, whether it be a blog post or podcast, so that you can see like how those changes are continuing throughout Amazon or as we continue to get more data.

CAMERON YODER:

And some of this episode really is just updating you on what has happened in the Amazon space, and another aspect is, like Casey said, delivering actual data and information.  And also, like Casey said, we’re still accumulating data on this subject, and so that’s why we don’t necessarily want to point to very specific numbers, acting like we have it all conglomerated right now because we’re still collecting that data.  But again, telling you what’s happened, collecting all that information while also delivering you some information that we do have.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right, and at the end of the day I think there’s two main things that you need to walk away with – well, three main things.  One, just a better general understanding, but two, I mean more and more are changes happening faster and faster on Amazon, and so I think that you absolutely need to just get used to it.  So it is the sellers that are quickest to adapt to whatever changes are being thrown their way, whether it be from competitors, suppliers, or from Amazon themselves.  Those that are willing and able to adapt to whatever the new landscape or new paradigm looks like are those that are typically the most successful.  So we want to help you get the knowledge you need to know what decisions to make moving forward.  And then number three is just that so many people freak out about some of these changes, and like I said these are going to be happening more and more.  I imagine so. 

And so just understand that when these changes are made these are opportunities for you to adapt, move quickly, and at the end of the day, you know, a lot of the times it just levels the playing field even more.  So we look at it as – or you may look at it as, you know, this change is now going to have this dramatic impact on your business.  Oh wow, how can we continue?  But in reality a lot of the time it just levels the playing field for those doing black hat activities and allows you to have that much more of a competitive advantage or to diminish the competitive advantage those black hat sellers do have.  So it’s not always the case, but for the most part it is, and so I just want to encourage you to be okay with these changes.  And don’t freak out.  Just adapt with them.  Figure out the new rules, play to those new rules so that you can continue to kill it on Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:

Adapt, learn, and let’s talk about those five changes, five major changes that are, or have already happened, or are currently happening, or are going to happen in the future.  The first one, the first one that we want to talk about are random reviews that are being completely – I shouldn’t even say maybe random necessarily.

CASEY GAUSS:

Seemingly.

CAMERON YODER:

But seemingly random or selective reviews that are being wiped off of Amazon.  Casey, what we got here?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so we are still compiling the stats.  We’ll probably have a blog post out at the time of releasing this.  We’re crunching a lot of information right now.  It’s a little bit tough because there’s multiple changes happening at the same time, and we’re trying to silo those changes.  But anyways, literally millions of reviews have been wiped from Amazon over the last 60 days.  So over the last 90 days there have definitely been changes.  The majority of changes actually have come over the last 30 days at the time of recording this.  This is June 5th.  So over the last 30 days, but a good amount over the last 60, even more over the last 90, but literally millions of reviews are being wiped.  And so, so far the product that we’ve seen the largest drop in review quantity is actually 16,000 reviews lost on one ASIN.

CAMERON YODER:

Single product.  That’s a single ASIN.  That’s not necessarily variations.  Or does that include variations or not?

CASEY GAUSS:

Does not include variations.

CAMERON YODER:

Single ASIN.

CASEY GAUSS:

A single ASIN lost 16,000 reviews.  Now you know, there’s just these wild review fluctuations going on, so I’ve seen everything from – I was looking at a product where it lost 11,000 reviews in a day and went down to like one, two reviews or something like that.  But literally like a few days later got like half – so I’ve seen some products where they get all their reviews back, and then I’ve seen some products where they get like half their reviews back, right?  And so it’s literally all over the place.

CAMERON YODER:

So Amazon, have we – there isn’t necessarily a pattern, correct, that’s been recognized as to these reviews being removed and/or are they correlated with something like black hat activity obtaining those reviews?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean there’s got to be a method behind the madness, and that has not seemed very apparent to us.  So this is happening for brands like Rubbermaid, and TP-Link, and Netgear.  So these major, major brands, but also happening to third-party sellers.  And it can be as little as a couple of reviews being removed.  Sellers may not have even noticed.  But then, like we said, some people losing over 10,000 reviews on a single product. 

So it’s across the board.  So one theory that we have, kind of from some of our tests – now I want to stipulate that this is a theory.  This is not proven.  We don’t have insider data helping us to understand this.  But what we are seeing is that Amazon is flagging particular buyer accounts.  And so this lines up with another change that we’re seeing.  And so which, you know, it helps to support this theory.  But essentially we feel as though, or we think that we’re seeing individual buyer accounts get flagged.  And what’s this this means is essentially – and this spreads into another point coming up – but anyways, if a particular buyer account gets flagged for leaving suspicious reviews or whatever, we then see either all of that person’s reviews removed, so you know that would affect all the products that they’ve purchased and left reviews on.  So it’s not specifically targeting a single ASIN, and those ASINs may – we’ll bring it up in another point, but something else will happen to those ASINs. 

But so I do know that they – or very much so believe that they are targeting individual products as well.  That’s why there’s no chance that they are targeting, let’s say this product that lost 16,000 reviews, on one day they didn’t find 16,000 buyer accounts or whatever that had happened to leave a review on that product and wiped all of them out.  They’re going after individual products as well.

CAMERON YODER:

Yes, so impact on the market – basically, again, point number one is that reviews seemingly are being removed.  Whether it’s completely random or specified to a specific product, it’s unclear at this point in time.  But regardless, reviews, a large amount of reviews, have been removed and are currently being removed.

CASEY GAUSS:

So one interesting thing here – so again, the question is how much time do we want to take to really go and quantify some of these things because we have the data; it’s just a matter of opportunity [cost 0:08:49.1].  We’re working on some big things, but so I was just doing some quick looking around last night and some products that had 5,000 reviews removed or whatever, like some of them you can see on the exact day that those reviews were removed you can see a drop in their sales or a drop in their best seller rank.

CAMERON YODER:

Crazy.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.  And so you can easily see that this is definitely, definitely having an impact on sellers.  Now we didn’t go – you know, we could do some really cool things like go and quantify the average impact to sales that is being had on the products that are losing reviews, and we could see like if they lost at least X percent of their reviews it had this kind of impact on sales.  Interesting stats, for sure, but maybe not worth our time.  You know, if you’re listening and you really, really, really want these stats and you’re going to promise to share and tell all your friends, like shoot us an email, and if we get enough feedback like maybe we will really go dive in because it’s definitely interesting.  We just have so much that we’re working on.  It’s hard to –

CAMERON YODER:

Right.  All that to say what we are seeing is a direct correlation between these reviews being removed and a drop in sales.  So there is significant impact being placed on the market right now.

CASEY GAUSS:

And one of my favorite points about this is like there is that study, and there’s a bunch of, you know, software providers in the space [unintelligible 0:10:13.2] saying that if you have over 21 reviews then there is no difference, right?  And so these guys who are losing – this person that lost 16,000 reviews, they still have hundreds of reviews, and some of them that lost like 5,000 reviews or whatever, they still have thousands of reviews, but they did still see a decline in sales because they lost reviews even though they have over 5,000.  So if more than 21 reviews, or more than 1,000 reviews, it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t affect sales?  That’s absolutely not true, and this is the best example of that.

CAMERON YODER:

So point number one, reviews are being wiped.  Point number two – this is an interesting one – reviews are getting split, seem to be getting split, among variations.  Now here’s the thing.  About some of these points that we’re talking about, we’re not saying that they are indefinitely going to happen across the entire Amazon platform.  However, what we are recognizing is that they are happening with specific ASINs.  So in this case what we are seeing is that how things used to be, basically, all products would share reviews under the parent ASIN.  So let’s say you have a – you’re selling a coffee mug.  Let’s say you have a red coffee mug and you have a blue coffee mug.  If you go to that parent ASIN that has all the variations you would see the same amount of reviews.  They would just be – all the variations would share those reviews.  Now what we’re seeing with a couple products on Amazon is that the people that bought a red coffee mug and leave a review, the review sticks for that red coffee mug specifically.  And then people that buy the blue coffee mug and leave a review, those reviews are left for the blue coffee mug specifically.  So what ends up happening is if you’re looking at variations under a parent ASIN, each variation is going to have a different number of reviews and just different reviews in general.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so actually, Cam, I’m pretty confident that this is going to be happening across the board –

CAMERON YODER:

Everywhere.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, Everywhere.

CAMERON YODER:

But not right now.  Right now it’s not across the board.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right now it’s not, but something definitely to expect.  So this, I feel like does kind of suck.  But I see some benefit to it as well.  So it does suck from the standpoint of one very common strategy is to just put everything under one listing so that you can take advantage of the reviews, start getting some sales going on a new ASIN, and then once you have a significant number of reviews on that new ASIN, you can then split it up, then go take as much of the search result real estate as possible.  So this strategy is going to be gone now, I think, unless the majority of searches are coming for like blue coffee mug but people end up buying the red coffee mug or something like that.  But I think the main advantage of this, of these variation hacks are gone. 

So we’ll see what happens.  I think that as we all have to kind of adapt to this new system or whatever, this new structure, we will continue to develop new strategies as we think about it.  You know, I haven’t really taken much time to think about it, but definitely something to be aware of.  I have some friends who were absolutely killing it because one of their variations was just like had tons and tons of reviews, but when they were ranking for other keywords they still showed those reviews, and so they were just able to wipe everybody out in their market.  And now they won’t have that advantage.  Now sure, because they leverage that they got more sales, which allowed them to generate more reviews.  So they are much better off than had they not have done that in the first place, but still can definitely be impactful for people.

CAMERON YODER:

This change of each variation having their own unique number of reviews does really benefit the consumer.  It is very beneficial for a customer to go in, look at variations and see reviews for those specific products.  For sellers specifically it does make things a little bit more difficult.  But again, like Casey said towards the beginning, this is just something that as a seller you’re going to have to adapt to because it does make sense.  It just makes everything a little bit harder.

CASEY GAUSS:

So one down side to this, I was hoping that it would – maybe some of you guys have seen the examples where, you know, it’s a testosterone cream that has 10,000 reviews and all the reviews are for like crazy things like cat beds, HDMI cables, like camping gear, stuff like that.  The reviews are for these really random, random products for a testosterone cream.  And so I was hoping that this update would make that tactic not available because it sucks.  If somebody can just go and get 10,000 reviews out of nowhere and they’re all verified, like that sucks.  And so you know they don’t always remain, and Amazon will wipe them out sometimes, not all the time.  But regardless, that tactic still remains as a black hat tactic that people can use against you unfortunately.  Hopefully that is something that is blocked here soon.  I can’t imagine that it’s not.  We’re actually talking about just for fun so that everybody knows and maybe to help bring it to Amazon’s attention, building just a quick tool that helps us to find those reviews – or sorry, those products that are cheating in this manner or using this method because like at the end of the day like I appreciate people’s hustle and like, you know, their ingenuity for coming up with these things, but it hurts the seller that’s trying to be legitimate.

CAMERON YODER:

It does.

CASEY GAUSS:

And as a company we have to play by the rules, and we have to teach people to kind of play by the rules.

CAMERON YODER:

Overall I think this change makes sense for some very specific variations on products in Amazon, like if they’re very different, like if you’re talking about variations with jewelry where you have a ring that has a completely different diamond design than another, that makes complete sense.  But for others where it’s just kind of a simple color variation, I think that’s a little more difficult.  Bottom line, this kind of make sellers have to work a bit more or work a bit harder for reviews in general.  Like if you have five variations, now you’re going to have to maybe work five times as hard to get those reviews for each variation.  In the end, though, this is an adjustment that you as a seller are going to have to make, and so that is point number two.  Point number two is reviews that are being split among variations.  Another review change, another thing involving reviews that has changed in the market –

CASEY GAUSS:

It has been deemed the quote Great Amazon Purge.

CAMERON YODER:

The Great Amazon Purge.  And I believe the stat – Casey, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the stat is 4,800 out of the top 10,000 reviewer accounts were wiped out completely.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Completely.

CASEY GAUSS:

So according to reddit – we’ll post it in the show notes – you can go see they have this bot that is going and finding new Amazon top reviewer accounts that have been purged.  And so 4,800, you know that’s half of the Amazon top reviewers, which is just – so there’s 10,000 – maybe there are still 10,000?

CAMERON YODER:

Well, maybe there are still 10,000, but –

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, of the top 10,000 Amazon reviewers 5,000 of them have been shut down.  And I think this shows that nobody is safe.  They’ve always kind of drawn attention to these top reviewers and hailed them as like, you know, their reviews really mean a lot.  And apparently they don’t mean too much if Amazon is willing to get rid of half of them.

CAMERON YODER:

If they’re removing them.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so anyways, not like super actionable, but definitely interesting.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s just that does show that no one is safe, and perhaps, again, like we saw before where some reviews were allowed to kind of come back into the system, perhaps Amazon has taken these reviewers out of the system and will let them come back.  But for now they’re gone.

CASEY GAUSS:

I don’t know about them coming back because if you have seen any of the articles recently for the last month or two of buyer accounts that get banned from Amazon because of like too many returns or stuff like that, and then that person just is not able to create a new account or use their Amazon account anymore, which is really crazy to see.

CAMERON YODER:

It is.  Fourth change, fourth change involving reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:

This is probably the most minor so far but could be a precursor to other new things.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s an indication of something that we’ve actually talked about before in a review episode a little while back.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, if you haven’t checked it out – so we have some interesting and novel thoughts.  Now I have heard some new people or some people talking about these ideas since our podcast, of course, but you should definitely check it out.  Basically we talk about what we think Amazon’s review system will look like in the near- to mid-future.  We think there has to be some systemic changes that will change a lot of the strategies and game on Amazon.  So definitely check that out.

CAMERON YODER:

This fourth change kind of –, again the indication of this fourth change goes along with one of our big predictions which we had in that episode, but this fourth change involves seller feedback, okay?  So before if you would go on to an offer listing page for products and you would look at all the different sellers with offers for that product you would be able to look at the seller feedback from the offer listing page, okay?  So on the page you would look at all the offers, all the different offers from all the different sellers for that product, and from there you would be able to see seller feedback, the seller feedback rating.  So typically, until very recently you were able to see, or Amazon displayed the lifetime, the total lifetime seller feedback that all of these sellers had.  However, very recently Amazon has changed this display.  So now instead of seeing seller feedback that is lifetime, that is that seller’s lifetime, it’s now displayed as a 12-month rolling feedback.  So basically, long story short, instead of seeing lifetime feedback for a seller, now we’re starting to see that seller – Amazon is only displaying a 12-month rolling feedback.

CASEY GAUSS:

So yeah, 12-month rolling feedback is not a new thing, right?  So if you go to a seller’s store then you will be able to see 30, 90 and –

CAMERON YODER:

Lifetime.

CASEY GAUSS:

12-month and lifetime feedback on the seller.  And so they’ve been doing these rolling metrics, but this is the first time that we’re seeing it on the product page.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

Like and this is only happening to – it’s happening on the account level, which is very interesting.  So again, we – just some quick glances weren’t able to discern what the cause or how they were delineating between who to show the aggregate or lifetime feedback versus the 12-month feedback, but this could definitely be a precursor to what we think is going to one of the ideas of how we think the Amazon review change is going to happen.  So not very actionable, not too much going on, but definitely something interesting and to be paying attention to, especially just among all this noise among of review changes.

CAMERON YODER:

So instead of applying this to the product review side, this is an indication that in the future or sometime maybe Amazon will implement this rolling review system to products.  So instead of seeing the lifetime reviews for a product, for example, maybe you’ll see the number of reviews that this product has gained over the past 12 months, at least displayed.  And maybe if you click into that you’ll be able to see the lifetime reviews, but just like seller feedback, buyers often are not going to click on a seller, look at all their data and see the lifetime reviews.  They’re just going to take what they see up front on the listing, on the offer listing page and say like okay, this seller has this review rating. 

So again, indication possibly for the future.  Maybe Amazon will push this rollover system into their product feedback into their product reviews.  Point number five, the fifth review change that we see happening in the Amazon system right now are reviewers getting blocked, ASINs getting flagged.  Casey, you touched on this a little bit at the beginning.  Maybe touch on it specifically again.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so I’m sure some of you have seen it in the Facebook groups.  We’ve been seeing this probably for the last three or four weeks, actually beginning of May.  So over a month now, wow.  So anyways, what happens is you go to leave a review and – on a particular product – you click on the star rating, and then it says – you know, a message pops up saying sorry, we’re unable to expect accept your review of this product.  This product is currently – this product currently has limitations on submitting reviews.  This may be because we deleted – or sorry – detected unusual review behavior on this product or to maintain the best possible shopping experience.  And so then it has a link to the customer review guidelines.  So there’s some really interesting things here.  We have some more testing to do to figure out the specifics.  We don’t want to disclose too much of what we’re doing to test, but basically this is very interesting. 

And so what happens, or what we’re seeing happen is if there is a significant – now significant, we don’t know what that means exactly.  If there is a significant number of reviews being left over a set period of time – we don’t know exactly what that set period of time is.  We have some guesses.  I’ll share that in a second.  But if too many reviews are left over a certain period of time Amazon will block the reviews.  And from what we’re being told this then triggers a – basically the product and/or brand has to be looked into further to better understand is this manipulative behavior, and if so, then go do deeper digging, where we’re seeing some people get suspended because their email sequence or whatever was not in line with Amazon’s guidelines.  So they’re going – I think this is a manual process where they go, they review the product, they review the brand to go see what are these guys doing to see this kind of review volume?  Is this malicious or not?  And so we’ve seen where it takes as few as a few days to be unblocked from reviews.  The most I’ve seen is seven consecutive days, but we have seen it go from seven consecutive days getting unblocked and then going through this dance of being unblocked and blocked.  So one very interesting point here is that actually the unverified and verified reviews are blocked irrespectively. 

So we haven’t tested too much of going back and forth, but so basically what we’ve tested is okay, a product is ineligible or currently being blocked for unverified reviews.  Well, verified reviews, meaning someone has actually purchased a product at call it full price, is then still able to go and leave a review.  But if too many verified reviews are left within – for us we’ve just been testing within the context of a day – if too many verified reviews are left within the context of a day, then the verified reviews will be blocked.  And it’s possible that the verified reviews are blocked but not unverified reviews.  So very, very interesting. 

So what do we think kind of the limitations are?  So just some casual testing here and there, it looks somewhere around three unverified reviews in a day and five to seven verified reviews in a day.  So please don’t hold us to those numbers.  We still have quite a bit more testing to do to find the specifics, but that gives you a general jumping off point.  And so again, we mentioned that reviews could be, at the very beginning of this podcast, that we are seeing some products that seem to get blocked when some of the reviewers get flagged for – so if a reviewer gets flagged, then it is very possible that the products that they’ve left reviews on then get this review block, and this review block, like I said, can happen for days at a time.  We’ve seen it where it’s blocked for three days, unblocked for a day, blocked for three days.  And we’ve seen where a product is blocked but then is good for the last, I don’t know, three weeks or so.  So still figuring out the specifics, but I actually, for the most part I like this. 

So too often – we’ve all heard of the stories where products get hundreds of reviews over the course of a week or two weeks, and we all know that for the most part these are not legitimate methods, and there is one method that I know where you can get hundreds of reviews legitimately in the course of a week or so.  But these are very rare and tend to be across a whole product line, not just a single ASIN.  Anyways, I like this change because I feel like this is Amazon stepping up their game to make sure that these malicious black hat sellers are not getting tons and tons of reviews in a short period of time, able to just launch their product to the top and just start taking all of the sales on these products that don’t deserve it, essentially. 

So we’ll see how this continues to change.  One thing that I would love for Amazon to really start paying attention to, for a little bit we thought this was the case, but now not so sure about that, or not – I don’t think it’s in place right now, but I’d love for Amazon to kind of just pay attention to the referral path or where that customer is coming from to leave reviews.  But anyways, I think they’re doing a good job of playing it safe so that we can take legitimate action.  Now that does mean we have some – I have some friends that have legitimate review acquisition strategies where they’re getting like insane rates, like 20% review rate, which is just insane.  The downside is they’re getting flagged, and so they are legitimate reviews from legitimate people and like legitimate buyers, and yeah, their ASINs are getting flagged because they’re doing too well with the review acquisition strategy.  But overall I think that this is positive for people.  Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what are the limitations in terms of too many reviews too fast so that we can stay within those lines and make sure not to get on Amazon’s radar, and to make sure that we are able to get as many reviews as quickly as possible in a legitimate fashion.

CAMERON YODER:

Overall, big picture, these five changes – I’m going to go over them again.  The five changes, which were random reviews being wiped, reviews being wiped in general, reviews getting split among variations, the Great Amazon Purge, a.k.a. the top reviewers, 4,800 top 4,800 reviewers being wiped from Amazon, the seller feedback change into a 12-month rollover and blocked ASINs or blocked reviews being in place.  Each of these seem to show Amazon’s moves now, which may indicate where they’re going in the future.  Seemingly, Amazon is taking big steps, big strides that they haven’t really taken before against fake reviews, against reviews in general, making it, in some cases harder for small sellers, but also harder for big sellers.  Basically they’re changing the way that reviews happen and are displayed on Amazon.  And we could look at this, and we could say – we can look at this and just kind of moan the whole time that it’s happening and not act, but basically we have to play with the cards that we’re dealt, and in this case we have to play by the rules of the Amazon game.  And the rules are changing a little bit right now.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep.  Overall I feel like this helps small sellers, these changes, outside of maybe the variation change.

KEN CHRISTIANSEN:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

But I mean it is what it is, and guys, we need to focus on how we can move forward and build the best business possible with the new rules versus looking at how things used to be and getting upset, complaining, or feeling like our chances of success are limited.  They’re just – they are not.  There is still so much opportunity for success.  And yeah, let’s go and achieve these like crazy goals, build our dreams, chase after our dreams together, no matter what the specifics of the landscape are.

CAMERON YODER:

We want to thank you all so much for listening.  Seriously, we do this for you, and we do this every week for you guys.  We love hearing feedback from you.  So if you have any feedback on today’s episode we honestly would love to hear from you on your thoughts on potential changes and the changes that are happening now for reviews on Amazon.  So if you’d like to leave us any feedback at all, I’m going to encourage you, push you to our Facebook page.  Seriously, if you go to – if you look up Viral Launch on Facebook and you just shoot us a message about the podcast we’ll get right back to you.  That’s something you can do on your phone right now.  Seriously, take out your phone if you’re listening and you’re not driving and shoot us a message right now.  You can also look forward to our blog post on this subject.  That will be going out sometime soon.  And if you would rather call in, you can call us at 317-721-6590.  But again, thank you all so much for listening.  We look forward to your feedback and your questions.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

From Side-Gig to Full-Time: Leaving Your 9-5 to Focus on Amazon w/ Guest Taz Ahsan

From Side-Gig To Full-Time: Leaving Your 9-5 to Focus on Amazon w/ Guest Taz Ahsan

The ultimate goal for most Amazon sellers: freedom. Many sellers get into selling on Amazon to gain some sort of financial freedom. Even with this light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a struggle for sellers to find the balance between working a full-time job and grinding with Amazon on the side. Taz Ahsan, our guest on today’s show, has successfully scaled his Amazon business while working in a time-consuming, full-time job. Today’s episode gave us the chance to break down how Taz is successfully finding harmony between working a full-time job, Amazon on the side, hosting a Podcast, and living life all at the same time. There’s a LOT to take away from this week’s episode – let’s dive in.

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

The dream shared by almost every single Amazon seller, freedom.  Whether you’re unhappy with your 9-to-5, stuck in a job you don’t really want to be in or brighten up at the idea of venturing out to do your own thing, freedom and independence are large goals for a majority of sellers getting into Amazon.  It’s difficult to find the balance between working in your current job and scaling your Amazon business at the same time.  Knowing when it’s time to make the switch is difficult, and leaving a secure job for a risk like Amazon ends up scaring a lot of people off from making moves that would allow them to move towards their goal of independence even more quickly.  I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data that we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

In this episode Casey and I talk with Taz Ahsan, an Amazon seller who has honestly successfully scaled his Amazon business while also working full time at a pretty demanding job.  And he’s successfully worked towards what a lot of sellers are after, which is ultimately independence.  Taz has a really unique perspective.  If you’re considering leaving your job, or if your goal is to make Amazon your independent thing, whatever your goal is with Amazon, Taz is honestly in the grind right now.  So he has a really good perspective to offer.  All that being said, today’s episode is a really good one.  Let’s jump right in.

CASEY GAUSS:

What’s up, guys?  So we’re here with a good friend of ours, Taz Ahsan.  This guy is absolutely killing it and in a way that maybe some of the other people that we have had on the podcast are not.  And so this guy is, I think, a very special guy, and he’s absolutely taking the right approach to getting started on Amazon.  And so we really kind of wanted to talk about this.  So this is largely for those that are kind of just getting started.  You still have your 9-to-5 job.  And I know a lot of us are asking the questions of like when should I get out of my 9-to-5 to really focus on this Amazon business?  And you may be dreading going into work every day, and you may just not be happy with where you’re at, but sometimes delaying that gratification is what allows you to have the ultimate success over time.  And so that’s why we felt like it was really awesome to bring Taz on here so that he could share his experience with how he’s growing his Amazon business while having a full-time job.  So Taz, welcome, man.  We’re so stoked to have you finally.

TAZ AHSAN:

Thank you for the amazing intro, Casey, and honored to be here.  And you called me a special guy, man.  I didn’t know you felt that way about me.

CASEY GAUSS:

I like to call it how I see it, man.  So for those of you who don’t know, Taz has a 9-to-5 job.  He was – Taz, correct me if I’m wrong, but you got started doing wholesale and then recently got into private label, correct?

TAZ AHSAN:

I’ll correct you.  I got started doing retail arbitrage.

CASEY GAUSS:

Gotcha.

TAZ AHSAN:

And then wholesale.

CAMERON YODER:

How long did you do retail arbitrage?

TAZ AHSAN:

About three months.

CAMERON YODER:

Three months, and then –

TAZ AHSAN:

That’s as long as I could last without a vehicle.

CASEY GAUSS:

Oh wow.  How did you get into it then?

TAZ AHSAN:

The whole Amazon thing, so it started back in – I think it was – I guess it was December 2016 into January 2017 was when I first sold something, but the idea came from a friend of mine who – I was at an event.  So I’m into personal development, so I was at this Tony Robbins event volunteering, and I was talking about this idea I was working on with my friend.  I was like hey, I’m building this social media marketing agency.  I just wanted to start my own thing, and he told me about something he was doing, and he explained to me what retail arbitrage was on Amazon.  And I said hmm, okay, so I have this thing I’m trying to build.  I don’t really know what it is or how I progress, and then you’re telling me if I buy these things I can start making money on Amazon.  Okay, so let me just switch to what you’re doing was basically what happened.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah.

TAZ AHSAN:

And I literally there and then ordered all this stuff off Amazon for retail arbitrage, like you know some boxes and the tape and all this kind of stuff, so I could go and start scanning things when I got back.  And that was it.  I got directly into retail arbitrage.

CAMERON YODER:

Wow.  What led you then – you said you did wholesale next?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I did that for about like – I was into it fully for about a month, a month and a half, and as I was doing it I was listening to podcasts.  There were loads of podcasts out there.  I listened to all of Manny’s, and I was like okay, there’s definitely a better way of doing this because whilst I was doing retail arbitrage I still had my full-time job, of course, and retail arbitrage is very labor-intensive.  So I was – after the office I was walking downtown or getting an Uber downtown, buying like thousands of dollars of stuff and then coming back and then –

CASEY GAUSS:

With an Uber?

CAMERON YODER:

You were Ubering there?

TAZ AHSAN:

Uber.

CASEY GAUSS:

Hustle.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, that is hustle, man.  That’s dedication.

TAZ AHSAN:

And uberPOOLing most of the time.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, so you’re lugging around all the stuff in an uberPOOL.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and they’re like what?  Who is this guy?  Does this stuff even fit in the back?  And sometimes I had to make adjustments, like carry stuff inside the car.  Sometimes I was like hey, do you mind just holding this for me in the car?  It was kind of insane.  And then on the weekends I would rent cars.

CASEY GAUSS:

Gotcha.  So correct me if I’m wrong, but you have a good paying job, too, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

I have a six-figure salary, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Nice.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.  So I really appreciate the frugality and like the hustle in that respect, right?  So why were you, you know, cost-saving on the uberPOOL?

CAMERON YODER:

Why were you hustling, man?

TAZ AHSAN:

Well, it was the first thing I had ever done on my own.  So I had started like a small company in the past with friends and didn’t really go anywhere, and this was the first time I was doing my own thing, so I was just thinking to myself, well, what’s the best way and most cost-efficient way of doing this?  So I thought well rather than spend $25 on an Uber, I don’t  mind, I don’t care if I have to squeeze in with people and I save $15 because I was going downtown, and I was going at peak times, and I thought that stuff’s going to add up, so why not just pool it?  And sometimes I would, if I had loads of stuff and I actually knew it wasn’t going to fit in a trunk I’d be like okay, got to – probably not going to be able to pull this one.  But most of the times I’d go straight into pools, yeah, because this was my thing now, and any money – it was different before where I’m getting a salary.  I don’t know why it’s a different mindset for me.  Now it’s my business.  I don’t want to spend that money that I could be using to grow the business.  That’s my mindset now.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, did you have – you had the job that you have now then, when you were doing retail arbitrage?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I moved to the US a couple of years ago, about 2 ½ years ago, and I’ve had the same, pretty much the same role at Akamai Technologies, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:

So I’d love to just clarify real quick for everybody to recap, so this guy has a six-figure salary, but he is so focused on keeping capital so that he can grow his business, so he’s taking an uberPOOL and getting in, you know, these somewhat uncomfortable situations just so he would have more capital to continue to put into the business.  Right, Taz?

TAZ AHSAN:

100%.  And this whole retail arbitrage piece was, in essence, in order for me to generate some capital to then go into retail – sorry, private label.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, did you start out – even with retail arbitrage did you have one big main goal to do something like leave your full-time job and make this a full-time thing, or did you just start out wanting to generate some side income, kind of have a side hustle and wasn’t really sure where it would go?

TAZ AHSAN:

So I definitely had the mindset of I want to create something for myself.  That was the main thing, and I also 100% saw it becoming my main source of income.  I didn’t know how long that was going to take me, and I wasn’t –  I didn’t have my mind set on oh my God, I have to leave my job in six months, like you were saying in the intro.  I don’t hate my job.  I really enjoy my job, and I see it as a blessing, and I see it as a way for me to take risk in a business and be able to support myself whilst I keep growing and just, you know, snowballing all of the profits into the business.  That’s exactly what I did with retail arbitrage for 2 ½ months.  Whatever I was generating I was just putting it right back in and paying off that card and just going out and buying more stuff.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.  So then fast-forward.  We actually met in China on a China trip, and you were sourcing products for private label, correct?  This is April of 2017.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yes, so this – I’d say when you say sourcing products I am using quotes in the background when you say sourcing products because at this time, right – so this is my timeline.  I get into Amazon around about in January.  This is the time where I’ve tapered off retail arbitrage and I’ve switched to wholesale, but I honestly went to China really not knowing anything about sourcing.  Like really nothing.  I didn’t know what I was going to buy.  I was like filling out POs in Yiwu, not really knowing what I was doing, but I knew some cool people were going to be there, and lo and behold, I met you.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice. 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s legit.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so it worked out.  So then from there you started a podcast of your own, correct?

CAMERON YODER:

At that time?

TAZ AHSAN:

So it was a few months later.  So back end of July, early August was as I was starting to figure things out – so I came back from China, and I was like I don’t understand any of this stuff, so I started doing more and more research.  I spoke to loads of different people, and then I finally came out with my brand idea of what I wanted and started manufacturing, or starting that process.  And I thought I think it would be a great idea for me, someone who is really new, I don’t – and the cool thing, I think, from my perspective is I don’t have a business background either.  Like Manny and some other guys have run their own businesses, and they have all this great experience, which lends themselves really well to starting their own Amazon business.  For me I’m coming in super raw, not having any of that knowledge.  I mean I know how to do my job, and I think I’m a smart guy but I don’t really know anything.  I didn’t really know anything about business at the time.  So that’s the perspective I thought I would try and bring, and also just to kind of raw and honest, here are all the mistakes I’m making kind of perspective on the podcast.

CASEY GAUSS:

So you started a couple months after we met.  You started your podcast a couple months after we met in Yiwu in April.  What was the month that you started the podcast?

TAZ AHSAN:

So late July was my first episode that I had out.

CASEY GAUSS:

Okay, awesome.  And for those of you who want to check it out, it is called The Amazon Entrepreneur podcast.  Obviously Taz is a cool guy that we know, love and trust.

CAMERON YODER:

Super cool.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so anyways, wanted to see – so you started end of July, and then when did you see your first sale on Amazon?

TAZ AHSAN:

So I was very, very ambitious with my – with what I was trying to do, and the very first product I chose was a big oversized product, and it was taking a really long time to manufacture, and I was having all these issues with the factory, the factory being shut down and coming back up, and my manufacturing timeline doubled from 45 days to 90.  So in that time I was thinking hey, well I don’t want to wait all this time just to launch this one thing.  What else can I launch at the same time?  So I looked into a few other things, and then I found something that I could manufacture.  I was like okay, well I’ll choose this thing.  So I chose something else that kind of still pretty much related to my brand, my brand idea, and I got going with that and that eventually came in – I air-shipped those into Amazon, and I made my first sale in, I think it was October, early October.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Wow.  So okay, hang on.  Let’s pause at this point in time.  So you’re running, you’re working your full-time job, you’re working your full-time job and you’re running your podcast, and you just got your first sale.  That’s right?

CASEY GAUSS:

And at the time – I’m going to add to this – I was working with Manny, and I was doing some consulting for Helium 10.

CAMERON YODER:

Okay, dang.  So you were doing a lot.  But okay, I just want to take a pause, a snapshot here.  What did your day-to-day look like during this time, just the specific period of time because obviously you were grinding a lot?  How, just at this specific point in time when you’re getting your Amazon stuff up and running, when you’re handling a podcast, you’re handling consulting, everything, how did you balance it well and/or did you crash and burn at first?

TAZ AHSAN:

It was definitely a struggle.  And then I’ll also add one other thing.  I had a girlfriend at the time, and that requires its own time, obviously.  I wanted to – and I wanted to give – Cara [sp], if you’re listening I still love you – but so my routine was pretty insane.  So I would start at 5:00, and I’d give myself – I usually give myself about an hour or half an hour, an hour myself to in the morning, just to meditate to kind of figure out what I’m doing with the day.  I planned everything.  So I’d plan out every, pretty much every hour of the day.  So the morning time, that first couple of hours I’d talk to suppliers, and [unintelligible 0:12:48.8] back and forth with suppliers, people who were working on designs for me and figuring out things with China because they were kind of the tail end of their day, but they work pretty late so I could talk to them.  And then I’d go and work my full-time job, so I’d be there from 9 to 5, 6, whatever that would be, and in between that though sometimes I would fit in the consulting call with Manny or those guys or work on something else.  Then I’d come back.  I’d usually go straight to the gym, and so say it’s about 7:00 now.  Then I’d go back into okay, do I need to report a podcast, do I need to edit a podcast, spend a couple of hours doing that.  Then China will come back on.  So roundabout 9:00, 10:00 I would talk to them a bit more, and then in between some of those days were just that and I really didn’t get to spend any time with my girlfriend or anything.  And then we would make time like different days because she was pretty busy as well.  It was a bit insane for me, but we would still figure out time to slot in time for each other as well.  But it was insane, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:

So it was an ebb and flow.  It was a lot of – it was a lot of stuff kind of all at once, but you were kind of able to balance everything?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, it was – I mean I honestly don’t really believe in balance.  I believe in counterbalancing.  I think sometimes you just have to go really, really hard for a period of time.  And it’s a choice, right?  You can choose to take things slower, but that isn’t my personality.  I’m someone who really wants to get things done quickly, and I’ll push myself.  And I’ll know I need to sacrifice certain things at the time.  So that’s why I call it counterbalancing.  So I’ll sacrifice some time and do all these things and work really, really hard, but then I’ll make sure I take time back and give myself time to go away and relax, or travel and not really work as hard.  So I think it’s a counterbalancing act.

CASEY GAUSS:

Awesome.  I’m with you.  I’m all about, hey, there’s this incredible opportunity ahead of us.  So the last thing I want to do is look back, you know, 10 years from now and say wow, I wish I would’ve not watched as much Netflix or whatever because I could have done X, Y or Z.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and I do want to add, though, I definitely did it in hindsight, so I also have a lot of belief in myself that I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to, and I believe that’s a fact.  But I took on – I definitely took on too much where that being my first ever run and trying to launch seven products and at the same time not even really being able to dedicate myself –

CAMERON YODER:

Wait, seven products?

TAZ AHSAN:

Oh yeah, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Oh snap.  Okay.

TAZ AHSAN:

So here’s what happened, right?  So I had this – I was like okay, I need to get some cash, as well.  So I have about – I think I had – what did I have, about 25K built up [unintelligible 0:15:13.9] saved from the retail arb stuff, 20 or 25.

CAMERON YODER:

Nice.

TAZ AHSAN:

And then I was like okay, well, I want to get this big product in, and that first order was massive.  And because I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time so in total that order was $45,000.  I obviously didn’t put all that down, but I had to put a deposit down for that and knew I had to pay 25 to get it in.  And that’s one product.  That’s all that cash gone.  I was like what am I going to do for the rest of the time? Well, let me find some more cash.  So I leveraged different funding sources, and I thought okay, well now I’ve got all this cash.  I need to figure out some other products to launch.  So I started figuring out all these other products I wanted to launch related to my niche, and got all these cool ideas I thought were going to be great.  And had everything gone perfectly I would have had all of them in for Q4. 

In hindsight it was very, very silly and risky to do that.  And had I got all of them in I still wouldn’t have had this I don’t even think I would have been able to afford to – I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford to reorder any of them.  I would have sold out and had to figure out how to [unintelligible 0:16:14.4] and that’s the whole thing on cash flow.  Like cash flow is so important in this game.  You always need to have some fluid cash to be able to reorder stock.  Otherwise you’re going to run out of stock.

CASEY GAUSS:

And kind of the point of this podcast, or this episode, is that by keeping yourself in your job you’re making money from the job that you can push into the Amazon business, and 100% of the money from the Amazon business you can continue to push back in, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

100%.  So had I been a bit smarter I would’ve said okay, maybe I’ll do one or two products and just keep it going, but I didn’t.  I went crazy, right?  But what kept me alive was my real job.  So let’s fast-forward to say October when I launched [this 0:16:52.8] thing.  I launched this product and two weeks in I got an IP claim, right?  Just start to rank, just start to stick, IP claim.  Fake IP claim.  So now I spend another $1,000 with a lawyer trying to get that fixed, so I’m out for another two weeks.  That obviously reduces my funds further.  Then I go to – I’m like okay, this is – I’ve got traction again.  I do this relaunch.  I get traction and start into something.  Okay, I am going to sell out.  This is selling really well.  It’s Q4; everything is going to sell.  And so I send, I get – these guys are already manufacturing the next batch, and I send them $16,000 to get that next batch in.  They disappear.

CAMERON YODER:

Disappear?  What do you mean?

TAZ AHSAN:

No contact.  Is it ready?  I send the money, nothing.

CAMERON YODER:

Oh shoot.

TAZ AHSAN:

So they’ve completely disappeared.  That was the only other product I could have got back or got in stock in time, so they’ve left with that money.  I haven’t got enough money to get the other stuff in.  Oh, I’m too late.  Actually I have enough money to get some of the stuff in, but it’s too late anyway.  It’s not going to come in in time for Q4, so I’m left with no stock, less 16K and waiting until January of 2018 to get some of the stock in January and February.  And I’m paying $4500 in loans and credit thinking that I was going to be pulling in massive amounts of cash.  So had I not had my full-time job I would have been in some serious trouble because there was a period of time for about two months, two or three months, 2 ½ months I wasn’t selling anything.

CAMERON YODER:

So you had to really rely on your full-time job at that point in time to really pay off or maybe pay some of that debt and I mean live at the same time. 

TAZ ASHAN:

Stay alive.  Yeah, basically.  Yeah, I mean, and that’s a benefit.  That’s one of the biggest benefits of having a full-time job.  So the first one is obviously that I don’t need to take any money out of the Amazon business to live my life.  I can live my life through my full-time job and roll the profits into Amazon.  But the second thing is I also have a higher comfort level with risk because I do know that if everything goes pear-shaped in the business – I don’t believe it will, but it went pretty badly late 2017, late 2018 – no, 2017 yeah.  But I still had the safety blanket of my full-time job that hey, if everything goes really badly I can still survive with my salary and pay that off and keep going.  So yeah, I’ve been – honestly I’ve been dumping so much of my cash, and I’m working with my accountant now, my CPA, to try and figure out exactly how much has been going in.  But I’ve been dumping massive amounts of cash of my own every month into the business just to speed up that growth as well.  I don’t plan on taking anything out for a while.

CASEY GAUSS:

Well, I love it.  So okay, so your first sale in October of 2017.  I think things really started to kick off when, in March or February I think you told me?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so in November was when I sold out of that other stuff, right, and it was 1000 units.  It was great.  I made like – made – I sold like a 30K in the month.  I was like wow, but then I obviously couldn’t get any of that stuff in.  So now I was out all of December, out all of January, and then I got my stock in like early February, but and then I started the process.  I was also a bit – I didn’t really plan it perfectly.  I could have been way more ready than I was, and I didn’t factor in the fact that one of the products I was launching had pretty low search volume so I could have launched it as soon as it arrived, but I had all these fears about super high sales velocity in January because of the fallout from Christmas.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.

TAZ AHSAN:

And Q4.  So oh no, I can’t.  I can’t launch this thing.  I should slow down.  But yeah, it was a mistake.  But yeah, then so things really started to pick up probably around when I launched that first product.  But then I launched  a couple more behind it around February, March.  I wasn’t really [unintelligible 0:20:34.7] March when it started to pick up, and then April I guess everything was kind of ranked and April, May was when things really started to pick up for me.

CASEY GAUSS:

And now you’ve crossed the 50K a month mark, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I just crossed probably about a week and a half ago, two weeks ago I had crossed the 50K a month mark with three products.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, which is insane.  And again, you would – like so 50K a month –

TAZ AHSAN:

And I’m dealing with a patent claim.  So it would have been four products.  It probably would’ve been higher up right now.  But these things happen.

CASEY GAUSS:

50K a month is a lot.  Approximately what percentage of that is profit would you say?

TAZ AHSAN:

Right now my margins sit at around 25%, but it doesn’t include all of the – like it’s difficult to figure out exactly.  Like if you look at – if I look at my last week’s sales my margins very between like 25% and 30%, and that’s inclusive of all costs and [PPC 0:21:28.7] and all that kind of stuff.  It doesn’t include all of the, say, the launch stuff I did or all the preparation of the listing and all that kind of stuff.

CASEY GAUSS:

Okay, but still I mean that’s – call it over $10,000 a month already in profit.  So I could definitely see people getting super stoked about that,  saying okay, you know I only need $5,000 a month to live or whatever.  I can quit my full-time job, and I can really go full-time on this Amazon business.  And so where are you at in that current like scope of things?

TAZ AHSAN:

So it’s interesting because I’ve spoken to other people who have been in similar situations to me where they’ve been making X amount, and have thought this would be a good time to take a step back.  And I mean they were already in the millions, and over 1 million.  And as soon as they stopped and started to funnel a little bit of money out of the business they realized how quickly that was slowing down their growth.  Like it was very, very visible effect because they couldn’t now just take all that cash and roll it back in, and because cash flow is so important.  And if you’re doing this well you’re keeping it very, very tight.  So if you are reordering things you don’t have too many things liquid because if you have too much cash you’re finding another product and you’re investing in that and started that whole process again.  But then because you’re doing that, if you take money out then you suddenly realize oh, my product launch process has slowed down, which means your growth slows down.  And so from my – go ahead.

CAMERON YODER:

No, I was just going to ask like – well I want you to finish your – finish your thought and then I want to ask something.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so from my perspective I’m thinking I have a great job.  I have no reason apart from time – time is the one thing that I don’t have a lot of, but I’m at this point now where I’m – I just want to grow, and I want to work really hard, so why not?  I’m young, and I’m healthy.  This is the time for me to do it.  So given that, I don’t see a reason for me to really just go full time at this and leave my job because I think I’m doing pretty well, and I really, really enjoy my job.  So I enjoy my job.  Yea, h I’m building something on the side which is going to become huge, which is my plan, right?  I’m not doing this as a, hey, this is my side hustle; I’m not really taking this seriously.  This is super serious for me, and I have a podcast because I want to help other people do this as well.  And one of the driving factors behind the podcast is I know people, A, want to learn about how to sell on Amazon, but B, there are lots of people out there who don’t want to do the thing they’re doing, their job, whatever their 9-to-5 is.  And they want something else.  I don’t fall into that category completely, but I definitely do want a way of life that my job won’t afford me in the long term.  I want to be able to just disappear whenever I want, and hey I’m going to take three months and do this, whatever I want to do.  So that’s the level of freedom I’m trying to get to.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and I’m personally of the belief that, again, anybody selling on Amazon or getting started in selling on Amazon, we still have such an amazing opportunity ahead of us.  So like making something your side gig that could really turn into something that you go and you sell for a few million dollars after a couple of years, like I think that we should be taking it seriously because you can do literally, like you’re saying, whatever you want.  You can disappear, and you’re not really doing yourself justice if you’re not taking it seriously enough I feel like.

TAZ AHSAN:

100%, and what you just said in taking something that’s kind of a side hustle or whatever, by taking it seriously and over a couple of years selling for a few million is not a fad – or sorry, it’s not a fable.  It’s the truth.  Like that actual story can happen.  I just had somebody on telling me that’s exactly what he did, and this opportunity is here now.  You have to take it.

CAMERON YODER:

I want to –

CASEY GAUSS:

Sorry, last thing.  On that note I think that as Amazon continues to – you know, as competition continues to increase on Amazon it will also become more difficult to maintain a side hustle without putting in the work necessary.  And so what two years ago, three years ago was easy for you to get in, make some good money and not really spend much time on it will continue to get harder to have that kind of story.  So again, it’s like you might as well get in, get all that – like go really hard, build up this valuable asset and then sell it.  Get all that risk off the table because I hear people time and time again say that they’re just looking to get to a good amount of revenue and then sit on it until they retire.  I just don’t see that happening because what we see happening is all of my friends or the guys that have tons of money, they come in and they can just dominate any market because they’re able to outspend people in promotions or paid media or whatever.  And like someday someone is going to come across your market, or a few people are going to come across your market that has traditionally been doing well for you.  But if these guys are coming in and using all kinds of tactics to outrank you and take away your market share and your sales, it’s not going to be this great retirement vehicle.  And so what the retirement vehicle should actually be going hard, selling your business, getting $1 million off of it, go invest that smart, you know, in a smart way and live off of that.  Live off the returns that you’re getting off of dividends or something like that.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and it’s funny you say that because it’s the exact same thing that I’m doing now.  Everyone is scouting out new markets, and whoever is in that market right now, whatever profit or revenue they experience is going to be diluted, and I’m in markets where new people are coming in and new people are launching, and that’s just a fact, and there is always going to be more competition.  But to balance that out there are all these amazing tools out there like you have to help you launch, help you do all these different things that lots of people still aren’t using, aren’t aware of.  And you can really separate yourself by being diligent in what you learn and what you study and who you listen to in this environment because there is still going to be hundreds of thousands of people doing this wrong.  And if you really focus in there are so many – there are also new niches coming out all the time.  There are new people coming onto Amazon to buy.  More people are buying on Amazon.  So still think like the challenges – the challenge [weighs out, outweighs 0:27:32.8].

CASEY GAUSS:

I agree.  I’m not saying that I don’t think there’s opportunity.  I just think that over time it gets more difficult to take the lazy approach to getting that opportunity.

TAZ AHSAN:

Oh, for sure.  Oh, absolutely.  You know, three years ago I’m sure you know what it was like.  You know you could literally go on Alibaba, find a thing, not even put your logo on it, sell it and start making $10,000 a month.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, no need for good photos, no need for a good listing, no need for launches.  Like you literally just list it up there.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and now it’s very, very different.  So you definitely have to have a plan.  Treat it like a real business.  But like you say, the opportunity is still there.  It’s huge.  It’s still massive right now.

CAMERON YODER:

So Taz, I want you to touch on the idea of patience.  So I think the concept that we’ve been talking about really is the balance of being patient but also taking advantage of an incredible opportunity, and that’s what Amazon is.  Amazon is that incredible opportunity, but many people get antsy in their 9-to-5 and want to just kind of leave as quick as possible, or think it’s the best idea to leave.  So how do you know – how would you best tell someone?  There isn’t really, I don’t think, a just a direct answer for this, but how would you let someone know from where you’re at right now, because you’re in it, how would you let someone know when the time is right, you feel, for someone to leave a full-time job to focus on Amazon?  What would you speak to that with the idea of having patience but taking advantage of the opportunity? 

TAZ ASHAN:

First of all, I don’t have patience.  It’s one of my challenges.  This is why I tried to go so hard last year and you know fell a bit flat on my face.  And I think it depends on the person’s situation really.  You can – and it also depends on how much time you want to put into it.  9-to-5 is exactly what it is, 9-to-5.  If you wake up at 4:00 you have four, five hours to do stuff, and then you come back at 6:00.  You have another four or five hours to do things.  So you could honestly, depending on how dedicated you are – and it’s probably part of the reason why I don’t need to – I don’t feel like I need to quit because I make use of the time I have.  So I don’t – so it depends on the situation, depends on how much time you’re putting into it, but the biggest challenge with deciding whether you’re going to quit your job or not is the realization that you’re going to slow down your own growth.  And if you’re happy with – if you’ve got to a point where you think okay, well I’m making 250 a month, a good 50 of that is profit and I’m happy to take 5 of that and still look to have a view of okay, I’m going to sell or exit because I think – honestly, I think that’s the best way to really generate cash in this business.  Like Casey, like you were saying, it’s not about staying in the same market and just hoping that revenue’s going to stay the same because it 100% won’t.  Like it will change from month to month as new people come in.  So you do want to try and build something that has a really strong foundation and have that – build a really attractive business and then exit.  So to do that, though, you need to put in the time.  And it should be more about how am I going to build this amazing vehicle rather than how quickly can I leave my job?

CAMERON YODER:

You are a pretty disciplined person, and you’re obviously motivated.  What would you say – let’s talk about those two concepts.  Let’s talk about motivation.  Let’s talk about discipline when it comes to Amazon specifically because I feel like a lot of people might come into this space and enter into just even entrepreneurship in general and maybe be missing one aspect of either motivation or discipline.  In what you’re doing and what you’ve done, where do motivation and discipline come into play?

TAZ AHSAN:

So motivation – I have to explain what the concept is.  It’s a finite thing, right?  Willpower and motivation, they’re similar, and it’s finite.  So it’s very difficult to be on all the time if you’re doing it for a soulless kind of reason.  So I do think about why I do this, and one of the biggest reasons why – I said I wanted to live a certain lifestyle, but an even bigger reason than that is I want to give my family a life they’ve never had.  And they worked so hard for me, and I basically was poor growing up and still, you know, they’re doing okay, but I want to create something really special.  And I have one, one of these goals where I just want to buy my dad this brand-new Mercedes.  It’s something that is really close to me, and it makes it really easy for me to wake up at 5:00 and get these things done most of the time.  And when it comes to discipline, discipline is formed, and to do that you have to form a routine.  And discipline comes from that.  When you get into – and people think discipline is a lack of freedom, but if you really think about it when you have discipline and you go through certain things you’re supposed to do every day, that gives you the freedom to do all these other things that you didn’t have to do in that routine, or it gives you the freedom once you’ve built this amazing vehicle, this amazing business, once you’ve sold it you have so much time to do all those things that you’ve wanted to do.  But it’s about delayed gratification.  It took me a very long time to really hone in on that concept because initially I was always like oh my God, I want to – like the retail arbitrage thing is kind of a misnomer because you sell things, you get money.  You sell things, you get money, and it’s a really quick turnaround.  So when you go down and start doing private label you have to use that money, and it’s sitting there, sitting in China, sitting in a deposit, and it’s coming over on the ocean, and it’s getting checked into Amazon.  Then someone’s going to buy something.  Then there’s going to be refunds.  And it takes a – it’s such a long process to actually get paid from that first set of products you launch that again, I always harken back to cash flow, but you have to be at peace with delayed gratification and know that – know why you’re doing what it is you’re doing, like why you’re creating this business.  Even if it’s not for whoever – you know, I have a great reason for my dad, and I want to do all these other things.  But even if it’s just for you and you want to create a different life for yourself, just kind of envision that life.  Know why you’re doing something.  If you really feeling really crap one day or you just don’t feel like doing whatever it is you’re doing, what helps me is going back to why I’m doing it, like why do I want this, why am I selling on Amazon?  Why am I trying to create this business?  And I try and look at and envision the life I’m trying to create for myself.  And so it helps me.  It brings me back, and I’m like okay, well look.  This is why I’m doing it.  I want to live a different life.  I want to be different.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, what would you say some of your greatest challenges have been with balancing a full-time job – even though you like your full-time job – balancing that job and scaling Amazon at the same time?  Like you’ve mentioned time and maybe even just energy, but how did you – what were those challenges, and how did you overcome them?

TAZ AHSAN:

I think actually the biggest challenge that I faced that I didn’t know I was facing at the time was spending time on dumb things and not prioritizing my time.  So when I – so I haven’t ever really been taught Amazon.  I’ve just done my own research, studied different things, learned, done different trainings.  I’ve never actually gone through hey this is the course.  Here’s Amazon.  Go and learn it.  There are so many things out there right now that you can do that for.  I didn’t really do that, so I think my challenge really was I was doing it – so here’s an example.  I don’t have a product idea.  Yeah, I’m learning about how to optimize a PPC campaign.  Why?  Why am I teaching myself that?  I remember this so vividly.  I think it might have even been on the plane to China.  It was this four-hour training, [unintelligible 0:34:31.3] seller training that I’m listening to, and I’m studying it.  I’m taking tons and tons of notes.  And at that time I was like oh yeah, cool.  All right, yeah, I’m learning this.  Now I’m like why the hell am I wasting this time, did I waste this time learning about PPC?  I had no guidance, right, so I think it was not being able to – I didn’t know how to prioritize.  I didn’t know that hey, I don’t need to waste time on PPC because I’m six months away from launching a product.  I can learn that when the time comes or closer to the time. 

So I think that was probably my first challenge.  And it was a time thing because I had way more time than I realized, but I was wasting time on these things that didn’t matter.  And then as soon as you start getting more – you’re trying to launch more and more products, and you have upwards of 10, 15 different suppliers contacting you every day, that’s a lot of time, and that can get overwhelming.  So it’s definitely time is probably one of the biggest challenges.  And to overcome that it’s definitely my biggest thing about the entirety of 2017 was getting a mentor.  Having someone who, whether it’s like a mentor through a course you’re doing, but someone you can contact directly, you can ask a direct question to when you’re doing things, who can review your progress and who can say that’s a terrible idea don’t do that, or why are you wasting your time there?  Focus on this.  And so when I got that, that freed up so much of my time and also my own nervousness having made all these mistakes because I now have someone who is doing the numbers I want to do, who is helping guide me along this path.

CAMERON YODER:

Did you just find – did you find a mentor just from traveling around, meeting people, getting connected in the space?

CASEY GAUSS:

Just a note.  Taz is probably the best-connected person I know.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, he is very well-connected.

TAZ AHSAN:

Well, that was my investment, right, so I made all these mistakes in 2017, but one of the things I did do was I went to a ton of events.  I think I went to four, maybe five events, and I networked hard because I didn’t really know what the hell was going on, but I wanted to learn, right, and I had a thirst for knowledge.  So I was asking tons of questions, meeting tons of people.  And yeah, one of the people that I connected with I made a proposition to.  I propositioned to be my mentor and yeah, it worked out.  So now I get mentored by this guy, and it’s fantastic for me to be able to – what I think is a tough question he will be just like – and it matched my personality because I might overthink something.  He’s like why are you doing that?  No, don’t do that.  Do this.  Okay.  That’s it.  And there’s no more thought.  There’s no more thought involved because I trust him, right, and you have to – if you do [sign out 0:37:00.8] for somebody or find somebody, just make sure you trust whatever they’re saying because it’s pointless if you have a mentor who’s going to try and guide you and you don’t listen to them.  That’s just  the ultimate waste of time.  But definitely my biggest lesson from 2017 is follow something.  Don’t do it so unstructured as I did.  Like I didn’t even do a course or anything like that.  I was just like oh, you know, I really honestly thought – this was my thought.  All right, I went through 115 episodes of Manny Coats’ podcast, and I thought man, I know exactly what I’m doing.  Done.  I knew nothing.  I knew less than nothing.  The more I listened to the more confused I was getting because I was going through his whole process that he went through in 2016, and half that stuff wasn’t even relevant in 2017.

CAMERON YODER:

So okay, just to kind of summarize everything – not necessarily done yet, but to summarize everything, what would you say are just some of your best tips for sellers to focus on working towards the ultimate goal of independence?

TAZ AHSAN:

What stage are these sellers at?

CASEY GAUSS:

There’s a really good range.  The largest like cohort or whatever would be to sellers that are doing at least $100,000 a month – or yeah, somewhere around $100,000 a month.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, yeah, somewhere around there.

TAZ AHSAN:

I think the biggest thing for me is – and getting to that point is scale.  I think it’s all about growth, and the quickest way to grow is by launching new products.  I think you need to make sure you have a system.  So I have a very specific strategy for exactly how I launch a product.  I know what the numbers are.  This is what I’m going to do.  This is how I’m going to do it, and this is how much it’s going to cost.  And I have a plan for that product.  I know how much it’s going to cost, and then I can decide okay, well now I understand this is my cash flow for this product, and I understand what’s coming in.  What can I do next?  And I think by having a pipeline of products that are constantly coming out, that’s the best way, the single best way of getting to exceeding the 100K, exceeding the $1 million, $2 million mark.  And my other partial tip is maybe don’t go for those massive $100,000 a month products themselves.  And this is actually advice that has come to me from many multiple million sellers who all say to me yeah, we’re not really going for those massive ones anymore.  We’re launching five products a month.  They’re all going to do around 10,000 because that’s – those are the markets that are far less untapped and are much easier to launch into and much easier to maintain.  And you can churn out those launches, and they cost less as well.  And then most likely you’re going to also have less issues with people who are using black hat tactics against you or leaving fake negative reviews and all this kind of stuff in those niches that are slightly less popular.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, do you think that complete independence with – from a 9-to-5 job, from another job, just focusing on Amazon, do you think complete independence like that is real – being completely honest – is realistic for a lot of sellers?

TAZ AHSAN:

I think it depends on how far you want to take the business and at what point you want that complete independence.  It’s 100% realistic, and I wouldn’t be in the business if that wasn’t an end term goal for me.  Now I have a slightly different situation as well because I am also in the US through a visa, so I’m going through a green card process with my company.  So I have some other hard stops that won’t let me leave the company.  But really thinking about in my own mind, if I had a choice side probably give myself a review date of about a year and look at where I’m at in 18 months and then decide at that point where do I want to take this, and how well am I doing?  Because you can be doing really well, like I get to $250,000 a month by the middle of next year, and that’s a decent amount of profit.  I’m doing 50K profit.  Like what more do I need?  How much further do I need to go?  And I think you do need to ask yourself that question and figure out well, at what point do I need to leave?  And at what point do I want that next level of freedom because at some point you’re going to be working so hard on the business and you’re going to be scaling a team, you’re going to be paying other people to work for you, and you’re still going to have your own thing, your own full-time thing.  You have to understand at some point that that can’t work.  Like I think I – personally, myself, I think I’m going to get to a point where I might hit a certain revenue number and think man I really do need to manage my team more, and I need to spend more time here.  And I haven’t got to that point yet because I’m still new and I think I can get to a decent amount of revenue right now having the full-time job.  But there is a tipping point.  I don’t know what that is for myself personally yet, but I believe there is one.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, is there anything else that you want to leave our listeners with?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yes.  I always want to tell everyone who is listening to just jump in.  There’s so much – I know there’s fear, and I know there are going to be challenges.  So know this.  There’s two main messages I want to leave you with.  The first thing is just try.  Just jump in.  Try and fail, whatever it is.  There is so much information out there , and there’s so much good information out there.  I really hope that if you are listening to this or listen to my podcast you understand I’m coming from a place of authenticity.  I’m not lying to you.  I’ve made all these mistakes.  I could tell you in five minutes all the things not to do initially.  And if you listen to my podcast you’ll hear all those crazy things, and you’ll figure out a ton of stuff from that and what not to do.  The second thing is if you’re going to jump into this know there’s going to be ups and downs.  There’s going to be challenges.  My first product I had a patent claim.  I had an IP claim on it, and it disappeared.  They ran off with money.  I’m still figuring that out, but it’s okay because this comes – it comes with the good and bad, and eventually when you get over all of that stuff I’ve learned so much through those experiences that it’s going to be really hard to knock me off right now.  Like having gone through all those challenges and going through more now because I’m dealing with another patent claim right now – going through this, and learning these things, and understanding hey, this is how you build a sustainable business, it’s going to be really hard to break me down and be like hey you can’t be successful because I’ve gone through all that crap already.  And I’m going to go through more of it.  So just understand that it’s going to be probably a bit of a roller coaster ride, but in the end it’s 100% worth it.  So just take the leap and give it a try.

CAMERON YODER:

Awesome.  That’s really good advice, Taz.  Thank you.  Taz, thank you so much for being here on the podcast.  You provided a lot of really great perspective, a lot of value just to everyone, wherever they’re at, whether they want to get started or they’ve started now or they’re scaling, there’s a lot here that people can take, and I know there’s a lot also that we didn’t get to touch on.  So thank you so much for just being here and for being an awesome guest.

TAZ AHSAN:

I really appreciate it, guys.  It’s an honor.  And yeah, I wish you guys all the best.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, everybody, we’ll link to your – we’ll talk about your podcast in our show notes.  So if you want to check it out then you will be able to do that.

Well, that is all for this week.  Thank you so much for joining us here on Follow the Data.  For more insights and reliable information on how to succeed on Amazon, subscribe to the podcast, subscribe to our blog, follow us on YouTube or like us on Facebook.  The options are limitless, and we’ve got news, tips and best practices that can help you build your FBA business.  And also, everyone your feedback is really important to us.  It’s really important to me as well.  If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, please consider leaving us a review and/or rating, just your honest opinion.  I would love to see what you have to say about the show, and if you know a fellow seller who needs help or just needs encouragement, honestly, with their – with, working full-time and handling Amazon or is considering getting into Amazon, send them this episode.  I think Taz has a lot of great things to speak to a lot of people, and this is a topic that a lot of sellers are talking about.

So if you know anyone that would benefit by listening to today’s episode, then shoot them our way.  We’d love to help them out, and we’d love to help you out.  So if you have any questions, or concerns, or anything at all, hit us up on Facebook, or give us a call.  Our number is 317-721-6590.  I would actually – personally, I would love to see what you all would like to see in future episodes.  We have a lot planned on the content schedule for the podcast in the coming future, but I always, always love to hear what people want to see us or hear us talk about.  So if you have any suggestions or any ideas, just really shoot us a message on Facebook.  It’s as simple as looking us up, looking up Viral Launch and DM-ing us, sending us a direct message, okay?  So I would love to hear from you all on ideas for future episodes.  I’m stoked to hear from you.  I’m excited to hear what you all have to say.  That is it for this week’s episode.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Failing Successfully: How To Use Failure To Grow Your Business w/ Casey Gauss

Failing Successfully: How To Use Failure To Grow Your Business w/ Casey Gauss

Sellers in the Amazon space today seem to only talk about success. But what about the other side? The side that sees less attention? As a seller, it’s important to recognize that failure is a critical aspect of growth for you and your business. Failing successfully on Amazon can make or break even the greatest sellers. With the right systems in place, it can be used as one of your most valuable assets. Scaling your business effectively means knowing how to best respond to failure. In this episode, we break down how you can leverage failure to effectively grow your business. We’ll talk through how you can shift your mindset towards failure, and how this mindset shift can change your life as well as your business.

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

Sellers in the Amazon space today seem to only talk about success, but what about the other side, the side that sees less attention?  As a seller it’s important to recognize that failure is a critical aspect of growth for you and for your business.

CASEY GAUSS:

Successfully handling failure on Amazon can make or break even the greatest sellers.  With the right systems in place it can be used as one of the most valuable assets.  Scaling your business effectively means knowing how to best respond to failure.  I’m Casey Gauss.

CAMERON YODER:

And I’m Cameron Yoder, your hosts for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data that we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CASEY GAUSS:

In this episode Cam and I are going to break down how you can leverage failure to effectively grow your business.  We’ll talk through how you can shift your mindset towards failure and how this mindset shift can change your life as well as your business.  Let’s get started.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, so we’re talking about an interesting topic today.  This is data-driven, but it is also more motivational based, something that honestly not a lot of people in the Amazon space have talked about or are talking about right now.  You seem to only hear about the successes that are going on in Amazon, and honestly I think that just seeing those or hearing those can be – it can wear on you if you do experience failure, which you will experience failure in your Amazon journey, just like everything else in life.  And because of that we felt like it was really necessary to talk about failure and talk about failure as an Amazon seller, or just as a person in general, as you continue to expand your business.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, just to preface, we’re going to first start off kind of talking about failure in business in general, and then we’ll talk about where we are seeing a lot of Amazon sellers fail.  And so just to hopefully help you see kind of around those corners and make sure that if you are failing you’re failing gracefully and you can avoid failure if possible.

CAMERON YODER:

This is an interesting statistic to start out just kind of the discussion.  According to Jeff Bezos’ recent shareholder letter, for the first time more than half of units sold worldwide last year came from third-party sellers.  Yeah, that’s honestly crazy.  It’s a crazy number.  Over 140,000 businesses topped $100,000 in sales.

CASEY GAUSS:

And 20,000 topped over $1 million in sales.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s just crazy.  It’s crazy to hear all these numbers, and I think it’s easy for sellers to think that well all these other people are succeeding so obviously if I’m failing I’m doing something wrong.  But no, that’s not the case.  You see these numbers, like over 140,000 businesses, 20,000, all these numbers, it could be easy to think that you’re alone if you’re experiencing failure, but you’re not.  These people are – shareholder letters don’t talk about the failures that are happening in life, and in business and Amazon, and so that’s what we’re here to – that’s what we’re here to shed some light on.  So like Casey talked about before, like Casey mentioned, we’re going to talk about just Casey – we’re going to talk about Casey’s experience with failure.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yay.

CAMERON YODER:

And just failure in general.  But it’s more than that.  We’re going to talk about his ability to turn failure into success.  And so that’s what this first half of the podcast is going to be, just about his experience with failure, his experience with turning failure into success, and then we’re going to jump into Amazon specific failure aspects.  Okay, so Casey, how do you feel right now?

CASEY GAUSS:

I feel like I’m hoping that I give some good value.  There is some pressure there.  That’s how I’m feeling.

CAMERON YODER:

There is some good pressure there.  But really, I mean Casey, this is my perspective.  Casey’s been through – he’s been through a lot, and obviously Viral Launch is growing right now, and he’s experienced a lot of success, and he’s also experienced failure throughout just his journey at Viral Launch and outside of Viral Launch.  And so I see an incredible perspective that he has to offer us, and if you don’t know Casey he’s a really good guy, and he just loves people in general.  And so we are here to provide value to you today.  So Casey, all right, let’s talk about failure here and more than that, turning failure into success.  But what are or were some of your most memorable failures early on just with business in general?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean so, you know, I’m 25 so I haven’t had too much time to fail too much, but definitely before Viral Launch there was some kind of notable failures that really ended up helping me along the way.  So I do want to talk about those.  Failure number one is, you know, I tried to create a web design business.  So I, you know, took some coding lessons, then naïvely thought I knew how to build websites.  And so I started this website design business, and my mom was dating a guy at the time who had his own car shop.  And so I was like hey man, like you don’t have a website?  I could easily build you a website, and it will only be $500, blah blah blah.  So getting started I thought it was going to take, you know, oh it will take three, four weeks or so, and it took like at least double that, and even so the website was not very good at all.  He was not happy, and but I’m really glad that I went through it, the reason being is like through trying to make this website I ended up learning so many different things around what it looks like to actually build websites.  I looked at – or I learned so much about like, okay, what does it look like to build a contract?  I was also trying to get other like website clients, which I don’t know why I didn’t have more time to build websites, but anyways, like started going through that process of trying to get other people to sign up so that I could build them a website.  So there’s a lot of cool learning experiences there, which we’ll touch on here in a moment. 

Another failure is, again, out of naïveté – naïveté I think it is.

CAMERON YODER:

Naïveté.

CASEY GAUSS:

Anyways, naïvely I was trying to build like this social network, right?  So who wasn’t like four years ago, five years ago or something?  But anyways, you know, this was – I’m really passionate about help helping people, and I thought I had a great idea for social network to help people.  So through this I made a ton of great connections kind of in the dev world in the business world and started really understanding what it’s like to build a business, let alone a social network.  And so again, just a ton of learning experiences through there.  I’ll get to those here in a moment.  So too big failures that I would like to talk about, web design business that, you know, I was in college trying to do that, learned a ton.  I’m talking like coding out like hand coding HTML, CSS like all that stuff, not like WordPress or something.  And then, yeah, secondly trying to build the social network.  So yeah, we’ll get to that here in a moment.

CAMERON YODER:

How – so you experienced those failures, and those stick out to you in your mind.  How would you say were you able to push past like the idea of failure, or how long did it take for you to get past that?

CASEY GAUSS:

I mean each one took like different – so the web design business, I knew pretty quickly that like, wow, this is really tough.  It’s taking a ton of my time, and I’m also just not that great at it.  So that one, you know, only took me like a month after I had completed like my first website.  Then failure number two, going back to the social network, that took a long time.  I was like still trying to build that probably for like a year, but there is like a ton of good that came out of that.  So how was I able to move past it?  So I’m definitely somebody that is so focused on the future, and I’m always excited about, you know, the opportunities or what can come out of the hard work that I’m putting in.  So like almost blindly I’m willing to fight through this difficult times or this hard work because I’m so excited about, you know, that light at the end of the tunnel that I’ll just continue to push forward and push forward.  And I know that by working hard is the only way that I can push forward.  If I’m not working hard, if I’m like oh, this sucks, like I’m just going to go coddle myself and watch Netflix or something, like I know that that’s not going to help me get to my goal, so I’m willing to kind of just put in the work to reach that light at the end of the tunnel.

CAMERON YODER:

There is a quote from Robert Herjavec who is one of the Shark Tank guys, right? 

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

I just saw him speak the other week when I was in, when I was in Florida, and he had this – he said this quote and it really stuck out to me.  It actually has to do with this.  Robert said that the greatest people in life are the ones who don’t continue or spend time feeling sorry for themselves.  So it’s accepting something that has happened and moving past it, and kind of like Casey said, looking to the future and saying like okay, that happened.  I’m going to set that aside, and I’m going to look to the future.  But that’s – let’s talk about Viral Launch specifically now.  So let’s talk about the early days of Viral Launch.  Are there any specific failures, Casey, that stick out in your mind about establishing Viral Launch early on?

CASEY GAUSS:

I mean, there have been just an insane number of failures along the way.  Some of them were just like hey – you know the lesson there was just like hey, don’t do this again.  So for example, we used to run all of our promotions through an email list.  We didn’t have the website that we do now.  And so anyways, essentially someone would give us a code.  They’d give us a link to their product, and we’d send out an email with that coupon code.  It was a shareable coupon code.  People were setting multichannel fulfillment orders to hold the rest of their inventory.  So anyways, let’s say you wanted to give away 50 units today.  You would only keep 50 units available essentially in Seller Central, and then we would get rid of all those units, essentially, through the promotion.  So anyways, people would share a link and share the coupon.  And so we sent one out – or somebody wanted to give a – use their own URL that would like automatically redirect to like different keywords.  And so I was like I’m not very comfortable with that, but like we trust the company so we’ll do it.  And so we did it, and then after all the promotions had gone to the Amazon product it ended up diverting to their own website saying it had the same colors, like same font, same style, look and feel as our buyer group website, and they were just trying to sign up traffic.  They’re like oh, opt into our ultimate VIP group or whatever.  Just put in your email here.  So like that sucked because we couldn’t even turn it off. 

So that’s just a quick failure, but like some bigger ones that had some really good kind of learning lessons for me is, you know, early on I was so afraid of kind of growing the company.  I just felt like I was beholden to Amazon, I was beholden to this system, and I was so afraid that something was going to change and that if I hired someone I would have to let them go as soon as that change happened.  And in my mind that change was happening, you know, tomorrow or sometime in the very near future.  So for the first year and a half, like I didn’t try to grow Viral Launch very much.  Like it was all just organic, and I just kind of maintained things and handled customer service.  Like I just wasn’t building a business at that point because I was too afraid of Amazon kind of shutting things down or changing their algorithm.  And I really wish that in this particular case I could actually go back because what I have learned from that is essentially like you need to go hard, as hard as possible at any given moment and like there are always risks with running a business no matter what it is.  Uber, for example, even Uber has the risk of iOS not liking what they’re doing or something, right, and shutting down, competition, regulatory issues.  Like there’s risk inherent to every single business, and what I learned is like you have to go as hard as possible at any given time.  Like yes, you need to be smart, and you need to be like calculating risks, but if you are not going as hard as possible, like all your competitors are going to be, or some of your competitors are going to be.  It’s those guys that are going to have the leg up along the way.

CAMERON YODER:

So that idea comes from like what is holding people back.  Do you think that’s like a fear of failure?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean absolutely.  And this one, it was relatively calculated in terms of risk, but like I think that this definitely applies in the Amazon space.  Like we see so many people like back in the early days of incentivized reviews, right, like nobody wanted to do it because they didn’t – like there’s a number of different reasons, right, everything from like they didn’t think Amazon liked it, they didn’t like it or they thought it was like gaming the system, and it kind of was, right, but you were able to do it.  And so yes, all those people that did it ended up having their reviews removed, but the point here – but in reality – so for example, you know, I have a friend in a very competitive space, and he was giving away just thousands of units to review groups or whatever to get reviews, and he was just running thousands of promotions for ranking.  So anyways, for like one of the highest volume keywords on Amazon at the time, he had like 14,000 reviews, and he was ranking incredibly well.  Amazon did come through and they removed like 10,000 of those reviews, but he had more reviews than everybody else at that time and is still selling like amazingly well.  And so this is like another great relevant example of somebody that went as hard as possible in the given like context of the rules, and that really, really set them up for long-term success versus all the people that were saying, you know, oh, you know, I’m not going to do that.  Amazon is probably going to get rid of it at some time, at some point.  I’m really focused on building a business, and it’s like, you know, that’s great, but that person is probably making $50,000 compared to our friend that is making, you know, $40 million a year.  So like it’s a huge lesson, I think, for me and something that I do wish that I could take back.  There’s other, like a lot of failures in Viral Launch where we tried creating all kinds of like new tools, new URLs, like we would go spend a bunch of time trying these things out, and I’m glad that we did it because like that shows us, you know, Thomas Edison’s quote is like –

CAMERON YODER:

I didn’t fail –

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I learned a thousand ways not to make a lightbulb or something like that, and it’s like the same is true for Viral Launch.  Like I had this idea like oh, I wonder if relaunches would be super effective because basically like if you look in the UI Amazon says like oh, buy this product again.  And so I was wondering, I wonder if Amazon appreciates people that – or products that have a lot of repeat buyers.  Maybe they will rank those ones higher.  So what we tried doing is running launches, like so you just ran a launch for, you know, your fish oil, and then you come back like 30 days and you run another launch to the same exact people to one, obviously they want a refill, especially on consumables, but then two, maybe Amazon sees that and says wow, these repeat purchases are super valuable, or whatever, so we definitely want to get this product ranking because they are getting a lot of people to rebuy.  And so anyways, went, built out a bit, like I’m always someone that likes to build kind of a minimum viable product, an MVP, so anyways that’s what we did, and it didn’t produce any, you know, significant results really, and so we moved on.

CAMERON YODER:

You spent time, and that translates to the Amazon space actually really well.  Like I feel like paradox of choice comes into play here as well where there are almost too many options to choose from, and so you slow down as a result.  However people also, I think, in the Amazon space fear like the result, the end result of what’s going to happen by like picking one specific thing over the other or like the fear of failure combines with the paradox of choice really to just slow down people.  In this case like that’s a very specific example, but you chose to just move forward, literally not knowing what was going to happen.  And you spent time and resources doing that, like time and resources that could have been put towards something else, like something else that you knew was more effective, right, but instead you chose to focus on that out of the possibility that it was going to work.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I read this book called Chaos Monkeys.  It’s really cool.  It goes, you know – anyways, I won’t get into it, but one of the quotes – the guy worked at Facebook and he said you know at Facebook they try everything.  So they try 10 things.  Seven of those things fail.  Two of those things break even, and then one of them is like a moonshot and, you know, ends up being Facebook Messenger or Facebook Newsfeed, or like this huge thing that has billions of dollars of impact on the company and then, you know, on the world, essentially.  And so like – but you would never have gotten to that one thing, or the probability of you getting to that one thing is a lot lower if you didn’t try the nine others.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.  If, Casey, if you would go back, if you could go back in time would you change anything about the mistakes that we talked about or that you’ve made in the past, or do you think you would let yourself experience those failures?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean so for the younger self failures, the web design business, like the app or whatever, like I would not change those at all.  Like I learned so much around kind of building a business.  I learned a ton around development, which then helped me to develop like the first versions of Viral Launch.  And so if I didn’t have that prior experience I wouldn’t have been able to create versions one of Viral Launch, and I didn’t have the money to hire other people to create those first versions, and so Viral Launch probably wouldn’t be here if I weren’t always trying those other things.  Or if I would have let those other things get me down, then Viral Launch wouldn’t have been here because yeah, I felt like I was just failing at everything that I was trying.  There was another thing in between Viral Launch and the social media app or whatever that also was failing.  But like I continued to try, and if I would have said wow, I just failed on three things, like this isn’t for me, I need to move on, then yeah, Viral Launch wouldn’t be here.  And like that’s thousands, tens of thousands of lives that we get to impact here at Viral Launch, so like obviously like I’m super, super grateful that I was able to continue.  The one thing that I did mention that I would change is yeah, going much harder at the start of Viral Launch.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, which would maybe increase the chance of failing in other areas, like if you would go harder, but then you would continue to pick yourself back up and keep on going. 

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.

CAMERON YODER:

In terms of leveraging failure, so we’ve talked about failure and how you’ve like kind of gotten past it, but when talking about just sellers and business, business owners and establishers, entrepreneurs in general, how in your opinion, Casey, can people best leverage failure for growth?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean I think that one, it’s more your like adversity to failure that you have to cope with.  Again, looking at the Facebook example, like you have to try those 10 things statistically, like you’ve got to try those 10 things to find that one, right?  And so I just can’t encourage you enough to just get out there and try.  I’m someone that, like doesn’t really like planning that much because like yes, we can plan, but we don’t know what’s actually going to happen until we get there.  Who is it, like Mike Tyson?  Some boxer has a saying that it’s like everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face, and it’s like that’s exactly what happens in entrepreneurship, selling on Amazon.  It’s like you have a plan for something and things may go slightly according to plan, or they may go pretty close to according to plan, but inevitably there’s going to be things that you did not expect or not to the degree in which you’re seeing them, and it’s really your ability to adjust, cope with that and continue pushing forward that is really going to determine your success long-term.

CAMERON YODER:

In terms of seeing failure, like early signs of failure, let’s say there are – some failures – there are certain aspects of failure that are really good, right, like if you take – you can take any failure really and learn something from it.  But let’s talk about maybe noticing certain failures early on.  Like would you say there are early signs of failure from what you’ve experienced?  Like have you caught something early that you knew was just not going to be good or profitable or beneficial for Viral Launch and you were able to, since you saw it early, catch it and not fail from it and succeed?  What do you think?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean I don’t have any specific examples, but like, obviously trying something out – let’s go back to the retargeting launches, like I had the notion that – let’s say in this example I had the notion that it wasn’t going to work, but the potential reward of it working and the – versus kind of the amount of time I was going to have to put in, which was relatively low, the kind of risk reward thing there was like super high on the reward side, so it was definitely worth me trying out.  So even if I thought that there was a really good chance that it was going to fail, the potential reward was so high that it was definitely worth me jumping into.

CAMERON YODER:

That’s – I think a big part of it is the mentality or the acceptance that failure is going to happen, right?  Like it’s just an awareness.  Like if you go through everything on Amazon specifically thinking that failure is not going to happen, then obviously you’re going to be surprised when it does, just like the punch in the face sort of thing.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right, yeah, and again, like the risk reward calculation, if like the reward is an extra $5000 a month, let’s say it’s like a review strategy, right, like this against TOS review strategy.  So if the risk there is that your account gets suspended for a sustained period of time or maybe even banned – I doubt banned – but anyways, let’s just say banned, or by getting an extra, you know, by doubling your review rate you could make an extra $10,000 a month, well, getting banned from Amazon, the risk reward is not there.  An extra $10,000 a month, or I could potentially get banned, like you should not do it.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.  Let’s – one aspect of failure and success, I think, is that you can learn from other people’s failure to benefit yourself.  So really like you don’t necessarily have to fail yourself in that specific area to learn from it, right?  You can learn from someone else’s failures.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, 100%.

CAMERON YODER:

And so let’s break down Amazon space specifically now.  Like let’s focus on Amazon.  Let’s talk about the biggest areas that we see sellers kind of just experiencing failure in.  Casey, what do you think some of the biggest – some of those biggest areas are that listeners can benefit or learn from?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, I think the two main things are product selection and then listening to the wrong people, misinformation.  I actually think that probably misinformation is the number one reason people are failing.  Actually I’m not sure.  It’s either product selection or people listening to misinformation.  With product selection I mean there are so many – if you have heard me talk at a, or like at an event, like some of my presentations go into if I’m talking about product selection, or sourcing products, or product discovery or whatever.  I talk a lot about kind of the reasons why people fail in product selection.  Just the high-level overview is that people don’t understand their budget and their goals, and so they’ll look at a product and say, yep, it looks like people are making a lot of money.  I want to jump in here and make the same amount of money.  And like the thing is is they were looking at the fish oil market where it’s, you know, super competitive, or the essential oil diffuser market, which is super competitive, and they have a budget of like $5000 or something, right?  And so like sure you can kind of make money, but you have no ability to hit the sales volume that these guys are doing, which is like $500,000 a month or something.  So just not understanding kind of their budget and getting into markets they have no business being in

CAMERON YODER:

It’s so easy.  I see this so often where people see the numbers.  They see the numbers, and they want to make it a reality that they can get those numbers, right?  Or they say like oh, you know, like $50,000 a month, like yeah, I can make that work.  Or oh I see one guy that’s making, like you said, I see one guy that’s making $50,000 in this market of fish oil.  All the others – sure, all the others are making $25,000 or even less, like $8000 a month, but this guy’s making $50,000, so I am going to make $50,000.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, that’s the other problem is like looking at one particular ASIN and then assuming that that is the case for the market.  And so yeah, they look at this guy – this one guy’s making – I’ve seen this a lot.  One guy is making $50,000, you know $100,000 a month and then everybody else is making $8000 a month, and you know, you’re like well if I source that same exact ASIN I can get the same results.  And like what you don’t know is what is driving that person’s sales.  Are they driving like a ton of traffic through Facebook ads?  Is it somebody that has a brand you just don’t know about?  Like where are those sales coming from?  Like you just don’t know that.

CAMERON YODER:

And that’s – and going back to your original point, it all comes down to picking the right product.  Like it all starts – if you think about the process of Amazon and everything that happens after, like how you get money, where you get money from, of course there are strategies surrounding everything, but it all starts with how or what you select for your product to sell.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, I think that covers kind of everything, or just having an unrealistic expectation on kind of margins or what price you can charge.  You know, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  You know, so people come and say well, mine’s way higher quality than everybody else, so I’m going to charge double the price.  And then like at the end of the day people don’t want a grill brush that’s super high quality, and they don’t want to pay $40 for a grill brush.  They want to pay the $20 average because they just want to clean their grill, and it’s like not that big of a deal.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.  Or some people rely on bundling to solve their product selection issues.

CASEY GAUSS:

People don’t know what keywords their products actually sell through.  They’re just like you know I’m really passionate about this type of tea or something, and nobody searches any of those keywords, so now you have to go rank for the generic keyword tea, and like that’s really hard because nobody’s heard of your flavor and they’re really sketched of it.  Anyways –

CAMERON YODER:

Well, let’s touch on the second-biggest because both – there were both of these points.  It was product selection, and there was just information in the Amazon space.  Casey, what do you think?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, information, like so this is going on – this actually just happened yesterday.  Someone posted – this guy, you know, I met him at a conference and like I really liked him.  I just recently have just been so upset about misinformation or just get very kind of agitated around misinformation.  And so anyways, met this guy at a conference.  He’s definitely like a younger seller.  I don’t think he’s, you know, probably doing more than $5000, $10,000 a month.  Anyways, yeah, he had this guy come on who is a quote seven-figure seller.  I don’t know if he really is, but let’s say he is.  And he comes on and he says, you know, giveaways don’t work.  Amazon made this huge algorithm change – algorithmic change, he said, which is different than an algorithm change, but anyways, not to be mad about specifics, but anyways, he said algorithm change, and like basically Amazon – like giveaways don’t work anymore.  Amazon is only looking at giveaways, and they only have kind of 25% the weight that they used to like a month ago.  So yeah, at the time of recording this it’s like May 11th, I think, and so anyways, he’s saying like all the way through March and I think April they were working, but like starting in May or late April they stopped working.  And it’s like absolutely not true.  We have just tons of case studies.  I was just talking to the team.  Like we have tons of case studies over the last two weeks where people have been super successful.  But so, so many people are reaching out to me saying like, are launches really done?  And now it’s just like spreading.  Like these rumors spread like wildfire, just saying like launches don’t work.  And so I don’t think this is that big of a deal, but if this rumor, which is absolutely not true, can spread that quickly from a guy with, you know, just a few thousand subscribers on YouTube, just imagine all the other rumors that are spreading around Amazon.  And so we try to do a good job of dispelling those rumors, but like, you know, our audience is only a portion of the overall Amazon.  Like nobody has the entire Amazon audience.

CAMERON YODER:

You should go – well, you don’t have to listen to it, but literally our first episode.  It was our first episode.  It was September 28, 2017 that was about the rumor of 90% off promotions.

CASEY GAUSS:

These rumors come up like we need to really go back and look to see how often.  I think it’s at least every two, three months because this – we just had to post a case study like in February, I think, or somewhere around February because everyone was saying oh, promotions aren’t working.  And it’s like dude, we’re running hundreds of launches right now, and they’re working pretty well.

CAMERON YODER:

This is fear.  This is what fear does to people.  And of course like that’s not to say Amazon wouldn’t or can’t change something tomorrow.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean I do expect them to change this at some time, and so does everybody else, but like I’ve been expecting that for 3 ½ years, and they just haven’t yet.  The data isn’t there.  And you know, again, like we talk about, like I think one of our major advantages is that we just have so much data, so much access to data that, you know, this guy’s one large didn’t work.  I didn’t watch the rest of the video, but anyways I think he did one promotion.  It didn’t work that well, but it was like a brand-new product, and there was like all these reasons why – like he didn’t give away enough units.  It was like to competitive, like I don’t know.  Anyways, everyone was kind of roasting him because it didn’t seem to be kind of like a great scientific study I guess. 

Anyways, so anyways, just a lot of [unintelligible 0:29:50.2] a lot of misinformation.  It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from.  Again, like I said, we’ve tried to dispel a number of myths on here, and we’ll continue to do that.  But we just hear all kinds of crazy things.  Like one example that really upset me – I was at a conference and the people like – I was at a conference and the people also run a course, and so through this course they teach you when you get a product list it up on Amazon when you first get it checked into FBA.  List it up on Amazon for like $2 or $1 so that friends and family can buy it at full price, they can leave a review, and then it will be verified.  And you do this up until – and you only have like one bullet point or something and they title and like one image or something.  So anyways it’s hocus-pocus, and they tell you that once like you get all the reviews that you want, then you can raise the price, you can add in all the information to your listing and then it will finally be able to be found in the rankings.  First off, products can be found in the rankings if they’re listed on Amazon and there are keywords associated with the listing, which can happen just by being in a particular category.  So first off, that myth, busted.  Like it could show up in the results.  You know, there’s these listings from name brands like Dove or whatever that have terrible, terrible listings, and they’re still ranking. 

So anyways, there’s that, but the main problem is that when you raise your price a lot of the time from $2 to $20 or $40, however much you want to charge, like you lose the buy box for a good period of time, and so nobody can even sell.  So this guy had like an iPhone or a Galaxy S8 case or something, and it was like just launching or maybe – I don’t know.  Anyways, the newest phone case, and that product was about to be announced or about to go live, and so he needed to have it up and able to sell on Amazon.  But he couldn’t have the buy box if he charged any more than like $2.50.  But you can’t charge $2.50, so he was like not capable of selling that product anymore all because this course taught him to do that.

CAMERON YODER:

So there’s a lot – I mean there’s a lot of, a lot, a lot of misinformation out there.  Even you pay money – let’s say you pay money, you go to a conference.  There’s probably a lot – well we’ve seen a lot, like first-hand a lot of misinformation there.  So what should people do?

CASEY GAUSS:

You know, I don’t know the answer to that, right?

CAMERON YODER:

It’s a hard question.

CASEY GAUSS:

Because like I don’t.  I think it comes down to you need to be doing – I think you should be listening to everything.  You should be skeptical about everything everybody says, including us.  I think that you should be testing everything and just be very vigilant around making sure that the data that you are getting or are able to get, you are paying attention to and making decisions based off of that.

CAMERON YODER:

That’s – the only thing I would add to that, which we’ve talked about this before, but questioning everything that you hear.  The most – we see sellers experience failure when they just blindly accept what other people are saying and then follow through with that.  I think questioning everything is really important.  I also think surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are critical is really important as well because if you’re in a group of people who accept everything, then it’s going to be hard to say no.  If you’re in a group of people that are critical and are testing everything together, it’s going to be easier to find, I think, truth in that.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, absolutely.

CAMERON YODER:

The only other thing, the only other things that I see Amazon sellers maybe experiencing failure in is – we’ve talked about this before as well, and Casey talks about this at conferences, but a lack of aggression.  If you’re confident in the data that you’re seeing and confident in your product, just being aggressive with how you sell, with product launches, with sourcing, being aggressive really speeds up the process.  Like Casey talked about before with just testing a lot of things out and moving forward with them and punching it hard, that can really progress your business quickly.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean there’s just a number of them.  Like so some people will quit their job too soon because they just want to be able to check that box on I quit my job.  And so then they start pulling out too much capital from the Amazon business, which is something that we’ll be talking about here soon.  People have a hard time with inventory forecasting.  So people run out of stock all the time, and people start targeting bad keywords, or like people get very emotionally tied.  This is something that we’re trying to figure out what the actual topic is or how to build a podcast out of this, but there is this great article – it’s super long – kind of about like the Chinese and their mindsets around Amazon and how they’re able to have so much success .  And one of the reasons was just because they don’t get very emotional about their products or their brands, and they’re just focused on the data, and like they make decisions super fast.  And again, so I think one of them is just getting emotionally tied to your products, to your business, to where it’s impairing your ability to make like good, logical decisions.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, Casey.  We talked about the biggest failures for Amazon sellers, but in terms of setting themselves up for success, how can Amazon sellers best – how do you think Amazon sellers can best set themselves up for success?

CASEY GAUSS:

I think the number one thing is don’t over-analyze.  Like so many people are like spend months and months just looking at the data and don’t actually pull the trigger, don’t make a decision.  Like you’re going to get so much more data when you actually pull that trigger, make that decision, jump in and see that kind of experience for yourself.  So again, like I – and this kind of comes with being aggressive to a degree, like I just want to encourage you to jump in and move as quickly as possible, like your competitors are doing it, and so you need to be doing it the same.

CAMERON YODER:

I think it’s really important to also know your capacity.  Know what you’re capable of because if you put yourself in the way of moving quickly, like you will experience failure.  I mean we’re telling you on this podcast you’re going to experience failure, but if you experience failure beyond your means, then it’s going to be really hard for you to dig yourself out of that. 

CASEY GAUSS:

Oh yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

If you take a lot of money and you can’t pay it off, you’re going to be in a tough spot.  So I would say be smart about moving quickly, but also move quickly.  Like there’s a fine – there’s a hard balance there.  It’s really important to know what exactly you’re capable of, and just like we talked about before, setting yourself up for success in the Amazon space specifically looks like expecting failure, like expect failure to happen.  Know that failure is going to happen so it won’t surprise you when you experience it.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and have a plan with that.  So then have a plan for if things do fail, have that contingency.  And it’s like okay, that’s fine.  I ordered far too many units for this holiday period.  Let’s say, you know, you sell Valentine’s Day items.  Like sure, maybe you ordered too many, but it was kind of a go big go home situation, and you would rather have too much inventory than too little because it’s so much money that you’re missing out on, and so then make sure you have a good place where you can go liquidate that inventory for a decent price, or maybe at the very least get it out of Amazon so you’re not paying those long-term storage fees.

So that’s all for failures for us, guys.  I just wanted to thank you again for tuning in.  I, you know, know that being an entrepreneur, we can definitely feel alone, and we can definitely get really down on ourselves for failing, right?  Like we look at the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, we look at the [anchors 0:37:03.4] of the world, we look at, you know, all these people that have been so successful, and we don’t see what their path to that success was.  We don’t see all the failures that they were making.  And so I think it’s very easy for us to put it on ourselves and say well, shoot, you know, I can’t really measure up to Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates or whoever because like, you know, they just had this meteoric rise to success, and I would imagine that on that path to success they had so many, so many micro failures, but they just continued to move on and push ahead.  Like Mark Zuckerberg, for example, had a bunch of things that he tried getting off the ground before the Facebook came to be.  So like I just hope that this podcast, if you are in that stage where things maybe aren’t going as well as you would hope this can be kind of that little pick me up to show you again or just to remind you and encourage you that hey, this is just part of the process.  This is making you the much better – a much better version of yourself that is going to be that much more successful, you know, in the next phase of business.  So yeah, hopefully a little encouragement for you.

CAMERON YODER:

We do actually really want to hear from you guys concerning this topic, just concerning failure and what failure you guys have experienced or have pushed past and experienced success from that failure.  So our question of the week has to do with failure, and it simply is what failure have you experienced and/or also what success have you experienced from that failure?  So in order to answer that question, or if you have any other questions regarding failure, hit us up on Facebook, just seriously DM us, hit us up on the DMs.  It could even be Instagram, but Facebook if you pull out your phone right now, literally right now, and you – unless you’re driving – and you look us up on Facebook.  You can literally just message us and we will get back to you.  You can also call in.  Our number is 317-721-6590 to drop us a line.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.