Like many of you, Steven Pope dreamed of leaving the corporate world for a business he could build and grind at from home. Now the owner and founder of a full-service Amazon consulting agency, My Amazon Guy, Steven’s here to walk us through his tips for working with brands and maximizing sales. From building relationships to adding value, navigating Amazon roadblocks, and chasing after your Amazon Seller School, we’re diving into it all. Stay tuned.
Strategies For Success
As you’re opening accounts, consider two pathways. One, pursue a niche category (sporting goods, glassware) and chase after brands within that category. When you deep dive into a category and become a true specialist, you start solving problems that other sellers can’t or won’t which deletes competition. Second, become a generalist. In other words, sell everything and speak to as many different brands as possible to build up a big catalog.
You’ve likely seen Amazon and Jeff Bezos circling headlines over the past few months. While Steven hopes Amazon is held accountable for monopolistic practices, sellers need to take advantage of Amazon’s dominance over the current marketplace. Amazon loves building barriers for third-party sellers so your problem-solving skills can make or break your success rate.
And even though the economy feels uncertain, Amazon has never been a better place to sell. Just remember, there’s no secret sauce to success – besides learning to grind it out.
Add Value Before You Ask For Value
Many of us wonder how to sell ourselves to brands and shed that Amazon seller stereotype. Steven reminds us that every business needs strong marketing, operations, and finances. Most suppliers have their operations down so highlight your ability to market a brand’s products by optimizing listings, driving traffic, and improving conversions.
Steven believes in adding value before you ask for it. That’s why he’s shared so many trade secrets for free. If you want brands to listen to you, have info for them right off the bat. Maybe it’s tips for making A+ content or maybe it’s reminding them not to use both the singular and plural versions of keywords. Whatever it is, make sure it’s valuable. When it comes to value-adds, something is better than nothing.
Add More Products
The life cycle of an Amazon product has shortened dramatically in the last few years. If you come out with a new product today, by next Christmas you’ll be flooded with competitors. The fastest way to add sales on Amazon is to add more products. Then, diversify your platforms, expand internationally, spend more on traffic and advertising, and finally, work on conversion improvements (the hardest job of all).
Go After The Little Guys
While the importance of Amazon is no secret, so many brands are still unaware of Amazon basics. Look out for smaller products with problems you can easily solve. This also helps you avoid competing with big-time sellers. You should aim to compete with sellers who are a leg in front of you. Also worth noting, while getting reviews is important, don’t go against terms and conditions to do so. You will get caught! You can always use the Jungle Scout extension to automate requests for feedback.
Snag The Brand Registry
One of Steven’s biggest tips is gaining control of the brand registry. Having ownership over it will smooth out potential data issues and, if you’re a good partner, it’s truly in the brand’s best interest. Once you have control over the brand registry you can also start running video ads which perform incredibly well.
No matter where you are in life or your Amazon journey, it’s important to keep learning. For more Amazon insights, check out My Amazon Guy, subscribe to their podcast, and check out their incredible YouTube videos.
Stay learning sellers.
Resources From This Episode
- Jungle Scout
- My Amazon Guy
- My Amazon Guy Podcast
- Steven’s pesticide test answer key
- Todd’s resources
- Amazon Seller School email list
- Amazon Seller School YouTube channel
- My Amazon Guy YouTube Channel
Outline of This Episode
[00:20] Todd’s introduction to this episode
[02:19] Steven’s background
[08:13] The two avenues for success on Amazon
[13:42] Steven’s thoughts on Amazon’s policies
[28:46] Why it’s important to add value before you ask for it
[37:15] The fastest way to add sales on Amazon
[38:44] How to go after the little guys
[47:51] Why it’s important to control the brand registry
[52:54] Todd’s closing thoughts on this episode
Welcome fellow entrepreneurs to the Amazon Seller School podcast, where we talk about Amazon wholesale and how you can use it to build an eCommerce empire, a side hustle or anything in between. And now your host, Todd Welch.
Todd Welch (00:20):
What’s going on everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Amazon Seller School. And we’ve got a good one for you today. Today, we dive in with my Amazon guy, the owner and founder, Stephen Pope. He’s a top Amazon thought leader and visionary out there. And he’s been doing everything all encompassing with Amazon for quite a long time. So he, my Amazon guy is an Amazon consulting agency. So they do everything from brand registry to A-plus content, to optimizing listings, to PPC and getting more sales. So today we dive into what we can do as wholesalers to optimize listings, grow sales and talk with brands. What are brands looking for to have us do, to get that exclusive agreement perhaps, or maybe just an exclusive discount or just more sales for us on a listing? What kind of things we can do? This is something that I’ve really gotten into as of late, is through finding low hanging fruit listings that have good reviews, low sales, really bad listings, and I can optimize them, grow that traffic, get all those sales to myself for quite a while, and maybe work that into an exclusive agreement.
Todd Welch (01:41):
So we really dive into that today with Steven who has a lot of knowledge in this area, and you can really tell it comes across throughout the episode. You know, we also neander into some of the political things surrounding Amazon as well. So I really think you’ll like that also. So definitely stay tuned for this one. If you haven’t already subscribed to the podcast, subscribe and like us on YouTube and leave us a five star review out there. If you really think you are getting some value from the podcast, that would really be helpful. So without further ado, let’s go ahead and dive into this episode with Steven.
Todd Welch (02:19):
All right. So today I have Steven Pope on the podcast. He is the founder of my Amazon guy, which is a full service Amazon consulting company. And he has been doing this for quite a while. So I appreciate you coming on the podcast Steven. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your company and your background, how you got into this crazy Amazon stuff?
Steven Pope (02:43):
Yeah, thanks for having me, Todd. I appreciate it. So I actually started my career out as a television reporter and I loved being a reporter, but hated working in the news industry. And, you know, one night I was doing a live weather, hit in Wisconsin, the biggest blizzard in a decade. And miss my cue, my hair froze over, I looked like an idiot on state television and decided, you know what, I’d rather be at home in my pajamas instead of out here in this cold, cold weather.
Steven Pope (03:09):
So I looked for a way to kind of change up my career. And I think a lot of your listeners will aspire on that vein, trying to take more control over their career and monetary destiny if you will. So I went back to school, picked up an MBA and I’ve been doing marketing ever since and specifically commerce and worked for five fields startups on the corporate side. And then one day got laid off again and I was like, screw this. I’m tired of job hopping around the country. And I went into business for myself and created my Amazon guy. So today we’re a hundred strong monthly clients, plus a bunch of project based clients and full service. We help everyone manage their traffic and improve their conversion rates on Amazon.
Todd Welch (03:58):
So that’s awesome. So you guys are doing like everything pretty much involved with building an Amazon business. And before we dive into that though, I wanted to touch on a couple of other things on your background, which are cool. What’s interesting is that you actually moved, went from Utah to Wisconsin and I moved from Wisconsin to Utah. Now you’re in Georgia, I believe you said so jumping around, but it’s pretty awesome that you were a nationally ranked chess player. And then also you beat out Harvard in debating.
Steven Pope (04:25):
I did, I’m a little bit of a nerd if you haven’t figured that one out yet. So it was a fun back in high school and college days. So I did debate and chess all the way up through you know, the college level. And you know, I, as you mentioned, I beat Harvard’s B team one time in a national tournament and did it on a cheap shot, was doing policy debate. They forgot to read their plan text. And so that’s how I won. So nothing like the great debaters movie by any stretch, there wasn’t an audience or anything like that. But, I, that’s my claim to fame on that front. So it was fun. On the chest front, I actually played in the US open during a hurricane in Florida and we’re entering the hurricane season now. And that was a fun time as well. Being able to think ahead has definitely been a skillset. I can recommend to anybody when trying to sell on Amazon, always trying to figure out where that puck’s going to be in hockey, if you will, not where the puck is today. Because if you’re not in that scoring location at, you’re gonna miss very much. But if I had to go back to college and redo it, let me tell you, instead of trying to learn how to debate and win an argument, I would go back and try and learn how to persuade. I do not find myself to be a persuasive individual and in business, that’s all I need right now is to persuade people, to send their business my way. And it’s a much more needed skill in my opinion.
Todd Welch (05:54):
Well, you have three little kids, so you’ve gotta be getting really good at persuading.
Steven Pope (05:57):
Three kids under five, it’s a handful. I’ve got a picture of my family right here. I’ll bring it on screen for a second. For those that are watching the video and you can see we’re in a little hammock there they are quite the pocket of joy.
Todd Welch (06:12):
Yeah. So you’re getting sales training like every single day and they’re selling you and you have to sell them pretty much. That’s what parenting is, right?
Todd Welch (06:19):
No, you can’t have an eighth popsicle and no, you can’t watch eight hours of television every day.
Todd Welch (06:25):
For sure. A hundred percent. So, one last question on the chest side though, do you think you could beat deep blue?
Todd Welch (06:32):
Definitely not. Maybe if it was pre 2007, I might have a shot. But not since that thing is just, the tech is out on humans on this by a long shot. Yeah.
Todd Welch (06:46):
Yup. I’m a computer geek myself. So that kind of stuff really interests me if you’re not familiar with deep blue, that is the AI that IBM has programmed to do chats and they’ve beaten like world champions and stuff. So it’s pretty amazing.
Todd Welch (07:00):
The best I could probably do is beat somebody ranked USCF 2200, probably know better than that. And those computers are operating upwards of 3,300 to 3,600. So, not a chance.
Todd Welch (07:14):
Yeah. Chess is cool. I don’t, I’m definitely no master added or anything, but it’s a fun game to play for sure. And you learn, like you said, how to think ahead, which is so important in life and business to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it currently is, as you mentioned. All right. So let’s go ahead and dive into the Amazon stuff here. So we talked a little bit before we got started here that a really good area that our listeners who are in the wholesale world to really go into would be to developing relationships with these brands because you work with a lot of brains. So you’ve got a lot of insight in what they’re looking for, what they need, what they’re trying to do with their Amazon businesses. So where do we start with that? Like, let’s say that we’re going to be calling a brand. We found some that we potentially want to sell. We think we can really help them sell better. What kind of things should we be looking at when we go into that conversation.
Steven Pope (08:13):
Couple pass I think you can take, number one is you can niche yourself and be the best in one space and go after every related brand in that space. I did that strategy at a company called lights online. So I was their marketplace director. We had our own private label brand, but we also were purchasing from all of the other national lighting brands. And these are household names in some parts of the country, such as kichler lighting quazzel, and many others that are well known. And basically we were going to the lighting shows and trying to win their Amazon business. That was my main job. So every six months I was going in and making pleas in some instances and pitches and others where, you know, Hey, don’t take Amazon in house. Hey, don’t give too many FBA partnerships away and give me your exclusive deal. And if you do, we will make yourselves better. And here’s how, and we’ll improve your listings. And I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about that today. The other avenue you could go down would be to just be a generalist and sell whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is. You’re a general store and just hit the beat and talk to shotgun, approach it and talk to as many different brands as you possibly can under the sun and just get a giant catalog. So I think both strategies are viable even today. But each has its own benefits and disadvantages.
Todd Welch (09:47):
Yeah. I, on my side, I am definitely a proponent of the niche, part of it, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m in sporting goods area. So I think it makes it easier because you learn the industry. Maybe it’s something that you’ve done in the past or enjoy doing, and you can really deep dive on the phone and talk their lingo, so to speak, right. There’s nothing wrong with the shotgun approach, but I feel like it can get easier over time if you’re niching into something and really learning that area.
Steven Pope (10:20):
There’s some real big value there, because if you think about it, like let’s say, I’m going to sell glassware and glassware is, you know, prone to damages. So the disadvantage of my industry could become my advantage if I solve that problem. So I happen to be the number one seller on Amazon for funny wineglasses. And one of my products is at the top of Amazon and I side hustle that, it’s brand called Monster is just a way to try new things and teach my clients and whatnot. So barely spend much time on it, but I don’t have a lot of fear of somebody else coming in and selling glassware because there’s so many problems that I’ve ran into that I have learned how to cope with and solve. I don’t expect my competitors to figure them out anytime soon. And so I’m sure that’s the same in the sports industry as well.
Todd Welch (11:11):
Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. I mean, there’s just so many little things that he can go and do and talk to. So that brand that you built, how many, how much in sales is that doing? If you don’t mind to share?
Steven Pope (11:22):
You bet. It says it’s a million dollar brand. I was going to shoot for like 500K in December, but I think it’s gonna be more like 300K just because FBA has ran out of room and they put all these limitations on. And so that August deadline and about you know, middle of August year where there, if you’re not at 500 IPI good luck, you’re getting limitations. And there’s kind of a two prong problem. So I was at 487 on my IPI and I couldn’t flip the 13 points quick enough. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat listening to this. Don’t fret you’ve got plenty of room to work with unless, you’ve got a seasonal item. And so the second prong, so there’s two problems with that. Number one, the amount of inventory you can ship in is limited to a three month supply. So a seasonal item that spikes more than 300% in a 30 day window, you’re going to stock out guaranteed. So are your competitors though, and number two, the overall space that you can allocate at Amazon. So both of those problems are going to probably make it for more like a softer Christmas for me and many others, but you know what everybody is in the same boat. So, you know, what I would say to that is make sure you have your own three PL warehouse set up so you can sell direct to consumer. Cause you’re not gonna be able to rely upon FBA in the middle of December. I just don’t think it’s possible.
Todd Welch (12:44):
Yeah. And I think a really big thing there too, that you can do is utilize a three PL that is a seller fulfilled prime enabled basically. So I think a couple of them are like ship bob and ship monk. Both of them, I believe have warehouses dispersed enough that they can get seller fulfilled prime for a majority of the country. So that’s always an option too if you have a product that sells really well like that,
Steven Pope (13:11):
Except it’s super expensive and that’s been the challenge, right? So hopefully they’ve got at least three locations, but even if they do have, you know, the West East and somewhere in the middle figured out, it’s still pretty cost prohibitive. Not many items are SFP solvent for my experience, unfortunately.
Todd Welch (13:30):
Yeah. It’s definitely going to be more expensive. Amazon has that distribution down to a T and it’s, you know, people complain about the fees and stuff, but it’s super cheap for what we get in my opinion.
Steven Pope (13:42):
They’re half the economy, you gotta hand it to Jeff Bezos, that dude figured something out your margins, my opportunity, they’re clearly a monopoly. And I hope the government does something about it, even though that’ll probably hurt my business, it’s the right thing to do. But in the meantime, take advantage of it. If you’re not on Amazon today, you’re irrelevant as a business, in my opinion, and all these retailers that are going bankrupt due to COVID it’s on them, they should have been more from their business years ago.
Todd Welch (14:09):
Yeah. You know, when it comes to government, I always air on the side of stay out of the way, but you know, it’s going to happen, I think. And if we can put ourselves in a position to take advantage of it, because I think what’s going to happen is Amazon is going to start pulling out of a lot of products. They’re going to start relying more on third party sellers. But the unintended consequences of that is that they’re going to rely on the established sellers more and give more priority to established companies that they can trust and know that they’re doing the right thing. That’s my opinion, the way I kind of see it going because of Amazon can be like, okay, you know, it’s their platform. They just pay us to use it. I think they make more money doing that anyways. It’s a lot esier for them. I don’t know. What are your thoughts on that?
Steven Pope (15:00):
I don’t see Amazon giving up the 70% of the battery market or whatever number it is. They own anytime soon or many of their other basics that have done quite well. But I do agree with you if they clamped down on any of the monopolization, that would be the first area to do is like, look, you can’t own both private label brands and be a marketplace that’s just on competitive advantage. But what I would say is Amazon’s absolutely entered the maturity phase as, as a product lifecycle. So you got your early entrance and then you end up getting to the maturity cycle. And what does that mean for us as sellers? It means it’s never been harder to sell on Amazon than it is today. Mind you sales are through the roof, right? Like Amazon released its numbers. I think it was like 43% up year over year. And I’m on record saying, I think December is going to be like a hundred percent up year over year. Cova 2.0 is going to hit. And we’re going to see supply chains, clash down, all your competitors are going to stock out this year. So just be prepared for massive, massive sales, this Q4 in my opinion. But that maturity cycle that Amazon’s in right now has a lot of consequences and it means they’re putting barriers up. So everyday you’re going to be dealing with challenges like listing yanks, accounts suspensions, gainings that just come out of nowhere on Thursday, for example, I had five different clients that got gated because they created a new subcategory in Amazon. And all of a sudden you get to run around with your head, cut off, trying to figure out, okay, how do we clear this gating? And then you clear the gating and then you still have, you know, 20% of your portfolio is still in stranded. And you’re running around trying to throw cattle. We fixed the stranded and then you learn, okay, I got to actually delete my products, re-add them to my catalog. This is the kind of troubleshooting that also sellers have to deal with when selling on Amazon. So if you’re listening to this and you haven’t dived into this yet, and you’re not good at solving problems or troubleshooting, don’t do it. This is not passive income, but if you like solving problems and you’re good at it, and you’re better at it than your neighbor, you’re going to make a killing. Amazon is great for those that can get around these matriculated problems.
Todd Welch (17:15):
Yeah. I agree. A hundred percent on that. It’s very, a lot of technical little things. I mean, I’ve got three or four products right now that are tied up due to whatever, you know, they got suspended for whatever reason. Then you got to, it’s so annoying dealing with seller support sometimes, right? Because they just copy and paste some script back to you. And it has nothing to do. That’s what you’re asking them or whatever. And so you just gotta push through that stuff and keep figuring it out.
Steven Pope (17:42):
People ask me all the time, like, what’s your secret sauce? Why is your agency successful? And I look them in the eye and I’m like, do you see a picture of me shaking hands with Jeff on my website? And they say, no. And I’m like, that’s because I’m at my house. And I’m brute forcing accounts all day long. There is no secret sauce guys. You literally just have to grind it. And a lot of people don’t like that answer. They really don’t. But that’s why I’m in business is because Amazon’s made it so hard to sell that experts who figure out how to hack the system. And it’s not hacking, it’s just brute force do well. So those products that you are struggling with will probably be down for a week or two at a time, and that hurts your sales rank. And it’s like, how do you recover that? And how do you fix the sales? And then your ads go down and it’s like, Aw, man. So it’s just like a never ending circus of putting your fingers in the dike, trying to keep the water from coming through. And the water is definitely gonna come through. There’s no question about it. It’s just like, which one do you plug today?
Todd Welch (18:43):
Yeah, the good thing in wholesale is that, you know, the item is usually never really out of stock, right? So we’re losing money because we’re not selling. For example, one that really drives me crazy is Amazon has taken it down a few times now because they’re like, okay, we’re getting these returns. So there’s something wrong. They take my listing down, Amazon themselves is still selling the product. And so as a couple other wholesale people that are on there as well. So that kind of stuff is really frustrating sometimes.
Steven Pope (19:15):
You’re selling a new product sold as used because the customers return this at 8% NCX rate and they just wanted their free return. And that’s why they marked it as used. Right? So stupid. It’s such a customer centric platform. One of my other favorite stupid ones is pesticides gating, right? Like I’ve had to pass the pesticides gating test 54 times for my clients. Out of those 54 clients, not a single one of them sells pesticides. So the keywords that get gated for no reason ever. So we ended up putting a video out with the entire answer key. So if anybody listening to this ends up getting gated for pesticides, just type into Google right now, pesticides my Amazon guy, you’ll find my video full answer key, feel free, hit it up. I like solving problems like that and giving it to the Amazon community, just to shove a finger up Amazon and some of their stupid practices that make no logical sense. And it just causes such heartache for a lot of people.
Todd Welch (20:13):
Yeah. And we were talking about the monopoly of Amazon. That would be one question I’d have for Jeff. So you’re taking my listing down because of returns. Do you take Amazon’s listings down because of returns?
Steven Pope (20:29):
I guarantee they don’t, they might submit a ticket or a phone call over to their FBA center and check on things. Yeah. Everything looks good Jeff, we’ll keep selling. No problem.
Todd Welch (20:37):
Yeah. They don’t take their listings down for a week or two while they try to figure stuff out.
Steven Pope (20:41):
Yeah.The left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand at Amazon. Nobody has control. Nobody knows what’s going on. This whole thing is just kind of an automated beast running itself at this stage, in my opinion.
Todd Welch (20:52):
Yeah. And that’s kind of where I was going with Amazon letting third party sellers do more work, not so much that they’re going to stop selling their private label products because those are selling really well so of them. But like the third party brands that they sell, I think they may pull back on that a little bit instead of bringing more products in themselves, let third party sellers bring more and maybe it’s wishful thinking because that would really benefit us as wholesale sellers. But we’ll see.
Steven Pope (21:22):
I think it is wishful thinking, but I also think it’s the number one area that their pants were caught down when Jeff went on in front of Congress the other day and he got called out on that. He’s like, so I think the quote that went around international headlines was like, he couldn’t guarantee that somebody hasn’t taken advantage of proprietary data from third party setup. So that was like the phrasing he used, which means codes for yeah, we abused the hell out of it.
Todd Welch (21:48):
Yup. Yup. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s been some interesting new something’s going to happen. That’s for sure. We’ll see what I mean. I think what’s happening in Europe is probably a precursor to here where they’re clamping down on a lot of that, you know, anti-competitive practices that Amazon is doing, but like I said, there’s always unintended side effects whenever ever government does anything. So we’ve got to always keep that in mind and weigh the benefits and the negatives.
Steven Pope (22:19):
I’m a free market capitalist just like you. But in some situations where big business gets into bed with big government, problems happen.
Todd Welch (22:26):
Well, that’s the problem, right? We haven’t had a free market in this country for like over a hundred years. I would argue, you know, it’s been a lot more socialist in terms of government being in everything and big business being bad with government.
Steven Pope (22:42):
You know, not to go too far down this rabbit hole, but I would love to see us get back on the gold standard. You’d have this Fiat currency, this hidden 20% inflation this year, the government just prints money and oh yeah, that’ll fix the economy. Yeah, it will for like six months. And then the next 10 years we’re going to be in an utter depression. So buckle up guys. I’m calling the downward economy, now here’s the good news selling on Amazon’s never been better. And that’s the one sector I think we’ll be just fine. So if you’re in another sector, like I was in television, that place is definitely not coming back. That place is toast. But selling any commerce than online, couldn’t be a better place.
Todd Welch (23:26):
Yeah, definitely. It’s just going to keep growing, you know, especially with the coronavirus and now the riots and stuff going on in different cities and it’s just making people want to shop online more. So yeah, Amazon is definitely a place to be in the future. E-Commerce in general, right. But Amazon is the gorilla in the room so to speak.
Steven Pope (23:48):
I think there is one part in there that will take the gorilla down a notch, not enough, but a notch is probably Walmart. Haven’t seen it in 2020, and I was making this call four years ago when they bought jet or whatever. They never did anything with jet. They couldn’t integrate it like their old PO systems. The point of systems, in fact, at the Walmart’s facilities and stores and whatnot, they couldn’t touch jet and couldn’t use it. I would’ve thought that, okay, you got a Walmart on every corner, right? Cool. That becomes the FDA facility. Not, unfortunately, they couldn’t figure it out. So should you sell on Walmart today? I would, if I were you, but I wouldn’t be banking on making the dollar in 2020 with it. It’s more of a preparatory be there so that when they do take Amazon down a notch, you’re not screwed when Amazon suspend your account, you got Walmart ready to go.
Todd Welch (24:39):
Yeah, for sure. A couple of weeks ago, maybe it was last week. We were talking about the news that Walmart is coming out with fulfilled by Walmart.
Steven Pope (24:49):
They delayed it though.
Todd Welch (24:51):
I was going to say they keep pushing it back. So we’ll see.
Steven Pope (24:54):
They don’tknow what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s, they’re getting like teased from other companies that are saying, Hey, just let us do it. We’ll take care of it for you. What does deliver or whatever. Or if they just literally can’t integrate the tech, which has seemingly been the case five years, who knows?
Todd Welch (25:10):
Yeah. Well, you would think, I mean, but it’s hard to shift, right? Because Amazon was built as a technology company. Walmart was built as a brick and mortar company. It’s completely different business models. So trying to integrate the two is not always easy.
Steven Pope (25:26):
I’ve tried to take companies from wholesale to retail. What do I mean by that? It’s like the difference between running a Costco where it’s nice, neat, pallets and clean aisles, and then trying to turn a Costco into a Kroger, or it’s clean up on aisle seven constantly, right? Like businesses really structurally speaking, fail to innovate. They like to get bigger. And they’re really good at getting bigger. They’re awful at evolving. That’s why innovation comes in and you see like an upstart, like Netflix take out blockbuster. And that’s what happens in a good economy is people have an idea. They go try and sell that idea. And the current infrastructure’s like, well, I like the current infrastructure. And you know, it would cost too much for us to change the current infrastructure. So then new business comes out with their new idea, beat the crap out of everybody. And then they are the power horse. And this cycle will again repeat itself repeatedly throughout all of history. And that’s why we see a technology company’s doing really well. And they build really fast.
Todd Welch (26:28):
Yeah. Same thing like with Sears and toys R us, you know, both
Steven Pope (26:33):
another good example.
Todd Welch (26:34):
empires in the past and now they’re bankrupt.
Steven Pope (26:36):
My wife would always talk to me about how she got the series catalog. And it was the only way to order anything in the rural communities.
Todd Welch (26:44):
Steven Pope (26:45):
At that time. They didn’t take advantage of that and they’re gone.
Todd Welch (26:52):
Yup. Businesses definitely come and go. So somebody will compete with Amazon. It might take time, but that’s why it’s bad. You know, in my opinion, when government gets too involved with businesses, because for every regulation that you put on Amazon, it makes it harder for that guy in his garage to build the next Amazon, because now they have to deal with that regulation as well.
Steven Pope (27:15):
I think you’re spot on with that. And I also think that if we don’t allow for companies to fail, then the too big to fail process creates the next big depression as well.
Todd Welch (27:29):
Steven Pope (27:29):
And so I hope we see a lot of failing businesses this year. That might be harsh for me to, you know, to hear, especially for those that lost a job or were impacted by the situation. But if we don’t allow your company to fail today, it’s going to fail the country over the next few years and many, many ways. So there’s more damage that will be done if we don’t let companies fail.
Todd Welch (27:53):
Yeah. It’s definitely a super destructive because when there’s a vacuum and a big company fails, it’s going to hurt in the beginning, but there’s going to be other businesses that come in to take that place. And so who knows what we lost, for example, what bailing out GM and Chrysler and such, you know.
Steven Pope (28:12):
Maybe Tesla would have done even better if we had to bail that GM.
Todd Welch (28:16):
You never know. But all right, so let’s stop going down the political rabbit hole. I love all things I can get sucked into that really easily. So let’s get back to
Steven Pope (28:26):
We’re two peas in that pod. So that was easy to go down.
Todd Welch (28:29):
Yeah, for sure. So let’s get back to the Amazon world. We talked a little bit about, you know, opening the accounts and stuff like that. What other kind\ of things can we offer a brain to get them to maybe give us the exclusive or just to let us sell their product.
Steven Pope (28:46):
Every business ever needs three things to run: finance, operations, and marketing. And if you want to do business today, you need to be good at all three, but you need to be excellent at one of those, most wholesalers are excellent at operations. So when you go to these wholesalers, don’t convince them that your operations are great. They won’t care. But if you said, Hey, I’ve got the best marketing in the world. I can build you the best A-plus content you’ve ever heard of. What’s A-plus content you say? Right, so like these wholesalers probably, you know, the sophisticated ones, get it and they know. But the unsophisticated ones don’t even know that their trademark needs to be letter for letter exact match to their brand name on Amazon and, you know, a chain effect that that could cause, right. Oh, Hey, we’ve wanted to have a brand store on Amazon for ages, but our trademarks in all caps and my brand name is represented on Amazon and proper case, right? Small things like that. If you could bring to the table and he’s like, Hey, I’ve got the solution. And I’ll tell you in 30 seconds on the phone, just to have a call with you, just get me on the phone. And if you can, if you can share value to these guys and tell them things that maybe their current partners aren’t willing to do, or aren’t willing to teach, or maybe they don’t even know, you’re going to be able to win them over. I think it’s critical to add value before you request value. And that’s a good concept to live by in business and in life in general, in my opinion. So that’s also why, like, as an agency at my Amazon guy, we share literally all of our trade secrets with the public. You can find over 400 videos from us answering any problem or any question we have, we have videos of our designers and teaching how to make A-plus content, right? Like I give away everything. We have videos demonstrating a three-phase SEO project. So if you want to go take my videos and, and replicate them and then go to these wholesalers and saying, look, I’ve got a three phase SEO plan to give you the best traffic to your listings ever by all means, feel free to do it guys. I have at it. And what is that? Three-Phase SEO strategy. It’s number one apply all the best practices to the back end of the listings and the front end. So in the search term field, for one example, don’t have any commas, don’t have any repeated words, don’t use the plural and the singular of the same word. You want to maximize that content as much as possible, have misspellings in the search term field, have a couple of Spanish words in there as well. If you do those best practices, use that 400. And to use that full 250 character count on the back end of the search term for each product and make them unique you’re going to win a lot of SEO traffic. And what’s great about SEO traffic is you don’t pay for it, you earn it. And so instead of going to those brands and saying, Hey, I’ll spend 10% of my gross sales on ads for you, which I think you should do that too. But it’s harder to swallow that pill from the margin standpoint, you can instead go to them and say, I’ll make sure more people see your product and I’ll reveal those traffic numbers to you over time. So phase one, do the best practices. Phase two, I like to call the pink word update. And that’s where you go in. And you remove any words that are in the title or in the bullet points of your listing. Those are additional keywords that you can remove and put in different ones to get additional value in phase one, we will keep those words in because we found through testing, it’s the best way to do it. And then in phase two we’ll then you know, 30 days out remove them and make some additional plays. And finally, phase three, I like to call the strike zone update. And this is where you go for any keyword in the ranks, 20 through 50. And there’s going to be hundreds of those for each listing. And you go in there and you pick a few that you think are high impression that are in rank 2350, that aren’t producing today and try and move them up into slot 1 through 19. And you redo all of your search terms. Rate post constant your title in bullets to focus on those keywords. So whether it’s an SEO plan or an a plus delivery or a brand store build, or man, your bullet points suck and at least bring them into the 19th century, whatever it is, add value to those brands. And I guarantee you, they will in return give you exclusive deals. The challenge is how do you convince them that you will actually deliver on what 100 other sellers have already pledged to do for those wholesalers? And so you’ve got to add value before they even allow you in. And that’s why you gotta go with a plan and you gotta give them something before they are even going to listen to you in my opinion.
Todd Welch (33:31):
Yeah. A lot of brands are going to have multiple products. So like one tactic that I do a lot is I will take one of their products, order it, and then optimize that listing and double, triple, quadruple sales. A lot of times it’s really easy, especially if you’re looking at the more lower hanging fruit, you know, maybe a hundred thousand sales rank, 150,000, but it’s that bad because the listing is really horrible. Like maybe the picture is all blurry. So you take a new picture and you put some bullet points in there, a nice title, the keywords, like you mentioned, and you can pretty easily double, triple, quadruple those sales very quickly by doing that stuff.
Steven Pope (34:12):
What do you mean? I can’t go to Amazon and load my 400 by 400 pixel photo and just make millions?
Todd Welch (34:17):
Yeah, it’s crazy how many of those are out there. And yeah. It’s just.
Steven Pope (34:22):
I mean we’ve seen that in the last three years, photos on Amazon have come a long, long way. Manufacturers finally get it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve acted on the getting it part. So let’s say you get a wholesaler that only has a single photo and it’s 400 by 400 pixels go out and offer them, I’ll redo all your photography. Cool. Go hire pictures on white photography out of Chicago, 40 bucks a photo, and they’ll take care of it for you. And if that’s all it takes is three or four nice photos, a couple of hundred dollars to invest in that relationship. And then you’ve made their day. It makes the difference. Add value.
Todd Welch (35:00):
Yeah. I just have, I have a photo booth in the back here, you know, a nice light box that I bought on Amazon. And I use my phone camera from, you know, the S10, which is one of the best cameras on a phone out there, take the photos and then pay someone on Fiverr to clean them up through the background and everything. And that’s worked wonders for getting listings going really good.
Steven Pope (35:22):
I think that’s a great way to do it. I think you’re more sophisticated than most and many probably don’t even know how to snap a correct photo. And, what if it’s a complicated product? Like what if it’s a glass product, for example, speaking from personal experience. The reflections on glass, if you haven’t, if you’re not a photographer today, and maybe even if you are a photographer, but you don’t have experience shooting a particular type of product, you’re probably not the right photographer for that type of product. Like if you’re going to shoot lighting chandeliers, it’s a totally different ball game than shooting a tee shirt or a wedding, whatever. Like the refraction, I think is the technical term and the color tones and all of that stuff is very, very difficult to get correct. Nonetheless, if you’re taking a brand from terrible to good, you’re still doing them a favor, right? My default marketing philosophy is something is better than nothing, and you always are going to be continually optimizing Amazon’s and iterative platform. And if you continually optimize, you’ll continually improve sales. And if you don’t, your competitors will eventually beat you. So you have to, but if you’re going from nothing to something that’s still a pretty big win.
Todd Welch (36:35):
Yeah. And something to keep in mind too with that is that if you’re looking at a listing and it’s garbage and you look at the other brand listing from that brand, and they’re also garbage, keep that in mind that when you’re calling them and talking to them that they are probably not going to have any clue what you’re talking about. If you mentioned anything to do with Amazon, A-plus content, bullet points title, they might not even know what any of that stuff means. There’s so many brands that pay no attention to Amazon at all. And those are the ones that I really look for because I know how much value very easily I can bring them and improve their listing.
Steven Pope (37:15):
I’m really surprised by how clueless people are about Amazon today. Now, I think the secret’s out that it matters and it’s half the economy. Like I think people get that, but they’re so overwhelmed from doing what they’re currently doing and their current business model that they just can’t take on any additional sophistication. Right? Like going back to that comment I made about everybody wants to get bigger, but nobody wants to evolve. It’s really challenging. And in today’s day and age, you know, just as a small example, look at any product ever. The product life cycle before Amazon would have been like five years, right? You could go to market and be good for five years on a product. The product life cycle today is sub one year on Amazon. If you come out with the coolest, most innovative product today, by next Christmas, they are going to knock you off from 17 different competitor angles. And you’re just going to be a me too product by that stage, if you don’t have intellectual property. So you really have to keep evolving and be innovative and keep adding products nonstop, fastest way to grow sales on Amazon, add more product. And after that, diversify beyond more platforms, sell in more countries and spend more money on traffic and advertising, and then following all of that, it worked on conversion improvements. But I do think conversion improvements are the hardest to do and take the most effort if you don’t have eyeballs to begin with. It’s irrelevant though. And that’s why I focused on traffic first.
Todd Welch (38:44):
Yep. Yeah, very much so they, the listings that I’m working on, you know, when I’m going through a product list from a distributor or a brand or something like that, I’m really looking for those ones that maybe have 20, 30, 40 reviews and like four stars, five stars, but it’s maybe a hundred or 200 or 300,000 sales rank. And maybe there’s no FBA seller. And so I can very easily jump on there and prove that listing and get it selling. So that is really what I’m looking for. And there’s a lot of that out there. You know, people like to talk about is Amazon too saturated. But I mean, if you spend some time searching and go down to like the 10th page, there’s so many products that are underrepresented and could be doing a lot better than they are. Sometimes very recognizable brands.
Steven Pope (39:36):
If you try and go to market and do a copy me to product of a top hundred selling product, yeah. It’s super saturated. Don’t do that. That’s not what your, like your secret sauce here that you’re revealing to your audience is the right methodology. It really is like a totally endorsed it. Because if you go deeper into the niche where nobody is paying attention, it’s much easier to be the only seller and the only guy doing it. Cause even if you do an okay job, get a B minus on the test, so to speak, you’re still gonna make profit. Whereas if you try and go replicate the guys getting A’s on million dollar products, you’re competing with the most sophisticated players in the market. Instead of being the one grain Wayne Gretzky hockey player, a rainmaking, you’re going to be one guy in the NBA on the wrong team, competing against whatever hot five all star team there is. Right? Like you, you really gotta think about where are you going to niche and hone in and tailor focus. And I think you’re onto something with going down to the couple of hundred thousand range.
Todd Welch (40:41):
Yeah. And you can grow them to those big players. Like I have one brand and you have to have something that separates you like with them. They reached out to me because I reached out to them previously and they said, no, we don’t want any Amazon sellers, but I stayed.
Steven Pope (40:58):
Everyone ever gets that answer. Right? Like that’s a hundred percent of the time you get that answer
Todd Welch (41:02):
Everybody. But I knew that I could bring value to them. And after I think it was about six months, they reached out to me and said, okay, we are sick and tired of dealing with Amazon. We want you to take this over. And we’ll, you’ll be the only person who can buy from us. Everybody else asked to buy from distributors. So they didn’t give me an exclusive, which would have been really nice, but they had established customers that they didn’t want to cut out. So I’m the only one with the direct brand buying. So I got a really good price on it, but I basically took all of their listings. They had a bunch of listings spread all over the place of their products, the different variations. I rolled all those variations into one and then optimize them, had really awesome photos taken and created where the graphic designer and fiber. And now that product is literally selling like thousands per month. And has, I think the last time I looked, they’ve got like 1,700 reviews on their listing now.
Steven Pope (42:02):
It’s a lot of reviews.
Todd Welch (42:04):
Steven Pope (42:05):
Especially in this day and age, you can’t incentivize reviews. It’s really hard to generate reviews. If there was one strategy that I’m not focused on right now, it’s generating reviews. Last night, I received a product and it had one of those, Hey, review us on Amazon, give us five stars. We’ll send you a $20 gift card. That’s against terms and conditions guys. And guess what people like me when we received those product inserts, we go right to customer service and complain and report you. And yeah, we do that because you’re trying to do some unfair practice that screws the rest of us who are following Amazon’s guidelines. And it’s not fair. A lock picking lawyer did a video a couple of months ago on a guy that did the same thing. And they, you know, cool thing about lock picking lawyer for those that don’t know who that guy is, the dude does like a video in 120 seconds and shows you how to lock pick literally any lock ever. And so when he does this video and it’s a short video, you know, the lock is terrible. Anyway, so he got one of those from Amazon had the product insert, he goes viral, a couple million hits later, boom, the listing suspended, they took all the reviews out. You will get caught. Guys, don’t do it. Don’t do product insert reviews. It’s bad incentivizing.
Todd Welch (43:16):
Yeah. The only thing I do anymore, and I recommend everybody else to do this is so Amazon has that little button in every order now that you can click it. And it requests, reviews and feedback in the same email. So if you buy the jungle scout extension, you can go to the order page and load it through the maximum amount and then just hit the jungle scout button to request reviews. And it will automatically go through everyone for you and request those reviews and seller feedback. And I think that’s really important because one, now that’s a service, right? That I’m giving to the brands that I sell. I’ll request reviews for you, from the people that we sell product to. And then also it’s improving my seller feedback, which is becoming more and more of a factor, I think in who Amazon gives the buy box more and more in the future.
Steven Pope (44:05):
There’s no question about it. The more sales you have on your account, the more buy box rotation you’re going to get, the better your customer metrics are the more factor in as well. It’s no longer, just fastest and cheapest. They do look at these other factors as well, because they know if they have you as a seller who follows the rules and has good results that you’re going to have happier customers. Why does that matter? Because Amazon is in the business of happy customers. They are not in the of happy sellers. So you gotta be on top of doing whatever it takes to make those customers happy. And of course, happy customers lead to good reviews and that’s a win win for everybody.
Todd Welch (44:42):
Yep. Absolutely. No, I think that is a part of the buy box rotation issue that’s going on right now. I’m not sure how familiar you are with that. That’s more of the wholesale world thing, then private label cause private label, you’ve got the buy box. Are you familiar with that at all?
Steven Pope (44:57):
So I am. I, so not only do I have my own agency, I also private label and I also buy from a couple of wholesalers myself, and then I’m not adding any new ones. I’ve just been doing it for so long for years. You know, if you went way back on my Amazon journey, start with retail arbitrage, which is what most people do then enter into the wholesaler market. Like, your strategy. And then from there, if you get really sophisticated I recommend going into private label to supplement it even further and that requires more investment. And then you got to think about China integration, it’s more complexity. So I’ve done all of that. And there are still some good wholesaler relationships that I’ve had for years. So it definitely pays out it’s never passive income, but it does have somewhat of a feeling of, Hey, that work I did a couple of years still paying out today.
Todd Welch (45:48):
Yup. For sure. So what are your thoughts on what’s going on with the buy box right now?
Steven Pope (45:52):
I have been a benefactor of it, I think because my sales have gone up on those key products and I’ve got good metrics on my account. So I’m a winner from it. But I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the vendor rotation into the buy box. Anytime I looked at it and I see somebody selling through one P or sold by Amazon, I always avoided those products in the wholesale model. I never could solve that. And have you ever figured out how to solve that constraint at all?
Todd Welch (46:21):
You mean competing directly with Amazon?
Steven Pope (46:24):
Yeah, on a wholesale product. So not like an Amazon basics type product, but like seeing them show up in the buy box rotation. That always terrified me.
Todd Welch (46:33):
Yeah. So I recommend staying away from me as much as possible. Occasionally Amazon will rotate that buy box, but then there’s lots of times where they won’t give you any rotation in the buy box. Like the product that I was just recently talking about, or I’m the only one who can buy from the brand, they cut Amazon out. So Amazon disappeared briefly, but then they must have started buying from a distributor. So now they’re back.
Steven Pope (46:58):
Yes. And they don’t care about their margin.
Todd Welch (47:00):
No, but they can’t go as low as me. So even at their bottom dollar, I’m still making like 30, 40% ROI on it. So, and they’re giving me rotation, even at the same price on that product. Thankfully they’re not locking it down. It’s definitely not something that I recommend though. If Amazon is on there, if you really want to try it and make a really small test order, send it in and see what happens. But I think you’re playing with fire if you’re going to compete against Amazon directly.
Steven Pope (47:30):
Yeah. It’s a little too scary for me. I would agree with you.
Todd Welch (47:33):
But my hope is that that will kind of go down maybe with some of this antitrust and monopoly talk going out, but we’ll see what happens there. So what other things do we need to go over? What are things do you think would be good for people listening? If they’re trying to build a wholesale business.
Steven Pope (47:51):
If you can gain control of the brand registry for these brands you work for, you have a giant enormous advantage. If you’re the brands giving this up to said partner, make sure you pick the right partner to give them the brand registry control or take it yourself and go to brand services.amazon.com and register your own brand and then make them a user of it. I cannot tell you how many brand registry problems we deal with at my Amazon guy. Of my list of things that I have to deal with, it is my least favorite. I do not like transferring brand registry. I do not like dealing with brand registry problems, but they’re super, super common. So if you’re in the wholesale business model and you’re going to these wholesalers to advocate, or you’ve got the relationship, try and register their brands, and then you will basically win the rights to control the data and they could be in the best interest of those brands to let you do it. If you’re a good partner, and if you are a good partner, you then control the data and then you’d make better listings and you make it so that somebody else who gains ownership of the products through distribution, maybe a mom and pop or a discount or whatever it might be when they go to list their product and start mucking with the data. It won’t be as hard to deal with because you’re the brand agent, so to speak. So I think that’s a good tip. Go gain control of brand registry. Another tip I’d give you is if you get control of brand registry, start running video ads. You can’t do this without brand registry. So this will knock out majority of your partnerships, most likely, but I can’t tell you or emphasize enough how awesome video ads are performing right now. We’re seeing a cost under 12% in random product categories. We couldn’t get South of 35% previously. It’s doing really, really well.
Todd Welch (49:46):
Yeah. I’ve heard that quite a bit. Yeah. The trouble is like you said, you’ve got to have brand registry for that and I’ve done that both ways. So I brought it under my account and more recently I’ve done more where we sign an exclusive agreement and then they give me access to their account, especially if they already have it set up that way. Like you said, if something happens that relationship falls apart, for whatever reason, you’re not having to deal with trying to transfer the brand.
Steven Pope (50:17):
Yeah. Whenever I take on a client at my Amazon guy, we always register the brain and the client’s name. We always do what’s in the best interest of a client. But if you’re in the wholesale model you are in business for yourself first and you also try and help out the brands that you work with. And so that control can be very, very beneficial.
Todd Welch (50:38):
Yeah, definitely don’t dispute it, but you know, you gotta, whatever the brand decides both ways work fine. Like I said, I’ve done it both ways, so. All right, cool. Well, this has been really nice Steven going over this stuff. I think people listening are going to get a lot of really good information where again, those videos that you talked about, where can people find those apps?
Steven Pope (51:00):
So you can go to myamazonguy.com you can subscribe to our podcasts as well. And on YouTube, it’s youtube.com/myamazonguy. And we release content around every problem ever on Amazon that affects any seller in any condition, whether it’s listing gang suspensions, parentage creation, or any of the best practices we have content out there to help you do better to grow yourself. That’s kind of our mantra. We help people grow sales.
Todd Welch (51:31):
Yeah and learning is number one. I mean, everything we talked about, there’s probably a lot, if you’re new that we talked about here, that might’ve went over your head, but that is what business is all about. And especially on Amazon is learning a lot of that technical detail and figuring that stuff out and offering brands. The things that we talked about, A-plus content, bullet points, photos, brand registry, all that good stuff. So you gotta, you never stop learning. So definitely check out your guys’ stuff at my Amazon guy. Your podcast is great as well. I’ve got that in my feeds. So I listened to those whenever they come up and it’s just good stuff, never stop learning.
Steven Pope (52:12):
We also had Todd on our podcasts the other week and appreciated you joining us as well Todd. So thanks for coming on ours.
Todd Welch (52:17):
For sure it was fantastic. Appreciate it very much, Steven. You have an awesome day.
Steven Pope (52:23):
Thank you, sir.
Todd Welch (52:24):
All right. So there you go. What did I tell you? A lot of really good information we come to touch on a lot of wide variety of different things there. So I think you probably got some good information out of this. Maybe some of it went over your head. So definitely check out some of those videos that Steven has over at myamazonguy.com and check out the show notes, amazonseller.school/36. And you can get those links there as well. And of course I have lots of great videos on the YouTube channel and on our website, amazonseller.school to help you learn these different little things that can help you grow your business and also stay tuned. I’m going to be doing a webinar on just this exactly how I’m analyzing these listings, using the keeper graph and jungle scout and looking at reviews and finding listings that I can take from maybe a handful of sales to 50, 100, 200, 500, or like I talked about in the episode thousands of sales per month. I think it’s a really great tactic that’s working really well for me and will work really well for you as well. So stay tuned for that, make sure you’re on the email list. So you can get notified of these webinars that I’m going to have coming out, amazonseller.school, scroll to the bottom. You can sign up there and get those emails when I’m sending out and let you know about the educational opportunities that I’m going to be putting out there for you. So with that, this is Todd Welch with the Amazon Seller School signing off. Happy selling everybody.
This has been another episode of the Amazon Seller School podcast. Thanks for listening fellow entrepreneur and always remember success is yours, if you take it.