E292: Premium’s Favourite Questions, Answered!
As the end of the year approaches, and the crazy holiday rush starts to build up, Dave and I wanted to take the opportunity to address the questions that come up quite often from our Premium members, and share it with everyone on the podcast.
So on today's podcast, we talk about a variety of topics, from things like how I built an amazing team in the Philippines, to the best way to improve your Amazon listings. Below is the list of questions and topics that we go through today:
- How to Improve Your Amazon Listings (11:20)
- Answering the Age Old Question: “Why are My Sales Tanking?” (13:56)
- Reviving Sales for a Dead Product (15:46)
- Our Opinion on Variations and How to Handle Them on Amazon (21:37)
- What to Do When Your Amazon Account Gets Suspended (28:14)
- The Benefits of Sourcing Agents (32:07)
- Hiring in the Philippines (35:37)
Ecomcrew Premium is open for the last time this year. As a Premium member, you get access to online webinars, our full-length courses, and participate in in-person events! Get valuable information from other 7-figure sellers or if you have questions, you’ll have the opportunity to get answers personally from Dave and I.
Register now here and use the code “CYBER“ for a 50% discount today.
Want to get more value out of Premium? Find out how it can help you add more products to your catalog or leverage Facebook for marketing. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This December, I'll be part of an amazing event called Smart Traffic Live which is an event put together by the enthusiastic Ezra Firestone and the Smart Marketer Team. Join me and other big names in the industry like Mikael Yang, the CEO of ManyChat, Mary Kathryn Johnson, the founder of Messenger Funnels, and more. Sign up now, and use the code “MIKEJACKNESS” for $100 off on your early bird tickets!
E101: Tips on Finding Profitable Products in a Saturated Amazon Market
Know about the benefits and disadvantages of products with high volume sales vs. products not on Amazon yet.
The Ultimate Guide to Amazon Variations
Learn about how Variations work on Amazon.
How to Find and Train the Best Filipino Virtual Assistants in 2019
As your business continues to grow, there just isn't enough time in the world for you to continuously focus on menial tasks while focusing on the big picture. In this article, we go over outsourcing and how we find the best VAs that helps us with our business daily.
Full Audio Transcript
Mike: [00:00:00] Hey guys, Ecomcrew Premium is finally open again after months of being closed, and the best part is we have one of our biggest deals ever. If you use the coupon code “CYBER“, you'll save 50% off in Ecomcrew premium membership. You probably already know that with premium, you get access to five full length ecommerce courses, including our completely updated Importing From China course.
Mike: [00:00:23] However, you also get access to biweekly webinars and a library of dozens of previous webinars, including our Secret Sauce webinars that we do every month. Each webinar is a deep dive into an advanced topic for over an hour. In the past, we've showed our members how to easily turn the product photography from conversion duds into conversion rockstars. We've also done live Amazon Listing tear downs and SEO tear downs. And next month, we're gonna be doing a live webinar on how to launch Facebook Ads without losing a ton of money. So head on over to Ecomcrew.com/Premium. Use the coupon code “CYBER” to save 50% off in membership. Reminder that this deal closes soon. We do not discount Ecomcrew premium any other time of year, and once this offer closes, it's gone forever. Ecomcrew.com/Premium. Head on over there today.
Mike: [00:01:13] This is Mike and welcome to Episode #292 of the Ecomcrew podcast. And hello from San Diego, California. Couple last times here, got another podcast or two to finish up here. But as I'm recording this, it's down to the wire. Just a couple more days here before heading down to Mexico for Thanksgiving with some friends. Right now, recording this with Steve Chou in the house with us. He came down to visit, excited to have him here. And my friend, Kevin, that runs an ecommerce business as well, is also staying with us. I've been joking about how we've been running a hotel here.
Mike: [00:01:45] Also had some other friends who flew in from Las Vegas that were just here, basically been having people come stay with us, then they leave the same day and then we have to change the sheets and get ready for other people to come stay. So I've been joking that it's been– it feels cool to be loved. But the reality is, is that we've been only here for 30 days and trying to pack as much into it as we can. So excited to have these guys here with us right now, and a lot going on obviously, you heard the message off the top. Ecomcrew Premium is open, which we're really excited about. Hopefully going to have an awesome signup period here and been recording some other stuff that's going on.
Mike: [00:02:20] One of the things is for this thing called Smart Traffic Live, which is happening December 4th through 6th. That's coming up in just a few days. If you haven't heard about this, you can go to Ecomcrew.com/SmartTraffic. And there's like dozens of people that are doing this online conference, basically. And so instead of having to get on a plane and get a hotel room and everything, it's all online. It's being put on by Ezra Firestone and his crew over there. Molly Pitman is there. Colleen Taylor, who I just actually had lunch with last week. Awesome, awesome person. One of my favourite people in ecommerce. We never talk about work. We just talk about all kinds of other stuff. She's just an awesome person.
Mike: [00:03:00] But Mari Smith, Neil Patel, Billy Gene Shaw, my buddy Noah Kagan, who I just got to hang out with down in Austin and a bunch of other people are gonna be at this thing all online, all virtual. So Ecomcrew.com/SmartTraffic. Go check that out. Early bird pricing is still open and you want to go do that before the prices go up. And I believe prices go up on December 3rd.
Mike: [00:03:23] And if I'm correct, I believe that the price of this thing is $397 dollars. Very, very reasonable. You're gonna get all the recordings as well. And if you use the link I gave you, Ecomcrew.com/SmartTraffic and the code “MikeJackness“, you'll get a $100 off. So MikeJackness is the code for a $100 off.
Mike: [00:03:40] Alright, enough about all that. Today's episode is going to be about listener questions that have come in for Ecomcrew. And we wanted to do this episode right now because Ecomcrew Premium's open. So we thought it was like the right timing to do this. But it's also an episode we wanted to do for quite a while. And even if you have no interest in Ecomcrew premium, this is certainly not a sales pitch. I think you'd be interested to know like what happens behind the scenes. How many e-mails do we get? How much time does Dave and I have to spend on this? What the questions are that are the most common? So you can relate to that, too.
Mike: [00:04:12] I always think that's so important with business and why I think that masterminds are important, why I think that going to live events is really important. Getting an opportunity to talk to other people who are going through the same things that you're going through, is so important in business. And so just hearing what the most common questions that come into Ecomcrew Premium is, I think will be valuable. I didn't want to do an episode where we just tell you what the most common question is. I also want to give you the consistent answer that we're always giving people.
Mike: [00:04:41] So even if you don't join Ecomcrew premium because you're not quite ready for that yet, at least you're going to hear the answers to the most common things. So maybe it'll save you some money for right now, if you're on the fence, you can listen to this stuff and sign up later when maybe your business is growing a little bit and you feel like it's a better time for that investment. We're always going to be here for you. And that's certainly never a high pressure thing for Dave and I. So anyway, I think you'll think that this is good content. Hopefully, you'll agree, leave us a note in the comments at Ecomcrew.com/292 to let us know what you think. And right after the break, we're going to get into it. And my buddy Dave is going to be on this week doing this with me.
Intro: [00:05:16] Welcome to the Ecomcrew podcast. The Web's most transparent podcast. From two seven-figure sellers who share the good, bad and the ugly about running an ecommerce business. You'll learn how we build our brands, find products and develop marketing strategies that will help you start and grow your own million dollar ecommerce brand. And now your hosts, Mike Jackness and Dave Bryant.
Mike: [00:05:41] This is Mike.
Dave: [00:05:42] This is Dave.
Mike: [00:05:43] And welcome to this edition of the Ecomcrew podcast. Dave, we're like in the same room for the first time in a while. Doing one of these together.
Dave: [00:05:49] I know. I think this is our first time ever doing a podcast beside each other. I don't know, feels kind of weird.
Mike: [00:05:55] I think, literally beside each other. So like, we're crammed into this little desk enclave thing I was talking about on the previous podcast and we only have one microphone in here. So we're sitting beside each other and it kind of looks like an elementary school bus with like a boy and a girl sat next to each other. So they're like awkwardly trying not to touch each other.
Dave: [00:06:15] Well, you know what it reminds me of? About two or three years ago, when we did our first YouTube videos, we had this great idea that me and you would try to pull off all the videography on our own. And so we did a couple of videos of me and you sitting right beside each other, I'm literally like almost piggybacked on top of you. So it's bringing back those good memories.
Mike: [00:06:32] Yeah, that's kind of like how Ecomcrew all got started.
Dave: [00:06:34] Yeah, before we brought on Dave C.
Mike: [00:06:36] Yeah. And now things look somewhat professional, which is kind of cool.
Dave: [00:06:39] Yeah. We're upping our game.
Mike: [00:06:41] Yeah and you been here with the family which has been cool, you've had the wife and little terrorist here hanging out with us.
Dave: [00:06:48] (Laughs) As I was joking before we had to re-record this, every time Mike hangs out with my wife and our daughter Kayla, he's reminded why he doesn't have kids.
Mike: [00:06:56] It's like the most effective form of birth control. We were joking. So there's like six units in this condo building. This building was built back in the 60s before– they didn't put any air conditioning here. They didn't put any insulation in here. So as someone like tiptoes on the floor, you can hear it below you. And we're not really supposed to have extra guests in here, because it's like this one month lease. And they were kind of quick to point out you're not supposed to have a bunch of extra people in your unit. And so I've been trying to keep quiet and it's worked up until the last couple of days.
Dave: [00:07:25] Well, you're telling me this now for the first time, you literally have a revolving door of people coming in and out.
Mike: [00:07:29] We have, yeah. But they've been quiet. There hasn't– this is the first kid we've had here. And of course, the kid's gonna be a kid and she's been awesome. I was like telling Dave the best thing about kids is their laughter. It's infectious. It's hard not to be in a good mood when you hear a kid laugh and then she's like, “Mike, tickle me, tickle me!”. And then she just like laughs for 10 minutes straight, which is pretty funny.
Dave: [00:07:47] Yeah and then I come back and tickle you and you're almost as ticklish as Kayla.
Mike: [00:07:52] I don't know about that. It's just very, very awkward, so…
Dave: [00:07:53] You know, I'm sitting right beside you. I could tickle you right this second.
Mike: [00:07:57] (Laughs) We've already had massages together. Let's not push it too much further. That was an interesting time down in Chinatown. Got couples massages, which is pretty funny.
Dave: [00:08:07] (Laughs) Well, you know, we're celebrating, we've been together 3 years.
Mike: [00:08:11] Yeah, three years of “Man-age” or “Man-arriage” or I don't know how you would say that, but Bromance. But yeah, it's been a good time. Unfortunately, you're heading out today. We're also heading out today. We're going up to Orange County for the evening tonight to visit some people up there. Just constantly on the move, but wanted to record a podcast before splitting up.
Mike: [00:08:31] And we thought a cool topic today would be going over the most popular questions that we get from our Ecomcrew Premium members. And we thought this would be the perfect time to do this for a couple of reasons. I mentioned in the intro, off the top, the little promo spot, Ecomcrew Premium is opening again and we didn't want to make this into like a sales pitch kind of thing. So we thought it would be cool to go over the most popular questions and also discuss specifically how we help people. So the thought process here is that, if these are the most popular questions that come in, then if we help people out there that are listing, hopefully it'll be helpful and you'll get even more out of the podcast today.
Mike: [00:09:10] So it's going to be a little all over the place because the questions that come in are pretty all over the place. I thought first it'd be cool to go over some stats. I pulled this up because I was just curious. I thought the number had to be at least a few hundred e-mails that we've answered so far this year. 1790 emails, Dave.
Dave: [00:09:28] That's intimidating. I'm looking at it right here in front of me. So that's roughly 5 a day.
Mike: [00:09:33] Yeah.
Dave: [00:09:33] Seems about right.
Mike: [00:09:34] Yeah. Seems about right. I think it's about what we get. But yeah, looking at that number. It's pretty crazy. The other thing that's pretty crazy, is that how quickly we respond. I was looking here at the first response time, we average 1 day, 2 hours to respond to emails. And the thing that's funny is there's a graph here on the screen and there's been some creep on this. August was 2 days and 7 hours. I think, either we got lazy or the Internet got the best of me on that road trip.
Dave: [00:09:59] Yeah, well, I think your response time to anything in the last couple months is creeping. I was ragging on you today about our work ethic level and you're like, “my work ethic level is way higher than yours”, and I said, “Well Mike, I actually respond to my emails.”
Mike: [00:10:12] I hate e-mails. It drives me crazy which is why we put the Ecomcrew Students stuff into its own e-mail box. And so if you do join Premium, you get a private e-mail address that gets segregated out. And I'm in the habit of actually checking that. And I, for the most part, enjoy responding too. The thing that's interesting is that there are a few types of emails that I don't enjoy responding to that come in from our members. And this is just where Dave and my synergies continue to show. I don't like writing articles. He doesn't really particularly like doing the podcast, et cetera. And he just likes to do the e-mails that I'm just not a huge fan of and I'll reserve what the difference is there. But it works out really well, Dave.
Dave: [00:10:50] Yeah, it does work out well. And even now, we also have Dave C who's come on board and he can give a lot more photography and videographer expertise. So you don't end up recording a video with your buddy piggyback like me and Mike were our first couple years. So yeah, Dave C can come in here and actually give a lot of expertise on giving feedback on different graphics designs that people have done, their website design, that type of thing. So now there's actually three of us now who are able to, I guess, have synergies together.
Mike: [00:11:16] Yeah. And speaking of graphic design, I think that's probably a great segue into the number one thing that we get asked, which is, “Can you review my Amazon listing and what do you think?” And I don't know how to better convey this. We try so hard to talk about how you need to have really amazing photography and imagery. And whenever we review these listings, it just still isn't quite good enough.
Dave: [00:11:38] Yeah, I think the thing that most people are missing when they're doing the photography is strictly focusing on the photography and they're not incorporating enough text and benefits into the photography. So if you have a cell phone case and it has a magnetic wallet component to it, then you'd want to illustrate in words that magnetic wallet component. You really want to actually visualise it both in a picture and in words. And that's where a lot of people are leaving money on the table, is not using enough text in their photos.
Mike: [00:12:05] Yeah and so if you're at a point where you just can't afford Ecomcrew premium yet. And the best thing I can tell you to do is just go on to Amazon, search for our tactical brand, which is Tac9er and just look at the photography there. I think that that's where– we've been using that kind of as a case study of what to do both on the main image, all the supplementary images, video content and enhanced brand content and just steal from us, use our ideas, use our layout, our templates, the things that we've been doing. This is why we talk about our style publicly. It's out there for everyone to take a look at.
Mike: [00:12:37] And even if you don't end up using those ideas, I mean, just go take a look at. I'm proud of what our team has done there. My wife Michelle, the team back in the Philippines have just, I think, just crushed those listings. And we're working on doing it for all of our listings company wide. We're getting there. They're getting better and better all the time. But what we've even learned is that they're still not ever good enough. And the thing is, like, they're just never– they can always be better. You can always be split testing. We've been using Splitly a lot, to find the best performing images.
Mike: [00:13:05] And the bottom line is, out of all the listing review stuff, this is really the only thing that matters. I mean, we can look at the title, the bullet points, the description. Those things really don't move the needle. I was just in Austin with Greg from JungleScout and we got a bunch of really cool content coming out on the heels of that. But one of the things that really stuck with me. He obviously runs Splitly and has like all this crazy data. And the only thing that really matters. The only thing that really makes a difference in all the millions of split tests that they've run are the images and the title.
Mike: [00:13:35] Like the other stuff just doesn't make a difference in terms of really moving the needle. And you shouldn't just like not have bullet points on your listings and not have a description. But what really matters, what's going to really move the needle are those images.
Dave: [00:13:49] Yes, absolutely. I mean, an Amazon listing is pretty basic to begin with. So there's only so many gears and levers that you can actually fidget with. Along with the Amazon listing reviews, and this is kind of a segue from this, is a lot of members e-mailing in asking basically for advice on why their sales are tanking.
Dave: [00:14:06] And whenever we get an email like this, we always separate it into two different buckets. Do you have a conversion problem or do you have a sessions problem? Do you have a traffic problem? That's really the only two reasons that you'd have sales that are tanking on Amazon. So the first thing we always do is we ask to get a business report from that particular ASIN, so we can see how much traffic that ASIN is getting. And then, we want to see what the conversion rate is. And we have kind of a general rule of thumb that anything under 10% for conversion rate is definitely poor, between 10 to 20% is about average. But there's definitely a lot of room for improvement. And then anything above 20% for conversion rate is pretty good.
Dave: [00:14:42] And at that point, you're kind of squeezing the lemon, trying to get your conversion rate any higher than 20%. Like Mike mentioned, there's always things you can be doing, but there's not as much room as if you're at a 8% conversion rate.
Mike: [00:14:55] Yeah, so I mean that's really all there is to the Amazon listing review stuff, and Dave enjoys doing those a lot more than I do, I find it to be a little bit tedious kind of going through the listing and trying to find all the little nit picky things.
Mike: [00:15:08] I also think a lot of it is just my personality, I always feel bad being critical. People are usually so excited like, “Look at my listing. I put all this hard work into it!” and then you got to be the bad guy and tell him it's still not good enough. But at the same time, it's probably the most helpful thing that we do for our students.
Dave: [00:15:24] Yeah, a lot of it is actually telling people what they know. It's not so much necessarily giving them any groundbreaking information. A lot of people know the things that we're telling them in the back of their head. But they haven't quite admitted to themselves or they need a bit of a kick in the butt actually, to get doing it. So that's one of the benefits of premium is actually kind of, I guess, being a quasi-partner in your business without actually giving us any equity.
Mike: [00:15:45] Right, that's true. Alright, so the next one that we have here is reviving sales for a dead product. This comes up quite a bit. People launch a product. It's not performing as well as they want. And so we'll talk about a couple of different things here. The White Hat stuff and then maybe some of the Grey Hat or Black Hat stuff that we recommend to students but the first thing I'll mention, is that things are definitely getting much more difficult on the Amazon landscape front, either reviving products or even launching products. And it's something that we've been struggling with ourselves, with just our own brands.
Mike: [00:16:17] And so for ColorIt, it was incredibly easy. This is kind of like the thing that we've really realized why brands are so important and building lists off Amazon really, really help, especially if you're gonna be in hypercompetitive markets or you can choose to take Dave's path and we'll link to a podcast that we did once about this for, high volume products vs. trying to look in corners of Amazon that aren't as competitive. But if you're trying to launch competitive products, it's getting more and more difficult. So maybe start with a White Hat tactic here that we've helped people with.
Dave: [00:16:44] Yeah. So if somebody is having a dying product, before we kinda get into the tactics, you have to analyse why it's dying. There's one of two situations, either it's just a hyper competitive product, which obviously, when you entered the market, there wasn't a lot of competition. The JungleScout disease came upon you and basically you got influxed with a ton of competition. In those cases, it's a lot trickier though. Then the other situation when you have a nicely selling product and for whatever reason, it lost its mojo, it lost its momentum. A lot of times, it can be because you're out of stock for a long period of time. Those are the easier cases to revive the product. In those cases, typically what you want to do if you've tried everything and nothing's working, the easiest way to do it and this is going to kind of upset some people that you have to do this but you'd relaunch the product altogether.
Dave: [00:17:30] Basically relaunch under a new barcode, under a new ASIN. Try to get back that honeymoon period. It's a little bit black hat, I guess because Amazon doesn't technically want you creating new ASINs for an identical product. You can kind of argue that A) it's not a new product. You know, we're always improving our product. So its version 2.0 of the product so it is, technically, a new product. But that's kind of the feather in your cap that you have to always go on. If you cannot revive a product, it's not been necessarily overwhelmed with competition, relaunching the product altogether and that's a hard choice to make a lot of times, especially if you have a ton of inventory at an Amazon FBA warehouse, it means recalling that inventory, re-barcoding it and then relaunching it. But that is kind of I guess, the ultimate silver bullet if you come to that.
Mike: [00:18:16] Yeah. And so that's, I would say, a more grey hat tactic that I wasn't going to even mention. But I will tell you that we have done this a couple of times in 2019 and it's been pretty successful for us. We had a couple of products that just for whatever reason, just never got any traction. And it is a pain in the rear end having to recall them and relabel them. And also, relabel all of the stuff that's in our 3PL. As I mentioned before, like we typically aim for higher volume products, things that are going to sell 10, 20, 30 units per day. So that usually means that we have a couple of thousand of these things sitting in a warehouse somewhere based on how many we would sell in a few months. And so having to relabel all those is not an easy project. And our 3PL is not cheap when it comes to this particular task. I think 3PLs make their money in one of a bunch of different ways and our old 3PL would charge us like pennies to relabel. Now we're paying I think 30 cents per label, which is even more than Amazon.
Mike: [00:19:13] But the thing is, you can't have Amazon do it because there's already an Amazon label on it and so, you can't like send it back in with an Amazon label barcode and ask them to relabel the barcode. So we're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place there. But as Dave mentioned, it does reset the honeymoon period. It does reset your reviews. And so one of the things that we've had, we had trouble with a couple products. It seems like the negative review bomb era was earlier this year and it still does happen, but when we launched a couple of products earlier this year, I think that the entrenched competitors would just come in and leave one or two one-star reviews and that's all they had to do. And if you think about it, it's kind of like a time-travel kind of movie. If you just, like, erase your competitor before they ever got started, then you don't have to worry about them anymore.
Mike: [00:19:57] And so there's a lot of that, I think, happening on Amazon, where you got someone that's already doing really well, it's cheap and easy for them to just leave on one-star review on a brand new product and they basically never have to worry about you. Because if you're a one-star or a two-star product on Amazon, you'll just never get traction. And that's just the unfortunate reality. And so that seems to be happening a lot more. The products we've launched more recently, that just hasn't been a problem. We seem to be getting honest reviews. They take a lot longer because we aren't sending out follow up emails and things like that, but it definitely has worked out well.
Mike: [00:20:26] Another thing that we've been doing that's pushed the envelope a little bit is using RebateKey and that helps get additional sales. We'll do something like a 75% rebate or sometimes even 100% rebate and get some additional sales during that honeymoon period and during the relaunch time. And it's been working pretty well. And this is for again, for competitive products. But I think the ultimate way to launch is the stuff that we teach in premium, which is to build a list, to have a brand and people that you can send to your listing and do it in a White Hat way. And I really miss having Color It and that feeling of almost cockiness, I guess, when we would like launch a brand new product. I just knew it would work because we had a built-in fan group, had a built-in email list, push crew database, a Facebook messenger list, a pixeled audience. And alls we had to do was just turn the lever over to our new product and it was almost like a magic trick.
Dave: [00:21:17] Yeah, absolutely. And I'm fortunate where I have that right now with OffroadingGear where we have a little bit of that list. But like you mentioned, that's one of the things that we're always trying to preach within Premium and on the podcast and on the blog, too. Unfortunately or fortunately, it begins with kind of picking the right niche to be in to begin with. Certain products, obviously, are a lot easier to have that audience and build that audience around.
Mike: [00:21:36] Yeah. Alright, so the next question that's here and I don't know why this comes up so much, it's actually kind of interesting to me, but it was like the third most requested thing that we got into the inbox, which is about Variations. So either splitting out variations or wanted to create variations. Just a lot of things around the word “Variations”. And so if you don't sell on Amazon, I apologise, the first three here are Amazon questions and the next ones actually aren't. So bear with us here. It just happens to be that we get a lot of questions about Amazon and particularly about Variation.
Mike: [00:22:04] So variations are going to be things like sizes or colours, or you can do other tricky things with variations where maybe it isn't really even a related product. And so we've told this story many times, where I've found that having variations in general hurts more than it helps. And obviously, there's a time and place for variations where you have no choice. Like if you are selling a shirt and there is a small, medium, large and extra large, you just have no choice but to have variations. But when we were selling our Ice packs in 9 different colours, we had them in blue, in clear and pink and yellow and green and purple like literally 9 different colours. And those were all variations on the listing. And what I realised at some point was that there's a couple of things that happen. You get a decision fatigue. So people come to the listing and there's too many choices and they just leave.
Mike: [00:22:53] But what also happens is that only one product on a parent listing, can rank. So if you have all these different colours, the best selling one, which for us was blue, would be the only thing that would show up in the results page. And what ends up happening is if someone is searching, they come through and click through and look at the blue one and go, “Oh, look at this pretty yellow pack over here” and buy that one instead, your conversion rate on the blue listing actually just dropped and it's going to hurt your rankings. So when we got rid of all the colours, it took a few months, we just let them sell through and eventually they were all gone and we ended up with just blue. All of our products took off like a rocket ship and did much better and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. And the other thing that we realised that dealing with sizes, now that we were doing baby clothes, which we're not going to sell any longer. Just dealing with sizes is a pain in the rear end because there's always one that does better than the others. That's the one that you run out of first. Now you're out of those sizes. And that creates those types of things. But yeah, we get a lot of things around variations.
Dave: [00:23:52] Yeah, it's funny. I think most ecommerce people have gone through this kind of situation where you have a great selling product. Let me use myself as an example. Several years ago, great selling product, this boat cover selling I think it was around a $1000 a day. Hmm. How do we get to $5,000 per day? I know! We'll make this boat cover in blue, gray, red, burgundy and yellow and thinking, “Okay, that's all we need to do. We got five times variation, sales are going to become five times”. Nope, doesn't happen. I had a lot of people find themselves in the situation where they're basically just making nonsensical variation of an existing product, which isn't a size variation.
Dave: [00:24:28] Obviously, if you're selling T-shirts, you need to have different sizes, but a lot of products don't need to have different colour variations or size variations. And what happens is that, like Mike said, you start splitting your sales rank and your sales velocity so you lose rankings. You also start splitting your cash flow, too, because a lot of times, these each individual colour is going to need a certain MOQ so you start having to buy a lot more cash.
Dave: [00:24:49] And before you know, you find yourself with all your money tied up in one product with a ton of different variations. So that's normally the advice to begin with. With variations its, take a deep hard look at whether you need to do it, the other situation though, aside from like size and color variations, is a lot of people start wondering if they should kind of be piggybacking on their own ASIN.
Dave: [00:25:08] So an example, we sell an ATV bag. One goes on the front of the ATV bag and one kind of goes over the gas tank. It's called the saddlebag. So should those be part of the same listing or should they be separate? And kind of the general rule of thumb that we make to people when they're trying to make this type of decision is that if that “variation” or separate product has its own independent search volume, totally irrelevant of the other ASIN, then they should be separate. And if they don't have independent search volume, then probably put them together.
Dave: [00:25:36] So again, using this ATV bag as an example, people are searching for “Rear ATV Bag” and people are searching for “Gas Tank Bag”. Those are two different search terms that people are using. So that's the strongest argument that those variations should be separate, not joined together. And there are obviously benefits and consequences to having them separate or together. And the big benefit, of course, is that when you piggyback on another SKU, especially if you're launching a brand new SKU, is that you can get the review juice from the other variation. And that's where a lot of people are faced with that dilemma. And that's kind of our philosophy, though, with trying to decide if an item should be separate or together with the other product.
Mike: [00:26:14] Yeah and so you can put it together for the first little bit, which is another question that comes up. So if you have this gas tank bag already and it's got 50 reviews, it's 4 and a half stars. That's awesome. Now you're launching the bag that goes on the front, it's got zero reviews, what do I do? Well, you can make it a variation for the first little bit. It might have a negative effect on the gas tank bag in the short term potentially. But I think the long term is that you can get your first 5 or 10 reviews on the other bag and then split them back out into their own individual listings. And the other listing will eventually kind of come back, the gas tank one. So we go through how to do this step by step when it comes up in premium.
Mike: [00:26:54] But I will give you guys a hint that flat files are your friends. So just go search out there on the Googles, the interwebs.
Dave: [00:27:00] Ecomcrew Variation, it'll come up there.
Mike: [00:27:02] That's right. We actually have an article that Dave wrote about that. And so it goes through all that step by step so just search, “Ecomcrew Amazon Variations” and there's a couple thousand word article about that, that's done really well. And you can leave us a comment over there on how awesome Dave is with his articles.
Dave: [00:27:18] Yes, please do that and on the topic of variations… By the way Mike, why don't you just tell me how awesome I am right here.
Mike: [00:27:25] Oh, you're amazing, Dave.
Dave: [00:27:26] Thank you.
Mike: [00:27:27] You're the best Dave that I know that starts with a last name that starts with a B!
Dave: [00:27:31] Hmm. I guess that works. Dave C, there's still potential for you to be number one.
Mike: [00:27:37] (Laughs) What are you doing, man?
Dave: [00:27:41] (Laughs) Good thing he doesn't edit the podcast.
Mike: [00:27:42] Yeah.
Dave: [00:27:42] But on the note of variations, variation abuse is a thing going on right now and a lot of sellers are getting suspended for it, doing what Mike talked about. You're probably not going to catch the ire of Amazon. That's not necessarily TOS noncompliant. Where people are getting into a lot of issues is when they're piggybacking on a totally separate SKU, sometimes not even their SKU and trying to get the review juice from that. So like I say, what Mike talked about, not really going to get you into trouble, but there is opportunity to get yourself into trouble and get suspended, which is a great segue to the next one.
Mike: [00:28:15] Yep. So unfortunately, these are the deals that– the things we have to deal with, with Ecomcrew premium that I wish we didn't. And it's gut wrenching because like I don't know, I'm just kind of a people person. I have spent a lot of my life the last couple of years stressing about our accounts getting shut down. And I feel like as much as I could feel it happening to me when I get a member come email in that their account's been suspended, what do I do? And I think that having someone to just even talk to about it. We played bartender a lot through these situations, but we've also seen a lot of people who have been suspended at this point.
Mike: [00:28:50] And so we know, for the most part, it's going to be OK. It's going to suck for the next couple of days or maybe a week or two at the outset, but– or worst case, I should say. But I don't know that we've had someone who hasn't gotten out of jail. At least if it was their first time getting suspended. I'm trying to think back through now. There might be one person that wasn't able to get their account unsuspended the first time, but being able to like walk them through who to talk to, how to get a plan of action done. Like what needs to be in there. Step by step, what to do basically to get the account reopened in the quickest time possible has been really helpful.
Dave: [00:29:26] Yeah, and when it comes to account suspensions, they're going to come again in one of two varieties. One of them is this. It's a simple mistake from Amazon. They kind of effed up and you shouldn't have been suspended in the first place. And the other one is that you did something wrong. Again, irking Amazon and you need to acknowledge that and put a plan of action together with how you're going to correct it. And again, a lot of the mistakes that people make when they're doing these plans of actions is waiting too long to actually make that POA.
Dave: [00:29:54] A lot of times Amazon will actually unsuspend you within literally hours of putting that POA together, they just want to see something as long as you have the right trigger words there. They're going to unsuspend you pretty quick. Now, the thing with POAs is that generally the first POA that you put together, they're going to review very quickly. And if you wrote what they wanted to hear, then you're gonna get unexpended pretty quickly. And the review time proceeds to get longer and longer on each subsequent POA. So you want to get that first POA right, but you also want to send it relatively quickly. You don't want to be writing this POA for a week, losing sales per week, losing sales velocity for a week, when you could have had your account unsuspended in a matter of hours.
Mike: [00:30:33] Here's the thing. Here's the real trick or the real secret. I would say that's important to know is you have to fall on your sword. The initial defence that you're going to have, the thing that you're gonna want to say is, “I didn't do anything wrong and like this was, this is all BS”, and that does happen actually, that's really true to the case at least half the time. And that isn't going to work. If you email into Amazon and tell them that this is their fault or their problem or that they have incorrectly accused you of something or whatever it might be. You're never going to get your account unsuspended there. You gotta just be like, “Yup, I did that. This is what I'm going to do to fix that. I won't do it again”. That's pretty much the step by step what you have to say to them.
Mike: [00:31:12] Again, I know that's really difficult. And you know, for me, I know that if I was in that situation, I would have a really hard time with it because I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong or that I've gotten caught if I've done something that's wrong. But if I get accused of IP infringement or something, get my account shut down for that, and I didn't do anything like that, it was a false IP complaint. I'm gonna have a really difficult time typing out the words, we're going to correct this and fix it when I haven't actually done anything. But the bottom line is that that's what you're going to have to do.
Dave: [00:31:42] You haven't been married long enough, Mike. (Laughs)
Mike: [00:31:45] (Laughs) It's different from that perspective. I had, I'll– I can tell a story about that but I know my mother-in-law listens to the podcast so I'll be nice.
Dave: [00:31:52] That's one of my stronger skill sets, is admitting wrong when I'm not wrong.
Mike: [00:31:56] Oh, I don't know about that. I've seen you put up a fight with Christie.
Dave: [00:31:59] Uh, yeah. Once in a hundred times, I'll fight something and the other 99, I'll–
Mike: [00:32:04] Pick your battles.
Dave: [00:32:04] -fall on the sword, as you say, I like that.
Mike: [00:32:06] Yeah, fall on your sword.
Mike: [00:32:08] Alright, so in non-Amazon land, the next thing we get asked a lot is about our sourcing agent, because I think a combination of we've talked about him a decent amount on the podcast. We've had him on doing a Secret Sauce webinar, which was one of our best ones, I think. He did a great job with that. But for me, having a sourcing agent has completely changed my life and I'm not like, being dramatic here. I have not gone to China once since we've gotten our sourcing agent. I've gone to Hong Kong, gotten really close to China. But I enjoy spending time in Hong Kong, don't so much enjoy spending time in China.
Mike: [00:32:41] And that's a week or two of my life every year or every six months that I haven't had to spend over there as well. So my trip's now– typically, I'm still going to Asia for about the same amount of time, but now I'm stretching the amount of time I spend in the Philippines office, which is way more productive than spending time in China. And I still think it's important to go to China. If you're going to be imported from China, go to whatever factory, wherever it is in the world.
Mike: [00:33:04] It doesn't matter if it's in China or not and have these relationships. But you don't necessarily need to be going there every six months and finding new factories can be a lot of work. So having a sourcing agent, to go out and do that is quite helpful. So to our premium members, we just give that contact. We don't discuss it publicly because we don't want to overwhelm the guy. But I think the general tip here is that sourcing agents are okay.
Mike: [00:33:27] I think that when I first got into importing and doing ecommerce, I was so anti-sourcing agent that I would go out of my way, especially at the Canton Fair, to uncover the sourcing agents and kind of catch them in their web of lies of– because a lot of times, they portray themselves as a factory. I wanted to deal directly with the factory and I'm like– That was just my attitude, and I thought that I would save money that way. I thought that I would negotiate the best price that way, that I would have the best relationship that way.
Mike: [00:33:55] And the reality is, is that after doing this for years, I was 100% wrong. This is where I'll admit that I was wrong. The sourcing agent gets better pricing for me, even with his fee included. The sourcing agent saves me a ton of time trying to find all the different factories that are out there and the different options. A sourcing agent is going to step in and know how to deal with quality control issues, as a part of our sourcing agent, he does inspections and he knows what is tolerable and what isn't and can kinda walk me off the ledge when it comes to that stuff. Because you know, I have this “I want everything to be perfect” mentality, but that isn't realistic a lot of times.
Mike: [00:34:28] And you know, they just know how to push back on that stuff. And so it's just like a lot of little details like that, that come up where they just know the culture. They're there. And for me, it's been just, like I said, has been game changing. It's been life changing. They've helped me in so many ways. And we've tried to pay it forward by helping them as well.
Dave: [00:34:46] Yeah and I use a sourcing agent for about half of our products. The big thing with the sourcing agent is that's gonna cut down on time for you. It's kind of like your accounting. You can do your own book keeping. You can do your own accounting in your business. You're going to save money, but you're not going to save time and that's the same mentality with a sourcing agent, is that there is a lot of time that you're gonna be spending going back and forth with suppliers, reviewing samples, fighting with time zones, all that annoying type of things that you're gonna be going through when you're doing it all on your own.
Dave: [00:35:14] Sometimes you should do it on your own if you're developing kind of your home run product and there's a lot of customization that is going with it and you want to have a direct contact with that factory, probably makes sense for you to be doing it on your own. But if you're trying to launch a ton of products and they're relatively kind of uniform with other competitor's products, definitely a sourcing agent will help you get to market far, far quicker.
Mike: [00:35:36] Alright, we have time for one last one here on the podcast today, which is around hiring mostly around the Philippines office because I'm constantly talking about my team over in the Philippines. They're amazing. Looking forward to going to visit them again next year, going to try spend two or three more weeks out there, just get so much done with them while there. As of recording this, we have 13 people over there. That's after having 4 of them transfer over with the ColorIt sale. So we would have had more if not for that. But they were just amazing. I mean, they do an incredible job and I'm constantly talking about them. So we get obviously, because of that, a ton of questions that come out of that.
Mike: [00:36:15] And I would say that the biggest thing is, first of all, where to find them. So the answer there is we use OnlineJobs.ph, that's the number one place we find them. What to hire for, so the biggest thing is anything that's repetitive is general VA type stuff. So things that you can put together a procedure for and someone can follow step by step and it isn't time sensitive. So we have our VAs handling a myriad of things that it comes to that. Customer Service is another great one. They're kind of prebuilt over there to handle that because of all the call centre type things that are over there. So there's just a huge amount of training and understanding of dealing with customer service and then the separate roles, we've had really good luck with graphic designers over there.
Mike: [00:36:59] All of our graphic design for the most part now comes out of the Philippines. We'll send our products over there. They photography them– I'm making up new words, photograph them and do all that work over there, make videos for us. It's been really good. We also have hired content writers over there, which has worked out really well. That's been the hardest role to fill, though. It's definitely not the easiest thing to find over there because we're trying to hit such a high mark. We also have– I just hired an executive assistant over there, which is working out great. He's just started but he's working on a couple things that I can already see, like just little incremental positive changes in my life. He's just gonna be handling all that stuff for me. And he's also going be helping Mia, who's the other person we have over there, which is our manager.
Mike: [00:37:40] We're also doing PPC from over in that office and dealing with Amazon support cases that they'll actually open up the cases with Amazon and so much more. And so even though we've talked a lot about this and there's a couple really good articles, Dave and I wrote this really great article, you can search “Ecomcrew Philippines” and read the article I wrote about that there. We still get a ton of questions that come in. And I love talking to people about employees and hiring. It's just because, it's been such a positive impact in my life.
Dave: [00:38:05] Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of it's trying to decide what roles to fill first. You obviously have a lot of roles that you probably do want to outsource at some point. So try to pick which roles are the lowest hanging fruit for outsourcing first to a VA. So that's again, a lot of the things that we can help you with. I kinda talk you through it because we've both grown fairly sizable companies over our ecommerce careers and there's certain things that you should start with first and certain things that you should delay until later.
Mike: [00:38:33] Alright, man, I think that's gonna wrap it up for this. There's actually a couple more things on the list that I wanted to get to, but we're running late on time both for recording this podcast. And ironically, we have an Ecomcrew Premium webinar to do. We do these Q&A webinars once a month, so we usually spend about two hours with our members doing an “Ask Me Anything” style webinar, which is my favorite time of the month. I just love the questions that come up and kind of conversing with our members.
Mike: [00:38:58] We also do the other webinar that we do during the month is the Secret Sauce webinar where we have a bunch of really cool guests come in and talk to our community. As I mentioned, we had our sourcing agent come in. We had a guy come in and talk about how to grow a Facebook page from 0 to 100,000 followers in under a year. And just some really, really cool stuff. As mentioned, we also, with Ecomcrew premium, will answer any e-mails that you have. So maybe if you join, you can be one of these 1,790 emails that we got in over the last year. We also have all the pre-made courses as well.
Mike: [00:39:28] So if you're interested in Ecomcrew premium, Ecomcrew.com/Premium, go sign up for that. We'd love to see on the inside. We'll probably have closer to 3,000 e-mails over the next year. We've been growing quite a bit, which has been awesome. And Dave, you want to take it away for the sign off for this?
Dave: [00:39:43] Okay. Happy selling.
Mike: [00:39:46] Alright. We're gonna end it there.
Mike: [00:39:48] Alright, guys. That's going to wrap it up for the 292nd episode of the Ecomcrew podcast. Thanks again for all your support and for joining us. If you have a chance too, leave us a review. You know, I always ask. Please leave us a review. Really appreciate that. If you wanna leave a comment on this episode, Ecomcrew.com/292. Don't forget about that Smart Traffic Live thing coming up. I wish I mentioned it in an earlier podcast. It just kind of got away from me, but recording that here in just a few days for that event. Ecomcrew.com/SmartTraffic that'll get you $100 off over there, if you use the code “MikeJackness“. And besides that, if you're in the United States, have a great Thanksgiving, everyone. And until the next episode, happy selling and we'll talk to you soon.
Outro: [00:40:31] We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Ecomcrew podcast. If you haven't done so already, please head over to iTunes and leave us a review. It helps more than you know. Did you know that Ecomcrew has a ton of free content, including ecommerce courses? Head over to Ecomcrew.com/Free to check it out today. That's going to do it for this episode of the Ecomcrew podcast. Until the next one. Happy selling and we'll talk to you soon.
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