HOW TO SELL ON AMAZON

How to sell on Amazon with Carolyn Lowe

  • The first thing we do is does discover if it makes sense for you to sell on Amazon? Things that are heavy, that cost a lot, that are cheap, lower priced. Those don't usually don't make sense, you can't make money.
  • So what we do typically if we're going to work with a new brand, we'll do an audit, we'll see if there are search terms and how many search terms they have for their brand or their product on Amazon before we take them on.
  • I have an interesting stat from Amazon that 70% of their people don't make it past page one. So if you're an Amazon shopper, Amazon has told me that 70% of people don't make it past page one. So if you're not on page one, you're never going to get purchased.
  • I can work with my brands and say, “Hey, there's a lot of customer demand for this on Amazon, but they don't have a great selection. This could be a winning product for you.”

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Doug: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today we're talking about all things Amazon. So if you're interested in getting your brand or product listed in Amazon and seeing double-digit growth month after month, I think you're really going to enjoy the conversation with my guest today. Today's guest is Carolyn Lowe. She is the CEO and founder of a company called ROI Swift and an Amazon and digital marketing agency that excels in growing small and medium-sized businesses.

Carolyn is passionate about helping her consumer brands grow through Facebook and Instagram ads paid Google searches and Amazon marketing. In addition to helping her clients see larger profits, Carolyn is a mum of two and a licensed pilot. So I'd like to welcome Carolyn to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Well, hey Carolyn, super excited to have you on the show today. So welcome to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast.

Carolyn Lowe: Thanks for having me, Doug.

Doug: So do you want to share with our listeners just a little bit of your background and what your superpower is and how you help people move the sales dial and scale their business?

Carolyn Lowe: Sure, I'd be happy to. We focus on four core areas for mostly B-to-C brands, but we also do some B-to-B business as well. But really our core competencies are around paid social, your Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat marketing and your paid search and social … sorry, paid search as well. And then, of course, your Amazon and email marketing. And I know you've had some great email marketing guests on and you've had some great paid search on. One of the things that we're a little bit different is we manage Amazon's presence for a lot of consumer brands.

Doug: So for their audiences not aware of that, what does that mean?

Carolyn Lowe: Yes. So there's three different ways to sell on Amazon. And as a brand owner, if Amazon invites you, you can wholesale to them, which is shipped from and sold by Amazon. And then there's two other ways to sell, which are what they call seller central. So you go on, it's sort of a self-service portal and you can either ship into Amazon and have them fulfill it or you can take the order from Amazon and fulfill it yourself. So either way, you still have to pay Amazon a referral fee, and then if you have Amazon fulfill your product which makes you Prime eligible, you must also pay the outbound shipping fee, but that does make you eligible for Prime.

Doug: Okay. So for our listeners that have a brand, have a business and have a product that would be, or maybe a good fit for Amazon, where's the starting point? How do you determine whether or not Amazon could be an effective marketing distribution channel for you?

Carolyn Lowe: That's a great question, Doug and it's a good starting place because a lot of people think, “I'm just going to throw my product up on Amazon and then make a bunch of money.” Normally where we start with folks if they come to us and they're not selling on Amazon yet but have a great brand, what we'll do is we'll walk them through all the different fees and really do a strategic consult on is it even going to be profitable for you to sell? One of the brands we work with is a natural cleaning brand and they came to us two years ago and they were doing only tens of thousands on Amazon a month, but they were doing it unprofitably and so it doesn't make sense in business to do all the work and effort to lose money.

Doug: No, that's right. Might as well just give it away. Give it to someone who can use it.

Carolyn Lowe: Right. It's not a winning strategy. So that's the first thing we do is does it make sense for you to sell on Amazon? Things that are heavy, that costs a lot, that are cheap, lower priced. Those don't usually don't make sense, you can't make money. So we have a $15 rule. If your product isn't $15 or more and it's not light enough to make money, that's where we'll start because we never want to help someone get on Amazon and have them lose money.

Doug: No, that's a really good point. And lots of times, we chase the shiny new objects, so whether it's myself or you've got your marketing person that goes off to a marketing conference and they come back and go, “Oh, we got to get on Amazon because so-and-so said that's the place to be.” But to your point that, that sounds good, so let's investigate that, see if that's fits for our business strategy and like you said, can we make money? And it sounds to me like one of the better ways to determine that would be to work with someone who has expertise. So you're drawing on your years of experience where you might say, “Hey, you know what? Great talking to you. However, this is a fit, or this isn't a fit for this reason,” and save them a whole bunch of pain and grief and money.

Carolyn Lowe: Absolutely. And there's also a strategic component. Brands that we work with that are sold in say Target and Walmart and other retailers, you have to be on Amazon because otherwise someone will pick up your product and throw up a listing on Amazon. Brands that we work with on say the Facebook and Instagram advertising side, we don't recommend they be on Amazon if they're not distributed anywhere else than their website because you can own the customer if you're the only place that they can get that product. So a lot of our lifestyle and apparel brands, we highly recommend don't go on Amazon.

Doug: Oh, okay. So do you want to back up and just explain? I know this is the world that you live in. I just need to catch up to where you're at. So you said if you're selling your product in stores like Target and Walmart, in different places, you need to be on Amazon?

Carolyn Lowe: Yes. Because Amazon, as you know, is a marketplace. Anybody can sell anything. I love to call them bottom feeders, not a nice term, but these people that will, they do what they call retail arbitrage. They'll just bring a scanner into Target, Walmart, CVS, you name it. And they'll scan all these products and they'll say, “Oh, there's only one seller and they're selling it at this price. I can buy up a whole bunch and throw them up on Amazon.” So what that means for the brands is they're never going to do is get a job with your product title, your images, your bullets, your extra content as you as the brand owner is going to do.

Doug: Right. Okay. It totally makes sense. And one of the people we talked about before we started recording had a whole session on exactly how to do that. So we will mention that. Okay. So that makes sense. So that's a way for the brand to protect their integrity and make sure that all the conversations that are being had digitally are in alignment with their graphic standards and their branding.

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, absolutely. And you want to make that money, right? Typically, it's more profitable if you sell it. A lot of times when brands sell to wholesalers, just think a lot of times those retailers want 50%. Every time you walk into retail, you know you're paying double what, what the product costs at least, right?

Doug: Right, yup.

Carolyn Lowe: So if you sell it directly to Amazon versus, hey, you sold it to CVS and that person turned around and sold it to Amazon, well if you had sold it directly to the customer on Amazon, then you typically make 25 to 30% more depending on the category.

Doug: Okay. So for our listeners that say, “Okay, that makes sense, I want to start this investigation.” Can you share an example or two, name your pliant or not name your client, totally up to you on somebody that you walked through this process. Maybe somebody who came to you that wasn't on Amazon or maybe somebody who came to you that was already there and just really needed some guidance in the team to help them execute.

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, I'll give you a great example of a company we started working with and a great brand science-based in the supplement category, but founded by a doctor, not somebody who just went and got some vitamins made. So this is science-based. And they came to us, they had a pretty decent brand, they had horrible listings. It looked like their pictures were taken in someone's dark basement and they really didn't optimize it. So what we do typically if we're going to work with a new brand, we'll do an audit, we'll see if there's search terms and how many search terms they have for their brand or their product on Amazon before we take them on.

Doug: So is there a demand for their product or their brand on Amazon?

Carolyn Lowe: So if we see this is great, 20, 30, 40,000 people a month are searching for this brand on Amazon and it's not there, it's probably a good indicator. And then we'll do, just like you do on the website side and all your keyword research, we do the same thing on Amazon. We do keyword research, we pull up bestsellers, we use a bunch of different tools to figure out what's the right words and the right way to position this product so that it will rank on page one. I have an interesting stat from Amazon that 70% of their people don't make it past page one. So if you're an Amazon shopper, Amazon has told me that 70% of people don't make it past page one. So if you're not on page one, you're never going to get purchased.

Doug: So I'm just trying to get a picture of what this looks like. So are you saying that basically the marketplace is the same as trying to get a ranking on Google so you're on page one?

Carolyn Lowe: Very similar. The algorithm is a little bit different because you're actually selling on Amazon, but a lot of factors that go into the Amazon algorithm are how relevant is your product to the search. So there's almost akin to a quality score on Google. So how relevant is your product to that search? If someone looks for a garlic press, is the title of your product garlic press? Because if it's not, you may or may not show up because there's probably 2000 other garlic presses out there. The velocity of your products. So how much you sell also goes into how high you rank and how well you convert. So just like Google, Amazon doesn't want to put a whole bunch of products on that very valuable page one real estate and have them not buy anything because Amazon's goal at the end of the day is to have you buy something.

Doug: Yeah. That's interesting because I try to explain to my clients who are trying to understand Google. I say Google's job is to deliver the most relevant content for the searcher. So they're trying to serve the person that's got their hands on the keyboard with relevant words, and they don't make money unless you're doing paid search. But what you're saying with Amazon, it's all about conversion. So interesting.

So good product title, being found, high volume. So when you start with somebody, obviously they don't have the high volume, so there's only so many things you can do to get them optimized. Is there anything special that you guys do to drive sales maybe outside the Amazon platform to help their volume pickup to make them more attractive if you will to Amazon's algorithm?

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, that's a great question, Doug. It's a vicious cycle. You can't get on page one until you start selling, but you can't get on page one if you're not selling. So it's this sort of vicious cycle. So we do do a couple of things both on Amazon and off, and I'll be honest with you, we are 100% white hat. There's some black hat tactics out there that we just, we don't think that your seller account and your brand reputation is worth potential suspensions. There's lots of [inaudible 00:11:17].

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HOW TO SELL ON AMAZON

We have a $15 rule to determine if you should sell on Amazon. If your product isn't $15 or more and it's not light enough to make money, that's where we start.

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Doug: No, I totally agree. Yeah. Let's not blow up our business by trying to take a shortcut. Yep.

Carolyn Lowe: There's lots of people that give away products in exchange for reviews or have you buy it and then rebate you the money and that is totally against Amazon's terms of service. And so we don't recommend doing any of that. There are sellers that do it, but legally what we do is, first of all, we get a great listing. We have what we call the seven killer image listing guide. So until your listing is what we call like a 10 out of 10, we don't even start promoting your product. The other thing that's interesting is those first 30 days are critical. So when we're working with a new brand, we make sure that before we even turn the listing on that the listing is a 10 out of 10 and that's images, the enhanced content from the manufacturer at the bottom of the listing, the bullets, the titles of all that content, all the backend search terms.

Carolyn Lowe: There's a bunch of organic fields in the backend of Amazon that most people don't even know to fill out. So that's where we'll optimize and then we'll start looking for, we'll do our keyword research on long-tail keywords, things that you could rank for quickly before going after the keywords that have 500,000 searches a month that you're not going to rank for. So we will do that. Some of our brands also, we'll do Facebook ads to their website, and some of our brands don't even sell on their website. They prefer to send them to Amazon. So Facebook ads to the website and then the buy button then goes to Amazon. So those are really high converting clicks to Amazon. If they've already been to your website, they've decided they want to purchase the products.

Doug: Sure, that makes sense. My wife writes for a health and wellness blog and I think she has an Amazon affiliate account, so it makes sense when you're doing, “Hey, get fit for the winter season. Here's some gift ideas for a home gym.” So it's good content and it's all about value. But there is a link, say, “Hey, if you want to buy this online, click here.”

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, exactly. Just like your wife's blog.

Doug: Yeah. So what advice would you give people when they're starting to explore this? Are there categories that aren't worth considering? Are there categories … I know this is tough, but I don't know. I think it might be a tough question, but is there a killer category where there's pent up demand and people need to pay attention because they're missing this huge opportunity?

Carolyn Lowe: There's a couple of different software programs, the third party that plugin and scrape all the Amazon data that folks can use if you're not a brand owner. One of the things that I get through my relationship with Amazon is they tell me what categories and what products they're light in. And so I can work with my brands and say, “Hey, there's a lot of customer demand for this on Amazon, but they don't have a great selection. This could be a winning product for you.” If you don't have that relationship with Amazon where they can tell you the exact products that they need, then what you can do is use a couple of third-party software tools that say, hey, this is low, high demand, low competition. The same thing with some of the Google ad words, tools that you can imagine where it says, they have this keyword, it's a great keyword. It's got low competition and high click-through and high demands.

Doug: Yep. Well, that's really cool. Well, it sounds like a really great way for you to generate leads through Amazon. They're coming to you saying, “Hey, we have a whole bunch of people who want to buy this, but there's nobody selling it. Can you please bring us, someone?”

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, yes. And we can work with our existing brands and say, “Hey, there's a big hole in the category.” And so we really work as a strategic partner to help them with product development as well. When they say, “Oh, should we enter this category or this category?” I'll say, “Well, this category has a way bigger opportunity on Amazon.”

Doug: So what are the big mistakes that people make? And I just want to just start with by saying, I've seen a whole bunch of online digital courses and hey how to sell on Amazon. And what I'm gathering from our conversation is those people are talking about a totally different business model than you are.

Carolyn Lowe: If they're doing a sort of reselling, yeah. The reason why I think it's a little bit different than us because we primarily were … 95% of our Amazon clients are the brand owners, not the resellers. So it's very different if you're reselling on Amazon, that's a whole different strategy and I think your previous podcasts with those folks is a great place to start if you're wanting to resell on Amazon.

If you're a brand owner and you get going, a lot of times one of the things that we've seen is just the listing quality and some of the backend settings and some of these extra fees that you may or may not know about from Amazon. And so literally when we start with somebody, we go through the entire settings and say, you want to turn this on, you want to turn this on, you want to turn this time. Because a lot of people set up an account and they do it wrong or a lot of times with the Amazon Doug, it's honestly, you don't know what you don't know. Amazon doesn't make it easy. It's like the IRS.

Doug: Well, I find the same thing with Google and Facebook as well, it's like, “Hey, this ad was not approved,” or Facebook, “Hey, we're shutting off this nutrition account because you're not compliant with their terms and conditions.” It's like, yeah, your terms and conditions are 500 pages. Could you be just a little bit specific, give us a hint on what page we're not compliant? So different type of question, maybe different direction, as a retailer or brand when I'm dealing direct to consumer, if they're ordering from me online, I've got a relationship with that person, how do you develop a relationship with people who are buying your product from Amazon?

Carolyn Lowe: Doug, that's a great question and that is the big conundrum for brand owners is not knowing a lot of that information. Amazon does give you demographic information and they do give you some information about your buyers and you can see how many are on subscribe and save and what your repeat purchase rate is. I've seen some black hat stuff. I ordered some energy gels from Amazon for my personal use for post running and I got a card in there with a QR code and it said, “Scan for three free gels.” And so I scan the code, it brought up an email marketing form. Basically I could tell that they were using MailChimp because I looked at the URL and I filled it out and they sent me three free gels, but they did get my email address. Now, Amazon doesn't allow you to do anything to market to Amazon customers off Amazon. So I would sort of call that black hat, but it does get done.

Doug: Well it's funny that you mentioned that because that's immediately what I was thinking. I was thinking, “Well, that's not going to be difficult. All I need you to do is get a newsletter or a piece or something into the mailing package,” and you're saying that's a no-no. Okay.

Carolyn Lowe: It's a no-no to market to them off Amazon or a lot of times we'll see people do inserts in exchange for a review. Hey, we'll send you a free product if you give us a review. That is a definite no-no. The three free gels, if it's in the package and you offer it to everybody, not just Amazon customers, then it's something that's part of your brand and so it's less likely to get you suspended than offering free product in exchange for a review. That is a big no-no.

Doug: So for brands that are considering this, where's the low hanging fruit for them? When they're looking at this as a potential platform to market to and maybe they have a conversation with you, would you normally start with one product? Would you start with a product line? How do you introduce somebody to selling on Amazon?

Carolyn Lowe: That's a great question. We usually just put up all the skews that they want to sell. The nice thing is, is if they have a registered trademark with the US PTO, the Patent and Trademark Office, they can get brand registry on Amazon. And what that means is you can have a really nice storefront. It looks like a webpage. You get access to not just the bullets, but you can make these really beautiful descriptions on your product page that looked more like web pages. So you can get access to all of that because of the brand registry. And when you set up a storefront, as you can imagine, you would want as many products as possible on your storefront. So we like to work with companies that have five, 10, 20, some of our brands have 400 skews. The more the better.

Doug: Okay. I just wondered, I didn't know whether you'd test a brand, but to your point, that makes sense. If they've got a wide variety of skews they can put up there, it makes sense for them to show more products. Now, in terms of helping them too, do you ever help your clients bring on new products that, based on your conversation with Amazon saying, “Hey, we've got a void here.” Are there situations where your client would actually create a new product to fill a demand if it's in their vertical?

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, definitely. And we'll pull all the competition. Here's what people like, here's what people don't like. And the great news is, once you read through all the competitor's reviews, we did this with one product, a brand was bringing to market and what all the people that bought the product didn't like was that you had to take these supplement pills three times a day and there were six of them and they were horse pills and they were impossible to choke down. So they might grow in capsulized a bunch and made it a once a day or twice a day pill and that became close to a million-dollar skew.

Doug: Wow, that's cool. So they just rebranded or actually formulated the product.

Carolyn Lowe: They basically launched a product because really like any opportunity, you look for something where there's a lot of demand, but there's a problem. So that's where, where can you be disruptive? Just like any industry, where can you be disruptive?

On the Facebook side, we work with a direct to consumer cowboy boot brand and they said they totally upended the cowboy boot brand because they didn't ever want to in retail and they went direct to consumer and they cut the prices by 50%. They said, “You shouldn't have to pay $1,000 for a pair of cowboy boots.”

Doug: No, you shouldn't have. I've often said that about some of the lady shoes that we've looked at or purchased. And that was my most expensive purchase I think ever in my life was buying a purse that I thought my wife really liked when we were in Houston, in the Fendi shop and I really had no idea that Ostrich or whatever it was that expensive. I might've wanted to ask what the price was before I said we'll buy it.

Carolyn Lowe: I thought you were going to tell me it was a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes or something.

Doug: I bought those from the … because there's a shop in the Win Hotel in Las Vegas. I had to tell the customs guy, “Look, don't look at the prices on the box. I got them on sale. So here's my receipt. I'm happy to pay my duty.” So how much management is involved in the back end of this? So you've got a company, you're operating, things are going well, you're a profitable company. The opportunity arises to have a conversation with yourself and your company to sell on Amazon. How much ongoing work is that? There's obviously ongoing work to run your business. I'm assuming there's a whole bunch of things you need to do continue to make sure that Amazon's producing and then you can scale.

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, I would say that we do a daily work on every account. So every account is worked on every day. So as you know from Google, there's really no set and forget. Anything [crosstalk 00:23:25].

Doug: No, that's a way to lose money fast.

Carolyn Lowe: Yes. That's a way to give a lot of money to Google. Amazon is the same way with their advertising. If you are not watching it, they will spend all your money. So just like they have automatic campaigns and manual advertising campaigns and your automatic campaigns can run up a bunch of money real quick, especially if you get a deal like a deal of the day or a lightning deal or one of those deals on Amazon, which is one of the most visited pages is the deals page on Amazon. And so we will see that if you have a deals page and people forget to turn off a campaign, they can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in one day on one product by mistake.

Doug: So I just want to get a visual of what it looks like in terms of marketing on Amazon. So you've obviously got advertising on Amazon. Do you spend most of your time and money with your clients advertising their Amazon products within Amazon? Because obviously you guys have lots of talent as a digital agency and in other digital advertising.

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, that's a great question. So just like with any marketing budget, you want to spend as much as you can on the most productive vehicles, right? So on Amazon Advertising, we've tested is the most productive. So there's a couple of different kinds of advertising on Amazon. There's one ad at the top, it's called a sponsored brand is where you normally see three products and the brand name. There's also the sponsored products, which are typically the first three or four products in a search say sponsored. So people are paying to get to page one, position one. And those are typically the most productive we see as sponsored products because those are high intent.

Carolyn Lowe: They also have launched for brand owners, sponsor brand videos. So you have video in search now and we've had some great success with those for some of our brand owners where you can actually play a video in the search results, not just show your product. And then once you're done with those ones, they also have product display. So if you really want to target somebody else's product, so say Doug, you have a terrific garlic press and you want to be shown on the pages of other garlic presses, you can even say, “Hey, I only want to be shown on ones that are three-star and below that are $15 or more.” And those are high intent, right? If you're a [crosstalk 00:25:55].

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We have a $15 rule to determine if you should sell on Amazon. If your product isn't $15 or more and it's not light enough to make money, that's where we start.

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Doug: Sure, it makes sense. Yeah, that's really cool. I didn't know if that existed. I'm learning so much today. I have a whole page of notes here.

Carolyn Lowe: That's good. I'm sorry I'm talking so much. I just, I get really excited about Amazon because it's such a great opportunity but it can also be devastating to your financials if you don't do it right.

Doug: So I'm asking this out of pure ignorance. Are there brands that are only Amazon brands that you wouldn't see anywhere else?

Carolyn Lowe: Yes, there's plenty of private label brands. They may just throw up a webpage to look legit, but there are plenty of them where you can't even find a website or they private label or they buy stuff from Alibaba and just create a private label brand on Amazon.

Doug: Okay. I was thinking more of a more legit. I didn't go to a co-packer and come up with shampoo or vitamin or something. I was thinking somebody that actually started out with the intent of just leveraging Amazon and having their shipping and fulfillment and just decide, I don't want to be part of that. I just want to create a really great quality product and have all the marketing done there.

Carolyn Lowe: There are definitely those as well. They still have to get the product and create it, but there are plenty of brands that are Amazon only.

Doug: I had heard at one point that Amazon gets into the business of product creation and selling. Is that true? Not true? Is that one of those false, those gossip conversations that we hear?

Carolyn Lowe: No, it's absolutely true. They have their own brand of vitamins called … I don't even know how to pronounce it. Solimo, S-O-L-I-M-O, and they will routinely compete against you and even throw up their product on your product page listing saying, “You may want to consider this product instead.”

Doug: Okay, that's a bit weird. Is there a risk or is there something you can do to mitigate that with your clients if you go in there and you take maybe a new product skew and you're just crushing it, obviously they see the data as well. So what do you do to mitigate that risk to protect your client and make sure they keep that market domination?

Carolyn Lowe: That's a great question. So a lot of times, it's going back to a marketing one-on-one, like building your brand, which is why we don't work with a lot of resellers or we don't work with a lot of folks that are Amazon only because a lot of times, like the cleaning company we worked with, they're doing 10X what they were doing when we started with them. And-

Doug: Slow down, just let that sink in for the audience. So they're doing 10X what they were doing previously. Okay.

Carolyn Lowe: Yes. It went from tens of thousands to seven figures on Amazon a year. But I still think you have to do things off … they're also in grocery and they're also in national retail and one does feed the other. And I do feel like to protect yourself, you do have to strengthen your brand off Amazon. So if you have to be on Amazon, you should be creating that brand loyalty. I still think that you're doing your D-to-C Facebook ads and you're building that brand because a lot of times what we find is anything that has to be put on your body or in your mouth really needs to be sampled. And Amazon had a sampling program for a while. They've sort of downplayed it now but a lot of times as you know you, you discover something and then you go to replenish it and you'll replenish it on Amazon because it's easy. So still think you need to be doing brand-building off Amazon.

Doug: Yeah. It's funny sometimes looking at the pricing I had a piece of computer equipment that I was having issues with and I had called the warranty line and they said, “Hey you know what, the equipment is out of date but we'll give you a better price if you want to reorder.” And I felt guilty for a minute because I was talking the helpline, I thought I'll just go into Amazon and see what the pricing was. I'm thinking I can buy it cheaper on Amazon than the manufacturer is willing to sell it to me for a replaced product. So that was an easy decision. So I shared that conversation with the help desk and they went, “Sorry, that's our pricing.” It's like, “Yeah, no problem. Thanks for telling me it's out of date but I'm not going to buy it from you, so I'm going to go buy it from Amazon.”

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah. And that's what a lot of people do. I have a rule. If I'm buying a book and it's staying local in Austin, Texas here, I will buy it from our local bookseller book people. If I have to ship the products, I'm sorry it's more expensive to buy the book and ship it to my sister in Boston than it is to just buy it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to her.

Doug: Yeah, absolutely. For sure. So let's walk us through the process for our listeners that have a brand that says, “Hey, this looks good or sounds good, I want more information.” What are the next steps that they would take?

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, so I think that if they want to, we would typically do a call just to understand their brand, look at their brand, give them all the data around how much it would cost them, give them all the links to say these are the fees you would have to pay to Amazon, see if it makes sense. And if it does, then we would typically schedule a followup call and do. If they're not selling on Amazon, then we would walk through, “Hey, here's what it looks like to get set up on Amazon. Here's what it looks like if you want ongoing management.” For brands that are selling on Amazon, we typically will do an audit to see if we can do any better. And if we can't do any better and we'll tell them, we'll say, “Nope, you're doing great. You don't need us.”

Doug: So what's a realistic timeframe? I say realistic because people seem to, at least in my experience, they have these unrealistic ideas like, “Hey, I can get this done in a week or I get this done in 10 days.” So if you're not an Amazon, what's a realistic timeline if Carolyn, someone phones your company and connects with you, walks through the process till they're actually exited.

Carolyn Lowe: So outside of our current pandemic situation, we can usually get them set up, get their listings done, and have them be shipping products into Amazon within 14 days. They can usually be live.

Doug: Holy smokes, that's fast. I thought it would have been 30 60 days. That's crazy fast.

Carolyn Lowe: It is. And it all depends on the speed of what the brand can deliver. So we don't do the image creation. We feel like the brand owners should own the creative. We'll tell them, these are the seven killer images you need to make your listing convert. And then basically as long as they're giving us the information we need, we can typically get listings created and done within two weeks and walk them through to ship their product into Amazon.

Doug: And then what does the backend analytics look like for a seller that's on Amazon? Am I going to see something similar to what I would expect to see from Google Analytics or Facebook in terms of what's happening on the marketing side?

Carolyn Lowe: Oh I wish it was as good as any of those. There are some nice things like Google Data Studio does plug into, Amazon has two APIs, they have an orders API and an advertising API. So there's a lot of great third-party tools out there where you can plugin. There's real-time bidding. But in terms of analytics, you do get, okay, here are my sessions, how many people went to my page, here's my conversion. We also look at advertising. So they'll show you every day, here's your spend, here's your real ads, here's all your search terms. And so same thing like Google, you're doing negative search terms in optimizing campaigns just like Google. But that the analytics are decent, but we use a lot of third-party tools on top. Like there's Sellics, take a metrics for automated advertising. There's Sellozo for PPC management, so just like Google, there are a bunch of other PPC and analytics tools that most people add on.

Doug: Okay. Well, the reason I was asking that question because my next question is to be, okay, so it's 14 days if you're not selling on Amazon. And I was just thinking to your process that if somebody is selling on Amazon and you're doing an audit, you're likely to look at that data and that's going to be your baseline where you're going to start from before you ramp up and roll out a new recommendations for them.

Carolyn Lowe: Yes.

Doug: And then in terms of … and this is probably going to be, it depends how many skews they have. If you can turn around a new business in 14 days, is it more work that take more time to clean up what somebody else's done than it does to launch a brand new account?

Carolyn Lowe: Typically, yes. That's a great question, Doug. I took on a health and wellness mom and baby brand doing like $10,000 a month and it took me three months to unwind everything. They had sold to Amazon at one point, they had a vendor account, it was really hard to get anything changed. So we like to say we want to be the partner from the beginning because it [inaudible 00:35:00] three months to unwind if it's not done right from the beginning.

Doug: Now, well that's the feeling I was getting listening to you. I'm thinking, okay, 14 days I'm thinking that I've seen some people selling on Amazon and their accounts aren't great. So that answers that question. So yeah, start with you guys from the beginning. Save a whole bunch of time and money and not have to unwind it all and start over.

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HOW TO SELL ON AMAZON

We have a $15 rule to determine if you should sell on Amazon. If your product isn't $15 or more and it's not light enough to make money, that's where we start.

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Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, pretty much. You nailed it, Doug.

Doug: So in terms of bad advice that you hear, when we're allowed back out again and you're speaking in a conference or an event or in a cocktail party, what's some of the bad advice that you hear, I'd call them from the uneducated about why you shouldn't sell or should sell on Amazon.

Carolyn Lowe: A lot of times we hear bad promises. We'll hear people say, “Oh, I can grow you from $10,000 to $100,000 in two months.” And without some sort of outside forces, unless you're on Shark Tank, a lot of our brands have been on Shark Tank. But unless you're on Shark Tank and you have some sort of outside force, that's really unrealistic.

So a lot of times we'll hear bad advice like, I can be selling $1 million in two months. That's typically not true. We see without any outside forces or realistic growth rate of 10 to 15% a month if you're not launching new products. I've also heard people give bad advice about not knowing the ins and outs of the taxes of Fulfilled by Amazon. So once Amazon puts your product in a bunch of fulfillment centers around the country, that does have tax issues and it can create nexus. So I've seen more often than not, we saw a company have a $10 million back tax bill because they didn't know about this before they came to us.

Doug: Oh, I never thought of that. So there'd be different taxes for every state.

Carolyn Lowe: Right. And if your product is housed in 10 different states, even though your headquarters is in New York, you're still going to have to file and pay in those other states. And so Amazon now has about 12 to 15 or 20 new states that have come after them. And so Amazon will collect tax in every one of those states. You can't choose not to. So really not knowing the tax in and outs is a really big piece of bad advice we've seen.

Doug: Well, wow, I hadn't even considered that. But as soon as you said that, I just think of the professional athletes I know that play and they're required to pay state tax in every state where they play. So had never considered that for Amazon. There you go. There's another reason why you want to have the right people on your team.

Carolyn Lowe: That's right. That's right.

Doug: So who's one guest I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Carolyn Lowe: Well, I would say Jeff Bezos, but he's a little busy right now. But I don't know-

Doug: I can imagine why.

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah. Well, don't imagine if you can get him scheduled. There's a brand that I really love that has done a great job with Amazon, but they're also just a great brand in general and they've been on Shark Tank and they are Wondercide, which is a natural pet company and CEO Stephanie Boone I think would be a terrific guest or their CNO. They've done a great job and we used to work with that and we no longer work with them, but they are a terrific company, and Stephanie would be a great guest.

Doug: Well, that'd be amazing if you could make an introduction by email.

Carolyn Lowe: Absolutely.

Doug: Now, where's the best place for people to connect with you? How can they find you, track you down, have a conversation, take a look at what you guys are doing to see if this is a fit then start a conversation?

Carolyn Lowe: We are on the web at www.roiswiftswift.com. There you can check out our services, read some blog posts and you can connect with us there.

Doug: Well, super good. So I'll say thanks so much. I really appreciate you taking the time. This is an area I don't … you could tell by my questions, I don't have a lot of experience in, but a huge interest in especially, I mean, the world has changed so much in the last 60 days of people have realized the need to be online, there's no hiding from it now.

Carolyn Lowe: Yeah, that's great. Well thanks for having me. This is very timely as people are trying to shift to Amazon and move from their retail partners.

Doug: Thanks, Carolyn. So thanks listeners for tuning in. I hope this really got your brain stirring. I've got a page of notes here. I think this is really cool. At least for my interest point, I have no experience in this space. As you know, I'd be happy to just refer people to Carolyn and her team. So thanks for tuning in. We look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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HOW TO SELL ON AMAZON

So we have a $15 rule to determine if you should sell on Amazon. If your product isn't $15 or more and it's not light enough to make money, that's where we start.

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Links to other related podcasts and or blog posts:

SALES SHIFTS THAT WILL HELP YOU SELL MORE

HOW TO IMPROVE ONLINE SALES