#216 – Tips, Strategies, and a Look Back at 2020 with E-Commerce Superstar Kevin King
Are you already selling on Amazon? Or maybe you’ve been thinking about getting into e-commerce in the near future. If that’s the case, if it isn’t already, the name of our next guest will soon be very familiar to you.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Chief Evangelist, Bradley Sutton welcomes back e-commerce superstar Kevin King. He’s an authentic online selling pioneer and has been on Amazon since 2001. Kevin’s known for always being at the forefront of Amazon selling strategies and is one of the true leaders of entrepreneurial thought.
Kevin developed the Freedom Ticket, a hands-on, technical run through on how to sell on Amazon. There really isn’t any other training program that’s as candid and straightforward in its presentation of the realities of running an Amazon FBA business.
He’s here today to offer more tips and strategies and talk a little bit about how he managed to adapt to the challenges that the pandemic has brought to all of us.
In episode 216 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Kevin discuss:
- 02:16 – How Kevin Got Started with Helium 10
- 04:18 – Kevin’s Ocean Waste Product Gets Noticed
- 08:35 – Differentiation and Licensing Fuel a Product Launch
- 12:54 – Working with EPA Rules to Create a PPE Brand
- 16:03 – Navigating a Challenging Launch
- 21:22 – “E-Commerce isn’t All Champagne and Roses”
- 23:10 – Kevin’s Calendar Business Finds Itself in a Strange Place
- 26:19 – Why Aren’t We Ranking for Keywords?
- 30:29 – A Pivot to FBM Saves the Calendar Season
- 34:58 – What is Clubhouse All About?
- 36:55 – A Great Opportunity to Participate in E-Commerce Communities
- 34:12 – Kevin King’s 30 Second Tip
- 43:43 – The Latest on Freedom Ticket
- 46:38 – The Billion Dollar Seller’s Summit Goes Virtual
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: Today, we’ve got legend Kevin King back with us, and instead of just his regular strategy sessions that he does with us, we’re going to have a little story time to hear about what he was up to in 2020 with his Amazon businesses, including one of them that he was grossing $40,000 a day on. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I think.
Bradley Sutton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10. I am your host Bradley Sutton, and this is the show that’s a completely BS-free unscripted and unrehearsed organic conversation about serious strategies for serious sellers of any level in the Amazon world. And we’ve got the most serious seller in the world, Kevin King. Serious in the sense that he means business. But of course he’s not that serious of a guy. How’s it going, Kevin?
Kevin King: Hey, I’m casual over here. I’m not serious, man. I’m casual, casually doing business, not seriously doing business.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. That’s a goal for all of us. Right. Like we don’t want to get completely stressed out over it, right, but casual.
Kevin King: That’s right.
Bradley Sutton: All right, Kevin, you’ve been on the show a few times, obviously with some strategies and different things, but I thought this episode–
Kevin King: Wait. I haven’t just been on the show. This show actually was the very first show back when Manny hosted it back in 2016 that I appeared on. It’s almost five years. I think it was March or April of 2016. So we’re–
Bradley Sutton: You were reluctant, I heard?
Kevin King: Yeah, I was reluctant the way it came down. Actually, as I had posted something in the Facebook group, the High Rollers Facebook Group. Someone was saying something and I basically called them out. And I said, that’s not the way it works and this is how it works. And then I just decided for whatever reason here’s a top 10 list of I forgot what it was, how to launch a product or how to make your listing better or something like that. And it started a big chain of comments and Manny saw that and he’s like, Hey, this, this might be a good guy to bring on the podcast. His podcast had just started I think in December. So it was only a few months old. And he brought me on, messaged me and said, Hey, would you come on? I was like, nah, I’m just a seller over here. I’m busy. I have no interest in doing that. And he finally twisted my arm. So now I just come on, just be easy. And I was like, ah, all right. All right. And so I came on and I had bad audio, didn’t have a headset. I was like, I think I was in my garage. So it sounded like I’m in a tin can. And we recorded for an hour or whatever it was. And that podcast struck a nerve with some people and became pretty popular. And so that’s kind of what set off the whole thing of me speaking at events and conferences and doing the trading for Freedom Ticket and getting involved in the Helium 10 elites, and all that stuff. So yeah, it’s almost a five-year anniversary.
Bradley Sutton: Crazy, crazy that started it all. And that’s probably people understand that’s what happens sometimes when you get on podcasts, that’s probably why I get like 75 billion emails every day of people wanting to come on the podcast because they want to be the next Kevin King. But no, there is only one Kevin King.
Kevin King: That’s right. There’s only one King. It’s good to be the King.
Bradley Sutton: It’s good to be the King. I love it. Now,` what I was thinking about was also keeping in mind those, all these previous times you’ve been on these podcasts is usually you come on, and what you’re known for is like, you know, specific either hacks or strategies or some of the latest and greatest techniques that sellers are doing, or just like you said, from that first one, like your top 10 list and top seven strategies and different things. But I thought we’d do it something a little bit different and just kind of like a get to know a little bit more about some of your– what your businesses were doing. I’m sure you have some interesting anecdotes to share, 2020 was a crazy year for everybody. And I remember talking to you the last time on the podcast, it was about a year ago, you were making plans to a new endeavor on Amazon. And so I know you have like a big splash with your launch but it was up and down from there. So can we talk about that a little bit? How that business worked out? What industry was that in?
Kevin King: Yeah, that industry– that one, I think I talked about a year ago was actually– it’s products made of recycled ocean waste. And that’s, we’re specifically specializing in the dog space. So dog products that are made of recycled ocean waste, and we actually have not launched, I mean, that company has formed it’s funded, but we actually not launched the first product yet. Because we’re actually making a pivot. One of the things that we initially, I probably talked about it, we’re doing a doggy poop bags and we’re still doing that, but some opportunities came up while we’re in development of those, that actually are a bigger opportunity with some licensing deals where a pretty major company came in and said, Hey, we like what you guys are doing. We’d like the name. I knew somebody that knew somebody, a friend knew a friend that introduced us to their licensing team and they they’ve got major athletes, Olympic athletes that have Instagram followings of two, three, 4 million and just crazy stuff. And they’re a huge brand that really ties in well, a sporting brand that really ties in well to the eco and the ocean waste things. So they really liked that messaging and creating products. As I said, Hey, are you guys are doing stuff in the pet space, which I have experienced from my other previous brands, I started previously and our pet licenses up, why don’t we partner up? And so we’re like, you know what? This may be a good pivot. Instead of trying to build our own brand, which we’ll still do and build out the Instagram following, build the Facebook following, build up everything, do all the launches, do all the stuff to race, basically educate people in this brand new thing from scratch. If we pivot here and we can piggyback off of them, we can do products for under licensed for this company. When we launch a new product, they’ll give it to their influencers, that’ll put it on an Instagram with 2 million following, say, go buy it on Amazon or go buy it on our website. They’ve got standing deals with Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, and Dick Sporting Goods and all the big chains where their lines are in there. So they can almost instantly at least put it in front of the buyer and say, Hey, you should add this to the line. It doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily take it, but there’s just major synergies and major opportunities. So we had to negotiate that and we had to come up with an entire new product line that they have to approve everything, has to go through approvals and there’s a licensing fee and so we approached it from the point of view of, okay, if we’re going to do stuff on Amazon and they don’t have a strong Amazon presence.
Kevin King: And so they’ve tried to hire people in the past to do it. And they know it’s, nothing’s really worked. It’s like, that’s how it kind of got introduced to them. They’re like, Hey, I know this guy that knows a guy that knows something about Amazon. Why don’t you go with them? So that’s kind of how we got introduced. And so we’re still looking for products, even though this is a major brand name, we don’t want to base a product that we’re going to put on Amazon, at least the first few products. This could change down the road, but we’re basing it on still product opportunities. So we’re still using Black Box and Xray, and Cerebro and all the tools and analyzing, should we do this product? What if it didn’t have this big brand name on it? What if it was just Kevin’s dog company or whatever nobody knew. Could this still be a good product opportunity? And that’s how we’re now analyzing. They came to us saying, Oh, why don’t you do pet leashes and why don’t you do callers? And we’re like, no, that stuff is so competitive. Even with your name on it. There’s not enough of a differentiation. Yeah. That’s having your name’s a leg up, but no. So maybe down the road, we’ll expand to that once we get more established, but so that’s how we’re doing it. So, we had to find the products, get their approval, go through the contracting process and negotiation process. It’s a big, long contract. Some things we didn’t like in there, they had some, we’re a new company and they said, well, you have to have a minimum balance bank, average bank balance of this much. And it was pretty large. And we’re like, no, we’re a new company. Yeah. We’re well-funded into the six, seven figures, but this bank balance based on sales and royalties is way too high. So you have to negotiate that down a lot of stuff. So that’s just, was literally just signed in January of 2021. And so our first products on that’ll be out this summer. We already started the process, the prototyping, I mean, we just sent one of the first products for the dogs, we just sent to the folks over there and they loved the product. They actually are using it with their dog and just send us some pictures today. Actually, I just got them today. Here’s our dog and our living room using this product. And they’re super stoked and super excited. And I think it’s going to be a really good win-win because we have a strong differentiation. We can launch a lot easier, the normal and I get into retail. And so I think it’s going to be really good for the brand.
Bradley Sutton: Excellent. Excellent. So that’s one of the big things that, that happened for you in 2020, kind of like a pivot based on your original plans. But I think that’s important to know. You might have a great plan, but if a better idea comes along, people should have the flexibility or willingness to not be so stuck on their original plan, and miss out on just because they just want to, Nope. I got to do exactly what I planned to do. So, having the flexibility to pivot guys is important in business now. What else were some biggie events for you in 2020?
Kevin King: Well, in 2020, Steve Simonson and I partnered up on a product savants, it is productsavants.com, that we launched that we’ve been talking about and teasing it pretty much all of 2019. And we actually finally got it launched in 2020. That’s a lot of work. The whole idea behind product savants is a pain point for a lot of sellers is they have trouble finding products. They can’t find a product. And once I find a good opportunity to sell on Amazon, now I got to find a factory and how can I find the best factory that’s not ripping me off. I can use Alibaba and use my socials. And, but Steve has a– I don’t know, 25, 30 years, some ridiculous number of years of sourcing experience in China back before there was bullet trains. And he had to take donkey carts to get to the factory or whatever. He’ll tell you stories, but he’s very experienced. And he’s got a team on China on the ground in China that speaks the language. And it’s like having your own major sourcing company so they can bypass all the Alibaba, all the higher pricing they can, that the factory is good. So my job is I find great product opportunities. Some of those I might carve off for myself. If it’s in the dog space, I might carve that off for myself. Um, uh, or if it doesn’t fit with what this new brand we’re doing, maybe we’ll pass it over. So I’ll give it to him. His team sources, it, we vet the product after they come back with a sourcing and sometimes it doesn’t work. The numbers, things change in the month or two between I find it in the final pricing comes back. And I know it’s not a good opportunity anymore. A lot of people entered the space or maybe we couldn’t get the pricing we needed. Everybody’s selling on Amazon for 30 bucks and our best landed cost is $17. We’re like, Nope, nobody’s making money on this. I can’t do it. So we probably two thirds of the products get scrapped. And then what is left over? We provide us opportunities to experience sellers. So this is not for new people. So if you’re brand new or, it’s not for rich doctors that have 50,000, heard Amazon’s a good business. I want to invest. It’s for established sellers who are already know how to run an Amazon business already have products up, but are looking to expand their line. And so we offer this as a service where we have say, here’s a, basically a product on a platter. It’s up to you to launch it. We’re not involved in the launching on how you customize it or anything. This is just, here’s an opportunity. They pay us a fee for that. And then we get a small, little– Steve calls it a Scooby snack on the backside.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, cool. All right. What about on the– so that’s one of the services you guys were able to do, and I’ve actually talked to a couple of people who were using that and they had a success in it. Any expansion on your personal Amazon side? I know I definitely want to talk about the calendars. We always talk about that every year, because that always boggles my mind. And I heard there’s some funny things that happened to you with that calendar, but what else on the Amazon side do you have to report from 2020?
Kevin King: Launched another business in the PPE space? Back in March when things were going crazy with a couple of my buddies, I have partners in Hong Kong and the UK, a couple of the guys in the Hong Kong said, Hey, we, that they’re partners in this eco business, like, Hey, we got an opportunity. We can get hand sanitizer from India. And this is one of the things we’re just blowing up. You couldn’t get it. Guys were driving around and you haul trucks, get in from dollar stores and selling it for ridiculous amounts on Amazon. Or I was like, no, dude, this is another fidget spinner. I don’t want to be involved in that. That’s not something I’m interested in doing. And they’re like, well, we can get it really cheap. And so I started doing a little bit of homework, they’re kind of like just, we can make some money really quick. I’m like, no, if we’re going to do this, we got to build a brand. I’m not in this to let’s make money and get out. Because when we left holding the bag, we got to build a brand, right from the ground up with all the properly with proper logos, proper packaging, even a theme song, proper Facebook and the whole nine yards. I’m like, okay, that’s cool. Well, when we started vetting this India company, we didn’t know the first thing about FDA rules and EPA rules and sanitizer and hazardous goods. And so there’s a huge learning curve, but we’ve added this Indian company and they didn’t have FDA. They had FDA said they had FDA certification. We asked for all the documents, it wasn’t US FDA. It was some sort of Indian FDA. And I’m like, no, no, this is not going to work. So they scrambled around, found a factory in China that could make the sanitizer. At the same time we had somebody, a person in the Amazon space. I want to say their name, or they might want not want to share just yet, but here in the Amazon space that, Hey, I’ve got some good distribution. I could come in here and maybe help you guys with distribution. We’re like, that’s great. Why don’t you come in? And he said, I’m already doing some other PPE stuff, some masks and some other things on the side. And you know what also a buddy of mine owns a chemical factory in Wisconsin. And they had to lay off everybody. They make chemicals for like flooring, for like construction, for like, to stay in your wooden floors and stuff like that.
Kevin King: And because of the pandemic, these guys are kind of on hiatus or laid off. And if we can fire that up and start making a sanitizer, why don’t we do that? So he calls him and guys like, yeah, we can pivot here. So, we had some US-based stuff, but we couldn’t get the packaging. So like, we’re like, we need some little small size travel size. We need some medium size, but all the packaging, all the bottles, all the plastic bottles, everything was wiped out. And so we call factory saying, Hey, we need a 20,000 of these16 ounce bottles up. Okay. We can deliver those in December. This was March. So we looked into buying machines, we looked in everything. The only thing that we could get were gallons, but they weren’t actual gallons. They were like 1.2, five gallons. I don’t, it’s probably some lead, or thing or something, but they were a little bit more than a gallon. That’s the only thing that we can get. And these jugs are normally like 30 cents a -piece empty, but then because the pandemic we’re having to pay like four or $5 a piece for them. And so we, and then ethanol prices went way through the roof, but we were able to pivot and make this hand sanitizer in the US and then they also said, what about wipes? Wipes– we were trying to get into wipes and wipes were flying off the shelves and wipes have a higher barrier to entry. So they said, you know what we can make, we think we found a guy in Chicago that has cloth, and we can get this cloth from him and we can take this ethanol and we can make these wipes. But the only thing is these are huge wipes. They’re like not little baby wipes, these are like big wipes. And he’s insisting on packaging it. So we’re just going to have to pour the alcohol on top. He’s insisting on it. He won’t just send us the wipes and let us do the packaging. He’s insisting on packaging. We’re like, okay, let’s put it in a pail, protect it. He’s like, no, there’s no pails until January. You can’t get plastic pail. So we like, what do we do? So we put it in a big zipper Ziploc type of bag, the commercial type of Ziploc bag, and put these like 200 wipes in this bag and then put it into, create a cardboard box, a nice big cardboard box and put it in there. We couldn’t get the plastic parts for the top.
Kevin King: So it had to be like a little flap on the top and they were able to make it, and we were able to put it up on Amazon for like 80 bucks and our cost on them was in the 30, around 30. And so it was a decent margin, but people thought we were price gouging. The Amazon algorithm thought we were price guys. You’re like, no, this is just the cost of doing businesses. This is where we need to make money after PPC, after fulfillment cost, after everything. And we’re not making a lot of money. Yeah. So what we did is we had ended up having some problems with these bags where the manufacturer who is based in the U S said, they’re leak-proof, they turned out to not be leak-proof. So some of the customers were getting these in their entire box that they come in with soaked. In some cases we were shipping them FBM, and we were, people would message us on Amazon, say, why did you send me trash bags? And I’m like, what? And I just got like two trash bags, full of wipes. What the hell kind of company are you expecting me to do it myself and put these together? And we’re like, what is going on? But the stuff was leaking in the UPS assembly line somewhere. And so UPS would just take it off the assembly line, throw the product in a trash bag, stick a label on top and deliver it. Literally. And so they had ordered like five bucks at a wipes and get this big trash bag full of just alcohol. And it was a disaster. And then our stuff out of China came and we had issues with that. We did QC on it, but the QC company didn’t, didn’t quite check the smell. Right. We did all the tests to make sure it was the right kind of alcohol and everything. It passed all that. And apparently with the smell when it came, some people were writing reviews saying this smells like stinky feet. This ethanol smells like stinky feet. And I’m like, what the heck? And then around the summertime, there was a scare on the news with people saying, there’s a whole lot of hand sanitizers coming out of Mexico that were using an alcohol called methanol with an M. And that’s that comes from wood. So ethanol, without the M, starts with an E comes from a corn or sugar usually.
Kevin King: And then you have Isopropyl. So the three main types of alcohol, Isopropyl, which is like, what medical grade, when you go to get a shot, when you go do coronavirus shot and they wipe your, or a vaccine of any kind or take blood and they wipe your arm before they stick the needle. And that’s Isopropyl. There’s ethanol, which is a little bit less expensive, usually than Isopropyl. And then there’s methanol, which is the cheapest it made of wood. But there was a huge scare where the FDA came out and said, do not use these 80 different ethanol, hand sanitizers that were made in Mexico that have methanol. Well because of the pandemic. There was a lot of people going on, Amazon, especially older, senior citizens buying hand sanitizer and wipes. And there, a lot of them are not very computer savvy or Amazon savvy. And so they were looking at our ingredients and misreading it with the name, confused with the word ethanol within, it starts with an E or methanol, whereas the same spelling, you just put an M on the front and they were getting confused and writing reviews and reporting to Amazon that, Hey, these guys are selling dangerous stuff. This is on the recall list. And just wasn’t true. But as a result of all these problems, The listings got suspended, just because of those problems, like three or four times, plus because of PPE there’s all kinds of– Amazon was just knocking down listings left and right. We launched in June. And, and we actually, what we did in April, we reached out to the– Amazon had a COVID store. So it was like a special COVID store. And their whole idea is like, we want to make sure that hospitals and governments and people that need this product to actually get it ahead of the consumer. So they siphoned off like Parral and GermX and Lysol and Clorox, all that stuff came out of the main Amazon site that you and I go to as a customer and went into this COVID store. And you had to be like a business or a first responder or whatever to get into, to buy from the COVID store.
Kevin King: So what that did is it opened up a major opportunity on Amazon, where there was no big brands. When you type hand sanitizer right now? Something like half of the top 100 are GermX or Parral. But at that time it was nobody, it was all these like Chinese companies and crazy stuff. So there’s a major opportunity on Amazon because all the big brands were basically cordoned off in this COVID store. So if you want a hand sanitizer wipes, you had to buy from one of these off-brand that you never heard of people. So it was a great opportunity. So even though our shipments, which took longer, because we’re dealing with hazardous goods, we thought we’d have this stuff in May. It didn’t arrive until the end of June, in most cases, because of shipping delays and have special permits and China having rules about hence, hazardous goods. And then we had some delays getting the ethanol into our US based manufacturing. And so there’s just delays. So what we did is we actually started pre-selling the stuff in June, without even having it saying on June 3rd, I think was when we started, we launched and you couldn’t do PPC on June 3rd for any kind of hand sanitizer or PPE products with PPC wasn’t allowed. And so we started, we launched and set up, put a future date, like delivers July 7th or something. And sales immediately took off like went through the roof. And then two days later, Amazon quietly, they did announce it quietly opened up PPC to PPE. So we were one of the first ones to be able to do PPC, when they opened it back up. So for like a couple of weeks, we were getting like, just ridiculously low ACoS and just like crushing it doing 40, $50,000 a day on a product that didn’t even exist yet, or didn’t even, it wasn’t even in stock yet. And it had a way future date. It was crazy. And so we just rocked it and rocked it and rocked it. And then once we shipped in July, then all these problems came, the leaking stuff, the, the, the smelly hand sanitizer, or one of them was sticky. People were like, Oh, this is like rubbing Elmer’s glue on your hands. It was just, it was a disaster. Yeah. It’s not all champagne and roses. Like some people think dealing with Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: All right, let’s take a quick break here for my BTS. Bradley’s 30 seconds. Here is my 30-second tip for the episode. And this actually originally kind of came from Kevin King. Now, one way to kind of see the reach of one of your competitors on Amazon is to analyze where they have the best real estate. In other words, where are they at the top of the page? So what you can do is run Cerebro on one of your competitors, okay. And then filter it down for the– where they are located, maybe in the first five or 10 organic positions with a minimum search volume of, say 300, 400, 500 or whatever you choose. And then take that list of keywords and put it into Magnet and do a Magnet multi-care keyword search in Helium 10, if you do that, now you’ll get a total search volume and some data on those keywords. So you can kind of gauge the reach of your competition.
Bradley Sutton: One thing that is almost been like champagne and roses for you every year, and that we always talk about in the podcast is your calendar business. How every near the end of the year, you have this certain line of calendars that you release for the following year. And it’s so good. And so niche that you don’t even have to do any giveaways. You don’t have to do any PPC or anything, and you get to page one and you just make money, hand over fist. But this was actually, it wasn’t this one of the first years that you actually did run into some issues on Amazon with your calendar business?
Kevin King: Yeah. So I’ve been selling calendars on Amazon since 2001, and we used to do it through a program. I think it still exists called advantage. So Amazon had this program is kind of before FBA and before even where you would set up wholesale, I was on called advantage and it was meant for books, DVDs and CDs, media, basically, books and media. And so the calendars fall under the books category. And so we used to do, back in the day in 2001, 2002, Amazon, if you get it signed up for the program and you send the stuff on consignment, so you send it in and Amazon pays you once a month on consignment. And so we would send in and they would send purchase orders, they’d say, send us, I think our best year, like 2000 or not our best year when we first started, we were doing like 400 units, in 2002, 2003 on Amazon for the entire calendar season, which basically runs the bulk of it is mid-November to mid-January, but people start ordering as early as July or August, but the bulk is, those two months around Christmas time. So we’d sell like 400 and then anything they didn’t sell, they would return to us and they would, they had, we would set the price and they just pay us a commission. Well, we did that for like until about 2017. And in 2017, when Amazon started really growing, I was like, you know what, we’re not getting the customer names here. This could be a great lead magnets. I don’t choose to sell other calendars and our other products too. We also, I don’t have control over the listing. I don’t have control over the marketing or anything. So I nervously switched it to FBA thinking that let’s see what happens here. And it went pretty smoothly for the first few years, no problems we would ship in whatever we thought. And we did pretty well. And Amazon would pay us. These calendars landed, or a dollar 52 in Amazon, we’re selling them on Amazon for 19.95. Some years we have three different skews, some of your four or five, never more than five. And we were doing pretty good every year picking up and people, I was able back then to get the names and addresses, you could get it from FBA and I could then put them into my database and do Facebook targeting, or send them out mail catalog, because we have a bunch of other calendars we don’t sell on Amazon that are just direct. And we’re just a wholesaler of that we buy from different manufacturers. And so we could get a little extra about that way. Some of those guys still send in checks and motor money orders. They prefer to order with an envelope through the mail and not online.
Kevin King: So we grabbed perhaps some of that business, but this year we hit our account. We did five different calendars, five different SKUs. We came into stock and in July, so I actually shipped into in July and I was able to luckily right before the, that’s why I think it was July when the 200 rule change, I was able to ship in like a thousand units of each one or something, right before that restriction came into place. And I was like, thank God. I created the order on the shipping plans on a Sunday night. And I think Monday, the rule went into effect. So I already had the shipping plans made. We send those in sales start, few here, a few there, random people buying them in July and August. Just there’s no competition. You’re getting ranked for keywords when there’s no demand. It’s kind of like if you’re selling Christmas stuff, I remember Halloween stuff, start selling it in July or June or August when no one’s really looking for Halloween. And you can just kind of ride that wave all the way up as the demand increases for the keywords. It’s easy to get ranked. So that’s what we were doing. Come November around Thanksgiving, you got Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And I’m seeing people on Facebook and the Helium 10 users group in different places, Hey, how are your sales were up? Two X, three X, it’s okay. This year, I’m seeing a little bit of a bump and I look at mine and I’m like, yeah, we’re doing all right. But you know what? Normally we do over that period sales really start to ramp up and we get three, 4X bump and we didn’t have that. We just had a slight increase. And now it’s like, yeah, you know what? I was even, I remember telling Steve Simonson, I was talking to him. I was like, yeah, this year is just it’s okay. I guess people are ordering earlier because of COVID, everybody was saying, get your orders in earlier. It’s going to take longer to ship. So maybe just the it’s going to be spread out this year. And people are just ordering over a longer period of time. Didn’t think anything of it, every one of the calendars was selling. So it wasn’t like anything wasn’t selling and then come early December around December 6th or seventh. Yeah. I started as I had a little bit of time, super busy with some other things during late November, December, I was like, let me take a look at this again. Something just doesn’t feel right here. So I start taking a look at it. Yeah. Everything is selling, but some of these titles they’re actually selling better than October, then they’re selling right now. That’s not right. Something’s wrong here. Let me go check the keywords. So I start typing in some of the key or this, this particular account, because it’s seasonal. I don’t have it tied to Helium 10 Keyword Tracker. So, I’m just because it’s just a short window. I just have never done that. I will in the future, but I didn’t. So, I went and started typing in some of the keywords were not showing up for like the keywords in the title. I’m like, what the heck? But I could go right to the listing. The listing was, there was no notices in my seller central about being suspended or problems.
Kevin King: The listings were active. People were buying them. I could see it down there on customers who bought this also bought or customers who viewed this also viewed these. So it turns out that’s where the sales were coming from, was those areas. And I saw, I was like, let me try one other thing. Let me just punch the ASIN in the old indexer check where you punch in ASIN and the keyword, I just like, let me take the keywords off and let me just punch the ASIN in. I punched the ASIN in as a search term, nothing shows up. I’m like, what in the hell? So I’m like, okay, maybe they move my category or something. So I opened up some flat files and try to update the category. Now I’m in the right category. I opened up some tickets with seller central. Hey, this listing is– Something’s not right. Can you make sure it’s in this office supplies, blah, blah, blah category. I would get responses back. Thank you, Mr. Kevin. The category on the listing is correct. This case is now closed. Literally. That’s about basically all I would say, but one of the listings out of the five listings, four of them didn’t show up. One was still just booming and doing well, selling like crazy. The other four were not showing up when you typed in the ASIN. So on one of those four that I got some other different customer service guide and Amazon that said we have reactivated, we have made sure the listing is in the correct category. You should be good or something to that effect. And so I went and looked at listing, boom, it’s showing up again for all the keywords and everything. And I was like, that’s weird. It’s in the same category. Nothing has changed what the heck is going on here. And so I made an edit to the listing. Loom is gone again. So I open up a ticket again for all of them again, this time, the same thing, the three of them, Mr. Kevin, everything is in the right category. You’re good to go. Thank you very much. Case closed. This one, we have refreshed the listing or whatever they said. We’ve updated the listing for you. Thank you very much. Should start showing up again. So then I was like, you know what something is going on here. It turns out I figured it out. Finally, Amazon didn’t ever tell me no warnings, no nothing. I’d been moved to the adult category on these calendars. We’ve been moved for whatever reason into the adult category.
Kevin King: So we were basically did not exist on Amazon unless you had some adult filter turned on, which most people don’t even, I don’t even know how to go do it honestly. And so I was like, man, I’ve got all this stuff sitting here. These calendars are like selling milk. They expire, there’s only a short window here. I can’t sell a calendar in February or I can sell off calendar in February, but you sell it at 75% off or whatever. I can’t sell it for 19.95 in February. One of these are no good. If I still have a bunch of these next June, I have a window here about another month. Because it is like close to around December 10th, by this time about another month to try to ride this wave, what can I do? And so the only solution I came up with, I was like, you know what? I have a garage downstairs in my condo, park a car in there. I have it for storage and stuff. I have a whole shipping area set up down there with a Mac book, an older Macintosh computer, a monitor, a couple of weighing scales. I got all the boxes and peanuts and tape and dynamo label printer and all that kind of stuff. I was like, I don’t have a choice. I can’t get a 3PL right now, they’re all backed up. I will just create FBM listings when I couldn’t go on the existing listings and just create an alternate condition. I had to create brand new listings. Well, luckily I have a UPC, a prefix. So back right now, when you go and you buy UPC codes from GS1, you have to, you pay a certain amount of dollars for how many codes you want. I have most people don’t realize this, but I forget if it’s the first five or the first six digits are actually like a prefix number they’re assigned to a specific company. And so back 20 years ago, when I got my UPC for this company, you just paid a flat fee of, I don’t know, 700 bucks or whatever, and you got a code and then you just make up the additional five numbers behind it. And you put a check digit, you have to use a software tool that adds up. There’s a formula, puts a check digit as the last number. And it’s kind of like credit card numbers. That’s how the credit cards, when you type in your credit card on a form, it says that’s not a valid, decent number. It’s because the last numbers are checked often, a check digit. But so I can create whatever I want unlimited basically. And so I just like, you know what, since these aren’t going to Amazon, I don’t care what the UPC is. I’m just going to use some made up UPCs that I’ve never used before, put those in, and create brand new listings on Amazon. So I have duplicate listings, which is something you’re really not supposed to do. But it’s the only way around it and put them as FBM. And what I then was going to do is it, I need to get these ranks. This is the middle of December. Everybody’s already ranked for all the keywords. I missed the window from August. I can’t link it to the existing products. So what do I do? So I took my in-house customer list of like 13,000 emails of people who have bought calendars, over the last couple of years from me.
Kevin King: And most of them had already bought, they already bought on Amazon, already bought from our mail or catalog, or we sent out in October, but I was like one day only sale flash sale. Today only. This is a Sunday go to Amazon, use these special links. I went to helium10.com/gems, use the ref, field ASIN URL, put in some keywords as I go here, it’s half price today only had about 150 orders on that day. All got me ranked and then boom of off to the races. And then everything coming in FBM to ship station, using Ship Station software. I had to upgrade my account because at one point I was shipping 500 orders a day. Me literally going down to my garage, turning on my cell phone, on the hotspot, on my Apple iPhone. So I could connect to the computer, have to restart the computer. So it could connect to the wifi each time and to the printer. So it would go through the special software that ties the Mac to the dynamo printer, just a Royal pain in the butt. And I had people offer to help me come down. A buddy of mine said, Hey, I’ll come help you. And my wife said, and you need some help, but these are pretty simple. It’s one calendar just going into like a big cardboard envelope. It’s like monotonous rainless work and it’s not too many SKUs. And so I was like, nah, I’ll just handle it. I’ll be down there. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I can knock out 75, 80 of these an hour, a hundred an hour. So, some days I was down, I go at night, 10 o’clock at night till like three in the morning or something and just be banging these out. But I’d use that time while I’m doing mindless work, to actually have some time where I could just focus and I could listen to podcasts. I caught up on all of the Serious Sellers Podcasts. I caught up on all the other podcasts and just listening. So I’m learning while I’m making money and working and I’m solving a problem, salvaging a business. Now we’re completely, basically wiped out. I think I’ve only got about a hundred units total left right now. We’ve completely wiped it all out. And then this app clubhouse became the rage. And so for between Christmas and New Year’s, I couldn’t really participate on this app, but I could listen. So I started listening and seeing what people were doing, listening to different groups about different social media tactics and Amazon tactics and you name it. So I’ll use that time as learning time, as well as making money time.
Bradley Sutton: That’s so cool. Yeah, we’re going to, you and I are going to have a weekly room on there. We don’t have a name for it. We got to figure out a name like the Kevin and Bradley show or ask us anything or something like that, that we’re going to have Serious Sellers, Freedom Tickets, something, we got to have a name. And how can people find you on clubhouse?
Kevin King: We need to ask Manny. Manny is always good with names.
Bradley Sutton: He’s always good with names, yeah.
Kevin King: For Helium 10 Blackbox and Frankenstein and yeah. Cerebro He’s always, yeah.
Bradley Sutton: What name– did you just have your own name on clubhouse. Is it just at Kevin King or what is it?
Kevin King: I think @realkevinking, REAL. Real Kevin King.
Bradley Sutton: The real Kevin King, not the fake Kevin King, the real Kevin King. Right. And guys I’m @h10Bradley. So make sure to follow us. So you’ll be notified when we have when we do our first episode of the show. Now just–
Kevin King: Non-club house, just to quick, just for those listing that like what Bradley and Kevin, what the hell are you talking about? What is this clubhouse, if you haven’t seen it, a clubhouse is a social meet someplace. And audio media is a social media app. That’s in private beta right now. It started about a year ago, about a million little over a million people in it now. But it’s audio only. So it’s kind of interesting. There’s no texting, no posting, no newsfeed, no instant, no messaging other people. It’s almost like being at a conference and just picture yourself. You’re at a conference, a Helium 10 or a prosper show or whatever conference. And you’re in a conference room and there’s a panel on the stage of seven people sitting in chairs. And you can raise your hand and ask them questions, or you can just listen to them chatting amongst themselves about a topic. And there’s a lot of Amazon sellers over the last month or so that have kind of migrated in there. And there’s some amazing stuff being shared. It can be a time suck. But there’s some guys that are sharing, just stuff that’s usually for a mastermind or for a pay thing. And so Bradley and I are going to be on there, talking about some stuff and ask me anything, whether it’s about launching on Amazon or Helium 10 or whatever you have. So make sure you get on that app. You need to know somebody to invite you, or you might be able to, if you download the app, you have to have an iPhone or an iPad. So it’s iOS only right now. So iPhone or iPad and download the app and then connect your contacts, allow it to connect your context and manage your contacts or on clubhouse. It should ping a few of them at random and say, Hey, would you like to let this person in? Hopefully it’s not your ex-girlfriend that you broke up with and never wants to talk to you again, it pings. So make sure that person is out of your contact list before you do it. That happened to my brother. It says he has two contacts when you download the app, cause I got two of your contacts are on clubhouse. Would you like us to see if one will invite you? And he’s like, sure. One was me and one was a girlfriend he hadn’t talked to in over a year, the clubhouse chose the girlfriend. So he is like, I guess I’m not going to get on. So I actually had to use one of my invites to get him in. And then once you’re in, you get a few invites that you can invite some other people, but it’s going to blow up. And there’s some great information being shared on there. There’s also some want be some people that are saying they know a lot about something when they really don’t. So just be careful. It’s attracting some of the seedier side of our business as well, but I think it’s a great place at least right now, to get in on the ground floor and make some connections with other sellers, learn some stuff. And the great thing I’m seeing about it, Helium 10 has a huge audience and there’s this whole audience of people that use Helium 10 and that we all interact with at conventions or at conferences or on the Facebook group or wherever, or listen to this podcast. But what I’m finding is that there’s a lot more people out there that are from these other little ecosystems of Amazon sellers or some people that have never really joined a group and they’re coming, I’m an eight figure seller. I live in a Shanghai, American living over here, and I just never really participate in all this stuff. And so it’s pretty interesting. So I would recommend you check it out.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I notice that too. People who are pretty proficient in that with Amazon, but I never heard of them before. Because they’re not in our– they don’t go to the conferences that we used to go to. And then on the Helium 10 users, Facebook group, et cetera. So it’s a great place to meet new people in the industry. First of all, side note, I mean, I think this is great. Like whenever Kevin comes on to the episode, my number of words that I actually speak on an episode with Kevin King as a guest, it’s like the least out of any episode ever. I just get to like kick back here, get caught up with my Slack and emails here as Kevin, he gives the story. I love that. But one thing, we did have story time today, and that’s why, like I said, I want to do that a little bit differently because I knew you had some cool stories to tell about 2020, but of course, you wouldn’t be Kevin King, the real Kevin King without some of your strategy. So, as you know what we do on this episode at the end every week, we have our TST, our TST. So can you give us a 30-second strategy here for Amazon sellers who are waiting for Kevin King’s hack, or Kevin King strategy?
Kevin King: Sure. I can do that just for you Bradley. Just for you. And so, I don’t know if it’s 30 seconds might take me a minute, but this is a good one. So on one of our products recently, we lost the buy box on the product. We’re the only seller, we’re a private label. We’re the only seller. The first thing I do is I make sure that I have my low price and my high price band set. So you can do that by going into seller central and you manage FBA inventory of the top right corner. There’s something called, I think it’s called preferences or columns or something. You click that and you can turn on and off different columns like BSR and sales price, turn on the low price and high price and make sure you have a pricing band. So if I’m selling at 1995, I’ll put that pricing band at like my low is going to be 8.99. My high is going to be 39.99 or something just so Amazon doesn’t think I’m price gouging. That was set. Then the next thing that you can lose the buy box, if you’re the only seller is because maybe you’re selling it to someone selling it cheaper on Walmart or on your own website. Amazon uses scrapes other sites. And if it’s being sold for cheaper somewhere else, then Amazon may, you can still buy it on Amazon, but it’ll say available from other sellers and you have to click over and it can hurt your conversions. And you’re still the only seller, but it’s there. So that we thought that might be the case. We check everywhere. We can’t find it anywhere. Nobody that got to rebates, selling it, nobody on eBay, nothing, our sights higher price could not freaking figure this out. Why did we lose the buy box opening up ticket after ticket, trying to go through the Amazon system where, the AI system that just basically says gives you a standard answer. The buy box is controlled by things and check these five things. And it just a bunch of BS just going in circles. So finally I called my guy at Amazon. The guy I talked about earlier and said, Hey, can you help me out here? Can you escalate the case? He’s like, I can, man. But they just pretty much ignore this stuff. Anything related to buy box, just really, it’s a dead end wall. So how can we fix this? One of these has been two months. We haven’t had the buy box and one of our PPE products and it’s killing the sales on this item and we can’t figure it out. And he’s like, let’s play with some stuff. And he said, you have an FBA and FBM listing. Let’s take the FBM listing and put it to zero. You’re in stock at FBA. Let’s say you have zero on FBM and see what’s happens. We try that doesn’t work. He’s like, let’s play with the pricing up and down. We play with the pricing up and down. And in combination with zero, then it comes with ideas. You know what? Let’s look at your business pricing, your business pricing. Let’s make sure it’s at least a dollar less than your normal pricing. We changed that for in 19.97, we changed the business pricing to be 18.97. And we put the FBM to zero, even though we have a FBM stock and we have FBM style, we’ll just put it to zero. Boom, instantly buy box comes back. We’re able to raise the price within the pricing brand. So there’s some internal secrecy. He figured it out in Amazon that is looking at the difference between your normal prices, your business pricing, your FBA and your FBM in the door and causing you to lose the buy box. It’s almost like they’re competing against each other in some weird way. That’s a cork of the algorithm. So if you have that problem and you just can’t figure it out, that’s a little technique.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. Now guys, just remember, for the rest of us, TST stands for 30-second tip. For Kevin and me. It stands for three minutes tip, but that’s still T but I guess I didn’t specify in it, but that’s all right. We never cut Kevin off because he’s always got some great strategies.
Kevin King: I told you.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, he gave us the warning guys. He gave us a warning. Now, of course people definitely will always like learning from you with those kinds of tips. And, and one of the ways that people can do that is through the freedom ticket program guys. So if you’re not yet a Helium 10 member, make sure to go ahead and sign up and you’ll have full access to the 80 module, 80 plus module now. A course that Kevin worked on called Freedom Ticket, voted last year as the top course in the Amazon industry. And so you can get more information on that at H10.me/freedomticket. And we also launched last year something new with Kevin, especially, and with other people here at Helium 10 called Freedom Ticket extra, it’s kind of like a coaching program where you’ll be able to, twice a week ask either Kevin or Helium 10 expert on anything to do with Amazon or Helium 10, or strategies or things like that. Just recently, do you know of, like, can you recall some cool questions that people have asked you on coaching calls?
Kevin King: And it’s all over. Yeah, I do a call every Monday for about an hour and a half to two hours, with the people there in the Freedom Ticket extra. So you first need freedom ticket, and then you can get into the freedom ticket extra, and it’s– I do a call every Monday and then one Monday the week, Monday, I’m sorry, the month I bring in a special guest, to talk about a very specific subject. But yeah, sometimes there’s like 200 questions. I answer every single question. So it’s not like I want to cherry pick the question, nothing sent to me in advance. So it’s all live every question. I don’t know every single answer. But I know most of them. And so I go through every single question. So they’ll basically there’s crickets in the room. And so, I love it. And people seem to be getting a really good value out of it. And you can ask anything, people are asking everything from launching strategies to Facebook strategies, to my list, something happened to my listing, how do I fix this or fix that, or how do I use a flat file or, everything, I mean, it runs the gamut of anything Amazon, and sometimes I’ll tell people, look we’re not going to explain that here. There’s a whole module on the freedom tickets better, if you go watch that module. But most of it is just, it’s an extra value it’s add on or it’s clarification of stuff that they might have learned or might be experiencing in their Amazon journey that they’re already selling, or if they’re still in the process of learning.
Bradley Sutton: Cool. Cool. Yes, absolutely. So guys, if you want more information on how to be able to join those calls, go to helium10.com/FTX. F, T as in Tom X, last but not least–
Kevin King: Other than, maybe on a clubhouse right now. And I don’t know how long I’ll be, I don’t know how long we’ll be doing the clubhouse stuff, but that’s the only way to talk to me directly. I don’t do any private consulting or anything like that. So freedom ticket extra is your best way to make sure you can access me and get, hopefully get an answer to your question or problem.
Bradley Sutton: Yep. And then you’re also bringing some experts together for a virtual conference. Can you just talk a little bit about that?
Kevin King: Yeah, sure. Before the pandemic in 2019, I do an event called the billion dollar seller summit. Billion with a B, and the event is mostly for experienced Amazon sites. Not for new people. You need to, I mean, you can come if you’re new, but most people would only it’s advanced level stuff. Average in the room was like $8 million. I think at the last one, somewhere around that seven to $8 million sellers on Amazon, it’s a small event, less than a hundred people. It’s in Austin, it’s expensive, but it’s a really good networking event, really good content information, next level strategies, I’ve brought in guys from China. That’s like, here’s all of that flew in from China. This is what the Chinese are doing just to mess up your listings. And here’s how you combat it. It’s next level stuff because of the pandemic there wasn’t one last year, there’s going to be a lot, the next live when it’s going to be in September mid of this year, assuming people are able to travel by then and decent numbers and feel comfortable doing it here in Austin, but I’m also doing a virtual one at the end of February, at the end of this month. And it’s limited, it’s also, it’s not just what it’s going to be less than a hundred people, but there’s some cash prizes. We have a Ninja hack contest. It’s going to have like a $5,000 cash prize on it. We have the speakers that– the speakers are going to get voted on and their presentations and what I was going to win $10,000 in cash for their presentation. And so people are going to be bringing it. So it’s not the stuff you hear on podcasts, not the stuff you hear on clubhouse or another trainings, it’s next level stuff. So, yeah, if you’re interested in that and the virtual one’s not expensive, it’s going to be less than a thousand bucks for the virtual one. So, yeah, it said billiondollarsellersummit.com. It’s a basic page. It’s nothing fancy. Because it always sells out quickly. So, a billiondollarsellersummit.com if you’re interested in that.
Bradley Sutton: Cool. Excellent. Excellent. All right, Kevin. Well, thank you again, as always for coming on the show, your episodes are always the favorite of many of our listeners. And let’s see what happens with some of that stuff that you were talking about today, like with that PPE company and, and then the doggy poop bags, and you’ve got a lot of, let’s see what happens with your calendars this year. We’ve got tons of stuff that we’re definitely gonna be able to follow up with you next year.
Kevin King: Yeah, no problem, man. Glad to be here and keep on crushing it, Bradley. It’s one of my favorite podcasts to listen to when I’m shipping calendars or doing anything else.
Bradley Sutton: Love it. Thank you so much.
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