Talking Amazon with Scott Voelker

Scott Voelker from The Amazing Seller is our guest today, where we talk about all things Amazon, including where he thinks there’s opportunity left on Amazon.

We also talk about some of the financing options Amazon sellers have if they’re growing really quickly and need to get some additional liquidity and cash flow. That and lot’s more as we dive in.

You’ll learn:

  • Where Scott still sees lots of opportunity on Amazon
  • His favorite Amazon apps and tools
  • How to finance a flourishing business for organic growth

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(With your host Andrew Youderian of eCommerceFuel.com and Scott Voelker of TheAmazingSeller.com)

Andrew: Welcome to “The eCommerceFuel Podcast,” the show dedicated to helping seven-figure store owners build incredible businesses and amazing lives. I’m your host, Andrew Youderian.

And today on the show, I’m joined by Scott Voelker, from the amazingseller.com. I’m surprised I haven’t had him on the show before now. He’s a well-known guy in the Amazon space, knows a tremendous amount about the platform, and has sold tons and tons of product on Amazon.

And we, you know, as you suspect, discussion about Amazon, talking about where he still thinks there’s opportunity left on Amazon, talk about some of the financing options Amazon sellers have, if they’re growing really quickly and need to get some additional liquidity and cash flow.

We talk about multiples for selling Amazon businesses, some of the biggest problems he’s seeing with Amazon right now, the state of reviews for Amazon reviews, you know, in the second half of 2018, some of his favorite tools, and a bunch of other things.

So, we’re just gonna dive deep and chat with someone who knows Amazon much better than I do. So, hopefully, you’ll enjoy and get a few things out of it, as I did.

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All right, let’s jump into my discussion with Mr. Voelker today on Amazon. Scott, welcome to the show, thanks for coming on. It’s long overdue to have you on, so, glad to get you on the podcast, man.

Scott: Yeah, man. I’m really excited to get on here and actually get to talk all about well, just eCommerce and then some other cool stuff that we wanna talk about. But, yeah, man, I’m pumped.

Scott’s Involvement on Amazon

Andrew: Yeah, for you coming on. And maybe for people who aren’t super familiar with you, can you give people a sense of what you’re doing on Amazon right now in terms of selling, you don’t have to give specific acings but maybe high level categories you’re in, rough volume, things like that, so people have an idea where you’re coming from?

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Basically, in the film/photography space, I’ve been in for a very long time. The current stuff that I’m working with, and it’s funny, and I know you and I are gonna talk a little bit about this later, but since I’ve started, you know, really honing in on the Amazon Marketplace, I’ve really partnered with other people, and now I’ve actually started a private client group where I’m helping them build their businesses and taking it from, you know, $500,000 a year to a million plus.

The ones that I’ll throw out there, sports and outdoors, home and kitchen. I always talk about the bass fishing market, which is a great market. You know, those are just some high level ones, but I mean, we’ve done some very obscure ones too that a lot of people don’t really consider, is in handmade. If you’re not capitalizing on handmade and you have something that you could sell there, it’s another opportunity. So, those are just, again, some things to throw out there.

As far as numbers go, we started a new brand. I partnered with someone in a new brand, from scratch. Our plan is to build this thing, use it as a case study where I can report back on the numbers, and then also talk about what we’re doing, and then eventually, we wanna sell that. So, that’s like the long term plan, but really, it’s just for me to be able to report back on and still be in the trenches.

That one there is on track to do seven figures. We started it in, let’s see, May of 2017.

We started then, and then we got ramping up into fourth quarter. I believe we crossed, in December alone we did $100K in that one brand with about six Qs at that time. So, just to give you some context.

Where There’s Still Opportunity on Amazon

Andrew: Very cool. So, lots of experience. You’ve been doing it for a long time. Where do you think there’s still…I mean, Amazon is so much more competitive today than it was even, you know, three years ago. Where do you think there’s still opportunity left on Amazon? Obviously, you know, like having a unique brand or a proprietary product, you know, that’s getting to be, you know, stable stakes for Amazon.

But maybe more in the lines of opportunity terms of interesting categories, types of products that aren’t super crowded, places you see opportunity that are overlooked right now, even in 2018.

Scott: Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough one, right? Because there’s a whole bunch of different areas that you can go into in this direction. But one thing I would say, though, is everyone that is just trying to find a product, that’s where the problem is, right? You’re just trying to find a product, you’re not really looking at the market as a whole. So, the way I look at it is differently. I look at it as let’s go after a market and let’s see what other products could be served to that market.

So, I mean, to talk about obscure stuff and things that are weird, like what if you sold replacement knobs for drying, you know, or dryers, or washing machines? You know what I mean? That would be like, but it’s not sexy, right? It’s not like people are going to do that. And you can have a whole brand about how to repair or what…You know what I mean? So, there’s a lot of opportunity in that stuff.

Again, going outside of the norm of, or what everyone else is teaching. And I think what people are all trying to find is that one product, that one fidget spinner that’s going to make them a million dollars. And I think that’s the problem. There’s a lot of people pushing that now. Since I started the podcast, since you started your podcast, a lot of new people have come in and trying to capitalize on people thinking that they can do that.

I’m one of the first ones that actually had the podcast that was focused on the Amazon Marketplace, and I was not even back then saying, “Just go find one product and get rich.” It was always about, “Find that one product that could lead you to a market, and then from there, build a brand in that market.”

Since then, I’ve even become even more adamant about, you have to find the market, build a brand, and then create products that serve the brand. And then we can do a whole bunch of other cool things on and off of Amazon. So, that’s like my little rant on that.

The Market-First Approach

Andrew: Yeah. So, big part of that is, and you see it a lot on Amazon sellers, you done a lot of this quite a bit, take more of approach of finding a market instead of having one or two skus that you bank the farm on, maybe find one that’s a little underserved and build a portfolio of I don’t know, you know, anywhere from 10 to 20 skus, maybe even more, that are all good singles and doubles that build up. Is that a safer bet and a better approach in your opinion?

Scott: Well, it is. And I don’t think anyone should say, “I’m building my business on Amazon.” I hear that all the time, like, your Amazon brand. I hear that so much, and I wanna just do a time out there and blow the whistle and say, “Wait a minute. Whoa, whoa, you shouldn’t be even having that in the mindset of you’re building an Amazon brand.

You’re building a brand, it just happens that you’re using the channel to sell the products, because there’s a lot of traffic, there’s a lot of credit cards there. Like, why wouldn’t you?”

It’s also a whole another side of the business, right? Like, everyone’s going after the search traffic, that’s the search traffic for a certain product and keyword that’s around that product. But what about the attention-getting marketing, or the attention over on the right side that you could be talking about as far as getting more people into the brand?

But I just see a lot of people saying building a business on Amazon. I don’t even wanna hear those words, because that’s not what anyone should be doing. And I don’t think anyone should think that they can do that, because if they do, it’s very, very risky because I’ve had this happen to, not just myself, I’ve had it happen on a couple of skews. You get a little bit of a high refund rate. I’m talking high like 4%, 5%.

They go ahead and they suppress your listing. They warn you. You can then renew it or get it reactivated, and then from there you can start selling again if you get some.

And those refunds could be just someone says, “Wasn’t as described.” It’s just so broad, right? And then boom, you’re out of commission for a little while. And then on the third one, they’ll usually, they’ll kill the listing until you can prove otherwise, that you’re gonna pull that inventory, make it right on whatever the claims are, and so you’re out of business, basically, on that skew for however long.

And I’ve seen it happen on a skew. I’ve seen it happen on a whole account, not just on my own, but other people that I’ve worked with. And that’s why it’s just a fear that even people that are doing, you know, six figures, seven figures a year and they’re banking on that channel, it’s like they can’t even sleep at night because they’re afraid that they’re gonna get that message, right? And so that’s a big one.

How To Move Your Amazon Customer To Your Own Storefront

Andrew: Yeah. You mentioned, you know, using Amazon building this as a channel, not building your brand there. So, how do you…you know, you’re trying to build your own independent site, I’m guessing that that’s independent from Amazon and get more people that way. What are some of the tactics you use? Because Amazon, it’s getting harder to send follow up emails to people, Amazon is like, you know, people are opting out, a lot of those messages aren’t getting there.

Obviously, you don’t get people’s email address, you know, on the customer. So, what are your best tactics for being able to try to retain a customer when you sell them on Amazon, but to be able to get them over to your own independent website? Because Amazon locks them down pretty well.

Scott: Yeah, they do. There’s some ways we can get around that. I mean, one way, and, you know, your listeners can take this however they want, and how they would use it is up to them. I would do it in the most ethical way possible, because I’m all about white hat. But you can poll all of the order reports, and you can pull that information, right? So, it doesn’t give you the phone numbers anymore. Some accounts it might, but a lot of them don’t. The addresses, sometimes you can get that, sometimes you don’t.

So, there might be one or the other, and if there is, then you’re pretty good because what we can do is we can pull that report, and then from there, what we can do is we can upload that to Facebook, and then what we can do is we can create a custom audience, or even a lookalike audience of that. But if we wanna target just those people, they’ll try to match the criteria that you’ve pulled from that report on Facebook.

Now, people would say, “Yeah, but they didn’t ask for that.” Well, you’re not directly sending them a message, but you can send them stuff that’s related to what they’ve bought because you know that. So then it’s gonna be up to them to consume the content or take the action that you want in the ad.

And it might only be a 60% match, but if you have 10,000 customers and you can get, you know, 60% of them to see something, or even use that as a base to go ahead and say, “Find more people that are like these people that bought my product,” that would be a high level strategy. And I would say anyone that has any type of sales should be doing something like that.

So, that way there you have the best chance of getting the people on an email list or even on another pixeled audience, or consuming a video that they’ve…they might view that video 50%, and now we can say anybody that’s viewed the video 50% we can send them something. And video views right now on Facebook is like dirt cheap, like pennies, literally.

And then you can start giving people more content for consumption, and then you know that they bought your product because we’ve uploaded that file. That’s just one way that you can do it.

If you wanna just take the exact data that Amazon has, and you wanna try to match that Facebook…and if for some reason you can’t do that, there’s companies out there that will take that data and they’ll try to match. And it’s, you know, as far as I know, it’s totally illegal. There’s companies out there that are doing it all the time, because you’re not necessarily taking them and then cold calling them or anything like that. I wouldn’t do that.

What I would do is just put up ads in front of them that could be related to what they purchased, and then they’re going to let you know by making the action that you’re asking for in the video or the ad.

Andrew: Facebook ads are not my, you know, is not my area of expertise. I knew you could create, of course, custom alliances with an email, but you can do that with addresses and phone numbers too?

Scott: Absolutely.

How Scott’s Amazon Strategy Has Changed In The Last Year

Andrew: Okay, I didn’t know that. Very cool. How have you changed your strategy for your existing listings on Amazon over the last six or 12 months? Any big tweaks you’ve made, given things, either things that Amazon’s drilled out, or just changes in the marketplace in general?

Scott: Well, here’s the thing. I’m not about hacks, or the next trick or the strategy. I know that’s sexy and everybody wants to sell that or get the sexy headline, or anything like that. It comes down to really some basic core things, having a well optimized and really well-written listing that explains exactly what you have. So, you let the customer know what it is, but you also let Amazon know what it is. Remember Amazon is also scraping that listing and that’s going to tell them what the product is.

So, a well optimized, good images, don’t cheap, you know, don’t cut corners on the images. Get some really high quality images, because that’s the closest thing that’s going to be for someone getting in your store or, you know, touching the product, zooming in on it, making sure that the quality is good. All of that stuff is super, super important.

Once you have that, and it’s a good product, right? And maybe you have a handful of reviews, or maybe you even don’t have reviews, well then you can just go ahead and start running paid traffic do it with pay-per-click, right? So, there’s a whole bunch of different ways that we can do this. We can use an auto campaign. So, again, if we’ve optimize our listing, we can tell Amazon to find people that they think would be a good buyer for that. But they can only do that if we’ve optimized correctly.

So, that’s number one rule, right? We wanna make sure that we optimize so that way, that happens.

Then the other thing is build an email list or some type of list that you can communicate with these people, or reach out to an influencer in your space. The whole idea here is to figure out how many sales your competition is having, that they’re making in a day, and then you have to match that. If you have good optimization, and that’s on the front end and the back end.

On the back end the optimization, the biggest key there is to make sure that you’ve filled in the search terms in the back end, or the keywords, so that way there it also has another place for them to know what the product is.

But then from there, it’s really about getting sales. And if you get sales through that listing and it’s optimized, you don’t even have to use these hacks out there that’s like a super URL where you can game the system as far as make it seem like they searched for this but they really didn’t, but they’re clicking through a link that you set up that makes it look like they actually searched. You know, could that work? Maybe. Again, it’s a short term hack.

But if you just have your title that is really the main thing that you are selling, and then you have it in your bullets and you have it in your description and you have it your backend, if you start getting sales for that, Amazon’s going to see that and you’re going to automatically start to rank. And then once we rank, we’re going to be able to get sales, once we get sales, we should have a follow up in place.

Now people are saying, “Well, they’re not really following up like they like they used to.” You know, people are using different tools. I use Sales Backer, but you can use any one that’s out there, really, that will deliver that message. But even if you’ll only get 2% or 3% of people to do it, it’s better than nothing. And it’s a follow-up sequence that you’re not even having to do, so that would be the basic right stuff. Once you have that stuff in place, it’s just a matter of going out there and doing some good marketing to get more sales.

And that’s where people drop the ball. They think that that’s all there is to work with. It’s really about working outside of Amazon to drive sales into the Amazon ecosystem, so that way there you can drive sales that your competition isn’t doing, because all they’re doing is trying to find a hack on Amazon.

Best Practices for a Profitable Ad Spend

Andrew: Yeah, you mentioned the paid traffic side of things, and granted, the approach for paid traffic is probably gonna, you know, there’s not one size fits all, but you’ve got a lot of options. There’s Amazon, you know, paid traffic and multiple variations of that, you can go Facebook and, you know, try to get people to come in through a funnel, pixel them, send them to your page. If they buy, great, if not, you can retarget them.

Is there one approach that you’ve seen? And again, can I ask, you know, it’s kind of to generalize here, but is there an approach that you’ve seen that provides, on average across all the different stuff you’ve been involved with, the best profitable ad spend in general? Like, if you didn’t know anything about certain products and somebody said, “Hey, you have to pick one type of paid traffic approach that you can take,” is there one that you would start with, or people should start with if they’re not doing paid traffic right now?

Scott: The first one, the obvious one is, you know, Amazon sponsored product ads. Remember, you can be in front of your customer on day one if you even do a bad job at figuring out what the keywords are, right? Like if you’re selling a garlic press, it would be, you know, “Garlic press,” or it would be “Stainless steel garlic press,” or whatever. You’ve got to remember, people are on Amazon to buy stuff, right? They’re not searching for “How tos,” they’re searching for the thing.

So, number one, if you’re not using paid traffic on Amazon and using their tools, headlines or checks, whatever, you’re missing the game here. You’re missing that one big, huge thing that they’re allowing us to do.

The other mistake I see people making, and I’m just saying this randomly but this hopefully will be helpful, is people plan to do this stuff, and then once they get to a certain level of they’re starting to get some sales, they back off on it. See, I don’t do that. If anything, I’m gonna start really tweaking it so they get more optimized and then I can start killing the ones that aren’t working and keeping the ones that are, and really fueling those.

And then the cool thing is you have this ripple effect that now that we’ve been doing this for maybe two months and we have a steady history of sales coming through these certain keywords, when there’s a big rush in traffic like fourth quarter, or like Prime Day, well then you’re gonna be ranking outside of everybody else because you’ve done the work beforehand. So, you’re planning ahead.

So, to come back to your question, the first thing I would do is start working on sponsor product ads, if that’s where you’re starting.

Timeframe for Building a Profitable Business

Andrew: Cool. Do you have a timeframe? You know, I’ve heard Dan and Nean over, they have this cool yard stick about it takes 1,000 days to build up a profitable, you know, to really go from zero to having a business that can support you. Granted, of course, that’s gonna change. With Amazon, you know, right into what you’re talking about, getting a product up, planning on not making money for a while, focusing on paid ads, getting that sales velocity up. You’re investing in an asset that’s gonna pay you back over time.

Again, it’s gonna change, but you have a rough just back of, you know, rule of thumb for you where you say like, “Hey, I’m planning on when to get this launched. Really, you know, running at break even or even a little loss for two months, three months, six months to get to a place where it can, you know, become an asset for me.” How long does it take for you on average to get a new product to a place what’s it’s actually, you know, it’s profitable versus a cost center or breakeven?

Rule of Thumb for Profitability

Scott: Yeah, generally, I mean, we always give ourselves a two to a three-month window of that we’re just gonna do all we can to get that thing sales. So, that could be at a loss, like you said. And I look at a loss as your cost of advertising, right? It’s like if you have a brand new business, you have a grand opening sale. You spend $10 grand on the DJ and the hot dogs, and hamburgers, to get everybody to know about your bank, right? It’s the same idea, but people are all looking at that profit rate out of the gate.

Your first order, your 1,000 units might not make you a dime, probably shouldn’t make you a dime. Everything should be rolled back into that. But me personally, I would look at…And it depends on when you launch too, right? If you’re launching and you’re heading into the fourth quarter, I’d say that could be sped up, because we have a lot more traffic to work with. But I would say, rule of thumb, six months, maybe seven months is about what I look at.

Now, that doesn’t mean that’s gonna work all across the board, but that’s generally where you wanna be. But what we generally do is we will look at that, and then we will say, “Okay, that product is making money now, now what are we gonna do with that money? We’re gonna put it in our pocket, or we’re gonna take that and then get another skew up and running?” That’s generally what we’ll do.

And we’ll do that up to where we feel as though we’ve established a good set of products, and then we might back off and just focus on those product, keep reordering like we would do so everything is systematized at this point, and then you can start pulling some profit and maybe even just putting yourself as a line item. Because I don’t know if you read that book, “Profit first“?

Andrew: I haven’t read it, but I’m real familiar with it.

The Profit First Method

Scott: It’s a great book, and it makes a lot of sense, because we’ll never pay ourselves until we think that we’ve got enough, right? So, if you make yourself a line item, I think there has to be a time in your business that you do become a line item, and that might be you might give yourself that after product has, you know, launched and it’s successfully selling, we can put a portion of the money back in to product development, and then the other we have to put in, you know, in our pocket so we can actually have a profit at the end of the day.

Because in the physical products business, it is very, you know, cash. You know, you have to base to have a lot of cash. You know what I mean? To keep it running, and you’re always bringing that money back in, so there has to be a time that you can have a cut off that you say when is enough, enough so I can start actually feeling the rewards and benefiting from what we’ve done? And that’s a tricky part for a lot of business owners.

So, I would say for me personally, six to seven months, depending if you’re heading into a very busy quarter like fourth quarter, that could be sped up to, you know, the fourth quarter. I mean, you could sell through all your inventory and at the end of it go, “Holy crap, we’ve got a lot of cash left here.” So, I think it does depend.

Scott on Margins

Andrew: Yeah. What about for margins? I mean, two questions on margins, one, what do you look for at the end of the day for your net margin? You know, you sell a product, say if you’re just making math easy, 100 bucks. After you, you know, you get it landed, you get it shipped in, you pay all your fulfillment fees, Amazon takes a commission, what’s your average margin you’re shooting for once you’ve got it to that point where you’re not promoting it and really trying to get up to speed anymore, but it’s in that cash generation mode?

What’s your margin that you shoot for?

And then secondly, have you seen margins on Amazon materially decreasing over the last year with just increased competition fees going up, etc.?

Scott: Yeah. Okay, so first off, we always shoot for in the beginning, I say the first 12 months, we want to get to a 40% margin, okay? Now, that doesn’t always happen, okay? It might be 25%, it might be 30%, but that also comes into play as far as where do we see now where we can make it more profitable by buying more, right? We might be doing a smaller order because we’re doing a test run, but we know that once we get this thing rolling, we’ll be able to cut our cost because we’re gonna buy more, we’re gonna…

But I wanna know that beforehand. That’s another part of the research. You’re figuring out the manufacture, the price structures, like, what is it going to break down after I buy 10,000 versus 5,000? And so on.

The other thing, and that is maybe you’re doing air shipping right now, but then you’re gonna do sea shipping. Or maybe you’re gonna do 50-50. That will cut your costs quite a bit. But in the beginning, we’re looking about just getting the product up, getting it running, getting it indexed, getting, you know, sales organically. All of that stuff, we wanna get it up and running.

So, a lot of times, we start with maybe a 30% margin, but when we’re pushing actually to a 50% margin. And some of our products have hit that so far in this new brand that we’ve been playing around with. Some of them are still at like 28% or 30%, which is okay. I mean, think about this too.

A lot of people say, “Well, I want my business to do, you know, 50% or I’m not gonna do it.” Well, think about this, what if you went to the bank and you invested, you know, $1,000. You know, you’d be happy with five percent, right? You know what I mean?

So, a lot of times we’re not thinking about we’re actually doing a lot better than that, with a physical product, it’s just everyone has this in their head that they’re gonna go out there they’re gonna hit 50% or 75% because they hear other people talking about that. So, I think just you have to have a plan. You actually have to have a target. But me personally, I wanna be able to show a 40% to a 50% margin at the end of the day.

Financing Options for a Growing Business

Andrew: What about financing options? Like, as you know, you grow fast on Amazon, and a lot of people don’t realize until they get in the trenches and they’ve got a successful growing business, but…a successful growing ecommerce inventory business that just sucks cash like crazy. And financing can be a huge problem for people. Where have you seen good options for people? A lot of times people really get stuck here.

Because I don’t feel like there’s phenomenal options, but have you seen what…If you were looking to finance inventory for a growing business, especially on Amazon, what do you think the best options are in terms of, you know, reasonable rates are, you know, for people?

Scott: Yeah, well, I mean, Amazon has their own, so once you have your own history, they’ll actually start to ask you to borrow money. And sometimes it’ll be, you know, five percent, six percent, sometimes it’ll be 16%. So, it depends on how long you need the money, you know, to actually hold you over.

I try to look at it as I wanna be able to take the money that’s coming into the business and reinvest it back into inventory so I don’t have a lot of debt on the company. I’m proud to say this new company that we’ve started from scratch has very, very, very little debt on the books. I’m talking as little as like less than 20 grand. And that’s because we have slowed down as far as how much we’re pulling from the company, and we’ve also just purchased a whole bunch of inventory for fourth quarter, but it’s all paid for.

So, there’s different ways to look at that. Some people would say, well, why don’t you just get four or five percent if you can? And then why don’t you just pay yourself more now, and let that financing be there and let the company pay that? You can. We chose to do it this way, my partner and I in this business, and we’ve been able to do it.

Now, if we get to a certain level where we feel like we’re not able to do that or we need to overspend on some of the other inventory so we don’t run out, then we might look into that. I have looked into it. I’ve looked at American Express, they have a decent card that you can use, and I believe it was like five percent. Amazon, like I said, has their own built-in. PayPal has a really good one as well, that you can always use. It’s like a business loan that they’ll give you.

And then there was one, I think it was American Express too, and this is just another little nugget here for anyone that’s using pay-per-click on Amazon. There’s actually a feature. I’ll try to find the exact card for you, Andrew, and you can maybe link it up. I have no affiliation with it, but someone in my inner circle had told me about this. You actually get like triple points, so triple my money, back for using Amazon sponsored product ads. It’s weird.

So, they said like over the course of the year, they might have got like $3,000 or $4,000 back in their ad spend. So, it was a pretty cool tip. I still am ready to apply for that card, because I’m gonna use it. Why not? It’s free money. So, anyway, yeah.

So, basically, financing, I think you just have to see what’s available to you, because everyone is going to be a little bit different depending on how much history you have, right? If you’re just gonna use one of your personal credit cards, well, depending on what kind of rate you have, you’re gonna be more.

Andrew: It’s gonna be more than five percent.

Scott: Exactly. Exactly. So that’s gonna be something that you have to look into. But I know Amazon, I get those offers all the time from Amazon, and it will range. Sometimes they’ll be willing to give you $30 grand. Sometimes they’ll be willing to give you $100 grand. But it just depends on your sales volume, because they’re their banking off of that, like they’re like, well, we know that you have the money, you know you’re gonna be able to pay us, so they’re looking at that. So, that’s an easy one.

And the other one would be just like looking at your own personal, what you can get your hands on that’s at a good rate. And that could be PayPal, that could be your local credit union, I don’t know, you know? Be smart with that, though. I would not go crazy, because you think that you’re going to be able to grow faster if you have that. I’d let the sales tell me.

Balancing Organic Growth with Debt

Andrew: So, it sounds like you guys, with your business, because it’s always a tradeoff, right? Like, you can organically grow but you just have to…The reason people take on debt, the and the reason there’s a cash flow is because you can grow organically, but you have to really slow down. You’ve got to wait for the money to come in and then you reorder, and a lot of times you have a lapse or maybe even go out of stock.

So it’s a tradeoff between the rate of growth and the risk you’re willing to take. So it sounds like you and your partner erred on the side of slower growth but less risk.

Scott: Absolutely. Absolutely. And our goal, really, on this brand is to, you know, get history for two years and then see where we’re at, and then if we can cash out. And we think we’ll be able to do pretty well because most FBA businesses that are being sold are selling for like either a 20x or 25x net on the monthly. But if you have other assets in place like an email list, and, you know, maybe you have a face to the brand or whatever, you’re gonna push that to 30, maybe 32.

So, that’s our long term strategy. So, we definitely wanna get the profit up and we wanna really push as much as we can without going in debt, because we don’t want debt on the business either when you go to sell. So, anyway, that’s long term, well, semi long term. It’s near future, but when we started, it was longer term.

Multiples on Amazon

Andrew: Yeah, that feels like a good segue. I was gonna ask you about multiples on Amazon businesses. Have you ever bought one? And secondly, when you look at in Amazon, let’s just assume it’s 100% FBA, 100% Amazon. You don’t have an independent presence to offset some of the risk there. It seems like some are…maybe they’re not selling. Maybe people are listing these and they’re not getting on, and I have to be totally…I haven’t looked at them probably too seriously in six months or so, but six months ago at least.

It seems like people were asking for three, sometimes north of three for 100% based eCommerce, or 100% dependent Amazon businesses with, you know, 18 months of history, which just seems rich.

So, thoughts on that? And have you ever considered buying an Amazon business?

Why Not Buy an Amazon Business?

Scott: I have, and I always am. I am, if it’s right. And because of the skill sets that I have and my team has, we could totally blow business up if everything is right and if we feel good about it. But nothing has really felt good. I looked at a few. I actually went pretty deep into some the finances and even some of the products and what we could do, and at the end of the day, it just didn’t make a lot of sense.

But actually it made more sense to do what we did here with this new brand and almost start from scratch with the resources that we have.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not still looking. I’m always looking for that type of stuff, because I always like to offset, you know, even my own, you know, business portfolio with what we have, you know, currently in the mix. But, yeah, and I agree. What sites were you looking at, if you don’t mind me asking you? Are you looking at empire flippers, or are you looking at maybe quite light brokerage? Like, which ones are you looking at?

Andrew: Yeah, just all over the board, you know, quiet light, Empire Flippers, EFI International, Lil biz buy sell, all over the place.

Scott: Okay. Okay, yeah. I’ve noticed on Empire Flippers that there is generally a 28x on net for, and that’s just even just for an FBA business that’s exclusively on FBA.

Andrew: And that’s monthly, 28x monthly.

Scott: Monthly.

Andrew: So, a little over 2.2 or 2.3 on annual?

Scott: Exactly. Exactly. But I’ve also seen that creep up when you have maybe website traffic, when you have a Facebook presence, you have an email list. Maybe you have Facebook ads that are working. That stuff also will drive up that because it offsets, you know, the risk. And for me personally, I would look at all that stuff. I’d be like, “Okay, well do they have a website?” you know.

So, yeah. So, all of that stuff considered. And so to answer your question, yes, I have looked. I’m always looking for that stuff. I don’t every day, but I’m saying like maybe once a week I’ll sift through to see if anything catches my eye. Sometimes I’ll have people in my audience reach out to me because they might wanna sell their business, and a lot of times that just doesn’t, it’s not even close.

But yeah, I’m always in the market for something like that as an opportunity that I think I can blow up.

I think one of the big ones that a lot of people don’t look at, and here’s another little tip for your audience, if you looked at buying a business but it wasn’t a FBA business but it was more of an Amazon Associates business, and all of their profit, you know, sales were coming from Amazon Associates, if you drilled into that business and you felt like most of their sales were coming through a certain niche or a certain market, you could blow that up because then you could probably private label your own products in that brand, and then you can take that eight, maybe eight percent that they’re getting on the commissions and you can take that to a 30%, 40% or even 50%.

That’s an interesting way. That’s what I always look at. I don’t look at necessarily the FBA business. I look at an Amazon Associate, because all they’re doing is they’re trying to build an affiliate site. Make sense?

Biggest Problems on Amazon Right Now

Andrew: Totally makes sense. What are you having the most problems with on Amazon right now?

Scott: Ah, problems? It’s not even really Amazon themselves. I know a lot of people like to complain about Amazon. They are doing some really cool things to try to make it a better platform for us sellers. I know a lot people don’t think they are, but they really are. You know, hijackers are always a problem. Knock on wood here. We have not had that many problems. Every now and then if you run out of inventory, you’ll have a few that will jump on, but it’s usually the ones that are going at a higher price point, they’re not trying to go in there and just try to steal your sales at the lower price.

It’s more or less they’re trying to go on and say, “Well, they’re out of inventory. If people want, they’re gonna pay double. As soon as we get them notified, we usually get them booted off.

But I would say it’s stuff like that. I think the hijacking thing has calmed down a little bit depending on the space that you’re in. If you’re in a competitive space, it’s gonna be even more aggressive. I think even looking at products that have a lot of competition with a lot of reviews, you’re gonna be into that review game.

So, I guess I don’t see a lot of problems because I’m not into that space. You know, people that follow, you know, my advice and stuff are generally following what I’m doing. They’re not necessarily going after those highly competitive markets where they have to deal with a lot of black hat stuff that then they have to deal with hijackers and all of that stuff.

I would say probably my biggest frustration with them is that I wish that they would give us more data on our customers. That would be…like if I could have anything from them, it would be that, right? But there’s ways that we’re doing it around that, that we can do it, and that’s what I’ve explained here.

I think that would be the only one. I mean, yeah, they change the rules, but they’re changing the rules a lot times to, just like Google has for people that are out there trying to game the system.

So, I don’t know if I have a tundra there to tell you that I’m really frustrated with them right now. I know people want me to hate on them, but they’re trying to do the best that they can to protect the buyer and the seller.

The State of Amazon Reviews

Andrew: What about the state of Amazon reviews, August, 2018 edition? Reviews are always in flux. You know, like there is a massive, big change where incentivize reviews got banned. They’ve had periods where they’ve removed a ton of reviews. It’s interesting, though, you know. I feel like I’ve heard more mainstream podcasts, NPR style ones talking about how, you know, a lot of the reviews still are not trustworthy on Amazon, and people are starting to realize that.

What would you peg, you know, looking at the state of reviews in 2018 in August right now, where are we at with reviews, and what’s Amazon doing with those, and how credible are they across the platform right now?

Scott: I think they’re getting better. And I think I agree with whomever you were listening to about people are losing trust in the reviews because they know that this stuff is going on. So, here’s the other thing. Maybe then reviews aren’t gonna be as important for you to sell your product, right?

So, you know, people look at it like, “Well, okay. What’s gonna happen now? How am I going to get more reviews?” To be honest with you, on this new brand that we’ve launched, we haven’t thought about reviews, other than the basic stuff that I talked, you know, before. And I talked about, it’s like create a good product, have good customer service, follow up with people. Like, the basic stuff, and reviews will start to come in.

We’ve launched products with zero reviews, and we’ve done that with our email list and we’ve also done it without the email list, and we’ve done it just pay-per-click. And we’ve made sales and pay-per-click with zero reviews, because again, we’re going after products that aren’t in that space of high reviews and that’s how you’re going to get sales.

So, anyone that’s out there that’s praying that they don’t lose their sales overnight because they’re nervous that they’re gonna lose a whole bunch of sales, you might wanna, you know, think a little bit more about what you’re doing. And then also start thinking about how not to rely on Amazon, because at the end of the day, we don’t wanna have to rely on Amazon. And I don’t think you have to play the review game. I really truly don’t.

So, for me, in the next year, you know, reviews are still going to be, I think, trimmed by Amazon. You’re probably going to, depending on what you’ve used to acquire the reviews, you are going to have people that have, you know, been part of a group that now has been flagged, and everybody in that group has been flagged so all of their reviews are going to be deleted. And if they left a review on your product, they’re gonna be deleted. That’s how it works.

So, like, you know, I might have left a review on your product, and I meant it and I really did enjoy it, but because I was part of a group over here that reviewed products, and because I got free product and I got flagged, my review on yours goes away as well as all the other 100 that I’ve left. Make sense?

The Tools Scott Can’t Live Without

Andrew: Totally. Totally makes sense. I’m sure you’ve got a bunch of these, but what are one or two or three of your favorite Amazon tools that you can’t live without?

Scott: Well, I’ve got to say Jungle Scout, just because, you know, Greg’s my buddy. No, seriously, I was using Jungle Scout from the very beginning. And it’s so funny to see Greg and how he’s grown, and the company that he’s built and the culture. I mean, he’s just, he’s a standup guy. He’s an awesome guy. He’s a friend, but he’s also a guy that really has integrity, and he has a great, great tool.

Yeah, that would be number one for me. As far as another school does it have to be Amazon? It has to be Amazon. You wanna be Amazon related?

Andrew: Oh, it doesn’t. I mean, I asked. It doesn’t have to be, no. Is there something that helps you run your empire and business that’s ancillary? That works too.

Scott: Okay, I would say another one of Greg’s is Splitly. I mean that’s another one. He’s got, like I said, he’s got a really good suite. That one there allows you to split test. It lets you split test pricing, so it’ll basically take pricing and go back and forth, back and forth, all day long at different times, and then it will spit back when it feels as though it’s made the right prediction, and it will give you the best price. And you just give it two parameters.

You know, having a good tool that allows you to collect leads and emails, and communicate with them, and the one that I’m loving is Nathan Barry’s tool, ConvertKit. I love the company. I love the tool. It’s easy. And we use that in our physical products brand.

Andrew: Cool. I think they just changed their name, didn’t they? To something else.

Scott: They didn’t. You can’t even say that anymore. No, they were. That was a big thing. It was supposed to be Seva.

Andrew: Seva?

Scott: And then the minute that they did that, they had a whole bunch of backlash by, I don’t even know if it was a religion or a culture, something of another country, and it got all this backlash so they ended up going back to ConvertKit and apologize.

Andrew: It did?

Scott: Oh, it was a major, major write up, man. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it was crazy too, because I had some training that I created that was gonna have all ConvertKit, and I’ve always mentioned ConvertKit and now I’m like, “Oh my Gosh, I’ve got to go change everything over,” and now they’re back and they’re like, “Okay, well, I’m not glad that they ran into a snag, but I’m glad because now I don’t have to change everything.”

Andrew: You probably started the protests behind the scenes to save yourself some work, I’m guessing. Well done. Well played.

Scott: Yeah, it’s mission accomplished. Yeah, man. And again, you look at these businesses, any business, like they’re gonna have their struggles, right? And that was a big move for them. They even announced it at their live event. I felt really bad for them. I’m like, “Oh, my Gosh, this has got to be a huge hiccup,” because they had all kinds of updates and mods on the site that were gonna be done, and all the branding and affiliate stuff. It was a nightmare.

But anyway, it’s a great tool. I use it, I was using it yesterday, pushed out an email, did a quick un open send to the next day to people that didn’t. It’s so easy to use. Like, it’s so easy. So, that’s the one that we use for email list content, you know, development, all that stuff, for our list.

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

Andrew: Very cool. Any major predictions or changes for Amazon over the next six to 12 months? Things you think are gonna change? Of course, you’re looking into the crystal ball here, but…

Scott: Yeah, I think the brand registry thing is going to be even more important than it is now. So, I say anyone that is starting or has a brand and doesn’t have a trademark, get a trademark as soon as possible. That trademark is key to get brand registry, and to really, in the future, possibly lock down your listing. And what I mean by that is where you’ll be like Nike where you’ll have to approve sellers to jump on your listing.

So, I think having the trademark is majorly important right now, so I say get one. If you haven’t started the process, start, because it’s about an eight to a 12-month process.

And then the other thing is, and this is one thing I’ll share with you, I just had a trademark attorney on. I met him at sellers, actually, Steve’s event. His name is Steve Wagler. I had him on, and he was at an event with Amazon that was talking all about, you know, a lot of their stuff that they’re doing behind the scenes. And they have a program, I think it’s in Beta right now it’s called “Transparency.” Have you heard of this? It’s pretty cool.

And it doesn’t have anything really to do, as far as I know, to do with trademark or even brand registry, but what it is, is it’s a unique labeling system that they are going to do, so this way here only the ones that have the label, and only the brand that has access to the labels will be able to have these applied. And this will prevent hijackers because it won’t be checked in with a label, so if it’s not checked in with a label, you don’t get brand registry, or you don’t get access to that listing.

So, it’s a way for them to also prevent hijackers on the listing, so this is their way of possibly combating that without even making it where you have to be brand registered. So, it’s a labeling system. It’s a special label, a unique label that you can either have mailed to you or you can have them apply it, obviously for a fee, but it will only be your label for you. It won’t be just a UPC or an FSQ number.

Andrew: Interesting. Doing great, Mike and Steve are doing something called “The Five-Minute Pitch,” which is kind of cool. So, can you talk about that for a second?

Go, Pitch, Win

Scott: Yeah, no, this is awesome. We were having dinner at the event, and we did an episode for Greg. He had a show, and he still, I think he’s gonna do it again. It’s called “The Go, Pitch, Win.” And we had a blast with it, so we said, you know…and I think Steve even the one, he said, he goes, “We should make our own “Shark Tank.”” And I’m like, “I’m in, man. That would be a lot of fun,” and everyone else said, “Yeah, we should do it.”

And then I thought maybe that’s where it would end, and Steve goes, “All right, we’ve got to mark down our calendars right now and get this thing going, because if we don’t, we’re not gonna do it.” So I’m like, “All right, let’s do it.”

So, the idea is to basically get people to give us a five-minute pitch of their business idea, not even idea, their business that they currently have. We want them that currently have a business. It does not have to be ecommerce. It does not have to be physical products. It could be software. It could be a digital product. It could be a membership site. It could be whatever. But we have to be able to say “Yes,” or “No” in five minutes or less.

We’re gonna do 30, I think it’s 32 or 34 contestants, and then we’ll narrow it down to the top four, and then we’re gonna fly them in for the final episode. We’re going to basically have our panel, we’ll be doing it “Shark Tank” style, and then we will vote someone to the finalist, and then we will have a winner picked, and they’re gonna win a $50,000 prize. So, yeah.

Andrew: And if people wanna apply, fiveminutepitch.com, is that right?

Scott: That’s it. Yeah, yeah, fiveminutepitch.com. And the last I looked, we’ve got quite a few entries already in applications and videos, and it’s looking like we’re gonna have a really good group here this first run. So, I’m excited. You never know when you’re gonna take on a project like this, so far it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

We’re gonna meet in person three times, and the first two times we’re gonna be actually be in the same room together, going through all these pitches but on camera, so they’ll be coming up on a monitor, on a, you know, a large screen and then we’re gonna basically be in the room and say, “Yes” or “No.” And then we’re gonna narrow it down and then actually fly in the finalists. So, yeah, man, that’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Andrew: I appreciate all you guys pitching in to the effort to mock Steve as much as possible. You know, I try to do my best, but I can’t do it every episode despite trying, so I, I mean, I think that’s the big reason why you guys are doing it, so thank you, for that.

Scott: Oh, we’re gonna totally humiliate that guy. But he’s good at it. He’s good at it too, so you’ve got to be careful with Steve. He knows what he’s doing.

Andrew: What I’ll do for you is I will put together a highlight reel of nothing but Steve Burns, just everything else cut out except for ripping on Steve, and I’ll just put a bunch of money behind remarketing it to his audience.

Scott: Drive a whole bunch of Facebook ads to that. That will be amazing.

Andrew: Well, Scott, this is awesome. There’s a bunch of stuff I wanna talk to you about, but we already got, I mean we did so much good meaty stuff already, I don’t know if we’ll have time to get a couple of other things. But I do wanna do for you before we sign off, a lightning round if you’re up for that.

Scott: Let’s do it, man.

Ask Scott Podcast

Andrew: Oh, before we get to lightning round, though, we do wanna mention your podcast. You’ve got a great podcast. You put out, you know, I think like two to three episodes a week, is that right?

Scott: Yeah, we’re still doing three: Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Usually, Friday is like an “Ask Scott” session, so I basically take a question from the audience and I answer it, and then I also do just some other updates and stuff that we’re talking about there, or just even mindset stuff. But yeah, so that’s three days a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

I’ve been doing it now for three and a half years. We just hit 11 million downloads, so that’s pretty awesome, reaching thousands of people all over the world. So, yeah, man, been a blast.

Andrew: So cool, you do a great job with it. If you’re on Amazon, you need to be listening to it. You can find it, of course, on iTunes, “The Amazing Seller Podcast” or @theamazingseller.com, is that right?

Scott: That is right.

The Lightning Round!

Andrew: Perfect. So, check him out if you’re obviously listening to podcasts, you’ll subscribe to his, and you’ll get some good stuff out of it. So, lightening round, just superfast answers are just fine for this, per the title. But, what’s something you’ve changed your mind about recently?

Scott: You know what? I was trying to think about this, and it’s a tough one. The thing that I’ve changed my mind about, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to get back into fitness, and I actually did I. I know it’s rare, but, you know. That wasn’t what you were looking for, is it? You were looking for something more tactical.

Andrew: No, no, no, of course…I actually like, I like when the lightening round is less business, not that I loathe business, but, you know, we’ve just spent like 45 minutes, so I like it. It’s an interesting way to learn about people on a non-business note. Very cool. What are you currently spending too much money on right now?

Scott: Coffee. Starbucks coffee.

Andrew: Do you have something crazy? Starbucks coffee? Okay.

Scott: Yeah.

Andrew: What’s something you’re not spending enough money on?

Scott: Oh, that’s a good one too, and this one would probably relate back to business, but I would say more investing. I probably should spend more time investing. And that could be in real estate, or it could be in maybe a real estate fund. I’m interested in real estate. I’m not heavily in it, but I do have some reads and stuff like that.

Andrew: Very cool. What’s one of the top three items on your bucket list? Something you wanna do before you die.

Scott: I wanba go to Hawaii. I know a lot of people probably have already been there, but I haven’t. I wanna go there, visit that. I wanna be able to…and this is like a multi one but I’m gonna say it anyways, my daughter, my 10-year old daughter, we made a pact that we wanna go to all the different baseball stadiums.

Andrew: Oh, cool.

Scott: Yeah, so we wanna go. We’ve hit probably a handful so far, but we’re starting, and we’re gonna do that. Basically, travel is…I can’t think what you’re hearing there. And then the other thing, I think, and the last one here, let me think really quickly here on the last one that’s on my bucket list that I wanna do is I think I would like to do a bigger event that I’m actually already doing.

And that means I’m going to be doing a 300-person event. I might wanna eventually do a 1,000-person event, and inspire more people. So, it’s a little bit of a random one, that’s what’s on my mind.

Andrew: All right, cool. And do you have a unique website apart from the amazing seller, where people can learn about your event?

Scott: Yeah, actually it is just live actually, and this will probably air after it’s gone live. It’s grandacceleratorlive.com. Or you can just go to theamazingseller.com/live, and that’ll take you there. That’s gonna be our first bigger event. We’re gonna hold it 300 or less, but no more than 300, and it’s gonna be all about brand building, really, not just Amazon-focused but really marketing and how to get your presence out there outside of just relying on that one channel.

Andrew: Very cool. If you had to have a tattoo, a visible tattoo on your arm…

Scott: I love this one.

Andrew: …that anyone could see, what would it be? I wish I could claim credit for it. Bill, he threw it in there, so it’s his idea. But I like it too, but yeah, what would you put on there?

Scott: It’s so funny. I was talking to my daughter about this last time, my 10-year-old, she’s like, “You’re not really gonna get one, are you?” I don’t have any tattoos. I’ve got this thing about tattoos, though, I’ve got to be honest. If I’m gonna do a tattoo, I’m doing a whole sleeve. Like, I’m not just doing the one, you know, the barbed wire around the muscle thing.

Andrew: You should do a snake with the head of Jeff Bezos on. I think that would be just amazing.

Scott: That would be.

Andrew: I mean, tie with your brand, it would be perfect.

Scott: Yeah, I would probably tie…it wouldn’t be just a…I guess it wouldn’t just be one, it would have to be multiple ones, and I would probably have to think through that, because I’d wanna tie my family into it, you know, my wife, my kids, you know.

Andrew: Put their names on the snake, man.

Scott: Yeah, we could do that right up there, and then we could have the head of Jeff Bezos on there, and probably something with take action in it, because that’s my mantra. So, it would be very colorful and creative, and it would be my whole arm. It would be from the wrist all the way up to my top of my shoulder.

If I was ever gonna do it. I don’t have a tattoo, I have no desire to have one, but I’ve always said that to my son, I go, “If I’m gonna do it, I’m going all in.” It’s just like anything I’ve ever done. I’m going all in. If I’m going to take up a little bit of space, I’m doing the whole thing.

Andrew: That’s awesome. If you get it done, send me some recent pictures. I wanna see this.

Scott: It won’t be for a while, if I ever do. But if I do, you’ll be the first to get a picture.

Andrew: Thank you. And then finally, do you own Amazon stock?

Scott: I don’t.

Andrew: You don’t?

Scott: I know.

Andrew: I look at Amazon and Shopify, and I don’t own any of their stock either. Do you look at, especially Amazon being in the market, and just slap yourself and think, “Why didn’t I get on this earlier?”

Scott: Yeah. Well, I think that’s with anything, right? And I get people all the time, like, “Well, why didn’t I start my business three years ago?” “Well, you know, you didn’t, so don’t worry about it.” Yeah, you can always slap yourself or kick yourself for not getting in in a certain thing or whatever, but there’s things I’ve gotten in on that I wish I hadn’t too, you know what I mean? So, it could work the other way.

And I’m not much of a stock guy. You know, I’ve done some mutual funds back in the day but I backed off of those and I’m like, you know what? Why don’t I just invest more into businesses or things that I’m interested in that I can actually build and have a little bit more control on, versus the stock market? So, I’ve never been much of a stock guy, to be honest with you.

Andrew: It’s been fun having you on, talking to you about this stuff. I really enjoyed the conversation. Again, if you’re not listening to “The Amazing Seller” podcast, go check it out. It’ll be worth your time. It’s got a lot of great content over there, you know, multiple times for week, which is just impressive.

So, Scott, thanks so much for coming on. A lot of fun talking to you. I appreciate it, man.

Scott: Andrew, I wanna thank you. Yeah, it’s been a blast, and I know that we’ll be getting touch soon. We’ve got to hang out and just talk life and talk business, but yeah, definitely, thanks for having me on.

Andrew: Oh, of course. That’s gonna do it for this week, but a few important things to know about, especially if you’re a store owner before you go. First, if you’re looking to hire for your eCommerce business, make sure to check out the eCommerceFuel job boards. We’ll get your job in front of thousands of qualified job seekers to find you the perfect candidate.

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And a big, big “Thank you” to the two sponsors who make the show possible. First, to Klaviyo who makes email marketing automation incredibly easy and powerful. If you’re not using them for your store, you’re leaving money on the table. You can get started for free at ecommercefuel.com/klaviyo.

And then secondly, to Liquid Web, the absolute best place to host your WooCommerce store anywhere online. If you want a rock solid store that can scale with you when you need it to, check them out at ecommercefuel.com/liquidweb. Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.

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Thanks so much for listening, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again next time.

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Flickr: I-Ta Tsai

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