Follow The Data: How To Start An Amazon Consulting Business & Elevate Your Brand

In this episode of Follow The Data, Britt Englund breaks down the lessons she’s learned consulting and managing enormous brands on Amazon!

Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, successfully selling on Amazon requires a very particular set of skills. Quite often, sellers are short on time, experience, or knowledge to optimize each aspect of their online business.

When your business could use some outside help, hiring an experience brand consultant to develop strategies, establish best practice processes, and develop a network can catapult your Amazon business to the next level.

We spoke with Britt Englund, a noteworthy Amazon seller consultant and brand strategist, to learn more about her expertise in Amazon consulting!

HIGHLIGHTS


Getting to know Britt Englund (0:00)

Before we dive deep into the world of starting an Amazon consulting business, get to know about Britt and her vast Amazon experience. With around 10 years on the platform, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone more immersed into Amazon trends, standards and strategies.

Going into 2021 and beyond, why is brand development so important on Amazon? (4:24)

Visibility and brand recognition can make all the difference in eCommerce! Britt breaks down the logic on the latest Amazon branding trends. Should sellers be utilizing the same tactics on Amazon on all eCommerce platforms? Find out here from an expert.

What are the tools sellers can utilize to separate their brand from the competition? (7:30)

The market on Amazon is as competitive as ever. Britt offers insight on what options exist for sellers to elevate their brand past competitors, with a strong focus on how to approach influencer marketing.

Selling cross-platform became more popular in 2020 during the COVID-19. Should sellers be using other eCommerce platforms? (23:40)

Logistical issues meeting increased demand at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic opened the door for eCommerce competitors such as Walmart and Shopify. Was this a one-off instance, or should sellers exclusive to Amazon pursue expanding their online business beyond Amazon?

As Amazon continues to mature, the interest in brand consulting is booming. What’s the process of consulting and what should aspiring consultants be doing to achieve their goals? (26:40)

Amazon brand consulting is an emerging market, with interest and demand rising exponentially. Britt saw the rise of Amazon consulting early and positioned herself as an expert at helping brands reach their potential. She thoughtfully analyzes her path and what should prospective brand consultants be doing to set themselves up for success?

What is the biggest thing sellers should be focusing on for Q4 and beyond? (36:41)

It’s the busiest time of the year! With the wave of sales during the holiday season ahead, sellers need to be on top of their game. As time runs out on 2020, Britt breaks down how sellers can optimize their Q4 and set themselves up for a profitable 2021.

A special thanks to Britt Englund for taking the time to talk shop with us on the show! You can keep up with her on LinkedIn for more.

Follow The Data is a podcast by Viral Launch for Amazon sellers hosted by Cam Yoder, an expert on all things Amazon. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and all your favorite platforms, be sure to like and subscribe to receive exclusive content and updates when new episodes release!

Amazon Product Research in 2019 – The Game Has Changed

Amazon Product Research in 2019 – The Game Has Changed

The Amazon game has changed and will continue to change in the new year.  The standard on Amazon has increased significantly, so how are you staying competitive?  In this episode, Casey Gauss discusses emerging tactics for success in 2019.  Product research, review generation, and micro-niches, oh my!

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

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

A lot is happening at Viral Launch, and we will be taking a little break! Get ready for some great new shows coming your way with Casey Gauss, founder and CEO of Viral Launch. In the meantime, enjoy this rebroadcast of “Failing Successfully: How To Use Failure To Grow Your Business”.

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

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Casey Gauss: Using Innovation To Build & Scale Your Business

Casey Gauss: Using Innovation To Build & Scale Your Business

Challenging the status quo through disruptive ideas…Innovation is what drives us, as a company and as individuals here at Viral Launch. We wouldn’t be where we are today without it, AND we wouldn’t be able to keep on moving forward without innovation as the wind in our sail. Innovation is what keeps companies like Apple at the forefront of their craft, and so we strive to keep it at the forefront of our business. Today, we’re talking through how you can do the same.

Today, I’ve brought in CASEY GAUSS to talk through innovation. Not necessarily WHAT innovation is, but how innovation has defined what he’s been able to accomplish here at Viral Launch, and how you can apply it to kind of SHIFT your mindset and, as a result, grow your Amazon business and other aspects of your life as a whole. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s jump in

11/8
We’re announcing TWO new tools! Sign up for the webinar here:
bit.ly/VL-Innovation

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Amazon Seller Questions: Seller Mistakes, Finding Great Products, Split Testing & More

Amazon Seller Questions: Seller Mistakes, Finding Great Products, Split Testing & More

Data is EVERYTHING here. If you’re an avid listener of the show, you know that. We’re pulling from one of our many sources of data today – Amazon Sellers. We help a LARGE number of Sellers every single day, and get to see where a lot of confusion is happening in the space. We get HUNDREDS of questions from Sellers every single day, and we’re answering those questions in today’s episode.

I’m bringing in two Viral Launch employees who interact with Sellers every single day. We’re breaking down the main topics here – ones that Sellers ask us about ALL the time. There’s honestly a LOT of good info here, and we cover it all quickly, so get ready to zone in. ALSO, just wanted to make sure you’re aware, I do a two live Q&A sessions each week on our social channels. One is through the Data Hunters, our Facebook Group, which is at 10am EST, and the other is just through our normal YoUTube Channel and Facebook Page at 1pm EST. If you have questions we don’t cover today, come ask me live during those times. When you join, let me know you listened to this episode, ill give you a shoutout. All that being said, lets jump in.

Listen to our last Coaching Episode: http://bit.ly/Ep-39
Ask me your questions! http://bit.ly/Cameron_Insta

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Building a Team with Sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz, and Nick Young (Follow the Data Ep. 28)

Building a Team with Sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz, and Nick Young (Follow the Data Ep. 28)

In this episode, Anthony, Nick, and Fernando all share about their experience building teams for their businesses: how they knew they needed to hire, how they prioritized talent according to their business goals, and how they found the right people to grow.

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher 

 

Our Guests

Anthony Bui-Tran is an ambitious entrepreneur who built a million-dollar business at the age of 23 through manufacturing and importing consumer goods. Since discovering this opportunity he has been empowering others to design their ideal lifestyles through building location-independent businesses through his Facebook group and YouTube channel, Seller Tradecraft. In the near future Anthony plans to expand his one-on-one coaching to a digital course that will enable him to reach and help more people achieve their goals. In his free time he enjoys traveling, surfing and working out. When reaching out to Anthony you’ll find yourself asking, where are you now?

Fernando Cruz is a serial entrepreneur who builds brands on online marketplaces. He has an aptitude for growth and in less than three years he has been able to generate over $10 million in revenue per year, grossing $20 million cumulatively. His expertise in Amazon strategy, product selection and business development has led to the introduction of over 200 products to the market.

 

Nick Young is an e-commerce entrepreneur who specializes in developing private label brands on marketplaces with a focus on process, team building and grit, he has scaled his pure play private label business to over eight figures in revenue within three years, grossing $20 million cumulatively. Prior to starting his business Nick worked in tech where he helped grow early-stage companies. Nick and Fernando are also both partners at Seller Tradecraft, an online community and digital education program for both new and experienced sellers. 

 

 

 

Follow the Data Show Notes

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:
Deciding to invest in your business by building a team is a major decision. How do you know if it’s the right move for you? How much revenue should you have before making your first hire? Who should that first hire be, and how do you grow profit when taking on the cost of employees?

I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with over 8,000 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.

Cam is in China this week, our normal host. So today filling in for him is our producer, Becca Longenecker. In this episode Anthony, Nick and Fernando will all share about their experience building teams for their businesses, how they knew they needed to hire, how they prioritized talent according to their business goals, and how they found the right people to grow. Let’s get started.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Hey, guys. What’s up? This episode is the first in a series of episodes that we are doing with sellers Anthony Bui-Tran, Fernando Cruz and Nick Young. In this series we’re focusing specifically on what it takes to scale your FBA business. A little introduction for who these guys are. Anthony is an ambitious entrepreneur who built a million-dollar business at the age of 23 through manufacturing and importing consumer goods. Since discovering this opportunity he has been empowering others to design their ideal lifestyles through building location-independent businesses through his Facebook group and YouTube channel, Seller Tradecraft. In the near future Anthony plans to expand his one-on-one coaching to a digital course that will enable him to reach and help more people achieve their goals. In his free time he enjoys traveling, surfing and working out. When reaching out to Anthony you’ll find yourself asking, where are you now?

Fernando Cruz is a serial entrepreneur who builds brands on online marketplaces. He has an aptitude for growth and in less than three years he has been able to generate over $10 million in revenue per year, grossing $20 million cumulatively. His expertise in Amazon strategy, product selection and business development has led to the introduction of over 200 products to the market.

Nick Young is an e-commerce entrepreneur who specializes in developing private label brands on marketplaces with a focus on process, team building and grit, he has scaled his pure play private label business to over eight figures in revenue within three years, grossing $20 million cumulatively. Prior to starting his business Nick worked in tech where he helped grow early-stage companies. Nick and Fernando are also both partners at Seller Tradecraft, an online community and digital education program for both new and experienced sellers.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
My name is Anthony. I basically am a Amazon seller of three years. So is Nick and Fernando. But the three of us basically met through a mastermind group online, a Facebook mastermind group of million-dollar sellers and up. And then most recently I just like temporarily relocated to LA to kind of learn from these guys because they’re at the eight-figure level, and I’m at the seven-figure level. So I thought one of the cool things that we can talk about is like perspective of building a team to a seven-figure level and then like building a team to an eight-figure level, and then what kind of like perspective or mind shift differences that maybe like I have versus like them when it comes to building a team because I think that’s like a very big mental mind shift that I learned from just like being out here and like talking to them a little bit more about like how they’re scaling their team, and how they have like advisors, and how they really have like, you know, like more structured like systems and processes in place versus like my business.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
So then how many people do each of you, like how many hires have you each made?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
I personally have seven part-time, and then –

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, we have, in total, about like 20 people.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Okay, nice.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah. And those are full-time.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Well, I guess I’ll just jump in and ask the first question. So the first thing I was wondering is if you could, Anthony and Nick and Fernando, if you want to start [technical difficulty 0:04:59.0]

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Okay, yeah. I have an interesting one. So when I started thinking about outsourcing it really stemmed from like The 4-Hour Work Week. So I was reading that book while I was working my corporate job. So I knew in order to scale my business I had to make more time, right? And I knew that I couldn’t physically like free up more time in my schedule in terms of like balancing work, gym and then my social life. So I realized I was like, oh, I can just pay someone and buy their time, right, and leverage that. And then The 4-Hour Work Week was one of those ways that I realized that you could, you know, get work help overseas, and I looked into it a little bit more, and then I realized that, you know, balancing my full-time job with a VA, like I would have them do a lot of Amazon stuff and then some very, very minor work stuff for me, and balancing that out in my personal life. And that was just basically like the first, very first start of getting a hire. And then after that successful experience with my first hire – and he’s been with me ever since – I just really wanted to build out more and more.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so for Nick and I, I would say this was about like six months in, and it was probably honestly too late because I think we were doing like probably around like 80, 90 grand in revenue at the time, I guess for perspective.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
And it was just you two?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And it was just us two. And then the first person was like kind of a customer support, kind of administrative person. She’s still with us today. It’s like pretty amazing. And she actually ended up bringing her husband on to the team as well, which was pretty cool, like a few months later. But yeah, I would say that it was probably too late. I think in retrospect it would have been better to make that hire earlier, like thinking about like how you value your time, and let’s say $100 an hour or $200 an hour, and then thinking about how you’re spending like a majority of your time, and whether you can outsource those specific like tasks at a lower rate than what you’re valuing your time at. And so yeah, whether it’s like, you know, sourcing, or customer support or graphic design, like all that kind of stuff, I would have definitely done it earlier now in retrospect.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, it’s constantly a struggle. I mean I think every entrepreneur when they’re first starting out, especially for me, I know I struggled with the, you know, trying to be a perfectionist with how everything was done. Naturally when you own a business you never think anyone is going to care as much as you do. So I always felt like I wanted to delegate, and when I did delegate it had to be the way that I wanted to do it. But you know, I think quickly we realized as we scaled that, you know, if you hire the right person they’re going to do a better job than you will because naturally they’re going to be dedicating more time to it, assuming that they’re smart enough. And I think that’s really the process of how we need to learn as entrepreneurs to let go. And it came down to just hiring the right people and not hiring people that could only take delegation, and instead finding people who could actually think on their own, and that was really a crucial shift for us, being able to let go and find the right people to kind of let it go to, if that makes sense.

CASEY GAUSS:
So guys, to give everybody some context, would you guys mind sharing kind of how many people you’ve hired over what period of time, what those hires look like, just giving everybody some context around what’s going on in your guys’ business so they understand where all this advice is coming from?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Okay. Yeah, for me, starting out essentially, to get to the point where I was, or I am now as a seven-figure seller, the first thing I ever outsourced was customer service because in my opinion that was like one of the things that I just didn’t really enjoy doing because I mean it always comes down to the same example, like someone would ask me like what color like the shirt is, or what color an item is, but you know the listing obviously says it’s like black. The picture looks like it’s black, and then like when a customer asks me that, for some reason I personally get a little frustrated with that because I feel like it’s a very obvious answer. But at the end of the day, like you want to hire someone that cares in responding to like customer questions like that more than I guess I would in that situation. And then I realized that I’m wanted to reduce the amount of decisions I was making in my business because those really like kind of wear on, I guess, like my mental energy. So customer service was like the first thing I outsourced.

And then down the line it got to I would outsource like random different project [tasks 0:09:50.0] versus getting a full time VA. So I would get some like listing optimization done, product photography I would outsource that to like certain people and then just compare really, right? Because I started doing it in-house, and then I realized I was like okay, I don’t want to invest in all this equipment when I can just pay someone to do it professionally and they’ll get it done the right way because I was spending too much time researching. I would say okay, this is how I should make like a perfect like lightbox. And I was like how often am I going to use this thing? Maybe like, I don’t know, a couple times a month. Maybe I’d have to edit it. And then it got to the point where I wanted to also focus more on I guess like YouTube and my Facebook group. And so some of the other hires were just like video editors.

And then it was mainly working with my first VA. He was kind of like a jack of all trades, which is what I really like about him, and he’s just – he, I wouldn’t say he knows everything, but he knows how to like Google. And I think that’s probably one of the most important traits, having someone on your team that is like their ability to just learn things on their own. That’s probably more important than – I mean of course like you want to find people that are experienced, but when there’s always going to be new things to learn in business, and I think if, you know, someone on your team just like has ability just to learn on their own or just knows like when to reach out, or knows how to reach out effectively, like one of the things like I always ask my team is if they have a question they’ll ask me. They’ll like say like, should I respond to this customer this way? And they’re like, instead of asking me how do I do this, they’re like I think I should respond like this, and they provide an example. And then I’ll tell them like yes or no, or I’ll give them suggestions of like hey, like I think you could just add some more details here, some more context here, and like training them to just think on their own like that has been like invaluable for my business.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so for us in the US we probably hired like overall maybe eight people in the US. We’re down to five now here in the US, and then we’ve hired at least 25 overseas I think. But our overall team now covers a little over 20, and I would say that we’ve pretty much like been able to build like a team to manage like every aspect of the business. I think the one that we hold probably a little bit, the most close to our chest is like kind of product selection. But we have someone that’s in charge of like finding the products that we approve of. We have new inventory planning, logistics, support, you know, marketplace management, like wholesale and retail. Pretty much like everything is actually done mostly overseas now.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
What was your first hires for you guys?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Support and admin.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, definitely support and admin. Yeah, for sure.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And you know what we found is like as we – you know, I think it’s always like when you’re first starting out naturally you’re going to do it based off of like what’s taking up most of your time. But we found like as we’ve grown to scale we really had to gain a lot of thinking towards how we’re breaking out the organization, especially as we approached the eight figure mark, you know, we realized that we had to start breaking out the business into business units, too, so that, you know, we could structure each business unit to have like, you know, it’s own P&L, its own way of tracking the effectiveness of it. And that just started to make more sense as we grew, you know, the different channels we were selling on and also the amount of products that we had. And so I think that has really allowed us to have a lot more efficiency and structure in terms of how we collaborate with one another and, you know, as we’ve grown. And that’s something that I think, you know, we’ve really tried to put a lot more thought into more recently.

CASEY GAUSS:
Awesome. So when you guys made that first hire, Fernando and Nick, what size company were you? What was going through your mind? What were your hesitations, and how did you overcome those?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I don’t know if we had too much hesitation. So we both had outsourced specific like roles, or like I guess tasks in previous companies, like previous startups that we had worked at. But yeah, they were in charge of like basically – I mean at the time we probably had about like eight products maybe, eight, 10 products. And so we were just building out like a lot of like – a lot of like inquiry in terms of like product questions and like, you know, following up for like reviews and all that kind of stuff. And so I think all like the really like tedious parts, I mean the beautiful thing about Amazon is they take, you know, a huge percentage of the customer support. But anything that did kind of come through, they kind of oversaw all of that I would say.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I would say that what we really, you know, did was, you know, the model was new to us at the time, right, so when we just started. So we really wanted to trail blaze and it just make sure that we understood all parts of the process to begin with. You know, I’m a believer that you do have to delegate what you understand first. And so, you know, I remember answering customer support questions. And you know Fernando was like, look, you shouldn’t be doing this. And I was like yeah, you’re right. You’re totally right; I shouldn’t. And so that’s when we made our first hire. And then as we had this additional resource, you know, we realized okay, well she has extra time. She can go ahead and copy this. She can follow up a customer review. She can do all these things that we realized that were on our list but we just didn’t get time to, you know, handle because we were limited on time since, you know, we wanted to focus our time on growth. But we always found ourselves hampered by supporting the operation, and that’s when we realized okay, we need to, you know, push this off to, you know, that support person. And eventually, you know, we started to structure the tasks as like this is that type of role, this is that type of role, as they just became more frequent.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
How did you guys find your first hires? Where did you look for people?

NICK YOUNG:
I would say online jobs.ph is a great one. You know, there’s a lot of people who are really familiar with remote work. A lot of people actually have Amazon experience. That’s where we first started. And we also, you know, we mentioned that Fernando and I, we both came from companies that deal with outsourcing. I actually came from a company that did outsourcing for a lot of big internet companies. So I had, you know, someone that I worked with there before, and I just got a referral. So she was actually like, you know, the sister-in-law to someone I worked with closely in the Philippines over there. So that, you know, that was, you know, how we first got started. And then she brought in her husband. But eventually as we wanted more, you know, we also created a referral system internally for people that they trusted that they could bring in, and that worked up to a certain point until we needed actually more employees than they could find for us.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean it’s now, I have to say, we just recently brought on like a recruiting HR person. So they’re in charge of building out your own applicant tracking system. And this is a – Anthony’s laughing because this is like a huge hire for me. Like I was really excited about it because I spent like a ton of my time doing interviews for new hires, and, but yeah, I mean she’s been amazing. And I think one of the really interesting things is that like I think a lot of people would just kind of go to Upwork or OnlineJobs because it’s really easy. You make a post, and then, you know, you get a ton of like submissions, and then you kind of choose. But I think one of the big changes we made maybe like eight months ago was actually treating hires overseas, like in terms of recruiting, the exact same way as if they were like a US hire, and so investing the same amount of time, same amount of interviews, like the same type of process in terms of, you know, doing like quick phone screenings, actually like a reaching – doing like kind of outbound or outreach like [unintelligible 0:17:33.9], maybe taking out a job [unintelligible 0:17:36.3] the need to like really investing the time because we’ve made some like incredible, incredible hires overseas. And like now we’re just kind of like raising that bar in terms of like I think in the beginning it was just like oh, we’re going to pay them like$4.00 an hour. It’s like fine. Like, they’re smart enough. But now we’re kind of holding out, like especially for like these like really like crucial roles to our organization, like inventory planning, we wanted to make sure that we had like the best, like the smartest person that we possibly can in this specific role because it’s such a crucial part to our business.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Yeah.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Who was that last hire you had? What was like her background? The one for inventory planning?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Well, it’s a guy.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Or a guy, yeah.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean he came from like the Harvard of the Philippines, was like in charge of inventory planning for like a grocery store with like, I don’t know, a 98% like confidence interval. I mean it was just like way more sophisticated than what we had been doing in the past. Like his spreadsheets right now are so beautiful, like I kind of – I tear up a little bit. It’s really nice.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
That’s awesome. Yeah, so making the right hire sounds like definitely has been part of your success. But I’m also wondering how, especially with teams like overseas, how do you guys motivate your teams and ensure like a standard of quality for your work that your employees are doing?

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I mean I think one of the important things is – I mean first off, you know, I think you have to be clear on the KPIs. You have to be clear about what you – what their goals are for their role and how you measure them by. You know we implemented this thing called OKRs, which is something that Google has implemented. So it’s objective key results, and it basically – it’s set from the top down. So you know, you set an objective key results for the company as a whole, and it kind of cascades down across each department. And they have something that kind of goes into that, you know, key result. So you want to make sure everyone is aligned. But I think on top of that, I think, you know, one of the main things that helps people when they’re working on a team is seeing the level of work of the other people they’re working with, right? So you know, we want to make sure that like every person when they come on, that they’re working a team. But also they want – we want to make sure that the team members that they’re working with have, you know, produce high-level and high-quality work. And I think that’s really important because then they’ll realize that they’re accountable to people who really depend on their work. And you know, all their peers are really producing and performing well, and it becomes exciting because everyone is really caring about what they’re producing, and everyone feels like they’re elevated to their highest ability, if that makes sense.
So I think making sure that you have that team environment, making sure that they’re collaborating with one another, is really important. And when you hire the right people they enjoy working with other top-tier people. And I think, you know, that’s something that we don’t necessarily have to be involved in day-to-day. They’re just aware of it because they see the level of work that’s produced.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
One other aspect of like motivation I would say is like really – is like the kind of communication and having them fully integrated. I mean like we hear of like a lot of other sellers will kind of refer to their team as kind of VAs, and like you know they’re kind of like part time. They’re looking for a bunch of different companies. I think our approach is a little bit different, where we bring people on like full-time onto like our staff. They’re included in all of our communication. They have their own email. They have like, you know, kind of welcome training. They have like a buddy. Like I mean they’re – they’re just really well-integrated into our team. Like the same kind of red carpet, if you will, as if they were like here in LA with us. And I think that is like a really big kind of like mindset shift for them is that, you know, we’re paying them every two weeks like we would pay employees here, and like we’re really just investing in them. We’ll pay for monitors and like technical equipment that they need. Like we really want to make sure that they feel included. And then so that as the team grows and it becomes like more and more distributed, that they are always feeling like they’re like really a part of it. And part of the responsibility for our new like HR and recruiting team is to build out like kind of teambuilding and different types of kind of ways of building [unintelligible 0:21:49.4] for a team that’s like scattered all across the world.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
And then just to add onto that, my little tidbit is like me and my team, we use a lot of – we use this Google Chrome extension called Loom, L-o-o-m, and basically it records your screen, and it records you talking at the same time. So like whenever like I’m trying to explain things, or someone on our team is trying to explain things, explains or explained their question, like it’s feels a little bit more personable. Just like seeing someone’s mouse move across the screen, and you see like their face talking as they answer questions. And that’s how like we relate and send a lot of messages back to each other, especially if they’re long. And my team, like we don’t always enjoy – well, I don’t enjoy typing a lot of times, so I enjoy making like these videos. So I’m like okay, like this is how you do this and that, and then they’ll like create out like the SOPs and everything. But when I’m making those videos I try to be a little bit more enthusiastic and happy, and I’ll just like maybe tell them like one tidbit about like me, or like I’ll tell them like hey, you’re doing a good job on this, like just some quick feedback because I think in a very virtual setting you don’t always get that much of like an intimate setting because some of my team members, like most of the time we just like talk through like Slack. And we don’t always like hop on voice calls. Like I’ll go on like maybe – there are some people on my team I haven’t like talked to like on Skype via voice call in maybe like two months or so. Some people are just Slack. So I just try to be more intimate and personal whenever possible, just in like a virtual team environment.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Yep.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Fernando and Nick, for your people in the US, do you guys have an office, or are they remote as well?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, so we do have an office here in LA. So four of us work here regularly. One person kind of comes in and out, kind of our developer that’s building like all our internal tools. But yeah, for the most part we are here in LA.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. So I imagine you guys have made mistakes in the hiring process. I know we have at Viral Launch.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
No, we have 100%.

CASEY GAUSS:
What are some of those – what are some of those mistakes, if you want to share? And then like what have you learned from that?

NICK YOUNG:
That’s a great question.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. So one of the things that we recently added – so like I guess a mistake was not doing this, but we actually recently added like a case study into our process. So we kind of – Nick and I will sit down. We’re like okay, we’re going to hire an inventory like planner. Like okay, what do you think is like the most difficult part? Maybe it’s like the forecasting and managing so many SKUs. So we will come up with a case study, like specifically like using like our own a data, and we’ll just like kind of export it out. And then like here’s an issue where we like kind of ran out of stock, and then just see like how they would like plan it. So we’d send them like a bunch of raw data with like a quick like Word doc just saying like hey, you know, here’s the situation for this SKU, like how would you handle it based on like, you know, here’s your production time, here’s your lead time, like all that kind of stuff. And then we see what they send back in terms of like kind of a report on our analysis. And then in the next interview we actually have them like walk through it. And then so we’ll ask questions that were both on that assignment, and then other, like other questions that were not included there, just to see like their critical thinking and like their understanding of the subject. And I think you could do that pretty much for any role that I’ve seen, that we ‘ve – at least that we’ve hired so far. And I think that’s been like probably one of the best ways that we can just see like where people, like where their understanding is of the subject matter before even going through like a lot of the, of like the personality and culture like parts of the interview.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. So have you guys had to let people go then?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, yeah, definitely.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I mean, you know, we’ve had to let some people go, for sure, and that’s always not fun. I think if someone is, you know, remote it’s definitely, you know, a little easier than doing it in person. We’ve done both. But yeah, I would say, you know, ultimately it comes down to performance, and I think we’re always very clear about performance. I mean, I know Fernando and I, we always make sure to communicate exactly what it is that we’re looking from them and where they’re missing the mark. And then what we do is we actually create a performance plan. So we’ll say look, you have like 30 days. Or you know, let’s say 60 days. These are the things that, you know, we’ve been asking for and we haven’t gotten from you. And I need you to create steps to figure out how you’re going to, you know, fix this problem. And so you know, it gives, you know, employees opportunity to figure it out. And they know that their job is on the line. And I think sometimes, you know it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gives them exactly the fire that they need under their butt to realize okay, crap, like I have been underperforming. I need to figure it out. And in other instances it just makes it clear, if they don’t fix it, that that’s exactly like why we’re letting them go. So I think, you know, having that clear communication has always been kind of the foundation of how we work with employees so that they fully understand where they stand with us. And we always – you know, well we try our best. I would say, you know, it’s hard to deal with this, but we try to do like quarterly reviews with our team members, and if not quarterly, then we do it semiannually, for sure.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
So can you talk about what the advantage is to having like a team as opposed to kind of like a scattered network of freelancers and how you feel that has like given your business a competitive advantage?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, so I mean I think it really depends on the stage that you’re at. I think in the beginning like a scattered team of freelancers can work. But I think the competitive advantage of having like a dedicated team, at least in my opinion, is that people are going to start taking more ownership. I think naturally if you’re like a freelancer then you’re a little bit less invested in any one company because you’re spreading time with, you know, several companies. And I think for us having these like dedicated people that are like, you know, in charge of logistics or in charge of, you know, product selection, like they work with us closer. They’re like – they’re in all of our communication, and so in terms of like being able to step up and take ownership, that I don’t know if we would get as much with like a freelancer. For instance, we made a hire that was in charge of like all of our systems, and she came in and put together like all of our supply chain from like our purchase orders, to our orders in production, and to like our shipment monitoring and then tied it all the way into finance, all in a software called like Ragic, all from scratch. But like she was able to do it really quickly, like within a month, without me being as involved because we had someone that was in charge of all the purchase orders. We had one person that was in charge of logistics. So she was able to like do one-on-ones with them. They’re all internal. And then to kind of brainstorm, like okay, well how does this need to look? Like where are the sticking points like right now, and then being able to put that all together within 30 days just because we had internal people that like had invested interest in this process being smoother.

NICK YOUNG:
Right. And you know, Anthony mentioned The 4-Hour Work Week. You know, that’s also been super influential for me and Fernando. And I think realistically, like having a team of freelancers, I think it makes it more difficult for your business to exist outside of you. You know, it’s always going to be centralized. You’re always going to be the body that knows the most about your business. And I think, you know, for me and Fernando I can probably – I mean I’m sure Fernando can say this as well, but like there are parts of our business that we don’t know like how it happens, but it does happen, and I think it’s because we have people in charge of making those things happen. You know, we’re focused on the results, and we have the key indicators that tell us if something isn’t working. But ultimately it falls on those people. And so, you know, if we’re training someone and they come into business, having a team allows, you know, there to be multiple experts within the company that people can learn from. And so I can easily just say hey, talk to this person, talk to that person, and they’ll be able to get that body of knowledge without us having to be directly involved. And I think that’s kind of the efficacy of having, you know, something that exists outside of you as the entrepreneur and the business owner. And I think it allows it to kind of organically grow and [breathe 0:30:27.1] outside of you.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, and then for me, I guess my favorite thing is there is all this stuff – I feel like – I don’t know of this is like a real phrase or not, but I like to always say that I’m a first time entrepreneur. So this is my first time running my own business, like really like handling like everything, making all these hiring decisions. But in terms of like perspective of like running a business, I’ve never done it prior to this point. And after meeting with Nick and Fernando I realized like okay, like to get to where they’re at versus where I’m at, it’s like they had like department heads, and it’s like okay, like I don’t have that in my business. So that’s like, you know, along the way, like as a smaller seller, I’m like okay, like these are things that I’m happy that I know like are on kind of like a roadmap to do. So just like having department heads, having full-time hires, like for the exact reasons that they were talking about. But it wasn’t until I like really met them and started networking with other sellers that were bigger than me that I realized that these were like the moves that you need to make in order to like 10 X your business, really. And that was like one of the biggest like mantras for me, you know, just like their whole hiring process is like really, really in depth compared to like mine. I know for like some of their like hires they’ll go like what do you guys do like 20, 25 interviews? Like when they told me that, when Fernando told me that, I was like what? I was like 20 to 25 interviews? And then so I’ve been with like Nick and Fernando like for the past three months. And like all at the , time like from the outside looking in it’s like they’re always like on – they’re always on like a hiring call like every single day. They’re always trying to hire like this other person, or they’re trying to find like the perfect candidate. And that brings me back to like what they were saying about like building like the A team, right?

When I’m hiring people what I’m currently doing is like I’ll look at – you know, I’ll get the applicants from like Upwork or OnlineJobs.ph, and I’ll like kind of choose like the top five, and I’ll narrow it down. Like I’ll interview like those guys, and I’ll just like pick the best out of that. But I feel like I don’t dive down as much as like they do in their business to like find like the exact perfect hire that’s, you know, for like say their supply chains, like you know, someone who’s like managed like grocery stores and like make sure like bananas were always on the shelf, you know? Like for me it’s like okay, like this person is good enough. You know, I didn’t realize that – you know, and now like my perspective has changed to where it’s like I want like the best person, like, you know, like maybe you have to wait a little longer. And I’ve heard multiple people say this, but you know, a bad hire is going to cost more than a good hire.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Right.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
So you know, like invest that money into like – and what they also do is like besides OnlineJobs, you know, sometimes they would use like LinkedIn from what I understand, or like their referral networks. Some of my other friends, you know, like Facebook ads, or they’ll like go find like Facebook groups, like specifically for certain positions. And for me, like I just don’t go that far out of my way to really find the perfect hires. And that’s why like I’m excited that they got an HR person because I know like a day in and day out they’re always like on all these different calls. So like I know like how impactful – like I never really realized how impactful an HR department or team was until like just like hearing about all this. I was like oh man, it makes like such the biggest difference, especially with like you can free up so much time like figuring out like which candidates to like just hop on a call with versus like screening like, you know, 20 people, like and they can really help with that stuff.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I didn’t realize the importance of that until five days ago when she started. Yeah, I mean, you know, Fernando has been saying that we need to do it, and I was like I’m not sure. And then she went on and she did this awesome thing where she implemented like a – what’s it called?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
BirthdayBot?

NICK YOUNG:
No, no. Well, that’s cool, the BirthdayBot, but implemented this tool that basically pulls all of our employees of like their satisfaction and different degrees of, you know, parts of their business like autonomy and ambassadorship or whatever. And then it was really cool to see it. So everyone responded, and they’re all anonymous feedback. And so it was really cool to see that like
everyone was really happy with their jobs, you know, and to see that like everyone, you know, felt like everyone else was talented. I mean, it kind of confirmed like our initial, you know, belief and I guess what we had inferred from our experience that like we were going the right route. But to be able to see that and have a pulse on the company and to realize that like hey, you know, what we’re doing is working really, really was helpful and impactful. So yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
What is the birthday thing?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, it’s like a – so now we get notifications like for everybody’s birthing on the team. So we can do some kind of celebration thing, or if they’re maybe overseas we can do some like, some kind of like gift or, you know, something like to just, to acknowledge like hey, it’s your birthday, you know?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, a little thanks.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
And it’s all automated, which is really nice because it’s all through Slack.

CASEY GAUSS:
So as you guys start hiring like logistics people, HR, I imagine some of them you aren’t as comfortable in or have less knowledge, so how do you properly – this is something that I’ve been experiencing, so we’ve just started hiring at the director levels. We just hired a Director of Engineering, Director of Marketing, Director of Customer Success, Director of Product, like all these positions that, you know, I don’t have that much experience in. So I don’t know what the ideal candidate looks like. Have you guys run into this, and if so, how do you get over that to then finally making that hiring decision?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Well, I – just from the outside looking in – I asked Fernando this like the other week. And I was like how do you like hire for like – how do you know they’re a good supply-chain person? And he says like when he screens all of them, like he learns from like each interview, you know? So he picked up different tidbits on like what each person, each candidate like has done in like experience, and then also like you look up some stuff on your own, but usually he can kind of like get a lot from the interviews from what I understand.

NICK YOUNG:
I think that’s always constantly a challenge, for sure. I mean I definitely think it’s something we rub up against for sure, especially for senior hires. Like how do you know if you’ve never done it before? I mean, I think one of the things that, you know, we really try doing a better job of is getting advisors, so people who are really excellent at what they do in a specific role at a company we admire. And so now, you know, we realize like the value it adds is great, and we’ll regularly get dinners with them. And we’ll also include them in part of our hiring process if it’s a major role. So I think, you know, to leverage their expertise is great because they understand what we’re looking for. They know us, and they’re willing to lend their expertise in terms of, you know, whether they think this person is credible or not.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, I mean two other things. I guess one is kind of like a feeling. Like if it’s – yeah, someone that’s really crucial to the business like a director, you know, like you’re paying like a higher salary, all that kind of stuff, I think about after, like after the interview how do I feel? Like I’m not like really excited about this like person joining because I know that they can like quickly, you know, if you have like a good Director of Marketing, like they will pay for themselves and like and more like, you know, within their first like let’s say six months. And so if I have that like feeling this person really knows like their stuff, then like I think that’s one big piece. And then the second piece is we’ll find a friend that’s in like a similar role, so like again like the Director of Marketing, or like a VP of Marketing at another kind of consumer products company and ask them to do the interview. And I think that’s been really helpful. Like I know for us like finance is like something we like understand but we’re not like as technical as someone who is a Director of Finance. So we’ll ask one of our friends that’s in that specific role to do the technical interview for us. And that’s been really, really helpful in terms of asking questions we would have never thought of.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Can you walk us through what your typical hiring process is, everywhere from where are you putting out these job postings? Okay, someone puts in their resume. What do you do there, all the way up to okay, now it’s day one, day two at the company?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. So this process has been really interesting especially since we’ve had a recruiting person for all of like 10 days now. But basically so now all the candidates are coming through actually are Airtable where they fill out like a pretty long survey, which is –

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Tell them what Airtable is.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Huh?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Tell them what Airtable is.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Oh, so Airtable is like this really cool platform. It’s kind of like a really powerful Excel that can pull from different like, different areas. But we use it both for like our analytics of our products so we can see like our weekly profitability, but it also has like other kind of templated forms that can – kind of similar to like kind of Google surveys and stuff like that. But it makes it really easy for a candidate to upload their resume, you know, include their Skype, like you know, where they’re located. You can have them like answer specific questions related to their job so that you just see like do they really – are they actually putting time in to fill out this like application for us or not really. And versus like OnlineJobs you can kind of just like click, copy and paste your normal paragraph and then submit and then move on to the next application. But yeah, I mean in terms of like okay, so where we’re gathering the applications is for sure OnlineJobs. We’ll do outbound outreach through LinkedIn. We just started doing kind of like Facebook where it’s kind of like what Anthony was mentioning. If there’s like a specific type of Facebook group for that, you know, particular industry or like type of role.

And then I would say that’s pretty much it. We’ve tested – we tested ZipRecruiter and like a little bit of LinkedIn ads. But like, but those main three, OnlineJobs, outbound outreach and then Facebook groups have been like the best like ROI so far in terms of like time spent. And then so now as a – now that we have the full-time recruiting person, that we’ll have a meeting with her before and to get like all the job recs, like what is the most important parts of the role, like what are the hours they’re going to need to work, like what are the main things that we’re looking for. And then she’ll actually do all the resume screening and the first round of phone screening for all of our candidates. And then those kind of finalist candidates will get passed on to Nick or I, depending on which department it is or to the department head, I guess. And then it will go through that kind of like gauntlet of like talking to the department head, then talking to Nick, and then to me. And then if it’s like a really important role or one that we’re not as comfortable hiring completely on our own, then they’ll also go through a technical round with a friend of ours.

CASEY GAUSS:
Nice. Do you guys look at references at all?

FERNANDO CRUZ:
We used to. We kind of stopped to be honest.

NICK YOUNG:
I think it depends. You know, I think in the Philippines, like it was overseas. I don’t think it really works well, to be honest, because I think just culture-wise, you know, they tend to be very, you know, non-confrontational, so you know, they’re going to be nice no matter what, you know? I think overseas is hard to really understand that reference thing. But I think if it’s in the US, yeah, I think we’ll definitely call references, especially since there’s more on the line. You know you’re paying them a salary. We’re based in California, so we have to pay a lot of taxes and that kind of stuff. And I think also when you’re screening references in the US, you know, you can have a more in-depth conversation with them and really dig into their experiences. And if it’s anything less than an A+ then that’s kind of a red flag, you know, because naturally they’re going to choose people, you know, who are going to be in their best favor. So we’re looking for any reason why, you know, the person might not be giving them a full-fledged recommendation.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah. Actually one of the things that we do is kind of like a top grading kind of tactic that I recently learned about, which is, again, for US hires we will mention in the first interview that we will be checking references. And like the theory behind it is that if you kind of mention that like at the beginning of the interview, then they call it like truth serum where that candidate is much more likely, since you kind of set that ground-floor, like okay, we’re going to be checking references and validating things that you said, that they are more likely to tell the truth in the interview versus if you didn’t –

BECCA LONGENECKER:
If you could do anything differently, if you could go back and do anything differently would you? And then also, who would you recommend – for like FBA sellers – who would you recommend build a team? I’m thinking like for some of our newer sellers who are listening who might be thinking like this is something for them later. Yeah, what kind of person?

NICK YOUNG:
To hire?

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
Yeah, I think, I mean the first hire, in my opinion, should be like an admin person. Once you get to the point where you know your time could be better spent elsewhere and you are bringing in income, it does make a lot of sense, in my opinion, to get that first hire to do your admin stuff, kind of like what we were saying earlier about like customer service, following up on reviews, things like that. But in terms of like if I had to start over and like really do this whole process again, like what would I do and what I? So if I could start over, yes, I would totally love that cheat code. And based on like what I know now, but basically like the biggest thing would be to find mentors, right? Just find people bigger than you because like for me – I always say this, but there’s things you know. There’s things you know you don’t know, and then the biggest part of this whole pie is the stuff you don’t know you don’t know. And like the last like three months for me have just like been like tapping into the stuff that I don’t know that I don’t know. And like in terms of like, you know, businesses having like advisors, like I knew that was like a thing, but I just didn’t think like people in the Amazon business like started doing that really because the sellers I felt like I was surrounding myself with didn’t think on that level. So it also kind of depends on what your goals are, right? So if you want to get to a certain mark, find sellers that are already at that mark because then he can really just like, you know, just dissect like what they did to get there and like – you know, people don’t mind like giving advice. And it’s cool for, I think, other sellers to like really reflect back on their journey and really understand like hey, these are like some pivotal moves that like got me to this point, or like this is what’s really working in my business, you know?

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Right.

ANTHONY BUI-TRAN:
So that’s what I think, yeah.
NICK YOUNG:
Yeah, I think for us like I mean ultimately I’m a firm believer that, you know, you have to go through an experience to really learn from it, and you know, you have to have moments of crisis in order to recover and just be stronger. So I mean I think if I could change things I would definitely like do that. That would be awesome. But I’m really grateful for those experiences. But I would think probably the main thing I would hone in on is know your numbers and really understanding like on a per SKU basis how much money you’re making or losing after ads, after all of the fees because I don’t think a lot of sellers look at that. They’re just looking at the top line revenue, and that’s something that we were focused on for a long time, and I think it – you know, it really put us in crisis point where we just weren’t able to manage our cash flow effectively, and we had to kind of work ourselves out of that hole.

And so I think having clear direct numbers around what, you know, what, you know, what guidelines you’re going to set to say okay, I’m going to keep this product or I’m going to let go of the product, and being really stringent about that. I think people get too married to a product, and we definitely had that. And then ultimately it ends up bringing your business down because you’re not managing your cash flow effectively. You know, those SKUs are taking up a lot of cash for you to keep up. But you’re really not making much money. So learning to let go of those bad products and reinvest into the good ones, and ultimately I think that’s, you know, that’s something that I wish we had done earlier. But you know, I think, again, without going through that experience we wouldn’t have known.

FERNANDO CRUZ:
Yeah, and I guess to reiterate kind of points that we made earlier, I guess if I were to do things differently I would hold our like overseas team, like in terms of the interviewing process at a higher standard, like you know looking at them like as if they should be like equal or not more talented in this specific area than me or than who I would have hired in the US because I think that has elevated like the average ability of our team, and I think that was like a really big thing. And then also just like learning to delegate like earlier. I think yeah, we kind of held onto like certain tasks, like oh you know, this is too important, or you know, inventory planning, like you know, it’s too – like we can’t be out of stock. We need to like hold onto this. And then like realizing that there was just people out there that are way better that have been doing this for years, and like this is like their dedicated focus versus like us trying to do everything and holding certain aspects of our business to our chest. I think those are probably the two things I would do differently. And then in terms of hires, like yeah, either for sure like the first one for me would either be like a customer support person or admin, or this kind of like jack of all trades that can handle that as one aspect, but can help with like, you know, finding new products and like handling asking for reviews and all that kind of stuff as part of – as like kind of like a right-hand person I would say.

NICK YOUNG:
Yeah. I think communication is going to be really key, especially if it’s like a remote person. So someone who is willing to, you know, speaks English really well or speaks your language really well, you know, is very – over-communicates rather than under-communicates. That’s going to be major because you know, you’re going to be sending them all this stuff. They’re going to have to ask questions. They’re also probably going to have to give you updates. You know, when you don’t see them in person there’s a lot of stuff that’s missing. So you know I think that jack of all trades or customer support person needs to be very, very proactive about communicating.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Well, thank you guys so much. That was so educational.

NICK YOUNG:
Thank you guys for having us.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
That’s all for this week. Thanks for joining us on Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information about how to grow your Amazon business, subscribe to the podcast and check us out on YouTube. We have tutorial videos for all of our tools, as well as webinars that go more in depth with pro tips for how to really get the most out of the tool.

CASEY GAUSS:
If you’re listening to us on iTunes don’t forget to leave a review and rate the show. If you’re an Amazon seller you know how difficult reviews can be, and you know how important and critical they can be to your success. Same is kind of true here on iTunes or wherever you’re listening to this, so we’d love it if you could leave us a comment if you’re listening on SoundCloud, leave a review if you’re listening on iTunes. Overall, we love feedback, and we’d love to know how we can improve the show for future episodes for you. And if you know a fellow seller who is trying to build their FBA business, tell them to check out this series and the rest of the Follow the Data episodes. We want to be a resource for sellers and the information source in the space, so please tell your friends, spread the word and share the data.

BECCA LONGENECKER:
Thanks again for listening, and as always if you want to be featured on the show, have an Amazon-related question or an idea for an episode, feel free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Are Amazon Reviews Going to Change? (Follow the Data Ep. 8)

Follow the Data Episode 8: Are Amazon Reviews Going to Change? 

Reviews can pose a huge threat to the success of new products, and getting legitimate reviews early on can be difficult. Will this barrier to entry stagnate the market and ruin the competitive environment that Amazon shoppers love? Join Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss and co-host Cameron Yoder as they speculate about the future of Amazon reviews.

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • If only you could get to 21 reviews! Then you could really compete. Check out this Seller Sessions video where Brad Moss talks briefly about the study that found conversion rates didn’t improve past 21 reviews.
  • LinkedIn uses a model that might work nicely for Amazon reviews in the future. Any connections you make over the 500-mark show up on your profile as 500+. Seems a bit of an unfair system for those of us who are extraordinarily popular or have really killer products. But check out some of the hidden benefits that having more than 500 reviews affords you.
  • Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program helps new products get their first 5 reviews and is available as part of their Brand Registry Program. Find out if you are eligible here.
  • Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 and tell us what you thought of the show. What do you think is in store for Amazon reviews?

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:
Reviews are the currency of the Amazon marketplace.

CAMERON YODER:
But is change to Amazon’s current review platform on its way? I’m Cameron Yoder.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I’m Casey Gauss, 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 25,000 product launches and our experience working with over 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, most importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CAMERON YODER:
Today’s episode is a bit different. We’re going to branch out a bit and talk more conceptually about Amazon’s current review system, how it currently works, potential impacts and flaws and changes that we think might be on the horizon. Let’s get started.

CAMERON YODER:
All right, Casey, so today’s episode is a little bit different. It’s not as data-driven, right, but it’s conceptual, and it’s important. So what are we talking about today?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, you know, in terms of data I would like to think that maybe the data has helped us to build the conceptual model around Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
I definitely think that the data has helped us to, anyways, build this theory. And so essentially the theory is that, you know, I think in somewhat the mid-term, the short- to mid-term we’re going to have to see Amazon make a systemic review change, and we’re not talking about, you know, not being able to get reviews from discounted promotions or anything small like that. I think –

CAMERON YODER:
Something much bigger.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so I’m pretty interested to hear what the feedback will be. I imagine something like this will be somewhat polarizing in terms of people seeing our view, as well as maybe a complete opposite view.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I imagine other people will have probably better thoughts than I do.

CAMERON YODER:
I mean we have – we’ll touch on this again at the end, but again, we have that phone number, and we’ll read the number out at the end of the episode. But if you have an opinion on this, then seriously feel free to call in and tell us what you think, or again, just ask any questions on what we’re going to go over. But first off –

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, please. I mean I’d love to hear people’s ideas and feedback because it can help us better lay out our product roadmap so that we’re making sure to help sellers in the best way possible or help us give better advice. So, anyways –

CAMERON YODER:
Exactly.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so let’s just jump into it. So just as a quick overview of the current review system, the current system, in how it works is essentially obviously someone buys a product.You are able to go and leave a review as a customer. Let’s – we’re talking from the perspective of a customer.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so these reviews accumulate. And so if you have 10 people review a product, or 10 people review a product, now it has 10 reviews, and the way that a rating is calculated, so a star rating is being shown, the way the rating is calculated is it takes into account recency, and it also takes into account whether or not a review is verified or unverified and puts together some amalgamation or some, you know, average rating, even though it’s not a straight average, rating of that product’s reviews. And so –

CAMERON YODER:
Do we have data on how recent, how far back it goes?

CASEY GAUSS:
No, so we haven’t tried to, you know, reverse engineer the algorithm of reviews, and I – theoretically I imagine it wouldn’t be very difficult to do. There’s just really, you know, no –

CAMERON YODER:
Not too much point?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, it’s not going to help us. I mean at the end of the day you need to have a great product that people want to leave good reviews on.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
We’re not trying to game reviews. That’s the last thing that we want to do here.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so there’s at least right now no point.

CAMERON YODER:
Well Casey, you touched on this a little bit. Just to get everyone in kind of on the whole picture of reviews, you can get reviews from someone buying a product on Amazon, right, but that all reviews on the platform might not be from people that have bought the product on Amazon. Explain that a little bit.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so unverified – so there’s this concept of unverified reviews, which is now there’s two different camps of unverified reviews. Essentially, one, let’s say you bought a product at Walmart and you want to leave a review on Amazon. You can. And that is an unverified review. It’s completely within Amazon’s terms of service, and they actually encourage it. I think the whole reason behind these unverified reviews is it was, especially when Amazon was a young platform, a way of them, you know, bootstrapping and accelerating their review system.

I mean that was one of their initial kind of advantages is they have this review system that buyers know and trust, and that social proof helps them to make better buying decisions in e-commerce, which, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago, which was a very, you know, different situation than it is now. The trust was very difficult that I’m buying something that I haven’t been able to see, you know, touch or feel. So I don’t know the quality. So now I have to trust in this social proof, or these reviews that other people are leaving. And so that’s what really helped to – that’s one thing that helped Amazon to grow.

But anyways, so a new product comes onto the platform. A new brand comes onto the platform that has maybe been doing well in traditional retail or something like that. Well now that brand can get their customers that are buying somewhere else to come leave reviews on Amazon’s platform. That helps Amazon out because now they have more reviews, more social proof around these products which are going to better drive sales, and then also that helps that brand out because, again, they’re going to drive more sales.

CAMERON YODER:
Because as a big brand it wouldn’t really make much sense to, if you have all this social attraction already, if you have all these reviews already, to not be able to bring them on with you. That would just not attract a lot of big sellers that already have those things in place. And so of course having those things in place is going to be able to encourage big brands to come onto Amazon if they’re not already.

CASEY GAUSS:
Right. And so from a buyer’s perspective reviews do two things. One, they act as an indicator of popularity. So buyers are not looking at a bestseller rank. They’re not browsing through the bestseller rank tree.

CAMERON YODER:
Looking at their reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
They’re looking at their reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:
So obviously if something has, let’s just say 10,000 reviews, well, at least 10,000 people had to have bought that. So it must be somewhat popular, right? And so versus a product that has 10 reviews. Well, it doesn’t look like as many people bought that. So it must not be popular. There may be some, or must be some reason that I am not aware of which is the reason why not as many people have bought it. Maybe it’s new and not as proven, or maybe it’s just not as good, or maybe people don’t trust the brand. So I am less inclined to go and trust it as well.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
So anyways, acts as an indicator of popularity, and then obviously acts as an indicator of quality. So you know a five-star product with a great number of reviews seems to be of good quality. A product with a two-star rating and a significant number of reviews seems to be a product of low-quality, so I’m less inclined to buy it. And so anyways, reviews, again, act as this form of social proof giving me confidence to buy the product. And so from the customer’s perspective that’s that. From the seller’s perspective, you know, we really see the data around reviews being the barrier to entry. There’s –

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
Okay, so this is a little tangent on a myth, but you know, there’s recently these articles coming around where Amazon, Amazon did this internal study and the magic number to reviews is 21, and so – I believe it’s 21.

CAMERON YODER:
Wait, 21 –

CASEY GAUSS:
Reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
What do you mean, to be successful?

CASEY GAUSS:
So yeah, so the myth is if you have – I think it’s 21. Please don’t quote me. It may be 22. It’s somewhere around there.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s like 20s, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so anyways, if a product has 21 reviews it is able to drive, you know, a significant number of sales. And so basically the myth was if a product had – I believe I saw this quote. Again, not verbatim, but if a product had five reviews but an average rating of 4.8 or something like that, it is less inclined to drive sales than a product with 22 reviews – it’s above that threshold – and an average rating of three stars, right?

CAMERON YODER:
Which doesn’t make sense.

CASEY GAUSS:
At least for me, no, it doesn’t.

CAMERON YODER:
Personally, same

CASEY GAUSS:
And again, looking at a bigger market where a product has 10,000 reviews and the other product has 22 reviews, I’m pretty sure that customers are going to treat these different. The reason why I feel this way is, again, because we have the data around it. We’ve put so many products up on page 1 that have like one review, zero reviews, 50 reviews, and everybody else has 10,000 reviews or 1000 reviews, whatever. They had this significantly high review quantity, and we see these, the people with smaller review quantities struggle to sell at market potential because they don’t have a competitive number of reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
The thing is we don’t know this study, right? So we don’t know what variables did they isolate? Which variables did they not take into account? Are these on, you know, products that aren’t ranking, or you know, maybe they are ranking in a small niche. You know, I have no idea. Or they’re highly-dependent on, you know, some product that really pays attention to creatives. I have no idea, so. I didn’t see the study, which makes it hard for me to judge. I have, you know, we’ve run 25,000 launches, and we’ve seen this over and over. Are there extenuating cases? Are there corner cases in which products with low review quantities do well? Oh, of course, and are there ways to mitigate the difference between a product with high review quantity and low review quantity in terms of sales? Oh, of course.

With that from seller’s perspective the way you see reviews largely as one, as a barrier to entry in a market, two, as this thing that is so elusive as Amazon continues to make getting reviews more difficult, legitimately.

So yeah, so kind of just wanted to paint the picture there. Next, we kind of wanted to talk a little bit about flaws of this current system. And so if reviews are really the barrier to entry in a market, well, just as a function of time reviews are going to increase. So let’s say that, you know, just on average page 1 sellers have 1000 reviews,Well, 50 years down the road those products are, those people on page 1 for fish oil, assuming they maintain rank and people continue to buy fish oil, you know, let’s take out all these other variables that we don’t really need to account for for this example. Anyways, they will have 50,000 reviews. Let’s say on average the product gains 1000 reviews a year. Let’s just say. So 50 years from now you’ll have 51,000 reviews. And so if let’s say this brand-new formula for fish oil comes out –

CAMERON YODER:
It’s really good.

CASEY GAUSS:
It’s way better than everything else.

CAMERON YODER:
Fantastic.

CASEY GAUSS:
It’s also half the price, but you launch it on Amazon, and Let’s say I get on page 1 and I have three reviews. And everybody else has 51,000 reviews and they have just as good a rating, or …

CAMERON YODER:
Put yourself – put yourself in that situation. If you’re buying that fish oil, which one are you going to buy? Which one?

CASEY GAUSS:
You know, everybody’s fish oil says it’s amazing, and you know, says it’s the best, the highest-quality, blah, blah, blah.

CAMERON YODER:
Oh, but shoot, 50,000 people have left a review on this one, on average.

CASEY GAUSS:
And here you are with 50 reviews claiming to be a much better version blah, blah, blah. No, no one’s going to trust you because the social proof is saying that these other guys are better. And so this is a problem because it creates stale markets, and especially over time the problem just continues to amplify.

And so there has to be some method that allows new products to break into the market and compete well. And because you just stifle competition, or let’s say everybody kind of starts to decrease the quality of their fish oil to save on margin. Well, they still have 48,000 or whatever, reviews that have that good rating, and yeah, Amazon does take into account recency. But again, these guys have 50-some thousand reviews that are helping to boost that rating. I don’t know, I just think that there’s so many possible scenarios, and all of them lead to this problem of stale markets because review quantity is a major decision-maker in people buying a product.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, and it’s like if you – that’s from a buyer’s perspective, too, but from a seller’s perspective if you are – if you are – this is another perspective to look at – if you’re a seller and you’re selling that fish oil that has 50,000 reviews you’re probably not going to want to re-enter another product into that market because you’re, I mean in a sense you’re kind of trapped.

It’s a good trapped because you’re making a ton of money because you’re locked in at 50,000 reviews, but you don’t want to refresh or do anything that would have you release a new product into that same fish oil market, for example, and all of a sudden you don’t have access to those reviews – like if you release another SKU into that market. You might be trapped into the markets, into the current markets that you’re selling in because of those extremely high review quantities.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and you know, I could see – there’s probably a million things I can’t even imagine that would happen here, you know. I could definitely see in some markets like the beauty space, I could see one or two brands just going and buying all the private label brands just so that they can dominate page 1 because okay, I mean we’re already seeing it in some of these highly-competitive markets where these guys have just thousands and thousands of reviews. And it’s tough for new brands to come up.

And so if you had two – two companies go and buy, you know, 50% each of the top selling brands in the third-party beauty space right now or private-label beauty space, these guys would essentially own beauty on Amazon and make it extremely difficult for any new sellers to come into the market. And I, again, I just think that competition is what has made Amazon so great. And you’re really decreasing the ability for new competition to come in.

Actually one last flaw – sorry, that I didn’t mention –

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
– is basically because of the current state of the review system, one, it’s so difficult to get, but two, it is, in a lot of markets the currency to doing well or selling at market potential. People, sellers are going to these black hat methods of driving reviews, and generally in this kind of scenario it’s really just an arms race of, hey, there’s a new tactic of getting around reviews and being able to drive black hat reviews. So then Amazon is just incentivized to figure out that tactic and then put some safeguard in place. I mean it’s anything with internet security you build a wall, and then someone builds a bigger ladder, and then you build a bigger wall, and then they build a bigger ladder, or they find a crack in that wall, you patch it, and then they find another crack, and then they patch it, and so it’s this arms race. And then on the consumer side it’s leading to reviews that you cannot trust. And so it’s crazy. I don’t think that there’s one end all solution for that. I think that’s just a feature or function of any kind of market.

CAMERON YODER:
So okay, we’ve kind of broken down what the current system is and how it is impacting everything right now and its potential for impact even a couple years down the line. But, Casey, what do you think is going to change? Like what – if this would continue, obviously the effects would be crazy, just crazy bad for sellers and buyers, I think, as a whole and just the market as a whole. So what do you think is going to change? Based on what we’ve seen, based on the data that we have and based on this prediction of the future, what do you think is going to change?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, great question. So going to what we see as potential fixes or solutions, you know really I think that the biggest one is I would expect Amazon to move to a rolling 12-day review quantity.

CAMERON YODER:
12 days?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh, sorry, no, no, no. Sorry, I got that from 12 months because they do that already. So thanks, Cam.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s a quick review turnaround.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, no, I would have kept going. So I – 12 days, wow.

CASEY GAUSS:
The voice of reason over here. No, so I think that what we would see is, you know, let’s say a review was left on December 31st at, in 2016. Well, December 31, 2017 that review is gone, but any new reviews left that day. So it will be a rolling 12 months, and kind of the reason behind that – so some other possibilities is Amazon could go to kind of LinkedIn’s style and say oh, you have 1000 – this product has 1000+ reviews. So if you have 50,000 reviews, still at 1000+ reviews. And that way basically I think that that would potentially be a good indicator because essentially what that’s saying is 1000+ people have verified that the review rating is just, is correct, and you will like this as well.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think that would be cut off at 1000, or not necessarily?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh, some number around 1000. Maybe 1000 is fairly arbitrary, but I think –

CAMERON YODER:
Sure.

CASEY GAUSS:
Just from my –

CAMERON YODER:
Just generally a large number.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, generally a large number and yeah, so LinkedIn does, if you have 500+ connections I imagine they did some math around average connection – I have no idea what the math was, but they went and looked at the data and came up with that. I don’t think 21 is like, yeah, 21+ reviews. I don’t think so. Anyways, or again, they could go to the rolling 12 months. And the reason for my suspicion in the rolling 12 months is simply because they’re already doing that with seller feedback. And so they’ll show lifetime feedback, but they’ll show feedback over the last 30 days, 90 days and 12 months.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. So here’s kind of another question then. Do you think, so the rolling 12, again, do you think that those reviews, the value of those reviews will still stay in the system, or do you think they’ll be wiped completely clean?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, that’s a good question. Maybe they’ll have a lifetime, but I just really think that on the listing, especially in the search results, you have to show a lower quantity because as it accumulates that’s how people are making decisions to go click into a listing.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
So they’re not even starting a session. If you have 20 reviews and everybody else has 5000 you’re not even going to get the session count a lot of the time because people are not willing to, you know, even look into it. They’re not even considering it.

So yeah, to answer your question, I’m not exactly sure. I think it would potentially – I don’t know. I think it would be potentially cool to have, you know, lifetime review quantity. But it could potentially also be misleading.

CAMERON YODER:
It would be – it would be very interesting to, let’s say this was implemented, to track how many reviews people on page 1 in big markets have and how many reviews would be dropped, right, because I mean sometimes sellers tend to have these huge influxes of reviews, which would then be wiped clean after a certain period of time passes. And so whether it’s – I mean whether it’s black hats or non-black hat activity that gets those reviews, people that have gained a significant number would have potentially, potentially, would have those numbers wiped out clean from those big, big groups or.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I actually like the – now that we’re talking about it I think I actually like the 1000+ kind of idea –

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
– because like, again, if someone is doing some black hat activity around generating reviews, well again, in 12 months maybe they go get –

CAMERON YODER:
More.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, 30,000 reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, they can get more, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
This guy is so popular, blah, blah, blah.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s so hard to get reviews, especially when your reviews are wiped clean, and this guy has more.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s like –

CASEY GAUSS:
And I mean so right now let’s say it takes a long time to drive reviews over time for this smaller seller. You’ve been working for the last 12 months to get these reviews. You’re finally at 100 or something like that. Well, a lot of them are now being removed, and so you’ve got to keep up this pace and continue to accelerate it to stay above this mark that you’re at. I don’t know. I don’t know if I like that. Anyways, I think that that’s potential. I also think there is potential for Amazon removing unverified reviews as a concept –

CAMERON YODER:
Interesting.

CASEY GAUSS:
– or at least for products that weren’t purchased on Amazon. So I do think that we could see unverified reviews in a sense that hey, this was bought at a promotional price, so we know that the person actually bought it and they did leave a review, and the unverified reviews that come from people that haven’t bought the products, I could definitely see those being removed. Again, Amazon doesn’t necessarily need to bootstrap their review system anymore. They have –

CAMERON YODER:
Because they’re huge.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, they’re massive. And so I think there’s one, just inherent trust in Amazon as a place to buy products. And so a lot of people still think that you’re buying from Amazon, and they’re saying oh, I bought this from Amazon so I don’t think that, you know, reviews matter as much because I trust the Amazon experience. Anyways, that’s a little side tangent, but so – and I could easily – I just think that there’s a lot of problems that are arising in the black hat world coming from these unverified reviews. And so –

CAMERON YODER:
Well, it’s so hard. It is so hard for a company like Amazon, or anybody, to track black hat activity in some cases, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. Oh, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:
Instead of just trying to implement a system that tracks all black hat activity 100% accurately, this system, the system of the LinkedIn reviews would in a way kind of level that playing field and, in some cases, again, negate the effects of black hat activity, which I really like.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, exactly. And so let’s say you have some big brand that now wants to come list their products on Amazon. Well, just make an exception for those big brands. And so anyways I think you could just create an extenuating circumstance for those guys and allow them to come list some unverified reviews on Amazon to give some social proof and get things going.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think – here’s a random question. Casey, what do you think – do you think Amazon is going to take anything with the early reviewer program further? Do you think that’s a test for something down the line, or do you think they’re – it’s just an initial beginning number of reviews?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, a few thoughts there. One, I would love to see that because the early reviewer program, five reviews is not anything.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s not a lot, nope.

CASEY GAUSS:
I mean it’s better than nothing, but it’s not very much.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
Two, probably not looking at how they’ve handled the Vine program. Vine program is not very good. It’s very expensive. It’s just not a very good program.

CAMERON YODER:
No.

CASEY GAUSS:
And they haven’t done much to improve it. But then third is well, actually you know on the third-party side, especially for brand registry, they’re doing a lot. And they’re moving very, well, pretty quickly. And so I could see it happen because it seems like the team behind brand registry or however they divvy it up, they’re spending more time.

CAMERON YODER:
My mind just went to the inclusion of brand registry in future programs and how brand registry could be affected by a change in reviews. And that’s just where my thought went. But just was curious.

CASEY GAUSS:
Cool, guys. So yeah, next, just wanted to talk a little bit about what this means for you as a seller. So one interesting kind of notion, again, I’m not in the business of buying Amazon businesses, so I have limited perspective here. You know, I had no – I have some friends that buy Amazon businesses, and you know, I have talked to many people that have sold their Amazon businesses. And right now, you know, I kind of think that going back to the notion of review quantity being the barrier to entry and the way that the current review system is now, I feel like brands are a little undervalued, at least brands that have good review quantity are a little bit undervalued.

Again, looking at – let’s take some beauty brand that has good review quantity in, you know, for 20 different products. It’s very difficult to come up and get that same review quantity. And because they have the review quantity they’re selling well, which means they’re driving reviews faster than those who don’t. And so it’s this vicious cycle of these guys have good review quantity simply because they’ve been there longer than everybody else, and they’re ranking well, and they’re selling well. So they’re continuing to drive reviews faster, and basically they’re continuing to increase their barrier to entry. And that increase is accelerating day by day.

And so buying those brands that have that review quantity, if Amazon were to never make this systemic change that we’re talking about, that’s a major advantage that you get to have and continue to build on. And as more people come and buy from Amazon, you have this barrier to entry that people can’t overcome, and Amazon is automatically or, you know, they’re incentivized to drive more traffic to your listing just because they want more customers coming.

So I think that people are kind of undervaluing their Amazon businesses, and in these markets if you have a considerable review quantity it’s a hard decision to make, but I am kind of an advocate of you keeping your business for a little bit because I think it will continue to increase in value. With that said, though, if Amazon is going to make this systemic change in the next year, well now is the time to sell, given that, because the barrier to entry will be reduced quite significantly depending on how they, you know, roll out this systemic change. And assuming it does, but your barrier to entry or your competitive advantage will then decrease, making your brand less valuable than it is now, at least from my perspective, of course. And so just be aware of that when making decisions or plans for your kind of long term. Do you want to sell? If so, when? And just kind of know what’s going on there.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, hey, we want to thank you guys so much for tuning in again. Really, we so much appreciate you listening to this podcast, and of course we do this all for you. So if you really liked what you were hearing today or just any time at all, or if you have any questions –

CASEY GAUSS:
Or feedback –

CAMERON YODER:
– or feedback.

CASEY GAUSS:
– or have any or have any conflicting thoughts, thoughts on our thoughts, we just love hearing people’s perspective, so please share.

CAMERON YODER:
Please share, and let us know. You can write us at Facebook. You can call in. Our number is 317-721-6590. Drop us a voicemail. We would love, love, love to hear from you.

The Success Mindset and the Silver Bullet (Follow the Data Ep. 7)

Follow the Data Episode 7: The Success Mindset and the Silver Bullet

Many courses, gurus, and purportedly high-level sellers promote their latest tips and tricks as the way to find success as an Amazon seller. But is chasing after every Silver Bullet really benefitting your business? Join CEO Casey Gauss and co-host Cameron Yoder as they explore what sets the most successful sellers apart from the rest.

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Delegating tasks so that you can focus on your overall strategy is an important part of running a successful Amazon business. Check out The Entrepreneur’s 7 Rules for Entrepreneurs to Delegate Effectively
  • Don’t skimp on your product listing. Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, make sure you’re getting full keyword exposure. Follow our Lead Listing Specialist’s keyword research methods to ensure you’re getting all the relevant keywords for your product.
  • Just getting started as an Amazon Seller? Make sure you’re learning the basics. Here’s a quick rundown of Seller Central
  • Want to be on the show? We’re working on an episode that features you! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:

The idea that you can make quick money on Amazon is intoxicating, but many sellers misdirect their focus and don’t end up capitalizing on the incredible opportunity that Amazon provides.

CAMERON YODER:

In order to be truly successful you have to skillfully leverage your time and resources for maximum output.  I’m Cameron Yoder.

CASEY GAUSS:

And I’m Casey Gauss, 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 24,000 product launches in our experience working with 5500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon, and most importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CAMERON YODER:

In today’s episode we will examine the silver bullet mentality and the get rich quick language that have kind of saturated the Amazon seller community since its inception.  We’ll talk about how this preoccupation with the easy life can work to your advantage and to your disadvantage.

CASEY GAUSS:

Finally, we’ll discuss the mindset that sets the most successful sellers apart from the rest and how you can make your business more profitable by changing your business outlook.

CAMERON YODER:

We’re going to talk about something today that we’ve kind of touched on in previous episodes, which is this common mindset in the seller community that there is a “silver bullet” to success on Amazon.  So all right, Casey, what do we mean by the silver bullet?

CASEY GAUSS:

So the definition of silver bullet is a noun, something that acts as a magical weapon and solves a long-standing problem.  So really, you know, in the seller community everybody is looking for that magical weapon, that one thing that is going to skyrocket their business, and you know it’s kind of like this excuse to not do everything else well or to skimp on kind of everything else that they’re doing because they have that silver bullet or there will be that silver bullet.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s like a quick fix, right?  It’s like that next hack or that next quick fix that they’re looking for.

 

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, no, exactly.  And, you know, I – so I personally feel kind of lame sometimes when I go to these conferences and get up here and talk because what I preach is that there is no silver bullet, and really the thing that works the best is to just do everything really well.  Nobody wants to hear that.  Everybody wants that hack.  They want that silver bullet.

CAMERON YODER:

Because it’s not as sexy, right?  I mean some hacks just sound more sexy than others, than other things like oh, like honing in on your basics, right?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah.  Oh, you can double your business.  You can grow your business by, I don’t know, 50%, 30%, month-over-month if you just did this one thing.  And you know to be honest if that one thing, if we had to boil it down to one thing, that one thing is to just do everything well.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

Don’t cut any corners.

CAMERON YODER:

And honestly this mentality is not necessarily one that’s specific to Amazon.  Like this is not a new thing.  I mean pyramid schemes I guess are kind of maybe something like that, but in business in general this mentality has been present.  So it’s not a new concept.  It’s just kind of pervasive in the Amazon community.  But I’ll read the definition again.  I’ll read the definition.  So the definition again of a silver bullet is, again, something that acts as a magical weapon and solves a long-standing problem.  So Casey, in, relative to the Amazon community, what are some specific examples of what people would or might think of as silver bullets?

CASEY GAUSS:

I feel like generally the silver bullet is, you know, for any one particular seller the silver bullet is that thing that you’re not doing, right, because it’s so easy to see the grass as greener on the other side kind of, having that kind of mentality.  And so it’s like I bet if I did this thing then it would solve all my problems, double my business, blah blah blah, while in reality you’re having all these customer service issues, you’re having all these returns and your business is maybe downward spiraling or just not increasing in the capacity that you would expect.  So yeah, I mean increasing BSR is one, you know we’ve already talked about BSR.  We’ve already, you know, but that is definitely one area.  Everyone, so it’s something new all the time, and I think we’ve talked about this other podcasts as well.  So for a while the silver bullet was enhanced brand content, and then it was backend search terms.  And, you know it’s –

CAMERON YODER:

It changes.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, it’s always changing.  But the thing that isn’t changing, the thing that is going to be here to stay is the fact that if you’re not cutting corners you’re going to be doing so much better than cutting corners to get to that quick fix.  So you know, if you want to break it down to where are the areas that people are most often or most frequently cutting corners, that is in product photography.  So we see the most insane photos where people are just using their cousin’s aunt, or I don’t know, somebody

CASEY GAUSS:

Anyway, you’re looking, you know, for your Uncle Herb or something that has a camera to come shoot your stuff, or you are doing it with your iPhone.  Granted, yeah, iPhone cameras are great –

CAMERON YODER:

It’s not bad yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:

– but are they great for product photography?

CAMERON YODER:

No.

CASEY GAUSS:

No.  And as the bar, the standard of product photography continues to increase in your market the iPhone photos are going to work less and less.  So anyways, product photography, people are always cutting corners.  They’re always trying to Photoshop in some just terrible photo, some stock photos, and people just aren’t willing to spend the money there.  People aren’t willing to spend the time or the money in doing their keyword research, in building a great listing.  People are too willing to cut corners on product quality, like I have so many people that ask me all the time – it doesn’t matter if these sellers are doing $1000 a month or $20 million a year.  I promise you these guys are coming to me and saying, you know, let’s be honest, how important is product quality?  Do we need to test the samples, or are we just good to go?  And when you cut corners on product quality it’s going to come back and bite you.  It’s going to limit your ability to have long-term success because it doesn’t matter how much black hat activity you do for reviews.  You’re still going to be getting a ton of negative reviews from organic sales, and –

CAMERON YODER:

People will know.  Like people will know.

CASEY GAUSS:

People aren’t going to come back and buy your product.  They’re not going to recommend it to friends and family.  You know, nor are they – maybe they’ll return your product, and now you have higher returns, and maybe that listing gets shut down.  Whatever.  That is one area where people are cutting corners an insane amount: product quality.

People are always cutting corners when it comes to your review funnel, so not setting up a killer email follow-up sequence.  Like you have to spend time on these things.  If you’re like oh, reviews are just going to come.  If people like it, they’ll review it.  Well, now you’re putting yourself in a significantly worse position when it comes to competition because now your reviews aren’t going to be increasing as quickly as your competitors, meaning your competitors are driving more sales, and they’re getting a higher review percentage from those sales, putting you further and further behind.

And so there’s no hack.  There’s no this one thing that is going to significantly increase your sales, especially assuming that you’re not doing everything really well.  So yeah, you can run a promotion to get on page 1, but if you don’t have great photos your conversion rates are not going to be that great.  The number of people that click into your listing from search results isn’t going to be that great.  If you don’t have a great, well-composed listing backed by great keyword research, well when you run that promotion you’re not going to rank for nearly as many keywords.  You may have to give away more units to rank as well because maybe your main keyword isn’t in your title.  If you’re not putting in the time, it’s going to throw off literally all other elements of the Amazon selling journey.  And so cutting corners on literally any one element makes all other elements that much more difficult, making it that much more difficult for you to find this, you know, proverbial silver bullet to significantly increase your sales.  So it doesn’t matter if you’re on page 1 if you’re not doing everything else really, really well.

CAMERON YODER:

It sounds so backwards to suggest the basics when something sexy like a hack or a fix is so hot right now.  But honestly, it’s kind of sad that what isn’t being talked about or the advice that isn’t being given to people is to really hone in, as you said, hone in on the basics and just get them solidified as you expand your SKU count, right?  Like what’s being talked about right now, what the advice that being given is, is to focus on these hacks that are starting to pop up, when in reality – and this is why we talk about, why we mentioned it so much – but to focus on those basics.

CASEY GAUSS:

And really what the hacks do a lot of the time is – they may seem cool.  They may seem sexy, but a lot of the time you see hacks like helping you grow your business by 5%, 10%, maybe a little bit more.  Let’s say you’re selling $50,000 a month on Amazon.  Well, and you have five products.  Well, the fastest way to get to $100,000 is to launch five more products.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

And doing all those things really well.  And again, you know, I know that you don’t have that much time, but that means you need to build the process that includes adding people to your team or hiring VAs, whatever.  You need to build a process so that every product that comes through your system has no choice but to go through this process where no corners are cut, everything is done well.  And those corner cutters that may be getting away with it now, as more and more competition comes in more sophisticated players are going to come in and be competing against you, and these are people that will not be cutting corners, and that is going to put you at a serious disadvantage.

CAMERON YODER:

Being able to step back and say okay, what are the most important aspects of my business allows you – for each of your SKUs – allows you to really hone in on what’s important.  And like you said, when you make that plan for each of your products, then your focus is not tempted to shift towards those hacks or those cuts, but instead they’re shifted to solely focus on what’s important with each of your SKUs.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and going back to Cam’s earlier point, you know, why are the gurus or the people with audiences always talking about hacks?  It’s because if everybody just got up there and talked about the basics no one would listen, you know? Like we want to hear oh what’s this cool new thing that can help me grow my business?  That’s great, but I just feel like these gurus are so incentivized to put so much emphasis on them because the cooler their hack seems, the more people that are going to listen, the more it’s going to get shared, the more people are going to revere that course leader or whatever as this master of Amazon because they knew something that you didn’t.

CAMERON YODER:

Sometimes when sellers are looking for or implementing these hacks they’re not even necessarily like seeking to cut corners on everything.  They honestly believe that it will help improve their business, right, that it is worth the time – because again, it’s what everyone’s saying.  Everyone’s saying to focus on these things, on these subjects.  And so from a –I’m putting myself in the mind of a seller right now.  It’s like okay, well if this is my community and my community is telling me to do these things and I believe that each of them are selling well, then I want to do that, too, right?  And so I’m going to implement it myself because it’s what everyone else is saying to do.  But in reality, again, they’re kind of just going forward with these hacks without questioning them, without saying okay what’s really important here.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, for sure, you know at the end of the day the people – there’s thousands and thousands of people that take ASM or these other Amazon seller courses, and they don’t end up having success.  And the people that end up going on to have the greatest degrees of success are the people that are willing to, you know, really think about things for themselves, really try them, see what the data shows them from these tests and basically, you know, again, just distilling out what they hear down into these are things that actually work.  And kind of what Cam is talking about to another degree, one thing that’s really, really frustrating is in the Facebook groups it’s really the blind leading the blind, right?  So some –one thing that you don’t see is how much money or how successful these people giving you advice really are.  I’ve seen it a million times where someone is giving like just terrible advice, and then I go look at their account and they’re doing like, you know, $4000 a month, and this guy that he is giving the advice to is actually doing, you know, $20,000 a month, and they don’t understand kind of who has more experience in this area or who knows more than whom, and it just leads to bad decisions.  So now this guy that is doing $20,000 a month is taking advice from somebody who has significantly less experience and is probably going to go implement this bad tactic or this, whatever, go employ this bad advice.  And he doesn’t know it’s bad advice.  And he isn’t able to qualify who is giving that advice because there’s no indicator of that person’s success.

CAMERON YODER:

So let’s move on to another question.  Why are – why do you think sellers in general are really chasing after these hacks, these quick fixes, this silver bullet?  What do you think sellers are really after?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, to answer your question, sellers just want to have as much success as possible, and they’re looking for the quickest path to get there.  I mean I think we all are.

CAMERON YODER:

Makes sense.  Makes sense.

CASEY GAUSS:

You know, but I think if you take a step back it’s so easy to focus on how much – what is my revenue today, what is my revenue tomorrow, how can I make sure that I have more sales tomorrow?  And in reality what you have to think about is what is the quickest path, the shortest path to success in the long term?  So what is my goal really?  Is it to sell for $1 million?  Is it to sell for $10 million?  Is it to get into retail, to merge with this large CPG company and exit for $50 million, or maybe even nine figures?  Really you need to take that step back, really conceptualize where you want to go, really think about what are my dreams, what do I, in an ideal scenario, what am I able to achieve?  And I think a lot of the times people just sell themselves short for that quick buck.  They’re like, oh you know, if I do this thing I could probably go from $10,000 a month to $30,000 a month.  And in reality, like you need to be making those decisions that aren’t necessarily going to take you to $30,000 a month next month, but are going to set you up to do $1 million a month in a year, whatever.  You really need to be thinking about the long-term because if you’re always making these short term decisions, you’ll only get that short-term benefit.  And so –

CAMERON YODER:

You brought up a really good point about people’s dreams, people’s goals.  I don’t think that you as a seller should let someone else tell you what your goals or what your dreams are or should be, right?  I think that process should be something that you sit down or you take some time, at least some time to sit down and think about.  Again, as that is your solid base.  That is your foundation.  And as you come across different data, or different hacks, or different tips, then you can kind of apply them to okay, is this part of my goal?  Is this what I want to do?  And is it going to work, or is it a part of – again, is it a part of those basics, or is it taking away from those basics that are going to bring success for me?  So part of an answer I think to the silver bullet is analyzing – or part of that answer comes from analyzing sellers that have been successful, have had a lot of success and kind of breaking down why, I guess.  So Casey, you’ve been able to meet and just be with a lot of successful sellers in the space.  And so when you look at successful sellers in the Amazon space with the idea of a silver bullet, what do you see?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so just to give some light into some of our friends that are, you know, really successful guys, so a couple friends of mine, they’re brothers, they last year did just under $100 million on Amazon.  Outside of Amazon they actually do bigger numbers.

CAMERON YODER:

They’re killing it.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, it’s just insane.  They’re really young guys.  They’re actually under 30.  It’s just incredible.  And you know, my wife and I, we got the privilege of going to one of their weddings.  We get invited to kind of their big family events.  Another friend of mine, they do, last year I think it was just over $50 million across.  They have a few different accounts, and, you know, been to – he’s in Atlanta, been to like their version of SeaWorld or whatever, the biggest aquarium in the US.  Anyways, so we just get the opportunity to rub shoulders with some really, really big sellers.  And so yeah, plenty of guys that are in the like $20-$30 million range.  Not too many people make it outside of there from my experience so far.  But anyways, you know, again, these guys are really focused long-term, and I would say that possibly one of the areas that has allowed them to get to where they are the fastest is just having the framework in terms of the team structure in place to allow them to really scale.

You know, it’s very, very difficult if not impossible for a one-man shop to go to $50 million a year in sales on Amazon.  That’s so much inventory that you’re going to have to move.  And so these guys just have, they have it all down.  They have a very, very streamlined process of I’m going to launch this product.  Here are the people on my team that are handling each of these scenarios.  They’re outsourcing for various things that make sense, where again, they’re just focused on efficiency because doing that kind of volume you have to have, you know, the economics to make sense both from a time perspective and financially.  And again, these guys are also launching tons of products. So let’s say your maximum sales potential in a particular market is 1000 units a month.  And let’s say you’re at 800 units a month.  Well, you know, that’s pretty much there. That means it’s time to go focus on the next product.

So the time that it’s going to take you to go from 80% to 100% of maximum sales potential in a market is not worth the time.  You can take that same amount of time and go launch another product up to that 80%.  Again, should you settle for being in the middle?  No, but you should have a system in place that is designed to maximize sales for that product, based on that market’s potential and move on.  You should not, again, be spending your time focused on going from 80% to 100%.  That’s where people get caught up.  That’s where the big guys don’t worry about it so much.  Like they have the people in place that are focused on going from 80 to 100.  You need to be focused on the bigger picture, how many products can I launch, how quickly can I get them up and running, and how can I align my team and my team’s focus in like the entire products process or the whole launch process from going from nothing, from concept to launch?  That’s where you need to focus.  That’s where these big sellers are focused.

Again, they’re not cutting corners.  They’re not focused on the hacks.  You know, some of them have been involved in some black hat activity at some point, but really they realize that these are like, for the most part short-term solutions to these big problems, and again, you know, doing black hat stuff if you’re small and not doing it at scale, you may be getting away with it now, but if you’re doing it on 100 X more products or even 10 X more products, you’re – that significantly increases the likelihood of you getting caught.

CAMERON YODER:

Of course.  I think, Casey, I haven’t spent as much time with these guys as you have.  I have been able to spend a decent amount of time with successful just business people in general outside of Amazon, and some people in Amazon itself.  And from the perspective of the get rich quick mentality, I see a lot of people implementing the positive aspects of that mentality.  I mean there are positive and negative aspects to the get rich mentality, of course, and some of the positives that I see these successful people pushing or just naturally emphasizing are things like competition, or discipline, or innovation or speed.

CASEY GAUSS:

Or hustle.

CAMERON YODER:

Hustle.  Like hustling, these guys are implementing all of these things, and they are doubling down.  They look at what is bringing them success, and they double down on that.  Like they are very aware of themselves.  They’re very aware of what they’re capable of, what they’re not capable of, bringing people on to fill in those gaps, and then just doubling down on what’s bringing them profit.

CASEY GAUSS:

I agree.  A couple points, going back to previous questions, one area the people always cut corners on is design aesthetics.  You need, you absolutely need to have killer labels if you have labels on your product or packaging because it makes all the difference.  Go check out, you know, go check out some of the big supplements like testosterone boosters, stuff like that.  You will see Zhou Nutrition.  One, they rank for everything.  They’re absolutely killing it.  But they have incredible – their aesthetics are awesome.  There’s cohesion across their line so if someone goes and buys, you know, a neuro booster as well as a testosterone booster – or let’s say they go buy this testosterone booster.  They happen to buy Zhou’s, and they love it.  Well, when they go buy some other ancillary product or something that makes sense, or maybe it doesn’t make sense but it’s a supplement, and they see that same packaging like aesthetic, well they already love Zhou’s testosterone booster so now, yeah, they’re going to buy that.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s brand recognition.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And so anyways, the aesthetic is so critical.  You know, and again we’ve talked about this before.  It’s easy to think that yours is good because, you know, you’re emotionally biased and yeah, it’s definitely a subjective kind of metric, but definitely you need to make sure that you’re killing it on aesthetics.  And then going back to why looking at the long-term helps you to avoid these hacks is, when you’re focused on these hacks you’re like zigzagging from here to there, to here to there, but when you have this broader perspective of where I want to go and what that looks like at the end result it’s a lot easier to draw, you know, this linear path there. So looking at product photography as an example, let’s say I’m just hacking on product photography and I get some stuff up.  Well, as my competition five months from now springs up, well now they have better photos than me, so now I need to shoot just a little bit better photos than them or photos that match.  And then six months down the road competition now has even better photos.  Well, now you need to go and get the best product photography possible.  And so now you’ve spent time reiterating on your photos three times and – or two times, however you want to count it – and now you’re wasting all that time.  That’s more money spent in the aggregate, whereas if you would have just thrown up amazing photos right off the bat, then you would have been a lot closer to your end result when you first got started, and you weren’t zigzagging.

CAMERON YODER:

I would like to ask – I like to ask people the question, if you had the choice of being the best in the space that you’re selling in, would you do it?  I mean of course, of course we all want to be the best in the space that we’re in.  If we had the choice we would all do it.  And so if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t we spend time just right off the bat having the best photos, or the best listing, or the best review follow-up?  All of it connects, and all of it makes your products just the most likely to sell right off the bat.  

CASEY GAUSS:

Thanks for joining us this week on Follow the Data.  If you’re interested in learning more about how to avoid cutting corners to help you achieve your long-term dreams subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com.

CAMERON YODER:

Also, huge thank you to those of you who have called in with your questions and comments about the show.  We are hard at work on an episode that could feature your voice, so just leave us a voicemail and tell us your thoughts on today’s episode, or really just ask us any of your Amazon questions.  Our number is 317-721-6590.  It’s always posted in the show notes for you to find when you’re done listening.  So feel free to give us a call.  We actually would really love to hear from you.

CASEY GAUSS:

Until next week, remember, the data is out there.