$0-$1M in 9 Months with Amazon FBA
Running a 6 figure a month Amazon Business
Amazon FBA hacks, getting sales, and beating your competition
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Sam P | $0-$90k/m in 4 Months| Amazon FBA Interview Summary
What’s going on Sam, how are you?
Thanks for having me!
Amazon is such a big platform, it’s like the king of ecom right now. Is that the first thing you got started on? Also, Were you like always the hustler type in school? How did you stumble upon amazon?
I’ve always been one to dabble and try to see if there’s a way to turn a profit. I did yo-yo strings that I made from home.
Like the actual strings of the yo-yo?
My buddy and I in 5th/6th grade found a way to make our own yo-yo strings and we would sell them. We had a cool advantage because we could make them in colors and at that time the only strings you can buy were white.
It was sort of a fad in the 90’s.
How were you even thinking about that in grade 5?
It was just like ‘oh this is cool’. We made $80 and I felt like I won the lottery.
That would’ve a been a lot of money for a grade 5, in the 90’s.
For me it definitely was, I probably just bought another yo-yo with the money.
I’m very obsessive, I get into things and get so focused, I’ll devote all my time and energy into it, for me now it’s work and tennis.
Of course now I’d find a way to sell tennis things online to pay for my tennis addiction.
Really? You always gotta be selling something.
I get into these things that I have a lot of knowledge about.
I guess you can spot opportunity coz you’re into it.
Yeah exactly, I the more in depth knowledge than the layman and I can spot something the market needs and it’s not being fulfilled and I can go do that.
During college did you a few things? Did you start a business or did you go straight to work?
I messed around in college basically. Early 2000’s a revolution of amateur poker players became popular; online and offline. I made $20,000-30,000 and I bought an online casino.
It was an interesting deal and it was definitely my first foray into internet marketing.
I think when poker went online it just blew didn’t it? Tons of poker companies right now just killing it.
It was huge back then, we were marketing to a lot of Asian and European players. I sold my casino because I had some insight that US was getting ready to ban US deposits. I ended up selling it before that. And the guy I sold it to, I made sure that he was aware of that.
Is that still in effect even now?
Last time I checked a couple of years ago and it was basically an informational site, maybe an affiliate or a doorway page.
You’ve tried a few different things. Did you try things that may have not made you money but been able to learn certain things that transferred across to your businesses that worked for you?
That’s a good question. My online marketing, online investments, this may sound ridiculous but I’ve always had success, I’ve always made money on them. I’ve probably done a hundred things online but they’ve always been low cost and well researched.
One thing that I took my biggest hit, after I sold my online casino, I went and bought 3 rental properties in Missouri, Midwest of the US so it’s very cheap, run down old houses. I was 21, partying, didn’t have a job, messing around and being stupid. In 2008 the US crisis happened, I tried to sell them coz I needed the money but they just got foreclosed on.
It left me essentially homeless, rough period time for me. I probably learned most from that, in the fact that keeping your overhead cost low, making sure your income is high, staying committed and persistent.
I was pretty young when that happened so it was a good time to have that failure. I always learn my lessons the hardest way possible.
It’s always better to start young and do all the high-risk things when you don’t have much to lose. I used to do a lot of share trading, and I’m big with my risk like I just buy a lot of stock, don’t do a lot of research and just pray that it goes up. It’s fun to think like that but I’ve had some big hits from stock trading.
It’s funny because you do need a bit of risk; I think if you live your life too conservatively financially, you run the risk of having only a limited of return, limited amount of fun or adventure or whatever you’re seeking.
Now I’ve got a family so I live my life a lot more conservatively, I have to in some regards.
If you don’t try these things when you’re young they’ll stay in your head. Like my dad, he’s always thinking about spending money on business and me being in business for a while could give them advice. It’s good to have that clarity in your mind that you’ve tried it and that bit of info is out of your mind and not clogging your decision making.
Let’s talk about amazon, when did you get in to amazon?
8 or 9 years ago, 2009 was when I started. I wrote an ebook myself, it was how to buy and sell cars for profit and I was just trying to find ways to market it.
It would have done a lot better than it would now, coz now you got youtube and back then if you have ebook people would just turn to amazon or ebay, to buy them.
When I did it youtube was around too and there was a couple competitors I had doing youtube stuff but it was more just advertising to buy their course.
I did really well with that ebook, I got about 300 ebooks. It was fun and it was something to learn and it helped me to understand amazon’s algorithm pretty well. Back then it was much easier algorithm to manipulate like faking email address and manipulate reviews and sales and get that number 1 spot.
I always kind of kick myself a bit for not getting in, in the early days when google didn’t have much policies. Now they’re pretty strict on what they allow you to promote.
It was keyword stuffing and link building on google back then and that was the thing to do.
The funny thing is though, google didn’t have the search volume or search engine market shared that it has today. Google was competing against altavista, yahoo, webcrawler, so it wouldn’t quite have been the boon that it is today.
So how did google kind of become the king of all that?
It sort of just wiped out the others and google became synonymous with searching online. I think they produced a better quality search result and maybe better branding.
So did well with ebooks, but did you close down that business or stopped doing it?
I still do it, I still get the direct deposit, I just don’t scale it up as much as I used to.
Alright! so you’re still selling ebooks?
Yeah, I put those ebooks on apple and all the other platforms. I have audio books that I did myself. I like to have fun with all these stuff.
So would you say that the audiobook thing is still one of your main thing or just something that you experiment on here and there?
I don’t even touch it anymore, it’s just kind of on autopilot now.
There was a time when I was into the whole KDP thing. I think I released 15/20 ebooks and got them written by other people. They were ok but the algorithm required me to get reviews and market it but at the same time I was doing my ecom business, too much effort.
It’s funny you said that because I was just lucky to tinker with it at the right time. I was a couple of years ahead before these guys making courses.
With amazon, you’re in to physical products? Do you private labeling or do you import stuff straight from China and put it on amazon?
I do like every type of model. So I do private labeling, OEM. Honestly the fastest way to make it I think on amazon, so if you were starting today I would say forget private labeling and just piggy back on the listing, find somebody who’s a retailer and see if you can get some sales in through there.
So to see if they’re doing well. That whole listing thing, amazon has a rule where only one product can exist on their listing right? So if you want to sell the same thing, how does that work?
You would find a dealer, of course you would want to try to negotiate the best price you can, it helps to portray yourself as a bigger company, so if you have a big website or an amazon store that you can show them, that helps. Once you negotiate down from there then you can negotiate with them and see if you can get discount. Hopefully you’re not competing against amazon as a vendor.
How do you know it’s amazon owned product?
It’ll say on the listing ‘ships from, and sold by amazon’. It’s tough coz amazon’s gonna give themselves priority.
Let’s say 10 sellers are selling the same thing on that one listing. How does amazon select who it comes from, which seller gets the sale?
The question is how do you win the buy box? Typically a more established with good metrics gets that buy box, if every body’s price is the same. If you can go under the map price and get away with it then that’s what you have to do. This is a hack if you’re willing to loosen up your morals a bit.
How does map pricing work?
It’s Minimum Advertised Price so usually the manufacturer will set that up and they do that so you don’t damage the brand or damage the pricing for the brand.
But if you’re buying something from China usually it’s not branded, that price wouldn’t exist right?
Yeah it depends on the manufacturer.
How important does research play a role in the whole amazon finding products to sell? coz with drop shippers, with facebook it’s usually a better just to put $5-10 towards it and see how it performs. But with amazon you got to make that initial investment in to getting that inventory.
You can honestly do both. I think if you’re going to be getting in a a product or niche that’s already pretty well established, then you definitely need to do your research. If it’s a niche that’s not totally beaten and is relatively new then you can just buy 2 or 3 products. You can even put up a listing before you have the products in hand and see what happens.
How do you get the initial momentum? Say you got a product, you put it in amazon, how do you get ahead of them? One is to compete on price but in terms of getting reviews and the whole SEO process, is that important to get your product to be the one that gets the sales?
From my experience, I see 3 main drivers. Reviews, sales (best seller rank) and conversion rates. Amazon’s not divulging these information, there’s no analytics data but you can obviously tell that they’re tracking these things. These all plays a big part on how well you rank.
It makes sense coz I guess amazon wants to give customers what they want.
And if you’re gonna start somewhere, the obvious best way to start would be the paid ads, so amazon marketing services.
So you can start that straight away? When you list your product you can go straight to the paid platform?
Yes, if you’re FBA or vendor express seller. But if you’re just fulfilled by seller then it takes some time and an approval. I don’t recommend anybody starting out on amazon to be fulfilled by seller, always at least to be fulfilled by amazon. It’s obvious time and time again you’ll see amazon ranks fulfilled by amazon above fulfilled by seller product, if all things are equal here.
With the review thing, amazon changed what used to be you can exchange a review for a free product or a discount. Now, what’s the best way to get them?
They did adjust the reviews so that you don’t give the coupon codes. It just makes it more expensive and a bit more of a hassle to do this now. Instead of refunding someone on amazon, you would just refund them off amazon, paypal is a common way to help.
So you can still exchange your product or discount for a review but they don’t weigh as high as it used to, is that what has happened or taking it out all together?
You’ll see both. You’ll see amazon remove some of those, especially the products where they had thousands of those, amazon tends to remove them and the ones they leave you’ll probably see them discredit a lot of it. So the ranking value is probably nullified.
Any pit falls that you’ve come across with amazon. Any big things that a newbie should avoid?
Avoid any courses that are gonna charge you money to teach you how to sell, make a million dollars a month on amazon. Just go read, get on some forums and read; the reddit amazon FBA forum is a really good resource information. You’ll learn a lot more on there than you will on any $2,000 course. I guarantee that.
I guess that’s what a lot of newbies don’t get, they’ll spend money on courses. For me it’s always been better to spend that money on doing it and learning what happens.
100% it’s all just learn what you can. Learn a little bit, get in there and try and test. Some of the unpredictability aspects of it is not for everybody.
Do you think you need to have that passion for making money to be successful with the whole amazon thing or business in general or do you think you can train that character into you?
I don’t necessarily think you need a passion for money or a passion for business to be successful on amazon. I think you can still be successful with the passion for the product that you sell. So if you really love the product that you sell, and give it the best appearance that you can, I think you can still do well on amazon. I think people’s passion for the product can come through regardless of how business savvy you are. It’s not gonna be as faster or as easy as somebody who’s more money driven or more experienced with ecommerce.
There’s a lot of products out there that it’s just a higher quality product and the person’s knowledge comes through.
A lot of people who get in to business and they don’t follow through coz sometimes I feel they’re not into the whole business concept that much. I feel that some people that don’t have that drive may not be able to push themselves across that doubt barrier. I think you’re right if they have that much passion for the product, that might be the driving force.
I’m sure you’re like me, when you see an order come in, there’s a dopamine release. There’s that good feeling, this is what I love.
I don’t think everybody knows how that feels.
Do you remember your first sale?
I wish I could say but no I don’t. I kind of always expect the sale, I’m happy when it happens but I always expect it so when it comes in, ok let’s go to the next sale. I don’t celebrate the quick ones.
Really? I still remember my sale, I think I even lost money on it but because it was just one lead and money came through, I took all my friends out for lunch and it was like the best day of my life.
It feels so good though, there’s some vindication that your hard work is gonna pay off.
What’s a good budget to have to start with amazon FBA business, a good budget to have to get you chance on making it?
That’s a tough question, it’s dependent on a lot of factors. Let’s say you’re gonna buy inventory with cash, money to spend on ads…I would say, you’d probably need $15,000 for the products and another $15,000 for marketing.
That’s quite a lot, do you think it’s a good idea to buy that much inventory first off, or do you think it’s good to buy just a handful?
I guess my thinking is here is, if you’re ordering from China private label, they typically have a higher minimum order quantity but their price is going to be pretty low.
But amazon is one those things that it’s more of a stable play. So you put your product on amazon and overtime they keep selling x amount of units per month. Even if they may not sell straight away, it’s safe to assume that you’re not wasting too much money, it’s more just how long it takes to take your money back.
I would say that’s true to some extent, I think amazon’s algorithm is a perpetual algorithm. So you’re going to rank better and get more sales. But they can change their algorithm, you’d be subject to the algorithm update, you could be left holding 500+ pieces of inventory. So it’s not something so stable that you could coast on it.
Another thing to do when you buy this inventory is put it up for sale on all the other ecommerce sites that you can, not just amazon. All those websites that you can get sales from. Amazon is sort of a fickle market place for sellers. I’ve had this happened to me a couple of times already; if you enter a high competition niche and you start doing well and you get the attention of the wrong seller, and that seller has the resources to negative SEO you and essentially get you booted off amazon.
I guess every ecommerce platform these days has its own risks, so you do need to have a diversification plan.
Do people that sell on amazon look for running their own shopify store and diversifying through that as well?
You don’t see or hear that too often but I always recommend it. Make a real business out of it, not just trying to make few dollars off of one platform.
Do you find yourself spending a lot of time to make sure your products are ranked well?
Yeah definitely. I want to continually get better with the products, with the account. If there’s some short coming or the possibility to improve, I want to find about that and improve upon it. You don’t want to just sit around and expect this income to come in. You can’t just let that go on autopilot.
Say someone wants to start with amazon FBA. Specific advice on how to start or a smart way to do things, not to spend to much money but get an idea on how it works?
Buy couple of the products, don’t worry about your margins, you’re gonna lose money on the first few products. You’re gonna use those products to test out the market.
You want to see what sells and in how fast. Put your products out there, make sure they’re good listings, good images, good ad copy on your product page. See what sells, see for how much. Get all the info that you can and once you get some verification and some intelligence on that then start shopping around for the best possible price for you to buy it for.
I guess you don’t want to look for a killer product straight of the bat, it’s probably not gonna work that way. You have to go in to it expecting to break even if you’re lucky, or probably lose money on it but use it as a test.
Seems like everything on ecommerce you need to funnel your products and you have to persistent, determined and patient to find that one successful product.
When you talk about scaling in amazon, are we just talking about ranking as number 1 for that product, when you say scaling what do you mean when it comes to amazon?
Assuming you’re putting a baseline effort into marketing the product not very much effort and you’re still getting sales. And you decide that you want to rank one of these products number 1 coz you know that it’s gonna work so why not try more. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with going the under the radar model that are just doing average.
If you can coast around on other products and don’t have to put a lot on marketing them, it’s not a bad business model on amazon.
Is amazon the main thing that you do? Do you work as well full time?
I actually just accepted a marketing job. I’m in cellphone signal boosters, highboostusa.com. That’s sort of my bigger focus lately, I really enjoy it, it’s a different view from where I was before. Less entrepreneurial, but it’s much more fun in some regards.
Do you guys sell just on amazon or you’re looking for other platforms to sell it on, or is it kind of an open field and try to generate sales from somewhere?
We have third party sellers that have their own websites that rank really well. Ecommerce websites that are resellers and we want them to carry our products.
It’s cool because we can approach these dealers and try to negotiate ways to get our product into their store and get noticed more.
How does that work with the finances?
I personally don’t know, that’s more of being a salesman to know that portion of it. I’m working on getting our products marketed well on that website. I work in tandem with the salesperson to do that. The more volume that they of our products the better, so they will get better pricing if they’re committing to sell a lot.
It’s interesting being on that side of that equation.
What I said about the map violation on amazon just don’t do that for our products…
Before this job you were just doing amazon?
I was doing amazon consulting and amazon for myself as well.
You’re still doing the consulting?
I still do consulting. I own amazonseoexperts.com and I’ve got a few consulting clients. I’m not really worried about scaling, consulting is a really difficult thing to scale. It requires a lot of time and it’s not something effective at scale.
I don’t want to short change any of my clients on amazon with a stamped up process.
I’ve always been afraid of the whole consulting, especially with facebook, it’s really a hit and a miss and it really depends on the product that you’re promoting and the value you’re offering. If the product can sell itself, then facebook’s gonna be a breeze. When it comes to consulting for me it’s very difficult to say yes to a client coz I feel scared that if they don’t understand this process, I don’t think I can take their money and be able to deliver them a profitable experience.
I feel the same way. I think a lot of it is just setting ahead of their expectations, coz a lot of people contact me and they want amazon SEO, better rankings, and they’ll say can I get them seasonal rankings. I’m like, look this is not something that you do for a month or two and then quit because you’re there. It takes time and effort just like you would put into a website on google, it’s not an overnight thing.
That’s an interesting way to view it. I think when people think about ranking on amazon, if they had experience ranking on google they’d know that it does take time, months to slowly get up the rankings. So you’d say it’s a similar time process with amazon?
I think you should look at it that way. Amazon’s uniquely positioned in a few ways to be faster. But if you have that long term goal in my mind, then you’ll see that you if you’re going to do it too quickly you can get disheartened.
I think why amazon is uniquely positioned to do things faster is because of their ppc, ams stuff where you can buy traffic and sales, that works in tandem with their organic algorithm. Where as google, if you pay for ads on ad words it doesn’t inherently increase your rankings on google.
Does amazon still count the traffic volume like how it would if you weren’t doing the ppc?
Correct, if you get sales and conversion rates and reviews from ppc on amazon, that directly will affect your organic rankings on amazon.
That’s pretty big. I guess you can pretty much put up a product there straight away and if it’s getting good then you can start ranking pretty quick.
How do you find the PPC platform in terms of the cost, like how much does it cost to get clicks to your product, is it relatively cheap? Is there many people on amazon running PPC?
It’s funny that you said that, it’s definitely getting more and more expensive by the month. It’s very similar to how google started out ad words, their ppc platform, the cost per click was much lower. It was much cheaper, it’s still relatively cheap, there’s still a lot of margin you can use.
Do they kind of reward you or incentivise you with cheaper clicks based on your performance?
It’s possible, I have to think that’s it’s a likely at this point for me, it’s anecdotal, I don’t have any data to say yes or no.
How does an ad work? How does a customer see that ad?
There’s 3 different ways, one is just a banner on top of the searches. You just click on the banner and it takes you to a store page on amazon. You design your own banner, it has a click through action.
Also you have a higher ranked ad, it shows up in the search results as ad. It kind of blends in with the regular search results but you can see that it’s an ad.
What do you see your future plans being? Do you want to stick with amazon, evolve with it or do you want to own your brand or do you see yourself going in that direction?
I really want to see amazon and google get disrupted by something honestly. I think google is on the decline, I think amazon is eating a lot of it’s search shares. I really wish there was something to disrupt these guys.
That would be exciting when that happens.
Alright Sam, thanks for being on the show. There’s a lot of good knowledge here. It’s really cool to see how different amazon marketers do different things. It’s amazing to see how you can go about it in different ways and still do pretty good with it.
Thank you Mateen, I appreciate you having me on.
I occasionally write on linkedin. My name is Sam Page, you can visit my website amazonseoexperts.com