#126 – Amazon Stories from a Military Veteran, Stanley Cup Winner, PPC Expert and a Supplier to the Royal Family.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Customer Success, Bradley Sutton presents another “Best Of” episode and this one offers a fresh take on some of your favorite Serious Sellers Podcasts from the last month.
Increasingly, the world is becoming more connected, in both good ways and bad. I’m going to concentrate on the positive. Every time I write these intros, I’m amazed at the wide range of who is actually selling on Amazon. I watched, perched on the edge of my seat while the subject of the first episode (and a budding Amazon wholesale selling star), won both of his Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche.
In the last episode, we learn about how it’s possible for the heroes who fight for us to take their hard-won skillsets and use them to stimulate an Entrepreneurial resurgence in the United States.
All great stuff . . .
In episode 126 Bradley Sutton presents another “Best Of” edition of the Serious Sellers Podcast.
- 01:00 – Stanley Cups and Wholesale Success
- 02:22 – Seminars, Workshops and YouTube Videos
- 04:00 – Bringing Value to Brands
- 04:45 – Playing the Amazon Long Game
- 05:40 – A Love for PPC from the Beginning
- 07:00 – Working with Google Ads
- 07:45 – Creating Ads for Cellphones
- 09:00 – Position One isn’t Always the Best Place to Be
- 10:00 – Starting with an Entrepreneurial Spirit
- 12:10 – Growing Off-Amazon
- 13:15 – Good Manners Go a Long Way
- 14:30 – An Army Buddy’s Claim of 40K a Month on Amazon
- 16:05 – Variations Allowed Schrone to Scale Up Quickly
- 17:00 – No PPC to Start, but 17,000 Targeted Facebook Followers
- 18:30 – Using Black Box for Keywords
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: Today’s “Best Of” Podcasts takes us on an e-commerce trip from a Stanley Cup winning Amazon wholesaler to a military veteran who has grown a Facebook audience to 17,000 people on the way to $200,000 of sales on Amazon. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I think.
Bradley: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10. I am your host, Bradley Sutton, and this time we are actually going into another Best of Podcasts episode; your favorite episodes from the last month. Now, one of my favorite things to do is showing Amazon seller stories about people from the growing e-commerce ecosystem, and these people could easily be your neighbor, the person next door, the person who delivers your mail, or your children’s schoolteacher. Now, this first episode I’m going to highlight is not one of those stories. For this seller, it might have started out that way; after all, he was the son of schoolteachers, but his life took a different turn. Stephane Yelle, in addition to being a successful wholesaler on Amazon, spent 15 years playing in the NHL and won two Stanley Cups. He has built a $3 million wholesale business, and he’s full of great information that will dispel the idea that focusing on private label is the only way to make money on Amazon.
Bradley: Leaving any job after 15 years is difficult. Here’s what Stephane has to say about that.
Stephane: The transition was tough for me. You kind of lose all your buddies and all you know is hockey. I had to kind of soul search for a little bit to see what was of interest to me, and opening a gym was kind of a good fit because I love fitness, and I’ve been in that fitness space or hockey, I guess, for a lot of years. When you own a gym, there’s a lot of stuff that comes into play as far as marketing and other kind of business aspects. That was kind of my introduction to some of the business stuff that we’re learning right now and trying to apply to our business now.
Bradley: Now, one thing that’s true is almost everyone starts by looking to the Internet for information and advice.
Stephane: Early 2017, we went to kind of a seminar or like a workshop in Vegas, and then, started searching, looking at YouTube videos, trying to find some teachers I guess or coaches and kind of find my way around all the good stuff that’s on YouTube and in Facebook groups. And it’s taken a couple of years to kind of find my way through that. There are so many people that want to offer trainings and coaching and so forth. Now, I have a good grasp of who to follow and who to reach out to when I have questions.
Bradley: Starting from scratch with selling wholesale on Amazon means a lot of learning is required.
Stephane: Well, initially the first year was just tons of learning. Again, my background was hockey. I didn’t know how to open a spreadsheet. I’m on YouTube looking out for formulas on spreadsheets and how to run spreadsheets through different software. But 2019 was more the growth year where now we have more systems; we know the systems; we’re understanding the platform a little better, we’re reaching out to companies where there’s probably more potential and growth. And I think a lot of that is by going through Kevin’s training. When we talk to brands, we understand a little bit better what they’re going through and how we can help them and bring value. We might not be going after the same people that your typical wholesalers are going after.
Bradley: Now he’s starting to move past having to do everything himself.
Stephane: I’m not trying to know everything. I just tried to learn enough and then I tried to outsource it and find the right people to do it, so then we can offer it to the brand.
Bradley: Stephane is working hard to have a success on Amazon, but he also understands that it doesn’t happen overnight.
Stephane: You have to put in the work on like on a daily basis even when you don’t feel like it and kind of play the long game instead of trying to make a lot of money over a year or two. I look at it over five years or six, seven years until my kids are going into college, same as when I played hockey since I was three or four years old, and it took me 15 years to become a pro. It takes time.
Bradley: Next up is a story from a Japanese culture-loving Serbian PPC expert who shows how to use Amazon brand registry and attribution to look right through your customer avatar to see the buyers themselves. Lazar is the owner of the Seller’s Alley and Amazon Sponsored Ads Management Service. He has risen the corporate ladder, but when he heard about PPC advertising, he was so excited about the prospect of mastering the subject that he asked his boss to allow him to start again at the bottom of the ladder, this time to learn about and specialize on PPC advertising.
Lazar: “Okay guys, I want to try this. I want to learn something new.” And my boss, company owner, she thought that I was absolutely crazy for choosing that option. But after some time, I think I was solid in knowledge, and I started working for a Danish company, the company where I met Jana. After maybe a year there, I became head of PPC.
Bradley: A lot of you are probably wondering what Amazon attribution is, and why does it matter.
Lazar: Attribution is definitely one of the biggest things that you should do this year, especially because Amazon introduced Attribution couple of years ago, but it became big literally last year, and this year is probably the year when you want to focus on it in the future. And why is that? Because Amazon likes when you bring external traffic, and they like when you bring quality traffic and what you can do using, for example, Google, you can bring the real traffic that you want to focus on. You can date your website visitors and target them with your product listing on Amazon. You can target people by demographic. You can do a whole bunch of different stuff. For example, when you do some ads on Amazon, you just create ads and create campaign, and that’s it. It’s working. But on the other hand, when you’re doing it, for example, in Google ads, what you can do there is a whole bunch of stuff. You can split USA by states. You can split it by a major city; you can do real deep dive there, so you can see who is buying your product, and you can focus more on them.
Bradley: Sometimes it’s not a question of what people are buying, but how they’re buying.
Lazar: People used to think that most of the sales are coming from computers, but a whole bunch of transactions during the last five or six years are showing that people are now buying from their cell phones, and you want to create ads that are highly relevant for cell phones basically. What recently happened when it comes to PPC, apart from Attribution, and this is relevant to Attribution, is your PPC can hurt your product listing and your ranking. When you do some kind of push campaigns, for example, when you create a campaign with up to five keywords in the exact form that you want to focus on, increase bids you can improve your organic ranking. If you are under the average of your niche for that keyword, you’re going to do a negative stuff for your product for those keywords. And that’s something that you don’t want to do. And after some time, you see that your PPC is growing, and your position is not improving, and your BSR is going in the opposite direction from the one that you wanted to. One of the things that is happening is when you use Attribution, you have quality traffic; you can target quality traffic; you can target people that are your possible buyers.
Bradley: Working with PPC is always a balancing act and certainly not an exact science. Here’s Lazar’s take on this.
Lazar: Sometimes it’s not the best thing to show up at position number one. Sometimes it’s better to show up at position I don’t know maybe do three or four, just to be on the top of the page, and it’s going to be maybe 20 or 30% of PPC that you would pay as position number one, but you would show up a more frequently, you’re going to end up with more sales, and you’re in overall going to decrease your overall ACoS when you compare it to Amazon, when you merge all the numbers together.
Bradley: A lot of us have had a light bulb go off in our head and absolutely know that we have a great Amazon product idea, but how do you know for sure? Well, a good starting point would be if your product becomes a bestseller with both Amazon and major big-box retailers. Our next episode features Cara who started the UK based brand snooze shade, which almost immediately became a fan favorite of celebrities and members of the Royal family. It set her on an e-commerce path that she’s still happily traveling. Here’s how she got started.
Cara: I think there is an entrepreneurial spirit within me and always wanted to do my own thing and have my own business. I always thought it would be a PR agency or something. And when I had the idea for a Snooze Shade, which is the brand that I now run and own, it was purely out of necessity for me, and to this day, it’s really funny, people ask me sort of why I decided to carry on with it to the point that I have done. And if I’m really honest, I don’t really know. I think there was just like a bug in me and I just thought this product would be really great for me. I could see it would help a lot of friends. I started doing a bit of research. I mean, it took me nearly two years to get it off the ground because I’m obsessed with safety, so I had to do all the research into safety and I actually design all my products, so they’re even be safer than they have to be, which obviously has not only cost implications but also design implications. I just sort of became a bit obsessed with it, I think. And so that’s where it really came from.
Bradley: We all know that one of the first steps is finding a way to scale up your Amazon business. Here’s what Cara has to say about the process of growing her brand.
Cara: The first few years were actually quite painful in terms of, I actually, progressed quite fast at quite a rapid rate. I developed quite a lot more. I’ve now got 13 different products, and they all were pretty much developed within the first sort of two or three years, because parents kept saying to me, “Oh, I love this concept, but I’d love it if it had a different color them.” “Oh, I love this concept, but I’d love it if it was a different color completely.” Or “I love this product, but I wish my baby could see out,” “Oh, I love this concept, but I wish I had one for the car seat.” Basically, I was sort of churning out products really fast. In fact, I’m a lot slower on product production now. I’ve got about three in the pipeline at the moment, and I’m a lot slower I think, because, in the early days, I didn’t have time to think; whereas now, I have time to think. I’m like, “Oh, I’ll do it in a bit,” and there’s probably less of a panic.
Bradley: For the most part, we love Amazon and the opportunities that it has created for us. At the same time, we realize that we need to find a way to grow our business outside of Amazon.
Cara: I decided that I would start looking at ways that I could grow the business and take that more direct control because also the other issue I had by this point was that my products were best sellers on Amazon, but also I had about 37 different resellers for example. You know, the price was just all over the place. The images on Amazon was all over the place. The copy was all over the place; there was no brand control at all. I’d been approached by Vendor Central several times, because I used to sell on Vendor Central back in, was it, 2010. And then I went to a trade show and I saw my product and discounted to like 12 pounds. And at the time I was like, what on earth is going on. In fact, I did use the F word because I do use the F word quite a lot, but I’m being very restrained.
Bradley: There’s a lot of opportunities to receive business advice while working in e-commerce is spending a lot of time on the internet. Sometimes good business is simply about good manners.
Cara: You definitely need perseverance and resilience when you’re working in this industry and you need a lot of patience. But also, I think you need some good manners. I do think one of the things I encourage people to do is actually be really nice to the people who are working behind the scenes at Seller Central because I bet they get some level of abuse held at them. And actually, I’ve always got what pretty much whatever I’ve needed from them by just being really polite and really appreciating that they’re busy.
Bradley: Last up today is a story from a seller who left the military thinking he might take a job as a greeter at Walmart. Now he’s grown a targeted Facebook audience to 17,000 and is selling over $200,000 a year on Amazon and says he’s just getting started. Schrone had served in the military since shortly after his 18th birthday. Now, 22 years later, he’s a big Amazon success story. Here’s how he got started.
Schrone: In my last year and a half, when those topping to get out, I had a guy who worked for me and he is in the military and he said, “What are you going to do when I get out?” And in all honesty, really realistic and no BS, I was going to be a greeter at Walmart or a GameStop manager. That was the plan because I’ve been in a stressful situation in twenty-two years. I wanted to just take it really easy. And that was the plan until he said, “Why don’t you become an Amazon seller?” And I was skeptical like most people are. And he was like, “I make 40,000 a month.” That’s it. Prove it. He opened up his Amazon Seller Central page and showed a check for 19,000 deposit. And I’m like, “That’s only 20,” as if 20 wasn’t enough right. And then he said, “Well, that’s two weeks.” And then, I was sold from there, and the last 18 months of my military career I was getting knowledge and learning how to use different tools to launch an Amazon business
Bradley: There’s a lot of different aspects to e-commerce and Schrone says that some parts are easier than others.
Schrone: I grew up selling stuff since I was nine years old: lollipops in school, CDs in high school, and stuff like that. I had the seller’s mentality. But the learning curve could be a very peculiar situation. Like I said, I didn’t have any higher education. There’s a lot more to this type of eCommerce business other than buying low and selling high. It took me six months to find my first product, because I was in a group that wasn’t as aggressive as the one that I’m in right now. And I just took it in every step trying to get more knowledge. And at the six-month mark, when I started selling, the first year was awesome, man.
Bradley: As I mentioned in Schrone’s intro, he’s had a lot of success on Amazon, but it always seems to consist of making good, smaller decisions along the way. Like this one.
Schrone: There is no way that would’ve succeeded without variations on my product. But as far as variations go, I love the thought of it. My second product that I’m having in the works right now is a variation-type situation too. The reason I love it though is because they share the reviews. You know, I launched eight variations at the beginning. I would have had to do eight jobs of trying to find reviews for these eight products when all I had to do now is just find one that was consolidated into one. Right now, my product has around 327 reviews. And if I was to break that out for 20 products, it’d be like 20 or 30 or so.
Bradley: Schrone might’ve been busy with the military, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t up to date with what he could accomplish in e-commerce with social media.
Schrone: The best way that I saw fit to do that was not through PPC, because I wasn’t proficient at PPC. I launched a Facebook group, and now I have 17,000 followers, and they’re targeted followers. They’re not like 10,000 from Thailand or anything. These are actual customers or actual people who are interested in the product. I did promotional ads to launch and to gather likes and followers for the page itself. I did engagement ads for the product and when people liked or commented on that, on these ads, I was hustling and inviting them to the group and stuff like that. But a lot of that is automated, but that’s exactly how I did it. I sent viral memes out when people like that and the meme itself was focused around the category that I’m in. I targeted specific people; the ads itself have a specific demographics part where I can target only men or only women or only people between the ages of 15 and 25 or only people who are interested in this type of magazine or this type of category. And that’s exactly what I did; I just niche down into my category, only advertise to those who are interested in this product of mine and category I’m in and then hustle.
Bradley: When we think of the military, we imagine the tanks and other tools that they use to do their job here. Here, Schrone tells about the way he likes to use the different e-commerce tools available that have allowed him to crush it on Amazon.
Schrone: I use Blackbox for keywords and I use it for keywords specifically because I’m inside of a brand. I don’t need a large net. I need a specific net to find this product that can go into my next product. I put in keywords that are similar to the category that I’m in right now. In that way, it just filtered down to a couple of products. Another method that I like to use that, I’m kind of promoting myself, is I let Google do some of the work for me. I would go to Google and say top 25 or top 50 or top hundred fitness products of 2019, and these article writers would go in, and they would vet these positive, see that they’re popping or becoming popular, and then I will go and research them myself using the Xray tool on Helium 10 to see if the category is valid enough for me to sell them.
Bradley: Well, there you have it guys. I hope you enjoyed this best of podcast episode. Don’t forget we released podcasts two and three times a week, so make sure to subscribe and like, and leave us a review. If you’re on iTunes or Stitcher or somewhere where allows you to leave or you do this, have a solid and leave us a review. Tell us what you like about the show. We’d love to hear it. We’ll see you guys on the next episode.
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