Season 1, Episode 28
Using the Firehose Of Traffic on Amazon To Grow Your Brand with Jason Boyce
Chris: We’ve got a great conference, of course, coming up in only three weeks, and we’re here today with Jason Boyce who’s one of our wonderful speakers. Your reputation precedes you. You’re famous. You’re well-known on Bloomberg, Fox business, the New York Times, CNBC, Wall Street Journal. And there’s a reason for that. You’ve launched and managed and grown successful brands on Amazon after being a seller yourself for many years, author of the ‘Amazon Jungle’. That’s the most recent book that you’ve done, which is out now. And you started in the early days of the marketplace, 2003. You sold for 12 years, or 13 years?
Jason: 17 years?
Chris: 17 years. Oh my God.
Jason: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: How time goes.
Jason: I sold two years too early. Before that $7 billion was raised for the aggregators, but maybe we’ll talk about that.
Chris: Before the aggregators. You can certainly still meet Jason here in Boston on September 23rd, you can join the conference. We encourage you to be here in person in Boston because I’ve already guaranteed, number one, there will be no snow this year at the conference, in late September. I guarantee that. And also if you like seafood, which I think most people do, maybe not everyone, this is a great place to eat clam chowder, eat lobster, you name it. The Seaport is kind of where it’s at for Amazon related material. And for this conference in particular. We’re co-hosting with Teikametrics, their offices are based in the Seaport. Come join us here. If for some reason you can’t, virtual attendee tickets are available. So anyway, do you think that some people aren’t having as much trouble accelerating growth now because there’s so much opportunity that wasn’t there before 2020? Or is it the opposite? There’s so much more competition now that people do have trouble accelerating growth?
Jason: Obviously this is dependent on which sub category you’re in or which category you’re in. Some are more competitive than others, but I’ve got to say in the last year, I’ve seen a lot more competition. A lot more sellers doing a lot more best practices. Right. And some of that listing stuff that we’re going to talk about today, a lot more brands doing a much better job on Amazon than even say three to five years ago. I think there’s definitely been a COVID bump in terms of sales to Amazon. That seems to be slowing a little bit. I think a lot of sellers benefited, but you know, there’ve been maybe an equal number of sellers who were hurt by COVID. And I’ve used these examples before, but if you were in the suitcase business, selling on Amazon, your business is down. If you are selling, you know, kids party store stuff, your business was down in COVID. So it’s a little bit of a mixed bag, Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Do you talk to people a lot about holistic retail strategy? Amazon’s one component, but they want to sell a certain amount or do a certain amount of promotion on their website that maybe they have a tough time doing on Amazon, or they want to even say sell more on Walmart? They have a certain kind of Shopify presence. I mean, how do you initiate that conversation if it’s a new brand that you’re growing, or how do you enter into that conversation with an established brand?
Jason: You know, it’s great. Some of those conversations can get a little chippy. Some of them are a little hard, you know, Chris, all the way back to my days at seller. In my previous life, I had a sales, agnostic attitude. And I used to make a joke, if there are sales on the moon, I will find a way to get inventory there and sell it. If we roll wherever the customers are, and there’s a very loyal customer base on walmart.com. There’s an extraordinarily loyal customer base on amazon.com. There are a growing number, especially younger consumer base who will only buy off of a brand direct website. Right. So, if you can be in stores, you can be online, you can have your own website. I say, do it. But if you have the bandwidth, if you have the infrastructure in place to be able to do it well and all those channels. And then lastly, as long as you’re able to control your brand. You don’t want to sell to a channel that’s going to just destroy and degrade your pricing, integrity and your brand integrity. But you know, with those sort of assumptions, you can control your brand and you can support the work needed to succeed on those other sales channels. And I absolutely support it. And I think that’s the future. That’s 21st century selling, right. And this in the century and it, and it’s not going to change.
Chris: Right. The omni-channel conversation. Of course, we’ve got omni-channel experts coming to the conference as well. But when you talk about optimization, like not just listing optimization, on Amazon, which is one conversation. When they want to talk about optimization across all these channels, do you ever say, maybe you’re not ready to expand or dive into Amazon right now because you have trouble controlling your brand or controlling how it’s represented? Let’s grow it somewhere else first and then return to the Amazon space.
Jason: Yeah. Absolutely. And I would even take it a step further, before channel control, Chris. And I would say, do you have one solid unified branding look and messaging platform? That is your core message because I talk about selling on all these other channels. I think that, that core messaging, the truth for each product, the truth for each brand, has to be told in a consistent way, both visually and in language, no matter what the sales channel. If you have that core branding base, that base in that platform, then that initially makes it a lot easier to sell on other platforms. Now, in terms of channel control, we just had a meeting with a client actually ,and, we recommended a group that helps them from a legal perspective, maintain, create the foundation for our legal strategy to make sure that folks aren’t attaching to our listings. Counterfeiters and all that stuff. And so an effective legal strategy is also important, especially on the more sales channels that you find yourself on. Whether that’s ebay or Walmart or especially Amazon, because it’s so easy to attach to an existing listing. So I would say step one, it starts with the brand. It starts with the product and your messaging and getting that tight, in a way that can translate across multiple channels. And then that second step would be, channel control. And you know this better than anybody when you don’t have channel control, they’re going to call you Chris. You know, you said, you said, ask him. I’m just glad that I know you because you’re much more famous and you have been doing things the right way for so long. And you know how to protect these brands. And you’re such a tremendous advocate for third-party sellers and for brands, you know, I feel awkward you asked me this question because you know, better than I do.
Chris: No, but it’s interesting. I like how you said brand look. You’re talking about their logo, their packaging, that kind of minutia. And there might be some brands that think we should be skyrocketing on Amazon, and we’re not. We’ve got to keep changing the packaging and they’re, they’re muddying the message a little bit. Does that ever come up where they just constantly want to make changes? Because they think that over the last three months, they should have sold twice the amount of product and they didn’t, for whatever reason. It could even just be trends, and then they wanna start making changes. Do you ever have to tell them, be patient, we need to play out the strategy a little bit?
Jason: Yeah, no, absolutely. Again, some of those conversations get chippy. We actually walked away from a client recently because , depending on what they had for breakfast, they changed their marketing messaging and we’re like, that’s not how it works. Repetition is the key to learning and you have to find the correct message and stick with it for a prolonged period of time and gather that data. And communicate and educate your consumers on what this means for your brand. You can’t come in and change it constantly. This requires careful thought, it requires looking into the future and coming up with a message that’s got legs. That’s connected to your product, that consumers receive that product and they open it and they start experiencing it. That that message resonates as they interact with the product. And if there’s a disconnect there, it’s not going to work. And if you change it repeatedly, consistently, it’s also just, not going to work. And so, yeah, you’re absolutely right. Consistent message that connects with the consumer who’s interacting with the product. So that, that message continues to resonate longterm. That’s how you build a brand.
Chris: And is it that different of a conversation between an established brand between a newer brand? Because some of the established ones, maybe aren’t getting traction the way they thought they would. And that’s why they’re talking to you in the first place. Like they brought their brand up to a certain point. They want you to grow it and help them get it to the next level. Is it the same conversation as with a newer brand that’s looking to launch a new product?
Jason: Yeah. A lot of existing brands, we may recommend a refresh that stays true to their core customers. I think a mistake that existing brands can make sometimes is they just go on a totally different message and they forget the fact that they have a loyal customer base and you don’t want to turn them off, but certainly a brand refresh is useful. I’m also still amazed at how many Amazon sellers specifically, have been on Amazon for a long time. They’re a somewhat established brand. They may even have their own customer list on their own direct channel. And, it’s not a very good brand. It’s not clean it. It’s not visually pleasing. The message is disconnected from the product. And in spite of that, there’s still a measure of success. And when we’re able to convince them to do a refresh and to tighten that messaging and then shoot that out across all sales channels. They’re always amazed at how successful that strategy is.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, sometimes it’s just the brand name wasn’t really well thought out. Right. And they sound too much like other brands or it’s just too generic sounding or the products themselves aren’t so hot. Like they could be improved perhaps. But I think some people just think, oh, I joined this group or I have a colleague, or I heard about Amazon just being an easy success path, no matter which product you’re doing. And there’s a little bit of truth to that, but that avoids all the hard work that you have to go through to make sure you hone that brand message. Do you hear from people who you look at what they do, and you’re kind of like this isn’t the right fit for us. You’re ready to coach them to kind of be a better presence on Amazon, but you can’t help them with that brand or product.
Jason: Yeah. We absolutely have had those conversations before, and we say, look in order for you to reach maximum success on Amazon, your 1980s brand needs to get into the new century. Right. And so I may not say it quite like that, but I just want to get straight to the point.
Chris: Right, diplomatically, politely and diplomatically. I have to do this too. There’s some people that come to us and they’ve already decided they want to work with us before we even spoke. And they tell us all the wonderful things we want to do. And I started looking at it and I’m like, I don’t think we’re the right fit. The, strategy’s not the way we interpret the Amazon marketplace. It’s not how we see Amazon enforcing this or that policy, whatever it is. And it’s an awkward conversation to have.
Jason: Yeah. I mean, exactly right. Look, nobody wants to hear that their baby’s ugly. Right? And so you have to be careful about how you communicate that as in branding can be really sensitive. It’s certainly not our default mode, but in rare occasions, we’ll say, look, if you guys aren’t willing to hit the refresh button button here, while staying true to your core customer base, we just don’t think you’re gonna reach your maximum level of success on Amazon or other channels for that matter. And sometimes Chris, we’ve had several clients where they let us do what we want to do on Amazon. And they like it so much that, that we created for them. And they started bringing it on their own site. They refresh their brand sort of reverse engineering, what we’ve done on Amazon. There’s many different kinds of stories and many different ways to get about it. But at the end of the day , it’s really important. It’s less on a conscious level when you talk about branding, it’s much more on an unconscious level. When a shopper looks at your brand, you want them to have that warm and fuzzy feeling. You want to trust. You want to feel like it’s modern and updated. And if, if the consumer doesn’t feel that your click-through rate is just not going to be as good.
Chris: And it’s hard to be objective. Especially if it is their baby and they’ve been working on it for years. They sold it on their own site. They put it on Amazon, started selling a bunch. It’s hard for them to be objective. They have to go to you for that. Right. A fresh pair of eyes to assess what the growth potential is. Maybe they’ve already grown beyond their wildest dreams.
Jason: Yeah. I remember as a brand hiring a branding company. And I thought we had a really cool brand at the time and they just came in and just kneecapped me. And then when I set my ego aside and I looked objectively at what they were presenting, you know, I gave a little pushback and said, look, we can’t leave our core customers, but at the end of the day, they were right. And there’s another great example of this. And this is where sometimes ego can hurt a seller’s business. Look at those product reviews objectively as best you can. Look at the product reviews, the one stars, the two stars. Identify some themes that you think you can fix the next time you reorder your product. And then once you fix it, also put that forth on the messaging. Nothing is more painful. Well, I guess I can think of actually several things more painful, but it’s very painful. Hitting my toe with a hammer probably is more painful, but reading a one-star review on a product that you yourself developed is really, it hurts. It cuts deep sometimes. The really great sellers and the folks that can get to that accelerated growth. They take a step back, they set their ego aside and they try to look at this objectively, and take it in, in a way that they can take away some key actionables to improve their business. And at the end of the day, the ones that can do that. When they see the final result after the fact, they’re so much happier. And they may not even realize it because they’re in the day-to-day. They’re figuring out how they’re going to pay, $18,000 to land that container now with the prices or they’re figuring out, their customer service rep showed up sick today and they can’t figure out what to do. There’s a lot of other things that happen. And so, I think a mistake that entrepreneurs make sometimes is know what you’re good at, know what you’re not good at and trust. Trust experts. Yeah.
Chris: Yeah. And I’m glad you mentioned reviews. I’ll get into that in a bit, but do you have people who are reluctant to spend more on ads? Nowadays it’s kind of just the reality. You have to be willing to invest more on ad spend. People I think are getting away from this idea of I’m so dependent on positive product reviews. I got to go out there and find a company that’ll get me positive product reviews, or, this idea that reviews are the key to everything. I think ad spend is going to become more of a big deal. And who knows with product reviews being kind of shaken unreliable on Amazon, anyway. Maybe that’ll be a smaller slice of the algorithm in the future. Maybe Amazon will deemphasize. With so much going on with product reviews and brands. They’re so obsessed with that. Do you think they’re going to embrace and accept the idea that they’re going to have to spend a little bit more on ads to get noticed?
Jason: Yeah. It’s a pay to play platform now. What’s the key to organic search results, rank clicks and sales. And if you aren’t paying for clicks and your competitors are, you will get left behind. Now, you can also pay for clicks from Google and Facebook and drive traffic to your Amazon listings. You can send email blasts to your customer base and drive traffic to your Amazon listing. Those are other ways to get clicks, but if you’re not doing those two things, you will get left behind and it’s a sad reality. I shared with you a discussion I had with James Kelly at the prosper show. James Kelly said, something’s got to give. Amazon, can’t continue to charge a commission at this high rate and continue to see cost per click go up. Something’s got to give, I completely agree with him.
Chris: I agree too.
Jason: Until that time, you have to spend, you have to drive traffic. That’s whether you have an e-commerce store or you’re on Walmart or you’re on Amazon, especially on Amazon. So it has to be done. And, you bring up really good points about reviews. I think that, this is what happens sometimes, also with young sellers or sellers who are just starting out, is they think if they could just focus and do one thing really well, if I can just get a thousand five-star reviews, everything else will fall in place, but you have to have the whole approach.
Chris: And you’re home free.
Jason: Yeah. Right. It doesn’t, it never works that way. You got to do it all. You have to do it all. And that’s why it helps to be a little add as a seller. I think because you’re constantly working on multiple things all at once . But to your point, I would love to see, and I would agree with you. I think they should deemphasize product reviews, especially in the face of all the fake reviews news that’s come out. We’ve talked about this, right? Because thousands of sellers taken down. Right.
Chris: We’ll be talking about it for awhile. Yeah. We’ll be talking about it at Seller Velocity, too. I’m sure it’s going to come up with brands who may be, like you said, started off great. And they’ve receded into the pack a little bit and they think they have to get more reviews to climb back into the game or something.
Jason: In a new product, you’ve got to have reviews. But if you’re a brand registered brand. I’m a huge proponent of having your own brand on Amazon. I think Spreetail, and Pharmapacks probably disagrees with me, but they’re in a different league, right? But if you’re going to be a seller, you should have your own brand, you should develop your own products. You should have your own trademark and be brand registered. If you’re brand registered brand. When you launch a new product, Amazon will allow you within terms of service within TOS, to give away up to 30 products in exchange for reviews. And that’s great. In my experience, 20 to 30 does the trick, and then it gets,
Chris: It gets you started. It doesn’t, it doesn’t sort out the rest of your life on Amazon, but it gets you started. And that’s what it’s for. Yeah.
Jason: Yeah. Don’t go buy reviews. You don’t need it. Focus on making your product better. Focus on making your listing better for branding, merchandising, conversion rates, and SEO. Focus on listening to what those customers are saying, who didn’t have a great experience and fixing them. And at the end of the day, if you have a great product, you’re driving traffic to it and it’s selling, you’ll get reviews. You’ll get them the natural way. And you won’t have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night, being concerned if Amazon is going to suspend your account because you cheated. Yeah.
Chris: Any, parting thoughts, Jason, as I ask for last questions here?
Jason: No, Chris, just again, thanks for having me on. You’re one of the true good guys, who’s doing things the right way in this space, and it’s an honor to be here with you. And I can’t wait to be with you live at the show. I’m really looking forward to it. If you’re a seller and you’re struggling, or figuring out ways to do things the right way, sign up, come see us. Come tell me your story. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Boston.
Chris: If you don’t have a ticket yet, please join us here in Boston, September 23rd. It’s an all day event. Go to sellervelocityconference.com. Jason, thanks again for joining us and I will see you very soon.
Jason: Thank you, Chris.
Hosts & Guests
Season 1, Episode 82 Preparing for Black Hat Attacks with Norm Farrar Black hat attacks are rampant during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Chris McCabe talks with Norman Farrar about ongoing brand struggles with abusive attacks, what to watch out for and how to prepare...
Season 1, Episode 81 Category Approval Doesn't Equal Proof of Authenticity Invoices previously accepted for ungating are getting rejected by Amazon for proof of authenticity, resulting in a withholding of funds, creating panic among many Amazon sellers. In this...