031 – How to Use the STAR Business Blueprint to Organize Your Marketing

The STAR Business Blueprint™ is a framework we developed to help businesses get a clear picture of what needs to happen with their marketing.

Once you understand the STAR Blueprint, it will give you a good filter for understanding which marketing activities you need to focus on and which ones can wait.

It will help you avoid one of the deadliest enemies of effective marketing…fragmentation. Fragmentation is when you have a bunch of unconnected pieces of marketing that aren’t in communication with each other and aren’t working together under one cohesive plan.

The STAR Business Blueprint™

S-Sales

The first and most important stage of the blueprint is ensuring you can make a sale…ensuring you have an offer that, when placed in front of customers, converts.

A sales conversion takes place any time a customer takes the action you want them to take. This can be purchasing your product or service, joining your email list, clicking a link in a Facebook ad, or picking up the phone and calling you.

If you don’t have an offer that is converting, it’s pointless to spend time and money sending more people to your website or Amazon product detail page. You first need to do whatever it takes to get your offer to convert – improve your website, come up with better Facebook ads, create a better Amazon product detail page, etc.

T-Traffic

Once you have an offer that is proven to convert, you’re ready to increase sales by sending more traffic to the offer.

Some of the ways this can happen is through paid social media advertising, Google Adwords, Amazon pay-per-click ads, enlisting the help of social media influencers, running product launches on Amazon, etc.

A-Amplification

Amplification is taking what you’re already doing that’s working and finding ways to get even greater results from your existing offers and traffic.

One way to do this is to find ways to get your existing customers to purchase more frequently and spend more money with you.

Another way is to find ways to more actively engage with your existing customers and get them to spread the word about your brand and refer others to you.

Customer service improvements that increase satisfaction and positive reviews and decrease returns and negative reviews are also amplification.

R-Reputation

Reputation is about improving your brand’s image and protecting your brand.

Reputation activities include getting more positive reviews and testimonials, going through Amazon Brand Registry, and taking control of your supply chain and advertised pricing.

Want Help Applying the STAR Blueprint to Your Business?

We love helping brands create strategic plans for growth! Your first half hour of consulting is free, so you have nothing to lose. Click here to schedule a 30-minute phone consultation!

030 – Transparency by Amazon: A Product Authenticity and Supply Chain Game Changer?

Amazon Transparency is currently being rolled out, and it has the potential to have a significant impact for brands that are fighting product authenticity and supply chain issues.

What is Transparency?

  • New program launched in 2017
  • Piloted with just a few dozen brands
  • Brands purchase 2D barcodes to place on their products (unique 26-digit alphanumeric code)
    • Each barcode is unique
    • Each individual unit of product gets its own barcode
    • Barcodes cost $0.01 to $0.05
  • If a product has been registered with Transparency, any unit of that product that shows up at an Amazon fulfillment center without the Transparency barcode will be refused
  • Consumers can scan the barcode with their Amazon app to learn about the product
  • Currently invitation-only
  • Currently only available in North America
  • Supposed to be getting rolled out more broadly in 2018
    • Amazon has a number of job postings for the program listed on its job posting website

How Transparency Benefits Consumers

  • Be assured that the items you’re purchasing are authentic
  • Find out additional information about items you purchase
    • Learn the manufacturing date and location of the product
    • Learn additional details, such as the product’s materials or ingredients

How Transparency Benefits Amazon

  • Much more effective way to deal with the rampant counterfeit product issues
  • Makes Amazon the product authenticity clearinghouse – customers of other retail outlets still scan Amazon codes with the Amazon app for product information

How Transparency Benefits Brands

  • Gives stronger protections against counterfeit products
  • Creates the opportunity to track products through your supply chain, allowing you to identify the leaks where unauthorized sellers are gaining access to your products and selling them on Amazon

To Learn More About Transparency

To Schedule a Free Consultation with eCom Leverage

Click here, fill out the brief form, and then we’ll get in touch to schedule a call!

029 – Pros and Cons of 5 Amazon Strategies for Brands

Brands have several options for how you can approach your presence on Amazon. It’s important to understand what your options are and what are the pros and cons of each option.

In this episode we explain the pros and cons of 5 different approaches you can take to Amazon as a brand.

First, an Important Distinction

There is a big difference between you (or other third parties) selling your products ON Amazon and you selling your products TO Amazon:

Selling on Amazon is also called third-party or 3P, and it involves you and/or other 3rd-party merchants selling your products directly to consumers (B2C) on the Amazon marketplace through a Seller Central account.

Selling to Amazon is also called first-party or 1P, and it involves you entering into a B2B wholesale relationship with Amazon where you sell your products directly to Amazon via a Vendor Central account, and Amazon then sells your products on their marketplace.

Amazon Brand Registry

Regardless of which route you go, you should always have your brand registered through Amazon’s Brand Registry program.

5 Strategies for Brands on Amazon

1. Free-for-All (or the Do Nothing approach)

Pros:

Cons:

  • Damage to the brand…incorrect pricing, poor customer service, poor or incorrect product images and details, inconsistent availability
  • Hurts relationships with other retail partners, both brick-and-mortar and online
  • Hurts sales both on and off Amazon
  • Makes you vulnerable to counterfeiters
  • Damages your brand’s reputation

2. 1P – Vendor Central (you wholesale your products to Amazon)

Pros:

  • If Amazon stays in stock, then they’ll almost always have the buy box and be making the sales, so you can be fairly confident customers will get authentic items
  • Access to additional Amazon advertising platforms and opportunities – in the past it was Headline Search Ads, Enhanced Brand Content, Product Videos, AMG (Amazon Media Group), etc. Now most of that is being made available to brand-registered Seller Central accounts.
  • Ease…receive a PO, send out product, done

Cons:

  • No pricing control (and Amazon often pushes your prices down as hard as they can)
  • Can be hard to get changes/fixes made to product detail pages
  • No champion for your brand, making sure your brand is represented the best possible way and your sales are maximized
  • Amazon doesn’t always stay in stock
  • Net 30 or 60 or 90 terms…tie up more cash

3A. 3P – Self-Managed Seller Central (you have your own Seller Central account for selling your products on Amazon B2C, and you manage the account yourself)

Pros:

  • Maximum control over pricing, inventory supply and product availability, product detail pages, etc.
  • Best margins = make the highest profits
  • Helps cash flow…get payouts from Amazon every 14 days
  • You own and control your Seller Central account, no one can take it away from you

Cons:

  • Sales tax nexus
  • Takes work and consistent management
  • Can be vulnerable to damage caused by an account suspension…but can mitigate a lot of this risk by managing the account properly

3B. 3P – Third-Party Managed Seller Central (you have your own Seller Central account for selling your products on Amazon B2C, but you bring in a 3rd party to manage your Seller Central account for you)

Pros:

  • Get the benefits without the demand for consistent time investment and constantly staying up-to-date with Amazon’s evolving platform
  • Bring in specialists who have a level of expertise you’ll never be able to achieve
  • Tons of motivation for the third-party to do well and improve your sales and margins if some of their compensation is tied to revenue or profits they generate

Cons:

  • Caution: make sure you’re working with someone you really trust

4A. Other 3P –  Multiple Authorized Sellers (you don’t sell your products on Amazon or to Amazon, instead you authorize multiple third parties who sell your products on Amazon through their own Seller Central accounts)

Pros:

  • Enforce pricing agreements, content on product detail pages, etc.
  • Lessen the risk of one account suspension wiping you out on Amazon for a time
  • Offload sales tax liability

Cons:

  • You don’t have ultimate control
  • Whenever there is more than one seller of your brand, there’s always temptation for someone to drop prices or create duplicate listings or employ other damaging tactics to try and capture a larger share of your brand’s sales
  • With two or more sellers there is far less motivation for any of the sellers to put extra effort or money into improving and optimizing your product details pages or promoting your brand

4B. Other 3P – Exclusive Authorized Seller (you have one exclusive authorized seller who is the only seller authorized to sell your products on Amazon, which they do through their own Seller Central account)

Pros:

  • Most of the pros of the 3P approach with multiple authorized sellers
  • Huge bonus: exclusive seller is motivated to put effort into increasing sales and policing your brand, watching out for unauthorized sellers
  • If you protect your exclusive authorized seller with a good deal, they may be willing to shoulder advertising costs for promoting your product and growing your sales on Amazon
  • You’ve offloaded sales tax liability

Cons:

  • You don’t have ultimate control (which doesn’t have to be a huge issue if you have a good relationship)
  • If the seller sells other brands or has other selling activities on Amazon, this can increase the risk of them getting an account suspension which would temporarily stop your products from selling on Amazon

4C. 3P – Exclusive Authorized Seller via Consignment (same as 4B, but you carry the cost of inventory…as products sell, the third party retains their agreed-upon profits and then sends the rest to you)

Pros:

  • All of the above for 3P exclusive seller arrangement…one tweak to this arrangement is that you don’t make the exclusive seller purchase from you wholesale. Instead, your inventory gets sent in to Amazon and as it sells, the exclusive seller keeps whatever portion you’ve agreed and then sends the rest of the proceeds on to you.
  • This can make the exclusive seller arrangement more attractive to a third party

Cons:

  • Tie up more of your cash

5. Blended 1P/3P Approach

Pros:

  • Get access to all Amazon’s marketing platforms, while maintaining more influence and control over product detail pages
  • Make sure adequate inventory supply happens to products stay in stock

Cons:

  • Most of the cons previously mentioned with 1P, most notably no pricing control

Let Us Help You Decide

Need help deciding which route is best for your brand? Fill out this form and we’ll give you a free 30-minute phone consultation!

028 – 5 Tips for Better Amazon Product Descriptions

Product descriptions, though not the #1 most important aspect of a product detail page, serve several important functions nonetheless.

Rather than struggling with what to put in your product description, follow these tips for improving your product descriptions and converting more visitors into customers!

Product Detail Page Podcast Series

This episode concludes a series of recent episodes teaching how to optimize various aspects of your product detail pages:

Episode 19 gives 10 tips for product titles.
Episode 26 teaches how to create images that trigger customers to buy.
Episode 27 shows how to write product bullet points that sell.

And this episode, #28, is all about your product description!

Amazon Guidelines

Amazon guidelines change from time to time, but currently you are allowed 2,000 bytes for your your product description. With spaces, this comes out to about 1,900 characters.

5 Tips for Better Product Descriptions

  1. Make the content easy to digest by adding structure to it:
    • Use Enhanced Brand Content if your brand is registered with Amazon.
    • If your brand isn’t registered, use html tags to structure the text
      • Short paragraphs
      • Bold text
      • Bullet lists
  1. Cover elements of the StoryBrand SB7 framework:
    • Speak to the customers needs:
      • External need
      • Internal need
      • Philosophical need
    • Establish trust as the customer’s guide:
      • Empathy – show you understand how the customer feels
      • Authority – mention awards, certifications, etc. related to your product or company
    • Give the customer a plan:
      • Process plan – tell them to buy now, and tell them what will happen next when they do
      • Agreement plan – warranty or money-back guarantee for risk-reversal
  2. Tell a story…literally
    • Use descriptive language to transport readers to a place where your product is being used, then let their imaginations take over
    • Tell a story of one customer not using your product and experiencing failure and another customer using it and experiencing success
    • For inspiration, read product descriptions on the J. Peterman Company website, such as this one and this one
  3. Include as many of the keywords as possible that you haven’t used elsewhere
  4. Include any important features or specifications that you haven’t included in your bullets and that will be important to some customers

027 – How to Write Product Bullet Points that Sell

Besides your product title, your bullet points are the most-read written copy about your product.

Good bullet points are an essential ingredient of product detail pages that convert visitors into buyers.

To get a fuller picture of creating great product detail pages, also listen to last week’s episode, Episode 26, in which we talked about how to create product images, as well as Episode 19 where we talked about how to write the perfect product title.

Introductory Tips for Your Bullet Points

  1. Use all 5 bullets Amazon allows you. Be aware of character limits – could be 100 characters, could be 200, could be 500 or something else, depending on the category and Amazon’s ever-changing guidelines.
  2. Include your next-most-important keywords in your bullets (most important keywords are in your title)
  3. Write in terms of benefits, not features. Use the [BENEFIT] because [FEATURE] format

A Framework for Writing Great Bullets

Like last week’s episode on product images, we’re going to use Donald Miller’s StoryBrand framework (from his book Building a StoryBrand) as a guide for deciding what to put in our bullet points.

His framework is based on the idea that every great story has the same basic story line. If you weave this story line into your marketing, you give customers and easy grid for understanding what you offer and how it can help them.

Here is the story line of every great story, according to Miller:

  • A character (your customer, not your brand, is the hero of the story)
  • Has a problem
  • And meets a guide (you are the guide)
  • Who gives them a plan
  • And calls them to action
  • That helps them avoid failure
  • And ends in a success

The StoryBrand Framework Applied to Product Bullet Points

Here are some of the main points from Miller’s framework that can (and should) be incorporated in your bullet points.

  • Major on the customer’s problem(s) that your product solves – both external, internal, and philosophical problems. Tip: Whatever features of your product solve the biggest problems customers have with your competitors’ products, especially make sure to highlight these in your bullet points.
  • Empathy and authority show customers the guide (that’s you) is qualified to help them. Don’t spend an entire bullet on yourself as the guide, but do weave in words that show you understand how the customer feels. Whatever awards or certifications your product has, slip those in as well.
  • The agreement plan is important to talk about in one of your bullets. This is where you take away risk for the customer by letting them know about a warranty or money-back guarantee you offer.
  • Call to action – tell customers to buy now and start experiencing the benefits of solving their problem.
  • When you provide the call to action, show customers how purchasing your product will help them avoid failure and end in success.

Amazon-Specific Guidelines for Bullet Points

  • Read Amazon’s Style Guides
  • Don’t use seller-specific information such as “free shipping”
  • Don’t talk about the price
  • Do start each bullet with a capital letter
  • Don’t use ALL CAPS or hyphens, periods, or exclamation points

Special Offer from eCom Leverage

Contact us before the end of April and provide the bullet points for one of your products, and we’ll go over them and make suggestions for how you could improve them…for FREE!

026 – How to Create Product Images that Trigger Customers to Buy

In Episode 23, Daniel and I discussed Donald Miller’s excellent book Building a Story Brand.

Now I’m going to show you how to use Story Brand as a framework for creating excellent product images that make customers want to buy.

The Story Brand Framework Applied to Product Images

A character has a problem:

  • External Problem – They need what you’re selling in order to solve their problem…so clearly show what your product is and what problem it solves.
  • Internal Problem – Use images to speak to the emotional experience the customer wants to have. Show customers having the desired emotional experience because of your product.
  • Philosophical Problem – Use images to speak to a “should” or “ought to” that the customer feels. For example, “You shouldn’t have to spend 15 minutes in a drive-through to get a good cup of coffee.”

And meets a guide:

  • Empathy – show that you understand how the customer feels
  • Authority – show that you’re capable of solving their problem…awards, certifications, testimonials, etc.

Who gives them a plan:

  • Process plan – here is how you assemble or use this product
  • Agreement plan – let them know about a warranty or money-back guarantee

And calls them to action:

  • Use an image or a text overlay on images to tell customers to buy now and start experiencing the benefits of solving their problem

That helps them avoid failure and end in success:

  • You could do an image that shows the failure on one side with a big red X over it, and the success on the other side with a big green checkmark. Find a way to visually communicate customers experiencing success instead of the failure they would have otherwise experienced.

Tips About Product Images in General

  • Make sure they’re great…don’t skimp on photography!
  • Well-lit, high resolution, clearly show all important parts and aspects of your product
  • Good image editing (background removal, retouching, adding graphics, etc.) is just as important as good photography
  • When hiring a photographer, ask to see their portfolio. The same goes for hiring a graphic designer.
  • Need a good product photographer? Contact us!

Some Tips About Amazon Images in Particular

  • Read Amazon’s image requirements
  • Make sure your main image has a pure white background
  • Make sure the product goes all the way to the edges of the image
  • The more square your main image is, the larger the area the thumbnail covers and the more the image stands out in AZ search results
  • AZ is strict about adding text, inset images, logos, etc. to your main product image, but you have a lot of latitude with your additional images
  • With many categories you get 9 images…use them all!

025 – Expert Interview: Sales Tax Liability – Are You at Risk?

For many e-commerce sellers, dealing with sales tax is about as fun as getting a root canal. But we’re going to make an otherwise painful subject as easy as possible.

This week’s podcast episode is an interview with Jennifer Dunn of TaxJar. Jennifer, though not a CPA, is an expert on topics related to e-commerce and sales tax liability.

The Big Idea

Here is one of the most important things you should know about sales tax: If you sell on Amazon via Fulfillment by Amazon using a Seller Central account, you likely have sales tax liability in 20+ states…anywhere Amazon stores your inventory.

And even if you don’t use FBA, states are passing more and more laws that require you to report the sales you make in their state, even if you don’t have tax liability there.

Topics We Covered in the Interview

Here are other important topics Jennifer covered during our conversation:

  • In most states, having a physical location in the state, or having employees there, or storing inventory there (including with Amazon FBA), or selling products at a trade show there gives you nexus and means you are required to collect and remit sales tax in that state.
  • If you have nexus in a state, the state expects you to collect and remit sales tax even if you make just one sale there.
  • For most businesses, it becomes a question of cost-benefit analysis. If you only have a few sales in a particular state it may be more cost in terms of time and effort to collect and remit sales tax in that particular state than to just pay back taxes and penalties and interest if the state ever decides to come after you.
  • Jennifer points out that regular accountants and attorneys don’t specialize in the complicated tax laws relating to interstate commerce. She highly recommends you consult with a SALT…a State and Local Tax expert. Jennifer says most of the experts they’re connected to recommend you be thinking about registering for sales tax in a state if you make more than $3,000 a year in sales there.
  • These laws don’t just apply to U.S.-based businesses. They also apply to businesses based in other countries that are making sales in the U.S.
  • Washington and Pennsylvania recently became the first two states to pass marketplace facilitator laws. These laws require marketplaces like Amazon to collect and remit sales tax in their state on your behalf. But this doesn’t let you off the hook. You still are required to have a sales tax with those states and report all your sales to them. Furthermore, if you have nexus in those states, that nexus applies to all your sales. So if you sell through your own website as well, you’re still responsible to collect and remit sales tax on your own website sales.
  • In a couple of weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing a case that could reverse the precedent set in 1992 in the Quill vs. North Dakota case. The way TaxJar expects the Supreme Court to rule is to remove the protections currently in place that say a business is only responsible for sales tax in a particular state if they have nexus there. If that happens, then businesses could quickly find themselves responsible for sales tax on e-commerce sales in nearly all states, whether or not they have nexus in those states.

Which States Have Amazon Fulfillment Centers?

To see which states have Amazon fulfillment centers (and which of those also have sales tax laws), check out this map on TaxJar’s blog.

How Can TaxJar Help with these Issues?

TaxJar (www.TaxJar.com) is online software that makes the task of tracking your sales and filing sales tax in various states FAR EASIER.

It connects to all your different sales and payment platforms (Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Shopify, Stripe, Paypal, etc.) and gathers all your sales data from each platform.

TaxJar then shows you in what states you made what sales. If you sell on Amazon using FBA, it also shows you in which states your inventory is stored.

TaxJar plans start at $19/month for gathering and reporting this information. (They also have a free trial that will show you your sales in each state over the previous two months.)

Additionally, TaxJar has an autofile feature that you can use to automatically file your monthly, quarterly, or annual sales tax returns in all the different states where you have registered for sales tax. Autofile costs $16-$25 per filing, depending on which monthly TaxJar plan you have.

Special Offer from TaxJar

TaxJar has generously made a special offer to listeners of the eCom Leverage podcast. Use the code ECOMLEVERAGE when signing up to get 10% off an annual plan with TaxJar.

(We are not affiliates of TaxJar and receive no compensation if you sign up. But we think they provide an excellent service to e-commerce sellers, and we highly recommend you check them out!)

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024 – Is Your House Built on Someone Else’s Land?

In this week’s episode we take a look at some of the platforms the e-commerce side of your business might be dependent on, with an eye to the following:

If XYX platform got shut down or taken away from us tomorrow, how would that impact our business? Would it be just a bump in the road, or would the impact be devastating?

How could branching out into new platforms add additional (potentially very profitable) revenue streams to our business?

Suspension Horror Stories

You don’t have to look far online if you want to find Amazon suspension horror stories.

One such story is detailed in a CNBC article that was published in November of 2017.

The article tells the story of Pure Daily Care, a brand that had grown to over $10M in annual sales in 7 years, thanks in large part to strong sales on Amazon.com.

The brand was attacked by a malicious competitor who ripped off their IP and got tons of negative reviews posted on Pure Daily Care’s main product.

Pure Daily Care ended up getting suspended by Amazon for 7 weeks during 4th quarter. They lost an estimated $400k in sales, got stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollar of inventory they had to sell at a deep discount, and had to lay off half their staff.

The Moral of the Story?

Building your entire house on someone else’s land is risky business.

Adding new platforms and selling channels to your brand online gives you diversity that:

  1. Can grow your sales, possibly very significantly
  2. Can lower your risk if one platform were to suddenly be taken away from you

Platforms and Ways Your Products Could Be Sold Online

  • Your own website (grow strong sales on your website if you haven’t already…build on your own land!)
  • Amazon.com with a Seller Central account
  • Amazon.com with a Vendor Central account if Seller Central wasn’t viable for you
  • Amazon.com by having a trusted 3rd party be your brand’s exclusive authorized seller and brand manager on Amazon
  • Amazon.ca (it’s easy to set up, and you could add 5%-10% to your Amazon US sales by expanding to Canada)
  • Amazon.co.uk (gives you access to all of Europe, and Europe has a bigger combined population that the U.S.)
  • Walmart.com (become a 3rd party seller on the Walmart Marketplace…you may be able to do 10%-20% of whatever sales volume you’re doing on Amazon.com on Walmart)
  • eBay (yes, eBay…it’s still around, does huge sales volume, it’s better suited than ever to new product sales, has a loyal following that includes people who never shop on Amazon, and it’s really simple to cross-list your products there)

Reasons to Put Energy into Your Own Website and Audience

Whatever you do, develop a strong audience that you own and control online…and grow your own website’s sales volume! Amazon can suspend you, but they can’t suspend your own website.

You “own” the customers who buy on your own website. Amazon owns the customers who buy your products on Amazon.

Building a strong audience of your own can help you improve your sales ranks on Amazon and launch new products.

Limitations to Your Own Website

  • You’re still building on someone else’s land to some extend if you’re using a platform like Shopify (which is a great platform, by the way). You can get shut down or suspended if something goes wrong, and third parties can change their software or policies or go out of business.
  • Your payment processor can suspend you, even if you’ve done nothing wrong (ask us how we know).

Diversify Your Marketing and Your Audience-Building Because…

  • Facebook Advertising accounts can get suspended (and do with regularity, sometimes when you’ve done nothing wrong, and can take time to get restored)
  • Facebook pages can get taken down
  • Facebook can announce, without warning, that for the time being they’re not allowing any new users for Facebook Messenger marketing (chatbots), as they have done at the time of this episode recording
  • Everyone could get tired of one social media platform and start using another one
  • Your email management provider can shut down your account
  • A third-party policy change can instantly kill a particular ad or funnel or marketing method that was working great for you

The Best Way to Grow and Protect Your Brand

  • Grow your sales on your own website (recognizing that you’re still somewhat dependent on 3rd parties as you do)
  • Grow a list of customers and fans who have given you permission to stay in touch with them. Get their email addresses (regularly saved to a good ol’ fashioned spreadsheet…but check privacy laws), their phone numbers, and their physical addresses.

Make sure you don’t get stuck in one way of doing things! Even if one thing is working great and driving most of your e-commerce sales, be constantly thinking 2-3 steps ahead.

Identify the most profitable platforms/channels/methods to grow your sales next. Constantly ask yourself how dependent you are on a platform you don’t control, and what you would do if XYZ suddenly went away.

 

023 – How to Create a Brand Story that Connects with Customers

In this week’s episode of the podcast, my brother Daniel and I talk about some of our best takeaways from Donald Miller’s excellent book Building a StoryBrand.

It’s an excellent book on marketing that we highly recommend brand executives read.

The Big Idea

The big idea of the book is that every great story (movie, novel, etc.) follows a similar plot line. If you write a story around your customers and your brand that follows this same time-tested plot line, your story will engage customers and make them want to buy your product or service.

Miller calls this plot line the SB7 framework, and he explains it like this:

  1. A Character
  2. Has a Problem
  3. And Meets a Guide
  4. Who Gives Them a Plan
  5. And Calls Them to Action
  6. That Helps Them Avoid Failure
  7. And Ends in a Success

Our Biggest Takeaway

Our biggest takeaway? Your customer is the hero of the story, not you. You are the guide. You’re Yoda, not Luke Skywalker.

Every Story Plot Must Have…

Conflict! The hero must have an ambition, and then they must encounter obstacles to the achieving of their ambition.

The stakes must be high. If it doesn’t matter whether the hero fails or succeeds, then you have a dull story.

The hero’s conflict is the center of the story. In your marketing, focus on the pain of the customer (the problem they want to solve) and strip away everything else that isn’t important.

Next-Level Effectiveness…the Realm of Marketing Ninjas

One of our favorite parts of Miller’s book is his discussion of three types of needs customers have: external, internal, and philosophical.

You obviously need to show customers how your product solves a physical need, such as, “I want good coffee to drink in the morning to get me going.”

Your marketing will grow in its effectiveness if you can also connect your problem to solving an internal need, such as, “Drinking this coffee makes me feel warm and comfortable inside and invigorated for a new day.”

But you really hit next-level effectiveness if you can connect your product to the meeting of a philosophical need the customer has.

One way to connect with philosophical needs of customers is to make a “should” or “ought to” statement with which customers deeply resonate. Here are a couple of examples:

“I ought to be able to have a good cup of coffee each morning without paying $4 and spending 10 minutes in a drive-through.”

“I shouldn’t have to worry that drinking my coffee each morning is destroying the world.” (think environmental or fair trade concerns)

2 Keys for Guides

Guides must have two essential traits:

  1. Empathy – they must demonstrate that they understand the plight of the hero and that they care.
  2. Authority – they must demonstrate that they are qualified to help the hero solve his/her problem. Brands can demonstrate authority with a couple of well-placed testimonials or certifications…but in doing this, you shouldn’t slip into being the hero of the story.

2 Types of Plans

Miller shares two types of plans that guides can share with their heroes (customers). Here are our brief comments on the plans:

  1. A Process Plan – These are the specific steps a customer should take in order to do business with you (read: in order to solve their problem), and they should be accompanied by clear, direct calls to action. “Enter your email address. Click the big green button. Add to cart. Click Buy Now.”
  2. An Agreement Plan – An agreement plan is what you use at the point of sale to alleviate customers’ fears about doing business with you. This can include things like a warranty or a money-back guarantee.

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022 – Compound Optimization: How Little Improvements Add Up to Big Profits

In this week’s podcast episode we’re going to look at a hypothetical case study that will demonstrate the power of compound optimization.

This will show you how seemingly small changes can add up to made a huge difference in your profits on Amazon.

Brands that are just starting on Amazon know they have lots of work and big improvements to make.

But we often see brands who are already experiencing success on Amazon mistakenly think their success means they have nothing to gain by working to further improve their Amazon presence.

Brands in this situation often have no idea how much profit they’re missing out on by not continuing to improve on Amazon.

I’m going to show you the possibilities, though! After listening to this podcast episode, you won’t fall into the same trap.

Compound Interest and Compound Optimization

You’ve heard about the power of compound interest. If you invest $10,000 at an annual rate of return of 10%, and you keep reinvesting all your earnings without pulling any money out, then after 40 years your initial $10,000 investment has grown to $452,593. That’s the power of compound interest.

Compound optimization is similar. It involves stacking little improvements, just a few percent here and there, on top of each other over time until they add up to made a big impact.

Case Study – The Power of Compound Optimization

Here is a hypothetical case study, some of whose details are very similar to those of brands we’ve worked on.

It’s admittedly overly simplified, but it will serve to demonstrate the potential of incrementally improving your brand’s presence on Amazon and sticking with it over time.

So here you go:

The Starting Point

You have a product that sells on Amazon at a $50 price point. Net Amazon payout per unit sold is $35. You are the manufacturer, and your product cost is $10, so your net profit per unit sold is $25.

You are currently selling 300 units per month. So monthly sales are $15,000, and monthly profit is $7,500.

The Optimization

You decide that you want to increase your sales by optimizing your product detail page.

You improve your images and your bullet points, and you add Enhanced Brand Content to your product description.

The effect this work has is increasing your conversion rate on the page from 8% to 10%. That means you sell an additional 75 units per month. So you added an additional $1,875/mo profit to your bottom line, and your monthly profit is now up to $9,375.

You do some keyword research and discover that you’re not being indexed for a phrase that gets 2,000 searches per month. You add that keyword to your listing and get ranked in the 5th position on the first page of search results for that keyword.

According to this study the 5th position gets an average of 7% of the clicks, so you just added 140 clicks per month. At a 10% conversion rate you start making an additional 14 sales per month, meaning an extra $350/mo in profit.

Your monthly profit is now $9,725.

You start spending $500 a month on Sponsored Products Ads with a 10% ACoS. So that ad spend is making you $5,000/mo in gross sales, which is 100 units. That’s $2,500 in profit, $2,000 after subtracting the product cost.

So now you’re making $11,725 per month.

Up until now, your average position on Amazon search result pages has been 5th in organic search results.

Because of the optimization you’ve done, you’re now selling an additional 189 units per month. That is enough to move you from the 5th position in search results to the 3rd position.

The 3rd position gets almost 12% of clicks, whereas the 5th position only gets 7%. So you just increased traffic to your product detail page by 70% and grew your sales and profits by 35% (to be conservative). Now your monthly profit is $15,829 per month.

You’ve added over $8,300/mo profit to your bottom line, but we’re not done yet.

You decide you want to grow some more, so for 3 months you invest $5,000/mo in a Facebook ad campaign to drive additional sales. You pay a 3rd party agency $2,000/mo to run the campaign, and you dedicate $3,000/mo to Facebook ad spend.

You use this Facebook campaign to concentrate a significant volume of sales of your product on a chosen week each week for 3 months. Amazon loves sales you bring them from traffic outside Amazon.

The result of the Facebook campaign is to push you from an average position of 3rd in Amazon search results to 1st. The first position is worth 35% of clicks as compared to 12% for the 3rd position, so you just almost tripled your traffic.

Even though your traffic increased by 200%, we’re going to be conservative here and say that the effect this has is “only” to increase your sales by 50%. That means your monthly profit has now grown to $23,744.

You now start consistently spending $3,000/mo on Sponsored Products Ads. Your ACoS on the new $2,500 you’ve added to your ad spend is only 25%, but that means it still brings you an additional $10,000/mo in sales, which is an extra $5,000/mo profit, subtract the $2,500 ad spend and you’re left with an extra $2,500/mo.

That pushes your monthly profit to $26,244.

All this time you have been using a well-crafted email follow-up campaign to engage customers, show them how to get the most out of your product, and troubleshoot issues before they arise.

This has resulted in a few less negative reviews left for your product and a higher number of positive reviews. The shift moved your review score from 4.1 to 4.3, meaning your listing now shows 4.5 stars instead of 4 stars.

The social proof of the higher review score, plus being the #1 search result (and having Sponsored Products Ads above that), plus gaining the Amazon’s Choice badge, means that an additional 1 out of 100 people who visit your product detail page decide to buy.

Your conversion rate climbs another 1% from 10% to 11%, meaning that your sales and profits grow another 10%.

This brings your monthly profit to $28,864.

Now the holidays are coming. During two months around the holidays, your monthly profit doubles compared to the rest of the year.

So last year you made $7,500/mo for 10 months, and then $15,000/mo for 2 months. This one product made you $105,000 on Amazon during the year, which isn’t bad.

This year, after all the optimization you did, you made $404,152…an extra $300k by leveraging the power of compound optimization!!

As it turns out, you’re in a market that is growing, and Amazon is growing also. This means that next year your sales increase another 15% before you even lift a finger.

Oh, and did we mention that this product we’ve been working on is just 1 of 5 products in your brand?

That is the power of compound optimization.

We’re Offering the First Half Hour of Consulting for Free

Would you like to explore your brand’s situation some more? Get some insight on how you can grow your sales? Or troubleshoot issues like unauthorized sellers and MAP violators?

We’re offering the first half hour of consulting free of charge! To book a 30-minute phone call (your time to talk about whatever you want), click here and pick the time that works best for you.