How I Accidentally Learned to Crush It on Amazon

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When I started selling my own brand of products on Amazon, I didn’t know ANYTHING about selling online. I managed to sell $25,000 worth of product in my first three weeks, but that was totally LUCK! I completely stumbled on that success by good fortune.

It wasn’t marketing savvy, it wasn’t business sense, it wasn’t anything tangible that led to this. It was the right product, on the right marketplace, at the right time. Despite this, however, I somehow got sucked into a whole new world of entrepreneurship. I was essentially handed consulting clients. Before I could blink I had a dozen brands I was consulting for.

One minute I was at my copywriting job, trying to concentrate on work, and the next minute I was fielding interview calls from interested clients who collectively would pay me three times what I was making as a copywriter. I walked out of the back room where I was taking these calls and put in my notice right away.

At the exact same moment, a friend and colleague who actually DID have experience and savvy in the industry was starting a service for Amazon sellers and needed some help with copy. He hired me on as a copywriter making just a little more than I had been paid at that day job I just quit.

Being thrust into the industry was a bit overwhelming at first. I didn’t think I could do it and certainly didn’t believe I was qualified. Regardless of this, I had clients that depended on me, and a service that was growing faster than we could keep up with.

Trial By Fire

My consulting clients had me on the phone with Amazon seller support, particularly their catalog team, for about two hours per day. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how to deal with Amazon support, how to get changes made to listings under different circumstances, and how things worked a bit differently from category to category.

Meanwhile the service I was writing copy for was growing too fast to scale doing business the way we were doing it. I helped to streamline the business, allowing us to exponentially grow in size, rapidly. This earned me a position as an executive, where I was able to help shape the company based on my own needs as a seller and the needs I saw in brands of all sizes (my clients).

This also gave me access to data. Lots of data. I was able to see what worked and what didn’t. How many units and at what discount would a product in a specific niche need to run promotions with in order to rank on page one for a given keyword? What promotion types were working? What URLs worked for gaining rank faster? What keywords were the best to target? What strategies would lead to organic sales and profit faster?

My experience with Amazon’s catalog team and support also taught me a lot about the rules. What style guidelines were non-negotiable? Which ones could be bent or broken? What can a seller do within TOS to gain a competitive advantage? How were unscrupulous sellers taking advantage of others and how can that be protected against?

Initiation

After my own personal win, I gained enough attention to get a few clients. Thankfully, despite my lack of experience, I was able to gain a few wins for a handful of them as well. I helped one client grow from an average of $60k per month to over $120k, with Q4 numbers hitting as high as $300k. I helped another client grow their business from $0 to over $50k per month in a manner of only a couple months.

I had some failures too, however. I learned that the rules in certain niches were different, and some I was much less equipped to handle. I learned through that failure that some strategies that work well in one category will not work in others.

These successes and lessons learned helped to get my name somewhat known in the industry and I was invited to speak at my first conference. It was not a paid opportunity, but thankfully my company saw the value of having me on stage promoting our services for sellers and footed the bill.

I pulled together the best information I could about what I had learned super successful sellers were doing to gain and maintain a strong brand presence on Amazon. I tapped into the data I had access to, my own experience with my brand and with my clients’, and my inner circle network of entrepreneurs who helped me get where I was.

At that event, I gave the driest, most boring presentation, with no images, no jokes, no animation, I didn’t even move from the podium. However, the subject matter was very well received, and from there I was invited to three more events. I was initiated into the “experts” club and began my circuits traveling the world and talking about Amazon.

Real Insider Knowledge

When you get the privilege of speaking at an event, you have a couple options. You can just show up to speak your part and then leave, OR you can participate in the event, get to know the other speakers, enjoy dinners and lunches out and really network.

The amazing advantage to networking and participating is you get to pick the brains of people who are immensely more talented, more successful and smarter than you are. While I learned a bunch from my inner circle of entrepreneur friends, the people I was exposed to as a speaker were nothing short of phenomenal.

As neophyte sellers we have this idea in our heads that all of the big time sellers get together at super expensive masterminds and drink brandy and talk strategy, inventing the next big tactic that will explode their businesses. At least, I had these fantasies. And it turns out, I wasn’t far off the mark. For weeks on end, while traveling from one speaking event to another, I’d have meals and break bread with super successful ecommerce experts. We’d discuss current tactics and talk about nuances of search algorithms, anomalies and anecdotes related to personal experiments.

We would actively ask each other advice, pick each other’s brains about topics we individually were more adept in and otherwise formulate actionable plans to try and reach the next level in our businesses. All behind the scenes of the stage we were to present on.

I cannot even begin to quantify the knowledge I gained on these trips. For the first time in my life I understood the true value of networking and felt I had tapped into a resource of “real” insider knowledge.

Some Takeaway Lessons for You

I don’t just want to talk about how I learned some tricks without sharing some. Without going into too much detail (because that could take awhile) I’ll outline some brief tactics that may help you put your brand’s best foot forward.

Optimization – Listing optimization is a complex aspect of selling on Amazon that involves a lot of moving parts. Keyword research, copywriting, photography and SEO (to name a few). However, I’ll give you a couple of quick tips that are simple to implement and will help you on your way to maximized traffic and conversions.

On Amazon your “traffic” is called “sessions.” Obviously, having more traffic gives you more of an opportunity to convert, so it is important. There are three main factors that affect sessions, two of which you have total control over. These are your main image, your title and your star rating.

Your main image is, arguably, the most important thing on your listing, because it signals to people that they have found what they're looking for. The main image, in essence, controls your sessions. For this reason, it is important that your main image is stellar.

Your main image should be the absolute best image of your product there is. It should take up most of the image, with a white background so nothing distracts from it. It should be the best angle, that shows the most features. Think of it kind of like a dating profile picture. You’d likely make that image the best one you possibly could. This situation is no different.

Also be sure to optimize for mobile browsers. It is very important that your product stands out. Your main image dimensions will play a part in the way your product looks on these browsers. Make sure it's at least 1000 pixels on each side (2000 is even better). Also, make sure the image is either a perfect square or a tall rectangle. Short rectangles tend to look smaller in mobile. Tall rectangular images will appear bigger if you have a tall product (like if it's a person modeling clothing).

Make sure the first 80 characters of your title clearly explain what the product is and includes an obvious benefit. While the title is not as compelling a reason for clicks, it does help validate that the image is accurate.

These things will help you to get the most traffic. The rest will rely solely on conversions, which is largely affected by compelling copy, great photography, and good reviews.

Advertising – One ninja tactic I employ to utilize Amazon’s advertising opportunities to the fullest is what I call the “Brand Inundation” technique. This technique is most effective if you have access to AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) and have at least three products.

First, be sure to do what you can to rank on page one for your primary keywords. Then, if you have more than one product (preferably similar products or ones that can cross over into the same keywords), run sponsored product ads so that one product shows up on page one and adjust the bid for another product to show up on page two. That way, you are seen twice - once on page one and once on page two.

Then run Headline Search ads (must have at least three products to do this) so that you also appear at the top of the search page. Make sure your headline has the search term you are bidding for in it.

Finally, if you have AMS, run ads on your competitors’ listings. Also run ads ON YOUR OWN LISTINGS. Use one product to run ads on another product, that way your competitors cannot buy that space. This way your brand is visible at multiple points for any given search.

“They” say that the average consumer must be exposed to a brand at least seven times before they decide to buy. With this advertising method, you can achieve those seven exposures faster.

Reviews – Getting reviews is by far the most talked about and trickiest of tasks in the Amazon world right now. Amazon has effectively cut third party sellers off at the knees by disallowing products to be given at a discount in exchange for review, disallowing anyone connected with the seller from leaving a review and disallowing people who buy products at a deep discount to voluntarily leave reviews.

This is why having a system in place to get reviews is crucial, especially in the beginning of a product launch. My advice is to build your own community of buyers. Run Facebook ads to create a community, either through a messenger bot, email list or a group. Engage that community with content and interaction and get a discussion going about your products. Then, activate them for reviews.

When you have your own list of brand enthusiasts, you can find ways to get products in front of them, through discounts, rebates, other marketplaces, etc, and then ask them for their feedback. Provide them with the means to do so voluntarily and under no compulsion. Let them know they can leave this feedback on a number of available platforms, but request Amazon’s product review section.

Through careful marketing and activation, you should be able to grow a group that you can rely on for reviews and feedback for all of your products.

The Pitch

I go into more detail about these tactics and a bunch more in my book “Bootstrapping E-commerce: Advanced Amazon Tactics.” The book is a culmination of these experiences over years of selling on the ecommerce platform.

(Get it here.)

It is the second volume in a two-part series of Bootstrapping books. For beginners, I’ve also written “Bootstrapping E-commerce: How to Import and Sell on Amazon.

I wrote the Bootstrapping series in order to provide people who were truly interested in selling on Amazon with an affordable way to learn the process. Right now there are too many guru courses that sell for thousands of dollars and don’t really get into the nitty-gritty of what needs to be done to be successful. I won’t claim that these volumes are the definitive guide to riches on Amazon, but I do detail the tactics, strategies, failures and successes I’ve had so that you can see the steps from all angles.

So I encourage you to join me on this adventure called selling on Amazon. Here’s to your success.