How to Come Back from a Failed Product
Sony Betamax, Microsoft Zune, Nintendo Virtual Boy… NEW Coke.
Yeah. Strap in – We’re talking about the F word today:
When you say it you can almost taste it drip from your mouth like shame-flavored Crystal Pepsi.
Specifically, we’re talking about learning how to sell on Amazon FBA through failed products and more importantly, what to do after you’ve failed with them.
Many failed products disappear into obscurity, overshadowed by their superior competitors and lost to memory.
Others, like the examples above, have achieved infamy. They stand as a not-so-shining beacon of disappointment. Cautionary tales of proprietary greed, chasing the flagship dragon, or trying to fix something that isn’t broken. However, what do the products I mentioned at the top of this blog all have in common?
They were produced by some of the biggest and most successful brands out there. All of which are still standing, and thriving in their own right, I may add.
But those are billion dollar companies! They could produce a new failed product every week and still pivot to a profit.
You’re not wrong. My point is, no matter how large or experienced a company is, everybody fails. Ironically, many people fail to see how important risk-taking is when running a business and how failure plays a critical role in eventual success.
Out of curiosity we took a poll asking users from our Amazon FBA High Rollers Facebook Group to be candid about failure with Amazon product launches. Of our sample size participants, 94% of users have had at least one product failure that they have learned from.
71% have had multiple product failures but haven’t let it stop them.
Why did you fail? Was it due to poor decision-making or poor-execution? Will you try again? How will you avoid failure moving forward? What were they thinking with Windows Vista?
We’re going to tackle (almost) all of these questions.
We’ve identified four of the most common Amazon product launch killers and four strategies to come back even stronger.
PROBLEM: I thought I had the perfect product… what happened?
SOLUTION: Identify the cause of failure
The only thing worse than the failed product itself is not knowing why it failed.
Not to get too morbid, but we have to treat a failed Amazon product launch as a CSI case. If we don’t know the cause of death, we won’t know how to avoid it again in the future. Put on gloves (we know you have them for quarantine) – it’s time to perform a PRODUCT AUTOPSY.
1. Did you choose the wrong product?
This will not be an easy question to answer. No one wants to admit they chose the wrong product from the start. However, what seemed like an innovative solution to a common problem or fresh take on an existing idea may not sell. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. Choosing the right product to sell on Amazon isn’t always easy.
As a ridiculous example, you may be selling the ultimate sock for people with six toes. The quality is perfect in every way, down to the thread count. It genuinely helps those with six toes. Obviously, this product will not sell because hardly anyone is searching for “six toed socks” on Amazon.
Of course, this is an exaggerated comparison, but it may be worth taking an honest look at your product and asking yourself, “Do I have a ‘six-toed’ sock on my hands?”
We’ll dig more into keyword research later…
Using Amazon product research tools like Black Box from Helium 10 allows you to identify product opportunities based on the metrics that matter most. Search and filter by product niche, category, estimated sales, reviews, weight, and number of sellers.
Black Box is effectively the Swiss Army Knife of Amazon product research – don’t leave home without it.
Make use of our Amazon chrome extensions like X-Ray (to validate product information directly from Amazon while shopping) or the Profitability Calculator (generate estimated Amazon fees, shipping costs, and ROI’s on the fly).
2. Did you set unreasonable expectations?
This is a big one with newer Amazon sellers. While selling on Amazon FBA presents a huge opportunity for many aspiring solopreneurs, the waters have unfortunately been muddied by slick marketing companies promising a “get-rich-quick” experience. By now you have probably realized that Amazon product launches are not a guaranteed license to print money.
Ask anyone who has been selling on Amazon for more than a couple of years and they will tell you… this takes hard work. Yes, it’s accessible and easy to get started. But so are triathlons.
You get the idea. Don’t go into Amazon FBA with the expectation that the work is done for you. Yes, one day you could be earning a passive income that pays your bills and replaces your 9-5 but until then, the work you put into your Amazon FBA business is anything but passive.
3. Did you optimize your Amazon product listing?
A failed product may not be due to the product itself. You may have put days of product research and promotional strategies into your launch. But if your Amazon listing was not optimized, your product was doomed to fail from the start. The relationship between your Amazon listing and product keywords is stronger than you think.
Does your product title clearly accomplish the following?
- Explain what the product is with relevant information
- Include 3-5 of your targeted keywords (see Project X, Episode 10 for an insider tactic sellers can use to dictate their canonical URL through careful keyword placement)
- Remain short, sweet, and to the point (especially important for mobile users)
Do your product description and bullet points include long-tail keywords?
Make sure this content demonstrates not only the benefits and key features of your product, but how a customer’s life will improve from using the product.
Have you included your keywords in the backend of your listing?
This includes deliberately misspelled words, foreign language words, and other long-tail keywords you could not fit in your description.
Are your product images in line with Amazon’s requirements for photos?
Dedicate time to learn about Amazon product photography. Are you making use of infographics, dimension visualization, and compelling lifestyle images? Your main image should be on a white background and only displaying items that you are actually selling.
You may want to consider split-testing your Amazon listing photos if you are serious about optimizing your product listing.
PROBLEM: My product is high quality but not selling/ranking!
SOLUTION: Take a second look at your keyword research
It has been said that on Amazon you don’t sell products, you sell keywords.
Amazon keyword strategies help to:
- Measure how popular an industry is
- Direct Your PPC advertising efforts (and determine how much you spend on your ad campaigns)
- Ultimately dictate how much organic traffic (and therefore) sales you will produce
Turn your attention to competitor research. Find the keywords your competitors target for products to your own.
How are you supposed to find this? Using Cerebro, our Amazon keyword research tool, we can find a product on Amazon, copy and paste its ASIN, and extract valuable keyword data.
This data includes:
- Monthly search volume
- Number of competing products
- Organic and sponsored ranks
- Proprietary Cerebro IQ score (a value to help you prioritize keywords based on high search volume and low competitiveness)
Use advanced filters to sort your data by word count (find those long-tail keywords!). Your goal is to determine an estimated number of sales needed per keyword to rank on page one of Amazon.
To go even deeper into keyword brainstorming, Magnet allows you to enter in any key phrase to extract relevant keywords you may want to target, all with data to back up your decision.
By carefully choosing keywords that drive traffic and are attainable for you to capture, you are ensuring your next Amazon product launch fares better than your last.
PROBLEM: Bad reviews have tanked my product!
SOLUTION: Communicate with your customer base, especially if they’re unhappy.
Nothing quite puts the nail in a product’s coffin like poor customer reviews. You may have done your best to get Amazon reviews, but to no avail.
Put some real time into reaching out, addressing their concerns, and making your plan of action clear to them. Negative Amazon reviews can come from an almost limitless amount of sources ranging from:
- The customers’ inability to carefully read what they are buying
- Your inability as the seller to clearly explain what your product does
- Product defects that may have occurred without your knowledge
- Shipping damage or logistical hiccups out of your control
- Poor product quality
Whatever the reason, be transparent with your customers and make them feel heard. At the end of the day you may have lost money on a failed product, but if you can help preserve the reputation of your brand you must take the opportunity to do so.
We didn’t have room to go deeper into this, but here are a few bonus solutions for those who have made it this far:
- Don’t get trapped into putting all your eggs into one basket. Think long-term. Sell more than one product. Not only does this diversify your brand and increase your total profit, but it is by far the best way to learn.
- Despite what you may hear, it is possible to have a profitable product and still be losing money. Now may be a good time to re-examine your budget. Is there room to negotiate a better deal to give you breathing room? Can you be paying yourself less temporarily to give your business the financial nourishment it needs to thrive?
From 7 Failures to 7 Figures
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to succeed, it’s healthy. But success is often cobbled together from the well-worn bricks of many failures. There is no rule that says your first (second, third, or 15th) failure prevents you from reaching your e-commerce goals, don’t let anyone tell you different. We want to leave you with a brief story.
On a recent episode of our Serious Seller’s Podcast we spoke to Trevin Peterson, Amazon influencer and 7-figure seller about “hitting the wall” with Amazon.
He, like many Amazon sellers, once arrived at that point of seemingly no return. The point when we take a hard look at our listing and think “This doesn’t work.”
Whether it was a failed jewelry mount product due to poor product images, failed faucet hardware product due to copyright roadblocks, or simply not enough keyword research…
Trevin experienced first hand the growing pains needed to find that winning formula we all chase.
Don’t base everything off your product first. Instead workshop your strategy. If you have a winning business model you just have to find the right product to fit that business model.
Up until this point, Trevin had been told that the start-up costs of launching an Amazon product would take upwards of $5,000. Instead, he trained himself in the shallow end of the pool. Using $500-$800 low inventory product launches, Trevin was able to cut his teeth at a more manageable scale.
It took over 5 different products to reach his “ah-ha” moment and find a product that hit it out of the park.
Trevin is living proof that patience and persistence are crucial ingredients to success.
I don’t care if this takes 10 times… if I lost money, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Ok, it’s Time we Wrap Up This Therapy Session…
No one wants to talk about failure. It’s a touchy subject that is embarrassing for many people.
There is no shame in admitting you set out to #crushit and ended up #crushed.
As the leading provider of Amazon seller tools, we are no stranger to seeing products at all stages of success – yes even the flops. We train sellers in the Amazon FBA space every day and take pride in helping entrepreneurs succeed in doing what they love most. But, it would be naive to pretend that failures don’t exist.
We’re hoping to further open the dialogue about failure and your experiences with product mistakes on Amazon. Not talking about them doesn’t make them any less real. At Helium 10, we believe in the S words: solutions, success, s’mores.
But we will never shy away from the F words: fighting fears, facilitating freedom, and facing failure. Neither should you.
Remember, with Amazon product launches, admitting defeat doesn’t mean living in defeat.