413 : Jeff Cohen – Decide whether to pivot or persevere based on risk tolerance to be successfully selling on Amazon

Jeff Cohen

Jeff’s point needs to be taken to heart. Challenges to your business will come whether you like it or not. The successful entrepreneurs have the ability to push past, take advantage of or pivot their actions and therefore their businesses when needed. Sometimes it can be daily. That’s why this business is not for the faint of heart. But man, just imagine you sharpening that skill set. You too can be the outlier, the success model. You can have the desired life you want.

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Jeff’s previous episodes: 73, 132

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Here is transcript- It is automated so it is not perfect but it does seem to get better over time.

Jeff:                                       00:00                     In relation to courses being released and they see a low success rate. It does. They, they, they see a low success rate. Now, we talked about this before. What makes one person different than the other is not the course that they take. It’s the action that they take from the course. Because let me, none of the gurus want me to say this, but all of the information that you need to be successful in any of the disciplines of selling on Amazon is on YouTube for free.

Cool voice guy:                  00:32                     Welcome to the e-commerce momentum podcast where we focus on the people, the products, and the process of eCommerce selling. Today, here’s your host, Steven Peterson.

Stephen:                             00:46                     Hey, it’s me. It’s Q4 got to bring up my Amazon seller tribe. Um, this is probably, you know, one of the last chances you’re going to get to join this year. So I’ll run this for a couple of weeks. But, um, th the good news is you could still get in, right? They are allowing people in, but at some point they’re going to cut it off. So I suggest you join today. Try it with 14 days for free. Okay, so you don’t like it, you don’t get value drop. Um, however, don’t only measure on the value of what you’re buying, measure on the value of the impact it has on your business. And what I love about this group, the Amazon seller tribe is the amazing way they invest into your business. They will help you with all the questions. Go out and check out a amazing freedom.com forward slash momentum dash arbitrage.

Stephen:                             01:29                     Look at the testimonials. Those are real people. Reach out to them, right? You can kind of figure out who they are and go out and figure out and ask them, is it real? Are they really helpful? Will they help my business? And you will be blown away again. You get 14 days free if you joined through my link only and they do pay me. So I don’t want you to, I don’t mislead anybody. Um, but I believe in them. I’m in the groups, you’ll see me and you’ll get to talk with me too. So amazing. freedom.com, forward slash momentum, hyphen arbitrage. I know it’s a lot momentum, hyphen arbitrage. And you’re going to get 14 day free trial on the daily fine list, make a purchase, get your money back and then say, huh, I can do this again. Wash, rinse, repeat, wash, rinse, repeat.

Stephen:                             02:14                     Amazing. freedom.com forward slash momentum arbitrage. They are going to close it. Q4 is here, it’s going to happen. Get ready. Welcome back to the e-commerce women in podcast. This is episode 413. Jeff Cohen from seller labs a been a long time since I talked with Jeff. And what’s interesting, we discuss risk. I think risk is just something that is very important, um, for you to consider in your business. And you know, depending on the business and depending on where you are in your business, if you don’t have employees then you don’t have workman’s comp issues. Um, but if you have employees you have to plan for workman’s comp and what does that look like? There’s risk, right? Or inventory. Where’s your risk or um, advertising or gray hat, black hat. So we talk a lot about those things and we also talk about that Jeff is a seller.

Stephen:                             03:04                     Most people don’t know that I’m and why he sells. I think that’s important. Um, and give you a clue, relevancy and I think that that really helps and that’s why you can have an intelligent conversation and he knows what he’s talking about because he’s been there and he understands it. So very, very cool. Let’s get into podcast and welcome back to the eCommerce momentum podcast. Excited to have an old guest return old. He’s getting old. Is that old as an age? Um, you know, I’m just going to let people hear it and figure out, um, you know, no, Jeff Cohen, welcome back. Jeff Cohen.

Jeff:                                       03:36                     Thanks Steve. Appreciate you having me back on. I, I, I guess you and I chat on a regular basis, but we haven’t recorded them in a really long time.

Stephen:                             03:44                     Spent a long time. So, especially since we talked about this business, you know, you guys are, we talked about toys for tots in between, but about business and some of the crazy changes that are going on, which I think, you know, you’re an expert to talk about that. Um, and we’re going to talk about Jeff Cohen’s selling, which people are going to be like, wait, I still think most people don’t know that you have an Amazon account and you don’t steal their private label products or you don’t steal their retail arbitrage. You don’t go to toys R us went, no, you don’t go to target because you don’t get toys. You don’t go to target and skin and caps for because you saw somebody had it on their account. So we’re going to talk about that. Um, and I think most people don’t know that and I think that’s gonna be, um, you know, I want to talk about why, but it’s been, you know, three plus years and I think there’s been a few changes in the business, um, in the last three plus years. Would you say that’s a fair statement?

Jeff:                                       04:34                     I’d say that’s a tha that’s three calendar years. That’s not three Amazon years. So yeah, 21 Amazon. Yeah.

Stephen:                             04:42                     Yeah, no doubt. Um, some of the stats that just recently came out, I saw again the number of sellers at certain levels. Did you see that chart where there were, you know, yeah,

Jeff:                                       04:53                     yeah. The numbers that Amazon releases around sellers who are over a hundred K and over. Yeah. Did that surprise you in any way when you look through that list? Well, you know, I think that what, that doesn’t surprise me it’s been, it’s been constantly growing at about a 30 to 40% a clip over the last three or four years that we’ve been tracking it. I think that, what I don’t want to say is surprising, but it is most interesting, is that Amazon, they use very vague terminology similar to how they build out their terms of service. And so it’s hard to tell whether the growth is real or not, because they say at least a hundred thousand sellers, um, at least 130,000 sellers, they call them at least 130,000 small to medium business sellers. So they’re trying to get their message across. They’re trying to get a message across to the market that they’re in support of small business, that they’re not putting the, you know, the local out of, out of business, but they’re actually supporting local businesses like yours and mine and Andy’s and, uh, all the other people that we interact with in this space.

Jeff:                                       06:09                     Um, but they’re, you know, that they’re not just here for the big guys. And that’s really, I think, what they’re trying to do with those numbers. Um, but I would also say that in general, over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the number of masterminds and private groups around million dollar sellers, uh, continue to grow and grow. And so, um, what happens to the iron sharpens iron kind of model was that it’s, yeah. Well what happens is, is that when you’re looking at when you’re, when you’re, I just had a conference, uh, last week, seller labs is doing these like little one day workshops around the country in different cities, small format, right? There were 22 people there and it was in Denver. And what was really interesting about that was how many he build. There were like surprised at the quality of Amazon sellers who were also in the Denver area.

Jeff:                                       07:09                     Like they felt very alone and then they went to this event and they were like, cool, look at these other great sellers that are here. And I think that what happens is, is that we start to engage and we start to, uh, engage in the community. And then as we engage in the community, um, we want to start to separate ourselves with people that can help us with our business versus people we’re helping with their business. And so it’s a natural tendency that as your business grows, you still want to socially be involved, but you don’t necessarily find the content is useful. Or maybe the initial networking is useful because you’ve built your own, uh, connections within the community.

Stephen:                             07:55                     I think some of it too is the challenges are different, right? So in that example you’re giving, I’m assuming some of those companies now have staff, right? Because they had to size up, right? They had to scale, um, those challenges. Now when you, we, it was part of our pre call you in our chat and about when you have employees that you have to deal with, those are different challenges than just talking about how to, what tape do you use on a box? I mean, I’m bad example, but you know what I mean as like, or how do you run an ad campaign that’s different when you scale it up to an extra zero or two? Is that fair? And so therefore you need a different discussion. Maybe

Jeff:                                       08:32                     that’s very true. And I think that one of the things that we’ve seen is that there, you know, a few years ago there was one big player in this space who was teaching people how to sell on Amazon. Today, there are many gurus or self-appointed gurus in this space who are trying to teach people to sell on Amazon. And, um, I think that some people enter through that type of community. But even, you know, like one, I know you talk about regularly, like either you know, the ho the guys at the wholesale formula or, or Andy’s group, when you age out, when you age out of the group, right? When, when you’re done knowing the basics, you’re still looking for community. And so seek to find people that can kind of push you even higher. And so maybe it’s about managing your staff. What are the things that I find really interesting when I talk to people at trade shows is that they have this, uh, they have this balance of somebody on stage told them to do something and they really want to do it, but they really came to the show with a problem in their own business.

Jeff:                                       09:46                     And that’s the business the problem they’re trying to solve. And so, um, you and I both know this. It’s human nature that I want to talk about me. I don’t want to talk about you. And so there’s this, uh, interesting dichotomy that happens in human relationships where I’m interested in you, but I’m really only interested in you if you can help me. And we don’t talk about that. But that’s the reality of how human interaction works. And most people who are givers, um, understand that the receiving occurs by giving and they’re willing to give over time because they’ve received in different ways, but in general, and I, I call it, um, I, I call it one up Scotty, that’s what I call it. And so we all have a friend that’s this way. So you talk about a vacation that you went on and then your friend goes, Oh, well let me tell you about my vacation.

Jeff:                                       10:47                     Yeah. Right? So everybody always wants to kind of one up. Well, when you’re trying to take your business to the next level, you want to hear what people have to say, but you really want to find someone that can help you solve your problems. So maybe you’re struggling with trademarks and brand registry, and if they happen to be presenting on that, then you’re really interested in that topic. Maybe you’re struggling with advertising and ad management on Amazon, or if you can connect with somebody that can help you with that, you get really engaged with wanting that level of help. And I think the challenges that you have as your business grows, become more complex. Um, because it’s just the, the nature of this business. Um, if you’re really, and I’m not trying to oversimplify it, but if you’re an RA guy or gal and you go to a store and you buy products and you ship them and you, and you box them and you ship them to Amazon and then you rinse and repeat that every day, that’s the complexity of your business. If you start to, uh, negotiate with the store manager and start trying to reach out to manufacturers, you’ve added complexity to your business. And as a, as you choose to add complexity to your business, you need to surround yourself with people who have similarly solve that complexity to help you in the long run.

Stephen:                             12:12                     Hmm. That makes perfect sense. You know, you talked about gurus. Now I’ve noticed, I just saw another, a post this week or last week about another, uh, organization that Amazon is suing. And I assume you saw that too. It’s a very large, and I don’t know who, I don’t know any of these people. It’s funny. I have all the people’s names that have been named. I don’t know any of them. I don’t travel in those circles. Um, and I try to vet pretty carefully who I lead on the show. And so, you know, not knowing what the story is other than we’re talking 15 to $30,000 now to get in these courses and over time, one of the things, you know, if you have a brand, you’re a company, you’re a business spit 15 $30,000 is no big deal to bring in a consultant or an expert to come in and help train your organization or, you know, integrate your NDIS, new channel in your sales organization. Right? However, for start up individuals, I mean, what are you guys, I mean, you guys must see this. You must have people who approach you all the time saying, Oh, is this worth it? You know, if they’re telling me 10 to $15,000 to get started, what, what do you seeing out there? Or what are you telling people or you know, what’s the buzz that you see?

Jeff:                                       13:27                     Yeah. Um, I read the article, we’ve seen this come through a couple of times. I always feel great when I see Amazon do that, but ultimately remember heartbreak, Amazon’s doing Amazon suing them more because they tried to portray themselves as a division of Amazon. Okay. Then then, then that Amazon’s really trying to protect new entrance into the space. Um, I believe that masterminds and masterminds can cost you 10,000 plus, right. Um, are extremely valuable. Um, if they’re done correctly and you enter with the right mindset, I believe courses and they run from three to 5,000 in general. Would you agree? Uh, yeah, I’ve seen him a little less than that.

Stephen:                             14:15                     Maybe a thousand to 5,000 is the high end one. That would be the high end one that I’ve seen. Um, and I think I’ve won. I think like the wholesale formula, I think they were like three grand out last time I saw [inaudible]

Jeff:                                       14:27                     yeah, so, so, and I know you promote HOSA formula. I promote wholesale formula. I mean, so it’s, we’ve promoted courses in the past. Um, I think that a course can be very valuable to you. Um, if you are using the course as a, as a means to provide structure and accountability to the actions that you’re taking. And I think that’s the kicker. Um, because all of the information [inaudible] I don’t want to say that it’s the action you are taking you to the action. You are T that’s right. There’s the thing for me is if you’re not an action taker, I always tell people, don’t take that course cause you’re going to, it’s a waste of money. You’re not going to do it. Don’t. So, you know, regardless, I’ve had people from Amazon telling me that they’ve, they have, they can actually track when increases in um, new seller accounts occur in relation to courses being released and they see a low success rate.

Jeff:                                       15:26                     They, the [inaudible], they, they, they see a low success rate. Now, we talked about this before. What makes one person different than the other is not the course that they take. It’s the action that they take from the course. Because, let me, none of the gurus want me to say this, but all of the information that you need to be successful in any of the disciplines of selling on Amazon is on YouTube for free. For free. Yup. 100%. You gotta put in a thousand hours, but you could do the thousand hours yourself. You do not, it’s not org. It’s not organized. It’s not, it’s not as organized. It’s not as structured. You don’t have, you know, and that, and, and, and I know I’m not here to plug, um, Andy’s, I don’t even know, remember the name of it. [inaudible] but item, I’ve always thought that one of the things that Andy did different in his course than what I’ve seen in any other course is the level of accountability that he is giving to.

Jeff:                                       16:25                     Like, he genuinely wants everybody to launch a product and succeed. He’ll show you his products. It’s hilarious. And you know, it’s like, Whoa, people actually like, he’ll actually show you his product where nobody would do. Oh, well Jeff, you know, I suppose most of the other promote no other program, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll do that. And I’m not, and here’s what I always tell people. Um, I, you know, I, I, I have a relationship with Andy, with Scott Voelker, with Jim Cochran, with the amazing sellers, with the startup brothers, right? That’s a whole with, that’s a whole different, each one of those is very, is a very unique and different type of individual. You have to figure out who you connect with 100% next with that person and you believe that that person is speaking to you in a way that will motivate you to take action. Then the value of that course is, is there, it’s a jumpstart.

Jeff:                                       17:27                     But here’s the point. If you’re not, if you get a bad vibe run, yes, we’re 100% run because you’re going to get turned off and it’s not going to do anything. Don’t waste your money. And I think the other thing is, is that, um, the other thing that I think for people that are, that are getting started is you have to have a, um, you have to have like most people who I think you do a good job of this on your podcast, but most people who talk in this space, most gurus who talk are only telling you the positive that happened. They stay away from the negative. And I think that, um, what I, what I always, I was speaking with a lady and she was talking about her business and she said, I really need to get into bundling. And I said, why?

Jeff:                                       18:15                     And she said, well, I heard this great presentation about bundling and what it can do for your business. I said, great, but how does that apply to you and what your trying to do? Because what you have to understand is that the person who was talking about bundling was trying to sell a bundling course. And that’s not a knock on bundling. That’s not a knock on the bundling course. I have nothing wrong with the course that she has on bundling. It’s actually a really good course, but it doesn’t mean that it works for everybody. And so you have to understand that any of us who speak in this space have an alterior motive of what we want you to do. And we want you to do something that ultimately will benefit us. So I want to tell you how hard advertising is so that you come to me and say, can you run advertising for me?

Jeff:                                       19:03                     But I’m also, I T personally try to be honest and say, you can teach yourself advertising, but I can do it for you in a more efficient, more effective manner because of the skill sets that we have. And I’m not trying to say like all gurus are bad, but I’m the good one. What I’m trying to say is, um, you have to understand what your PR, you have to understand the problem you’re trying to solve in your business and then understand whether you’re aligned with the guru who’s teaching you. That’s the kicker. Yeah. And then to take an action, you know, and you can buy time. I mean, that’s what a, that’s what a course will do for you to buy you time. Right. You know, there buys you access, right? There’s 15 steps in this and if they can help you get through those 15 steps quickly, that buys you time.

Jeff:                                       19:53                     Right? Well you’ve, I mean, you’ve done this, you’ve done this on the podcast side. You’ve, you’ve bought into things so you could become connected with John Lee Dumas and other other, other [inaudible]. John was smiling. Right? And, and, um, and, and didn’t you go down to like Dave Ramsey or, yes, yes, yes. At Danville. I knew it was one of those guys. You, you, you because you, because you are looking not just to gain their knowledge because you knew they could take you to another level, but you also wanted access to them. Um, and that’s a very, I mean that’s a, that’s money, very well spent, but, but you had a specific purpose and an action you knew you were going to take based off of, um, based off of that investment.

Speaker 4:                           20:42                     Hmm.

Jeff:                                       20:42                     Well, let’s go back to the bundling thing. I think there’s a, this is, this is a thing I want to nail down, that lady that was gonna do bundling is your advice to say, Hey, where are you going with your business? Where do you want your business to go? And if bundling fits into that master plan, then man, that’s awesome. And if that’s the right person, but if it doesn’t, because you’re going to want to, you’re building out your sandpaper brand, making something up. I don’t know why, but you know, that doesn’t make sense then. Don’t waste your, it’s a distraction. It’s a shiny object because you heard somebody and they were convincing, like you’re saying, they were convincing on stage. That’s what they do. Yup. They hit and that’s exactly, that’s exactly what I’m saying is, is that it’s not whether that was a good course or not, it’s that this particular person, what they needed to do to get there.

Jeff:                                       21:30                     I look at, um, I look at an Amazon business as a river flowing down the stream flow, water flowing down the river and the river is full of dams. And every time you break through a damn, what happens to water goes gushing down until it hits the next point. That dams it back up. And what we have to do to make our businesses successful is we have to figure out what’s damming up our business. And if we can break through that dam, then we can use that as our ability to take our business to the next level. And so for you, it might be a more efficient way to train your warehousing staff. For me it might be getting my brand through brand, my logo through a trademark so I can get brand registry or for somebody else it might be launching international. And for somebody else it might be bundling their products with other products.

Jeff:                                       22:35                     And so when we, when we look at all the different levers you can pull throughout a successful Amazon business, there are literally hundreds of them. And I think the skill to master is not necessarily every lever that you need to pull, but the ability to identify what that next lever is that will give you the most benefit for your business moving forward. Well, that brings up a question. How do you figure out, so you’re, what you’re describing is, I use a master gardener, right? A master gardener. They use a master plan for your house, right? They would say, okay, here’s what it’s gonna look like. And then you, every time you do something, you’re doing it towards that plan, right? You’re adding the azaleas here, right? We had that built, we had that built when we, when we moved into our house, we suggest then these Amazon listeners, right?

Jeff:                                       23:24                     They’re listening to us right now. And they’re saying, Hm, you know what you’re saying makes sense yet, but how do I get a master plan for my business? Because there are so many things. And the bigger challenge is the changes that Amazon and other companies, brands, other brands are having. Um, without consulting Steve or Jeff, they don’t call and say, Hey, what do you think these changes are happening? And makes it more challenging? How do, how does a small company figure out a master plan and does that master plan stay in place or does it have to evolve? I know that’s two loaded questions, but you get what I mean? Yeah. So first off, I think that a master plan should all I can answer that one about evolving really, really simply. And that is that a master plan should always have a desired outcome and at a timeframe and within that timeframe, you need to make a decision to either pivot or persevere.

Jeff:                                       24:23                     A, it’s a concept from, um, startup nation. It’s a, a book about the, the, uh, startups within, uh, the Israeli community and the talks about these, um, inflection points in your business where you have to make a choice to either pivot or persevere. What, can I ask you a question right there because I want to lose that, those, um, inflection point is, is that what you call inflections? Yup. Okay. Those inflection points, how do I identify one? How do I know I have an inflection point? Is it a left or right decision or is it a, wow, the world’s my oyster. I can, I heard a bundling conversation. Yeah, I think that, um, I think that just my own opinion, the more focused you are, are on your own business and what will drive you for success, the less you will let the shiny objects along the way to distract you.

Jeff:                                       25:15                     Um, and so for instance, during the, during the workshop we did last week, um, we were talking about something and I made, and I don’t remember the specific point, but I made a specific point to remind people that, um, it was a really good thing they could do for their business, but if that wasn’t what was important to their business, don’t do it. So it’s an inflection point to some people, but not to everyone. Correct. And that’s the kicker is, is, you know, if you’re launching your first product, then your first inflection point could be, um, identifying the product and then it’s identifying the manufacturer and then it’s, you know, and, and, and the metric that you’re following is profitability and you have to, um, allow yourself to not become emotional. Like, you know, so just talking about that phase of the business you, you, where most people fail as they start to become emotional and wanting a product to succeed versus the numbers telling them that they will succeed or fail.

Jeff:                                       26:19                     And I made that mistake. My first product that I launched on Amazon was an utter failure, an utter failure. I lost, I lost a lot of money on it, um, because I was quick to want to get something up. Um, and while the data was telling me that it was, that it was good, the data wasn’t telling me that it would be great. And so I didn’t have enough margin for my product to ultimately be successful. Now that’s also a lesson that I’ve learned. So I can’t, I, when I made that decision, I thought I had enough margin and I learned by lesson from my failure. And when I went to go bring my next product to market, I was able to look for something with a higher profit margin. And I knew I wouldn’t play with something that, um, that, that didn’t work from that perspective.

Jeff:                                       27:14                     And in that second product, my failure was I didn’t do inspections at the warehouse and I brought product in and the product actually started doing really well and, and my, and, and I started getting a lot of complaints of missing parts. And, um, it was, it was a backgammon set. It wasn’t manufactured properly. There was stitching coming out. And so, you know, you learn these little lessons along the way that help you to make better decisions, um, in the future. And even though I’ve heard people over and over again talk about doing, um, ASEN inspections and warehouse inspections, um, I was quick to want to bring this product to market cause I felt I had an opportunity and I skipped a few steps and I ended up paying for it, um, in the long run. And I think that, uh, the best lessons you’re going to learn or from the successes and mistakes that you make in your business, um, and you have to have moments where you persevere and you push through them or you pivot and you send all of your products to, um, you know, to be destroyed.

Jeff:                                       28:25                     So it’s almost like milestones you established, right? These little mile markers. Okay. I’m past the first stage check. Okay, boom. Now I have another stage check. I even Indi, uh, I remember one day we were in the warehouse and we were doing something and he’s like, Oh my God, look at that. He’s taking pictures and he’s like sending it to his as Chinese company. And he’s like, I bet he was using this particular company for years and he did not get this container inspected. He’ll say that. He tell you that story and sure enough, the product, whatever, I can’t say what it was, but it would, it had problems. And he’s like, it was the one he didn’t do. He said, I’ve done it every time. This time I needed it in faster. So I didn’t want to slow things down and boom, he was disappointed.

Jeff:                                       29:05                     And so that still happens. So these milestones are, they’re almost like absolutely that a milestone can be that, or a milestone could be removing complexity from your business, right? Like, um, I don’t like bookkeeping. So the first thing I outsourced in my business was a bookkeeper. Okay. Um, I don’t like, I started to get complexity with, um, logistics and I started to get to the point where I needed to, um, bring in larger quantity and keep it at a warehouse. And so I, you know, I found that, I call it, yeah. I mean, I, I worked for the Eddie and, and he’s, and he now warehouses it for me. Um, you know, he’s, he’s 30 minutes from me. Um, and so he warehouses it for me and I’ve got that all set up similar to the type of system that you, that you’ve been building.

Jeff:                                       29:54                     And, and so they’re, they’re different. They’re different inflection points in your business. That was an inflection point of scale. Okay, I now have something that’s successful and I want to be able to scale it. And I ran out of inventory twice. And you know, I mean, it’s killer when you run out of inventory. Oh God. And so I was starting to realize how much money, it wasn’t how much money it was going to cost me to implement the three PL serviced. It was how much money was I losing by not implementing the three PL service? And, and so my, my mindset shifted because my original mindset was, Oh, I can order three months worth and bring them in. But like you said, Amazon changed, right? So we used to be able to bring in three, six months worth of inventory, have it sit at Amazon, but then they, they brought the, uh, the performance index into play, which means if my inventory sits there and doesn’t turn fast enough, I’m gonna start paying fees.

Jeff:                                       30:57                     Um, or they had the longterm storage fees of your product sat there for too long. And I had to change the way I was approaching my business to make sure, cause I needed to ensure that my fees would remain consistent. Um, and so it’s not necessarily about them being cheaper, but it’s about them being consistent. And I needed to ensure that I wasn’t running out of inventory because the lack of inventory was continuing to, uh, reduce my ability to maximize my sales velocity. And so those were problems that I never could have realized when I initially launched the product. And what w as a, I don’t want to lose that because you had a master plan and then you added a new inflection point. That’s what you’re saying. So that’s the evolution. You added a new inflection point outside of your control because things change.

Jeff:                                       31:54                     Hmm. Well my ma, I mean, I’ll be, I’ll be very real with you. Um, I never opened an Amazon business with the intent of being a large, successful Amazon. Now you’re having some success and, and it’s, it’s kind of, I mean, for lack of a better term, it’s kind of like a drug. Yeah. Oh yeah. You know, so it’s like, so, so anymore. Right. And, and so it’s like I opened up an Amazon business because, um, I need, I need to be able to, um, explain how things work. And the reality that I found was that that working with other people and, you know, being a teacher is different than being a student. Hm. Um, and by being a student, I’ve become a much better teacher and I can, I can learn things. Um, you know, in conversations with Amazon, they can tell me things about how Amazon advertising works, and then I can go create campaigns around that concept and I can see that it was either full of crap or that it actually made a difference in my business.

Jeff:                                       33:02                     And so I’ll give you a great example. Um, and I’ve been telling people this forever, but there’s a report in Amazon advertising that’s called the top of placement report that shows you, um, how your ads perform when they’re at the top of the placement versus in the rest of the page. And, um, from that report you can see what your conversion differences. And what I identified in my own product was that when I was on the top of the page, my conversion was almost double what I was throughout the rest of search. So that was a clue. So, so I created a campaign that really heavily targeted a particular keyword for top of page. And I pay, like my math would have told me that I never should have paid more than a dollar 80 for a click. I pay I think three 60 for a click for top of page, and it’s my highest converting, lowest a cost keyword.

Stephen:                             33:56                     Okay? So let’s just pause this back. So you realize you get a clue, you run a report, you get a clue, and it says, mm, when you’re on top of the page, you sell more. Boom. All right. There’s the simple, that’s the short version. So you spent money, more money than you thought you would have or should have to stay at the top of the page and boom, your sales have increased. So because you’re up there, you’re selling so much more at the other end of it, the co that your average cost you’re saying is much lower.

Jeff:                                       34:32                     Yeah, and I don’t want to look at, I mean, listen, we could talk about this specific tip and how to implement it, but I think it’s more about that we’re again, well no, it’s back to you. If you weren’t selling that, you wouldn’t have realized that. Right. And, and it, and it goes back to somebody shared information with me and I was able to take action on that information to identify how it would impact my business. And I’m very clear to say that that doesn’t work for everybody. And you have to mathematically an advertising probably is the hardest of all of this because there’s general rules, like get your product’s inspected and we all say it’s a best practice to do it. Um, advertising is one of the really difficult parts of the business where just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it’ll work for somebody else.

Stephen:                             35:22                     Right, right. But, but again, that gives you the ability to say, Hey, Steve, I, I understand your challenges. Here’s what we did in my business and here’s what happened. Here are the results I have. That’s a real conversation as opposed to saying, well, the, you know, when, if you go read Amazon’s training, they say you do this. That’s a different conversation. And it’s much more believable. Much more,

Jeff:                                       35:42                     yeah. Relatable. Maybe that’s the better phrase. Yeah. And I think like, I don’t know, I F I feel like everybody in this, if you really look at it, most everybody in this space is either a seller or they worked for Amazon. And, and what I’ll almost argue is that those who are actually sellers are smarter than those who worked for Amazon. And I’m not knocking any of the Amazon gurus that are out there because a lot of the ones who are in the space today and have built great names for themselves, have done both. Right. Right, right. Um, and I think that, um, but, but I, I know that when you go to Amazon and you talk to them and a lot of sellers have seen this over time as you talk to Amazon and it’s like they’re giving you the tech, they’re giving you the textbook version of how to do something and, and you know, the reality is that, that what they’re telling you doesn’t always work.

Jeff:                                       36:37                     And I think that what’s important, what’s been important to me and, and the Jeff Cohen brand, the seller labs brand is, and, and you know, you’ve known this about me from the get go one, I never want to tell you anything that’s going to get your account in trouble. Um, that’s a, that’s like a, a like, that’s like a staple, like part of my persona that I take very seriously. Um, if, if I’m never going to share information that somebody could use and then come back and go, I got suspended because I heard this from Jeff. Right. Um, that’s, that’s one piece. The second is, is that I want to be able to share information that we have. We have done, we have either implemented for a client or we have done ourselves to know that it works as opposed to believing that it works. Um, and a great example is like, I, I support Andy’s um, course. Um, I haven’t gone through Andy’s course, but like I’ve used Andy’s, um, he, he has this whole detailed spreadsheet and I’ve used his spreadsheet to identify my products, um, to understand how he looks at product identification different than how somebody else looks at product identification. And so I’m not just rubber stamping and I know people don’t know this about you, but I probably get a message from you once or twice a week that says, do you know this person? Do you think they’re credible? Um, and half the amount of your, one of my filters

Stephen:                             38:14                     too, because I, I just don’t know that they’re sales people. They sell me or the PR companies are like, Steve, this guy has got the best thing since sliced bread. I mean, it’s going to be amazing. I don’t know what to do. So I go to the people I trust who I’ve seen over time. Jeff, that’s the other thing about indie stuff. I’ve seen him over time consistently, you know, do what each challenge that’s in the space, the challenge that’s

Jeff:                                       38:35                     in this space, um, for Amazon sellers is, um, do you chase the latest, greatest fad or do you stick to the tried and true for the longterm win? And I think this is a, um, this, this is a, which has been more successful. Would you say? W when you look at the people, you know, and you know way more than I do, I know a lot of people, you know, way more than I do who, who’s having success. So, so I’ll be, I’ll be very real. We’ll have another one of our Barbara Walter moments. Alright, Jeff, you know, I want you to relax. I want you to tell me, you know, I want you to, let’s be honest, it’s just you and I. Come on. Yeah, tell me. I think that it’s very difficult to get started in this space and be completely 100% white hat.

Jeff:                                       39:24                     Um, I think you have to touch into gray. Um, and, and, but the risk of your business at the early days of using some of the gray is, is not very, it’s not extremely risky. And because the brand isn’t too far along, it’s not, you don’t have that much inventory. You haven’t, you haven’t gotten to scale yet. Yes. And as your, as your business grows you, it’s something that you have to become significantly more cognizant of. And it may be even something that you have to backtrack from. Let me give you an example. Um, uh, listing variations. Um, it was very common practice two years ago to, um, to, we’ll call it fib on listing variations and um, and the terms of service around listing variations over the last two years have not really changed. Okay. But it was pretty common two years ago. Um, and there was total black, um, which Blackhat, which is like associating yourself to a ghost listing, a listing that has reviews but is no longer selling, that has nothing to do with your product.

Jeff:                                       40:41                     That’s a total black hat technique. So that I don’t go, go give me an example. So tell me, give me a real example. I’m, I, I real example, I’m selling a baseball and I find a pair of, I find an eyeglass holder that’s no longer selling on Amazon, but it has 300 reviews. So the nice thing is still live. The listing is still alive, but not active because it doesn’t have inventory dormant. And I take my baseball, we’ll call it a baseball holder. Um, I take my baseball holder and I attach it to my eyeglass holder as a variation, which then gives me the connection to the review count, even though the reviews, the reviews. So it’s at that time, two years ago, it was just the, the algorithm said, Ooh, lots of reviews, therefore it’s good, regardless of what it is. Didn’t matter. You’re selling cars and you put it on that.

Jeff:                                       41:38                     Totally. That’s totally black hat. That’s been that way. You know, not to do that for years. But what people were doing was I have a baseball holder, um, and I’m gonna make a red, blue and pink version of the baseball holder. Um, that’s a, that’s a variation. That’s legal. Um, yeah, I’m going to make a baseball holder and I’m gonna make a one pack, a two pack and a three pack. That’s totally illegal. That’s legit. It’s not legit to have one of your variations be pink and one of your variations to be a two pack variations are supposed to be one or the other. Um, interesting. It’s not, it’s you’re not supposed to take your variations and make a variation of baseball holder and then one of the variations is a baseball with a holder. OK. um, totally separate product. It should be, that’s what Amazon wants is a separate completely

Stephen:                             42:35                     product. Yeah. I think that’s not what people were teaching for a long time. The bundle of courses where, Hey, take an ad, a pen with that paper and man, now all of a sudden you’ve got writers

Jeff:                                       42:46                     package. Yep. And so that’s something that, um, I, I’d call it gray. Um, but I would say that I like to use the, the analogy of driving down the highway with a speed limit. The speed limit was 55 and you were going 75, you might get pulled over, but you’re probably gonna just be allowed to go. Well today as we’re starting to see more and more cases coming through that’s now like driving 85 90. And so, um, it may be, is something that you did when you launched your first product to get yourself going, um, or, or, or to boost the product and its sales in its early days. But now if you’ve got a hundred thousand or a million dollar business, if you do that, you’re putting your whole business at risk. And so argument

Stephen:                             43:38                     though, you know, look there, you know, all these external Asian, uh, accounts are being created and they’re doing it. And so therefore, if I don’t do it, I’m not going to be successful.

Jeff:                                       43:51                     Yeah. And I, so I, I’ve heard that argument. Um, there’s actually a guy who sells, uh, a very expensive $10,000 product. And his whole argument is, you’re, you’re not doing this to cheat Amazon. You’re doing this to fight against those who cheat Amazon. And I’m like, yeah, but you’re cheating on Amazon by doing it. Like you’re not cheating Amazon, you’re cheating the terms of service by doing it. Um, I think the answer to that is you have to, again, you have to make the determination of what you’re going to have, what you want your business to be, how much risk you want to take in your business and where you see yourself going in the long run. I think that most sellers, um, that I’ve met that are doing a half million or more a year are pretty clean in their business. The risk averse, their, their, their version of risk starts to decline significantly.

Jeff:                                       44:49                     Um, there’s definitely ones who are still like, Oh, you know, nobody’s proven to me that, that’s really illegal. Um, then there are some things out there that, you know, are still debatable, launching services, um, review. Pretty, pretty active. Yeah. Different ways of doing reviews and exporting your data and using Manny chat. You know, there’s things like that that are all sit in the gray and, uh, you know, any, what do they say? Uh, anybody can convince themselves that what they’re doing isn’t wrong. And so if you convince yourself that what you’re doing isn’t wrong, that’s fine, but understand the risk you’re taking with your business because it’s Amazon’s play Playbox it’s Amazon sandbox and you’re asking to play in it.

Stephen:                             45:36                     You know, one of the things that I think another thing that affects people, when you start taking responsibility for other people, meaning you have staff who has families, right? And you start having those responsibilities, um, you want to put their lives into the potential of getting your account suspended because you’re trying to advance the system you’re trying to play with the system. Sorry, I think you’re right. I think what you’re saying is it’s a sliding scale of risk. Um, it’s very minimal in the beginning as you scale up as it gets legs. So is that, what does that, what people are doing is when they see something getting legs, that’s when their risk meter gets, gets more, uh, in tune?

Jeff:                                       46:13                     I think that, um, I, I really think it comes down to the individual seller, but I think that most, and I’m looking mostly at brands, so most brands who have built an established themselves, um, are building themselves in a, in a manner using, um, external websites like Shopify or external resources, like a blog or Facebook channel to build a community to be less dependent on Amazon. Um, and they’re seeing Amazon as a distribution channel, um, that’s part of a greater, that’s part of a cog in their greater [inaudible].

Stephen:                             46:52                     One of many distribution channels. Yeah. Yeah. I think out Amazon doing the same thing when they sell their Amazon basic batteries. When you buy something electronic, they’re not pushing Eveready batteries on me. They’re pushing Amazon basic batteries. Right. So that’s kind of a gray hat kind of thing too, isn’t it? I mean, it is. Absolutely.

Jeff:                                       47:12                     Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, don’t, don’t, uh, I’ll disagree with that and I think that it’s a, it’s probably one of the things that I’ve changed my opinion on the most over the last couple of years. Um, I still believe that I want to share information that won’t, that get people in trouble. Um, and I want people to know information that will get them in trouble. Um, but I’ve probably be a couple more of the realist that, um, there are times in your business that you have to take a little bit of risk and that’s no different than driving down the road and the light turns yellow and you decide to gun it through the light, right? Like, like you’re taking a little bit of risk. You’re taking, uh, you’re increasing your risk by doing that. And, um, I think that that’s the, the choices that we have to make in, in, in having a business and in building a business, um, we take risk by buying inventory. Um, however you acquire it, you’re, you’re, you’re taking, you’re taking risk. And so almost everything you do in your business is in assessment of risk and reward.

Stephen:                             48:20                     You know, I’m thinking about the speed limit. Again, that was a good example, right? That analogy is that, you know, you’re doing, you’re pushing it. The speed limit is 55 and you’re pushing 60, 62 whatever it is. And in my area, they changed some of the speed limits to 70. Now that guy way back in the day who was doing 59, he got pulled over and got a ticket. It’s like, wait the road, you know, and now all of a sudden the law changed. And so that’s part of it. The rules change, they evolve. And I assume this is my Steve’s assumption and I think I’m right, is that these rules aren’t put in place to stifle a sales because that’s where they make their money. They put these rules to try to prevent, uh, the customers negatively being effected. Right. These because somebody’s pushing the envelope so far, they have to put a, a rule or a law kind of in place to, to keep it in under some level of control. And so, and that’s reasonable, but they do evolve. And I appreciate it. What you’re saying is that the successful people, especially in the beginning, are pushing the envelope, not breaking it, but they’re pushing it. Right?

Jeff:                                       49:22                     Yeah. And I think, I mean, I, I think you, I think you hit the nail. I think you hit the nail on the head with that. And like that’s the, that’s the kicker to it. Um, and I just, I, I mean, going back to the gurus, I just wish that gurus were more open and sharing, um, when they were shit, when they’re sharing things, that they’re, that they’re open and sharing the risks that you’re taking with the actions that you’re doing. And I think that that’s, that’s one of the things that I think sometimes, um, we hear somebody say it, so we believe that it’s true and we believe that we can do it, but by doing it, we get ourselves in trouble. And you can’t at the end go, well, the guy in the passenger seat told me to go through the red light. So I, I went through the red light, like a bartender older than me.

Stephen:                             50:09                     Hi. Hey.

Jeff:                                       50:10                     Right. His fault. Yeah. You gotta take response. And I think you brought up a really good point. And it’s something that, that I’ve seen it over the life and growth of seller labs, like we take our employees and our, and our responsibility to our employees very seriously in terms cash in the bank to cover payroll and health insurance and all these other things. And so, um, one of the other things that happens in a business as a business evolves is that things that can impact your business, um, one day become very minor another day. And so like your warehouse is a great example. If, if I, you know, if I was to, you may today take anyone on as a warehouse client because you’re, you’re getting started, but six or 12 months from now, it’s half the people you would take on today you would say no to because you now know there’s a minimum level of profit that you need to be able to make.

Jeff:                                       51:10                     And so a lot of people come to us and they ask us to do things and we’re like, yeah, you know, it just, it’s not enough to impact our business. And it sounds really horrible to say, but like, you know, when you’re trying to move the needle on a, on a $10,000 business, anything you do can move that needle. When you’re trying to do that on $1 million business, it’s hard to move the needle. And so if you’re a half million dollar Amazon seller and you’ve been successful, let’s just say you’ve been successful in doing that with two products, then in theory for you to get to a million, you probably need to add five more products because you’re not going to be as lucky to just get two more winners, right? Um, and, and, and those are the risks that you have to take in your business because you need to continue to fund what you already have, but be able to take the risk and bringing new stuff in to be able to expand your business to the level you want to get it at. Um, and maybe you don’t want it any bigger. Maybe you’re good with it being a half million and making, you know, it serves a purpose, right? Right. Maybe you just want an extra 50,000 a year and it, and it nets you 50 grand, 10% after all expenses and everything paid and you’re just, you’re just happy with that.

Stephen:                             52:26                     We, uh, we have a client that is a cue for seller and his product came in maybe June, maybe may end of may, June, but it’ll be all gone within the next two weeks. And that’s his business model. And guess what, that’s for him. I’m sure he plans all the rest of the year to do this. And you know, big, I mean it’s, it’s big. It is seven figures it bank, but that’s his model. You know, I was thinking of the title for this and I got this pivot or persevere in your Amazon business based upon your relative risk meter. I think. I think the risk meter is so important. I love the way you describe it sliding as your business goes bigger because I think you’re right. I mean in workman’s comp you start dealing with all these other issues, right? We had insurance inspectors here yesterday.

Stephen:                             53:12                     I mean these things start to affect your business. And so you have to start planning for those things. But in startup or back in our warehouse, we use used equipment to start our warehouse. Now we’re like, okay, we need reliability, we need cheap, we need to invest. Um, seller labs has lots of products. I’m not pitching any of them today. We use scope, we use feedback genius. We use lots of their products. Um, if you go to seller labs.com, you can find out about all that Jeff was talking about. They have a very large advertising business. Uh, they do big clients, they’ve got a lot of big clients. Um, it’s been a big piece of their business. Um, but again, I look at consistency, you know, the five years, four years that we’ve known each other. Again, I look to see who’s leading and who’s consistent over time and, uh, that you guys have really, really done well. And so I appreciate it. I can put your contact, Jeff. Um, I know you’re reachable on Facebook, but also, uh, email, kind of put that in there

Jeff:                                       54:09                     just in case somebody wants to reach out and it, it, it, I always say, you know what, connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s the best way, um, to connect with me is to connect with me on LinkedIn. Um, so maybe put a, we can put a link to my LinkedIn page. I’ll put it there. I love talking about Amazon also. Um, you know, were, I didn’t even tell you this, but you know, we’ll be doing our fifth year of resonate this year in 2020 and we’re moving the date to September Oh. To not be in conflict with, uh, all the other trade shows that seem to occur between April, may and June. Um, and that’ll be in Atlanta again. We’re limiting, uh, to 125 attendees. Uh, so we’re going to keep it small, which, uh, which has been something that a lot of people have said they’ve enjoyed. Um, and so, you know, we’d love a, well, it’s back to the beginning of the discussion. Yeah.

Stephen:                             55:00                     When you’re, you’re around iron sharpens iron. When you’re around people who have similar issues because your issues as you scale your business are going to be different. Um, I just met at funny story, a guy I met at not the last resonate the resonate before. Great guy and I was in, where was I? I was in San Diego this past week and we’re, I’m sitting there talking to a company and we’re talking about blah blah blah. He knew him. We sit in there talking because their company is so strong and it’s just hilarious to have those worlds collide cause I was there for one of our clients and see those worlds collide because of the level of success that they’ve had. And and I would say that that client would say it’s resonate that’s helped them. So I think it’s pretty awesome. So I will put all the contact information again, that risk meter I love. I love that your mind has changed. And again it’s because you’re a seller, you run into the same problems we do. That relevancy is so important. So if you’re having challenges in your business, reach out to Jeff, a wealth of information and there is no charge to talk to Jeff that you don’t have a charge. You don’t have a consulting fee? D

Jeff:                                       56:06                     no I don’t. I don’t charge. I don’t do consulting. But uh, no, but I might ask you to, I might ask you to buy one of our software.

Stephen:                             56:13                     There you go. Hey dude, I really appreciate it. It won’t be as long next time before we chat. Um, I really appreciate it. Again, consistency over time. The best predictor of future performance is past and when you see that consistently, that’s what you look for. Thank you so much. I wish you nothing but success. Thanks. Such a terrific guy. And again, I look at people over time, I think we’ve known each other almost five years and consistency and they’ve been sponsors on my show in the past and I’m assuming they give me links and stuff like that. I’m not, I just appreciate what they do. And again, I love consistency over time. And I think a seller labs is one of those companies. So you know, they’ve got a ton of different products. They help you with advertising. They’ve got scope, which I like. Again, I can look at keywords from my competitors and then utilize them myself.

Stephen:                             57:01                     That’s very valuable to us. Um, they’ve got feedback genius. They’ve got so many other tools. Go check them out. Seller labs.com reach out to Jeff on LinkedIn. It just, you know, again, when you’re stuck and you don’t know who to ask, Jeff is one of my filters. He mentioned it there, but it’s the truth. I get PR companies all the time asking me, you know, Hey, can I get on your show getting on your show? I’m like, I got to check them out. And so Jeff is one of my filters that I run their names by because he knows so many people and I look for, again, I’m trying to avoid bringing you in to the fly by night type of people. I don’t want those in my life, so I don’t, I clearly don’t want to add them to yours. E-commerce, momentum.com e-commerce, momentum.com take care.

Cool voice guy:                  57:41                     Thanks for listening to the e-commerce momentum podcast. All the links mentioned today can be found@incomersmomentum.com under this episode number, please remember to subscribe and like us on iTunes.

 

Stephen-Peterson

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