Episode 9 – 3rd-Party Warehouses, Trademark Battles, and Becoming a 7- Figure Seller with Kevin Rizer
Discover how the Private Label Movement founder and 7-figure Amazon seller Kevin Rizer found success, what he thinks of 3PL warehouses, and how he deals with trademarking issues!
Kevin was in a corporate grind career and decided to make a life-altering change upon receiving an email about selling on Amazon and hasn’t looked back. He shares his road to success on Amazon, which came with many bumps and near-misses. But honestly, who hasn’t experienced bumps in the road, especially during the pursuit of worthwhile life changes?
Kevin also talks about what has been pivotal in his growth as an Amazon seller and how he has rolled with the punches he endured to become a 7-figure seller with his own podcast. Bradley also gets Kevin’s opinions on the impact of using third-party logistics (3PL) companies, which allow e-commerce sellers to handle fulfillment without having to invest in their own fulfillment solutions or using Amazon’s FBA program.
In episode 9 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Success Manager Bradley Sutton and Kevin discuss the changing needs for Amazon sellers, including:
- How Kevin Got Into Selling on Amazon with Just an Email
- Going Beyond Amazon Training
- The Nightmare of Selling Retail Arbitrage
- The “Ah-Ha Moment” of Selling 5 Products in 1 Day
- Humble Beginnings: Using Credit Cards to Pay for Training and Fees
- Making $1 Million on 6-8 Products in 1 Year and Going Full-Time on Amazon
- What Is Different About Selling on Amazon Then Versus Now in 2019?
- What Inspired Kevin to Start the Private Label Movement Podcast?
- Working Towards What You Want and Pursuing Opportunities
- The Most Memorable Moments of Kevin’s Podcast
- Is There a Need in Using a 3PL Warehouse?
- Getting in Trouble with Walmart by Selling on Amazon
- Talking About E-commerce Failures As Much As Successes
- A Ridiculous Legal Battle with the Emmy Awards
- Kevin’s Advice for Avoiding Legal and Liability Trouble
- #1 Tip for Keeping Existing Products Relevant and Profitable
- Acknowledging Your Product’s Life Cycle, Not Just the Numbers
- How Kevin Prioritizes Keywords Without Exact Search Volume Data
- Playing the Long Game for Real Amazon Success: Choosing the Right Product
- Rolling with the Changes on Amazon to Stay Successful
- Contacting Kevin on Facebook
Enjoy this episode? Be sure to check out our previous episodes for even more content to propel you to Amazon FBA Seller success! And don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or wherever you listen to our podcast.
Want to absolutely start crushing it on Amazon? Here are few carefully curated resources to get you started:
- Freedom Ticket: Taught by Amazon thought leader Kevin King, get A-Z Amazon strategies and techniques for establishing and solidifying your business.
- Ultimate Resource Guide: Discover the best tools and services to help you dominate on Amazon.
- Helium 10: 20+ software tools to boost your entire sales pipeline from product research to customer communication and Amazon refund automation. Make running a successful Amazon business easier with better data and insights. See what our customers have to say.
- Helium 10 Chrome Extension: Verify your Amazon product idea and validate how lucrative it can be with over a dozen data metrics and profitability estimation.
- SellerTradmarks.com: Trademarks are vital for protecting your Amazon brand from hijackers, and sellertrademarks.com provides a streamlined process for helping you get one.
Bradley Sutton: We have multiple seven figures seller Kevin Rizer on the broadcast today who will give us his story on how he became successful on Amazon. The need for 3PL warehouses and a big trademark battle he’s involved in now and how you can avoid this happening to you. This and more on today’s episode of the Serious Sellers Podcasts.
Bradley Sutton: Alright guys, how’s it going? This is Bradley Sutton and you are tuned in to this Serious Sellers Podcast and today I am really stoked to have my good friend, Kevin Rizer, here on the broadcast with me. And Kevin Rizer, for those of you who don’t know, he’s the founder of the Private Label Movement, and also he’s a multiple seven-figure seller. He’s going to be giving us a lot of amazing and really cool stories today and great tips for you guys. Kevin, how’s it going today?
Kevin Rizer: It’s going great, Bradley. Thanks so much for having me on.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome, awesome. Where are you located Kevin by the way?
Kevin Rizer: I am just outside of Dallas, Texas.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. How far away is that from Austin?
Kevin Rizer: A little bit too far further than I would like. I should say. It’s about 3 and half hours, if you don’t hit traffic.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Yeah, I might be going there a lot. You know soon because actually, one of the Helium 10 offices is moving to the Austin area and actually Manny and Gui over here moving over there, so I’m sure I’ll be going to that office a lot. So we’ll have to stop by over there. I’ll make the 3-hour drive as long as you give me some alcohol at your favorite bar.
Kevin Rizer:No problem there, even better. I’ll take the party bus down and join you in Austin for the weekend. It’s one of my favorite cities, so I tried to get down there a couple times a year.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome, awesome. There’ll be my first–the first time I go there will be my first time overall because I’ve never been there, so hope you will be my tour guide both in Dallas and Austin.
Kevin Rizer: I would be happy to, my friend. Austin’s a great city. All the cool people seem to be moving to Dallas, I mean to Austin rather. So I’m stuck up here in Dallas, which is not too bad, but often gets.
Bradley Sutton: I guess, I’m not cool enough yet to move there, but I can’t ever picture myself moving out of California. I’ve lived in New York for a time and Japan when I was younger, but I’m a California boy at heart so.
Kevin Rizer: There you go.
Bradley Sutton:Yeah. Alright, so let’s get–enough chit chat here. Let’s get this to this Serious Sellers Podcasts. We got to talk some Amazon stuff here. Now you, as I mentioned, multiple seven figures seller, but how did it all begin for you? When did you start selling on Amazon? How did you originally get into it?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, so it’s kinda funny, Bradley. It’s been almost five years now. In fact, this April will be five years since I began this journey and it all started with an email. You know like probably so many people there that are listening to us right now. I had a different career. I was actually a consultant in the healthcare space and was working 80 hours a week, and was just miserable at my job. Our biggest client was 12 weeks behind on their invoices. So I was struggling to pay the bills and figure out how we are going to keep the lights on and pay our people. And I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So probably like a lot of us signed up for a lot of these email lists and I would, every day, get probably a dozen or more emails about different money making opportunities and different entrepreneurial endeavors. And to be honest, most of them would just go straight in the trash. But one day, in April of 2014 I got an email that changed my life and it was about this. It was about the Amazon. It’s about people that were becoming wealthy and replacing their nine to five incomes selling on Amazon. And I still think today sometimes, gosh, where would I be and how different would my life be if I had never gotten that email or never opened it? And it sure changed the trajectory.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Interesting. Okay, so then what, how did you start? I mean, did you start right away or what did that email motivate you to do or what was the next step?
Kevin Rizer: So a funny story. I didn’t start right away, although I did start it fairly quickly or I should say I didn’t start with private labeling right away. The email was actually a pitch for an educational program called ASM or Amazing Selling Machine. A lot of your audience will be familiar with that and it was a pitch, if you will, to join the training program through a guy who’s now a good friend of mine, Ryan Daniel Moran. And I was fascinated by it, just the idea that people could make money selling products on Amazon. It was really fascinating to me, probably partially because I was a big fan of Amazon. I was one of the early adopters for Amazon Prime, and I ordered at that time probably, you know, several times a week from Amazon. Now it seems like sometimes it’s several times a day, but it just–it made sense to me that you could sell products online through Amazon and kind of have them do the heavy lifting. So I went through the early steps of that training program. But as you know, those courses, they drip out over a period of a couple of weeks. It’s not like you can click a link and go by the training right then. So what I did instead is I went out and I read everything I could online. I bought a couple books about selling on Amazon and I actually got my start doing not private label, but retail arbitrage. And I lasted three days with retail arbitrage. I went out, I never forget, I got the first book, I read it cover to cover in one day and went out the next day and spent about $300 at Costco, and Sam’s Club, and Target, I think, and a couple of other stores, and just bought up all this product. And I spent the next three days re-stickering that inventory and then sending it in to Amazon. And I remember thinking, God, that was probably the hardest three or $400 I’ve made. And I’ve done a lot of crappy jobs. So I didn’t make it very long. I didn’t last very long with retail arbitrage where–once I figured out that private labeling is out there, that really resonated with me and I dove in with both feet.
Bradley Sutton: And how did you do on your first? Did you start off with one product or what was your initial journey like?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, one product, only about I’d say 500 units. A little shy of 500 units with one product. So started going through the training in April and set up the company that summer, and found a supplier and badgered them until they would actually return my calls, and agree to sell the product to us and really did all of the research and everything. And product actually launched that August. So just a few months later and I still remember the day that we got our first sale and being so excited and thinking, alright, this is awesome. You know, we made $5 in profit for that first product. And I remember just a few weeks later, the first time that I sold five products in one day and I–and that’s when the the wheels really started to turn in my head. I thought, okay, $5 times 5 products sold, I need 25 bucks today. And I really didn’t have to do anything. And of course I knew that that $25 wasn’t going to change my life. That $25 wasn’t going to make the rent payment or..
Bradley Sutton: So, at this point were you still doing that crazy 80 hour a week job or–?
Kevin Rizer: I was, yeah. So, I didn’t quit that right away. I wanted to see if this thing had legs and kind of make sure it would work out. I needed to in order to keep paying my bills. In fact, I was so tight with cash when I started that I put the training program on a credit card and did the three payments. You know, I didn’t pay for it all at once. And I went to Vegas that summer for the live event for ASM, but I was tight on cash. So I didn’t stay at the event, at the hotels.
Bradley Sutton: I thought you’re about to say I went to Vegas and want some stuff at the blackjack table and that’s how I funded my inventory. Okay, you went to Vegas for the ASM.
Kevin Rizer: I wish. Now, so I went to Vegas and I stayed at Harris, next door to the event because it was like $60 a night, instead of $250 a night at the Venetian, which is where the conference was. So I was trying to save money any place I could. So yeah, still doing the consulting. And it was probably about three to six months in that I realized, Hey, this thing is on the trajectory to replace my full time income pretty quickly here. And I really need to focus on it. I can’t keep doing my nine to five job and the Amazon thing, I’ve got to pick one or the other. And so I started the process to shut down the consulting company and just focus on private labeling.
Bradley Sutton: Wow, that’s interesting. So like after your first year, like, and your first year, your first calendar year, I’d say, how many products did you launch?
Kevin Rizer: So we launched–I’d say six or eight products that first calendar year and did just over a million dollars in gross sales.
Bradley Sutton: Wow. That is incredible. That’s incredible. And what would you say is the biggest thing that was different about selling on Amazon in those days as opposed to now here in 2019?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, that’s a great question, Bradley. You know, without a doubt so much has changed. Right? But I would say, I think a lot of people would answer that question, and would say that the biggest thing that’s changed is just competition and I don’t think they’re wrong. Certainly competition today is much more fierce and stiff than it was five or six or eight years ago. However, I think there’s still a lot of great opportunities out there. I think the biggest thing that’s changed is that it’s not quite as easy. Right? So back in those days, if you picked a decent product and you had a decent listing and you put for a decent amount of effort, you could read really good success, right? You didn’t have to be an A-player, right? You didn’t have to be on top of your game. You could just kind of stumble along in the process and do a few things right, and make some mistakes, and recover from those mistakes and still have really good success. And I think today those days are over. I think you’ve got to know what you’re doing. I think you’ve got to have your processes down. I think you’ve got to have a great product. Some of the changes that we’ve seen on Amazon over the last year to two years. Amazon’s really forcing us to have great products from the get-go. And so the biggest thing that’s changed in my view is the process. It’s not quite as simple. It’s not quite as easy.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, I agree. I wasn’t around in those days, but I’ve talked to some who were in and they’ve said something similar. Now you had really great success right off the bat, you know, selling on Amazon in your first couple of years. At what point did you start the private label of movement podcast and what inspired you to do that?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, so it was–I’d say about two years, and a year and a half to two years is when I started, when at that time was called Private Label Podcasts. And really the reason I started it was very simple. I enjoyed hearing the stories of other people that were finding success. And I think for a lot of us when we first start anything new, and becoming an entrepreneur, starting an eCommerce company or brand is no different. There’s a lot of self doubt, right? I mean, I didn’t come to this from an internet marketing background or I wasn’t around when affiliate marketing was really big or anything like that. This was all kind of far out for me. I mean, it was way out in that field. So there was a lot of self doubt. No matter how positive I’ve tried to be in those early days, I wondered, you know, can I really make this happen? Right? I see all these other people and I hear these other stories, but maybe they’re lucky or maybe they have some skill set that I don’t have. You know, what if I fail at this? And one of the things that was really helpful to me early on, Bradley, was to hear the stories of other people who had kind of gone before me and blaze that trail. The mistakes they made, the early successes they had, the nuts and bolts of how they put it all together. Those are really inspiring to me and kind of help to push me through that period of doubt. So I simply thought to myself, you know, if this was helpful to me, perhaps it would be helpful to other people. And by that time I had become friendly with a number of other sellers and people in the space. And so it was regularly having these conversations with them and kind of picking their brain. And it was real simple. I thought I should just start recording these conversations with their permission, of course. And start putting them out there and see if they resonate with people. And I never could have imagined what it would have become. I didn’t know if anyone would listen. Well I should say I was pretty sure my mom would listen, but I don’t know if anyone past that will listen, and they did. They kind of slowly grew. So it was pretty cool.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. And then you started getting invited to speak on other conferences and podcasts and actually, you know, quick side note here, I’ve told my story, you know, to some of you guys on the AMA’s that I do on Helium 10 about how I originally got into it. You know, years ago I was part owner of a company who was selling on Amazon, but they really didn’t let me know anything about Amazon. All I did was I was the logistics guy and I was the one shipping stuff out. We had a machine and I would be shipping and packaging 4, 500 phone cases per day with this machine. And I would replenish inventory to FBA, but kind of everything else, they kept kind of secret. I don’t know. Not I think back about it. I’m not sure why they did that, but hey, I didn’t know much about Amazon and when I split with a company, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I was kind of on my own and I happen to be listening to another podcast and it wasn’t the private label podcasts, but another one. And you were the guest on there and you were talking about, hey, next week, here in Chicago we’re going to do this thing called ZonSquad Live. It’s a great conference for Amazon sellers. I had never been to a conference before. Just on a whim. I was like, you know what? I’m going to go ahead and do this. You know, Kevin actually gave a discount on it. If I signed up there, I’m like, let’s do this. I went there and it kind of changed my life. I could say kind of like that email changed your life. It just opened my eyes to the possibilities because I had no idea how to do Amazon at all. And when I saw you at that conference and heard your story, and heard all the great speakers you had there. It just like made me for the next year, dedicate myself to educating myself on Amazon and then, you know, two years, three years later now I helped, you know, sellers launch over 400 products and worked on 400 listings. And now I’m working at my dream job here at Helium 10 and I’m doing my own podcast and I know I have you to thank for that. So thank you very much, Kevin for that role that you played in my Amazon journey.
Kevin Rizer:Well, thank you, Bradley. That means a lot and you know, yeah, it all kind of comes full circle, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s neat the way that everything works and you know, that’s business and to a certain extent, you know, not to get too frufru here, but that’s life. You know I mean, so much of life is what happens to us, right? That’s a small part. But I think a bigger part is, you know, how we take advantage of the opportunities that are presented and you never know who might be sitting right next to you or who might be across the aisle on the plane, or whatever. So, you know, I’ve learned through the years to just try and remain open minded because there’s cool stuff out there and a lot of good people and great opportunities if you’re open to them.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Now going back to your old podcasts, you know, I’m sure you’ve interviewed hundreds of different sellers. Can you–you had no idea I was going to ask this. Can you give me maybe some of the most memorable interviews you had or you know, who it was or some of the craziest things that ever happened. Now I’m just getting new to this whole podcasting. I want to know kind of like what’s in store, what I need to watch out for, but what’s some of the craziest memories you have from for running the podcast?
Kevin Rizer: Oh, that’s fun. What a good question. Yeah. I mean, gosh, there were so many memorable opportunities, you know, when people ask me that all the time, what was your favorite interview or what was the most interesting? And that’s a hard question to answer. So I’ll give you a couple, just the highlights because they are the ones that I think people expect, which Brandon thought was very cool. Remember the first time I interviewed a guy named James Thompson, who’s the founder of Prosper Show and he’s made the rounds. He’s on all the circuits now as far as speaking and most people know who James is. But when we interviewed him the first time, to our knowledge, and this is still, I believe the case, he was the first former Amazon executive to ever speak publicly in an in-depth interview type of format. Now today you can find former Amazonians they like to call themselves, interviewed all over the place. That was somewhat groundbreaking and James really kind of pull back the curtain on the inner workings of Amazon and was very gracious to allow us to do that. A few months later, someone that you probably saw speak at that first ZonAquad Live events–a guy named John Rossman was on the show. John’s kind of like Steve Wasniak of Amazon. A lot of people don’t know him by name. But what’s cool about John is he was the guy that was handpicked by Jeff Bezos to come in to Amazon and actually create the third party marketplace that we all sell on today. And I’ll never forget when my producer at the time, a guy named Paul Miller introduced me to John at a trade show. We kind of exchange contact information and got to know each other a little bit. And then we booked him on the show and I was so nervous. I did a kind of a discovery call with John about a week before we were to record the podcast. And I was just so nervous. I was sweating and pacing and I wasn’t even recording with him that day. I was just going to talk with them for 10 or 15 minutes. So I called him and I said, Hey, I know you’re probably short on time, so I’ll keep this really brief and I just have a few questions and then we’ll prepare for next week’s show. And he was like, well that’s great Kevin. But it actually, you know, I’ve got plenty of time and if you don’t mind, I’d love after you’re done if I could ask you some questions. I’m really fascinated about this whole experience of selling on Amazon. And that was the beginning of a friendship that developed with John, and we’ve spent quite a lot of time together over the last few years and he’s just such a down-to-earth guy. And that was a really cool experience. So there are those types of experiences that people are like, Oh, you interviewed so and so, or oh you, you got to speak at this place. And they would be somewhat expected this kind of the highlights of that part of my career. But honestly, Bradley just as interesting to me were the unsung heroes, if you will. The people that we kind of discovered, you know, grandmothers, and line cooks, and high school dropouts, and people that were thrown out of business school because their ideas were too radical. That kind of pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and found success in creating brands and selling products online. I love to tell those stories. I love to meet those people, and to kind of unearth those stories and introduce them to the world. So those to me were some of the most impactful.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome. That’s great to know. Thank you for that. Now you seem to have dabbled in a lot of things. You know, we talked about the podcast, you know, Amazon selling and you had–at one time started your own 3PL warehouse. Now this is actually something I feel strongly about that I’m actually going to dedicate a future podcast to this because I don’t think many Amazon sellers think that there is a need for a 3PL warehouse. They order stuff from China, they ship it directly to Amazon FBA. But me, I actually myself dabbled a little bit and handling, you know, 3PL, and in my opinion it’s something that’s important that sellers know is an option. Now, before we get into your experience with that, do you agree with me or can you explain to the listeners your viewpoint on why you think 3PL warehouse is something that Amazon sellers should consider?
Kevin Rizer: Absolutely, yeah. So definitely, I mean I think that they are vitally important. You know, when Amazon first launched their FBA program, in a sense they were a 3PL right, which for those of you that aren’t familiar with kind of the lingo, because I certainly wasn’t. A 3PL is just third party logistics. And so Amazon still today acts as a 3PL when they fulfill orders that you sell on their website. They will handle the storage and then the picking and packing and shipping of those items. And there’s, you know, hundreds of other companies out there that do the same thing. And yes, I do still believe that it’s necessary for most eCommerce companies to have a 3PL partner other than Amazon can be for a variety of reasons. A few, just to give you a little taste, for example, Walmart, is one of the fastest growing eCommerce sites here in the US. They are seeing triple digit growth year over year, the past few years. And Walmart has a policy and has for over two years now that you cannot use Amazon to fulfill orders for their customers. Now they don’t really have a great way of enforcing it. So there’s still a lot of Amazon sellers that–also selling Walmart and use FBA to fulfill those orders. But if you were to get caught, Walmart could potentially, you know, suspend your ability to sell on their platform. And that’s simply because they don’t want Walmart customers to receive their walmart.com orders in Amazon packaging, which makes a lot of sense. The reason I actually started looking at other 3PL options was much more simple than that. It was that I sold some products that were deemed hazardous by Amazon, and they made it clear to me in no uncertain terms that I was not to send in those products to Amazon any longer. So I had a choice. I had to either stop selling those products or find another option.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Interesting. So now, you know, briefly, what was your experience though? We’ve been talking about all your positive experiences, but this can be probably categorized under one of the negative ones, right?
Kevin Rizer: It can. I mean, it’s all–it’s not all negative because I truly believe that, you know, every experience, if you look at it through the right prism can be positive in some way. So I certainly learned a lot through the process, both as a business owner, and also just personally in terms of strengths and weaknesses. But, yeah, it was a bit of a mess. So I’ll be honest, and I think this is something too, Bradley, that as entrepreneurs, we don’t talk enough about our failures. And so what I want everyone to know is, you know, sometimes it’s easy to get fixed up and kind of fixated on people’s successes. And certainly I’ve been really fortunate to have my share of success. And, oftentimes that’s what people want to talk to me about. And that’s fine. It’s fun to talk about numbers, and success, and all of the cool stuff that’s happened over the past five years. But I promise you, I’ve got just as many failures, and I’ve learned to not hide them or run from them, but instead to kind of embrace them, not just personally, but you know, publicly, which is a little bit harder, but I think is so important because, you know, if you’re in the game long enough, you’re a business owner long enough, you’re going to have failure at some point. And to know that you’re not alone and that other people have been there before, I think is important. So for me, I mean, the short story, the short version is I needed to find a 3PL partner to fulfill our hazardous merchandise. So I hired a company here in Dallas to do so, and about three months in, it was just an absolute nightmare. About half of our packages were getting lost in transit, and that’s probably only partly the fault of the fulfillment center that we hired. It’s partially the fault of the post office and there’s a lot of moving parts. But I pulled the plug three months in and said, hey, we can’t keep going this route. And I made the classic entrepreneurs mistake, right? Which is just to say, you know, F it, I can do it better myself. And probably some of you listening have made that mistake at some point in your journey, which is just to say, you know what, I can do this better than anyone else. And so I will. And so I did. I went out and I leased a warehouse space and I started hiring people and I started ordering equipment. And my vision at the time was to create kind of the best 3PL out there that made use of technology, and that made use of a lot of the things that Amazon has done to cut costs and to improve efficiency. And to be fair, a lot of the things that we wanted to do, three and a half, four years ago when we started that company are now being done by other 3PLs. So I think that my view and my vision for what I wanted to create was probably not a bad idea. I think it was actually probably a really good idea, but the mistake for me was underestimating the complexity of that business. You know, all of the moving parts and all of the potential pitfalls and all of the massive amounts of expense of the type of equipment and software and things that you have to do to be successful. So, you know, we ended up shutting the doors last year, and it was painful. It’s really painful for me to not only admit that failure, but to see the repercussions of that failure and having to lay people off and having to, you know, tell people that they had to go find another job, and having to tell our clients some of whom, many of whom were personal friends of mine, that they were going to have to find a new vendor to serve their business. It was a difficult experience, but one that I think ultimately, I learned a ton from it, and it made me stronger.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. It’s just that cliché thing, you know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But I think as Gary V, who always says, hey, you know, sometimes losing is what helps you, you know, to realize what you have to do to win. So it’s not always a bad thing or a negative thing. Like you had said, well, you know, when you have failure, you learn from it.
Kevin Rizer: No doubt, no doubt.
Bradley Sutton: Now something else that’s been going on recently, I saw this originally, I forgot somebody actually shared it with me. Something to do with a certain award show, your dog, and some Amazon product. So what in the world are those three things have to do with each other?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, yeah. So, wow, that’s like a bad bar joke. The beginning of a bad bar joke, So yeah. You know, I named my company, my first private label company after my dog whose name is Emmy. And there’s another famous Emmy out there that is the name of an award show. And so the short and skinny of that is that we are currently in some back and forth, some legal disagreement. I guess it’s the best way of saying it with this massive organization that has deep pockets and has a huge following, both in and out of the entertainment world and in and around Hollywood. And the funny thing is I never could have imagined this happening. I think one thing I would say to your audiences, go for your trademark early. That was probably one of the big mistakes we didn’t make, or we made rather was not filing for a trademark, you know, four or five years ago when we were getting started. Instead, I waited until just over a year ago, it was probably October or November of 2017. We filed for a trademark, which is one of the things that our attorney said, okay, you guys are getting big enough, you really need to file for a trademark. So we did and it was provisionally approved, which is what happens. The trademark board takes a look at your filing and if they think there’s any potential for confusion with an existing mark, then they’ll reject it. If they don’t feel that way, they’ll provisionally prove it. And that happened in February of last year, 2018. But then what they did is they published it for opposition, which gives anyone else 30 days to oppose that mark and say, hey, we feel like this mark infringes on our rights. And they can oppose it. And that’s what happened there’s NATAS; the National Academy of Television, Arts and Sciences opposed our mark. I remember when I first heard about this, I thought, gosh, this is got to be a joke. Like they’re literally coming after this small pet products company named after someone’s dog. And they think that’s going to cause confusion among consumers between, you know, the Emmy Awards and thought there is no way that that can be legit. This has to be some type of misunderstanding or a mistake. And as it turns out, it wasn’t. They were very serious and they’ve been very aggressive that coming after us over the past year. And, you know, we’re still kind of in that back and forth period of them at first trying to get us to change our name, and they’ve suggested or demanded all kinds of different things. We made the difficult decision a month or two ago of kind of going public with our story and there’s been a number of different media articles written, and features on television and online, different trade blogs and things about the fight. And I’m really optimistic. I’m really hopeful that we can come to some resolution soon and coexist because certainly, we have no intention of infringing upon, or causing confusion between the two brands. I think they’re separate enough that we can coexist peacefully.
Bradley Sutton: Wow. So what would you say is the biggest takeaway from this experience that you can tell other sellers?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, I think, do your due diligence early, you know, in this, this is not just with trademark law, or trademark issues or intellectual property even, but you know, whether it’s taxes or, you know, keeping proper books or, any number of things I think for so many of us when we’re first starting, we tend to ignore the details on a lot of those more complex issues. And I understand that. And to a certain extent, it makes sense to just focus on the things that are the most important. The things that are going to produce revenue. The things that are going to help you rank. And all of the kind of nuts and bolts that we all get excited about. But the moral of the story is that these problems: if you ignore them, if you allow them to crop up years down the line, are so much harder to solve and so much more expensive to solve than if you deal with them properly in the beginning. Right? So, whether it’s keeping your book separate from your personal checking account, or structuring your company in the way that your accountant tells you, is going to give you the most protection with regards to taxes or if it’s, you know, signing up for product liability insurance before someone sues you, claiming that their product–your product did them harm. All of these things are so much more difficult, and so much more expensive the longer you wait.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Okay. Well that’s great to know. Now something else that would be great to know is that I get a lot of questions from, I’m assuming you know, some of your products you’ve probably had for a while, like over a year. Would that be correct? So what about, you know, a lot of the focus these days is on launching new products and what to do to get to page one and this and that. But I don’t think enough is talked about, you know, maintaining mature products and even scaling more or trying to keep those sales high. So, what is just one tip that you have found that works for you in keeping your mature products relevant to buyers that you could share with our audience?
Kevin Rizer: Great question. And I think you’re right, by the way. I think that most of the focuses on new product launches and to some extent that’s why at the end of the day, what we all have to understand is that every product has a life cycle. Every single one of them. And that’s not unique to selling on Amazon. That’s not unique to our products as private label products. That’s true of any product out there in the marketplace. Every single one has a product life cycle. Now you might say, well, you know, Tide laundry detergent has been around for 150 years, you know, and I would say, yes it has, but even that product has a life cycle. And maybe that product life cycles’ 150 years, but it’s still there. And in reality, what I would say is that they don’t sell the exact same product, right? They’ve introduced pods and they have new fragrances and new sense, and new packaging. All different ways that they’re trying to reinvent themselves and distinguished themselves from their competition. And so our products too have life cycles. And if you had to make me guess, I’d say that the average product that sold on the Amazon, it’s a private label product. That life cycle is somewhere between 1 and 5 years. And so we’ve seen with our products that they have a growth stage and then they hit a plateau, and then they start to decline or die, as I like to say. They die, and sometimes that death is quick and relatively painless. And sometimes that death is really drawn out and very painful. And so I think the first step is to always be aware of where your product is in that product life cycle. And you can do things to prolong that, or to kind of breathe new life into a product. And that could be a packaging change. That could be a re-branding, that could be a change in formula. That could be additions to that product or adding additional items in that same line. But being aware of where that product is along that trajectory is so important. You can’t just rest on your laurels and think, okay, product A made, you know, $300,000 in sales last year. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice to just assume that it’s always going to be that way because it won’t.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. That’s excellent. Excellent advice. One more thing that I think is kind of relevant nowadays and that is all a lot of sellers minds and I especially wanted to ask you this since you’ve been selling on Amazon for a while. There’s a lot of newer sellers who kind of–what I like to call had been spoiled with this exact phrase, search volume that’s been available for the last 15 months that now is no longer available, and to them now that tools are not going to have that information or that live information from Amazon, you know, to them the sky’s falling, but you know, they don’t realize that people have been selling on Amazon without this for 10 – 15 years. So you’ve been one of them who has been selling on Amazon. What did you do? Like how did you prioritize your keywords more than 15 months ago when there was no such thing as the visibility of exact phrase search volume from Amazon?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think so many times today we can get spoiled by all of the information, all of the tools that are out there. And don’t get me wrong, I love data and I love the tools. You know, Helium 10 has got a lot of incredible tools and they’re sweet. Yeah, there’s lots of cool stuff out there, but to a certain extent, you know, those are good. But the flip side of that is I think sometimes they can make us lazy, right?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, absolutely.
Kevin Rizer: What I mean by that, Bradley, is that, you know, there’s so much more than just the data or just, you know, for instance, you mentioned exact volume search term. Okay. So if that’s all it takes is kind of mastering that piece of the pie, then congratulations. You can probably get your product to page one pretty quickly and pretty painlessly. But what’s going to keep it there? I mean, if it’s a crap product, you know where the wheels fall off. As soon as someone starts using it, I promise you that you’re not going to stay on page one. No matter what tools you have, no matter what data you have, if your customer service experience is poor, I promise you’re not going to stay on page one. So in some ways it can make us lazy because it allows us to focus only on the algorithm, or only on, you know, one piece of data. And I think what was helpful five years ago is still true today. And that’s to take a wider view of things in terms of, you know, what we’re doing. And it really starts with picking a good product. I remember I used to hear people say that on the podcast and sometimes I would roll my eyes. Okay. I’ll be honest, I would think, oh gosh, one more person says it starts with picking a great product. I’m going to, you know, scream, but you know, time has proven that out that it’s so true. Can you launch a product and have some quick success and make a few bucks if it’s not a good product? Yes, absolutely you can. Right? You can–lightning can strike, you can get lucky, you can do some things, and get there. But that’s a very short-sighted approach to what we’re doing here. The people I know that are the most successful are the people that are playing the long game. Yes, they make use of data. Yes they, you know, stay up, or they have people on their team that stay up to date on the most recent trends and the hacks, and the different data that’s out there. I think that’s critically important. This today is so much more of a data-driven game than it was five years ago. You’ve got to be on top of that stuff. But if that’s the only thing you’re looking at, you know, I don’t know that you’re really playing the long game, that you’re really setting yourself up for success. And that’s where I want to be. So I think you have to kind of do both.
Bradley Sutton: I completely agree. And so you know, if those of you sellers out there who are stressing about this, you know, Kevin became a seven figure seller before there was a such thing as exact phrase search volume. So it can be done, guys, it can be done.
Kevin Rizer: Bradley, there are so many things. Right? I mean, you mentioned the sky is falling right. And I think back over the last four and a half, five years and gosh, I can list out at least a dozen or two dozen different things that happened, right? Which at the time were like cataclysmic. I mean they were doomsday scenarios. When you’re talking about you incentivized reviews getting banned and you talk about, you know, super URL changes, we talk about different algorithm changes. When you talk about changes to the terms as to when you could message customers. when you talk about–I remember when Amazon first took away cell phone numbers for customer. A lot of people were creating audiences based on cell phone numbers, or they were calling customers. When I first started, one of the things they trained us to do was to actually call customers and check in on them a few weeks after they made a purchase, hey, thanks for buying my blue widget. What do you think of it? Did it arrive? Is it okay? Do you love it? You hate it, you know? Hey, would you leave a review? Can I get your email address? I’d like to send you a coupon. You know, those days are long gone. So there’s been so many things over the past couple of years that at the time the people have said, gosh, the sky is falling and guess what? The sunrises again tomorrow and the game is changing, but the game has always changed and the game will always continue to change. That’s the nature of business, right? That’s the nature of business. You’re never standing completely still. You’re always moving forward or moving backwards.
Bradley Sutton: Absolutely. Well Kevin, I really appreciate you coming on here. Especially, you know, you came on here and dedicating your time and giving us this value and you’re not even trying to pitch anything. You don’t have a course or you don’t have, you know, podcasts or anything that you’re trying to pitch. So I really appreciate it. But that being said, if people do want to follow your story or be able to, you know, see what’s going to happen with this Emmy situation, how are they able to follow you at all?
Kevin Rizer: Yeah, hit me up on Facebook. I’ve got public page there and I’ve also got a profile. Shoot me a message or follow me on Facebook. I’d love to connect. And I–you’re right, I don’t have anything to sell or anything to push other than this: Be kind to each other. There is so much nastiness out there and not just in our space. I just mean in the world in general. It’s a small world and those of us that are Amazon sellers and private label, eCommerce people, we got to stick together. There’s a lot more good people out there than bad. So be nice to each other. And treat each other with respect and you do that, I’ll be a happy person.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome. Awesome. Thank you again, Kevin, and don’t forget that as soon as I get over there to the Dallas or Austin area, you owe me a couple of drinks. All right?
Kevin Rizer: I certainly do, my friend. I look forward to it. Thanks so much, Bradley.
Bradley Sutton: Thanks a lot.
Want to know more about how to apply Kevin’s seller journey lessons to your own road to success? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
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