Episode 40 – Key Seller Tips From An Amazon Private Label Wizard Who Made $6,000,000 In 4 ½ Months Selling On Amazon
How do you feel about making millions selling on Amazon? In just over 4 months before the solar eclipse in 2017, Amazon selling leader Brock Johnson made $6,000,000 selling solar eclipse glasses on Amazon using Fulfillment by Amazon. Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Customer Success, Bradley Sutton swaps Amazon seller tips with Brock and learns how Radio Shack’s decline helped him create his seed money and why an unsolicited business e-mail is not always a bad thing.
In episode 40 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Brock discuss:
- 00:40 – Brock is in the Studio
- 01:05 – Nice Weather, But Too Many AirPods
- 01:20 – Brock’s Amazon Origin Story
- 03:10 – What Got Brock Banned on eBay
- 03:48 – Radio Shack’s Demise and Seed Money
- 05:40 – Time to Make a Pivot to Selling on Amazon
- 08:40 – The Unsolicited E-Mail that Led to $6,000,000
- 10:20 – Everybody in North America is a Great Demographic
- 12:45 – Checking Boxes – No Short Cuts
- 16:30 – 99 Designs Contest Helps Make Brock’s Product a Reality
- 18:00 – $6,000,000 in 4 1/2 Months on Amazon
- 21:51 – Obstacles, Hiccups, and Near-Death Experiences
- 25:24 – Brock Did It the Right Way – Gets to Keep Selling Glasses
- 29:00 – Being Out in Front of a Trend is Not Always a Great Thing
- 29:40 – An Asymmetrical Risk Vs Reward
- 30:15 – Symbols Are Crucial in Advertising
- 31:50 – Problems Prompt Key Words
- 34:44 – What Creates Momentum for Amazon’s Flywheel?
- 35:32 – How to Contact Brock
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’re going to interview a seller who has made $6 million—not in his lifetime, not in one year, but in four and a half months on Amazon in one niche. Find out how he did that along with how he proposed to his wife in outer space on today’s episode.
Bradley Sutton: How’s it going, everybody? This is Bradley Sutton and you are listening to The Serious Sellers Podcast, and we have a super serious seller. Serious as in he crushed it on Amazon, but he’s not too serious. Yeah. He’s not like serious in the strict sense of the word. Brock Johnson, thank you for coming. You’re actually in the studio. I’m actually looking at you right now. Most people I interview on this show are remote, but you’re right here in front of me. How’s it going, Brock?
Brock Johnson: It’s going great.
Bradley Sutton: How do you like California so far?
Brock Johnson: Too many AirPods, but other than that, there’s 18 inches of snow in Minnesota today, and I got out right before it. Came here so I can get over the AirPods.
Bradley Sutton: All right, we might have to buy you some AirPods on your way home just so you can have a little piece of California with you.
Bradley Sutton: I want to go back though. A lot of people know who you are because of your presence on YouTube and you’ve told your story, giving it out. You’ve even gotten the attention of Gary V. (Gary Vaynerchuk), and he’s interviewed you before. But for those who do not know Brock Johnson’s story, let’s start at the beginning. Tell me how you just got into the Amazon space. Even I don’t know this part. What was your first venture and what year was it?
Brock Johnson: Well, I have to validate first. I did reach out to him, and he agreed to speak with me. It wasn’t that he reached out to me.
Bradley Sutton: There are thousands of people who reach out to him that he wouldn’t give the time of day. But he was like, “Whoa, Brock Johnson. Okay, we got to get this guy.”
Brock Johnson: Yeah, yeah, different story. Anyways, that’s a story for another time.
Bradley Sutton: There you go.
Brock Johnson: So how did I get first started on Amazon? I actually got banned from eBay, and I had a bunch of inventory, and I said, “Well how can I liquidate this,” and I never turned back.
Bradley Sutton: What year was this about?
Brock Johnson: This was 2013, 2014. One of those two.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, these were arbitrage wholesale or your own private label products or what?
Brock Johnson: Yeah, I was doing arbitrage going to Walmart and buying. There was this Disney infinity toy. So basically, there were all the different game platforms and the Disney Infinity was huge. And people were still on GameCube or not GameCube the Wii. And then they came out the Wii U, but nobody really bought it. But they started out, they wanted to push the Wii U game. So, they made a bunch of those and then they discontinued the Wii one, but everybody still had the Wii. I was able to buy those and sell them for a lot more. And that was when I realized I made thousands of dollars off of this one game.
Bradley Sutton: That was on eBay?
Brock Johnson: That was on Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: You were doing something similar on eBay up until that point? That kind of model?
Brock Johnson: Yeah. I was actually flipping stuff from my university surplus store. They were very inefficient, and they would just liquidate stuff. Some guy who’s 50 years old and I don’t know if they just spun a wheel and that’s how they priced the things. Because sometimes a $500 studio mic, they’d sell for five bucks.
Bradley Sutton: Wow.
Brock Johnson: They didn’t know how to go to eBay.
Bradley Sutton: Now what got you banned on eBay?
Brock Johnson: Oh, that’s another story. Basically, I was importing, so I started importing from China. That was going great. And then I got some goods that looked like on Alibaba it was a great deal. So, I bought them, imported them, sold them, and it turns out they’re counterfeit. You know, when something seems too good to be true, it normally is.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Then you moved to Amazon. So that’s kind of a blessing in disguise though. If you didn’t get banned on eBay, you might not have gone to Amazon at that time. Hey, everything happens for a reason. Right? When did you start thinking about the private label—switching from the wholesaler or reseller model?
Brock Johnson: When? I had done RadioShack for two years. They went out of business and it was a blessing. I just graduated from college, wanted to start my own business, but—you know, society, my parents—everybody says you got to get a job.
Brock Johnson: But luckily my wife was applying for Grad School, so that bought me a little bit of time. We don’t know exactly where we’re going to go. So I had this little period of time where Radio Shack’s going out of business and I had this grace period and then I took that and went to these Radio Shack’s all around the country, opened up a bunch of credit cards, bought their stuff in 90% off, sold on Amazon, and multiply my money by four or five.
Bradley Sutton: What kind of numbers were you doing monthly, would you say, flipping stuff?
Brock Johnson: I was doing $400,000 to $500,000 a year. I don’t know what it was exactly monthly, but yeah, that was the annual.
Bradley Sutton: That’s good. So then now you have this cash infusion because you 4X’d your money and so you’re like thinking, “okay, there’s no more Radio Shack deals.”
Brock Johnson: They lasted for a year and a half here.
Bradley Sutton: A year and a half? Wow.
Brock Johnson: They had a slow death.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Yeah.
Brock Johnson: And I was thankful for that because I kept going through these different waves and that’s where I really focused on ROI (return on investment) and lead time because I was just opening credit cards, maxing them out. And I wouldn’t buy them when I could make a 20% return. I would wait for all of the products to get really low and then flip it for a really high return so that I could multiply my money faster. And that’s how I was able to make a full-time income. And then I learned some other arbitrage techniques.
Bradley Sutton: So now, what year are we in? Are we or are we talking about—
Brock Johnson: I started 2015 doing retail arb (arbitrage) and wholesale. Okay. Did that 2015 and 2016 and then there were no more RadioShacks left. I think they have 10 left now.
Bradley Sutton: Oh, they still do? I thought it was only in the Captain Marvel movie. Blockbuster Video and RadioShack brought back some nostalgic vibes when I watched that movie. What made you decide to like, “Hey, I need to start thinking about something else because I’m not going to be able to sustain myself on this.”
Brock Johnson: I saw the lights slowly fading away as I was getting threatened with lawsuits all the time. Of course, they were just gag orders. “Hey, we’re going to sue you, stop selling on our product.” Brands were just starting to recognize, “Hey, there’s people selling our products on Amazon and we want to take control back of that.” And as I was doing wholesale, then eventually the chairman of the board that bought RadioShack sent me an angry email threatening to sue me at three in the morning, and I said, “Okay, there’s no RadioShack’s left; my wholesale deal with RadioShack just ended.” Then after that. I sent him a very nice email back, and he said, “Well, we’re angry but we need your help,” and I was actually going to be bringing their entire catalog and optimizing and doing all of it for RadioShack, which is pretty crazy because they were the largest retailer in the world by footprint number of stores, and I just had graduated a year and a half ago. All of a sudden, I’m in this position where I could be helping the world’s largest retailer by footprint, so that’s pretty neat. But then, we didn’t come to a deal and then they went bankrupt for a second time. Then I said, “private label.” I’m tired of going from opportunity to opportunity. I want to build something where I can source as much product as I want and keep adding and not have to have everything crash and burn.
Bradley Sutton: Do you remember your first product or private label? Your first venture?
Brock Johnson: My first product that I tried, I failed seven. The first one that I had tried was a coffee mug. It said 80-20 on it. Everybody in business always talks about the 80-20 principle. I thought, hey, you should put that on a coffee mug. Entrepreneurs say this all the time. They drink coffee, but there’s no search volume. So that didn’t work very well.
Bradley Sutton: Okay.
Brock Johnson: And then I tried putting it on a wristband – didn’t work either.
Bradley Sutton: Is this 2016, 2017?
Brock Johnson: 2016.
Bradley Sutton: 2016.
Brock Johnson: Yup. And then I tried some hippie glasses too. I went to music festivals, and I saw a lot of people wearing these, and I looked at the markup.
Bradley Sutton: What is a hippie glass?
Brock Johnson: Basically, you know what a kaleidoscope is?
Bradley Sutton: Yes.
Brock Johnson: Imagine that, but on glasses.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Yeah, I didn’t know that was what they’re called. Actually, I don’t even know what I call those, but I’ve used those before, especially when you’re going to a festival or rave, like with all the crazy lasers and lights and stuff; it just looks insane.
Brock Johnson: Yeah. So, I knew my market because I would go to those and dance and have a great time. And I saw, wow, look at all the inventions being done here and what people are doing. And basically, it’s their vacation, so they’re willing to pay whatever to look cool.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Then a little bit later, I would imagine you doing searches about glasses. You’re, you’re in this industry and then you get a random email from a Chinese factory saying, “Hey, there is a solar eclipse coming to the United States. What would you think about buying my product? The solar eclipse glasses.” Right? How did that start the creative juices flowing? Is that the start?
Brock Johnson: Well, what we should do is start with how did I get that email?
Bradley Sutton: So how did you get that?
Brock Johnson: I went to China. I decided, “oh, the light is closing in here. I need to move to private label. It’s the best business model.” I was starting to look at glasses, and I was actually looking at mood classes and hippie glasses and went to China, spoke with some manufacturers. Those didn’t end up panning out because I didn’t get the best quality. They’re falling off people’s heads. But that’s where I got the email. It was because I had gone to China and gave my card to all those glasses manufacturers. Then one of them sent me that one sentence email that said solar eclipse glasses are very hot in the USA. Do you want some? And I was actually about to go to China my second time. It was right before the flight. I said, “sure, send me some info.” He never sent it.
Bradley Sutton: Then you’re like, “okay fine. I’m going to start researching this. And you saw that the eclipse is, “oh shoot, it’s going to pass over the USA.” And then what was the next step for you? He never replied. So instead of just giving up on that idea, what did you do?
Brock Johnson: I told my wife, “I think this is it.” Because I set a goal. We want to travel the world. I said I’m going to do $1 million in sales this year at the private label. Pretty crazy. I didn’t think I could do it. She didn’t really think I could do it either. Well, she didn’t think I could do it. And I was like, “maybe I can, but I’m going to shoot for the sky here. And even if I land somewhere short, it is great.” Then I looked into it and I told her as we’re going to China. “This is the idea. It’s going to be huge.” And she’s was like, “yeah, sure, I’ve heard that before.” That’s what everybody always says.
Bradley Sutton: But what year was this?
Brock Johnson: This is now 2017.
Bradley Sutton: Okay.
Brock Johnson: Yup. And then I did the math. I said, “it’s going over 10 million people’s houses.” I thought that was my market. Just those 10 million people. It actually turned out to be everybody in North America. Oh yeah. That was nice. Nice.
Bradley Sutton: That’s a nice demographic. Yeah.
Brock Johnson: You know, everybody.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, so creative juices started churning. The Chinese factory didn’t get back to you. What was the next step to actually get a product? What did you do?
Brock Johnson: Well, what I did was I looked at the fundamentals of the market. How big is this market opportunity actually going to be? I really researched into that and said, “wow, there’s a lot of people here.” Then what I did was I started to look at the scientific literature and see, “okay, well here’s the event. What do they need? What are they going to do?” I just became massively obsessed with the eclipse, read every article, every scientific paper, every review, looked at previous eclipses and just studied and learned the market to a “T”. And then once I had done that, and it was easy because I know exactly what I needed by looking at what was safe and what people have said in the past, they voted with their words. Then I said, “okay, now I need to get glasses and products that meet these criteria.” And here are the needs. And then I looked at the market and I said, “what are the unsolved needs here?” And that’s how I got started going at it. I had gone to China, in person, but didn’t find anything. I was messaging on Alibaba and not getting much success. The manufacturers didn’t really know what I was talking about. I said, “hey, does it meet the certification? What type of material is it?”
Brock Johnson: And none of it was matching what I knew that I needed by reading the certifications. I was failing for a long time at actually finding a supplier. I was having a hard time finding a manufacturer that could actually get me what I wanted. Some would say, “yeah, we have it.” Then I would say, “okay, send me a sample.” You could see light bulbs. You’d go outside and you could see everything. “Okay, you don’t actually have what I need here.” And I got to the point where one of them said, “yes, I have it. Here’s the certification.” He sent me a certification. But it was a fake certification. It wasn’t actually real because I knew that you needed to have the address of the manufacturer printed on it and they didn’t have that in the sample they sent me. Something was off, so I said, “hey, can you send me the certification body that certified you?” They wouldn’t send it to me. Oh, something’s up here. I was about to give up. I’ve been researching for months. I knew it was a big opportunity, but I was starting to think, maybe I just can’t find the manufacturer for this. I was about to give up.
Bradley Sutton: Oh, real quick. I don’t want to get too far off track, but I think I want to stop you right there because this is important for listeners to understand. Guys, there are certain things that need certifications or things that have to do with people’s health or potential risks. Don’t take shortcuts. What did Brock did just say right now? He said if he was starting to think that, “hey, it’s just not going to happen.” He knew it was a huge opportunity. Little did he know how big it was going to be, but he still thought it was a million-dollar opportunity. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been doing it. Because remember that was the goal that he said to his wife, but remember guys, he could not find it met the safety requirements. Imagine we’re talking solar eclipse. If you don’t have the right glasses, you go blind or something. You imagine that kind of liability. Any of you guys out there, no matter how good the opportunity is, you need to know that if you can’t do it the right way, be ready— like Brock was—just to walk away because you don’t mess with things like people’s health or things like that. You could go to jail for this or get sued or something.
Brock Johnson: Well worse, you can hurt somebody. You can’t even put a price on life.
Bradley Sutton: But even if you’re callous and didn’t care about that, I mean that should be the initial goal. But even if you are a person who didn’t care about other people, if you only care about yourself, well yeah, you can go to jail yourself. But of course, anything in business, you’re not going to be sustainable if you’re hurting people and you should never want to hurt people anyway. I’m glad you brought that up.
Brock Johnson: Yeah. And I had actually been trying to import electronics because I love tech. I proposed to my wife in space . . .
Bradley Sutton: And you proposed to your wife in space? I know where we’re way off topic right now, but how did that happen?
Brock Johnson: I got a video on YouTube. You can look it up “out of this world proposal or space wedding proposal,” I don’t know. Just look up my name. Brock Johnson space proposal and you could see it. I just wanted to do something different. Yeah, I want to do it the best. Marriage in my personal opinion is no different than dating. It’s just kind of a promise and some people just propose on the couch on a Tuesday and it only means what you actually put into it and how much you care. I wanted to show that I actually cared and that this actually does mean something.
Bradley Sutton: Thank you for this episode of The Serious Romantics Podcasts. We give you relationship advice every Tuesday and Thursday. No, but anyways, okay. Now I made a mental note because I knew we were going to go off topic. We left off in, you were about to walk away from this because you just could not find the certifications or a factory in China that had the right certifications. What happened?
Brock Johnson: I went to Google.
Bradley Sutton: Whoa. Imagine that.
Brock Johnson: Yes. I went to the great place to find suppliers, Google, and ended up finding somebody on a way—I don’t even remember what keyword, but it was a page at the end of this keyword and kind of a janky website. I filled out the Contact Us form whatever and left a couple of one-liners, not a couple of one-liners, multiple liners; left that message, got a call the next day right away and is super professional. Just said, “hey, I’m the best in the world at this.” I just knew what he was talking about to a “T”.
Bradley Sutton: All the things that you were looking for and couldn’t find in China, he had it.
Brock Johnson: Yeah, so I had done my due diligence and then the fact that he now knew more than me and was hitting everything that I needed. I said, “okay, this is somebody that I want to do business with.” Because I had been trying for two years to import lighting like we were just talking about, but I could never find somebody who actually knew the certifications and everything passed the sniff test with him; with the other ones, they didn’t pass the sniff test, and it takes one burned down house or one ruined pair of eyes to ruin your business and take everything that you make.
Bradley Sutton: Yup. Yup. All right. So, you saw what you liked, assuming you placed your first order. Did you start with one SKU? What was the process here?
Brock Johnson: Yeah, so we actually started with five designs. Yep. with the glasses, we did five different designs. We did a 99 Designs contest. I had heard about it from Tim Ferriss and his podcasts and I was actually very pleased with that. I got amazing designs. I got 30 designers that came in and I gave them the palette and a lot of the background. So that’s one of the key things to take away is when you’re outsourcing to people, do your due diligence and really provide all the information needed and then choose the person that takes it with that and then just blows you away. I provided all these, the symbols and everything I wanted. All the product research, and here’s my market, here’s the use case and the now I got 30 designers working on it, and I got just the best designs. And then I took my favorite ones, handed that to the other 30 designers and said, “hey, here’s the path that I like. Can you make this even better?” I got 90 designs or whatever. And it was just really easily able to get the best designs for my products. There’s a tidbit.
Bradley Sutton: All right. So just, just fast forward and a little bit now, you started killing it and what was it a three-month period where you had the most sales or how does the story go? Three months or six months? Or when did you just have the amazing rush leading up to or how long before the eclipse did you actually go full bore with your launch of the products?
Brock Johnson: Well, I launched, I think, March. The end of March is when I got my first sale.
Bradley Sutton: 2017?
Brock Johnson: 2017.
Bradley Sutton: 2017, all right. And then when was the eclipse?
Brock Johnson: The eclipse was August 21st.
Bradley Sutton: So, from March to August of that year, how much in gross or how much in revenue did you generate selling the solar eclipse glasses?
Brock Johnson: Six months. Not six months. 6 million. And I say 6,000,00 in 6 months because it sounds better, but it was actually four and a half.
Bradley Sutton: $6 million worth of sales in about four and a half months. All right. Let’s fill in some of these gaps now. How in the world did you do that?
Brock Johnson: I worked every minute, and I just took extreme actions. Oh God, you know. Okay, let’s do that again. Ask the question again.
Bradley Sutton: $6 million in four and a half months. That’s like zero to 60 – All right. How did you scale that fast? How did you pull that off? I mean, your goal was $1 million. You weren’t even there, even close to that. So how do you go from almost nothing to that fast in that short of time?
Brock Johnson: Yeah. My first order was $7,500 and the way that I was able to scale that fast was just an extreme focus on my ROI and my lead time. I didn’t have cash flow issues. I scaled $7,500 to $6 million revenue in four and a half months with no cash flow issues. I opened up credit cards that did help with that, but the way that I did it was just getting as many SKUs as I could. I didn’t just make one product. I made 44 listings and now I actually looked at it. I remember 44 unique ones, but I looked and it’s upwards of a hundred that we ended up doing. I just looked at it a couple of days ago. I didn’t even remember that I made that many.
Bradley Sutton: What was the main keyword?
Brock Johnson: Solar eclipse glasses.
Bradley Sutton: Somebody in the thick of things, maybe July or whenever is typing in solar eclipse glasses. On page one, how many different results were yours?
Brock Johnson: On page one, I only had one on page one.
Bradley Sutton: Only one on page one.
Brock Johnson: That’s the crazy thing.
Bradley Sutton: Was that your number one seller?
Brock Johnson: Yeah, that was my number one seller.
Bradley Sutton: So then how much of that $6 million your number one seller—
Brock Johnson: Wait, no, no, no. I got two. I forgot about that because I had the goggles too.
Bradley Sutton: Were you generating a good amount of sales on those other ones?
Brock Johnson: Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: What were all those sales coming from? Were they on page one of different keywords?
Brock Johnson: This was before the days of exact search volume and keyword tools.
Bradley Sutton: You didn’t have helium 10 to go look up the estimated—
Brock Johnson: No, I didn’t. Oh man.
Bradley Sutton: You could have used Cerebro and reverse ASIN—
Brock Johnson: It would have been an even cooler story if I had Helium 10 back then. There were no tools on the market. I think, back then, I just used Google and looking at competitors’ listings and then I did have the ability to go into AMS and then by going in there, I was actually able to derive search volume because it’ll actually show you for something that even gets one search. Yeah. I was able to do some keyword research through that, but I can’t tell you at that time where all my sales came through.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. Interesting. I know it wasn’t like 5.8 million of your 6 million sales for just that one ASIN. And I mean there was a reason why you launched 40 different products is because a lot of those were generating a decent chunk, right?
Brock Johnson: Oh yeah, yeah. My best SKU didn’t even do a million. I had a wide variety of products that we’re selling all through different keywords. And I can tell you where I got PPC sales through. I know that because it was the only way you really had to track back then. You could do a manual search. Where do your products rank for on keywords? But it’s not like we had this beautiful keyword tracker that you guys have now. I was just blind at night. I would look up three or four keywords per day. And that was about how I tracked.
Bradley Sutton: Amazing. What kind of obstacles or hiccups or near-death experiences did you have during the launch? Did Amazon screw you over or did your customers threaten a lawsuit because they went blind? What are some crazy, crazy things that you went through that, you know, maybe people need to be aware of because it could happen to them too?
Brock Johnson: There are things that happened to me and then there are things that are applicable to everybody. So, for myself, I broke my elbow unfortunately in May, the day before my birthday. I broke my elbow and it was so bad that they said I needed to go into immediate surgery. And I was actually supposed to get surgery on my chest later that week. So then now that got pushed out a month. While I did this in the four and a half months of actual sales, I had an extreme injury on my elbow, and they broke all the bones in my chest and put a bar in and reformed my whole chest. I had more hijackers than I can remember; every single day had hijackers. I had so many counterfeits because I had the best designs. Everybody decided, “oh, we’re just going to counterfeit and hijack.” I was dealing with all of that. While scaling and building all of these different listings, now it was just becoming overwhelming. I was putting out a fire every single day. Let’s see what else was there. All of the other glasses on the market were not certified. There’s only a handful that was. Because of this, these glasses put people at risk of going blind. They weren’t certified, they were not the right stuff.
Brock Johnson: When I was looking at manufacturers, I had not chosen to go ahead with those, but there are other firms – international sellers that maybe didn’t have the risk of getting sued. They were able to do that. And then there were even other private labelers here in the USA that just sourced it anyways. It passed their sniff test. I guess they didn’t go as deep, and that’s my one thing to really be careful of. If you’re doing anything in health or safety in just anything or even plugging into a wall, make sure it’s safe. Because what happened was I warned Amazon, there’s going to be a huge news story later this year—a lot of people are going to go blind. And I said, “you guys need to crack down on this.” And they wouldn’t listen to me for months and months. And then all of a sudden, I reached out to some regulatory bodies and I don’t know if it was me or you know, somehow NASA released a statement basically saying there’s a lot of bad glasses on the market. And then all these companies, all these news companies picked up on it and then, okay, now Amazon came in. So they shut down, basically send out an email, saying we’re shutting down all the listings of the solar eclipse glasses.
Bradley Sutton: Yours too?
Brock Johnson: Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Even though you have the right certifications.
Brock Johnson: Yeah. And then a week and a half later then, they said, “okay, send us your certification and you could sell.” But I freaked out for 10 days because I had just invested.
Bradley Sutton: Your sales came in from crazy velocity to zero. I mean your listings were suppressed.
Brock Johnson: No, they gave us, I think, eight days. They said in eight days we’re shutting it all down. So then can you just imagine? I invested everything I had and then we’re close to a hundred K in debt purchasing all this inventory and predicting what the demand’s going to be like and then they say, “yeah, we’re shutting it all down in eight days.” I freaked out, end up lowering my prices and so did everybody else, it was just crazy.
Bradley Sutton: But you, unlike the others, actually gave the right certifications. And then, so was it just an easy process? Did they say, “okay, yeah, you can continue” or what happened?
Brock Johnson: I sent him my information and then they said, “okay, you can continue to sell.” But not all of them. They didn’t approve all of them. And then the ones that were approved, they would just randomly take them down. It’s like, come on. And by the way though, this whole time we were actually doing all of the packagings in house. It wasn’t like your typical private label story where it just goes from your Chinese manufacturer into China and you sit on the beach and make money. No, I had to put in the work and actually package all of this, but it was extremely valuable because it gave me such speed. I was able to make all these different variations. People wonder, “how did you make that many products in that short amount of time?” Because I had telescope filters, camera filters. I had all these different glasses. I had the goggles that we made, we had lenses. We had all this different stuff and then now I was able to just make a listing that day and sell it seller-fulfilled. And then if it worked, boom, okay, now I’m going to send the product to Amazon. I was able to get this massive feedback loop of, “hey, what works. Do more of that.” Whereas normally with the typical private labeler, you have an idea, you source it and then two months, three months, maybe you get it in there and it worked, or it didn’t. But I was able to just make listings and tests so fast and I learned a crazy amount from that. That was what I was doing.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, that’s a good point guys. If you can find a niche where you can get products where you don’t have to order 1000 right off the bat, like maybe, one thing I’ve heard that people do when they want to do bundles, they’re like, “hey, maybe this kitchen spatula I want to sell with this kitchen spoon because these are two top sellers and nobody has a bundle of it.” Well, what you do is you order like 40 of an existing one, sell it for a loss or buy it at a retail or whatever, and then bundle it and then run some PPC or whatever you guys want to do. And then if that start selling right away, then you know, “okay, yeah, now I’m going to go ahead and invest my 500 or a thousand” because you’re not just going blind and just putting all your eggs in one basket. So that’s good; I think that’s a good learning point. What else did you take from this experience? I mean obviously, sellers now should not be sitting at their email waiting for a random email from a Chinese supplier saying, “would you like solar eclipse glasses?” But how does somebody put themselves in that situation where they can put themselves in front of something that could be a big trend and jump on it? Because you know, we always teach, which is the truth, is 98% of the time Amazon is about existing demand. You know, it’s hard to forecast. Tools like Helium 10 is going to show what the existing demand is, and that’s why everybody is still doing that. You know, guys, you need to focus on that because these things are not very often. But what do people need to, how do people put themselves in a situation where they can quote-unquote predict that something’s about to go viral or that there’s going to be a big need that’s not being fulfilled?
Brock Johnson: That is a lesson that is unique. I would say there’s probably a unique capability of myself, but what was not a unique capability of myself and the scenario as well was doing the market research, looking at all of the customers and then, “okay, well here’s all the unserved parts of the market.” You can do that in any market. Okay. There are lots of unserved needs, and that’s why I was filling in the holes. Now did I get some steroids because the trend was my friend? Yeah, I had that. But it’s applicable to all markets. So, one of the hardest things actually is predicting a trend. And typically, I can tell you, if you don’t have a brand, you don’t have brand registry because I made it so fast, you might not actually want to be on a trend. My friend was one of the first sellers of fidget spinners. It was great for a week and then he had 10 hijackers, and it was all gone, you know. So, predicting trends is not a sustainable way to make a business, in my opinion. What you can do though is really get to know that market and the customers and then grab as much real estate and solve those needs. Take the mathematical principles of how you can test an idea the fastest with the highest upside and the lowest downside. When I sourced my glasses, I essentially decided there was no risk because I had the best product. I got it at the best price. And then looking at it, I said, “you know, worst-case scenario, I bet I could find a school or a business by just cold calling and I could liquidate and get my money back. Maybe I’ll lose 20% but this is an asymmetric risk-reward, massive upside, very little downside. And that’s when I decided to go for things. So that’s kind of the big takeaway there.
Bradley Sutton: Anything unique you did as far as the way you presented your images or the way you made your bullet points that you think gave you a bump over your competition?
Brock Johnson: Yeah, symbolism; symbols are huge. You’ll see it when you go in some really good listings, but instead of annotating one; you could write it out in your description. What makes your product great? What are the use cases? I really focused on those use cases in the actual core needs in my images. And then now didn’t just point it out in my images. Point it out with symbols! This giant made in the USA symbol— the big flag and just this big gold shield is a great way to get across that it’s made in the USA—and focus on all the pain points are where I was providing what their needs were and why I was different. And then also just some great lifestyle photos. You know just that stuff alone —just branding and focusing on the core needs.
Bradley Sutton: You mentioned images. That just actually reminded me. I love the way in your course you explain this, you’re the only one I know, I think who explained it this way, but it totally makes sense that when people search for things on Amazon, they start with a need, whatever or want and when they think of that need or want, an image of what is going to fulfill that need pops up in their head. Why don’t you take it from there because I think that was just the start of it? But the way that you explained this is really great for sellers because they need to understand this thought process because it’s going to totally change the way you guys do your listing optimization once you use this mindset. Talk a little bit about it.
Brock Johnson: If you take one thing away from this, it’s this: this is applicable to everything in sales specifically where people are typing in in a search bar. Google, Amazon, anything. Basically, when people are on Amazon, what do they do? Do you look at statistically where do sales come through? They come through the search bar, they type in a keyword and then they see the products. But what happened before they typed in that keyword? They had a problem or a need that they don’t just randomly out of the ether type in this word; there was something that prompted them to do that. There may be a need in their life and then now they have an image in their head and then now they translate that image into their head into a word. That’s not an efficient process. Okay. Because of everybody types in words differently, and words are not a good way to explain things, but they have that image in their head. Now when they type in that word, they’re looking at all the products on the page, and they’re saying, “which one of these matches the image in my head the best” and that’s the way to do it. If you know your customers and you look at the keywords and you say, “hmm, there are 10 million people that it’s going over their heads; there’s a lot of women out there. They’re all typing in the same word: solar eclipse glasses. But none of these look good for women. I bet there are women buying here. I was able to match. I bet there’s nothing matching that image in their head on his page, I’m going to make some that are going to match their image the best.” And what do you know, it worked! It all comes down to really knowing that customer base and also reading reviews from all the other products, because that’s obviously complaints and needs of the market that aren’t showing up in keywords, but they’re showing up actually in the customer’s head and they’re voting with their dollars and their words and actually writing a review. Who writes reviews? Very few people; that’s a rare person that bought, complained and wrote a review. That’s gold. Look at those, look at the whole market, and then now, you’ll know where you can fit in.
Bradley Sutton: That’s great, guys. Just always keep that in mind. I’ve said this a million times, sometimes, sellers, we put on our sellers’ hat too much. At the end of the day, the buyer doesn’t care if we had 185 characters in our bullet point number two instead of 160 or they don’t care that we duplicated a search term in our subject matter. I mean they could care less about these things. And we’re sometimes, sellers, that’s all we’re focused on—these kinds of metrics. At the end of the day, it’s the buyer who’s going to buy our product. We need to make sure, first and foremost, that we’re making our listings relevant to the buyers so that we can match the images in their head with our product because that’s what’s going to give us the best chance at making a sale.
Brock Johnson: Another key concept that I teach and that I really love is, there are two parts. You need to make the machine of Amazon happy and you need to make the seller happy. The machine will give you the people, but you’ve got to make the people happy to get sales. So initially, you’ve got to index, of course, so you have those words, but they’re irrelevant to have if the people aren’t buying and when you’re able to understand which parts of the listing and pictures are going to make the machine happy, and then which parts make the people happy. Then now optimizing and creating your images and your whole listing is a lot easier and now you’re making people happy, which then makes the machine happy, and you know as you get that flywheel of Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: Perfect. All right. That’s just one of the many modules you’ve got for your students. And if people want to get more information from you, contact you or find out about your course or work, where can they go for that?
Brock Johnson: You can go and look up Brock Johnson on YouTube. You could go to brockrjohnson.com. You could go to Official Brock Johnson on Instagram. You could type in Brock Johnson on Google. You can type in zero to 6 million in six months on Google. Just look up Brock Johnson, and you’ll find me.
Bradley Sutton: All right, cool. Well, thanks a lot Brock for joining us here. I’m sure our viewers would love to have you back and give us some more tips and tricks, and actually, you’ve got some great videos about Helium 10 use. You’ve got some unique ways to use Helium 10 that people can learn from you. So thanks for coming on.
Brock Johnson: Yeah. Oh, one more thing we didn’t say. It’s only a dollar.
Bradley Sutton: Oh gosh yeah. This is not a thousand-dollar Masterminds class.
Brock Johnson: This is not a $10,000 pitch. This is the $1 proof that you actually want to make your life a little bit better, and I’ll give you everything that I know, and I’ve put in so much stuff. When I say stuff, it’s taken me a long time to make, because I make sure that it makes sense from a fundamental level and it’s a dollar. And if you can’t afford that dollar, send me a message. I’ll give it to you for free.
Bradley Sutton: There you go, guys. $1 course to learn 35 hours of video.
Brock Johnson: Oh yeah. 35 hours and growing. There are so many interviews in there and it’s just really well thought out modules.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome. All right, well thanks again Brock for joining us, and guys, that’ll be your best dollar that you ever spent other than a McDonald’s hamburger. Now, this is even better than a McDonald’s hamburger. You shouldn’t be eating that stuff anyways. Awesome.
Brock Johnson: Thank you for having me on here, Bradley, and thank you guys for listening. If you’ve got any questions, let Bradley or myself know, we’d love to answer questions and help people.
Bradley Sutton: Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Brock and thanks a lot everybody for listening. See you guys later.
Latest posts by Helium 10 (see all)
- Episode 104 – Helium 10’s Project X Case Study Reveals a New Way to Crush It on Amazon - January 21, 2020
- Episode 103 – Helium 10’s “Best Of” Podcast Offers a Fresh Look at Amazon’s Changes - January 18, 2020
- Episode 102 – How to Use Selling on Amazon to Make that Life Change You’ve Been Dreaming About - January 16, 2020