Your Amazon Seller Questions: Q&A with Cameron Yoder and Becca Longenecker (Follow the Data Ep. 18)

Your Amazon Seller Questions: Q&A with Cameron Yoder and Becca Longenecker (Follow the Data Ep. 18)

In this episode, we field a few questions from our listeners. Being your own boss and running your own business is an incredible part of being an Amazon seller. But navigating the Amazon space all alone can be hard, and reliable information can be difficult to find. How does Amazon really work? What are the best strategies? Join host Cameron Yoder and producer Becca Longenecker to find out.

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Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Want to be on the show like today’s listeners? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.
  • Initial reviews are so important. Wondering how to get that social proof for your product? Check out our blog post from this summer about Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program.
  • Talk about barrier to entry: language is a huge one for going international. Read our recent blog post about the importance of getting a native speaking copywriter to create your listing. 
  • Check out the Viral Launch YouTube channel and look for Cameron’s Fireside Chats where you walks through how to get the most out of Product Discovery. 

 

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON:
Being your own boss and running your own business is an incredible part of being an Amazon seller. But navigating the Amazon space all alone can be hard, and reliable information can be difficult to find. How does Amazon really work? What are the best strategies? Today we field a few questions from our listeners to help you make sense of it all.

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 28,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

In today’s episode, we’re hearing from you and answering your seller questions. There’s an awesome variety of topics and some great content here for those of you who are just getting a product into FBA or who are looking to refine your selling process to make your business more profitable. Let’s jump in.
[fade out intro music]
BECCA:
Hey, I’m Becca Longenecker, the producer for Follow the Data, and I’ll be joining Cameron in today’s episode. Before we get started, I just want to give a huge shoutout to everyone who has called in and left us a voicemail, everyone who has subscribed, everyone who has left us a review, and everyone who has listened so far. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and we feel really honored to be one of the ones that you choose to listen to.
CAM:
Yeah, Becca’s our producer, and she gets to listen to every episode all the time, even the stuff, the content, that we don’t get to put into the episodes. And so I’m psyched to have her on the show, welcome Becca.
BECCA:
Thank you Cam. So at the end of every Follow the Data episode, we encourage you all to call into our voicemail box and leave us a message with your Amazon questions or responses to the show. And we’ve really enjoyed hearing from you, so today we’re going to play a few of those voicemails for you and answer a few of the questions that you all are asking.
CAM:
So let’s play the first voicemail response.
BECCA:
Alright
CAM:
And then we’ll go from there.
LISTENER #1 JOHN:
Hey, my name is John Farrell. I’m actually I’m new to selling on Amazon. I just listed my first private label product, and I think this is a question for myself, but I think that it could serve well for a lot of people who listen to your podcast and may be new. So basically to get my product ranking—and you’re saying that sales history is so important—so what I’m doing is I just listed my product last Monday, so it’s been exactly a week since I listed it, and I did 3 sales a day for the first week, and now I’m upping it to 5 sales a day for the second week, and then 7 and then I’m going to do a blast on Viral Launch.
But I’m having difficulty in … I’m getting a lot of different answers regarding … because my product isn’t … it’s still too new, it isn’t showing up on any pages of search results for any natural keyword terms. So what I’m doing is I’m having people. I’m I’m sending them to I’m sending them links to the product to buy from the link and hoping that you know one of these days, it’s just going to pop up on one of the pages, and then I can have them buy naturally by sending them the keyword and they can search through pages search for my product and buy it.
I’m not even sure if that’s the best way to do it. That’s what some people are telling me. I want to get your feedback on that as well as I wanted to know when I should expect to start having results as far as all when I should start showing up naturally on the pages for keywords, and if it … taking this long is you know not normal, so that’s that’s the question. I have for you guys. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
CAM:
Yeah, so that’s a good collection of questions and situations from John. And there’s a lot of … there’s a lot there, honestly, to go over. And so starting out, if you haven’t seen the podcast episode where we talk about sales history, I recommend going back and checking that out after this podcast.
So John, one of the first things that he talked about, and maybe one of the first things we should go over is the fact that his listing wasn’t necessarily active right off the bat. And we don’t necessarily have data to show that this happens for every single person that opens a product on Amazon. But from what we can see, that is a normal occurance for you to … let’s say you create a listing on Amazon, right? So you buy the product from like Alibaba, and then you create a listing on Amazon, and you create a listing on Amazon, and then you ship the products into FBA. And once those products get into FBA, a lot of people will think ‘Oh, well I can just start selling immediately and start ranking immediately, but in some cases the … when you search for your product, just through the normal search function on Amazon, it doesn’t pop up. And so there seems to be this period of time where maybe it’s going through Amazon’s system, or whatever, where it takes a little bit of time for it to load into Amazon and for you to really be able to … not even to … you don’t necessarily have to wait for that to gain sales because you can send people a direct link to your product, like John talked about. But when it comes to something like keyword ranking, and you can’t even find your product when you search a keyword, that’s probably not the best time to do something like a launch.
BECCA:
Yeah, um next Cam do you want to talk about the part of his question where he is talking about how he is giving away 3 units and then 5 units and then 7 units, and he’s kind of doing this … like building up sales velocity—a term that we’ve heard people talk about a lot—and in that Sales History / Sales Velocity episode that we did, you guys kind of try to explain that. Maybe you can go over that again?
CAM:
Yeah, so really when it comes to a brand new seller. This is less important. But when we talked about the comparison of sales velocity to sales history it’s sales history that matters more, right? So if you have been a seller for a long time, and you’ve built up a pattern of a bad sales history, you’re going to have a harder time launching, or ranking on a page for a specific keyword and sticking there. On the other hand, if you have a positive sales history, so if you’ve been selling for a decent amount of time, and your sales have been pretty good, then the … let’s say you launch on to page 1, you’re going to have a little bit easier of a time sticking on there because of your positive sales history. In John’s specific case, he’s talking about a very early strategy of kind of messing around with low numbers of sales velocity and increasing them, like within a week’s period of time. For John’s case, that’s not super important. Like that, honestly it probably wouldn’t make a difference, if you were to space it out like that. What matters more, what matters more in this case, than incrementally spacing out sales from specific people, what matters more in John’s case is keyword ranking, right? Which he might not be able to do yet because his product is not available to see yet to everybody. And more than that are getting reviews, getting his initial reviews. Like if I were to talk, if I were to sit down with John and talk about what to do first, I would say when you’re product goes live on Amazon, you need to get reviews in place.
BECCA:
Well, even before it goes live, right?
CAM:
Yeah, yeah! Even before. Like in John’s case, he should get reviews.
BECCA:
Even when it’s not showing up in search.
CAM:
Right, even when it’s not showing up in search. Even when he can’t do something like a launch to increase keyword ranking because he can’t show up in results. Getting those reviews in place is really going to solidify his social proof so that when he does go live, then he can perform something like a launch and get to the front page and have that social proof there and ready to go instead of just having no reviews in place.
BECCA:
Going back to that incremental change. I just wanna make sure this is clear. So I think a lot of people think that the incremental change is what Amazon wants to see—they want to see that you’re sales number, your sales volume is growing. But actually Amazon’s just more concerned with how high your sales volume is. So it doesn’t have to be incrementally changing over time, if you right off the bat can get that sales volume up and you can match the sales volume of your page 1 competitors, you can climb in the rankings.
CAM:
We’ve actually seen this and we’ve talked about this. Casey and I talked about this a little bit before. But there’s this small period of time, this grace period it seems like, when your product goes live for the first time. Or actually newer products, if you funnel a certain amount of traffic through it, at the very beginning, Amazon seems to take preference to that. It’s kind of like, Oh, you’re a new product, and you’re preforming really well at the beginning, so we’ll reward you. And in some cases, people can achieve ranking quicker and or stick on page 1 longer if they perform a launch right off the bat. Again, with that social proof in hand though. So with that … that’s a combination of good photos, good reviews, good price, all those things. But all those things combined together, really if you’re an early product it might be good to perform a launch if you have all those things in place right away.
BECCA:
That’s pretty cool.
CAM:
So I just want to summarize again because there are a lot of points in there that are important. But so when you’re thinking about sales history, it really is not that important if you’re a new seller. It matters if you’ve been selling for a little while and you have bad sales history. That’s gonna negatively affect your ability to rank and stick on ranking. If you have a good sales history, that’s good. If you’re new, you don’t really have a sales history yet. You just need to make sure that you’re not building a bad sales history, a bad reputation.
BECCA:
Alright, let’s move on to the next message.
LISTENER #2 DANIEL:
Hey, my name is Daniel Metz and I’m recent listeners to the show. I just listened to the episode about the Amazon reviews, and what I think is going to probably happen is that the reviews that you see will be weighted. Based on 30 days or 60 days or 90 days something like that, but they will still have access to like lifetime reviews just giving a greater weight to the more recent ones and that the actual star rating in order to be more accurate will reflect a more recent time frame as opposed to all of the reviews over the entire life of the product offering. I’m a recent user. I’m just now doing my first Viral Launch, and I really appreciate the company, just the the way the company is run. In comparison with all the other companies, and so just wanted to call and let you guys know. Thanks. Bye.
BECCA:
Thank you Daniel for that affirmation. We have really tried to differentiate ourselves in the space and to be a legitimate resource for sellers in a market where there are a lot of proclaimed solutions that don’t actually deliver on results. We have been and continue to be super customer-centric, results driven, and innovative, and it’s really encouraging when people recognize that. So thanks.
BECCA:
Daniel’s call was about the episode that we did on the future of Amazon reviews. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, I would definitely encourage you to go back into our feed and give that one a listen. Cam and Casey talk about the way that Amazon reviews are now and how that could potentially be bad for sellers in the future, and what they think Amazon will do to change that.
CAM:
So the concept is, if you’re new to selling, and you’re trying to sell this awesome new face cream, and everyone else has like 12,000 reviews, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to compete. So we discuss that and what we think Amazon is going to do.
BECCA:
Yeah, so that sounds like a definite possibility, Daniel. Casey and Cam throw out the idea of a weighted system in that episode as well, and it seems like a great way to go for Amazon. I also think you’re right that they’ll probably have to allow sellers to keep the lifetime reviews for their product. I think they would probably get a lot of backlash if they tried to take down legitimate reviews. Although, they have taken down reviews in the past. But yeah, I think you’re probably not far off with your prediction.
CAM:
Let’s go on to the next question.
LISTENER #3:
Hey guys appreciate you guys doing this. I’m a new seller. My question for you guys is really about launching, so I have a new shipment coming in. It should be within like the next 30 days month or so, and I’ve been reading through Facebook group try to figure out the best strategy to get things started get a launch going. So I know you guys do launches, but I’m also seeing a lot about running sponsored ads doing those at the same time, a little bit confused as to really what I should do, so if you guys could give your best advice on sponsored ads, running at launch, how those compare. Yeah, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.
CAM:
That’s a question that we see actually a lot. So the question is, basically, how does PPC compare to a launch, or to running a targeted giveaway.
BECCA:
So PPC, or for those … or sponsored ads … payed per click advertising, PPC, is when you see those sponsored ads at the top of a product search, those top couple of products, they’ll says sponsored, and those are a way to get your product in front of people for a specific keyword and drive sales through that keyword. So it’s basically functioning the same way as a Viral Launch. With a viral launch you pick a keyword to target, and then you put that product in front of a buyer group at a heavily discounted price. And the sales that you get from that discounted product promotion are going through a targeted keyword. So with sponsored ads and with a product launch, you are getting those sales attributed to a keyword, and that’s the really important aspect of a launch and for sponsored ads as well.
CAM:
So they’re both trying to accomplish the same goal. However the main difference for something like an effective launch or PPC is, honestly it’s time.
BECCA:
Yeah, so the reason that we do a launch the way we do, where you’re discounting your product so heavily and putting it up on this buyer site is that we have … you know the buyer site has over 100,000 people subscribed who are checking in daily for deals, and with a heavily discounted product, you can move a lot more product. So you can have, you know, 10 sales a day or something like that whereas with PPC you might see 1 sale per day, 2 sales per day come through a specific keyword. And so the purpose of a launch really is just to get that volume because you can move up through the ranking so much quicker.
CAM:
A launch is simple. A launch is an attempt to match the sales of top sellers for a specific keyword, right? And with our launch platform and with other giveaway platforms, if you can funnel all those sales through a 7 day or 10 day period of time, that’s gonna be more effective than just throwing money in the air and hoping. PPC just takes so much more time.
BECCA:
And with PPC you’re usually targeting a handful of keywords all at once, and with a launch it’s just really really specific, and you’re just going all after that one keyword.
CAM:
So it does depend on the market that you’re in and the keywords that you’re kind of trying to rank for. A lot of people also ask if they should do PPC while they’re doing something like a launch, and honestly the answer is … well it doesn’t really hurt. At the same time, I know people who very effectively only run launches. So they take all the money that they would be spending on something like sponsored ads, which can be expensive, and they put it towards a launch, and if they drop in ranking, then they just run another launch. Monetarily for them, just looking at the numbers, it makes more sense with the keywords that they’re trying to target. Some people will do a launch and PPC, but basically a launch is going to be more effective. It’s going to be your base line.
BECCA:
The other thing I guess to say about PPC is, one way that it can be really helpful is to target a whole bunch of keywords or do those auto campaigns through Amazon and then you can figure out which keyword your product sells the best for or converts the best for. And that can be a good way to find a keyword to target on your product launch.
CAM:
Yeah, that is a good method that a lot of people use. It takes some time to get, but if you’re not sure about what keywords to target, it can be a really good option.
BECCA:
Alright, moving on to our next voicemail.
LISTENER #4:
Hey Casey and Cam, so I’m a fairly new seller in the Amazon game, and I had a question for you guys about selling internationally. I heard that it’s pretty easy to go over and sell internationally because the markets aren’t as strong and developed in the US, but I’m kind of wondering is it really worth it for me to go and sell international because I’m so new and so fresh in the game should I just spoke with my efforts on US or is it worth it to try international right out of the gate? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks guys.
BECCA:
So that’s a tough one. Cam, what do you think about going international right away?
CAM:
Being completely honest, honestly there are 2 arguments here. I know sellers in both. I know sellers who have succeeded in both. First off, nothing is as easy as it sounds, so people often say, Well yeah, I’ll just start one of those Amazon businesses and launch it and it’ll be just super easy. I’ll make tons of money. But if you as an Amazon seller think back to the first time, whether you were using a course or not, I’m sure somewhere along the line of you starting your first Amazon business, or your first product, selling your first product, you thought: Hey, this is much harder, or some degree harder than I thought it would be originally. But international is a different game than selling on Amazon or is just different than if you were to try to sell outside of the United States. So my first response to this listener is that you need to establish what your goals are. What kind of numbers are you shooting for? How much effort or time or energy do you want to put into this? Because that could determine if you want to stick with your home country, where you’re most comfortable, or not. You also want to do more research on international markets and the US market. So for us, we use Market Intelligence and with that we’re able to look at sales numbers in Europe, sales numbers in the United States and market trends as well, and almost across the board, the numbers in the United States completely beat out the numbers in other countries. Now, you have to keep in mind the barriers too. So one of the biggest barriers in the United States is going to be competition. So just because there are a lot of sellers here. There’s a lot of traffic. So obviously if there’s more traffic, there’s going to be more competition. That’s the biggest barrier. And if you’re going international, then some of the biggest barriers are going to be something like language barriers—the copy for your listing—culture barriers—understanding how people are buying, different selling licenses and laws, transferring money back to your home country.
BECCA: On that topic: we have a podcast episode with World First from a couple weeks back that you should go check out. We talk to Lucy Marshall, and she kind of explains who they help Amazon sellers at World First transferring their funds back home.
CAM
If you haven’t listened to that and you’re an international seller, give that a listen. All that being said, there are some barriers to entry to consider, to really consider. And it all depends on what your goals are. Overall, start small, and once you feel confident in your ability to sell, then maybe maybe consider going international. But all that being said there’s still a ton of opportunity here in the United States.
CAM:
Well hey guys that is all for this week. Thank you so much for joining us here this week. Again, I just want to iterate, we really do love hearing from you guys and all of these were questions that we’ve received from you and that we’ve been hearing in the space, and so it’s honestly just really good to hear feedback, but it’s also good to hear questions that you have at the same time. So I’m gonna give our number here. It’s (317) 721-6590. We absolutely would love to have you call in and give any questions or feedback. We would love love love to feature you on the show.
For more insights and reliable information that will help take your business to the next level, subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com. And also check out our YouTube channel. We’re really … we’re shooting for a lot of content in 2018. I’ve said this before, but check out our YouTube channel, we’re doing a weekly walkthrough of Product Discovery right now. It’s kind of like a course. And you’ll see those videos. They’re called Fireside Chats. You’ll see those videos under the playlists that we’ve created. And you will also see my face in those.
BECCA:
Don’t forget to rate the show and leave us a review on iTunes. That helps me out with my job. Your feedback helps all of us here at Viral Launch cater our content for you as the listeners and it helps other people find the show as well. We also want to say that we really appreciate everybody who has left a review and has given us feedback so far, and a special thanks to everyone who we featured on the show today who called in with a question.
CAM:
Again, thank you guys so much for listening. We are looking so forward to putting out more content for you. Feel free again to reach out in any way. Until next time remember, the data is out there.

Brock Johnson on Being an Entrepreneur and Winning on Amazon (Follow the Data Ep. 17)

Brock Johnson on Being an Entrepreneur and Winning on Amazon (Follow the Data Ep. 17)

Get inside the mind of entrepreneur Brock Johnson. He’s well known in the Amazon seller community for his incredible success with solar eclipse glasses this past summer, but he’s been flipping products and chasing down entrepreneurial pursuits since he was 9 years old. He has been featured on the DailyVee (episode 367) and has his own successful YouTube channel where he shares his tips for Amazon FBA success.

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
What’s up, everybody? We are live today with Brock Johnson. I’m here with Casey. Casey, say hello.

CASEY GAUSS:
What’s up, guys?

CAMERON YODER:
So Brock, Brock is a seller on Amazon, and he’s involved with a lot of different things. And so we’re just
going to run through some questions. The purpose of today and the purpose of these episodes, which
we’re going to be doing month-to- month, is to inspire you with different stories.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and if you guys haven’t heard of Brock Johnson you may possibly be living under a rock. This guy is
blowing up right now, and so we just thought he was the perfect fit to bring him on, provide some
inspiration to you and just show you, you know, how tangible or attainable kind of these lofty goals that
you may have, just are – if you put in the work and you’re, you know, you’re logical about your
processes. So yeah, Brock, thank you so much for coming on, dude.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, well, we’re going to start just with some awesome questions just for you to explain yourself and
your story. First question is something we’re going to be asking everyone when they come on the show
is have you always considered yourself an entrepreneur?

BROCK JOHNSON:
That’s a tough one. So I have. I guess in retrospect now I would consider myself an entrepreneur, but I
didn’t always think of myself like that. But even since the age of, what, 9 or 10 I was – I was using my
mom’s eBay account to so all my friends’ video games. Then I was also playing on all these online games
like World of Warcraft and stuff, and I was more focused on the economy and flipping stuff on auction –
I was actually flipping stuff on the auction houses of these video games. And then in college I was like
buying and selling pennies. So I was doing this all the time, but I never thought it would be a full-time
thing until it came to where I had to get out of college, and it was like well you either go get a job, or you
start a company, or you do something. And that’s when I was like all right, I’m an entrepreneur. But I’ve
always been one.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s when – so when you got out of college and you started considering going into other jobs or other
fields, that’s when you said hey, I guess I kind of am an entrepreneur?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, yeah. Well, when I really did it was because I never really had a job my whole life because I had
always found ways to make money. Like I was card counting in casinos, or you know, just doing my own
side hustles and flipping stuff. But then it was when I got an internship, that’s when I – the decision was
made.

CAMERON YODER:
Gotcha.

BROCK JOHNSON:
I was like wow, this sucks.

CAMERON YODER:
So okay. Well, that’s a good response. Thank you for that response. Can you explain just a little bit about
yourself? Can you tell us where you’re from and what your experience was growing up, like if you had
siblings, or if you did well in school what your favorite subjects were? Just give us some background info.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, so I’m from Minnesota, born and raised here. I’ve got two sisters. With school, I don’t know, I did
all right in school. I never really tried, so I had decent grades, but then I started to do bad. I ended up
with like a 2.9 in high school or something. But then I went to college, and when I would apply myself I
always did really good in math classes or physics and stuff like that, but to be honest I was known as the
worst person. I never attended. I went to less than 50% of my coll– I have a full math degree, so I went
through all the advanced math classes, and I went to less than 50% of the classes because I hated it. Like
just somebody teaching me. I just wanted to go learn it. And so I would actually like do the tests, and I
would go to a math test, and I wouldn’t go to any of the classes, do any of the homework, and then 24
to 36 hours before the class I would just go and just read the textbook and teach myself everything and
stay up for 36 hours. And then I would go and get like a B on it. So like I’ve just always been like nobody
teach me; like I’m just going to go and like immerse myself in something.

CAMERON YODER:
Did people ever try and call you out on that, like hey man, I noticed you’re not going to classes. What’s
the deal with that?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, people called me out all the time. And so would my teachers. But I was really good at making
excuses.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. Right, no, yeah, yeah.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Excuses that you can’t call out or just like coming up with stuff.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. I mean the thing is you had that drive to go out and learn and do it and do it for yourself, and
that’s what you did, which I think is – that’s so inspiring. So you talked about this before, but before you
started selling on Amazon, before you got involved with Amazon, can you give us the full picture again
just of what the process was that led you up to that point?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, so I was selling on eBay. Well, first internship, wow, life sucks. Don’t want to work for somebody
else because there was no correlation between my efforts and what I got in reward. And I didn’t have
the choice of what I did. So that’s what led me to e-commerce. And then at one point I was trying to
build a tech company to start out, but then I was like ooh, this is a long, hard path, and I have no
experience and no capital. But so I got onto eBay, and that was great, but then eventually I got banned
from eBay for life because they just have – like they have metrics. And if you don’t meet these metrics
or you don’t respond to people or like just one or two people flag you for something you can just –
they’ll just decide oh, we’re done with you.

CAMERON YODER:
Interesting.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, yeah, but then so then I was flipping stuff, and I just watched some YouTube videos of people
doing retail arbitrage. And then that’s where I heard about Amazon, and then I tried it out a little bit,
and then it was like oh, there is some money to be made here.

CAMERON YODER:
And so you, when you first got involved with Amazon you were doing retail arbitrage?
BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, I actually did retail arbitrage for, on and off, for about two years.

CASEY GAUSS:
So people just looking at getting started on Amazon, a lot of people kind of suggest jumping into retail
arbitrage to build up their capital. Would you – do you feel the same?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, I absolutely do because you learn – okay, you get paid to learn. So there’s a lot of things about the
Amazon platform that you just need to get into the thinking mode about how do listings work on
Amazon, what do people buy, and why don’t they buy things? So when you’re picking up hundreds of
items a day you see, oh, well Walmart charges $30, but people are only willing to pay $9 on Amazon.

That’s weird, why? Oh, well it’s because it’s just this private label, or it’s this brand product, but nobody
wants it. Or this listing is bad. So you learn all these mini lessons, and then you find one that does sell,
and then it’s wait; why is it cheap in the store and expensive on the intranet? Oh, there’s maybe some
value here. So I learned, you know, hundreds and hundreds of lessons through doing retail arbitrage
that a lot of people don’t talk about. But you know, just learning. And then when you get into the
seasonality, too, that’s where I learned a lot was oh wow, you can actually make – it’s like the price of
these things skyrocket near Q4 because there is a limited supply. So you really learn a lot of supply and
demand lessons, too.

CAMERON YODER:
Interesting. So okay, we know about the solar eclipse glasses, but a lot of people listening might not. Can
you talk about a bit of what happened with that and kind of what led up to that point?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, so I had been doing wholesale and whatnot, so I did retail arbitrage, and that I did more so
wholesale when RadioShack went out of business. And thousands of stores went out of business around
the country, and so I went to all of those, and I went to about 400-ish literally across the whole country
and was able to build up good capital through that. But then they ran out of stores. And then I was doing
wholesale through them, and then the Chairman of the Board who was like this billionaire sent me an
email threatening he was going to sue me for like buying and selling their – because they were selling it
on Amazon, too. They had just learned how to do it. But I had a repricer and they didn’t. So they
couldn’t win the buy box. And then like they had this big meeting, apparently, at like their headquarters,
and they’re like what is going on? Why can’t we win the buy box?

CAMERON YODER:
This guy, Brock Johnson, he’s the reason.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, apparently they were talking about me in this big meeting. And yeah, then they sent me some
threatening emails. So that was wonderful. And then I was like all right, I’m done with this. I want to be
– I want something scalable that nothing can take away from me. And that’s what led me into this. So I
just decided okay, I’m going to do private label, and it just so happens that right when I made that
decision I got – well, before that I went to China, went to the Canton Fair, started to learn everything I
could about private label, and then didn’t end up getting any good product ideas or sourcing abilities,
but then when I came back some guy sent me a random email just about this time that I made this
decision I’m going into private label. It was like a one sentence email saying oh, are you interested in
solar eclipse glasses? They’re really hot in the United States. And I was like sure, send me some
information. I’m interested. But he never responded to me. But that’s when I went and I looked into the
opportunity of the solar eclipse, and I was like you know I think this could be something big. So that’s
kind of how I led into the solar eclipse.

CASEY GAUSS:
Gotcha. So then yeah, so then can you walk us through okay, I stumbled across – first off, did you ever
reach back out to that guy that shot you that email and said thank you so much for what you’ve done?

BROCK JOHNSON:
No, I need to. I need to. I’ve thought about it many times in my head, but I should because yeah, that
was a very valuable email.

CASEY GAUSS:
So we haven’t mentioned the stats yet around like what happened with solar eclipse glasses. So people
unfamiliar with you are still like okay, solar eclipse glasses, like big deal. Who is this guy? Can you give us
a little bit of the stats and then kind of go through like how you went from, okay, the idea of solar
eclipse glasses to I’m a king on Amazon?

BROCK JOHNSON:
So basically – okay, so the numbers, I did $6 million in sales in the first six months, and it got really crazy

CAMERON YODER:
Wait, wait, hold up. Say that again.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, I did $6 million in sales in the first six months private label.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, that’s what I thought.

BROCK JOHNSON:
And that’s with over a 50% profit margin.

CASEY GAUSS:
Geez.

CAMERON YODER:
Wow.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, that was absolutely crazy. So basically yeah, so it goes from idea to oh, this could be a big
opportunity. And then that’s where, you know, it gets hard now. You [could run 0:10:49.7] number. So
basically there were rough– when I got into it there was about 20 people selling, but they didn’t have
the best designs, in my opinion, of these glasses. And you know, these were cheaper glasses, but you
could like put your complete unique design on them, and they were so cheap that you had to sell them

in bundles and packs. That was the only way to make it profitable on Amazon. So there was a lot of
creativity that I see that could be done. So then I looked at just how many people were going to view
this, and it was tough at the time because there were not – barely none were selling, and there was 20
people.

CASEY GAUSS:
What month was this? When was this?

BROCK JOHNSON:
This was – when I found out about it was January 27 th .

CAMERON YODER:
Okay.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, so January 27 th I found out about the opportunity. You know, wasn’t selling much, but I ran the
numbers, and it was literally going – every single person in the United States was going to see a partial
eclipse at least. I didn’t think that anybody would watch the partial eclipse, to be honest. I was wrong.
Everybody watched the partial eclipse. But I just took the assumption, and I ran, and there was 10
million people that lived under the total eclipse. So like how could you not look, like watch that? If it’s
going over your head, this happens – this is a once in a lifetime event. So I said all right, there’s 10
million customers here. Let me capture 1% of it. And then then that’s all I need, 1% of 10 million is
100,000 glasses. If I could find a way to make a dollar per glass I would make $100,000, and that would
be jacked. I would be jacked.

CASEY GAUSS:
How did you get to the number, though, of the number of units that you would order for the first time
or for the first couple times?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, so what I did for the first time was, well, I just bought what I could afford.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

BROCK JOHNSON:
I could have afforded a bit more, but so I started out with a $7500 order, which was 25,000 glasses.

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh wow.

BROCK JOHNSON:
That’s what I – yeah, so that’s what I started out with, and that was like I was like at first thinking I don’t
know if I’m going to be able to sell all these. But then I was thinking of – what I always do is I go through
the worst-case scenario. Okay, well if nobody buys my listing on Amazon I could hard call schools and
businesses and sell them in big packs at wholesale price, and I could probably get my money back. So I
like to look at worst-case scenarios, and if you can get your money back and there’s a huge upside, then
okay, this is a good opportunity to go into. So I had calculated how many hours it would take to call up
businesses, and it was like okay, I could get rid of these in a couple days or a week. So I’ll buy 25,000 and
see how it goes. And then they started to sell really well. So then that’s when I was like oh, okay, I’m
onto something here.

CASEY GAUSS:
When was it that they started to – sales started to pick up?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Sales? Well, I started in right at the end of March, beginning of April, and they were doing good. I don’t
remember exactly how much I was selling then, but it was, I mean I was doing probably $1000 a day at
least, like right off the bat. So that was great. And then I got up to a lot more per day. But to be honest
the sales really – well they started to pick up in June, and then they launched – they [took off 0:14:35.4]
better in July, but then I found that there’s this human procrastination curve, essentially, like that’s true
for all seasonal things, something about 30 days until an event. So like a mental trigger goes off in
people’s heads, and that’s where it just skyrockets.

CAMERON YODER:
I want to touch on one aspect that I think a lot of sellers get hung up on in both the just seasonal,
sourcing seasonal products, but also just sourcing products in general, and that’s risk. You talked about
it a little bit. When you had kind of that backup plan where you said okay, if I run – or if people don’t buy
my listing then I’ll just go call people and cold call people or whatever, go to schools and sell them
directly. But what would you say to sellers that are getting really hung up on risk when entering markets
maybe they’re not familiar with? What advice would you have for them?

BROCK JOHNSON:
If you’re entering into a market that you’re not sure about and you want to look at the risk, what I would
say that you should do is just, is there some utility? Are you doing something unique? Is there like – are
people – does this product like sell on eBay? Like could you liquidate this somehow? That’s kind of what
I look at on the risk side. Are you doing something different that’s a value add? And if there is demand
there and there’s some form of liquidation and you’ve done something different, you’re going to be able
to sell it, especially if there’s any room for margin on Amazon. I just don’t see why you wouldn’t be able
to slowly sell one unit a day over a year and a half. Like you’ll sell it eventually.

CAMERON YODER:
What was your differentiating factor then for your glasses?

BROCK JOHNSON:
So for my glasses it was one, they were actually good and real, and they were certified, where 98% of
my competitors were not. So that was the biggest one. They all had theirs made in China, and mine were
made in the USA. And mine actually – so they had the certification. Made in USA made a big difference
for people looking at their eyes, but then I also had just really, really good design. So I went to 99designs
and I actually had professional designers like – if people aren’t familiar with exact – well, who’s not
familiar with eclipse glasses, okay? And maybe if you weren’t in the USA because I know people watched
all around the world. Basically they’re like these cardboard glasses or something. And so you could print
whatever design you wanted on them. So I specifically put types of images and logos that would
correlate to space and the eclipse the best. So like certain ones were made towards kids, and they had
certain images that would really be appealable to children and all these different sects of people. So I
made all these different designs, and then the bundles and then just had the best, you know, really the
best photography. That was how I differentiated on glasses, but then I also had goggles. So those were
way better sellers because nobody made goggles. So these paper glasses let in a bunch of light, so I
made these more, you know, super, the super eclipse viewers per se.

CASEY GAUSS:
And there was, I don’t know, super eclipse Armageddon or whatever where you know a lot of the
glasses were taken down, but some people were still up, and they were allowed to charge like a much
higher price. How did you kind of fare through that process?

BROCK JOHNSON:
It was rough at first when you get an email from Amazon – because I had bought – I went off of this – I
kind of made a forecast model that showed that everybody was going to buy in the last couple weeks
because everybody procrastinates. So I had hundreds of thousands of glasses, and like they just arrived,
and I’m shipping them into Amazon, and right as I’m about to ship them all into Amazon they send out
an email saying they’re taking down all eclipse glasses, basically, because there’s bad ones. And I was
pissed because I had been warning them for months. I had called them over 10 times, sent them
countless emails warning them they’re going to make people blind. Take down the competitors, and
then they’re going to say okay we’re just taking them all down.

So yeah, then everybody freaked out. We all dropped our prices to the floor. And so that was really
rough, but then eventually, okay, so they wanted a certification for every glass, but so we got the
certification done for like our main one, but then if you got a different design we didn’t get the
certification done for the new design because it’s just like a different color on it, you know? But so that’s
where I thought I was really screwed because I had all these different designs and only one certification.
But what they ended up doing was they actually kept mine up, most of them. Some of them they took
down, which was frustrating. But I was able to provide that certification, stay up, and everybody else got
taken down. So a lot of private labelers from the United States had sourced from China. They didn’t

actually have the real certs, so they took their listings down. And then they refunded all of those
customers, and then a month and a half later they made all of those sellers front the bill for that. So they
had to pay for the product. They had to pay the Amazon fees. And then they had to pay the entire listing
price back.

CAMERON YODER:
Oh man.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah. Like I can’t even imagine.

CASEY GAUSS:
So were you able to raise your price during that period where fewer sellers existed so that like helped
margin?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, I definitely was able to raise the price then because well, you know, then now it was just us real
sellers. But I had still done a lot of revenue up until then. Let’s see, I believe I had done, until that time, I
think 2.5 million, and then this happened, and then –

CAMERON YODER:
I’m going to shift our focus a little bit here, but I want to ask one last question before we get off of the
subject of solar eclipse glasses. And that’s through all of your experiences with this product and the
different products that you sold on Amazon and are selling on Amazon, what one piece of advice would
you have for Amazon sellers specifically?

BROCK JOHNSON:
You’ve got to do your research. If there is certifications, you need to do your due diligence because if
you’re not checking out your supplier and vetting them, a lot of, unfortunately, Chinese suppliers will lie.
I went to China, and I was trying to source – because my true passion is like LED lighting, and I was trying
to source it for the longest time. But it just never seemed right, and I wanted to get UL certification
because that really protects you in a lawsuit. And none of the Chinese sellers would – like they wouldn’t
really have it, or some of them would have it, and I would go talk to them, and then they’d be like oh
yeah, we have UL and there would be UL on the product. And then I would go to their factory, and so
then I would ask for the actual certification and they didn’t actually have UL. They said oh, we could get
it if you order a large enough quantity. So basically they were going to sell it to me with the UL sticker on
it and never actually have the cert.

CAMERON YODER:
Wow.

BROCK JOHNSON:
And same with the eclipse glasses. All those got shut down. So if you’re selling something that’s
potentially dangerous, check that out. But just to protect your liability because it doesn’t matter how
many millions of dollars you make. Burn down one apartment, and it’s all gone. So and then do
something different. Like just make a, you know, small change, or catch a trend. Or you’ve got to do
something more unique to compete. Like you either get in early, you make a new mold – or you don’t
even need to go as far as making a new mold. Do new colors, a new bundle, a new marketing pitch, like
now you’re making clothes, but these are close for vegan. I just used the product discovery tool
yesterday. One of the top idea scores was clothes for vegans.

CAMERON YODER:
On the rise man.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, just so like you know, I think gone are the days of literally just sticking a logo on it. But there is still
lots of opportunity, but you’ve got to do just a little bit more than a logo, I’d say.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good. So I had said I was going to shift focus a little bit. Sometimes when sellers, or when people
get in in the Amazon space specifically and they sell a ton or they see the potential they shift their focus
solely to Amazon. And I want to ask has your focus solely been placed on Amazon, or have you now kind
of broken into a couple different areas of focus?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, so there’s – you know, Amazon was great for the growth and everything, and it has the best
wealth building opportunity that I see out there. If your main goal is to literally just grow your business
and build as much capital as possible, I would say to just stick it on Amazon. Like that’s it. That’s all you
need to do. But I guess where I’m going now is I’m going for more of a – I had this realization, okay, I can
easily build up $100 million of wealth by just selling on Amazon. The opportunity is there. But it wasn’t
what I was particularly extremely passionate about. I love it, but just to just solely do that is whatever.
So now I’m really focused on building – I’m still selling on Amazon, and like don’t get me wrong; that’s a
main thing. But now I’m trying to build a whole brand. So not just on Amazon, but also getting to
Shopify, into software, so literally building an entire brand and then going into personal branding, and
then also social media. So all of these five work together to make a brand that’s truly that value of like
that perceived value. So I don’t care what happens on one platform. I don’t care about the – you know, I
can charge a premium price, like Apple can charge a premium price. Nike can charge a premium price
just because it’s, you know, it’s there, and it’s got that value. So I’ve kind of diversified a little bit. But
Amazon is still there.

CAMERON YODER:
How did you come to terms with your passion because some sell– so sometimes what happens is people
get in the space, or any marketing or business space in general, right, and they see the money potential

and the value proposition that’s there, and they push their passion to the side for a long time. How did
you come to terms with the fact that you knew what your passion was and you’re pushing towards that
now, and you’re not necessarily pushing money to the side, right, but you’re also pushing for your
passion? So what did that process look like?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Well, what it came down to was just making that large sum of money and not being happy. That’s what
it came down to because you’ll hear the thing that money brings happiness, but it’s true. Some lessons
you can’t learn until you feel them. Like some things you just have to experience. So by just getting that I
was like okay, you know, now I know this. I don’t need to just push and maximize ROI. But I mean I’m a
finance and math guy. I’m not going to sit there and just retire or whatnot. I’m still going to make over
$1 million a year every single year. I’m trying to go for like five, six this year. But like don’t care if that
happens, you know. So now I’m more focused on the impact that I’m going to have on the world and
doing things that make me happy. But it just, it literally some things you’ve just got to learn for yourself.
But what’s great is you kind of have to get on this path where you have to get financially free first. Like
it’s hard to go from a 9 to 5 job to passion. So go out there, start hustling, building skills as an
entrepreneur, building up capital, and then eventually once you’ve built all these skills, these lessons
and you have all this money, now you can start to go at that passion. And I think that’s actually an easier
path to getting to where you want than to start out and just go from nothing to all right I’m going to
make a full time at my passion.

CASEY GAUSS:
As a side note kind of on the selfish side, okay Amazon sends you $6 million in payouts, or whatever, you
know, 50% was profit, so $3 million. What in your mind – what is the first thing that comes to mind as
this is the first thing I’m going to buy with my $3 million?

BROCK JOHNSON:
I bought like a chocolate bar, and my wife really wanted a camper, so we paid like $12,000 for a trailer
camper, like a vintage-looking one. And that’s it.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

CAMERON YODER:
I love it.

BROCK JOHNSON:
You know, like oh well, no, what I thought was I can now fund a software company that I’ve always
wanted to build.

CAMERON YODER:
Gotcha.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

BROCK JOHSON:
That’ was like – and so I put like $250,000 into that, and then I just started investing money into myself
by going and seeing Gary Vaynerchuk, going to Tony Robbins events, joining the platinum membership
there and, you know, just making investments into myself, things that are going to make me happy and
grow more. That’s kind of it.

CASEY GAUSS:
Heck yeah, man. I love it.

CAMERON YODER:
I love it. So you talked about –

BROCK JOHNSON:
I’m not going to buy a Ferrari or a Lambo.

CAMERON YODER:
Wait. Say that again.

BROCK JOHNSON:
I’m never going to buy a Ferrari or a Lambo.

CAMERON YODER:
No?

BROCK JOHNSON:
No.

CAMERON YODER:
You talked about Gary Vee and Tony Robbins a little bit. What – who are some of your role models?
Who are the people that you follow closely and really try to emulate?

BROCK JOHNSON:
I’d say Elon Musk, Tim Ferriss, Dave Asprey, Neil Degrasse Tyson. Yeah, those are some of my – oh, Gary
Vee, Tony Robbins. Yeah, that’s kind of who I listen to and what I emulate.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you try to split your attention between all of them, or is there kind of one or two that you follow
really closely?

BROCK JOHNSON:

I’d say the one that I follow the closest – well, it used to be Dave Asprey because that completely
changed my life. So I’m really into biohacking and just optimizing every part of my biology to get the
most out of life, so I’ve always got energy. You know I’m running these 16- to 18-hour days, just like – so
that’s huge. But then I’d say recently now it’s Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk that are – that I listen to
the most.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Do you want to give some quick tips on biohacking things that have worked for you to help you be,
you know, at the top?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Take a cold shower.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Right there. Take a cold shower. Do yoga every single morning, or not – I mean it takes time to get there,
but you know I just do like 10 minutes of yoga every morning, meditate for a little bit, cold showers,
Bulletproof coffee, intermittent fasting. So I don’t really eat until like 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. I just
have this Bulletproof coffee. If you don’t know what it is look it up. It will change your life. You know,
just doing stuff like that. I really am focused. I have a standing desk. I have a triple screen set-up. I have
white boards all over my basement. So in physics, you know, the particle is affected by the field. And in
our lives we as human beings are affected by our environment. So by just really focusing on what you do
with your biology and how you shape the space around you, that will shape you then. And it’s a positive
feedback loop.

CAMERON YODER:
Nice. How much sleep do you get?

BROCK JOHNSON:
You know, it depends. I’d say on average about six, six hours.

CAMERON YODER:
Gotcha. For everyone saying you need eight, no excuses.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, I mean I do feel better when I get like – when I get a bit more. But it matters if I’m going – I’ll go
through like a period of grinding for a month or two where it’s just all on and then, okay, I’ll take a week
or two and, you know, recharge but then get back at it.

CAMERON YODER:
Of course.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so if you want to make $6 million in six months, be Brock Johnson. Sleep six hours a night.

BROCK JOHNSON:
No, if you want to do that you sleep like four.

CAMERON YODER:
Taking a look at where you’ve come from and where you’ve been and looking ahead now to 2018 and
whatever is beyond 2018, where do you hope to go from here?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Where I hope to go from here? I want to essentially go and have a giant estate in the mountains and
essentially to start kind of a retreat center out there. My wife’s a yoga teacher. And so just helping to
get some people just on track, like you know where they could just go for a bit and have this total
immersion, really like focus on their biology and their psychology and to just like revamp and kill it. So
kind of doing that, but mainly what I want to do is to just help other people’s lives by – there’s not a lot
of tools to focus on our goals, our bucket list, just the little practices that make our life better on a day-
to-day process. So I’m building out currently an entire physical brand around just personal development,
that whole area, but then also software around that. And then my personal brand digitally and then
building that up on social media and everything so that it’s this just one giant conglomerate that is
focused on making a better world and helping people just achieve their goals, but then making a profit
at the same time. So you know, like just then it all is just I feel good about. That’s where I’m going
towards.

And then eventually my overall goal is building more of an artificial intelligence company that’s
collecting our biometrics and just ambient data to help correlate all of these inputs to get somewhat of a
picture of what mood we’re in or just different things about our biology that may see okay, you know,
he was really productive during these times. What happened? What factors were there? Or he’s starting
to become unproductive. What factors could we change in the environment, like the music, the lights,
the temperature, just stuff like that, to essentially help people making like a big mother technology that
just helps make our life better instead of like right now where oh, like everything on your phone and
every piece of tech just wants to take your attention and sell that and make you become distracted and
not have a better life.

CASEY GAUSS:
I love it, dude. I love the, you know, focus on helping people to be motivated or be kind of at their best
performance or encourage them to be who they want to be. Before Viral Launch I was actually working
on an app somewhat similar. I called it [Live 0:35:02.8], and it was just all around providing some

incentives and some structure around like setting goals and helping you to put the plan in place to
achieve them. So I think it’s [sick 0:35:12.5].

BROCK JOHNSON:
Oh that’s awesome.

CAMERON YODER:
All right, so last question. I love asking people this question. How much of your success would you
attribute to luck, and how much would you attribute to your own hard work and intelligence?

BROCK JOHNSON:
So luck was finding out about the opportunity at the time that I did, and the life situation, that was
lucky. But what wasn’t lucky was going through, you know, 70+ suppliers, finding out everything that
was wrong with it, actually finding the right ones, doing all this analysis, all these predictions and
everything. So it also got lucky that they took down my other competitors right near the end. But it
wasn’t because mine was taken down, too, and I had to argue and fight. So you know, to assign a
percentage, perhaps 15% of it was luck. But if I wouldn’t have sat there and grinded it out, you know,
there was a day where I stayed up 60+ hours in a row. That was really rough. But you know, that’s not
lucky. You know, and that was over $1 million of it was actually that one day, like I don’t want to get this
going too long. That’s a pretty long story.

CAMERON YODER:
Sure, no, that’s fine. I think a lot of people, it’s easy for people to see a story and just attribute it to luck
or [dumb it down 0:36:45.8] to oh, well he got lucky. And it’s really hard. It’s really hard for people to
see how much work and effort really is put into building and establishing an entire business, entire social
media presence, etc., right? And stories like this, I – a personal goal of mine is always to pull out the
hard work that people have done in an effort to establish something wonderful and establish something
great. And I see that with you. I mean you’ve obviously put in a lot of hard work and so, yes, there was a
bit of luck involved, but there was a lot of work.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, well thank you. I really appreciate you pulling that out. And I guess, like looking at luck, so some
people could say it was lucky, but I saw over 100 other private labelers who found out about this
opportunity, and that just sourced from China, didn’t really do much, and they all lost, you know, tens of
thousands of dollars. So if the luck was just finding out about the opportunity you would hear – there
should be 100 other Brock Johnsons with this crazy story you’re hearing about.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. Well Brock, that’s all we have for today. I wanted to thank you so much for taking time out of your
schedule to be here with us, and there is a lot of value in everything that we talked about today. So
again, thank you so much for being here.

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

CAMERON YODER:
If our listeners want to keep in touch with you and keep in touch with what you’re doing, with
everything on Amazon and everything outside of Amazon, how can they do that?

BROCK JOHNSON:
Yeah, come check me out. I’m on YouTube, Brock Johnson, just look me up. You’ll find me. And then if
you want to follow – I just started my Instagram, so if you want to follow me on Instagram it’s
@officialbrockjohnson. That’s where – send me a DM on there, and that’s how you can get a good
response from me. And yeah, that’s how you can check me out.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s going down on the DMs, man. We will put all of your info in our show notes. So guys, if you want to
keep in touch with Brock you’ll be able to find it there. But thank you again, Brock. There’s a lot of value
in what we talked about today. We very much appreciate

Video on Amazon Listings: An Experienced Seller’s Perspective (Follow the Data Ep. 16)

Video on Amazon Listings: An Experienced Seller’s Perspective (Follow the Data Ep. 16)

Join Amazon Seller Coach, Cameron, as he discusses the effects of video on Amazon listings with special guest Kyle Goguen of Pawstruck, an experienced Amazon seller. Kyle shares insights gained from testing out video on his own products, and together they speculate about the future of video on Amazon.

Listen on iTunes

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

Hey, guys, what’s up? We have Kyle with us today. Kyle has been a seller on Amazon for a little while. Kyle, can you just say hello and intro yourself a little bit?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Hey, everyone. Yeah, Kyle from Pawstruck.com. I’ve been selling on Amazon – I think it’s been two-and-a-half, three years now, and prior to that launched the company in 2014. We sell on our own website, obviously Amazon, eBay and a few other channels. But as of late we’ve been focusing a lot on Amazon.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay. So I actually – I always love asking people, sellers this when we bring them on and when I’m talking to them, but from your perspective how much has Amazon changed? How much has the Amazon game changed since when you first started?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, so you figure it’s only been a couple years, but things have changed drastically since I started. I would say in the beginning I didn’t really know what I was doing on Amazon, to say the least. And then it’s like as soon as you learn new strategies on how to launch products and promote products, it all seems to change, which I think is a good and bad thing. It definitely pays off for people who stay on top of the latest trends and strategies. Kind of sets yourself apart from the competition. So I like it, and overall I think we set ourselves up well for growth here in 2018 and in the future.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, that’s really good. And that actually kind of leads into something that we’re talking about today. So our topic today is all about video and video on Amazon. And this is something that’s – video on Amazon is something that’s super interesting that not too many people are talking about right now. It did get some buzz a little back when the beta was first announced and when people first found out about it, that Amazon was bringing video to sellers on Seller Central. But we’re focusing on video today, and Kyle has been a user of video on Amazon. He’s been – and correct me if I’m wrong, but you were part of the beta. I’m not actually quite sure how soon you were able to get in with video. How long have you had video on Amazon?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

I don’t remember the exact date, but it’s got to be – I would say over a year, at least. I was in the Amazon Exclusives program, and that’s how I initially got access to it through some contacts I made through that program. And since then I’ve actually left Exclusives, but I still have access to some of the tools, which include video.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. But so baseline you’ve really had some decent time to see how to work with video on Amazon, see what it’s done for you, right?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, definitely.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay. So first question, first question for you, for all of our viewers; how – just generally speaking, how has video affected your listings?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Sure. So I guess the first thing I want to go through is all the places that we currently are using video, just to explain that for the listeners, and then I’ll let them know what I think it’s done for our sales and listings. So the first place we have it on a listing would be in the thumbnails. You’ll see it kind of right next to the photos. I’m sure everyone’s seen that before. It’s got a play button, and when you click on it it will play a video just in place of where the main image is. That’s one place. The second place we have it is about halfway down the page. You’ll see video under a related video short section. So we also use that. And the third place we upload video is on our Amazon storefront, which is fairly new, and we’ve got kind of a whole, almost like our own website within Amazon built out. And on each of those pages we’ve used video to show off our products in use. So on – I guess when you’re asking how has it affected our listing, it’s a tough question to answer.

 

CAMERON YODER:

I know, I know, I know.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, like most things on Amazon, they don’t give you a whole lot of data, which is too bad. You wish you had access to it, but it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to share it with the sellers.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So I can’t tell you how many people have viewed videos, how long they watch our videos or anything like that. And unfortunately when I did upload the videos, you know, we were making a lot of changes to our listings, so I wasn’t even really able to say like A/B test, you know, conversion rate before a video or post videos because we changed so much it really wouldn’t be a fair way of measuring success. So I basically just have to give you my gut feeling.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, yeah.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And my gut tells me that it’s definitely helped. Our conversion rates based on my research and talking to other sellers are equal if not much higher than other sellers or people in my industry. So I definitely think it can’t hurt you. It can only help you if you do it the right way.

 

CAMERON YODER:

So these three locations for videos – so you said in the thumbnails and kind of halfway down the listings and then on your Amazon storefront. Is there one – are all of these videos in each of these places the same, or have you created unique content for each of them?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So for us we had our videos done kind of all in bulk, so product videos, for example, they would shoot just one single product video, and we would upload the same video in all the places. So we didn’t customize it necessarily, but you absolutely could, depending on your needs. You can – it’s not like they’re all connected together, I guess. You upload them separately, so they can have different versions if you felt like one was better.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Okay, so you basically have the ability to customize putting a unique video at the top in the thumbnails, for example, or like a unique video halfway down?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, absolutely. And my gut also tells me that the video at the top I would assume gets a lot more views than the one halfway down the page. It kind of gets lost in all the other product recommendations and reviews and everything down there. But since we have the ability to do it, we upload it there, too, and so more people can see the video.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. And that seems consistent with the, I mean just photos in general and thumbnail photos and EBC all in kind of the same way. With your videos that you’ve implemented have you found any customers giving feedback, or have you gotten any direct feedback from customers that have bought your products or looked at your videos?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, all the time. So we definitely try to interact with our customers as much as possible. We send out automatic emails after every purchase and every delivery and shipment. We definitely get a lot of responses that reference our videos.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So we sell dog products, and so our videos show, you know, dogs chewing our products or using it. So a lot of times we’ll get comments about how adorable or cute the videos were, or how helpful they were, or maybe just a follow-up question, something that we didn’t clarify in the video. They’ll mention that they watched the video and they had a question about X, Y, and Z. We also see it in our reviews. A lot of times people will reference the videos on the listings for whatever reason. So we definitely know people are watching them. We don’t know how many.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Do you think – right, unfortunately. Do you think there’s a little bit of a wow factor when it comes to videos on listings because it’s still – honestly it’s beginning to get standardized kind of, but it’s still pretty new? Do you think people still have that wow factor when they watch videos?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, I would think so. I would think it’s definitely a way to set yourself apart from your competitors and other listings if you have video and it’s well done and they don’t. That’s a great way to set yourself apart, especially if you have a really high priced product, or something really technical, or one like ours that requires a high level of trust to purchase. I think video can be a way of kind of earning that trust or really showing people why they should trust you to spend that kind of money on a product because sometimes photos don’t do a product justice.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Or people don’t want to take the time to read a description to understand how it works or what it does. So our products are pretty simple. We don’t do any how-to videos, but I could definitely see where a how-to video would be helpful for a technical product in setting yourself apart.

 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s good. So technically speaking, I mean again you’ve had experience in setting up videos with your listings. Is it easy to do? Is it just easy to upload like an MP4 into Amazon and just like oh, there it is straight into my listing, or is it kind of complicated?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

It is pretty basic. Assuming that you have a normal video file and that your video is compliant with Amazon’s requirements – so definitely look into that. Like I’m sure you can’t – you know I couldn’t run videos saying like go shop on Pawstruck.com. You know, so you have to make sure your video actually complies with Amazon’s terms of services for videos. But assuming you do all the right things there it is just a matter of hitting the upload button and entering, you know, a title and so on. So it’s pretty basic.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting. Well, that’s good to know. So as a whole – again, just generally speaking video is a little bit newer, and it was in beta. Again, it was in a beta program that you had to get accepted into, and it kind of got rolled out to people that were brand registered. And now it’s beginning to have more of a mass adoption with sellers that are brand registered. Do you think that video specifically is something that sellers should be putting their time and energy into right now?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, absolutely, especially if you have an off-Amazon presence in any way. If you’re running any sort of off-Amazon advertising campaigns, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, something like that, or you have your own website, it definitely makes sense because the money you invest in video is obviously going to help you on Amazon, but you can also repurpose a lot of those videos. So something I haven’t really mentioned yet, but from our videos we have dogs using our products, and we are able to take high res screenshots or screen captures from various frames. So we’re able to get photos of the dogs using the product. And we use those photos as our secondary images on the product. So it’s kind of serving as both a video and a way to generate really good, high-quality photos.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Interesting.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And we’ve also had the company that we use to produce the videos make shorter versions that are used for advertisements. So you can repurpose the videos in a different way, maybe to optimize for Facebook ads, for example, or Instagram. So you can get a lot of use out of them, and that helps a little bit with that upfront cost that I’m sure you’ll have to pay.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. So you talked a little bit about focusing off of Amazon. Have you found really good – I mean you’re able to – people generally are able to track attrition, I guess, or if people convert better outside of Amazon just because you can track, I don’t know, consumers a little bit better on something like Instagram or Facebook. Have you found really good conversions from using these videos on something like Facebook, or YouTube or Instagram?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

So we use those videos on our ads, and they’ve been pretty successful, but I wouldn’t really be able to compare them to anything else we’ve done previously because these are the only videos we’ve had. But one thing I can do – maybe we can put it in the show notes or [somewhere 0:20:09.1] because I don’t know off the top of my head, but on our website we definitely saw a huge conversion boost once we added our videos to our product pages. So I can look that information up, and maybe we can throw that in the show notes what exactly happened because that we were able to A/B test, which was really great. And we have all the information, obviously, how many people are viewing it and all of that.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Gotcha. Okay, and so we talked briefly about this, but I think it’s something that people should know. It was – we mentioned it just a little before, but I want to reiterate that this video thing was available only to people in beta, like an invite basically. But now seemingly it is starting to get rolled out to everyone that is a part of the brand registry program. And so just for everyone that’s looking to get into video, it would be a good idea if you aren’t brand registered yet to just get brand registered. And brand registry involves a lot more outside of video. It involves a lot of different things. And potentially being brand registered just kind of opens the door for being able to be invited to things quicker or earlier than other people that aren’t brand registered. Seemingly Amazon takes preference to people that are brand registered. And I’m not sure if you could touch into that a little bit. Have you seen – in your time being brand registered have you seen early rollouts or just other things, including video, that have benefited you?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, so I was part of the beta rollout of brand registry 2.0 so I was able to get in there pretty early and talk to some of the people on Amazon’s brand registry team and give them feedback as they built out the program and everything, and it’s definitely an emphasis of Amazon moving forward. For brand owners they want people to be brand registered, and they’re going to continue to build out features that are specific to those in that program. So like you already mentioned, any seller that has the ability to be brand registered who is not brand registered at this point in time, I absolutely recommend getting registered even if you don’t plan on doing video soon or ever. It doesn’t really matter. There’s just so much that the program offers, and there’s going to be some feature at some point in time that you’re going to want that you won’t be able to get unless you’re in the program. And I have a lot of colleagues and friends who are Amazon sellers who some of which are unable to get brand registered, and it definitely hurts. And they have a lot more issues with counterfeiters and people who are hijacking their listings, and they can’t really do a lot from a protection standpoint. And a lot of those people were in the original brand registry program and just because of some changes aren’t able to get in 2.0 at this point in time, and they really wish they could.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, so taking a look at – talking a little bit about brand registry, or taking that even further, what do you think Amazon is going to do next for listings in general? And we’re talking about video, which was a pretty big deal, honestly, to add to your repertoire of things available on your listing. What do you think Amazon is going to do next?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Sure. So when talking about product listings in particular, I think the next thing they’re going to do is build in some sort of augmented reality option for listings, probably on mobile I would assume. And the reason I kind of bring that up is because every time I talk to, you know, family members or friends about shopping on Amazon the one thing they always bring up as a negative – basically the only thing they can bring up as a negative is that they wish sometimes they could go to the store because they want to touch and feel the product. And a lot of times it has to do with apparel specifically, which makes sense, and Amazon is doing a lot of things to combat that with their fast shipping and return policies and even video, right? So being able to see the product kind of in use really helps the customer understand what they’re buying. So I think if you’re able to work in some sort of augmented reality into a listing that could take it even a step further. So, for example, if you wanted to buy some T-shirt, you’re unsure how it looks. It looks on a model. It’s like well you don’t really know how it’s going to fit on you. Or it’s on a white background that’s really hard to tell, but with augmented reality they have the possibility of, you know, you basically turning the camera on yourself kind of like a selfie and the T-shirt or clothing being put onto your body to see what it’s actually going to look like when you receive it. So my guess is they’re going to do creative stuff like that. I think that’s coming to e-commerce in general. People are going to keep innovating, basically removing that barrier or that one hiccup that makes some people want to shop in-store versus online.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. That makes sense to me. I mean there was an article put out not too long ago about how Amazon owns, I think it was about seven clothing brands on Amazon specifically and how Amazon is moving further or deeper into the fashion market. We also have that fashion camera. It’s a camera that helps you pick out clothes, basically. So seemingly I would totally agree with you. I think that’s an argument that people have for classic retail stores, right, is that you can go and you can touch and feel everything. And so for them to implement technology like that would be huge for the space. I could definitely see that happening. What does the inclusion of video tell you about what Amazon is moving towards with their overall website experience and aesthetic? You touched on this a little bit with the idea of that VR AR idea. But do you think that is going to carry through to their website as a whole?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, I think so. I think video is just kind of an indication that they want to really show customers what they’re buying before they’re buying it. And like I said before, like photo can only take you – photos can only take you so far. So I think they’re – I’m sure they’re going to add video all over the place, or some of these new technologies, even maybe into somehow in, you know, search results or somewhere else maybe. I think it’s something that they’re definitely focused on doing. You see like if you go through your Facebook feed these days it’s almost – to me, at least, it’s like 95% video is what people are sharing. So I think Amazon understands that. I mean I think that’s part of why they rolled out the related video shorts portion to listings. They’re trying to compete with YouTube influencers and product reviewers. They want that ecosystem on their own website. So I think they’re going to continue to encourage video and other types of content. I mean they’ve already done it with enhanced brand content. I think they’re going to allow brand owners to really build out their brand on Amazon.

 

So with the storefront and video content, enhanced brand content, really nice photos, and I even think on listings they’ll – right now you only see really big brands, but you see the brand name. Instead of it being text you see a logo there for some of the really big brands. My guess is that they’re going to roll that out to people who are brand registered, that that might be something they’re going to have for everyone because it seems to me that Amazon wants people to build out their brand on Amazon, and that’s something they can set them apart from Walmart, Jet, other places like that is all the sellers are taking the time to build out a brand presence on Amazon. They’re probably not doing that on other platforms. So they can kind of really separate themselves there.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Well, one final thing for you. And Kyle, I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day just to be here and talking to us about video and what’s next potentially for Amazon when it comes to creatives and everything in between. For our listeners, what piece of advice, what one thing do you think that our listeners should focus on? We’re getting close to the new year right now, so what do you think that sellers should focus on at the beginning of next quarter, and what are you going to focus on at the beginning of the new year?

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Okay, so the first one, first piece of advice I’d have is kind of a trick that I’ve been using that I forgot to mention earlier, so I’ll take this opportunity to mention it. So with video what we’ve also done is in our follow-up email sequences that go to customers, we let them know that they can click a link to go watch videos to learn more about the product that they purchased, and where we’re sending them is to a page on our Amazon storefront. So that is within terms of service since we’re sending them within Amazon’s own website. So it’s just a great way to get people to see your own videos if they haven’t already. It also gives the opportunity to cross-sell some other products within that video or maybe on the same page. And I think a really great use, which we don’t do because we don’t need to, but like I said with a technical product if you have a how-to video and you have it on your storefront and you send people there, you’re going to prevent all kinds of negative reviews, or returns or questions. You can send them there and explain exactly how a product should be used. That’s just going to be a great customer experience and help kind of your whole product overall. So I recommend doing that if you’ve got video already and aren’t doing that right now.

 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s good.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

And for I guess your second question was what we as a company are focusing on the beginning of next year. So the main thing we’re going to be doing is just really ramping up product development. So we’re going to be trying to launch between two and four new products every month and really kind of set up a system where we are constantly finding, launching and kind of adding products to our catalog in a very consistent way and successful way because right now we’ve kind of done it piecemeal as things come up. So I really want to get more focused on that and set up the systems that will allow us to kind of scale that process.

 

CAMERON YODER:

Sure. Well, hey, that’s good to hear, and that’s good advice. Kyle, you’ve been awesome. You’re in such a good spot, and you’ve had such great opportunity really to know video, number one, but get a lot of good and early experience with a lot of these things that honestly not a lot of sellers have had experience with. So thank you so much for sharing your own experiences with us and for giving your advice. It’s been awesome.

 

KYLE GOGUEN:

Yeah, of course. I’m happy to do it. Thanks for having me.

 

 

7 Tips for Your FBA Business from Casey Gauss (Follow the Data Ep. 15)

Follow the Data Episode 15: 3 Tips for your FBA Business from Casey Gauss

Merry Christmas listeners! We’ve got a present for you: 7 tips for your FBA business courtesy of our CEO, Casey Gauss. As you set your business goals for 2018, these tips will help you focus on what will take your business to the next level. Looking to sell for the first time? Even better. Listen closely for advice about what pitfalls to avoid and what will set you apart from other Amazon Sellers.

Listen on iTunes

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Check out this brief overview or this longer walkthrough of Product Discovery to learn more about how Product Discovery leverages data to help you find the most profitable Amazon products to source.
  • Not sure how to use Market Intelligence? Here’s a full Market Intelligence walkthrough about how to get the most out of the tool.
  • Reinvesting your Q4 profits is the best way to get the most out of your extra earnings. Think about what seasonal products you might be able to turn around in time for upcoming Q1 holidays.
  • Looking for more reliable information from the Viral Launch? Check out our Dispelling Myths Series. Viral Launch takes on 4 common myths in the Amazon FBA community.
  • Want to be on the show? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.

 

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy New Year. It’s the holiday season and the end of Q4 2017. As we head into 2018 we want to help you focus on what’s going to make your business as profitable and successful as possible.

CASEY GAUSS:
Today I’m giving out seven tips to grow your FBA business to help you get in the success mindset heading into the New Year. I am 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 28,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller. Let’s dive in.

CASEY GAUSS:
Cool, guys. So we’ll start kind of in the source, launch, dominate order. Tip number one coming to you through the kind of source perspective, tip number one is pay attention to the sales-to-review ratio when entering a market. Really what this means, you know, we call this the ROI ratio, but really what sales-to-review ratio is, it’s just a very simple calculation, estimated monthly sales divided by total review quantity, and really this is a calculation that does two things for you. One, it is showing you kind of what the reward is versus the amount of work you have to put in. So if I want the reward of selling 1000 units of this widget per month, then the amount of work I have to put in is to get to, you know, X number of reviews. So let’s say 100 reviews, right? So if I only need to get 100 reviews to sell 1000 units, that’s a sales review ratio of 10. And that sounds like a pretty awesome scenario considering or assuming that all the other metrics are good, so price point, margin and so forth. But you know that’s far better than having to get 10,000 reviews to sell 1000 units, right? So the sales-to-review ratio, just a really simple quick calculation to, you know, as this kind of litmus test for should I consider this market or not.

CAMERON YODER:
I’m still amazed at how many people don’t take this into consideration when entering new markets. And it’s a really simple concept. Like it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Really it makes sense if you’re looking at a market and you see a bunch of sales and a ton of reviews, then of course you’re going to have to, in order to compete well, have to get that review count up to match what the market’s at. But if you’re in a market with a low number of reviews and high sales, obviously that’s opportune for you to enter and do well.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. Thanks, Cam. So tip number two, go wide, not deep. So a lot of people are always looking for that home run product that is going to, you know, make them wealthy overnight. We have a guy named Brock Johnson coming onto the podcast. In six months he sold like $6 million worth of one product. That’s a unicorn. It’s very tough to find unicorns if you’ve never seen one. So anyways, you know, it’s so much more practical to be able to go really wide and not very deep. So what that looks like is, you know, if I were jumping into selling on Amazon this is the strategy that I would take because this is what I see kind of a lot of people having success with. Anyways, what this looks like is going after products where maybe the maximum sales potential for that market is $10,000 or $15,000, $20,000, some fairly low amount. I guess it’s all relative because for a lot of people $10,000 a month is insane. But essentially what you’re looking to do is enter markets where competition is not very high and you know, there’s lessons in it for the big players with the big budgets who are going to, you know, maybe use black hat tactics against you or whatever to come into the market and try to hurt you and your business.

I see this all the time with supplements and cell phone cases and beauty products. You know, what happens is people end up – competitors will buy your products. They’ll say that they’re getting the products – you’re selling it new, but it’s coming used, you know, the seal was broken, or they up-vote your bad reviews, or they leave a bunch of bad reviews, or they leave a bunch of unverified five-star reviews to make it look like you are going and soliciting these reviews. There’s so many things that competitors will do, and it’s just such a headache to fight in these markets, especially if the markets are mature. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money to reach maximum sales potential versus going in these, you know, markets that are not very deep where you’re making, you know, $10,000 a month top line.

The nice thing about it is you don’t really have to worry about competitors if you find the right markets. It’s extremely easy to enter. You don’t have to spend that much time, that many resources, like achieving success with these products. It’s so easy to do that. And so I would much rather sell 10 products that do $10,000 a month than one product that’s doing 100 K a month, and the reason being, again, competition, ease of entry. A lot of the time going for these, you know, smaller products, it takes 30 days to reach maximum sales potential, or maybe 60 days to reach maximum sales potential and boom, you’re off to the next product. And you can just continue to iterate from there versus going after these $100,000 a month markets generally assuming that there is some degree of maturity around it. It’s going to take you quite a long time.

So I see plenty of people just going – you know, the biggest account that I know of these people that are going, you know, in these wide markets, or going wide versus deep is $30 million a year just in Amazon US. So these guys have a killer business, and they’re just going after all the, you know, low-hanging fruit opportunities. And I would highly suggest anyone jump into there that can or is looking to start sourcing in a different strategy or whatever. I think this is probably the fastest, simplest, you know, lowest headache opportunity to growing your business quickly.

CAMERON YODER:
I would even say – I would add to that a couple years back I think this looked a little bit different just because the market, the Amazon market as a whole, was pretty different where competition with the deeper markets was a little bit less than it is now. Not to say that going deep was better than going wide, but even now since competition is so fierce, especially in those deep markets, going wide is going to let you really look into those markets that people haven’t discovered yet and/or are definitely not as competitive as the deep ones.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, completely agree. Awesome. So we will move on to the launch phase of your FBA journey. Tip number one, you know, I would still – we’ve been trying to, you know, kind of preach this so sorry if you’ve already heard this, but so many people still have not, and I think it is just a very, very simple hack to potentially dramatically increasing your sales. And what that is is you need to include both plural and singular forms of your words in your listings title. So in Amazon’s style guides or guidelines they say you don’t need to include both singular and plural forms. And they say that Amazon, you know, they already account for this in their algorithm, but it’s absolutely untrue. You know, just one quick anecdote. Someone is running a launch for grill gloves. I believe they had gloves in their title, but they were running a launch for a grill glove, and for a grill glove though, the key word that they’re targeting, they hit page 2 like top of page 2 for the launch and they were, you know, kind of disappointed that they didn’t hit page 1. But if you went and looked for the plural form, grill gloves, they were like in the top 10 on page 1 even though they weren’t targeting that word just because it was in the title. And so basically that just goes – and we see this all the time. So this just goes to show that, you know, Amazon does treat singular and plural forms of words differently. I mean if you want to go prove it or test it out for yourself literally search grill glove. Search grill gloves. There’s going to be different search results or in different orders. If there’s not, go try other words, fish oil, fish oils. Just go try a few singular and plural forms of the same word and you’ll see different order of words, different results, and the title has a lot to do with this. So it’s a very quick fix. But like, you know, seriously, the difference in ranking or the amount of keyword power that you’re driving to one word could be the difference of thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars in revenue every month.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s an easy action step, too.

CASEY GAUSS:
So easy.

CAMERON YODER:
To simply go over, go over listing and see if you have both plural and singular forms of your main keywords.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yep, and then the second part to that tip is just don’t repeat words. So you know, let’s say this grill glove seller, they have grill glove then grill gloves and barbecue grill gloves in their title. You don’t need to repeat all those words. It should be in phrase order. So ideally as much as possible, right, so it would be something like, you know, grill gloves, best glove for grilling, or you know something like that. That was just off the top of my head, so probably wasn’t the best. But anyways, you kind of get the gist there. But anyways yeah, you have to have – even if it doesn’t make 100% sense, you know, let’s say you’re selling one glove. You should still have “gloves” in your title because people are searching gloves. Or let’s take a grill brush for example. People are inevitably searching grill brushes, right? Even though you’re only selling one brush you have to have the plural form because people are searching brushes, and by having that in your title when sales are driven through your listing you’re driving that much more power to the ranking for that plural form.

CAMERON YODER:
And by not you’re missing out on all that opportunity.

CASEY GAUSS:
Right. And competitors are. And then second tip for the launch phase is just being aggressive. We just see so many people kind of, you know, tiptoeing to success or waiting kind of for the success to come to them, and it’s just less and less likely every day as competition continues to increase. You really have to go after that success, and I mean really looking at opportunity costs. If you are taking six months to get a product up and, you know, hitting maximum sales potential you’re missing out on so much opportunity. If you did that and if you were more aggressive, hit maximum sales potential in three months you would have twice as much time to go after that second opportunity. And so now you have, you know, let’s say you repeat that with a second product, and so then within six months you have two products at maximum sales potential versus the one. So by going slow, yes it is probably more cost-effective or more cost-efficient, right? So you don’t spend as much money going and achieving that success, but by spending that money and being aggressive you have the opportunity to make that much more money.

CAMERON YODER:
We’re getting into the New Year now, and we’re going to touch more on New Year tactics later. But really this aggressiveness, this tip to be aggressive is a great one to hold onto moving into 2018, even to now, and understand it’s getting close to the end of 2017 and everyone’s going to be spending time with their family and the holidays and whatnot. But planning ahead for 2018, to actually sit down and plan how you’re going to be aggressive is honestly a great strategy, just to even plan it out and see what it looks like for you specifically. Again, reevaluating your goals and setting new goals to just flat out be aggressive among other things. But Casey, let’s move on to dominate. What have you got?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so three tips under dominate. First one, just reinvest your Q4 profits. I mean hopefully Q4 has been, you know, an amazing experience for you. Hopefully you broke some records and are just super, you know, proud of yourself and excited for what you’ve been able to accomplish. But you know, at least for my personality and if you, again, really look at the opportunity that still exists in the market, I think you really owe it to yourself and, you know, all the people that you are planning on helping with what you’re achieving here with your Amazon FBA business to just go super hard and reinvest those profits. You know, delay getting that Lamborghini or going on, you know, these month-long vacations. You still have so much opportunity. The last thing you want to do when you look back five years from now, 10 years from now is say dang, you know, that was a gold rush and I went to the Bahamas for a month while everybody else is panning for gold and hitting all these opportunities and, you know, I missed out. So anyways, reinvest your Q4 profits. The amount of success that we are seeing on Amazon is just insane, even to this day, and I just really want to encourage you to continue to take part in it. Delay the, you know, instant gratification, the short-term gratification for the long-term goals. So yeah, just reinvest your Q4 profits. Kind of a little reminder there.

Tip number two is go international. So we are planning on having some guys on the podcast that I met recently, and these guys did – in their first year of Amazon they did $10 million.

CAMERON YODER:
They’re killing it.

CASEY GAUSS:
And some other fun facts for you is one of them, still in school full time, and they are both 20 years old. And the other fun fact for you is that they have never sold anything in Amazon US, only international. There is so much opportunity internationally. You know, these guys, you know, they’ll share their story and everything, but there is just so much opportunity internationally. The competition is a fraction of what it is in Amazon US, and I really think that you need to take your resources, you know, hire someone, bring someone on your team to be general manager of internationalization or marketplace director. I don’t know, somebody to go manage your international business.

But there is so much opportunity, and you really want to get in on the ground floor. I mean a lot of the like really successful folks in Amazon US that I know are all people that jumped in in 2014 or maybe 2015, and they went super hard when Amazon was so much easier. And now that Amazon has, you know, really dramatically increased competition and there’s so many additional sellers here, a lot more money going into driving success, it’s so much more difficult. But if you go look in the international markets, in the majority of these markets it’s Amazon 2014 still. And so you need to get in on the ground floor when, you know, Amazon is still – you need to ride that wave of success. So you know you’re on the ground floor. Revenue or revenue potential is just going to continue to increase internationally, but so will competition. And if you’re in, you know, on the ground floor you already will be ranking. You’ll already have the review quantity, and you can just ride that wave up.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s going to be – granted, it’s going to be a little bit different. I don’t think you should go into international markets expecting the same exact process as the United States, but these guys that we’re going to bring on later are examples that, guys, there are no excuses. At 20 years old they are killing it. They’re making bank, and they haven’t sold a single thing in the United States. So if that’s not proof as to what can be possible in international markets, then I don’t know what is. But that, I think that should be part of your long-term strategy, planning, right, to sit down and if international is something you’re interested in, find out more about it, do your research, and then dive in. All right, Casey, what’s tip number three?

CASEY GAUSS:
Tip number three, so basically just never go out of inventory. We see so many people make this mistake, and you know, sometimes it’s inevitable. Sometimes your projections are way off, which is a good thing hopefully. But anyways, there can just be a lot of, you know, downside to going out of inventory. So essentially, you know, just make sure that you are planning accordingly. You know, look at something like market intelligence where you’re able to see kind of the market trends and understand to what degree sales are increasing, decreasing and, you know, how long the increase or decrease will sustain just so you have a really accurate, you know, indication of what to expect or how the market will perform over the, you know, coming X number of months that you need to plan inventory for. And then secondly, like so it may be too late, or it’s probably pretty close to too late if it’s not already.

CAMERON YODER:
Honestly, actually yeah, by the time this podcast is out it’s probably going to be too late depending on the production time for your product.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I mean so the Chinese New Year is coming up, and I think it’s like early February to early March. Factories are closed down for a month, and before and after that, you know, it’s like, it’s just crazy production because they’re trying to fit everything in before and after for all the people that missed out. And so hopefully you’ve already ordered your inventory in preparation for Chinese New Year, especially if you’re wanting to launch new products. If not, like that can delay your time to getting that product up and running, you know, so far. But yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
This – it’s Friday, December 22nd, and I do know that a lot of manufacturers are taking orders this week in order to get products to you before the Chinese New Year. But with this area specifically, talking about inventory, guys, I honestly think it’s much better to play safe than sorry with this. And so it’s better to overcompensate for inventory here. And sure, you’re going to spend maybe a little bit more money, and you need to figure out how much money you have to play around with ordering inventory and different strategies with that. But it’s better to order a little bit more inventory than it is to run out of inventory and have to wait maybe a week to two weeks before you get your next shipment in. So plan ahead. Plan accordingly. Play it a little safe on this one.

CASEY GAUSS:
I think that’s pretty much all for me.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, well okay. That’s all for this week. Thank you guys so much for joining us here on Follow the Data. For more FBA tips and reliable information that will help take your Amazon business to the next level, subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com.

CASEY GAUSS:
Guys, we’re all Amazon sellers. We know the most difficult part of your Amazon business is getting reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
So hard.

CASEY GAUSS:
So hard. Please help us get reviews. If we could we would go review your product, but we don’t want to get you shut down. But by you reviewing this podcast we will not get shut down, so we would love your help on this. I mean really at the end of the day if you know anything about me or the company, like we just love honest feedback. So whether it’s in a review or whatever, any feedback just so we know how are we doing, what do you guys want to hear, you know, maybe our approach isn’t the best. Maybe you want us to use voice changers because you don’t like our voice, I don’t know. Anyways, we just love feedback. So yeah, thank you so much.

CAMERON YODER:
We’re also doing – we’re currently doing weekly webinars where we’re going through, walking through product discovery and different strategies that you can use to take advantage of the tools. So if you haven’t seen those yet keep an eye out for those. We do it every – typically every Thursday. But again, we just wanted to say thank you so much for listening. Happy holidays. We hope everyone has a great New Year. And don’t forget if you want to be featured on the show, or if you have an Amazon-related question or an idea for an episode you can leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember the data is out there.

From Coding With Socks on My Hands to Running an 8 Figure Company (Follow the Data Ep. 14)

Follow the Data Episode 14: From Coding With Socks on My Hands to Running an 8 Figure Company

3 years ago this week, Casey made his first dollar through Viral Launch. He was coding by candlelight with socks on hands to keep them warm in an unheated apartment. Today he is the CEO of an 8 figure company. On today’s episode hear Casey Gauss tell the story of Viral Launch and what has brought him and the company to this amazing milestone.

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Hey, guys, what’s up? Cameron here with Viral Launch. I’m here with Casey.

CASEY GAUSS:
Hey, guys.

CAMERON YODER:
We’re just dropping in. We know it’s getting really close to Christmas. And we have a special episode for you today. I know we’ve been on and off the sourcing series here and there, but we’re going to jump back on that after the holiday season is kind of over. But for now, today’s episode is something I’m super excited about. We’re actually going to talk about the origin story of Viral Launch and how Casey got started with everything. And this is actually something that I’ve been hoping Casey would do for a long time, and I’m super glad that he’s jumping in on this right now. So Casey, how are you feeling today?

CASEY GAUSS:
Thanks, man. Yeah, I mean it’s always a little intimidating to share kind of the more personal side of things. You know, sharing numbers or facts, like that’s easy. Sharing personal information, or I don’t know; it’s a little intimidating just to be vulnerable like that. So yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s a good story, though, and it’s definitely a story that I think people need to hear and want to hear, as well. It’s something that – I mean it’s something that we all look to or that we have a lot of people that look to that they don’t even realize the story of how it got started, right, of how Viral Launch came to be. And so like all origin stories, we’re going to start from the beginning. So Casey, tell us – okay, tell us how old, first off, tell us how old Viral Launch is.

CASEY GAUSS:
Viral Launch is three years and a month and a half, or yeah, so just over three years.

CAMERON YODER:
Three years and a month and a half. Tell us where you were at the very beginning and everything that has to do with where you were.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so I think just to provide a little bit of context, a quick back story to me, going back maybe 6 to 8 months before Viral Launch got started. So essentially, you know, in college. I went to a small Christian college in Indiana. I was running track, pole-vault and 400 hurdles, if you were wondering.

CAMERON YODER:
Oh.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. I was studying business, and I essentially, you know, always had these ideas for businesses, but they happened to all be, you know, mobile apps, and I love testing anything before I jump in, and so I couldn’t test anything because I couldn’t build anything. I didn’t have any money, so I wasn’t able to, you know, outsource the development. So essentially I just taught myself, you know, how to code, first websites and then iOS apps. And so, you know, midway through my junior year I had actually for the majority of the year, you know, quit running track because I started to feel kind of guilty around, you know, where I was spending my time. I was essentially, you know, from my perspective at least, I was spending, you know, all this time, you know, training and going to meets and competing. And really the only person I was benefiting was myself. Like sure, it was paying for – it was helping pay for school, but like I didn’t care so much about money. I generally measure my life in the impact that I’m having on others. And so I wasn’t really having any impact.

So anyways, had kind of quit doing that so that I could really focus in on, you know, learning how to code or develop these apps and chasing after this technology, which was called iBeacon – or is called the iBeacon, essentially around iOS 7. Apple released this new technology. It has to do with Bluetooth 4.0 devices, and basically you can build contextually aware applications. So anyways, you can search Bluetooth if you want. I don’t want to dive into it. But anyways, you know, I love learning. I’m super passionate about learning. And essentially, you know, my professors, my business professors, were teaching things that were contradicting what the Fortune 500 CEOs were telling me, you know, in the articles that I was reading. I just felt like, you know, they had kind of lost relevance in this fast-paced business, you know, this techno-business world that we find ourselves in.

CAMERON YODER:
So what – they were just not teaching the right information, or they were teaching dated information?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, they were teaching this archaic, you know, like this is what marketing looks like because, you know, this is what we did 20+ years ago when I was in the workforce. And you know, they didn’t even really know how to operate an iPhone, and let alone any of the new technologies that were going on. And you know, the entire environment, from what I could see from my readings and stuff had completely changed, and they were just were not aware of it. And so I just felt like I was – I wanted to be on, you know, the leading edge of this new technology, iBeacon at the time, and I wanted to be able to continue learning, and I just felt like I was wasting time in class.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think at its core was it frustration at that point in time that pushed you to want to do your own thing, or just a desire really to do something that you weren’t being, like that you weren’t being fulfilled in?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so like I was learning a ton outside. I had taught myself how to code, right, and I was learning a ton in kind of the business sense just from reading. And so you know, I really felt like I was just wasting my time by going to class. And one of the – I had one particular class that kind of pushed me over the line, and we were just doing – it was a 400 level course, which was supposed to be, you know, the highest level there, and it was just absolutely I guess silly is kind of the word. It was so dumb, and I was wasting my time so much. And so that was really kind of the course that had like pushed me overboard.

So yeah, so at that time, you know, I dropped out. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a business. I didn’t have any money actually. And so from there essentially I was just trying to build apps around – or build a demo app that I could – I had built a demo app, sorry, that I could then go and sell to museums, which is pretty much impossible if you know anything about selling to like these slow-moving, you know, these dinosaur public service type companies. Like you know, it’s just impossible. But anyways, while working on that a friend of mine – well okay, so actually during this time I had moved home to Jackson, Michigan, and you know, I really do not like being at home. Even to this day it’s very tough for me. So growing up, you know, I had kind of a rough childhood. My siblings have it far worse than I did, and it really sucks to kind of see all the, you know, pain and kind of suffering that’s going on there. So while I was there my brother and I, my youngest brother – or sorry, my oldest brother, but he’s younger than me, he’s two years younger. We decided he needed to get out of Jackson, Michigan, which is where we’re from, because he was getting into trouble. I needed to get out of Jackson, Michigan, because it is just a terrible environment. I wanted to go back to the college town, just not go to college. And so off of money that my brother had saved delivering pizzas – he was actually going to invest it in an FBA business.

CAMERON YODER:
Really?

CASEY GAUSS:
He was going to source glucosamine, I think.

CAMERON YODER:
Really?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah. But so, you know, I really appreciated it, but he took that money, and we moved down to Indiana. And it was kind of crazy because we had found an apartment. He had gotten a job. But we weren’t moved in yet. And so he actually had to commute – we didn’t tell his job this – 2 ½ hours to his, to the job. And the first day he woke up late, missed the job, didn’t have a job, but we did have the apartment. And so we moved into the apartment. No money coming in. I didn’t have any money in my bank account, let alone coming in. And Corey, my brother, he didn’t have any money coming in. It was just off of his savings. And we moved in. My girlfriend, my now wife, my girlfriend at the time, it was her parents that like provided the majority of the furniture when we moved in. You know, I’m really thankful that they like kind of believed in me because looking back it’s kind of crazy that they let their daughter, you know, just be with this guy that just dropped out of college, doesn’t really have, you know, anything like in the works. Like of course they knew, you know, I had taught myself coding and I was like very ambitious and a really hard worker and, you know, really care about people, but anyways –

CAMERON YODER:
But getting to this point what was your conversation like with Corey to get to, to get back to that college town?

CASEY GAUSS:
I actually do not remember, so we’re going to have to talk to Corey about this because I don’t remember how I convinced him. I think he really wanted to get out of Jackson, and I wanted to be around, you know, my friends and my girlfriend at the time. But I also just wanted a better environment for me to like, you know, try to go after these app ideas or whatever.

CAMERON YODER:
So around this – no Amazon is in your mind really right now. Like you’re thinking apps. You’re thinking app development.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
And that’s what got you to the college town.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yep, so then in the college town a friend of mine – so this is in Marion, Indiana, where you know in this small apartment, and a friend of mine who is two years younger, as well, we had run track together, and he had an FBA business. So his name is Jordan. He took ASM 2, I believe, [unintelligible 0:09:11.3], and so he was doing well, and he had showed me. And I was like oh wow, this is awesome. But you know, from my perspective I was like oh, well you know you’re not really helping anybody. You are just making money. I don’t care about money. So it’s super cool that you’re able to do this, you know, at such a young age. But also, like you know it wasn’t that interesting to me. And I was, you know, doing all kinds of things for money. So I made this Udemy course on how to use iOS 8, like not even from a development standpoint, just how to efficiently use iOS 8. And I made like 250 bucks off of it. And a friend of mine knew that I needed money, so I went and worked construction like this cold, like wet day – weekend to make 250 bucks. And so I was using that money. My girlfriend at the time, she was kind of like getting the essentials for me like if need be. She was, you know, just supporting me. And it was Corey who was paying for all, like our bills, and food, and just everything. And he was supporting us. And because of this construction job that I worked this one weekend I was able to get Corey the construction job like long-term. And so it ended up being this construction job, Corey would be gone for months at a time, but it was this construction job that allowed us to continue paying our bills and for food and everything like that. So pretty insane.

CAMERON YODER:
So during this next season of time, so Corey was working this construction job.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
And you were still in app mode, or were you starting to expand in other things?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so like basically the weekend of this construction job – it’s weird that like, you know, this construction job was so, you know, arbitrary or random I guess, but a lot kind of hangs on that. So this was the day that my friend, Jordan, had sent me – he’s like hey, I have an idea for a business, like we should do it together. And so I was a bit reluctant because I really wanted to focus in on this Beacon stuff. But yeah, so I met up with him, and you know I really am so thankful for his patience because just when I got there someone called me, and I was on the phone for like 45 minutes, and he waited. And I feel so bad even to this day. Anyways, he told me his idea, and I didn’t get it because I didn’t really understand. You know, I had barely grasped the fact that most of the stuff you’re buying on Amazon wasn’t actually from Amazon. And anyways, he was like – what sold me was he said hey, you know all you have to do is throw up the website. I’ll do the Amazon stuff. I’ll work with the customers. You just build the platform, and we could probably make, you know, $10,000 a month, which at the time was an insane amount of money.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so in between the time I had dropped out of school and the time Corey and I moved to Indiana, or no, before Viral Launch had gotten started, my mom had just had her car repossessed. She had been evicted. And these weren’t uncommon things for us growing up. We moved around quite often, and you know looking back on it, my mom would, you know, not have her car some weekend when we came back from our dad’s or something like that. And so now I understand why. But anyways, so it was really tough. I remember kind of I guess looking back now, again, more vulnerable part, but I just remember you know looking out the window as kind of the tow truck came and picked up my mom’s car, and you know, being teary-eyed or whatever and like wishing, you know, that I had the money to, you know, help her out and everything and like, you know, just thinking, you know, one day I will, and I will be able to help her out, which is crazy because now I do have the opportunity to help her out. So super cool that it’s come full term. So I’m probably getting too much context, but anyways, yeah, so Jordan had this idea. And so I was like dude, let’s do it. This will help me like get some money so that I can focus more on my Beacon stuff because I really started to run down on money.

CAMERON YODER:
So the focus was still like never, never at this point in time solely focused on Amazon; it was like I’m going to do this to get more money to work on Beacon, Beacon stuff?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah. And so I had no idea what it could be. I mean neither did Jordan. In retrospect we had no idea what was happening. And so Jordan invested $700 into the business to grow, you know, our initial audience.

CAMERON YODER:
What was the initial idea? You said Jordan had an idea for the website. What was like the first idea?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so the idea for – so we ended up calling it Viral Launch, and I don’t remember who came up with the name. I think it was me, but you know, I could be completely wrong. It was so long ago. And it seemed like an insignificant detail at the time.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
But yeah, I mean, it doesn’t matter. So anyways, it was Jordan’s idea. So the idea was essentially hey, you know we can amass an audience that we can then, you know, sell to other people. And by giving them access to this audience we can help their sales. We can – at the time it was as juvenile as that, right? And so basically by driving promotional sales we can then drive keyword ranking. And so still the same principle that we’re, you know, engendering in some of our services now, which is interesting that it’s worked so long, right? So anyways, yeah, so Jordan spent $700 to you know, get the – actually I don’t even know if we filed an LLC initially. But essentially just to build up our initial audience and create this ecosystem of buyers and sellers. And fortunately Jordan had some friends from ASM, and so pretty quick, like right off the bat we started making money. We did a few free launches, and then from there you know the value proposition was there, and yeah. So we got started, and it took us, you know, well you know it’s funny looking back. So at the time we were really, really trying to get one deal every other day. That was like our goal.

CAMERON YODER:
Every other day?

CASEY GAUSS:
Every other day, yeah. And you know, so now here in 2017 Q4, at one point we were running, you know, 700 launches a day. So pretty cool to look back. But yeah, now we’re 27,000 launches in, something like that.

CAMERON YODER:
How quickly did it scale from there? Did it just kind of take off, or was it slow and steady?

CASEY GAUSS:
No. Yeah, it was slow and steady. You know I think February we did $10,000 that month, which was like insane. And so February – I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, but February was kind of the month where – or January because I ended up having the opportunity to go – you know, this guy, he was doing something similar to what I was doing with Beacons but in Wi-Fi, and he had come across me. We had met up a couple times, and he wanted me to actually come like start to build a little iBeacon department in his like bigger company in Detroit. And so this was a kind of cool opportunity, but Viral Launch had started to take off, and like I said, we did like 10,000 – it may have been January, but in January or February. And then I was like oh wow, like you know this is something of my own. I really want to see where this can go.

So yeah, so Jordan and I got started. I had 40% of the business. He had 60%. And even then, you know, I felt like he was being very generous. I had no idea what he was doing off the bat. I was just making things, right? I was just the developer, and Jordan was the guy with the idea, the understanding and the clients. But you know, my personality is quickly I like to work insanely hard and, you know, never allow anybody to really work harder than me. And so with Jordan and I being partners I always felt like I had to prove to him that, you know, I was working so much harder than him. Just for whatever reason like that’s my natural tendency. And so yeah, I was doing that, and it was – so in December I, you know –

CAMERON YODER:
Real quick, which month did Viral Launch start in?

CASEY GAUSS:
Viral Launch started in October.

CAMERON YODER:
In October.

CASEY GAUSS:
I think we registered the domain on like October 4th, and I probably had the website up like in the next day or something.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, so October. And then you said January-ish or February was the first like $10,000?
CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay.

CASEY GAUSS:
It was after three months.

CAMERON YODER:
And now when was the last date? Where were you at last?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh, so I do want to go to December. So December of this year I like had $50 in my bank account. I had money on my credit card. You know, again, Corey was still like paying for everything for us. My girlfriend at the time, now wife, she was helping to pay for stuff. And it was, you know, a really humbling experience because I didn’t have anything. I couldn’t reach out to my parents. Like my mom obviously, like I said, she had less than no money. My dad was like going through a second divorce and, you know, has never really cared to contribute or, you know, care too much about what’s going on. And so yeah, it was really all on me. And so I was like okay, we have, you know, maybe $5000 to $6000 in the bank. Let’s say $6000 in the bank, and I, you know, went to – in, yeah, I think I said I had been deferring student loans and I had like a payment coming up. I don’t remember the first day of the payment, but it was coming up. So I was just really starting to be concerned around like how was this going to happen. And so I went to my cofounder, Jordan, and we had a meeting every once in a while, and I was like dude, you know, I was really kind of intimidated to ask. Again, he was the one really driving the ship even to this point. And I was like dude, you know, do you think maybe we could pay ourselves a little bit of money out of like the money that we have in the bank? And he was like oh, no, like we should invest it and continue to grow the business. And I was like dude, but like you don’t understand. I literally have, you know, $50 in my bank account. My mom just had her car repossessed and was evicted, and like you know, I really don’t have anything. And he finally, like after explaining all this – he had no idea kind of my situation.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so yeah, he was like yeah, you know, I think that we can do it. I need to pay myself for the money that you know, I put in, but yeah, we can definitely do that. And so that $600 felt like $1 million. It was amazing. I just was like geez, we have so much money now. And looking back it’s crazy because I think we had like $6000 in our account.

CAMERON YODER:
Which is good from where you started with.

CASEY GAUSS:
True, for sure. Yeah, and you know one very like distinct memory is like – and I had never experienced this before, but it was so cold in our apartment, again, because you know we didn’t really have the money to pay for heat, that I could like barely type. I was, you know, wearing my winter coat, no lights because we didn’t want to, you know, run up the electricity bill. And we – yeah, it was just super cold. I had like a small candle running, and so I looked up like what to do in a situation in which your hands are so cold you can barely type. And basically they suggested going and finding athletic socks and cutting holes in the top so that you can stick your fingers through and putting them on your hands. So yeah I went and cut up some socks. Had a place for your thumb and then a place for your fingers, and yeah, so like I called them my hacker gloves.

CAMERON YODER:
Hacker gloves.

CASEY GAUSS:
So it wasn’t as embarrassing that I was wearing socks on my hands to code. But that’s how Viral Launch was built.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s how it was started.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I was coding, you know, all hours of the day, just really trying to build the platform. And so yeah, it’s extremely humbling to look back because, you know, that was only three years ago, and yeah, you know, I really had nothing. But you know, so I’m a religious person, and for whatever reason looking back I don’t think I was super scared. I was obviously very, you know, humble about like – I was very humbled by the situation, not having any money and not really having much money on the horizon. But yeah, you know I just kind of always thought like you know God was going to take care of me or something, and then, you know, when I needed him most like that we were able to pay ourselves, which is pretty crazy.

CAMERON YODER:
You said, so money is not a driver for you. Helping people is. So at this point in time what was keeping you going in this?

CASEY GAUSS:
I mean like at this point I just needed money to survive.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so at this point it was a lot more survival than anything. It took probably a couple – well, and it was the excitement of like oh wow, things are happening. People are paying us money. Like I didn’t really – I hadn’t fully grasped the concept like that we were helping people at this point. I was like actually felt a little bit guilty around what we were doing because from my perspective, you know, we were helping people that had money enough to invest. So for me it was like, you know, helping fancy people or like wealthy people to make more money. So I did feel a little bit guilty around the situation. But basically I just, you know, told myself like it’s okay because by helping these people make more money I’m allowing myself to survive. And so yeah, that’s where we were at with Viral Launch. But you know, right around April or so, then I started to take a lot more ownership. And I think around April of 2015 Jordan had said okay, I think you deserve 50% because I was working so hard, and Jordan was, you know, distracted with his friends, and school, and he was still running track.

CAMERON YODER:
He was in college, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, he was still in college because I was 21 at the time. He was 19. So yeah, he’s like freshman – or sophomore year of college or so. Yeah, so it was around May that Jordan like went on this bus trip to go help people, and he did not have internet access for three months. So from that time, though, I took the business from, you know, $20,000 a month or so to like he came back and we were doing like $75,000 a month. So it was a significantly different business. I really understood what was going on at that point, and I was even starting to like come up with new things. Like we started using the – I came up with the [super euro 0:23:29.9] or sorry, the [two-step euro 0:23:32.2], which worked far better than the quote unquote, you know, [super euro] at the time. And that was in March of 2015. So we’ve been using the [two-step euro] for –

CAMERON YODER:
A long time.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, coming up on three years now. And so yeah, I had started to like innovate in the space and take a lot more ownership over what was going on and really start to understand because we just had so much data. And pretty quickly, you know, we had a $50 million-a-year seller come, start to use us a lot. And I started building a relationship with him. So yeah, Jordan came back, and I was like dude, you know I built this business around myself. We’re growing really well. You know, I just don’t really have much need for you, you know, especially for you to be 50% of the business. And so I was kind of dis-incentivized to continue pushing. And so essentially I had given him an ultimatum, either drop out and really help me to push Viral Launch, or you sell the business to me. And essentially, like he finally, you know, decided to sell because he wanted to stay in school and wanted to continue running track because from his perspective he could make money the rest of his life. What he couldn’t do is hang out with his friends, run track and you know, be in college and enjoy those years. And so I totally get it, and yeah, he sold it to me. And yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
When did he sell to you?

CASEY GAUSS:
He sold to me in October of 2015, so –

CAMERON YODER:
So a year?

CASEY GAUSS:
Officially a year, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
Okay, and then after – so after he sold to you, then it was you.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, like it was just you?

CASEY GAUSS:
Well, it had kind of already been me for like the last like five months or something.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right. But officially, like on the paper it was you. And what happened after that period of time then?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so I mean my goal was always to sell Viral Launch like as quickly as possible, the reason being is you know, I wasn’t super passionate about Viral Launch like because, again, we were still, from my perspective, it’s like yes, we’re making money, and like we can do good things with this money, but I would much rather make money by helping people that need it, from my perspective, you know, quote need it. And then still use the proceeds from that to then help people more.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.
CASEY GAUSS:
And I still, for the most part, felt like we were helping the people that didn’t really need help so much. And so, but it was around this time, though, that these stories started to come out about us being able to, you know, help people pay off their student loans, or people that had always wanted to be entrepreneurs, Viral Launch had helped them finally have that first taste of success as an entrepreneur. Or you know, this one particular story, this dad had just had a son, or I believe it was a son – they just had a child that was diagnosed with, you know, it was like autism or Asperger’s or Down syndrome, something like that, right? And he had just sold his like truck, his vehicle to get started in this private label business. And we – his goal was to build a business where they could like work from home to have time with this child. And so essentially Viral Launch had helped them go from I’m selling my truck and taking this leap of faith to success and being able to go work from home full time.

And so like the stories were pretty incredible. And you know, I had some friends that were like using the money they were making from their private label business to then invest in charities. And so I was like wow, you know, actually Viral Launch is having a pretty significant impact in some of these people’s lives, and this is pretty cool. And you know, again, looking – it all hit me kind of at the same time, and I really kind of had realized like, you know, I had no intention of starting down this path. But like, you know, God had just thrown me into it, and I’m learning so much about how to build a scalable tech company, and so much from a tech perspective, so much from a business perspective, as well as being able to have an impact in so many lives. I was like wow, you know, I think there’s really something here.

And then I started to look at, you know, what is the future potential of Viral Launch? And it seemed so vast. And so it was kind of at this point where I was like okay, you know, I really believe – I can really believe in this. I can really, you know, justify spending my time here, and I can use Viral Launch as a vehicle to continue to help people, have an impact on people’s lives, entrepreneurs’ lives, help them, you know, achieve their dreams like I’ve started to see my dreams come to fruition by being in a position that I am. I can build my resume. I can build up some capital so that I can, you know, at some point sell Viral Launch to then go build that dream company that is focused on helping those that, you know, aren’t able to help themselves or, you know, enable those that aren’t able to enable themselves or haven’t been as privileged as I. And so that – it was like that moment where I really decided okay, I’m going to chase after Viral Launch. And it was a really, you know, important time kind of in my life and obviously in Viral Launch’s life.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. When did you officially bring on employee number one?

CASEY GAUSS:
So a friend of mine from high school, Andrew, he was employee number one. And it was – it just started kind of as like a little side. He was just contractual. It was contract work, like X number of hours a day or whatever. He was helping me with our audiences’ customer service. And then he started scheduling launches. But this is like June of 2015, so I hadn’t bought Jordan out yet, but I just needed someone to help me kind of man customer service on our audience side because it had been, you know, grown to like 30,000 users or something like that. And so I was building the Viral Launch platform, our audiences platform, doing customer service for Viral Launch, doing customer service for our audience of, you know, now 30,000 people and talking with clients on Viral Launch side, managing the whole thing. It had become so much that I realized I needed help. And so yeah, I brought on Andrew, but it wasn’t until May of 2016 that I really felt comfortable hiring people because essentially like we were subject to Amazon’s algorithm. If Amazon changed up how you could rank products through these giveaways, then the business would have been, you know, dead overnight. And so I didn’t want to, you know, promise people jobs if they could potentially be gone tomorrow. So it was in May of 2016 that I, you know, we had enough steam. We had diversified, or I knew that, you know, if we pushed hard enough for, you know, six months we’ll be able to diversify our revenue enough, build up enough data so that if Amazon does make any significant changes we’ll either be nimble enough to adapt and not lose much revenue, or we’ll be so diversified that if launches do go away we will be able to sustain the team. And so that’s where we hired like our first developer at a six-figure salary, and we really started to push forward from there.

CAMERON YODER:
Where do you think the tipping point was for Viral Launch? Where was the moment, or was there a moment when it turned from – this may have been closer to the beginning – where it turned from just an idea to, okay, this is legit, and I am going to carry this through for a long time?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, well, I mean at any given stage there’s like a, you know, next chapter or an upgrade, maybe in my thinking or just in the company. So like, yeah, again, January of 2015 when I realized hey, this is actually something that like is growing and could be bigger than just this website that I built or whatever, right? Yeah, but then like May of 2016 there was a significant change in my mindset, and we really started to hire like legitimate people.

CAMERON YODER:
Actual people.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, started to hire legitimate people, so it seemed, right? And this was very intimidating, but it was building this foundation. You know, we are so focused on the long-term that any given point we are building our foundation for the next step. And so even right now I think that we’ve kind of just scratched the surface of what we’re able to do. And so right now we’re investing heavily in building the foundation for the next level, and yeah. I mean this summer was really big. We launched – or April of this year we launched a new tool, Market Intelligence, and we went to just an insane amount of conferences. And that really helped us reach the next step. We just launched Product Discovery, which is helping us reach the next step. We’re always building our team to help us like prepare for that next step, that next step.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. So Viral Launch now. Let’s talk a little bit about Viral Launch now. How does Viral Launch in its current state resemble what it was at the beginning? And what’s different now about the business?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, you know, I think I’ve been very fortunate to be someone that I guess like doesn’t have much of an ego. So I think what that has allowed us to do is kind of stay true to ourselves throughout the entirety of it. So like even from the beginning, you know, we just really cared about people. One thing that I didn’t mention is I brought on a friend of mine because I was originally planning on – so his name is Darrian. He’s my right hand man now. He’s our Vice President. I was planning on having him run Viral Launch so that I could go focus on this other business that I cared about. Viral Launch, you know, will be a place where I can make money, but I will actually go build, you know, this next whatever company that is actually focused on helping people. You know I’m really passionate about education, so yeah, in those like early days of Viral Launch still like early, mid-2015 I was actually like putting the resources together to like go build this new company because, again, Viral Launch was like okay I’m making enough money to like pay, like sustain myself. Now I will spend all the rest of my time like going and building something else.

So anyways, yeah, that’s how Darrian joined. But anyways, yeah, we’ve just always been focused on really focused on helping people. And I think this has been, you know, a big advantage for us like moving forward or throughout the entirety of the company is that we actually like – I don’t know, from my perspective, actually care about like helping people. And so we aren’t focused on like these short-term marketing initiatives that are kind of like churn and burn. So we’re not, you know, giving you false information or building things that are not, you know, incomplete just so that we can get the quick cash. We’re always so focused on like the long-term because – and like helping people. And we understand that like helping people build a long-term future for us and our clients.

I think one of the big differences is just having a team, or at least for me. So my focus is on always helping to make sure that the team is focused on, you know, our mission. Our mission as a company is to be the launch pad to success, so again, to enable entrepreneurs, to help entrepreneurs. And so this has not changed. And sorry, you asked me, you know, what has remained the same. And again, it’s just like our mission statement. So whether that’s helping people to rank on page one or helping them to source, it all comes from the same kind of mission, which is to help entrepreneurs, specifically in the Amazon space. And so again, this is what helps us decide what products to launch and what products to build. We originally started helping people rank on page one, but then we saw people had terrible products, so it doesn’t matter how good – or sorry – it doesn’t matter how well you’re doing with your launch if you have a terrible product. You’re not going to have success. So we had to launch Market Intelligence to help you like better make product decisions or help validate or invalidate your product ideas so that when you come to us with a launch you actually have a good product, and you’re set up well for success.

And so yeah, so like everything that we’re doing, we’re not like hey, making this like tool that makes your process a little bit simpler because we know that we can make some money off of it. No, like we’re going after the products that are like causing the most failure in entrepreneurs’ businesses. And yeah, that’s, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
Let’s talk a little more broad. Casey, what would you say – you’ve been at the forefront of really establishing what Viral Launch is now and pushing it, pushing it even further than what people thought it was capable of. So what, from your perspective, what does it take to make something like Viral Launch? What does it take to establish a business and keep on pushing it forward?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I mean it takes a lot. I think the biggest thing is just perseverance, right? So like especially being, if you’re young I think a lot of people like look down on you, don’t take you as seriously and just have much lower expectations. So you know, as an example, I was going to a lot of conferences, and these conferences had never heard of Viral Launch. I’m super young. And so like I would just, you know, casually try to bring up Viral Launch. I’m not much of a salesman, so I’m not, you know, like pushing anybody. I’d just maybe talk about it, or like people would ask me what I do, and I would, you know, start talking about Viral Launch. And people would, you know, immediately pass me off because like okay, this 21-year-old guy or whatever, this young guy talking to me about some startup that I’ve never heard that’s, you know, sounds similar to this other company. So just a ton of rejection, right? But like it was those early days of grinding. And I think it’s so funny because now we go to conferences. Everybody knows Viral Launch. So we have, you know, like a lot of people that love what we do. And so basically like going to conferences is a lot of fun now because everybody is, you know, just like oh I love Viral Launch. Like guys, thank you so much. And they’re excited to meet us. And it’s the complete opposite experience from what it was like in the early days.

But anyways, just so much perseverance. You know, we had competitors like telling lies about us in emails, saying oh, don’t use this service. Like people would email in and say hey, should I use Viral Launch or your service? And they would say oh, don’t use Viral Launch. Like they buy reviews, or like just saying that we do shady things, that we didn’t at the time, just so that they wouldn’t – like anyways, just so many hurdles. And this is not uncommon with life. But it was, you know, really those hurdles that really helped to strengthen me and helped me to be kind of the entrepreneur that I am. And so really like I just encourage you no matter the situation, no matter what’s going on, like you always have to be putting one step in front of the other, and it doesn’t – you know, even if things seem to be going well I think it’s easy to become distracted. But it’s really that day-in/day-out, putting that one foot in front of the other, marching on to that bigger vision that will allow you to have long-term success.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s about the grind, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh yeah, for sure. And like, you know, even to this day, like so many people expect okay, you know, we have 30+ employees. We’re just doing really well. People would expect me to be, you know, just sleeping in and like hanging out on the beach and like doing, I don’t know, just going on all these vacations and letting, you know, all my – from their perspective, all my quote minions, handle the actual work. But it’s nothing like that, right? Like we are a cohesive team, and we’re all focused really heavily on the mission. And so I’m grinding and sleeping just as little – grinding just as much and sleeping just as little as, you know, three years ago when I had $50 in my bank account and was just trying to survive. You know, I’m probably working so much harder because I know the opportunity ahead of us. I know the responsibility we have to help these sellers. And so many people are relying on us. People on the team are relying on me, and these entrepreneurs are relying on Viral Launch to, you know, have an impact in their lives and help them avoid bad decisions, whatever. And so I’m just grinding so hard, and I think that I’ve seen a lot of people, like they are off to initial success because they grind, and then they start to become lax and be that person that’s just hanging out on the beach and working a couple hours here and there. It works for a while, but eventually, like because things move so fast you, you know, you lose the pulse of the market, and you end up falling behind. Sometimes it’s so hard to regain that momentum. So just persistence, working super hard.

CAMERON YODER:
What does your daily schedule look like?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so my daily schedule is generally, okay, so I wake up around just before 6:30 or so, go to the gym with you, Cam.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah, let’s go.

CASEY GAUSS:
And Andrew. And then get to the office around 8:30, Lee from – like, you know, shower at the gym or whatever, get to the office around 8:30, leave around 6:30 so that I can go have dinner with my wife. And so have dinner with my wife for like an hour, and then I’m back on my laptop around 8:00, 8:30, until, you know, I’ll lay in bed with her until she falls asleep, and you know, I’m right back on my laptop until, you know, anywhere between 12:30 and 2:30, or maybe I don’t even get to sleep that night. I’m trying to sleep a lot more, well, trying to actually go to sleep. But anyways, yeah, so and then it’s like rinse and repeat. So I’m not 100% on waking up to go to the gym. Like if I stay up super late it’s a lot harder for me to wake up.

CAMERON YODER:
You get there.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah, so I’m trying. Yeah, and then you know, Saturday – Fridays and Saturday nights are reserved, you know, for date night with my wife. But you know, Saturday I usually sleep in, go to the gym and then work at a coffee shop until my wife and I do something that night, and then Sunday wake up, go to church and then go to a coffee shop usually and just work until – Sundays are usually pretty late nights because I’ve got to prepare for the week. So, and that’s, you know, hopefully in perpetuity I continue to have this work ethic because I think like I’m in – I’m so blessed to be in the position that I’m in, and like I feel like any waking moment that I am not focused on, you know, building Viral Launch, you know, that’s that many more entrepreneurs that we’re not able to help or we’ll be helping a week later, a month later, something like that. And so I just feel like this persistent or like never-ceasing desire or responsibility to help.

CAMERON YODER:
What single piece of advice – we’re going to wrap up a little bit here, but what single piece of advice would you give to aspiring business owners and entrepreneurs?

CASEY GAUSS:
So I think the affliction of our generation – so I’m a millennial. I think so many people say that we have bad work ethic. From at least what I see, you know, my sphere of like people that I went to high school with and whatever, it’s not necessarily poor work ethic, but it’s lack of desire to delay gratification in the short term for the long-term gain. And so we see this so much in the market, and this is a major advantage that we have is like for whatever reason I’m really willing to focus on the long term. So I’ll put in the work. I’ll struggle now so that in the long term we maximize the advantage or whatever, maximize the benefit. And so please – I cannot encourage you enough to focus on the long term. We see so many people make so many mistakes because they’re focused on the short-term cash, or you know, they get distracted by the shiny object. And as entrepreneurs we see the world as opportunity. There’s endless opportunity, and really it should be your job to say no to as many things as possible so that you can say yes to the things that really matter. There’s this guy, Derek Sivers, and I don’t swear, but basically his thing is like if it’s not heck yes or other words associated, anyway, if it’s not heck yes, then it’s a no. So like you should be so stoked about it. It should be, you know, the best opportunity possible. That’s what you need to go for. You need to be so focused on that and say no to everything else.

Yeah, and again, just be willing to say no to the exciting things, the short-term gratification for the long-term success, and that, like looking back, you know, 10 years later, you will be so glad that you’ve done that because, you know, watching Netflix or watching those YouTube videos, or you know, getting a couple more likes on Facebook or whatever, like in the grand scheme those are not the things that you’re going to remember or be proud of or are really going to, when you look back, you know it’s not going to be how you measure your life. How you measure your life is going to be the impact that you have on people, or the significant projects that, you know, you accomplished, or the things that you accomplished. And the only way to do anything of significance is to invest the time. Delay that gratification. You know they always say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you know, was Amazon? No. You know, was Apple? No. You know, very few things are built in a day. So yeah.
CAMERON YODER:
One last question. Through this – for this whole thing, for all of Viral Launch, what percentage of everything would you say was luck or good timing, and what percentage would you say was skill and hard work?

CASEY GAUSS:
I think we all have kind of like a different term or way that we reference luck. Me, like being religious or whatever, I believe that it was God. So I would say, you know, at least 95% was God, and then the other 5% or 4.9% was just showing up and working extremely hard. And then, you know, that 0.1% was probably like, I don’t know, something else that like had to do with the decisions I made or something. I don’t know. But yeah, you know, I think like – I don’t know.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s good.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so you can’t control the other 95% in my equation. So you have to control the 5% or 4.9% that you can, and that is working extremely hard. And so just working extremely hard, and then the 0.1% is because I’ve always tried to focus on the long-term, right, or something like that. Or maybe it’s 2.5%. Anyways, I don’t want to get into the details. Anyways, just working hard, focusing on the long-term and then luck, or God, or whatever you believe in, right, will take care of the rest.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah. Well, that’s all we have for today. Casey, thank you so much for telling us the whole thing.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, thanks so much. You guys, like I love feedback if you don’t know me. Good or bad, just honest feedback. So any way that you can give me feedback, I’d love it, and I mean honestly if you’ve listened to this whole thing I really appreciate you putting up with all the rambling and the side stories and stuff like that. So yeah, hopefully this was inspirational to some degree to somebody, right? Like that’s kind of the intention behind, you know, sharing this. And yeah, also just providing a little more insight into, you know, who we are as a company and why we exist and why we make the decisions that we do.

CAMERON YODER:
As always, thank you guys so much for listening and for being here. We love you guys so much, and we love doing this for you. We hope you have a – we hope you have an awesome Christmas, awesome holiday season. We’ll be here, and we’ll keep on grinding. Until next time, thank you, guys.

CASEY GAUSS:
Take care.

Viral Launch Origins: A Story of Entrepreneurial Inspiration & Humble Beginnings

As a 24 year old with an 8 figure tech startup with over 30 full time employees, I am eternally overwhelmed with gratitude and disbelief at the opportunities I’ve been afforded. Considering the delta between where I (and Viral Launch) sit now and our current trajectory compared to our humble beginnings, I find it hard to believe that anyone could have anything but extreme gratitude and humility, not to mention a deep sense of obligation to be a good steward of all we have been blessed with.

The intention behind sharing this story is three fold:

         1) to elicit inspiration in you, the reader. We all aspire to greatness in some form or another. We all, at some point in our lives, set out to achieve our dreams and leave our positive mark on the world. Many become distracted with life’s comforts or are stifled by fear of failure (and perhaps just as frequently, our primordial being’s fear of success). I hope to show that by sheer perseverance and an open mind to the unknown, you too can see your wildest dreams come to fruition. I believe that entrepreneurs and their companies (including each employee), are the ones creating the greatest impact on the world. I want to do everything in my power to inspire and equip those “born-to-be entrepreneurs” to reach their full potential.

         2) to help illustrate to our customers the principles we have built our company upon; to show the constructs driving our every decision. There is a lot of untruth and shady characters posing as nobility with the intention of making a quick buck in the Amazon seller space. I want to work harder to distance ourselves from these malicious players.

         3) (selfishly) as an expression of thanks. Thanks to the higher power I believe has brought me here (God in this case). Thanks to the friends and family that supported me along the way. Thanks to the amazing team that is the real driving force behind our success. And perhaps immaturely, those that doubted me along my journey. One of my biggest motivators is the doubt of others; especially people in “power” 😉  I love trying to prove people wrong. As is a common theme, the trials and tribulations are the times in which we grow the most. So thank you to those that doubted along the way. To those that made the journey that much more difficult, I thank you for helping fuel my deep desire for growth, improvement, and success.

I think it is very important to stipulate that I, in no way, feel that I have yet “made it”. I want to make sure that the tone of this post is not that of… “I am super successful and have everything figured out so therefore you should listen to what I have to say”. Quite the contrary. By nature, I have a very difficult time with confidence. My mind believes that in every scenario there are infinite possibilities. I think confidence is quite intimidating because it can be so blinding at times. This is not a post of retrospective reflection on my path to “success” because of my “brilliant actions.” This is a post of documentation around the incredible journey I’ve been blessed to find myself on. (To be quite frank, I have a hard time believing that it has been my decisions that have led me here.) This is a post of appreciation around what I have, and further, what I (and Viral Launch) am striving to be, and how you may also be able to find yourself on such an incredible journey.

 

Three Years Ago Today I Had $50 In My Bank Account

Three years ago today (at 21), I had $50 in my bank account and owed money on my credit card. My younger brother was gone for months for his construction job, which allowed him to pay our rent, our bills, and for our food. My girlfriend at the time (now wife; yeah I’m lucky to have found such a supportive one ;)) was helping to support me by purchasing essentials like deodorant and “swiping” me into her college cafeteria. I had deferred student loans as long as possible and my first payment was lurking on the horizon. Because we couldn’t afford to spend much on our heating bill, it was freezing in our apartment and my hands were so cold that I was unable to type. I resorted to cutting holes in some old athletic socks so my fingers could poke through. I called them my “hacker gloves” and they actually worked surprisingly well. I couldn’t look to my parents to help me out either. Just a month prior, my mom had her car repossessed and was evicted from her house (not so uncommon for us growing up). My dad was going through a rough second divorce. I was coding 16+ hours a day building the original Viral Launch platform wearing my winter coat in candle light (for both light and warmth) with my hacker gloves in our little apartment in the humble town of Marion, Indiana. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the origin of Viral Launch.

This day is so important to me because on December 18, 2014, I convinced my then co-founder to allow us to pay ourselves from the revenue we had generated for the first time.

That first $600 payout felt like $10,000!!! 🤑

 

A Quick Backstory

I’d like to first provide some context as to how my brother and I arrived in Indiana, how I found myself, a college dropout, coding with socks on my hands, and how the concept for Viral Launch came about.

While studying business and running track at a small Christian college in Indiana, I taught myself how to code at night. Midway through the second semester of my junior year I was developing demo iOS apps around a new technology called iBeacon. As a quick aside about me, I love learning! I try to read everything! In my business classes, my professors were teaching principles that contradicted what the Fortune 500 executives were preaching in my readings. I felt the things my professors were teaching had lost relevance in the fast moving techno-business environment we all find ourselves in. I felt like class and track were getting in my way of my learning and my ability to push the boundaries of iBeacon technology and application. I had also developed extreme guilt around running track. I felt like I was working so hard only to benefit myself while there were so many out there that I could help if I spent the same amount of time and effort enabling them somehow. For those reasons I dropped out with no plan other than to keep chasing my dreams, diving further into learning, and building great tech!

I moved back to Jackson, Michigan, the small classic midwestern town where I grew up, for a few months. It was at this time that my brother, Corey, and I decided to move back to Indiana on money he had saved delivering pizzas. He needed to leave Jackson to get out of trouble, and I wanted to be in the same town in which I had gone to college. We were just a couple of brothers carrying each other through life as we had throughout our rough upbringing. 😍 💪

How Viral Launch Came To Be

So the unsexy truth about how Viral Launch came to be is that there was no awe-inspiring lightbulb moment where the idea struck me out of an insatiable need for my own service. No  “scratch your own itch” story that so many great companies have been founded upon. The truth is that it wasn’t my idea at all. I hardly even understood the fact that what you purchased on Amazon largely isn’t produced by Amazon at all. To this day, I’ve still never even sold anything on Amazon.

A former trackmate of mine, Jordan, was selling on Amazon and was making great money after just a month or two of being live on Amazon.com. It was this trackmate and friend that had the brilliant idea behind Viral Launch. Fortunately for me, he knew about my love for tech and had always wanted to start a business with me. Despite my lack of initial interest, Jordan continued to push the idea. He mentioned the possibility of making $10,000 per month with little effort. He promised to handle the Amazon side, while I built the platform. I saw this as a great opportunity for me to make money while I continued to focus on my iBeacon business.

So with Jordan taking 60% of Viral Launch, and I 40%, we set off.

Naturally, I default to a work ethic turned to insane mode. While Jordan (my co-founder) was having fun running track and hanging out with friends, I inequitably, and almost as a precursor to the next three years, spent every waking moment pushing to improve Viral Launch for our customers. Out of his good will, Jordan decided we should be equal in equity and moved me up to 50%. 🙂

 

From Passionless to Changing Lives

Around 8 months into Viral Launch, I had essentially taken full control over the business (although not yet, technically).  As is common for me, I began feeling as though I were only running Viral Launch for my own benefit. The money was great, but I felt like I was only helping those with money make more money. Money and wealth is not of much interest to me. I view my life’s purpose as needing to help enable those that haven’t had the amazing opportunities I’ve had. I would much rather help those unable to help themselves: the disadvantaged, than those trying to make smart investment decisions with their excess cash.

So for a month or two I planned on bringing in someone that could run Viral Launch while I worked on my next project that would be focused on the underprivileged. I also felt it was impossible for a non-internet marketer to have success in a market where marketing far out trumps great product. (I’m a tech/product guy, not at all an internet marketer).  

It was at this time, however, that a few of the entrepreneurs Viral Launch helped had incredible success stories they shared with me. This had a significant impact on my mindset and the amount of gratitude I had for the position I had now found myself in.

 

Here are a few of the stories that curiously all came in in the span of a couple of weeks:

  • A dad whose young son had just been diagnosed with a mental illness had sold his truck to start an Amazon private label business in hopes that he would be able to quit his job to spend more time with his son. Viral Launch was able to give his business the tools and guidance needed to achieve success.   
  • An entrepreneur had taken some loans out to try to get their Amazon business off the ground. After things hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped, he quickly found himself and his family in financial trouble. Thanks to the Viral Launch platform, he was able to make enough money to pay off his loans and continue to build his business. He couldn’t thank me enough.
  • A husband and wife had sought to be entrepreneurs for years, however, nothing seemed to click. No matter how hard they tried or how many resources they poured into the business, success remained so distant. After a few months of working together, they had really hit their stride and were making over $10,000 a month in profit. More importantly, they had finally proven to their friends, family, and themselves that they too could be successful entrepreneurs.

I realized that Viral Launch was helping entrepreneurs of all kinds achieve their dreams, and how fortunate I was to get to be even a small part of that. Some of our clients were using portions of their profits to give to charitable causes. By extrapolation, I began to see that Viral Launch had become an incredible opportunity to have an amazing impact on the world. It may just have not been as direct as I had originally envisioned.

It was also at this time I realized how much I had learned in the last 8-12 months. I’m so passionate about learning. One, because I just enjoy it. And two, because I know that each bit of information I obtain improves my overall perspective, making me that much more capable of helping the next person. I had learned an insane amount by running everything myself initially –  from building a scalable tech platform, to managing tens of thousands of customers (from our coupon base), to navigating traditional business principles.

All of the sudden I had realized what an incredible opportunity God had provided out of a reluctant decision to make some money on the side.

After a year into our existence, I pushed my co-founder to sell his half of the business to me. Out of a desire to continue running track and enjoying college, as well as to give Viral Launch what it needed (a dedicated leadership), he agreed to the buyout!

I found myself the sole owner of a growing tech company, learning a tremendous amount each day and having a significant impact in the lives of entrepreneurs. I was humbled. I was in awe. And I was completely filled with gratitude.

This is when I knew that I had to push Viral Launch as far as I could. I’m obligated to.

If you knew that every moment you spent working on your business you would impact an exponential number of lives, how could you possibly concede doing anything but?

This is the mindset I find myself in every day and it’s the force driving my unending energy and excitement around what we are doing here at Viral Launch! I hold this fact with insistent gravity and magnitude.  

 

The Launchpad to Success

Our company’s mission, our “why”, is to be the launchpad to success for our clients and our employees. (If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s video on “why”, I highly suggest it. It’s part of our onboarding 🙂 ).  

One of the vital characteristics required to join the Viral Launch team is compassion for people. You must genuinely care about helping people to be a member of the team. This allows us to create a team that is driven not financially, but by the impact we have on the lives of our customers.

It’s this mission that dictates our product roadmap and how we prioritize the order in which we build those tools/services. While there are plenty of software “tools” we could build that would be great additional revenue boosters, we are focused on solving the most impactful issues our customers face throughout their Amazon seller journey.

Each week at our all-team meeting, I select a topic for the team to focus on for the week, whether that be ingenuity, discipline, efficiency, etc. I then get to tie that topic into our “why” and how our customers are depending on us to engender “topic XYZ” to impact their lives. It’s always motivating and a great reminder for why we’ve decided to show up to the office so early on a Monday morning.

One positive externality is that it also creates a fantastic work environment devoid of egos (although I guess if you are going to work for a 24 year old whose only real job was at McDonald’s while in high school, there is little room for ego anyways lol).

 

The Journey Is Rough But It Makes Us Who We Are..Enjoy It

So how did we get to be a 30+ person company (we’re currently hiring ~10 positions if you’re interested 😉 ), helping tens of thousands of Amazon sellers along their journey to success – all without raising venture capital or taking on an ounce of debt?

Hard Work

One of my biggest blessings is my work ethic. This helped me have success in athletics in high school and college, and has been amplified in business.

For the last three years, no matter how many people we have on the Viral Launch team, I consistently put in insane hours. (So much so that in our early days, I rarely ate and developed a chronic stomach sickness that causes me to randomly get sick throughout the day and when I exercise if I don’t take medication.)

As a blueprint for “work hard” for those wondering…

  • 6:30 am Wake up and head to the gym
  • 8 am Head to the office
  • 6:30 pm Head home
  • 7-8 pm Dinner with my wife
  • 8:30 pm Back on my laptop for work
  • 12:30-2:30 am Head to bed (depending on that night’s project..)

 

  • Friday and Saturday night – reserved for time with my wife.
  • Saturday – I sleep in, head to the gym then to a coffee shop to work
  • Sunday – church in the morning, then work!

 

Every week roughly follows this plan, although there’s been plenty of occasions where “Head to bed” doesn’t quite happen. (And I’m still not 100% on waking up every morning. When I’m up super late it makes it a bit difficult to wake up for the gym 😉 )

A lot of people become concerned about “burn out”. 1) I generally think people like to make excuses for themselves which I work hard to avoid, and 2) thankfully, I’m so passionate about what we’re doing at Viral Launch and so full of gratitude that I rarely get the feeling of “burn out.”

 

Sheer Perseverance

By consistently putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult it is to take that next step.

In our early days, attending conferences was rough. I get it. I was a 22-23 year-old talking about a “startup” few had ever heard of, let alone used. People would closely relate us to other services in our space although our value proposition was quite different. Rejection was common but I continued to show up and build relationships.

Especially in our early days, we were by far the underdog. However, day in and day out we provided better customer service, better results, a better overall experience, and at a better price. For two years we fought to take market share bit by bit.

Now we own the majority of the market share 🙂

Throughout the last few years, we’ve had plenty of betrayal from industry “friends,” competitors slandering our name, scammers ripping off our website, bad investments (you would not believe the amount of money you “burn” when you like trying “everything” lol), poor hiring decisions, sleepless nights trying to hit deadlines, missed deadlines, and so much more! It’s a roller coaster of emotions to say the least.

You will encounter so many hurdles, even in the span of a week, let alone your life. It’s your determination to continue to execute and put one foot in front of the other, no matter the circumstances, that will allow you to reach success.

 

Focusing on Thinking Long-Term

I think the major plague of the Millennial generation is not that of a lack of work ethic, but a lack of long-term vision.

Scarcely do people really take the time to step back and align their short-term decisions with their long-term ambitions. Few sit down and chart out their path to success. Most make their decisions off the cuff which leads to short-sighted money chasing that ultimately leads to little long-term gain.

A story of long-term thinking triumphing over the short-term brings us to a conference in early 2016. I participated on a panel with the CEOs of a few highly revered services in the Amazon seller community. I found myself at odds with the three other CEOs on the main topic. Essentially, I felt they had built their companies on a short-term strategy. They obviously thought I was wrong and made that known to the audience of at least two hundred people. At the time, I was a lot less confident in my own knowledge and beliefs, let alone my ability to convince the room of my position. I walked out of the room feeling defeated and disappointed in my self-confidence. However, I was unwavered in my overall position on the topic of ABC being a transient / short-term strategy. Despite the allure of the opportunity for quick money by going down the short-term path, Viral Launch remained focused on the long-term and around 8 months later, we were proven correct. Amazon made a major systemic change completely wiping that short-term strategy out of the realm of possibility. Overnight, two of those three companies had to lay off many employees, one of which had to close their doors completely for a few months, later to return as a near replica of Viral Launch. Meanwhile, the day after Amazon’s major update, Viral Launch experienced a record for largest single day of new customer growth.

Had we fallen into the same trap of chasing the quick money with disregard for the long-term, we likely would have fallen to the same fate.

This is just one such example of how playing to the long-term has been a major contributor to our growth. We see the compounding effects of our strategy play out each day and will continue to be one of our greatest competitive advantages among our competitors.

I cannot encourage you enough to delay gratification for the long-term glory. Rome/Amazon/Apple/etc. wasn’t built in a day, and nor will your dreams.

Enjoy the journey and focus on the end goal.

 

By Being True To Ourselves

I think we generally all set out with the intentions of achieving something great, however, if you’re not careful and extremely intentional about remaining true to your mission, it’s easy to lose yourself chasing after money.

I once heard a saying that, “the devil works in the margins.” I think this is generally spot on. It’s the “slippery slope” situations where a seemingly inconsequential omission or deception transcends overtime into cheating thousands out of their money and their dreams for your own gain. I’ve seen this time and time again among the “leaders” in our industry.

A simple and common example in our industry is misinformation around success tactics. Imagine an industry “guru” lays out how they made “millions of dollars selling on Amazon.” They include a walkthrough detailing how they achieved success, including using their own service. However, the “guru” leaves out a few of the key details because they don’t want all of their secrets to get out or because a few of those details would lead to the audience using a competitor’s service.  From the “guru’s” perspective, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to leave out a couple of details; they did after all tell their audience nearly everything they need to know about how to “make millions of dollars”. They just left out a few small details so their competition doesn’t get more traffic. What they don’t realize is that a big portion of their audience is going to replicate the process and expect similar results. When they don’t achieve those same results, they are going to think they are doing something wrong rather than the “guru” having shared bad information. So what we see happening is the trusting follower tirelessly tries to make the tactic work that has supposedly worked for so many others. In some scenarios, the seller only has so many available resources to get their business off the ground. If attempts one, two, and three don’t work, they have to close up shop and go back to their day job.

We’ve seen similar situations happen countless times, where in our world, everyone wants to be a “guru” but has little qualification or integrity to be such. We have also seen hundreds of businesses fail because they’ve built their businesses off of the empty words of industry leaders, too focused on self-gain to care about the consequences of their words and actions.

It is actually quite an intimidating concept when you accept it. It’s so easy to make a small decision for your own gain at the expense of another. The scary part is that it can so quickly snowball into something that wreaks far greater havoc.

Unfortunately, there are becoming fewer and fewer folks in the Amazon seller community I would be proud of being associated with, and I imagine a similar situation can be found across the business world as a whole. So many lose themselves chasing after growth and money that they become blind to the trail of shattered dreams and failed businesses they’ve left in their wake.

Fortunately for us as a company, we are more driven by our impact on others than we are by money. This has allowed us to run from the margin and stay true to our core mission, to be the launchpad to success for our clients!

In any situation, it is not as simple as choosing the moral versus immoral decision. Any decision with even a hint of non-morality, you need to run as far from as possible. Be the opposite of the market. Be overly moral.  

The key is to never venture into the margin.

 

Being Intentional and Saying No Often: AKA Opportunity Cost

As entrepreneurs we see endless opportunity in the world. Now that I have the brilliant,  ambitious team that I do, they also see tons of opportunities. I generally see it as my job to turn down the majority of the exciting ideas, that are usually great, but would distract us from our overall long-term mission.

There are so many things you could do, but only a few you should do.

The trick is to say “no” often so you can focus on the big ticket projects. The projects that will really define you and your company.

Daily, my Director of Product and I have to make opportunity cost calculations around which features to include/add to any one of the tools we have running or in the works today. A feature could be “really cool” but may take two days of development time. A day may not sound like a long time, but when you add up 10 “really cool” features, you find yourself a whole work month (there are generally 21 work days in a month) away from your next “great” project.

I cannot emphasize enough how important an understanding of opportunity cost is when you are an entrepreneur (and likely for non-entrepreneurs, but I have only ever been an entrepreneur, so therefore do not know how important opportunity cost may be to you lol).

I also think it is extremely important to be intentional about those you spend your time with and those you associate yourself with. This impacts your reputation, your perspective on the ecosystem you are working to have an impact on, and so much more. The wrong influence can lead to poor decisions and lost opportunity.

 

Conclusion

Success is relative. Success, to you, likely means something different than it does to me. And it’s “success” that I hope to have inspired you towards; no matter how small the change.

To me, success is about giving every ounce of energy towards having a positive impact on the lives of others and learning along the way so I can help even more tomorrow.

Somehow, through all of the above events and decisions (and insane amount of blessing/luck/whatever you call God), I’ve found myself on a successful journey, and my hope is that by reading about mine and Viral Launch’s story, you’ll be that much more inspired to find your own path to success.

Just remember to enjoy the journey. To fight through failure and adversity as it only makes you stronger and wiser. To make decisions for the long-term. To focus on others. And to work insanely hard for what you’re passionate about every waking moment.

The payoff is more fulfilling and rewarding than you can ever imagine.

Thank you for reading, and thank you if you are one of the many that have made this journey possible. 🙂

I wish you all the best!

(Interesting? If you know me at all, I THRIVE off of feedback. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or however else you want to get it to me. I’d really appreciate it! 🙂 )

Taking Your Business International with Lucy Marshall from World First (Follow the Data Ep. 13)

Follow the Data Episode 13: Taking Your Business International with Lucy Marshall from World First

Amazon Europe is as big as Amazon US. Could going international be the next great move for your FBA business? Join Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss and co-host Cameron Yoder as they talk with Lucy Marshall from World First about incredible opportunity that is Amazon international and how to make the most out of overseas earnings.

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

Hey, everybody. Cameron here with Viral Launch. We’re here in Austin, Texas, recording a special episode. Today we are going to talk about internationalization, and it’s internationalization involved with a company called World First. And we’re going to get into a lot of different things today involved with internationalization. But for now I guess I’ll just pass the mic around the table for some introductions.

CASEY GAUSS:

Hey, guys. Casey here. Yeah, hopefully we can bring you guys some decent value as you look to expand internationally. Or maybe you’re an international seller looking to sell in the US.  Or maybe you already are. We just want to help make sure that you are being as efficient as possible, making sure you have as much capital as possible to drive success behind your business.

LUCY MARSHALL:

And hi, I’m Lucy Marshall over at World First. I work on our e-commerce team here working with sellers directly to help them take advantage of new marketplaces and have worked previously for private label brands, so kind of understanding from both the brand perspective and the payments international end of that, how to make your brand successful overseas.

CAMERON YODER:

So like Casey touched on a little bit before, we’re trying to provide value for you, whether you’re expanding into international markets, or you’re thinking about expanding into international markets, or just even with your consideration in expanding your private label business in general. We’re going to talk a lot today about kind of everything having to do with those ideas. Part of that will be really having Lucy here explain what World First is and how sellers can prepare for something like expanding into international markets when it comes to what World First provides. So let’s get started.

Lucy, can you explain, just to everyone, give a basic overview of what World First is, like just simple as that?

LUCY MARSHALL:

Absolutely. So what we are is an international payment solution, and we work with corporations and e-commerce sellers to help them send and receive money globally.

We were founded in the UK back in 2004, and really our founder was working at Citibank and kind of saw an opportunity in the market for small- to medium-sized businesses to get better rates for their FX transfers. And that’s kind of blossomed the idea of World First and really being able to give those businesses better access to better rates than some of the larger banking platforms were. Our e-commerce solution really started coming into play in 2007 and coming truly to support the US market in 2014.

Now as we stand about to roll into 2018 we’ve worked with over 40,000 e-commerce sellers with offices worldwide. Whether you’re selling, you know, in China, Japan, Australia, UK, EU, US, Canada, we’ve got someone there to support you and really make sure your business is a success in that market.

CAMERON YODER:

So let’s say a – because you don’t only deal with private label sellers and Amazon, right? Like it’s businesses involved with international transactions, in general?

LUCY MARSHALL:

Absolutely, absolutely. I mean outside of Amazon itself, we’re compatible with 72 marketplaces globally, so it’s not strictly Amazon. Additionally, if you’re a company with an entity in the US and EU we’re able to send those funds back and forth. If you have suppliers overseas you need to make payments to, we can facilitate those payments as well. So it’s not strictly online businesses, but truly any business that needs to make payments or receive payments globally in different currencies.

CAMERON YODER:

So if a private label seller on Amazon comes to you and says – well, is just interested in what you do, what would you tell them, like specifically for them?

LUCY MARSHALL:

So for them what I would say is we’re an international payment solution that will allow for you to set up receiving accounts worldwide. The benefit of being a private label business is you’ve worked to build this brand. Let’s say you want to take that brand to the UK without actually having to make an entity in the UK. We’re able to set up a receiving solution for you so that that way you can receive pounds or receive the local currency and send it back to your US account at about half the cost of what a marketplace would charge. So we’re automatically adding about 2% to your bottom line without any opening fees, monthly fees or closing fees, and it allows for you to move your money from those global markets worldwide.

CAMERON YODER:

So we talked – now that we, I think everyone kind of has a pretty general understanding of what World First is and, or where you guys came from, let’s touch on just internationalization in general, right. So can you tell us from your perspective and World First’s perspective, what are the advantages to selling internationally?

LUCY MARSHALL:

There are so many. I am like the world’s biggest advocate for selling outside of the US right now because I think there are so many fantastic opportunities even just looking at different selling opportunities. Like you’ve got Boxing Day in the UK, and that’s not something we have access to in the States. There is Singles Day in China. If you start selling in the new Australian market that launched you have seasonality, so if you have a summer product in the US and you want to sell that in Australia during the winter you have that opportunity to sell that worldwide. And so for me those are all those advantages, and especially taking advantage of newer markets, it’s less competition. It’s more opportunity. And then even with exchange rates, if you’re selling in the UK it’s often a higher price point, and so you’re getting more return as you’re converting those funds back and those sales back from the UK.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and building off of what Lucy is talking about, you know collectively – I think we’ve said this before – but collectively the Amazon EU is just as large as Amazon US. And like Lucy said, so much easier to drive success in these markets because competition is so much lower. Obviously there are some hurdles there, and World First is helping you kind of step over some of those. But there is so much opportunity international. We’re super bullish on internationalization and, you know, making sure you’re selling everywhere as much as possible. Amazon is really pushing Amazon EU markets, and so like, you know, Amazon EU is like getting into Amazon US two years ago, maybe three years ago, where competition is just a fraction of what it is now, and you get to essentially ride that wave of success as Amazon continues to grow their dominance in these markets. And so you know, we actually, here in Austin, at Capitalism Conference with Ryan Moran, we actually just met these two guys. After apparently eight months of taking Amazon successfully these guys just reached the $10 million mark.

CAMERON YODER:

They’re killing it.

CASEY GAUSS:

Which is absolutely insane, while going to college – one of them is going to college. And they don’t sell in the US. They’re only selling an international Amazon markets because there is so much opportunity. You know, one of the guys was saying just by the fact that they have a Spanish speaker write their listings for Amazon Spain they’ll get ranking because their keyword structure is so much better. Their listings are so much better written because they have – one of them is a native Spanish speaker. He’s from Venezuela. And he’s just able to write really great listings, and that allows them to rank. So competition is just like, you know, a shadow of what it is in the US, but the opportunity collectively is the same.

CAMERON YODER:

And they have a slight advantage over people in the US having grown up in Europe and kind of understanding the European market. That being said, that – I think their story really shows that’s a very tangible thing to tell you guys that hey, the European market, or the worldwide market is very much alive. Obviously that’s a lot of good opportunity that is there, and they’re not even selling in the US market.

CASEY GAUSS:

Those guys are super smart guys. Like they were going to Dartmouth, and then now he’s going to Cambridge studying mathematics and finance. So they are very smart guys.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s not like you can just pull a trigger and it just like magically happens.

CASEY GAUSS:

But there’s huge opportunity, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:

Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about the UK market specifically. So if someone – let’s say you have a seller in the US who wants to sell in the UK as maybe like their first step internationally. From your perspective and from what you’ve seen, what would be like a good kind of tangible first step leading to that?

LUCY MARSHALL:

So obviously I think first step looking into any market is looking how your product is going to perform in that market and making sure that you’re actually going to be able to make sales from that. No one wants to throw spaghetti against a wall and put their product in Amazon FBA and be like fingers crossed, hope this works. So again, I think that’s such a fantastic thing that Viral Launch can help you with and looking at what your product can do in that market. Next steps from there are a little bit more admin. Like do you have your VAT numbers, which is value-added tax? And Amazon has really been cracking down on that in the past year. I think the stat was they lost out on $1.28 billion in VAT fraud from Amazon sellers specifically not necessarily paying it. And so the UK government has been really upset with Amazon, which means Amazon is like yo, you’ve got to get your VAT numbers in because we will shut down your account. So getting those set up, making sure you have those implications in place ready to pay those taxes. Our service specifically can help you make those payments so that way you’re making a pound-to-pound payment and not having to bring those pounds back to dollars and then send the VAT payment in pounds again.

Next steps from there, shipping, and then translating your labels and your listings if you are private label and selling on those markets. Luckily UK is English-speaking, so not a ton of leg work there. A little bit of localization to make sure – let’s say if you’re selling pants, they become trousers on that marketplace, making sure things are finessed a bit to that space.

CASEY GAUSS:

I really think – well, there’s one area that I see a lot of people focus on when it comes to money, and that’s tax. Like a lot of people, when they think about expanding internationally they think oh, all I need to do, all I need to do is have my taxes, my tax system set up and set in place. They don’t often think about having like a bank set up –

LUCY MARSHALL:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

– right? Or this money transfer system set up in place. Do people need to have, need to have or should have like a bank set up in like the UK, or is that something that –?

LUCY MARSHALL:

You don’t necessarily need to have the banking account in the UK, and this is truly where our service comes into play, right? Like if you’re opening a physical bank account you have to pay fees, you have to have a business over there. You have to have a physical entity and then be paying taxes to that country and paying taxes on your business there. If you’re opening an account with us the beauty is we’re able to collect those funds in one of our virtual accounts. You have the banking and routing number and everything that goes along with that. And if you’re choosing to just use a marketplace to manage your FX transfer, they’re typically transferring that at a much higher rate, and they’re doing it biweekly, so that’s not giving you any control or transparency as to how or when to move your funds. If you’re using a platform like ours we can collect the funds, and then you have access to a platform much like your online banking platforms where you can facilitate a trade. You can watch the rates, be aware of what rate exactly you’re moving your funds at, and then we’re usually coming close to cutting those rates in half, so saving up to 2% on your bottom line. So if you are selling, say, 10,000 pounds a month, that’s saving you $200 on your transfers coming back. So that’s not a small fee by any stretch. And again, as you continue to grow your sales that becomes a much bigger chunk of your sales that you should be getting back because you’ve put in all this hard work to get to new markets. Make sure you’re taking the most home from those markets.

CAMERON YODER:

Is there a simple way to explain like, okay, let’s say we have a seller in the US again who sells in the UK. What does a simple process look like to get that money back into the United States? Like can you break that down a little bit?

LUCY MARSHALL:

Yeah, the flow of funds you mean?

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

LUCY MARSHALL:

Yeah, so what – right now if you were a US seller selling into the UK you would be putting your US bank account into that space. You would put our routing account numbers in there, and that’s in the name of your business. So Amazon now deposits funds into that account, and then we move that back when you’re ready. It’s either an automatic transfer, or you can transfer that online when you’re ready to. If you are a rate watcher and want to see, hey, I saw this go up to, you know, 1.3 today. I’d like to do it at that rate. So there’s really no difference in terms of timing or flow of funds. It’s just Amazon deposits to us, and then we move that back to your US account.

CAMERON YODER:

Okay. What do you see as like maybe the number one or maybe even top couple mistakes that people are making when it comes to like, I don’t know, money transfer and/or sales internationally?

LUCY MARSHALL:

It’s a complete lack of awareness. I think really one of our biggest hurdles as we’re talking to new sellers is they’re not aware that this FX transfer is occurring, and they’re not aware of what rate that that’s happening at. So to me if you’re not watching your bottom line as a seller, like that’s a problem. You need to be making sure that you are getting the most of your sales home. So we’re able to kind of calculate that, and you can look at, say, a daily rate of when Amazon’s transferring your funds and then you know, dividing that by the amount you’re getting back. And usually you can figure out what that daily rate is and through a percent change calculation see, oh, that’s roughly maybe like 4% of my bottom line. And that’s not necessarily super competitive. And also you have no control over it, so that stinks, too. Like you should be in charge of your own money and how and when that’s being moved back.

CAMERON YODER:

Talking about like money saved, right, because this – so this whole process, the goal is to really help sellers save money through a process that maybe they’re not even aware of.

LUCY MARSHALL:

Right.

CAMERON YODER:

How – do you know how much a typical seller will save after like becoming aware of something like this and getting involved with these transactions?

LUCY MARSHALL:

Yeah, and typically that depends on size of the seller, how much you’re moving back. But I would say on average, again, if you’re at that 10,000 pound mark we’re saving about $200 on every transfer. So that’s kind of our best rule of thumb. Obviously if you’re selling like 10 million pounds or something in that range yearly that’s a much, much bigger number. So that does vary depending on the size of the seller and how much you’re bringing home.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and so how long does it take to set up this whole World First process?

LUCY MARSHALL:

It’s super easy. It’s really only four documents that we need to get you set up. As long as those come in we can have your account set up in a matter of hours, and then the accounts are able to allocate immediately. We have RMs, relationship managers, in-house that can walk you through where and how to put this in on Amazon so everything is done correctly, it’s Amazon-compliant, and then they will walk you through your first trade as well. So it’s really helpful to actually have a voice on the phone and someone to actually talk to rather than, you know, screaming at a computer. I feel like we all do that enough in our day-to-day lives that don’t have to do it on the banking end of things as well.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so I mean just to break it down, I know everybody’s always so crunched for time. I mean apparently, you know, this is something that you can do in a matter of hours, let’s say, at the most, and you will save hundreds to thousands of dollars a month, which just really adds up over the course of a year, especially when you’re talking about being able to purchase more inventory, get a little bit cheaper rates on your inventory, so you save more money there. And you can – it really just compounds. And so as long as it’s quick, 2% really adds up, especially when you start getting into volume and you add that up over time.

CAMERON YODER:

Right. This is something that not many people know about, especially when it comes to international stuff. I think one thing that is kind of at fault with US sellers is just awareness with all the systems in place, like in VATs. And the story of the guys that we talked about before, the thing about them is that they, again, grew up in that area. And so they definitely have – they’re smart guys, number one, but number two, they do have a pretty good understanding of the space and the area that they’re in, which is Europe. And that definitely has an advantage. And so being aware of something like this, as well as being able to save money to put towards your other resources, like something like this is something that not a lot of people are aware of that we want to provide value to you by making you aware of or having you be aware of it. So Lucy, talking specifically about World First, what unique perspective does World First offer sellers on Amazon?

LUCY MARSHALL:

It’s really the perspective of smartly managing your finance. I mean we are – we really focus on that payments end of it and making sure we’re creating a solution where not only if you’re selling on the UK, but if you’re selling on China, if you’re selling on Japan, if you’re figuring out how to take advantage of that new Australian market, we want to put the pieces in place for you to be able to manage those different aspects of your business and be smart about it financially. In addition to that we do have a very vast partner network. So if you do need help figuring that out we’re kind of a jack of all trades, masters of none outside of that payment space. So we’re really able to figure out where to connect you there, and I just think there’s so much opportunity outside of the domestic US market to go take advantage of that and then really make sure you’re savvy with both your receiving payments from Amazon, but also paying for, and suppliers paying for, and employees, and making sure you have a frictionless way to move your money globally.

CAMERON YODER:

So if, let’s say some of our listeners are even just a little curious about what you’re talking about. What resources would you have for them to even just point them in a specific direction or to get in touch?

LUCY MARSHALL:

Yeah, and there are a couple of different ways. You can just go sign up online. I mean I will give you all  my email to post after this. Please reach out directly. I’m more than happy to field calls or answer questions about something. Really our biggest resource are our people. Everyone’s highly educated, not only in the world of FX, but in e-commerce, as well. So I would put ourselves forward as our best resource to do that in addition to, you know, the content we’re putting out on our blog, as well.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, gotcha.

LUCY MARSHALL:

Recently we’ve been working not only with sellers that have already expanded to the international markets, but really looking at how we can support those that want to take advantage of it as well. And so we’ve really relied on partners in the field of VAT, shipping, logistics and translation to help kind of those admin pieces of like where do I start to figure out to get my product overseas and get my listings set up and make sure you’re government-compliant with everything that’s happening in the UK and EU as well. So truly I feel like you all are the best first stop for our clients because you’re able to figure out where in the market does someone’s product fit, and will that be successful? And then we can kind of help through the nuts and bolts in terms of figuring out VAT, shipping and the payments piece of it as how you figure out how to manage your global payments.

CAMERON YODER:

Got it.

Thank you guys so much for tuning in. Again, if you have any questions feel free to shoot us an email. We’ll provide all of the content from this podcast in the description.

Grow Your Amazon eCommerce Business Internationally: Guest Post by WorldFirst

Savvy Amazon sellers have been taking advantage of Amazon’s global marketplaces for years. With marketplaces in 11 regions, and customers in over 180 countries, Amazon makes it easy to get in front of fresh markets and new consumers. Retail, as we know it, is rapidly developing as consumers purchase more products online rather than in-store. eMarket shows that Amazon is responsible for 44 cents of every ecommerce dollar spent, up from 38 cents in 2016. With this increased growth, more sellers are expanding beyond borders to find less saturated markets and take advantage of exchange rates. The opportunity to sell globally? Massive.

International Selling

We are now seeing more private label brands and resellers become global market leaders. Brands like Anker manage their own eCommerce storefronts and are relatively unknown in the brick and mortar space. But, by optimizing their listings and expanding their brand across multiple channels, they’ve become a titan on global marketplaces. On Amazon, the UK/EU are collectively the same size as the Amazon.com market. In China, it’s projected that more than a quarter of the population will be shopping for foreign products on eCommerce platforms. For those of you counting at home, that’s roughly 455 million potential customers.

That said, opening your business to new markets means learning how to navigate cross border payments, transactions, and how to bring your international sales home effectively. Not to mention you will have to pay VAT, the equivalent of sales tax in the UK / EU, to the international governments in which you’re selling.  It goes without saying, you need an effective strategy in place to manage all of your different currencies, tax payments, and supplier payments to protect your margin selling globally.

Money Forward Contracts

So what do you do? Setting up in-country bank accounts requires an entity in that country, and the process to set it up can be lengthy and costly. Not to mention, the currency exchange rates that you’re getting may still not be competitive. While most marketplaces have a currency solution, you have zero control over when they move your funds and no transparency to the trade rate of their funds. You need a solution that both allows you control over your foreign exchange, and protection against potential volatility in the rates.

Take Brexit, for example. We saw the rates move 10% in a matter of hours, and those using a marketplace solution were at the mercy of the markets. Those who were working with a solution like WorldFirst were able to work with their relationship managers to protect themselves against market movement by booking forward contracts or setting rate alerts. This helped them move their funds back home at a rate they budgeted for. By giving our customers the ability to control their money, we were able to provide peace of mind and the ability to protect their rates.

Amazon International Money Transfers

As global eCommerce becomes more accessible to sellers, it’s becoming easier to make cross border distribution a reality for your business. The only consistency in the currency market is that it fluctuates. While you may never be able to predict which way the market is going to move, World First can help you protect your margins and grow your business globally. We have had sellers experience their business grow between 5-10% in the first year of expanding internationally, and then reinvest the profits in your business to promote continued growth in the international space.

World First USA Inc. can help you pay suppliers, vendors, and taxes overseas.  We can set you up with local receiving accounts in the countries where you’re selling, allowing you to collect funds in the local currency and take control of when your funds are transferred.  The marketplace transfers your earnings to your in-country account and you can transfer your funds back home. We’d love to help you take hold of the global markets. Register here to get started.

Best Practices: Inventory Planning for the New Year

As the calendar year comes to a close and holiday sales start to slow down, sellers should be ramping up for 2018, whether that’s ordering more inventory or sourcing a new product for your brand.

So when’s the best time to order for early 2018 selling? Immediately. If you haven’t already, getting those orders in as soon as possible is critical to having enough inventory to last you through early spring.

Why the rush? Three words: Chinese. New. Year.

The Chinese New Year is serious business, workers get at least 7 days off and factories close for up to a month. Yep, you heard that right, most factories will be closed for an entire month, beginning as early as two weeks before the New Year (which lands on February 16th this year) and lasting through the remainder of February.

Want to order samples for a potential new 2018 product offering? Now’s the time to order those too. Waiting until after the New Year means samples won’t arrive until mid to late March.

If you choose to move forward with the product, you’re looking at sometime in June before you’re FBA ready with stock available. That’s months of unproductive capital and less time to get the product ranking and selling before next year’s Q4.

 

Before Chinese New Year

Every factory does not follow the same closing schedule, but a good rule of thumb is to order inventory (for new or existing products) at least 45 days before Chinese New Year, although closer to 60 would be a safer bet. If you have a product that takes longer to manufacture, the earlier you place your order, the better. Because many factories will close before the holiday, waiting until a week before the 16th to order will leave you empty-handed.

You don’t just want to factor in the time it will take to manufacture your goods either. You should also consider how long it will take to be shipped, and know that cargo companies also close down for a period around Chinese New Year.

Although many Chinese cargo and shipping companies do not close until 3-4 days before the holiday, you’ll want to make sure your merchandise is ready to ship at least a couple weeks before this in case any issues arise. You do not want your goods to be stuck at port over the long holiday, most likely leaving you without the inventory you need and with a nice holding fee from the cargo company.

If you do get your order in and shipped before Chinese New Year, make sure to also run a thorough quality check over the items. As the rush to get orders completed before the holiday presses down on manufacturers, quality control may be more difficult to manage on their end. While it’s always smart to quality check, this time of year is especially important and could save you loads of customer service headaches later.

 

After Chinese New Year

The schedule for factories returning to work after the holiday varies as well. Most manufacturers will be back to handling administrative tasks within 5-10 days after Chinese New Year. That means they will answer your email, but they may not be back in the full swing of production.

Once production starts up again, work is likely to be slow and loads of orders will be backlogged. Don’t expect a timely turnaround or consistent communication, as being gone for that long causes delays and backups. Some manufacturers raise prices after Chinese New Year as well, so don’t be surprised if your costs increase when they return to work.

Not only will manufacturers be backlogged around this time (late February-early March), Amazon likely will as well. Loads of orders will flood into fulfillment centers after the holiday, causing backlog and delays.

 

Source and Order Now

If you’re looking to order fresh inventory for existing products, contact your manufacturer immediately to place your order. And, keep in mind you may want to order more than usual to maintain stock during the Chinese New Year.

Looking for a brand new product to source with your Q4 earnings? Want to kick 2018 off right? Check out our game-changing product finder, Product Discovery, and find your next great product in mere minutes.

You no longer have days or weeks to look through Amazon or check local stores for product ideas. If you’re looking for new merchandise to add to your brand’s arsenal and want it by early next year, you need to source now and place your order before you miss the window.

In a matter of hours, sellers are finding highly profitable product ideas using Product Discovery, drastically trimming down the sourcing process and putting sellers on the fast track to profitability. Taking your time could mean the loss of a couple months worth of sales, so don’t wait, check out Product Discovery today.