E167: Overcoming Serious Beginner Mistakes – Under the Hood with James Treloar

Imagine having finally decided to take the plunge and sell on Amazon. You've figured out what to sell, you've placed your first order from a Chinese manufacturer, you've set up your listing.

Your product arrives in FBA warehouses and just when you're ready to get your first sale, you notice that there are tons of other sellers on Amazon selling the exact same thing, and all for lower prices.

You wait days and weeks but sales are barely coming in. Now you start to worry about your inventory sitting in warehouses eating money, and will continue doing so, unless you sell more…

…or pull your inventory off Amazon and liquidate.

That is not a pretty picture.

This problem can happen to anyone, especially to those selling for the first time and diving head first without much knowledge on how this all works.

But while being put in this situation truly sucks, there are still some things that can be done to turn the situation around.

This is what James and I talk about in this Under the Hood episode.

Some conversation points:

  • How he got started in ecommerce
  • The fatal mistakes that created a whole mess of problems
  • The inventory paradox
  • Avoiding “me too” products and differentiating for defensibility
  • The importance of product photography and Enhanced Brand Content
  • The proper way to validate and launch products
  • Why you should always align your interests with that of Amazon's

If you'd like to be featured on your own Under the Hood episode and get free business advice from me, just sign up here.

Resources mentioned:

Under the Hood
EcomCrew Premium
E148: How Digital Products Can Bolster Your Ecommerce Business

Full Audio Transcript

Mike: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 167 of the EcomCrew Podcast. You could go to EcomCrew.com/167 to get to the show notes for this episode. And today we're going to be having James Treloar on the show with us doing an Under the Hood segment. And for those of you new to the podcast, Under the Hood is where we take podcast listeners, give them one free hour of coaching and record that and turn it into a podcast. So if you'd like to be on your very own episode of Under the Hood, go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood to sign up today. And right after the intro, we're going to get right into it with James.

Mike: Hey James, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast my friend.

James: Happy to be here.

Mike: Thank you, thank you. And so just so everybody knows this is a segment we're doing called Under the Hood. So James is a podcast listener and heard about our Under the Hood segment. You can go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood to learn more. But basically the idea here is for us to interview James in the first 10 to 15 minutes and get a better understanding of his business and what he's doing there so I can give him some actionable advice for all the questions that he's going to have for us. And hopefully it'll help James out quite a bit. And it'll also hopefully be really good content for the audience. So the first question I've been asking everyone James, I'm just kind of curious about this in everyone's journey is how did you get into e-commerce?

James: Well, I guess the first I dipped my toe into it's probably 10 or 15 years ago when I was sort of buying and selling vinyl records. But that was more of a hobby at the time, and I wish I recognized the opportunity that was right in front of me. So I didn't look at it again until about two years ago. And obviously a lot of change between in that time, but essentially came about with Amazon FBA because I was living overseas at the time.

I was in — I'd been in the Philippines for about four or five years, and I was doing a lot of investment stuff with property back in Australia. I've been doing that since I was quite young. And I had a bit of cash sitting in the bank and I was a bit restricted with what I could do with it because I was overseas at the time. So I was looking around at the whole sort of make money online thing and just looking for anything I could sort of do with my time and also to put some money into. And I'd started building websites and doing the whole affiliate thing and I guess a natural progression to that was stumbling across the Amazon FBA thing.

So it was a pretty exciting opportunity. I dove in with both feet and have created a whole mess of problems as a result of doing so. But it's certainly been a very steep learning curve over the last couple of years. And while I'm certainly not turned off the opportunity, I know there's a lot of things I did wrong. If I can clean up, I can certainly make a go of this business.

Mike: Okay, fair enough. So we’ll kind of get into the mistakes in a little bit, but I'm just kind of curious. So you've been doing this for two years. What niche, what kind of products are you selling? Are you doing it just on Amazon? Do you sell through your own website? Let's kind of get into that kind of breakdown.

James: Yeah, it's just a range of baby products. So there's a few like grooming type products and bathing products and quite a few breastfeeding covers and scarves and all those sorts of things.

Mike: Okay, got you. And then as far as channel split, is it all Amazon, or do you do stuff on Shopify, eBay, or things like that?

James: Yeah it's all on Amazon at the moment. I do have a separate website set up and that uses the Shopify buy button. But I haven't put a lot of time into actually driving traffic to it. I did put a little bit of time into using Google AdWords just to test it out, but it wasn't converting very well. So I sort of put that on the backbone while I fix up some other stuff.

Mike: Okay. And so you said you've been doing this for about two years. So in 2016, what was your revenue and then in 2017 what are you looking at?

James: Just one second. I'd say it would be around the 50,000 mark each year. Sorry, I was just loading to my Cash Cow Pro. That should bring something more exact. Perfect. I'm pretty sure this year it was about 55,000 the last time I checked. So while that number might sound reasonable, if I looked at the actual profit though, it'd be barely profitable I'd say.

Mike: Okay, so profits about even.

James: Yeah. Yeah, I'd say it'd probably be — it'd be slightly into the red. Yes, 52,000 this year, and I’m not sure if it'll let me go back that far. But it would have been a little bit higher last year I'd say. The first six months or so things were going quite well, but this year things have certainly slowed up quite a lot, and the expenses have exploded along with like storage fees and especially around the Q4 time with how the rules changed around there. So yeah, I haven’t got an exact figure for you, but it probably would have been about that 50, 60,000.

Mike: Okay, so 2016, about 50,000, 2017 about 52,000. And both of those years, you're netting basically at breakeven?

James: Pretty much yeah.

Mike: So that probably is in the mistakes category. And we'll kind of dig into maybe why some of that's happening. But before we get into that, still I just kind of curious as far as goals for you with this, like if you could define your perfect 2018, what would that look like for you? I mean, are you looking to do this as a full time gig? Are you just looking to do this as a side hustle? What are you trying to achieve out of this in 2018?

James: Yeah, and it's a — well, I mentioned before that I do the property thing quite a lot. Now, the problem with that is you're very much anchored to a job to get things moving because you're constantly applying for the bank loans and all that sort of stuff. So, what I'm essentially looking for is something that's going to replace a reasonable portion of my income so that I can just find the lifestyle thing like a basic lifestyle. It will free up my time to put a lot more into this type of business and also into the investment stuff as well.

So if I sort of get into some more specifics, the first priority in terms of goals is to stop the bleeding, to make sure I sort of get the business to a point where it's actually a value add and it's not sort of costing me money to be in business. Then it's to sort of look at a whole new suite of products with much stronger filters and a little bit more innovation in what goes into them and much higher profit margin so I'm well prepared for the stuff that does go wrong, which I might not have been aware of when I first started out.

And essentially looking to get sort of four to six products that are profitable that I can sort of hold a reasonable amount of consistency on the platform, just so I can sort of show to myself that I can do it and that it does work. And if I could get to a position like that over the next year, then the following year, I'd be looking to sort of scale that up, take that to the next level. And that's the point where I think it might be realistic for it to be a livable income. Yeah, so I hope that wasn't too vague of an answer.

Mike: No, I think it makes a lot of sense. But just to kind of recap and make sure we’re on the same page, it's basically a couple of things in 2018. Number one, you want to stop losing money, which makes perfect sense. It doesn't make sense to spend too much time working and losing money. You can do that on the stock market or something a lot easier, right? And then also to set yourself up to have four to six products that can at least get you on the right track.

So in 2019, it can be something that eventually allows you to supplement your income enough that you can use that with banking loans in Australia. I’m not sure it’s a little bit different there than it is here, but to at least be able to show an income so you can continue to get loans to prove that you have an income to invest the my property.

James: Yep.

Mike: Okay perfect. So let's dig into you mentioned mistakes. Let's get into that, what are those things as you see them?

James: Well, I mean the one that sort of screams out to me — there's two huge ones, and the first is having the best quality product that you can. I was very naive at the time in terms of what would make a good enough product, and I can now say the good enough leaves you very open to people just doing better than you or just copying your product. So it was a completely wrong mindset going into it in the first place. If you haven't got something that you are really confident, has something unique or has a quality edge or something that you can really stand behind, then any work you do on branding will be short lived, if not a waste of time.

And I guess the second main problem is just getting your inventory management right. If you order too much inventory, you get yourself — you back yourself into a corner that it's very, very difficult to get out of. And I think at the time, it was just a combination of one being excited about the opportunity, two, acting on probably dated advice. And three, just not having a full understanding of the cost that it takes you to do business from start to finish in selling an item. And once you get it into Amazon that can only be if it's done poorly that the cost that you were to buy your product to ship it in there and your actual Amazon selling phase, that can be dwarfed by the storage phase and all that sort of stuff if you don't get these right.

Mike: Yeah, I agree with all that. So I mean, it sounds like the two big problems really boiling it down is you were probably over anxious and there's a lot of people I think on the internet that talk about how easy it is to sell on Amazon, just get anything in and throw it up there and it'll start selling, and you didn't necessarily differentiate and improve the products enough and now it's just lost in a sea of other products that are very similar and also inventory management. So it sounds like you haven't ordered too little, but actually, it's been the other way, you ordered too much and now what do I do kind of thing?

James: Yeah, yeah, pretty much. And I guess just on the differentiation thing, the things that I have differentiated have not necessarily been in a way that consumers want. So, really being able to sort of test that in a way so you get some sort of proof of concept and validation before you do the big order. That's something that I do need to do a lot better.

Mike: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. So I mean this isn't a pitch for our course. But this is something that we talk about like for hours in our course. And I'll gladly give you a preview and then talk about the highlights so the things that we talk about here and things that we've done. But I agree as far as the differentiation thing. I mean, ideally, I like to basically leapfrog what's already on Amazon if possible, and think of like every possible improvement that I can do.

I mean, I think that what you'll hear is go to Alibaba and just find a product or go to a manufacturer, make just a small modification and that's going to be good enough. But the reality of it is that isn't the case. I mean, someone types in baby blanket or whatever it might be, I don't know, these are products that you're selling, we can kind of go over a couple of those to go over some examples of things you could do. But the best you can do is differentiate yourself with the pictures and photography and the branding, and if you can't illustrate the main differences from the next guy that's already like up their ranking number one and doing well, it's definitely a pretty tough place to make money at.

So the things that we've worked out it like when we were building like I look at ColorIt is kind of the example that we use all the time is building community around having legitimate five star products. And that to me is the bar that we kind of try to achieve. If you have a five star product, then it probably is differentiated. It's those things kind of go hand in hand. So I look at gel pens as a for instance. And we have one of the very few sets of gel pens on all of Amazon that are five star compared to most of our competitors that are three and a half or four stars and in some cases, four and a half stars.

And the things that we've done to differentiate there is first of all we went to the Canton Fair, walked the entire office supply floor testing every single gel pen that we could get our hands on until we found one that was actually better and different than the rest. Just the way that the ink flowed and all that was a differentiator because like most of them are scratchy or they don't – the ink doesn't come out at enough velocity or whatever to color with versus just writing with because most pens are made for writing and not coloring.

So, that was step one and step two was like okay, well like what else can we do here? Like we just sit down and brainstorm like, what else can we do to differentiate this product in a crowded market space? And that was okay well, we're going to — number one, we're going to put a name on every single pen because like you get 50 pens in a sort of pens, which one is which? If I want to go color with that same color again, how do I know exactly what shade of red I had in my hand? You can easily like pick up the wrong one and kind of ruin your drawing.

So we put a name on that which is something that no one else had ever done, and now it just kind of seems so simple, but at the time no one else would ever put a name on the pen. And we copyrighted that and it's our naming convention so we can stop people from copying that. But to do that, the MOQ shot way the heck up and we just had to have confidence in ourselves that we were going to be able to sell through that much larger MOQ. And again, just knowing that we were differentiating in a way that no one else was, we thought that that alone was enough.

But we actually didn't stop there. We then on top of that custom designed a case, so a gel pen case. It's like a travel case to include with that as well just to increase the perceived value significantly. So, it allows us to raise our retail price compared to everybody else out there by also having that case. And then in addition to that, one of the things that I foresaw being a problem in looking at all the other reviews out there, people were complaining that when they were coloring with them, the ink ran out quickly, which isn't really something to really complain about because that's exactly what's going to happen. It's like one of these things where people aren't smart enough to realize that if you’re coloring with a pen all day, especially when it comes out at high volume, the ink is going ran out quickly.

So, one of the other things we decided to do was include a set of refills in the box to kind of cut down on those complaints and also again, just really work on that perceived value aspect of it. And then finally, like we put the whole thing together in this like super high quality, almost like Apple quality type box where it's like that thick cardboard, but we actually put a magnet like closure on the box. I mean the box itself costs us like $1 and 50 cents because it's just such a high quality box. But again, it's that whole perceived value and making the customer believe that what they're getting is worth that much more than the next guy.

And so then the result for us is that we were able to able to develop the best seller in the category and sell it for almost double all of our competitors. And so I mean, just kind of going through that exercise with you and kind of giving you an idea of I think what is necessary in like 2018 and beyond when launching products on Amazon. It can't just be going on Alibaba, picking out a product, sticking your label on it, and then sending it in. I just don't see that working long term anymore because everyone else is teaching that, everyone else is doing that. And when everyone else is doing it, and it's that easy, “that easy,” it no longer becomes easy anymore. So hopefully that whole ramble that I just did there kind of gives you some insight and helps you a little bit into what I think is necessary moving forward for you?

James: Yeah, definitely. And I think it takes me back to the day when I sort of first sat down to learn how to do product research. And I guess what you were just talking about there, it shows a genuine like deep understanding of your target market and what they actually care about. And there's no real substitute for putting the time into actually understand that and even sort of going to the Canton Fair, not everyone is going to have the patience to test. I don’t know how many gel pens you tested on the day, but I'm sure it was a hell of a lot.

Mike: Like literally hundreds. It's amazing how many are there.

James: Yeah. And while that sounds like a monotonous task, when you sort of find the right one, it probably jumps out at you after testing 150 crappy ones along the way. But going back to what I was saying before, I would have spent maybe half an hour sort of just scanning, trying to come up with stuff and having almost an empty piece of paper in front of me. And I had a relatively young baby at the time and I had the dolls, I hang on with buying all this stuff and we were buying five of everything.

So, at least we would get a list of everything that we've been buying. And I started going through Amazon, a whole bunch of the stuff sort of met the, I guess the accepted criteria of these many styles. The competition has this many reviews, and yeah, that was pretty much the extent of it. So, I can say that it's – I’m not quite sure what the right word to describe that is, but it's a very thin way to do it. And it's almost showing neglect I guess is the best way I can explain it, a little neglect for what your target customer really wants. It's not about you telling them or you just putting this in front of them and saying, will this do?

You've got to really sort of understand the things that they're looking for, and how you can deliver that better than everyone else. And it's just a function of time and really putting the effort in to understand that. And I know that a lot of people don't. And you say a lot of the things on Amazon, it's clear that people don't. Where I think the tricky part on top of that, just to tie that a little bit further is being able to deliver that in a way so people understand what they're actually getting.

So what you were saying before about being able to charge twice as much as your competitor. It's one thing to have the best product but if you can't make that abundantly clear on your listing, you won't be visible long enough to sell the things, and you drop down very quickly if people sort of see the price and they move on without understanding that value. So, that's certainly something that I guess goes hand-in-hand with it. If you can't have a glowing listing that really helps people understand quickly that that's exactly what they're getting, that it is the best thing out there, I guess it's tough to keep the eyeballs, the Amazon eyeballs.

Mike: Yeah, I completely agree. And I think that 2018 is going to be like the year of photography. I think this is like where everybody is going to be on all the podcasts and e-commerce blogs and courses etc. be talking about photography just like nonstop. And this is something we kind of stumbled upon on our own in an interesting way. It's something like I always knew that like the way that your product is presented with like the photography or just devote the images I should say. It's honestly not just photography but just the images that you choose to display on your listing to convey exactly what you're talking about.

For us, it was like when we first got started, like okay, we'll just get some pictures up there and we'll worry about it later. And then it's okay well, now we're going to — last year, actually, I guess it was even a year before now, were like we're going to hire a professional photographer plus my wife does a lot of photography and we're just going to start like really upping our game on the photography. And we got up on all of our listings, what I considered at the time to be like A plus photography and images. I was just like was really happy with what we had done and achieved there, and it definitely helped our sales.

And earlier this year, we were kind of doing some experiments and some initiative to like even take that up a notch. It was like okay, let's see what we can do by adding some infographics and some other things. And we've been testing some early products with all this and our sales on these products that we replaced the photography with — and keep in mind again like the photography was already good. I mean it was already better than like way above average on stuff that was on Amazon. By taking it up like even another notch, we have literally doubled our sales on these products we've been testing with.

And it's a massive pain in the butt. I mean like especially doing this at scale. I mean it's basically consuming almost three full time people's time right now. I'm trying to replicate this across many, many listings but the results are staggering. And obviously like having double the sales on a product is way better than going and launching another product. So, I mean — and then obviously if you can double your sales, that has a halo effect, especially with Amazon where I expect it to continue to grow from there because the results are still early. So I think where we might end up at the end of the day, if I look six months down the road, it might even be three times the sales on the same product that already again, already had great photography.

And if I look at it, I was never embarrassed by the photography that was on these listings, but I compare it side by side to what we did have. And it's just a massive difference. And it's interesting because this conversation has come up now, I think in pretty much every one of these Under the Hood segments in some way, shape or form because it's such a big thing. So for us, it's a huge initiative for 2018. And after we get off this call, I'll share with you one of the listings in particular that we've done this with to see if you can kind of get an idea.

James: Yep. Yep, it sounds good. I actually, I mean, I've been through a process of upgrading the listings throughout the last year, and I've actually had the opposite experience. And this is why I sort of wanted to point that out as being a piece of the puzzle that I haven't quite nailed yet. In fact, it was after Global Sources back in April, I think it was or March whenever it was, one of the guys who spoke there on the last day, the guy I think was Virtuous Designs. I got in touch with them afterwards.

Mike: Yeah, I remember that guy. They were doing like — that's actually, it's funny you mentioned. That's actually when I kind of had my aha moment was at that exact presentation when he was showing like those little mini infographics and all that stuff, and they basically outsource that stuff in the Philippines. I think I remember the guy you're talking about.

James: Yeah, and this was reasonable and they do really good work. So, I did a bit of an overhaul on my better selling products and I've had the complete opposite experience. I mean, I've never really been able to get back to consistent sales. And I don't think it's because of the images, I think it's a combination of things. But every time I've done something like that, I've never been able to get that bomb. So the combination of photos or whatever I'm doing to my listing, it's not hitting that nerve with the customers.

Mike: Interesting. Do you want to go over one of the listings? We can kind of talk about it on the fly. I'll stick my neck out here live on the fly if you're interested and just kind of talk through.

James: I’ll send a link through to you on the chat. The thing you'll recognize about this one straightaway, and I actually found this out at the same conference as well. This was my best selling product, and initially I thought that this was going to make up for all of the mistakes that I was making because it was selling well, it was profitable. And then out of all the millions of products on Amazon, Greg Mercer happened to do his public case study on almost exactly the same product.

Mike: Yeah.

James: And ever since then, there's been a flood of sales into the space. And at one stage I was on the bottom of page one consistently, and now I fluctuate between sort of five and 11. It's just been really hard to maintain any traction with it. But that was also partly because of I was out of stock for a little while. I had some — it was the best product I had with the worst supplier that I was dealing with. And it took me such a long time and a whole bunch of quality issues to get them back in stock.

And again I've never been able to sort of maintain a position with the rankings after that. So when you combine that with the influx of new sellers, and because that was selling well, I also ordered a ton of these things. I figured I could send — because I was selling sort of three or 400 a month. And so I think I ordered — I sent about 3,000 over which I was going to drip feed into the FBI warehouse from a storage warehouse.

But because I couldn't get back to those same sales levels, yeah, it's the same problem, PPC costs are up, storage costs are up and it's to the point now where before the next round of long term storage fees, it's almost cheaper for me to just clear them out and put them on a boat, send them over here to Australia and I can sell them slowly here, but at least the storage fees are cut out so I can at least try and recoup a lot of that investment, and like I said, stop the bleeding which won't go away like unless I could snap my fingers and get sales up to a point where I can sell these things over the next four to six months. It is the cheaper option to just send them over here. I'll be parking my car around pellets.

Mike: Yeah, I’ve been there, done that.

James: What happens on [inaudible 00:28:08] just opened here, so I have…

Mike: Yeah, it’s an opportunity.

James: Yeah, they haven't opened it up to all third party sellers yet. I think FBA doesn't kick off till next year, but yeah it's always been the one disadvantage of being an oversea seller is you can't just send 100 units in at a time when you need, so you don't have that level of control. So again it comes back to being smarter about the suppliers you choose to work with, being able to have you supply chain so year around your fright channels right so you can have that lane or inventory. Otherwise, like I said, it's just a killer.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I have a bunch of comments here on this listing and this issue in particular because we've been here and done that kind of thing. So I can give you some really personal experience on this and some suggestions on ways to kind of rectify this situation, hopefully before February. And the first thing I'll say is, obviously just a really bad break with the Greg Mercer thing. He's a friend of mine. I knew of this product before he even launched it. We were talking about it at Sellers Summit like a year ago and I was like, oh, that's a great product. And he was like telling me about the case study he was going to do.

So I'm pretty aware of that particular thing just because I had a conversation with him about it. And that's just like a really like just awful break because like obviously like as soon as he puts out that case study, people are like oh, and they're not smart enough to like go out and find another product to do that same thing with it. They're like, oh, I'm just going to do the same product which is just so stupid in my opinion, because like you have to see that coming. You have to see Greg did this and 10 other people are going to follow because that's like all people like to do.

So, I mean that sacks, because that's like a lot of pressure on this listing that it's tough to recover from. But even still, I have some suggestions, some ideas here. The other thing I'll comment on just real quick is the whole like running out of stock issue. And this is actually in my opinion, like the absolute toughest part of this business, because I have to figure out a way to say without using a curse word because I always say it's a minder, like on a degree that like nothing else I've ever done before. Because it’s just like you're like the devil and the angel having a conversation with you on the shoulder.

It's like order more of these, you don't want to ever run out of stock, but it's like oh, well, like what happens if I get stuck with a whole bunch. And it's like running out of stock is worse and you're like having this conversation back and forth with yourself and with like no historical data. You're just going off of what like Jungle Scout says basically and trying to make a determination on what to order in your initial order, and then if it does do well, then you're like scrambling to reorder again in a panic and trying to get more in so you don't run out of stock. And then you have to hope and pray that the manufacturer you're working with can actually deliver all that on time.

And these are like the undocumented, the things that people don't talk about that are top about this type of business. And this is something that even years into this, like we go through this exercise every time we order something new especially, so you're not alone. What I can say is that we err on the side of caution of ordering too much rather than too little because we have run out of stock before on products. And until this year a couple of the products that we did, I'll just tell you like one of the products was our ColorIt pencils. We were selling 50 to 70 units per day at one point of that product and we ran out of stock. We knew we were going to run out of stock because we had to switch manufacturers because we had a similar issue. The manufacturer wasn't reliable we had to switch manufacturers.


So in the process of switching manufacturers, they took much longer to get the product developed for us than they originally promised. It actually ended up being out of stock for almost four months. Now, of course, when we placed to reorder, we placed a reorder based on 50 to 70 units per day. And that doesn't even count the holidays. This was like just during a normal time of the year. And when we had eventually finally got the product we ordered, it was coming up to the holiday. So we ordered even more to prepare for that. We were super excited, like put the product back up for sale. And I mean, it was literally like crickets. It was one of the worst feelings ever. We were selling one unit every other day kind of thing. I mean just absolutely abysmal.

So, I mean, the lesson learned for us has been like, don't ever run out of stock on something. And we tried all kinds of things to kind of recover this like spending ridiculous amounts on PPC or running some Facebook ads and doing even some gray hat or pushing black hat tactics that I just don't do anymore, just trying to do anything to like get this thing back and recovered. And the thing that ultimately moved the needle for us and got this product back on track for us, which is what I'm going to recommend for you as well was Facebook ad to a Click Funnels landing page, collect their email address, which is an asset you can use later on the thank you page, having a coupon for 40% off the product so you still get their review, which is still important to get reviews.

But doing this over — the key is doing it over a sustained period of time. And this is the thing that we learned just by happenstance, and it made me really understand Amazon's algorithm a lot more. I also read a ton about the algorithm. Sending like a blast out to an email list or running a Facebook campaign for a day or two doesn't do anything. Getting a spike for a short amount of time doesn't do anything. What we discovered was that finally over like a three week period of time, being able to supply like constant pressure on that, so three to five sales a day.

It didn't take a lot, but like three to five sales a day with this couponing strategy and technique, and I used Sellics to track our keyword rankings. One day, like all of a sudden was just like, everything just start shooting up like from completely off the charts to we're falling back on the radar. And then over the next couple of weeks after that, we were ranking well enough that I was able to stop the couponing and get the product kind of back. It's still not doing 50 a day, but it's doing about half of that. And that's enough to like make me happy at this point.

We are at least selling through our inventory now and we'll be able to get out from underneath this product. And what we're going to do is actually re-launch the product with another manufacturer because unfortunately the manufacturer we used this time was like another problem. I don't know what it is with this particular product. But it's been tough for us and it's one that I know that we can be really successful with long term.

The other problem we have with the second manufacturer we used was some just defects and those kind of percolate to the top of the reviews, and people see one or two reviews of a defect and assume that like all 10,000 units you have are going to be that way and it really turns them off, which is why I think that we're ultimately only half the line that we used to be at. But I did recover it. And we had another listing, actually another two listings that were in the same exact situation and we did the same exact method for them, and it fixed it.

So long story short, that would be what I would try doing here. I mean, you basically have till February to kind of test that strategy and see if you can move the needle. I would run — I don't know how much experience you have with Facebook ads or Click Funnels.

James: A little bit.

Mike: Okay, so we can walk through what that would look like and what I would do. So actually I’ll just do that real quick. I mean, I think that first of all you do have some good photography here. I'm like looking at your listing here. Basically, it's I mean if everybody already knows about Greg's task. It's a blanket that's basically like an animal or whatever. And it's clear that you did use a company obviously to help with the photography here. A couple of things, I mean, you have six photos. I would get all nine on there. That actually makes a pretty big difference.

If you can get like another one or two lifestyle photos, I think that those really help. There's only – it’s only just two technically here. Maybe let's just see if there's any other thing. The other thing that I think that you need to do here is enhanced brand content. You don't have enhanced brand content on here. Are you brand registered?

James: No, I'm not.

Mike: Do you have a trademark like in process yet or anything?

James: No, I don’t. I was just about to start doing that when they brought in the trademark rules. And the reason I didn’t go ahead was because the name itself I think needs to change, and like I said, because things weren't going all that well. Yeah, I wasn't sure whether I was going to stick with it long term under that name. So, I wasn't sure if it would be worth doing.

Mike: Okay. Yeah, I mean, I think it is worth doing but you got to pick if this is the niche you want to be. So I mean that's kind of a side conversation whether or not you want to do that or not. But Brand Registry is like definitely really important. Like you have to have it moving forward, like whatever you end up sticking with and moving forward with, like, it's a must for a few different reasons. Number one, it helps prevent hijackers. So when you do get a product that starts selling really well and you finally like saw the magic Rubik’s cube, someone else is going to — I mean Jungle Scout just makes it so easy, right?

So people are going to find your product and they're going to try to copy it, and they're going to try to sell it on your listing. And without Brand Registry, you can't stop them from doing that. So, it's an insurance policy for like when you finally do get a good listing that you can prevent, like all the scammy stuff that's going to happen on Amazon. But that's part one. Part two is being able to do Brand Registry or enhanced brand content, sorry, just be able to do enhanced brand content. I mean it definitely moves the needle. And every like percentage point or two that you can increase your conversion rate with Amazon; it just has like an extrapolated exponential effect.

It's just super important to be able to like have that content there and get your conversion rate up even just a little bit. The other thing that's really important is it lets you run — you can get in the early reviewer program. So when you do launch products, it's only five reviews but five is better than zero. And getting those early reviews is super important and it's a part of the strategy we use to do that. It allows for headline search ads, which do really, really well. So there's all these like other benefits, like the ancillary benefits that in my opinion, like if you weren't — I use a football analogy, and maybe we'll use a rugby analogy for you since you're in Australia.

But in football, there's a limit on the field or whatever at a time and if you're playing with nine against the professional team, they're going to mop you up. I mean you just can't be playing against people like me who are going to sell a similar product or Greg that are going to do all those things and be able to compete, it’s just the way of the world at this point because they're getting that little bit extra difference in conversion rate which allows them to rank. Because at the end of the day like the number one, two, and three actor for ranking on Amazon is someone typing in like hooded bath towel, baby hooded bath towel, whatever the search might be and actually buying the product.

And if you can't convert at the same rate as the guy that's above you or better, you'll never be able to beat them, like ever, it's mathematically impossible. There are other factors that go into the rankings, but like that is by far and away if you like read through like how the A9 algorithm works, that's the number one factor. So it's just a matter of like, what can you do to get your conversion rate up? Anyway, so that's kind of like the whole, like sidebar on why that stuff is important.

But as far as like how I would approach the Facebook ads, I mean, you're also in luck that we're in this niche. And we're working in this niche and doing some kind of some basic things that convert. There is an amazing niche on Facebook of mothers with newborns. And I think there's two or three or four ranges of age. It's been a while since I've looked at this specifically, but I'm not sure what you're targeting here, if it's probably like nine to 12 months or nine to 18 months or something, because you kind of want a baby that can sit up but not — I don't know, what would be the age range of this product for the baby?

James: Oh, it’s six months to toddler.

Mike: Okay, so I'm on point there. So yeah, I mean, there is literally a Facebook audience for that. So that would be my targeting, and obviously in the United States because you're targeting Amazon FBA and just target mothers that have kids at that age, and maybe you can put a couple of other things on there, maybe they like Amazon or maybe they like some higher end brands or something but this isn't really expensive product. And you're selling it for 19.99 and just put in the ad 40% off.

You have a 20% textual, so you can only put so much text on the ad but just use 40% off today only, use language like that, today only even though you're going to run this for a longer period of time, and then just have it go like I said go to a Click Funnels landing page. Do you have Click Funnels account yet?

James: I don't. But I've done something similar in the past on the branded website and I've just set up just build a page.

Mike: Okay, yeah you can do it that way as well, and I'll give you a link to one of our landing pages after this call just so you can see like what we've done with it. And if you end up getting Click Funnels, I can actually give you the exact page, but you can also just copy it and build. It’s just two pages. It's super simple, just a landing page, collect an email address and then a thank you page, and then email them the code and show them a thank you page which it shows them step by step like how to apply the coupon. And that's really all there is to it. And let that run for a while.

This is not going to be a profitable venture. The ads are going to cost you money, the coupon costs you money, but the idea is to move the needle and wean yourself off of that. For us, the long term profitability of that whole exercise has been massive because being able to sell 25 or so units a day of those pencils now organically has made all the difference in the world.

James: Yep. Yeah. Okay, sounds good. So with something we touched on very briefly before, with this affiliate site, I wonder sort of how I could use this sort of to help with the same process, because it's a site that gets sort of about eight and a half to 9,000 views per month, all in the same niche. I guess over the last six months, as I've sort of run out of ideas with Amazon, I've been putting well probably the last 12 months, I’ve been putting a lot more of my time into building up this affiliate site, because I see that as a way to I guess reduce the reliance on PPC, because the PPC just hasn't been profitable.

So, being able to substitute that with free traffic coming from Google and social media, I’d say like it's I guess a much more sustainable advantage because PPC seems to just get more expensive all the time. So I'll send you the URL for the site as well. At the moment, I've just got a couple of — the items are just in a couple of the native ads sort of scattered around the site. They feature in some of the sort of best of content as well.

And for example, for all the articles inside the breastfeeding category, they'll have the nursing covers and scarves that I'm selling all sort of scattered through the related content as well. At the moment, it hasn't been a huge driver of sales, but over the next year, I want to sort of take that traffic from sort of eight or 9,000 a month to closer to sort of 50,000 plus 200,000 plus. So I can see this is just being a huge asset that will only get bigger over time and I'm growing it quite aggressively, but again being able to sort of use it to advantage at the moment, well I'm not quite sure.

Mike: I think it's — I mean you're in a great position with this. Just so everybody knows, I mean James and I talked for maybe like five or 10 minutes a couple of days ago, but he had a conflict. He didn’t realize we were going to be talking today or talking that day for the full interview. And one of the things that came up is he has a website in the baby niche, it's an affiliate website. So basically its people — he ranks organically for different terms and people will land on his website and there's product reviews and articles and stuff about these products.

And this is a strategy we talked about on a previous EcomCrew episode or two. I will throw links to that in the show notes, but this is a strategy that we're working on as well. This is what tactical.com is all about. And it's basically building an authority site in a niche that you're going to be selling into and also having reviews of products in the niche that you're going to be selling into.

And the idea is to rank for — let's say we're going to be selling a flashlight, trying to eventually rank for stuff like best tactical flashlight and then you have a list of 10 flashlights there that you've ranked hopefully objectively or whatever. Certainly that's the way that we're doing it, and then having affiliate links to those 10 products and then seeing what's selling, what's doing well, using that competitive data to then go develop a product because you know by having a review like that or article like that, that you're getting traffic, that people are clicking through those links and buying those products and that's a sustainable organic source of traffic for you.

Because basically like once you launch your product, you now suddenly become the number one product and all [inaudible 00:47:59] on the bottom of the footer of the page’s FTC disclaimer, just saying that these products are not ranked objectively, or we have a dog in the fire. There's affiliate links on here, whatever disclosure you have to make on your site.

And hopefully in our case, I mean, I know this is like probably pushing into the grey hat of morality a little bit. But the thing that I feel good about here is that we legitimately are developing like really good products. We're not going to be selling someone snake oil. It's going to be something that they're hopefully going to have a five star experience with. I think that that's a pretty key thing.

So I mean, you've already got that here, which is amazing. I mean, like you're one of the few people I've ever talked to in e-commerce that has married this concept because it's typically one or the other. Most people I know either all they do was affiliate sites, which is a great way to make a living, I've done in the past, or all they do is e-commerce and they don't necessarily think about pulling these two things together. So after that kind of like long introduction here, my recommendations with this would be to — I mean, you have a lot of general topic type articles, which is great. We do the same thing on Tactical, and you certainly have the ability to rank.

But the way that you have the ads here are like you said, they're kind of in the sidebar and you have links to your products. But it's not that one to one relationship. Someone is not coming to your site because they've searched baby hooded bath towel. They're coming to your site; I'm just looking at some of the things you rank for, because you rank for something like water baby carrier or postpartum gas. So these are the types of products that I would start developing, the things that you're already ranking for and getting traffic, develop those exact products.

Also the way that I would go about it, since you're already ranking for those terms, those would be the terms that I would first go after making like a top 10 list of best water baby carrier or best hiking baby carrier, like the word best in front of it always converts incredibly well because if someone is searching best, that means that they're looking to make a buying decision right then and there.

And what we've done, this is the same type of conversation that we were just talking about how we develop products and how we've applied our attitude towards developing products themselves. We're applying the same high level of differentiation and work ethic to our affiliate sites in that the first articles that we're doing right now, and we're just getting our first top 10 list together for Tactical, but we literally ordered all of the competitors’ products, like actually got them in and actually touched them. Most of these affiliate sites that do this, they just read the Amazon, or they recommend things that are the most expensive because they want the biggest affiliate commission or whatever it might be.

We took the time and the money and the investment to actually purchase the items, get them in and like — so one of the ones that we're doing is a water filter. So we paid for our crew to go out and do like a camping trip overnight and took like photography of all that, photography of the actual items that isn't just a stock photo off of Amazon, it's all our photography and it's lifestyle stuff. And in my estimation, we should be able to rank number one for these types of terms of things that we're going after much quicker and easier, and better than everyone else because the level of content is just like way the hell up there over everyone else.

James: Yeah. And that sort of approach to these review type articles again, I can see that becoming


like the new bar, I guess in the in the new year because there's so many of these out here. And again, it comes back to the change of mindset I mentioned sort of right at the start of the call that and applies to FBA, it applies to this sort of stuff that good enough is not going to last. And so doing that sort of thing where you are actually using the products, you've got the unique photography and you go to a whole new level of trust in terms of what the relationship you build up with your radar.

And I can say that anyone who is not going to that level is going to get pushed aside. And if you had to look through this site, you'll see a huge difference in the quality of content from the last say, three or four months compared to the period before that. And it's something that I'm really recognizing that if you’re not offering the best stuff out there that you shouldn't really bother because you're not going to maintain anything that's sustainable over the long term because there's just someone ready to knock you off. So, that's the direction we're headed in.

The biggest problem is obviously shipping all this stuff to Australia. So, but I've got a relationship with some good writers in the US and it's probably going to be a case of them getting a whole bunch of free stuff, sort of upping the investment per article. But I'd prefer to spend say, 200 bucks getting an article produced that is at that that level than 20 bucks on something, which it's just not the same, so because it really is about just building that sustainable asset and you can't really skim when to bring that.

Mike: Yeah, and I completely agree. I mean, yeah, I could definitely understand the expensive part of getting into Australia. We actually ship all this to the Philippines. I have them do it there, and that cost is really high. But again…

James: Customers will take a big bite out of you I'm sure.

Mike: They did. Yeah, we've learned our lesson on how to deal with that in the future. But yeah, I mean, the other thing that's really cool about this to be thinking about which has been a huge side benefit that we didn't really think through all the way to begin with, but now I've come to realize is if your goal is to develop the product, let's say it's the baby carrier thing or whatever you want to develop a baby carrier. Like there's no other better way to do competitive research than like actually physically have all your competitors’ products and touch and feel and test them.

And so that's another cool thing because like we're, yeah, we're writing this top 10 article and we're trying to be objective as we can writing this article about the best water filters or flashlights or whatever it might be, but now we've also gotten all of them. And besides all the reviews that we read, we can see like how they're packaged and how like the instructions are, and the way that the buttons work on them or like just like every little minute details. So like as we're designing our own product six or 12 months down the road, we have all that that research and knowledge that we would never otherwise have. So that's another thing to be thinking about.

James: Yeah and just on that, I don’t honestly go off on another tangent away from this, but with the hocking carrier for example that's something that was at the top of my list to develop, and I sought some advice from some sourcing agents, in fact I spoke to again at Global Sources the guy from — Sam Boyd I think his name was, the guy from guided imports. And his advice was if you're going to sort of go to a manufacturer, you need every detail taken care of in your design. So, if you want to do this, approach a designer, get all of this stuff done, and then we can take that to manufacturer.

So, I followed the advice and I went down that path and because it's a complicated product and I know this goes against some of the first bits of advice in the course you guys have put together to not go too complex. But now I'm at a point where I got this design and it's very difficult to find a manufacturer who will actually take it on. There's been a few – a few sourcing agents have said they've spoken to their factories and that they don’t want to touch it. So, short of jumping on a plane and heading over to China and trying to convince someone to make a prototype or a test run of say 100 units, it's proven very difficult to get off the ground. Even the design process was probably about three times more expensive than I was expecting it to be.

So again, it's like I've sort of gone to this sort of polar opposite extreme from not enough differentiation to now to a point where it's probably so original, that actually getting it manufactured is the hurdle.

Mike: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and unfortunately I don’t really have a lot of recommendations for you on that particular front. I mean, what I've discovered is that if you can't find a product that's at least 80% of the way there, then you definitely run into exactly what you're talking about. One of the things that we're looking at potentially doing in 2018 is like hiring our own full time sourcing agent that like works for us in China. I'm hoping that that will help kind of get over some of this, because finding a manufacturer that can do that is really tough.

I mean, just going to a stroller or baby carrier or whatever manufacturer and asking them to like completely reinvent the wheel is really difficult to do because it requires molds and a lot of upfront investment. And then them being able, capable of doing it and not being able to produce you a sample without getting tens of thousands of dollars into the project not even knowing if they can do a good job with it, there's like all these like pretty big hurdles to get over. But the thing that that I love about it is that it makes it harder for everyone else too, right?

And that's something that we're always thinking about with whatever we're doing nowadays, it's like that competitive advantage is, the barrier to entry is a huge competitive advantage. So if you can pull that off, I mean, like your chances of success I think are much, much higher. But it's a matter of like how the heck do you do you do that? That's just not something that I personally have experienced with on developing like that original, original kind of product. We improve upon a product, that's kind of our expertise. But the original kind of product, that’s definitely not something we've gotten into yet.

James: Yeah, yeah. And look, it's something I'm not going to do immediately because I think it's important to have something like that to be somewhat funded by a cash flow coming from the business. So, I need to obviously get that to a point where there's a solid foundation of products that can sort of fund sort of R&D type of thing. I do have another product which is — it's like a very differently shaped nursing pillow. And this is common totally just from observation of how people use them.

But this is a very, very simple product. It is a very unique design but that sort of thing, I should have started there in the first place to sort of go through this process of doing something original, but it should be quite easy in comparison because it will essentially be two pieces with like an inflatable self inflating pillow. So, I mean, that sort of stuff should be, it should be a much easier thing to sort of understand the process. But in terms of building out a new suite of products it's not necessary to do all of that that stuff. But if I see it's like a screaming opportunity to do something differently, then it'll be a heady experience to be able to know how to see that process through from start to finish.

Mike: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Yeah and I actually just was realizing as we're talking here, and I'm like it just hit me right now as you were just saying that, but you actually went through our course. I apologize. I was kind of going off on the gel pen thing, you went through that in the course and know kind of our strategy there too on the way to improve things. So I apologize for taking time out to talk about that.

James: Oh, it's all good. The main words that stick in my mind so far from the course is that Chinese honey pot.

Mike: Yeah, yeah, don't get stuck in the Chinese honey pot.

James: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah, it seems so easy, right? It's like you look at the — I mean, basically what that is, is that you see the cost of goods, it seems so cheap. It's like I can buy that for — I mean, probably the best example of this like that ever hit me was I think it was two or three trips ago at the Canton Fair. We have a baby brand as well. And we were looking at these beds; they have like these racecar beds. And I'm like, how much can I buy that thing for? And it was like 12 bucks. I'm like, man I can buy that whole bed for — this was like a substantial bed. It's like you got four sides to it, it's made out of wood and everything, and I'm like doing some searching in the hall there at the Canton Fair. And it's I can sell it for 100 bucks,  the dollar sign just like going off going crazy.

Then because we know better, we went back to the hotel and looked at all the fees. By the time we actually got that thing to the US and sold it, we would have lost money, it's crazy. Yeah, so that's the Chinese honey pot because it's just seems you see the cost but you don't — like you already found out the hard way is there's a lot of other fees that go into this. So you got to make sure that your margins leave some padding for all of that.

And also realize that it's not going to get easier, it's just going to get harder and Amazon just announced another round of fee increases. I think that we can expect this to happen every six months. Every six months it's every year they increase their FBA fees and every year they increase their storage fees, and it's like on a six month alternating calendar. So, the storage fees will be next and you got to have room in your product to be able to deal with that.

James: Yeah, absolutely. All good.

Mike: Cool. Well, hopefully you found all this stuff helpful and it'll kind of get you going in the right direction. I'm going to kind of summarize a few things here.

James: Would you mind if I ask you one more question?

Mike: Sure. Absolutely, go for it up. Yeah. Yeah.

James: So one other thing, which really caught my attention that you've been talking about on the podcast recently is this idea of sort of testing out a whole bunch of products by drop shipping them from AliExpress, and then sort of running with the I guess with the winners. So, in terms of using this website for that kind of purpose, I mean it's not really — it doesn't present as an e-commerce website at the moment, and I'm not sure if it should.

But to sort of work something like that into it, would I have to sort of overhaul how the website looks so it does present as an e-commerce top store, or do you think it would be as simple as checking up a store button on the menu and sort of rotating some types of products in there to see if it sort of gets any attention or gains any traction? Or is that kind of just sort of half arcing, and it's probably not going to get any attention anyway? If I wanted to sort of use that as a concept, do you think it's worthwhile with the kind of traffic that might be coming to this site or would it be best done on a separate site? Or what do you think?

Mike: Yeah, so we're talking about the affiliate site now specifically, right?

James: Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Mike: Okay, so yeah, I think that this is a great strategy. And so here's how I would approach it for the affiliate site that you showed me here. So let's just say it is a baby carrier or stroller or whatever you guys call it a different — a buggy depending on all the different places in the world that you're at now that you want to develop that. So the way that I would approach it with your affiliate sites Facebook account, not any other Facebook account, but the affiliate site Facebook account, I would be launching like a giveaway for the stroller, one per day, one per week whatever because it's a higher value item so maybe you can't afford to do one per day, but one per day ideally. The more value you can give, the more email addresses you're going to get.

And your objective is going to be to collect email addresses for people that are interested in strollers. If you know if they are interested in getting it for free, they're interested in strollers. So the way that I would approach that is just making a blog post on this affiliate site about the giveaway. Or making it like you have on the top of your site here some sleep hacks as a lead magnet, I might change that out for the giveaway like during the month that you're doing the giveaway.

So basically the idea here is that the traffic that's coming organically to the site is seeing this offer and hopefully are subscribing to it. And you are going to promote through paid advertising on Facebook in conjunction with that blog post, and I would use a gleam.io to run it. So, basically a blog post with some instructions and details about the contest, with a gleam like JavaScript interface that they have on the page. It just kind of seamlessly integrates the whole thing together and again run paid traffic to that for leads. So you're trying to convert leads.

So step one is to get as many people as you possibly can on this email list. And that email list is going to serve a couple purposes for you. Number one, it's a group of mothers that are going to potentially buy any future product that you launch. And you need that asset in my opinion moving forward in 2018 and beyond selling on Amazon, having some third party asset list to be able to get your product launched and enrolling. I think that's really, really important. So that's part A of that list.

And Part B is you're going to take that same list and email them as soon as the contest is over and say, oh, I'm so sorry that you didn't win our giveaway for the stroller. But we have today only 70% off this stroller. And the stroller that you're going to be selling them is from AliExpress. You would just pick something that's again like kind of like 80% as close to what you're looking to develop as possible, like can and will this list at a deal at least buy your stroller.

And if they do, if you see a decent conversion rate there, you know that you have a list of people that you've already built and that you can continue to build to market to once you launch your stroller on Amazon. It's just one of these like one to one guaranteed direct relationships where you know that you're going to have a successful launch and a successful product. And if you sell no strollers, then you know it's probably not the best thing for you at that moment.

And you can try again the following month with a baby hooded bath towel or whatever it might be, right? And until you find the one that kind of that is the hit. And when you find the hit that you know you can just replicate it over and over again. You can continue to run that contest every month, or maybe cycle through three or four different contests for things that are products that are constantly winning. And then when you go to launch that product on Amazon, it's like okay, here this thing just launched on Amazon, go buy it. And that traffic is enough to boost and accelerate whatever product it is that you're looking to launch.

James: Yep, yeah.

Mike: I would not put store like as a tab on this affiliate site for that purpose. I don't think that it's necessary because you're only going to have one product; you're just testing the stroller. You could put special offer or something there if you wanted to do it that way and try to get some of the random traffic that is coming to your website to convert to the deal. I think that's perfectly acceptable. But the main thing is to get people's email address. So you want to get their email and pixel them so you can market to them over and over again.

James: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense because the part I wasn't sure about is I didn't want to sort of blur the lines for the people that are coming to the site already, because the site is headed in one direction. It is making money. We put a lot of over the next year a lot of the work we've done with content, link building, and all that sort of stuff should start to pay off and it might – I’m not sure the right word, maybe sort of cannibalize the audience like if the message on the site would be contradicting.

So I wasn't quite sure the best way to go because I don't think you can kind of be both. I think you have to be one or the other or the other one is just going to get on file or the raiders won't have that trust in you because it looks like there's a different agenda for providing the information. So yeah, what you've said has made sense, and again it comes back to that asset that you keep long term. And I've tried similar things with limited success, but I don't think I've been as far up I guess especially with the follow up coupon. Today I only type messaging sign with the Facebook ads, and I think that would make a difference.

And yeah, I think it's a good way also just to really distinguish between what people say they want to do and what they will actually do when making the purchase decision because the research we have done or tried to do in the past, we found it hasn't always connected. So yeah, I think it's definitely a process that I need to get good at, and like I said, every time you go through that you're just sort of building that list which would be really important for the affiliate site anyway. That's important but having that as a backup when you want to launch new products; I think it's a huge Lego.

Mike: Yeah I definitely agree. And you should also be pixelling everybody that comes to this site so you can retarget them with your baby hooded bath towel. I mean it's like they come here, they obviously have a kid, they get a Facebook ad for a couple of days that’s just a direct link to Amazon trying to convert them. I think that makes a lot of sense as well because I mean again, the idea here is to kind of resurrect this product and get some outside traffic and sales that kind of help with that objective, and I think that this could help with that as well.

James: Yeah. Do you think that it would be — obviously the sales leading up to Christmas are pretty extreme, is there a bit of a hangover off like in January if you're trying to then move up the rankings are you at a disadvantage because everyone above you just had a monster December do you think?

Mike: Yeah, sure. It's a tough time of year to be doing this.

James: Yeah, well still it's a yeah at least I got six weeks to eight weeks to try and do it anyway. And even if it doesn't work all that well I'll still have that email list to use for next time.

Mike: Yeah, I think it's worth. It's going to give you some — you haven't done this concept before so it's going to get you some experience to run some Facebook ads, it will get you the landing page you're going to build out and your site built out and have that template ready for next time and things like that. So I think in my mind it's worth it no matter even if this doesn't work on a one to one relationship, there's going to be some ancillary benefits you will get out of it for sure.

James: Yeah, definitely. Oh, good. Well thanks for taking the time to speak to me Michael. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to come on. I’m very grateful to have been selected to come on the podcast. It’s been a lot of really good information.

Mike: Awesome. I'm definitely glad that you enjoyed it. My hope is that anybody that comes and does this segment will follow up with us in six to 12 months and let us know how things are going. And obviously, you've also taken our course so you know you have access to us whenever you need us anyway. But over and above that, I'd love to just kind of see how things are going a few months from now. Hopefully, this will get you going in the right direction.

I think that what I'll leave you with is this, is that in business, entrepreneurial life is never just a straight road up. And I would look at the experience, what you've learned over these last two years, even though it hasn't made you money as the same thing as going to college or whatever, or going to school for something. There's a cost to that. I think that the experience that you've gained to this point is immense just knowing what I've learned over two years of selling on Amazon and doing this stuff. And I think that you're in a great position to, you know all the pitfalls now, and you had one or two unlucky breaks, especially the thing with Greg and that particular product.

And so kind of keep your chin up on it, and don't get analysis paralysis watching the next product. But at the same time, I think that if you apply the things that we talked about in the course, and the things we talked about on this, and the things you already know, you've already said it yourself, just make sure that you differentiate as much as you possibly can to make a product that is defensible as possible. I think you'll be successful. You know all the other things to do now. I mean, it's apparent just from talking to you. So I think that 2018 will be a good year for you.

James: Thank you. I certainly appreciate it. I mean, it's sort of been my self talk over the last few months that it's just an expensive education. And yeah, I'm thinking much longer term now than what I was when I started out and I know that eventually I’ll sort of figure this out and hit the right nerve. So yeah, and before I go, I just want to probably share something with the listeners as well that when I first met Mike, it was at Global Sources back in sort of March or April. And I didn't even know who he was, and that he had a podcast or a successful business. And yeah, he raised the idea of putting together a course.

And it was something that he said to me that sort of stuck with me ever since that he's not going to do it unless he's confident he can do the best or put the best course that's out there. And it looks like right now I’m very aware of the time or what he’d done in the rest of his business, but those words really stuck with me. And now this whole mindset shift that I've been referring to throughout this conversation with the quality of the website that I'm putting out, the quality of the products, those words really stuck with me that if you can't be the best of what you're doing, then why are you even trying? And it's become very clear to me since then, that if you are half acing it or you settle for good enough, you're probably not going to win at whatever it is that you're doing.

So obviously since then, I've learned a lot more about Mike in the podcast and the successful businesses that he's built. And it's just sort of reinforced that point to me. So I was just, it's something I’ve found interesting ever since then that just a very small snippet, passing conversation in the hall way has really stuck with me and actually become more of a guiding principle in a short time. So thank you again, Mike, for the work you do with the podcast. I'm sure it's a lot of work and I don't know how you fit it all in among everything else that you're doing.

Mike: It's tough.

James: Yeah, and again, having the opportunity to come on and talk to you about this stuff. That's certainly a unique opportunity and yet very grateful.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, thanks for the kind words and I just want to build upon what you just said there with everything you just said because I think it's super important. I mean, I get the whole mindset of everyone wants to make money, right? I mean, that's what we're in business for. There's nothing wrong with that. But the tendency is to take the path of least resistance always with a lot of people. I shouldn't say always, but like a lot of people gravitate towards the path of least resistance. You also get sucked in very easily by lots of people telling you how easy it is. And I still think that that Amazon and just selling things online is one of the easiest things I've done, like in comparison in my entrepreneurial journey. I mean, like I put everything in perspective.

It isn't easy but it's easier than like a lot of other things I've done. I mean I’m not digging ditches and there's still a massive opportunity out there. But if you're the type of person that's constantly like just looking for the easy road, what's going to end up happening is that like you're going to get past very quickly, three months, six months, a year, whatever it is. And if your instinct is to just do enough to get like ahead of that curve, again, that same things continue to happen to you like over and over again in life and in business rather than putting the hard work and like being a market leader that everyone else is following, which is what we try to do.

We’re trying to be with all of our brands be the market leader not just think one step down the road, but be thinking multiple steps down the road. And probably the biggest lesson here with the thing that we did, when the Amazon review ban hammer came down, everyone I know in all these groups like just gravitated towards like what's the next easy thing to do to get around this until Amazon changes that again, rather than thinking about the long term like what does Amazon really want? What can I do to develop something even though it might be harder and take longer to do something that like I don't have to cheat or be constantly pushing up against this gray hat or black hat on below all the time and actually legitimately like take the time to do it right.

And yeah, it took an extra year of my life to kind of get to the point where that came to fruition as working, but I sleep a whole lot better at night knowing that I can launch products time after time now without having to do any of the sleazy review game stuff that everyone else in all these Facebook groups I'm a part of is constantly talking about and doing over and above like all the product stuff. So I mean I think it's just a really good lesson learned. I'm glad that the passing comment that I made like stuck with you and you took it to heart. But I think it's a good life lesson as well.

And I haven't always been that way. It's just something that I figured it out years ago just you stick your hand on the stove and it hurts, you stick your hand in the stove it hurts, okay let's start figuring out a better way to like live life and do things. And that's kind of the mantra, the thing I've developed over the last decade. And yeah, I'm happy to hear that you're going that direction and hopefully it'll pay off for you big time in 2018.

James: Will sooner or later, to get there. Yeah.

Mike: Awesome James. Well, again, thank you so much for coming on and keep us posted and we'll talk soon.

James: All right, thanks, Mike.

Mike: Thanks a lot.

And that's a wrap folks. I hope you enjoy the 167th edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. Again just as a reminder, you can go to EcomCrew.com/167 to get to the show notes for this episode. I want to thank James again for coming on and doing this segment with us. If you'd like to be on Under the Hood with us in the future, just go to EcomCrew.com/UndertheHood. And until the next episode everyone, happy selling, we’ll talk to you then.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.

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