Season 1, Episode 29
Expanding Your Sales Channels – Sell Your Products Wholesale with Amy Wees
[00:00:07] Chris: hi everybody. I’m here with Amy Wees, one of our amazing speakers at this year’s Seller Velocity Conference. Amy, how are you doing today?
[00:00:20] Amy: I am great, Chris. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:24] Chris: So you’re the CEO of Amazing at Home. How do you begin a conversation with a new client who’s already kind of out there, but their brand isn’t selling or people don’t recognize the brand name, their logo. How do you initiate the brand visibility or recognizability conversation?
[00:00:41] Amy: Well, I think there’s so much that goes into branding. On the retail and the brick and mortar side, your branding is so important and the way that your product is represented is so important. On Amazon or on our own website and search engines, we’re searching as the customer, it’s all at how the customer finds your product and recognizes it and connects with it because buying is a psychological experience, right? There’s some kind of connection that we’re forming there, or need that we’re meeting. And so we have to communicate that, right? So most people, when they’re wondering about, okay, first of all, how do I stand out more to the customers? How do I convert more?
Online it’s all about connecting with meeting that customer’s need. And when we start to move over in to retail, that’s when we really have to study packaging and the way that our brand looks up against others, because if I come to retail and I’m selling really cool coffee mugs, the chances of that retailer already having either their own brand of really cool coffee mugs or another brand that’s dominating the shelves already that customers are buying. How are you going to convince that buyer, if that retail store to take on your own? And the way that you do that is to appeal to customers in a different way and that can sometimes be done simply by updating your packaging and connecting more with the customer then existing products are doing with their packaging. So that’s the biggest thing that e-commerce private labels struggle with when moving into retail is really changing up their branding and their packaging for that Wow retail visibility.
[00:02:30] Chris: So it’s kind of funny because we’re having this conversation while Amazon’s recently been announcing that they’re going to have their own stores. This has been a hot topic the last couple of weeks. Do you think some people who have been Amazon only, or e-commerce only are going to have huge struggles, trying to figure out even just something logical. Like how can I use effective packaging to attract not just eyeballs, but the right eyeballs?
[00:02:54] Amy: I don’t think it’s going to be huge struggles. I think it’s about understanding how that customer shops, right. When we got into e-commerce we all had to learn if the customer can’t find my product and I’m not pointing out what my product is doing for that customer, then it’s not going to sell. Well, we have to learn the same thing in retail. We have to learn. How is the customer going to find my product?
First of all, where am I? Am I being put on an end cap, which is the end of an aisle for those of you who haven’t done anything with retail, am I going to be buried on the bottom shelf? Because I have zero regs at the store or have I created a really cool shipper or some other type of floor display that my product can sit on in the middle of an aisle and actually attract a customer? So it’s the same thing. How do you stand out to a customer who’s walking by with their cart and how do you make them look. Then the other thing that I think people struggle with and moving into retail. So the first thing is their branding, their packaging, how are they presented in retail store? How can they pitch to a retailer? But the second thing that people really struggle with especially coming from e-commerce, is the pricing and the logistics model. You’re selling in bulk now. You become kind of the shipper. You become the person that is giving quotes with, like for me, fob San Antonio is my quote. So kind of like you get quotes from your suppliers, you are now the supplier giving quotes to a retail buyer. So what is your pricing needs to look like? What does shipping need to look like? There’s all these new retail models. So it used to just be like brick and mortar. And we’re going to talk about some of these channels during the conference. It used to just be like, oh, okay. I can go to a specialty store down the street.
And I can go in their store and I can show them a sample and I could see if I can get on their shelves. But now there’s so many different models of retail that you can sell it. You could be on a dot.com like home Depot or walmart.com or lowes.com you can sell on Zulily. You can sell in subscription boxes. Subscription boxes are huge. There minimum order quantities for subscription boxes, like Ipsy that have over 3 million subscribers. Their MLQ is are 50,000. In some of these models, you have to actually drop ship your product or fulfill the product to the customer.
So now you have to figure out your pricing. Plus what it’s going to cost you to fulfill that. And you may have to find a three PL that help you, so there’s so many different models and it’s all about understanding what your costs are and what your prices are. And then the different ways that you can fulfill products, either in bulk to the buyer and then also when you get into bigger, bigger retail, sometimes you have to maintain that stock and that scares people sometimes.
[00:05:53] Chris: I wondered if people let’s just say they’ve done the cost benefit analysis, they know what’s going to make sense and they have the ability to be the supplier, the shipper. How do they initiate the conversation with the retail store itself? Let’s just say they have no idea because they’ve never done it before. How does that conversation start?
[00:06:12] Amy: Well, I think a good reminder for people is that we’re all people . People get so nervous, like, oh, that’s a buyer. But you’re the boss of your own company. We’re all human beings. And just like I connected with Chris and said, Hey, I love what you got going on. I want to get involved in this Seller Velocity thing that you’ve got going on. Just like I did, that is the same way that I’m going to connect with a buyer.
Of course, first I’m going to do my research. You know, when you get that spammy message on LinkedIn and it’s like somebody trying to, you probably get these Chris, right? You get people telling you that they’re Amazon experts . It’s the worst. Like I’m always get, I’m an Amazon expert. I can help you.
[00:06:55] Chris: Yeah, I get those every day.
[00:06:57] Amy: Did you read my profile?
[00:06:59] Chris: They ask me if I’m a seller, they all, they all ask me if I’m a seller, because they’re just cold calling fishing for sellers, which is kind of interesting because it makes me wonder how often they are connecting and changing a lead to a customer by doing that on LinkedIn, because it’s such a obvious cold call technique.
[00:07:17] Amy: Yeah. And so how do you respond when you get that message? Do you just block it? Do you respond or you just ignore it?
[00:07:23] Chris: I just say, oh, I’m not a seller. And then of course they immediately drop off and they still haven’t read my profile.
[00:07:29] Amy: Exactly. So the point is you were in a position to open incredible doors for them and to connect them with who they want to get to which are sellers. But you’re not going to do that because clearly they have no idea who you are and they haven’t taken the time to even have a regular conversation with you.
So I would just encourage people first, you know, at, the conference here, I’m going to be talking about different ways where you can research, where your competitors are selling in retail. What those buyers who are buying your competitors, products are called. Cause you know, we need to know what is their title? What are they buying in the poor, the right people to reach out to? And how do we find, how do we seek out those people? But then the other thing is just to remember that these are just two people talking. And so once you do your research and you’re kind of connecting, just like I connect with other people in the industry, right? Their just having a conversation, you have something to offer them, and you’ve already done your research on their stores. You already have done your research on the competitors that are there and what their packaging looks like. And all of that.
It’s just important to remember that these are just people and reaching out and starting the conversation. Hey, I just love your stores. I have a product that I think would be really great. Could I send you more details? Something very simple.
[00:08:47] Chris: They might already have a competitor that you’re maybe contacting them when they’ve already got a competitor of yours that they do business with and you might have to open up their mind to giving your product a shot. Right? So it’s a bit more of an uphill fight?
[00:09:00] Amy: Well, it’s not necessarily like that because buyers are always looking for new and interesting innovative products to bring to market.
And that’s why you do kind of, it’s just like launching on Amazon. Right? And you do your competitive analysis and you’re like, okay, what is this guy doing? I’m launching a similar product. I’m going to differentiate this way. This is how I’m going to get customers to buy mine. It’s the same way. Either your branding is unique or you’re targeting a different niche, whatever it is, there’s something that you can bring to the table.
And so the thing is, if you already have sales on Amazon and you’re already doing well, there’s no reason that you’re not a good fit for retail. It might not be that retailer that you’re the perfect fit for.
[00:09:44] Chris: Right.
[00:09:44] Amy: But there’s no reason that you can’t be good in retail. Now you might have to change a few things you might have to do, you know, put lipstick on the pig, right? Because when you have the bread.. But you know, but just remember that all you’re doing is starting a conversation. You’re not trying to sell them that product right that moment. You might send them a sample or a catalog. And we’ll talk about that too. Cause that’s something that’s different from just selling an Amazon. But you’re just starting the conversation.
So you’re not at the point yet until after they’ve received a sample of your product. And then after you get on the phone with them, following that sample, you’re not even at the point where you have to make a case for your product.
[00:10:27] Chris: And you’re not at the point where you’re giving them a sample and saying, what do you think of the product, we want you to tell us?
[00:10:33] Amy: Yeah. Okay. I’ll give, I’ll give one hack, one hack, just to give you guys an idea.
[00:10:39] Chris: One tastes for the audience. We have to keep most of it for the actual conference, but we’re here to talk about some, some secrets today.
[00:10:45] Amy: I’ll give you guys one hack. You know, when you do your competitor research and you’re figuring out, what does the store look like in terms of my competitors and what categories are they selling?
What you can do is you should be looking at industry magazines for your industry, because this is where retailers look to buy new and interesting products. Most of these industry magazines are digital now, and they’re free. So what I did, I’m in the pet industry with my private labels.
What I do is I look through, and this is a technique that worked really well for me, I looked through some industry magazines. And I was reading some articles and I learned about some brick and mortar store owners. I was wanting to get into specialty retailers, which is like the smaller kind of chain stores.
[00:11:29] Chris: Boutique-like, yeah?
[00:11:30] Amy: Yeah, exactly. There’s a lot. I did the research and there’s over a hundred thousand of those in the U S. Yeah. So, I mean, when you look at the opportunity, just thinking about like 140 of those stores, so like 10% of the 10,400 stores, right?
That’s not impossible for me to achieve, right? And once I get in a few that I can really easily repeat that order. So I started reading an industry magazines and seeing some of the different stores that were featured and different people that were talking in different articles. And I started reaching out, like I learned their names, you know, a little stalkery, but you learn their names-
[00:12:09] Chris: You did some homework, you were doing homework. I mean, that’s like market research. There’s nothing wrong with that.
[00:12:13] Amy: Exactly. So, you know, you connect and what I did is I found one of the ladies of an east coast chain retailer for pets on LinkedIn. And I saw that, you know, I just loved what she said and I brought that out. So that was my message to her. I reached out, I connected with her and my note to her was Hey, I loved what you said in this article, in Pet Age magazine. And I have a really great product in this category I think that you would love. Would it be okay if I send you a sample? So I’m opening up the conversation with, Hey, I know you I’ve seen your stuff. I loved it. Who doesn’t love to hear that. Right?
I kept it short and sweet. It was like, just maybe three or four sentences. And she responded. Great to hear from you. Thanks so much for the compliment. And that would be great. Sent her a sample. And she responded back and asked for a follow-up and we got on the phone and this retailer was not exactly good at shipping. They didn’t have their own shipper or anything like that. Well, good for us e-commerce sellers were pretty good with shipping. Right. We’re ready to get into moving our products.
[00:13:22] Chris: You’ve had to learn those skills early on, right?
[00:13:24] Amy: Yeah exactly. So we told her no problem we will use one of our accounts and we’ll just add it to the invoice.
We charged her for her first order for shipping and we had it out the door. So in the span of a week of me reaching out we had our first order for this chain store out the door.
[00:13:42] Chris: Only a week, that’s pretty impressive. I mean, maybe you’ve done that numerous times and I’m just, since we only connected this year and you probably been doing this for years. I’m not aware of it, but you probably doing that all the time, having that kind of a timeline, right?
[00:13:56] Amy: As long as buyers have the space for your product on the shelf and they see it, this is a product that is not like any other product, it’s a product I invented. So it’s something that is new and different and unique and something that might bring some traffic into their stores. So something that our customers might like, you know, when they see new and innovative things in small little boutique stores like that, it does drive more traffic in. So there’s nothing keeping a buyer from a small chain store like that from making an order that day.
[00:14:27] Chris: I guess I hear about it in a different context. People say, should I do retail as a backup plan to Amazon? You know, we’re selling so much on Amazon and we sold twice as much this year as we did last year. Should I diversify? I always say yes. Should I diversify and is that taking away from my Amazon sales? Am I somehow cannibalizing myself by doing this am I growing? Is it worth it? Like what you said? Is it worth it to start now? If they haven’t been in that game yet? That’s the way they usually put the question to me or they just say, is this my backup plan in case Amazon shuts my account down or takes my top selling sku or ASIN in a way or shuts my whole account down. Is it enough of a backup plan? That’s the context that usually comes up.
[00:15:10] Amy: I hope that in this, in talking between the lightning talk, I’m going to talk about why retail and why now. I hope to convey that the retail landscape is vast. There’s so many opportunities even on other dot-coms, that you can set it up so that it’s kind of automatic for you, just like Amazon is.
And if you think back to when you first started on Amazon, it was slow going, you know? I mean, some people, if they started, you know, in 2014, 2015, like the big Amazon, boom. Yeah. They had a million dollars in sales overnight, but today if we’re getting started it’s a long game and we’ve got to really work on our branding and our actions over time to grow and to scale. And so it’s the same thing with retail, but I want people to realize that the opportunity, isn’t just what they think about when they think of retail.
It’s not just I’m going to go sell at target in retail and it’s going to be such a nightmare because these contracts and these terms are crazy. I want them to realize how big the opportunity is. You have so many different channels that you can sell in, in retail. So I want to open their eyes to all the different opportunities. And sometimes, like I said, even getting in one subscription box, that one channel just breaking into that could help them get out of the all of my eggs are in the Amazon basket thing, helps grow their brand and help them to open up a whole new world that they might discover that second channel or that second thing.
And then they’ve already got the pipelines set up. Right? They already know how to price it. They already know how to send those quotes out. So I just want people to realize that there’s lots of opportunity. And so it’s just about understanding what that looks like for your brand.
[00:17:02] Chris: Yeah, I’m really excited about the breakout sessions this year and the format we’re using, where there’s a combination of somebody like you giving a lightning talk for 15, 20 minutes, and then doing the longer breakout session to interact with people more.
[00:17:14] Amy: I love these events. I mean, even as a speaker, I grow so much. Every time I go to one of these events, I at least three X my business. It’s just eye opening things and you don’t know that must go to these events. It’s so worth it. And then what you guys are doing with the speaker bonuses, you know, I’m giving access to my listing optimization masterclass. You can literally start your own agency when you’re done with my class and you’re getting that for free.
[00:17:46] Chris: And we expect you to start your own agency later this month after the talk.
[00:17:50] Amy: There we go. Exactly. So, I mean, that’s the thing is you guys are giving so much value. Like Carlos given three months of free access to his video vault, there’s so much gold in there, but just meeting and rubbing elbows with your fellow sellers and really just understanding the things that you didn’t know.
[00:18:09] Chris: Thanks so much Amy, for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
[00:18:13] Amy: Thank you. It was great to be here.
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