Season 1, Episode 55

Taking an Agnostic Approach to Your Online Business

Diversifying your revenue streams is paramount for your Amazon business. In this episode we talk with Justin Coats, a speaker at the recent Seller Velocity Conference, about the necessity of social media platforms and sending outside traffic to your Amazon listing.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:07] Chris: Hi everybody. We’re here today with Leah McHugh of ecommerceChris and Justin Coats of Avenue7Media I was going to ask you what your top tip for brand expansion revenue growth would be for 2022, but let’s just say for the next 12 to 15 months because competition is so fierce now, especially in the .com US marketplace. I think people are planning 18 months ahead in terms of skews, they want to launch, maybe they’re trying to create a new brand. They may even need to create a new account for a new brand. So boiling it down. What, what conversations are you having in terms of how to plan for the rest of this year? Q4, even though we’re still sitting in Q1.

[00:00:50] Justin: Yeah. Well I have a couple tips. The first one is age old tip for starting and growing a product company is inventory. Jason calls it the supply pain issues that have been happening.

Yeah. Inventory plan, plan plan, which Chris, I think is why you’re mentioning the 18 months out already. So, , that’s not really a tip because everybody knows if you don’t have inventory, you don’t get sales, you don’t get sales, you don’t grow or you don’t have a business. So where I really, really would say the tip is going to come through is on sending outside traffic, outside off Amazon traffic to Amazon. There were some programs that dropped mid last year, mid- 21 that really opened up a new way for brands to track their off Amazon traffic to Amazon, right? Attribution links, the brand referral bonus specifically is what I’m referring to. The more we utilize those with our clients, the higher algorithm and search ranking results we’re seeing growing a lot faster. And the more traffic they get, also Amazon is continuing to open up some new social type platform stuff.

[00:02:08] Chris: Right.

[00:02:08] Justin: So you can follow brands on the brand store.

[00:02:11] Chris: Like years overdue wouldn’t you say? I expected this stuff, in like 2020, 2019.

[00:02:17] Leah: You tested things before, but they really took off, like they did like a Pinterest type thing. Yeah. In like 2012, that just never took off.

[00:02:26] Justin: Right? Well, I mean, they did Amazon live like what, three years ago? And it fell flat on its face and it’s still struggling, but it’s gaining more traction slowly. Yeah. So, I mean, that’s really, that’s where one of my biggest tips comes from right now is one social play but off Amazon traffic to Amazon, you have to be platform agnostic now. You can’t be one of those brands that says, no, I only want to send to my e-commerce store because you’re not going to grow. You’re not going to scale. You know, it’s going to be a lot more difficult and a lot longer term trajectory. If you aren’t agnostic with your sales plan.

[00:03:12] Leah: Yeah, definitely. And did you have a– we kind of did this in the reverse of what we usually do– but do you have a success story or a failure story, up to you which one do you want to share, about something interesting that you’ve seen with clients in the last year let’s say?

[00:03:28] Justin: Success story. Yeah. Recently one of our clients. I’ll try to not name names, but one of our clients, one of the client

[00:03:30] Chris:  Anonymous case study is fine.

[00:03:39] Justin: 
Yeah. Anonymous case study in the sexual wellness realm. They launched in September of last year. One of the hardest categories, I’m sure you guys have tons of problems or helped lots of sellers in this area. We launched in September and within the first six months we were doing over a hundred thousand dollars a month in sales, this brand is platform and sales channel agnostic.

They get the whole picture. Traffic is everywhere. Customers are everywhere and they shop in multiple places. You have to be able to allow your customers the freedom to shop on Amazon because they will come to your website. They will go to Target. They will go to Walmart. So they did that and the execution was flawless a nd like I said, within six months, we’re hitting, a hundred K plus months. On the flip side, I worked with a brand in the beauty realm and they decided not to take our advice in this realm of, you know, being more social, being agnostic and you know, we grew them a little bit the first year or so but it kind of plateaued after that. And. Sad to say that we’ve parted ways, that happens, business decisions are made. But their Amazon channel, wasn’t given the room to grow because they didn’t adapt. The game changes and on Amazon, it changes fast.

[00:05:08] Chris: Yeah. So that’s one kind of tip I’ve been giving people There are some brands that for whatever reason, don’t want to devote the right amount of resources to expansion or to ads or to strategy, or really just to things they need to protect and grow their business. Leah and I have talked about this a lot on the podcast. In-person with people at conferences, you name it, and I just don’t think anyone can afford to have that sort of tight purse strings approach anymore because you just start steadily falling behind your competition, simply because of that one reason, you know, you might be doing all these other things right. But if you’re slow to it to devote resources or you’re just flat out unwilling to invest in quicker growth, not just in growth, but in like rapid growth, you’re just seeding market share. That’s the way I see it.

[00:06:00] Justin: Yeah, you said it perfectly invest, right? That’s one of the very first things that I mentioned when I talk with brands that are close to becoming a client or just became a client. You have to be willing to invest its time and its money and hiring the right stuff.

Outside teams, agencies, consultants, service providers to service providers or brands and service providers, just how to integrate, to have the greatest effect. One of those is time. You have to invest in time.

You have to invest in building that relationship. Some of the best performance that we’ve had with clients is because we built that relationship and they allowed us in as part of their company. And so we, we learned it, we understood it. We became brand ambassadors because they worked so closely with us. When you don’t allow that time investment to build that relationship or to understand the brand or brand to understand how to utilize the agency, that’s a big miss and that also doesn’t bode well for growth.

[00:07:04] Leah: 
Yeah. I think sometimes the idea of outsourcing something and never having to think about it again is a nice dream. But yeah, in reality it does work a lot better if you’re both working together on whatever it is that you’ve outsourced to an agency or an expert.

[00:07:22] Chris: You still have to monitor what they’re doing. It doesn’t mean that you have to do what they’re doing. But you have to be on top of what they’re doing, right? Your philosophies are aligned. The operational goals are agreed upon, but also how you’re going to get there. I think some people just ceed this control and responsibility to a service, and then like you talk once a month, the last week of the month, you get on a call and then you’re catching up on everything that’s happened that month. Or you don’t really know how they’re implementing anything, or you really just know the broader strategy. You don’t know the tools for implementation or execution. And I just don’t think that’s the way an Amazon business that’s precariously perched on their platform, which, you know, can change. They can turn on a dime.

Sometimes their enforcement teams spring up out of nowhere, with some new initiative and no warning of it. Right. And no real set plan on the Amazon side, never mind your business. They haven’t decided how they’re going to roll something out or how they’re going to execute it. They just start doing it. This was going on when I was there too. So this goes back years and they’re still doing these kind of rolling out sorta kinda there, but not quite there yet. And we’re going to iron out those kinks as we go along–

[00:08:44] Leah: Amazon loves the minimum viable product.

[00:08:47] Chris: Right? You as a business, can’t get away with that the way they might get away with it because they’re the ones kind of with the power in this relationship.

[00:08:55] Justin: 
I mean, that’s perfect. I mean, they did that with sponsored display ads back in what, 2020, 2019, they were trash when they first came out, not good, you know, lots of wasted spend. So we didn’t use them, but now they’re one of the most impactful pieces, right? You know, and I think Chris, you sort of touched on reading between the lines here, of something that is really big as we’re all building sales and we’re building companies and trying to grow and utilizing a platform that’s not perfect. And, so that’s also something to keep in mind for growth is your business isn’t perfect. It’s not going to be perfect and you’re iterating and you’re changing and you’re improving constantly.

Right. Amazon is too, right? They’re not perfect. Which, you know, that’s kind of why we exist is because we know how to work within those imperfections. We know how to keep up with the changes.

[00:09:50] Leah: Yeah. We’re familiar with the patterns too. I think that’s good, when you’re working across multiple accounts, you can see the patterns that regular sellers don’t see because they’re only working on their own account.

[00:10:02] Justin: Exactly.

[00:10:03] Chris: Terrific. Well, looking forward to seeing you again and thanks for catching up with us today. We’ll talk to you soon.

[00:10:10] Justin: Thanks for having me.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

Justin Coats

 Resources

Avenue7Media

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