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Navigating Amazon Fee Increases and Custom Products with Kevin Sanderson

Join us as we dive deep into the world of Amazon selling with Kevin Sanderson, VP of Marketing at My Amazon Guy and founder of Maximizing eCommerce. Kevin shares his insights on dealing with Amazon’s evolving fee structure and his success with selling custom laser-engraved products.

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Understanding Amazon’s New Fee Structure

Kevin discusses the recent Amazon fee increases, how they impact sellers, and strategies to adapt and stay competitive in this ever-changing marketplace.

The Benefits of Selling Custom Products on Amazon

Explore the advantages of selling custom products on Amazon, including how to set up custom listings and manage orders efficiently to maximize profits and customer satisfaction.

Effective Inventory and Cash Flow Management

Kevin shares his approach to managing inventory and cash flow by incorporating laser engraving into his business model, allowing for greater flexibility and reduced risk.

Creating a Competitive Edge with Custom Products

Learn how investing in equipment like laser engravers can provide a competitive edge, create a moat around your business, and reduce competition from other sellers.

Resources From This Episode

In Conclusion

Kevin Sanderson’s expertise offers valuable strategies for Amazon sellers facing fee increases and looking to differentiate their business through custom products. By leveraging innovative solutions and maintaining flexibility, sellers can navigate challenges and continue to grow their businesses. Explore the resources mentioned to further enhance your Amazon selling experience.

Transcript

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: [00:00:00] It’s harder to jump through those hoops in the front end, but to your point, like there’s going to be less competition because you kind of have to be somewhat local to the U. S. to do these type of things or have somebody who is, uh, that you trust. So there’s a lot of things that create a moat around it.

And when we talk about like fees and margins, It has to be FBM. So you’re excluded from any FBA related fees. And people are a little less price sensitive , because you’re doing something customized. 

Todd Welch | Host: All right. 

What’s going on, everybody? Another episode here with my friend Kevin Sanderson, he is the VP of marketing at my Amazon guy now, but he also runs maximizing e commerce maximizing e commerce. com, where he has run 16 virtual events and helped thousands of Amazon sellers. Learn how to sell better on [00:01:00] Amazon.

And he’s also been selling himself on Amazon for over 8 years, which is something we’re going to be really diving into because he creates a lot of like laser engraved products and things like that, which is a rather unique niche on Amazon that we’re going to dive into. So Kevin, I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Oh, I’m excited to be here. Thank you for that intro. I’m exhausted just hearing my own intro. 

Todd Welch | Host: Absolutely. So one of the big topics that people have been talking about lately, of course, is the new Amazon fee increases, which Even if you’re watching this in a year or two years from now, they’ll probably be new fee increases.

But these most recent ones are pretty drastic because you see them right up front when you’re creating shipping, um, shipments into Amazon. And of course you’re working at my Amazon guy, Stephen Pope is, [00:02:00] uh, selling his Tumblr business that he was doing. So with you being at the largest agency in the world, essentially, what are you guys seeing on Amazon?

Is Amazon dead? Is it too late to get Amazon or where are you guys seeing it? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Well, this is now kind of cutting into my personal opinion based on my own experience as a seller for years, as well as, you know, what I see it bag at my Amazon guy. I think it’s going to get progressively harder as time goes on, and it will always be now will be the easiest time.

It will be moving forward. And so back in 2015, 2016, when I first got started, people were talking about it was so much easier in 2012. 2018, they always talked about 2015 was better 2020. It was 2018. You know, uh, recently it’s like, Oh, like during COVID for some of us, COVID was a disaster. So like, it wasn’t all, we have this kind of, um, looking back, this [00:03:00] fondness, this grass is greener.

It was better when it probably was now. I think when all these changes happen, if you can’t adapt to the changes, you will be left out as a seller. And like, Um, and this is getting away from the fee thing, but just to kind of go on that note is like when I first started, one of the key tactics I employed that a lot of people did was reaching out to people that were top 10, 000 reviewers and have them leave you a review.

You could send. It basically just message them. Amazon used to give you, maybe they still do, but you could find their contact information pretty easily back then. And you would just reach out to them and say, Hey, in exchange for a free product, would you give me an honest review? And it was always kind of a nudge, nudge, wink, wink, because, you know, they’re getting free products.

Some of them, this is like what they did for a living practically. And so they would leave really, Good reviews. I mean, well thought out. And as long as they put somewhere in there, [00:04:00] something to the effect of I received a product at a discount or for free in exchange for my honest review, it was kosher.

And then somebody did a, uh, somewhat of a hit piece on Amazon comparing reviews. Where they had like looked at like thousands of reviews, whether or not they included that phrase of, you know, the disclaimer and it was a huge difference in the average star rating for ones that had that versus didn’t have it.

So Amazon put the kibosh on the ability to do that. So they wiped out a lot of reviews, a lot of sellers got wiped out and, you know, more recently, a couple of years ago, people were doing a lot with like two step URLs and all these kind of like, you know, refund tactics, then they got rid of that. And then now the fees, which they’ve added other fees.

So there’s always a change I’ve noticed. And it’s going to, it’s going to get harder. Amazon has always been a complaint by sellers that they’re almost too in favor of [00:05:00] the buyer and almost to the detriment of the seller, who’s, you know, given them the inventory to build the product. Platform basically, and so is it too late to get into it for some, but for some 2015 was too late to get into it.

2012 was too late to get into it. So if you decide it’s too late, it is. You just have to use a different set of. Mindset and tactics than you would have two years ago. 

And that’s always been the case.

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. Everything is always progressing. Amazon is definitely maturing and it’s definitely getting harder.

Uh, at the same time, it’s kind of getting a little bit easier in ways that you don’t necessarily have to be doing all these, like. Gray tactics. Yes. There’s still a lot of them that you have to do, but more and more you can just focus on creating a great product, a great listing and market it like crazy.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, exactly. And that’s a good point about the gray hat [00:06:00] tactics that, you know, Not necessarily black hat, necessarily like, you know, like illegal or 

something’s going to get you in jail or at the time things that wouldn’t even necessarily get your account or listing shut down, but they were kind of like.

Should I be doing this? Should I not be? I tried to stay away from those things. And so to your point, they’ve kind of like leveled the playing field. I almost said cleaned house, but they didn’t really like get rid of a lot of people, but if you did those tactics today, you probably would get shut down.

Todd Welch | Host: yeah. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: And so, you know, they’re constantly doing that.

So it does level the playing field. Now, the thing with fees that’s different because it costs you money. It’s not just, Oh, I can’t do this thing anymore. I got to find new ways. It’s. It could potentially cost you money. And some of them, I think they’re just going to have to figure out like the, I think everybody was most freaked out about the low inventory feed.

Now, as the time of recording this, that has not gone into play yet. So that will probably be the new freak out. Everyone myself probably included will have to, you know, what that actually looks like in practice. But the one that really got everybody recently [00:07:00] was as of March 1st, the inbound fee for placing, which that was always a thing.

There was always, you could select an option that they would, you know, either divide your shipment up or they would charge you and you could send it to one place. The challenge was over time they were, I was having everything just go to one place and I didn’t even have that setting on. Whereas now they’re starting to charge you and they show it to you up front.

It’s not just an, you know, invoiced to your account down the road. So that one kind of hits you in the face where you’re like, you know, a shipment for a box might’ve been 20 for. You know, one box is now like 40 and you’re like, what, what just happened? 

so that, that one does hit you in the pocket. Um, but like anything over time, people are going to figure out how to better manage it, you know, and maybe that’s, You got to divide your shipments up a little bit different.

You can’t put everything that’s all the same skew in the same box. You got to divide them up and what that looks like over time. Time will tell, but I have [00:08:00] a feeling they’re going to get enough pushback too, that they’re going to hopefully make it a little clearer. Cause like right now, that one, I don’t think anyone really understands. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. The, I mean, I, I get what they’re trying to do. Obviously they are trying to get you to send the inventory to their different warehouses so they don’t have to. Um, and if you don’t, then you’re paying for that service up front, which used to be free. Um, but. Yeah, it’s, it’s definitely frustrating, especially sending to Canada.

So we sell a good amount in Canada. And so when they’re splitting those shipments up going into Canada, pretty expensive shipping over the border, obviously, when I prefer just to send one big pallet and keep it small. So that can be definitely frustrating. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating. So. But like anything over time, you learn to adapt to it and figure it out.

And, you know, some sellers got to look at, you know, maybe raise your price. [00:09:00] So if, if your goal has always been how to be the absolute lowest price for your product, now, if you’re sharing the buy box, that’s a little different story. But if you’re, if you have your own product and you’re not sharing the buy box, and you’re just trying to have the lowest price and the search results page, that might not be the best way to do it.

And maybe some of these fees also require, sellers in other countries, maybe who have been operating at much thinner margins now have to raise their prices too. So there’s also a little bit of an evening in the playing field, and we don’t know what that fully looks like until, you know, time tells us, but.

Markets. Kind of move with that invisible hand as Adam Smith, you know, old time economists used to say, 

Todd Welch | Host: yeah, we’ll, we’ll see how this stands because obviously, uh, Amazon has a history of changing fees, uh, from time to time when there’s a lot of blowback and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like, uh, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, 

Todd Welch | Host: low back from this one.

so maybe they’ll make [00:10:00] some adjustments to it, make it a little easier, a little clearer, obviously.

I think the harder one is going to be the, the low inventory. Uh, because for example, myself, I carry a lot of products from, you know, different suppliers and stuff. And there’s some products that I buy along with the better selling products that maybe only sell five, 10, 20 units per month. And so those.

Tend to run out of stock more because obviously I’m not going to order just those by themselves. I’m going to order it when I need the big stuff. Um, so those ones kind of worry me a little bit. Like, is this product that I sell 10 a month? Am I going to just start getting hit with crazy fees? Or what happens when my supplier is like, we’re backordered on this for three months?

Six months or something, you know, things like that, that, that one’s just, I don’t see exactly how they’re going to execute on that properly without [00:11:00] messing people up.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Well, yeah, that one is one that I’ve thought a lot about and I’ve looked into it and. 

again, anything we say here could be completely different when it goes into practice, just like the inbound fee ended up being a lot different in practice than it was on paper, but at least on paper, if you look back in the last 28 days in the last 90 days, as long as one of them, you had, Supply on average over a 28 day span, which calculating that when you start getting into it, you realize there are some gray areas that they haven’t really quite explained.

I don’t think. Uh, but. Simplistically, as long as you meet one of the two, so if over the 90 day time period, you were good, but maybe recently you ran out. Well, if you ran out, your sales were zero. So you’re actually helping yourself for the trailing 30. , so as long as one of those two, you had enough inventory, you should be okay.

 but that one just feels kind of. Like, [00:12:00] kick them when they’re down type fee.

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. Yeah. Especially with, you know, the, uh, What is it? FCC investigation currently. It’s because they’re really getting on Amazon for forcing people to use FBA, which they’re saying is anti competitive. And now they’re saying, okay, not only do you have to use FBA, but you have to keep the stock that we tell you to.

Right. Exactly. Like, okay, now we’re really pushing the boundary here a little bit. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, it used to be you could store. Years worth of inventory. And I think some people did then over time, they’re like, well, we’re not just cheap inventory here. So after a year, we’re gonna start charging you long term storage fees.

And they’ve kind of brought that now down to six months, basically. So you start getting hit for six months, but we’re also going to hit you if you don’t have enough. So you have to stay in this sweet spot. So, you know, one thing is like, I have a warehouse and you [00:13:00] have a warehouse. Like you don’t need a huge warehouse.

Like I have a small one where I’ve got a couple of rooms in the front and then the warehouse is in the back over there. More people might need things like that and not just, Hey, I ship in a container and I, you know, send it into Amazon and I set my ties at the beach and just. Check my laptop every now and then those days might be gone for a lot of folks.

Cause whether you have a 3PL or Amazon warehousing and distribution or your own warehouse or whatever, you know, you’re probably going to have to figure something out to better manage staying in that sweet spot of at least 30 days worth of inventory, but not more than. Too much. Oh, and if you go above 90 days, that could also affect, you know, your how much they allow you to send in.

So if you think about it, like, they have created all these somewhat conflicting initiatives with inventory. It is getting harder to manage inventory. It’s not impossible. It’s just you got to shoot towards. [00:14:00] Smaller target of how much inventory you’re going to store at a time. Yep, 

Todd Welch | Host: for sure. Yeah. And I don’t want to spend too much more time on this.

Cause I want to talk about your laser engraving, but something that I just thought about was, um, you know, this is going to make it. Rather difficult. I think for retail arbitrage people who can’t restock products. And, but I also wonder how they’re going to work it. Let’s say you’re one of 10 people selling out a listing.

Yeah. 

Todd Welch | Host: If 

you run out of stock, the listing is still in stock. So is that still going to count against you or are they going to be like, Oh, we’re good. We got other sellers, you know, how’s that going to work exactly as well? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Right. Is it based on your. Stock as a skew, or is it based on the ASIN sales and your stock against the ASIN sales in 28 days, which I would hope it’s your individual sales because you know, there’s too many [00:15:00] other variables, which.

Seem would seem to make it more punitive. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah, yeah. But even in that case, it doesn’t make sense, right? Because their goal of the fee is they want to keep products in stock, but if there’s other sellers on the listing, the product is still in stock. So why would you punish the person running out of stock if the product is still in stock itself?

So 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: yeah, 

Todd Welch | Host: it’s going to be weird. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: And part, part of it, the game truly is just stay in the game because over time, these. We talked about like, you know, there’s constant changes in fees and sometimes they, some bean counter looks at it. It was like, Oh, we need to do this fee. Cause we need to reward this. And then they realize, Oh, there’s this unintended consequence.

So maybe to your point, they start finding like, Hey, we’re losing out on sales of low, low movement products. But there’s enough of them in their catalog that it’s now hurting them because sellers maybe don’t want to offer them any and they start finding like it hurts our ability to be the everything store.

And so [00:16:00] I’ve seen a lot of the pendulum swings and sometimes all you got to do is when the pendulum swinging just kind of move your head out of the way so you don’t get it. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. And, and too, you know, if, if this does end up being where a lot of sellers Decide to be done. And you’re the one who rides it out.

Exactly. There’s that much more opportunity on the other side. Mm-Hmm. . 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah. And there’s, there’s constantly sellers coming in and outta the game and you know, some of it is just stay in it. 

Todd Welch | Host: Absolutely. So let’s dive into the. Laser engraving that you do, because it’s a pretty cool niche, I think, selling stuff on Amazon.

You do a little bit of Amazon custom, but then you also do where you’re creating the laser engraved products, sending them into FBA and selling them there. So tell us a little bit about how you got into that and what that looks like. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Sure. So I’ll use the example of a phone case. It’s not a phone case, but let’s just say I laser engrave designs on [00:17:00] the phone case.

So my first product. Was a quote unquote phone case. And so, and again, not a phone case. I don’t even know that I could engrave this with my engraver, but basically let’s just say it was a phone case. And then I had said to my supplier, like way back in the day, Hey, I want to sell other phone cases. Do you have other colors, other things I could do?

It’s like, Oh, we can engrave, you know, designs on the phone case. And so I started developing a catalog of quote phone cases. That had different designs on them. The challenge I was finding is as the catalog got bigger and I’m ordering from China after COVID, it went from, you know, three weeks to airship, you know, two, three weeks to airship to sometimes it was taking two months to ship by boat.

And then the turnaround times to have it shipped from the warehouse, because they couldn’t always necessarily bring. Everybody in to their, uh, factories that it was taking, [00:18:00] you know, longer lead time. So sometimes just to get the product would be over 3 months. And I’m like, well, that’s a lot of cash just sitting there that I, you know, paying for upfront.

And then, you know, some products did really well for a period of time and then they got slower. And so they were become slow moving products. But, you know, if they’re selling 5 a month. It might be worth it, but maybe five a month for some products became two a month. And then maybe they would sell pretty decent at the holiday season.

So, you know, then some years of the holiday season, they sold really well and then sold it didn’t sell well. So it was getting harder and harder to manage it. And then they’re giving me kind of minimum quantities per design. And so then it became, well, this is getting really hard. And I’m carrying a lot of inventory just to keep up with this.

And some products move really quickly and some they die. And so then I ended up sitting on a lot of inventory because all of a sudden that product just stops moving. And so I got to find some other way to manage this. And so I was like, why don’t I just order the quote unquote phone case itself? [00:19:00] Get, you know, let the phone case be the bottleneck, not the design.

And then I can engrave on the back of the phone case. And so then I started putting my designs. On it and using the laser engraver. And so, you know, hiring staff, like I’ve got somebody coming in for an interview actually after this, um, after we finished recording here, um, and showing her like, Hey, this is what we do, you know, and seeing if it would be a good fit for her because.

Yes, it costs me more money to have a U. S. employee in grave than it does a somebody in China, but I don’t have to carry as much. And I’m actually still in process over the last years of kind of scaling back how much inventory actually have to keep in stock at a time because. I can send in small quantities, although not as small quantities.

They used to because of the low inventory. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah, there you go for sure. So you essentially, you’ve got your [00:20:00] warehouse back there and you’ve got a large laser engraving machine. So you take the phone case that you’re using as an example. You put it in the machine, you have artwork created and it just lasers on whatever image you want on there.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, exactly. And so depending on the products and the material that we’re engraving, it’s usually anywhere between like, let’s say 45 seconds and five minutes to engrave a product. And so kind of start backing the math of like, okay, the employee can do X amounts and then. My goal is to buy another machine, so to alleviate some of that bottleneck, uh, before the holiday season.

Um, as I grow the portfolio of products that we’re selling that are engraved. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. And how much are one of those machines? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: The kind of machine I have generally four or five grand. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. So not too bad. Not terrible. Not too bad. I mean, it’s a lot of money for a lot of folks, but not too bad grand scheme of business equipment.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: [00:21:00] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Now the thing I will say is. If anybody wants to get into laser engraving, you know, the nice thing is you can also like somebody calls up and is like, Hey, I’ve got, you know, uh, an event and I need 200 X product engraved. You can be like, sure, I’ll do that. And you know, sometimes those are orders that somehow found me because they saw that we have engraving, um, on Amazon, they call me and I get doing large orders that I don’t know if they ever made it into Amazon.

Maybe they were just, you know, Paid through an invoice directly. I don’t know. I can’t remember. Yeah. But, um, you, you do get some of those things, which is nice, but if you do decide to go the route of, you know, buying a machine, whether it’s laser engraving or something else is a lot of these machines. Take a lot of work to figure out.

Like they’re usually those type of industrial machines are like, they just assume you already know what you’re doing. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. So you bought it for four or 5, 000, they delivered it to you and you had to [00:22:00] set it all up yourself or set it all up 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: yourself. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. Uh, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: spent a lot of time on YouTube university, so to speak of, uh, you know, figuring out the parameters.

You know, there’s a lot of weird things that will happen, you know, like back in January, the machine just wasn’t engraving the designs at all and come to realize, which after a lot of like, looking around, it was the basically there’s what’s called a power supply, which takes AC power from the wall. And converts it to DC power for the basically there’s mirrors that move the laser around and that power supply wasn’t putting out consistent power and that messed the whole thing up.

Now, I’m not an electrical engineer trying to figure all that out. It took a long time. So there you do end up with weird situations like that, or just trying to figure out the parameters of. You know, the laser itself was a little bit of a challenge, you know, cause you got all these different settings and there’s a variety of things that go into the [00:23:00] settings.

One machine settings are likely to be completely different than another machine settings and how it reacts to different types of materials. So it took a lot of work to get there. I’ll just say, I, I kind of enjoy it. It was. It’s been a fun journey over time, but it’s not plug and play. I’ll just say that.

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. So now that you have it loaded up though, what it has software that’s on like a windows computer, you’re uploading the image or the text that you want to engrave and then hitting go. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, exactly. So. Usually what I do is I have a spreadsheet for production that I’ll give to an employee. And it’s like, okay, you know, these products.

And usually I tell them like, okay, like in the name of the file is the ASIN. So like, okay, I want you to make 20 of this product. And then they’ll search for that ASIN in a particular folder. It’ll bring up the product. The design and it’s already got the parameters and everything loaded. Then they, you know, just make each one.

And then I have a VA in the Philippines. We’ll take our custom orders, which we haven’t really talked too [00:24:00] much about, but she’ll take the custom orders. She’ll create the design files for those. And then. We just print out the packing slips and the shipping labels. And then basically we just have a process for like, okay, we print these out.

Okay. Just make sure we’ve got the right base product that we’re engraving and that’s going to the right customer. Double check all that. Okay. Boom, boom, boom, boom. And then now we send those out. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. Very good. And you’re, you find that, uh, now that you’ve been doing that for a little while process is more profitable than when you were just ordering everything from China.

Already made? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yes and no. So it’s profitable in the sense I can do more tests. So I don’t need to, you know, buy a large, like I have cases of stuff in the back that have hardly moved at all the last few years, um, that I’m just kind of stuck with. So if I want to try something new, you know, I can print out like Five units of something and send it in and if it moves great, and if it doesn’t move, [00:25:00] then don’t restock it.

And so I get to do a lot of micro tests. So that’s been profitable that way. Now the margins, it does slim down the margins a little bit, but it does help with cashflow because I’m not having to purchase as much at a time, especially for slower moving items that, you know, in some cases for some slower moving products, I was buying.

More than a year’s worth at a time of that particular product, just because it was moving so slowly. Whereas now I don’t really care if it’s slow moving or not. It’s, you know, X number. If I need to ship in 3 units, I just ship in 3 units. And if that’s enough to last 2 months, great. And then other products that sell, you know, you know, Much more than that, then I just make, you know, I make according to the demand for the product and for the products that it’s still are moving.

I still have the factory, um, engrave some of those too, especially so 

Todd Welch | Host: the, the higher velocity ones, you still do some of those from China. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: [00:26:00] Yes, not all of the ones come from China, but some of them still come from China and I know I might have them make maybe half of what I need for the holiday season. So that way I’m not stuck in case it doesn’t sell as well as I thought it would.

But that way it also because a lot of my stuff is very giftable. That window is hard to figure out as you’re getting closer to the holiday season and you’re starting to see what is actually moving. And then, of course, you know, There’s send in time, the processing time, the fulfillment center, uh, transfer time, all these times before, you know, it actually is up available for sale, you know, fully available.

I should say you don’t want to miss that window because you’re still trying to figure out. Like production. So I like to get some of the production ahead of time. Yeah. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. Very good. Yeah. And cashflow of course is super important, especially if you’re growing, if you’re growing, you either need to take out debt to grow or increase the time that you’re able to turn your cash.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Exactly. Exactly. And [00:27:00] so the, whether it’s a laser engraver or something else, I think for a lot of folks start looking at what are your. Bottlenecks and how can you solve that? And that’s really what it came down to for me. It was my bottleneck was I’m ordering way too much inventory at a time. And that was getting to be a frustration.

And so I don’t even know how I figured I landed on laser engravers. It was just, I think I was listening to an audio book about Steve jobs and he talked about taking or the author talked about how Steve had taken it. You know, inspiration from other places. Like a lot of people have probably heard the story of like a lot of the design elements in Mac and Apple products have come from a calligraphy class that he like took in college.

And so he took inspiration from something completely unrelated to computers and it applied it to computers. And so, you know, start thinking about like going outside of. The realm you’re [00:28:00] in, how my other people make those products and start looking at it like, okay, if people sell the product that you sell on eBay or Etsy, or, you know, in a target store, look at that product and start thinking of, are they doing anything differently?

Then how I’m doing it, because just because you’ve done it a certain way for several years doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it. And so maybe there’s other things you could do that could alleviate, maybe not the fee structure that Amazon’s doing, but something else that’s hurting you because the fee structure ultimately is going to have an effect on cashflow.

So if you can do something else again, you know, Solve some of your cashflow issue or how many you have to order at a time or whatever that is, you know that even though you can’t solve one particular problem, maybe that is the genesis of solving another problem in your business. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

And with the With the custom side, let’s dig into that a little bit because I’ve never sold [00:29:00] custom before. So how does that process work to set up those listings and, uh, get the, uh, everything set up and selling? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, so I was very intimidated by it for years. Like, I probably should have been selling custom a long time.

Like, you know, it was really only about like right around Black Friday last year that I even started it and it ended up going much better than I thought. I thought Etsy was going to do a lot better because people go on Etsy for that. But I realized like people are buying custom stuff on Amazon and Amazon actually has a better custom experience.

And so depending on your product and what you’re customizing, there’s different ways you could set it up. But like, for me, I can set up, let’s say. The phone case. And then they can pick what font they want, what message they want, um, you know, variety of, you know, different variables you can put in there and it will mock it up.

And so I think that helps with sales [00:30:00] because Amazon actually made custom, uh, products, a pretty decent experience for the customer. And so people. Think Etsy a lot of times for those types of products, but actually I think Amazon’s a better way to go about. And I can tell you, you know, like in the laser community, cause I listened to a lot of stuff in laser community.

People talk a lot more about Etsy and the debate is whether you just kind of do your own like kind of promotional products, like. You know, serving local customers, or if you do Etsy or your own web store, nobody talks about Amazon. I think everyone’s so afraid of it. So if you’ve already figured out Amazon, Amazon customs, not that hard.

And so like, for me, the hard part was I really didn’t do much. If any FBM order. So having to come up with a new process for merchant fulfilled orders was probably the hardest part for me after figuring out how to set up the listing. But the nice thing is I also learned with that, you could set up templates so I could create templates.

So when I create a new version of a product, maybe it’s like different color variation or something. I could just swap out the [00:31:00] picture. As long as everything else was kind of in the same section, I can, you know, move things around as need be. So it, um, it’s, it’s gone pretty well. 

Todd Welch | Host: So you’re, you’re creating templates within Amazon, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: within Amazon custom.

So if you can imagine you’re in, you create a product. One of the, I think it’s the, I forget what they call it, the general info screen, whatever the kind of, not the offer, but the primary information about the product. One of the first questions is customization. Yes or no. And if you say yes, then it brings up a whole other thing.

And then you could create like basically, so people could mock up the product. And then I just have, like, I added an image amongst, you know, the secondary images that’s available fonts, and then I have another one that’s instructions that basically says, you know, you know, 3 lines of custom text, you know, X number of characters per line.

We will center it vertically and horizontally. You know, 1 line is mandatory lines 2 and 3, or, [00:32:00] you know, optional. And Amazon will actually enforce that too. So they can’t put in like 20 texts or 20 characters. I can only put in 15 because I set it to that. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay, nice. So when you’re adding those listings, it’s, it’s the same screen as you’d add to any other product you just select.

One 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: of the questions is customization. Yes or no. And you just put in a customer. Now you might have to enroll in customization to see that question. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: so check your settings. It’s been a while because I, it was, I had thought about doing customization a long time before I actually did it. So it wasn’t, so my memory, it could be a little bit off in the sense of like, Oh yeah, I had to first sign up for this before it showed me that.

Cause I had been seeing that question for a long time before I actually started doing it. So now that I think about it. You might have to enroll in custom first, and once you’re enrolled in the program, then maybe that question comes up if you don’t already see it. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. Yeah, there’s probably something [00:33:00] to enroll because I don’t recall on any of the recent products that we’ve added seeing that message.

So there’s probably something that you have to turn on in settings. Or something like that. But probably a quick search for Amazon custom would sure. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Oh yeah. You could probably just look up, you know, custom and seller central, and I’m sure there’s articles that’ll walk you through what to do. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yep.

Absolutely. So once somebody makes an order of something custom, I’m sure Amazon’s not sending you the file to upload to your laser engraver. So how does that process, what is Amazon giving you when someone makes an order? And then where do you go from there? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah. So. In the packing slip, it’ll say like the font and the message.

So like, if I have lines, like for me, it’s lines one, line two, line three, it’ll have that there. So I just, I tell my assistant, I don’t care what they write. You know, sometimes it’s very heartfelt. Sometimes it’s really nice. Sometimes [00:34:00] it’s awful. I’m like, sometimes I’m like, I don’t even know if I’m allowed to ship this, but customer paid for it.

So at least I can say, Hey, customer, all we did was copy and paste. So I tell my assistant copy and paste it. If the spelling is wrong, if the. Punctuation and grammar is terrible. Just do it. And that has actually saved me. Um, the only time I ever get in trouble is like someone’s like, no, I wanted a period here and you didn’t put the period.

So I’m like, just copy and paste it. Um, so she copies and pastes it and then just changes the font. And then does a little bit of adjusting because we want it to kind of fill up most of the. Um, phone case, so to speak. So, and then centering it vertically and horizontally. So basically just make it look nice.

And so far we’ve had, I think only five stars for that particular, for our first product we did. Okay. Awesome. Yeah. People are rave about it because you’re, you’re giving them what they asked for. Basically. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an awesome opportunity for sure. I [00:35:00] mean, there’s lots of things that you can get.

Custom made on Amazon and laser engraving is just one thing you can make, you know, from custom T-shirts to mugs and everything else, you know, you can set up and do if you want to 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: know, I would caution anyone if you want to get into any of this, do not go the route of, you know, there’s like print on demand sites and stuff like that, which is I think people do very liberally on 

Etsy.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Amazon will shut you down. Like I can tell you, I’ve had times where like, I didn’t have a lot of orders and I missed like two of them by a day. And like, it’s the worst feeling when you log into your account and you see your account is at risk of deactivation for, you know, uh, late shipments. And, oh, and when my machine went down, I had a bunch of canceled orders and I had that.

That, uh, at the top, but [00:36:00] thankfully knock on wood. Um, I haven’t had any issues other than threats of issues because, you know, I had to cancel orders, but they were understanding. And I put it in a support case to say, Hey, my machine went down and trying to figure out what happened and they’re like, Oh, thanks for letting us know.

Well, you know, we invite you to come back to Amazon customization when your machine’s working. And it was actually like, it wasn’t just like a. You know, a lot of times seller support responses don’t even make sense to what you’re saying. Like you can tell the person like was looking at the variables of what I said and actually wrote something out that like made sense.

So yeah. 

Todd Welch | Host: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes you get good support. Sometimes not. So maybe support for Amazon custom is a little better than regular seller support. Right. 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Cause they have to kind of customize their, uh, how they’re responding to you. Cause it’s not quite, everything’s black and white and custom. Yeah.

Todd Welch | Host: Yep. Yep. You get custom support, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: very 

Todd Welch | Host: good. So, all right. Anything that we haven’t touched on [00:37:00] regarding, you know, laser engraving, Amazon custom, anything like that, that people should want to know if they wanted to get into it.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Just make sure you have a process I would be, you don’t have to be the one to physically put the orders in boxes, but I would say you want to be in control of that, that either Take care.

Bye. You are in control of it because you have a trusted 3PL or, you know, some other party that’s doing it that has a history of getting orders out on time. You don’t want to risk your whole account because someone else can’t get the orders out in time. You want to make sure you have a process for that.

So I would say, If you want to get into custom, you don’t have to be the one to customize, but you need to be the one to figure out the system. 

Todd Welch | Host: Yeah. And I think it’s good too, right? Because it’s a, it’s a, has several additional hurdles that you have to deal with. Nump over to start doing it. So if you’re laser engraving or creating mugs or whatever the case may be, [00:38:00] and especially if you’re doing it custom, this isn’t something that just some seller over in China could just jump on and start doing the exact same thing very easily.

They could, but it’s going to be a lot more work than just throwing up. product and trying to sell it. So a little bit more of a, you know, uh, gate or a wall around what you’re doing that way, once you get it all set up, but it does, it’s going to take more work to get set up

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, it’s a lot more work to get set up because you got to figure out not just the Amazon side of things, but whatever equipment or whatever you’re using to customize and, you know, whether, you know, I’ve looked into other things too.

So whether you’re doing. You know, laser engraving or some sort of special printing or, you know, print a garment or something like that. Like they’re usually not as easy as just, you know, setting up your, you know, HP or Canon printer and, you know, [00:39:00] hooking it up. It’s usually a little bit more in depth and there’s more kind of layers to it.

So you. It’s harder to jump through those hoops in the front end, but to your point, like there’s going to be less competition because you kind of have to be somewhat local to the U. S. to do these type of things or have somebody who is, uh, that you trust. And then also you got to figure it out. So there’s, there’s a lot of things that create a moat around it.

And when we talk about like fees and margins, well, it has to be FBM. So you’re excluded from any FBA related fees, With this and people are a little less price sensitive. I find because you’re doing something customized. So people are also looking so I include shipping and free shipping with all of mine, but some of them you might see like, oh, this person is a lower price, but they’re charging 899 for shipping right off the bat.

And another thing that’s also nice about custom, which happens with FBM in general, is [00:40:00] that you can also set up in your templates. Maybe free. Ground shipping or, you know, whatever type of first class shipping, but then they could also upgrade for expedited shipping. And that might be enough to even cover your costs of the shipping itself.

Todd Welch | Host: Yep. So overpriced the expedited shipping a little bit and make a little extra on top of. Yeah, 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: exactly. Yeah. 

Todd Welch | Host: For sure. Yeah. A hundred percent people are willing to pay more. I know I have, I’ve had some custom things created on Amazon and, and Etsy as well. And you care a little bit less about the price when you’re doing something custom.

Cause you just understand. Yeah, I expect it to be more expensive. Um, and I feel like that and correct me if I’m wrong, that anyone who has experience creating really nice Amazon listings is probably going to have a [00:41:00] leg up in the custom space because majority of those people selling there probably are not Amazon optimization experts.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah, I think that’s pretty fair. You know, some people might be like, okay, They did decent on Etsy or somewhere else. And they’re like, well, why don’t I throw it up on Amazon too? And usually if that’s their secondary focus, they probably didn’t put as much effort into like, you know, the Amazon keywords, you know, cause maybe the keywords that worked on it.

Etsy or how you write an Etsy listing. Don’t necessarily translate back and forth. Now, those people probably are killing me on Etsy and I’m missing the boat. Cause I don’t understand Etsy quite as well, but, um, that is probably a good point you just brought up. Yeah, 

Todd Welch | Host: for sure. All right. Well, cool, Kevin, this has been awesome.

Where can people best connect with you? 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: Yeah. So you can always go to, uh, maximizing e commerce. com. You can, you know, contact me there if you wanted to. Uh, we’ve got events coming up in the future. We’ve got a PPC [00:42:00] related summit coming up in May. Um, you can also. Uh, from time to time, I make appearances on the, my Amazon guy, YouTube channel as well.

So if you’re not subscribed to, uh, uh, my Amazon guy, go to youtube. com forward slash my Amazon guy, or just look up my Amazon guy on YouTube and, you know, subscribe to that channel, which is by far the most comprehensive channel out there. I think in the Amazon world with by anything you could possibly think of, there’s probably a video 

Todd Welch | Host: Absolutely.

And I can testify that your, your events are great. I’ve spoken at some of them and yes, you have a really good educational information and they’re usually a very good price as well. So I try 

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: to make it affordable folks. 

Todd Welch | Host: Absolutely. All right, Kevin. Awesome. This has been great. I appreciate you coming on the show.

Kevin Sanderson | VP Marketing at My Amazon Guy: appreciate you having me. Thanks Todd. 

Todd Welch | Host: Absolutely. God bless.