In the previous blog post, Manuel went over some great strategy and techniques on how you can pitch your products to retailers and wholesalers across the world.
Today’s blog post marks the final blog post of this great series. This post will be all about thinking forward and expanding your business into other areas.
Amazon is still the number one E-commerce marketplace in the world, and it will be for a long time. Although we believe that Amazon has some disadvantages for sellers who wish to have complete control over their business, you should always list your product there. Currently, the markets which we recommend expanding to, are:
These marketplaces have a much lower volume than their US counterpart, however, the traffic and sales are increasing year-on-year and Amazon has been investing heavily to attract buyers & sellers to their marketplaces outside the US.
There are a number of ECommerce marketplaces that allow you to list your products, some also have a similar fulfillment service like Amazon FBA. While not all ECommerce marketplaces are ideal(some have very low sales volume), this will allow you to increase your brand visibility and target markets which your competition is unlikely to target.
In my opinion, the marketplaces that make the most sense to register a seller account are:
Having your own ECommerce store is only to have complete control over your brand & pricing. One of the things I like about having an ECommerce store is that I have complete freedom when it comes to:
However, the best thing about having your own store is that it’s a challenge! While Amazon definitely needs some mastering – all the buyer traffic is already there! With your own store, you need to spend an enormous amount of time dedicated to bringing traffic to your website.
While this requires a lot of hard work and testing, in my opinion, it’s more rewarding and it can be scaled significantly once you have a working formula
We feel this step is the most important part of any business. A successful business is a scaleable business. While you should always retain control over the key tasks of your business, it is important to delegate tasks, especially those tasks that are time-consuming or you have no expertise in.
With the rise of freelancing and outsourcing websites, it is very easy to find very skilled freelancers or companies for your business. In my opinion, these are the tasks that you should definitely outsource:
Of course, what tasks you outsource depends entirely on you, however, if you want to scale your business and achieve freedom, you need to delegate tasks.
This blog post concludes our Zero To Hero: Building a Brand series, we hope that this series proved helpful in your efforts to build a truly successful and global brand.
Building a brand takes a lot of effort, however with the right strategy in place, you will have a company that has great products and it’s loved by its customers.
We would appreciate any feedback you have on this series and if there is anything we can help you with, kindly leave a comment below.
All the best & happy selling,
Duncan & Manuel
My background is actually retail, so I naturally started out with retail before moving onto Amazon. When a friend told me about FBA I didn’t even know that Amazon let’s third parties sell on Amazon.
I thought they only sell their own product. I am glad that friend pointed me to FBA, otherwise it would have been a lot more difficult to get my brand off the ground.
It has been nearly 3 years since I started my own business and as I said I started in retail. I had collected many contacts in retail and that was the natural way to go for me.
Looking back I am happy I started out in retail as it helped my brand immensely to get exposure while creating a second income trough Amazon.
The ultimate goal of any brand or company is to get their products in front of as many customers as possible. The only way to do this is by listing your products through all the sales channels that are available to brands.
The most powerful or “rewarding” sales channel is retail and wholesaling. Retail has the power to move your product quickly, thus getting huge exposure for your brand and products.
Retail is notoriously one of the hardest sales channels to get into. Your products must not only be appealing to consumers, but also packaging and marketing materials have to be of a higher standard than E-commerce.
However, one of the hardest challenges is finding retailers who are willing to take on a new brand and its products. Retailers often don’t take huge risks with their capital and prefer to invest in brands that are already established or brands that carry really unique products. So the key is to have unique products rather than generic.
Selling a Garlic Press that has some accessory doesn’t make you unique. The retailer will buy this product from his trusted source.
Larger items also have the issue of shelf space; which in retail is limited. On top of that you can’t just knock on a retailers door and expect a smooth and fast process.
Retailers have decision maker hierarchies and it is often difficult to get to the right decision maker. Often times retailers already have their suppliers or connections and they aren’t open to a new supplier. Reasons being that they already may have great buying conditions and relationships with their existing suppliers.
In some cases I worked on a potential retailer for over 2 years before getting an order (in my previous job) and in those 2 years there were 3 changes on decision makers and I had to start from the beginning again.
The new guy might not be open to you as the previous guy was and maybe he is already bringing sources/suppliers to the job and you need to start all over again convincing the new guy.
On top of that most larger retailers get emails and phone calls every day from new suppliers wanting to sell them their product. So it is a long and windy road to get into retail, sometimes as much as 2 – 3 years. But once you have your foot inside the door you are in a great position.
One word – relationship. If you have a good relationship the price or your product doesn’t really matter.
Someone is likely to buy from you if you have a relationship with him right? The more credentials you have and the more history you have with a person the more likely that person is to buy from you right?
An example. Let’s say you need a new health insurance. You already have an insurance from your trusted childhood friend (let’s call him Steve). Steve is quite expensive and maybe his insurance package doesn’t even have a lot of benefits.
But you still buy from him because he’s your friend and you’ve known him for years & on top of that you trust him. You even have him over at your house for BBQ’s, you meet up for beers etc.
You get a phone call from an insurance company trying to sell you a new health insurance with much better benefits. You don’t know this company but the offer sounds appealing.
You take the offer and go to Steve and tell him he needs to make the same offer or you buy from this new insurance company. Steve probably can’t make the same offer but he’ll adjust his old package and give you more benefits, maybe even at a better price. On top of that he throws in a coupon or voucher for shopping at Amazon.
You close the deal with Steve. That’s the power of relationships. And that’s how retailers work – they have their trusted sources and relationships. “You need to become Steve”.
Many of those relationships especially in the “old days” included some sort of bribery. For example if you switch to a new supplier that supplier would buy out your entire old stock from the old supplier. Back in the 90’s it wasn’t unheard of that a new supplier would invite you over on his yacht and take a trip down to the South of France.
Thankfully these “unfair” tactics aren’t accepted anymore – at least not with multinational retailers. There are strict enforcements in terms of bribery in big retailers. However, the relationship factor still plays a key role in doing business.
Today its just called “wining and dining” a customer. You take the customer out for a steak dinner and a nice bottle of wine and you probably don’t even end up talking business but a few days later you’ll get an order.
Now the key is to build a relationship with the buyer. You probably won’t be able to close a deal for months or even years because every offer you send to a new prospect ends up in the “trash” inbox.
1) Start out by visiting local stores that have maybe 20-30 stores in the area/country or state. Try to get an appointment with the Manager or Purchasing Department. Once you have an appointment prepare yourself with:
A store can probably take up 5 pieces per item/per store. So 30 stores makes 150 pieces, not bad for a first order.
2) Once you are listed in a smaller or local store look into larger retailers that have 100-200 stores.
Same principle applies in terms of preparation but you are probably not the only one knocking on their doors. So you need a bit of track record with a smaller retailer or your online portfolio.
Retailers with more than 100 or 200 stores probably have their own purchasing department, maybe even a buying office in Asia. So you need to get to the decision maker.
There are several ways to get to decision makers but the most effective yet also most frowned upon are cold calls.
Email the decision makers or better cold call first. There are cold call guidelines for free on the internet. Key is to let the buyer speak and you only listen.
Most buyers just want to talk about how great they are, let them. You need to make them feel that they have the upper hand.
After your first cold call, follow up on the topics and email a proposal as discussed in the call.
Give it a few days and then either email or call again.
3) Exhibiting your products at a local or international exhibition is the best way to find retailers and wholesalers.
This time the buyers come to you and all you really have to do is follow up with the topics of the discussion.
The key takeaway here is that getting into retail really is a marathon not a sprint but it can be very rewarding:
The best thing about retail are re-orders. You might not make much money on the first order but if the item sells well re-orders will come and often times in much larger quantities than the 1st order. The good thing then is that the entire process is already set up and all you have to do is to place an order with your factory, knowing the entire process with the retailer. Or if you have stock back home you can just send in the new order to the retailer from your warehouse.
From some retailers I get re-orders every 1-2 months for the same product and all I have to do is place an order to the factory and ship the item to the customer.
These orders can be 2-5,000 pieces each time. Sometimes I make 1$ on a product, sometimes 5$. So in 1 day I can make 25,000$ in profits not really doing anything (a bit exaggerated – there’s still work to do ).
Imagine how many months you’ll have to sell on Amazon for an order and profit that large.
Getting into retail is very hard but as I said it can be very rewarding. It’s not a sprint so some deals can take 2 or more years but if the client is worth it don’t give up. Obviously the above is just a short visit into the topic, there’s much more to it such as contracts, advertisement material, sampling, pricing structures etc.
If you need more help on the subject or are interested in growing your business into retail don’t look any further. I am working on material that is coming out in the coming weeks that should help immensely
All the best and happy selling,
In this blog post I’ll talk about packagings and branding on your product. I’ll give you a brief overview on why photography, packaging and marketing materials are so important when building a brand.
Why are great product pictures important? When people come to your website or Amazon listing the first thing they do is to look at your pictures. The customer bases his immediate buying decision on your photos.
It seems so obvious but yet I see so many listings with very poor product photography. Even if the product itself is great a poor picture can decrease your conversion immensely.
Let’s take a look at two examples:
I look for a wooden cutting board on Amazon and I find a few listings. The well performing listings (even if not the best product) have great listings.
Take a look at this photo:
And now take a look at this photo of a listing that is performing poorly.
This product is actually equally good and the seller even stresses out FSC certification (sustainably harvested wood). Me personally I wood rather buy the FSC certified product but the picture is turning me off.
My suggestions is if you are not a professional photographer then please hire someone to take photos for you.
Yes, great photos may cost you a bit of money but it is a one time investment and it will pay itself off. Also while sometimes Photoshop can be used for retouching, adding shades and effects I do not recommend using Photoshop to edit your product picture into an environment. It just looks cheap.
I’ve posted about custom packaging in a previous blog post (https://importdojo.com/best-packaging-practice-how-to-create-a-great-private-label-packaging/) which I think is a comprehensive guide. Have a look and get some ideas there.
The point is to think outside the box and reflect the product on the packaging. E.g. the Nike Air packaging or Cigars in a wooden box that reflect a humidor.
Make sure that you use enough carton strength when shipping your products. The unit packaging needs to be at least 26ECT (Edge Crush Test) – see above blog post.
Until your product reaches your customer there are many hands involved that handle your packaging. So you’ll want a sturdy and compact packaging.
Use thick carton (32ECT minimum) for export cartons and add a sticker that says “Fragile – handle with care”. No matter if the product inside is fragile or not, this will improve chances your cartons are handled more delicately by the courier or logistics company.
Add insert cards as simple as the below one where you can ask your customers to leave a review or also sign up on your website so that you can collect email addresses.
Also include Instruction Manuals (if applicable). Even if your product is self-explanatory some customers appreciate a guide on how to use a product. You can even add some tips or reference another product of your’s that will make the customer come back. For example if I sell my French Press I also add: “in the unfortunate case that you break your glass, we have a replacement glass available on Amazon”. Another example would be to reference a spare part that is only available trough you. Or something along that line.
Having great photos is essential to show the visual aspect of your products. Great photos will help you sell your product, especially on Amazon where customers often look at the photos to determine if they should make the purchase.
If you don’t use external marketing methods such as YouTube videos to showcase the features of the product, chances are that great photos are your only way of attracting customers to your brand.
When it comes to selling products, most sellers only focus on the product itself. A lot of people don’t realize that the product packaging is also a part of your product. This applies especially if you rely heavily on marketing or want to expand into retail and wholesaling.
Look at YouTube for example, a lot of product review channels put a lot of focus on a brand’s packaging. What this means is that good packaging will help you sell more of your product.
Another thing to note is that great packaging can also help you get more positive feedback or reviews on Amazon. These days online shoppers purchase a lot of products at any given time, by making sure that your packaging wows the customer, they are more likely to remember your brand and comment positively on the experience.
Great brands put a lot of effort in making their products look good, and so should you! With proper product branding you will help attract more customers and gain more confidence in your brand.
I hope this post was useful. Please feel free to comment or share
All the best and happy sourcing,
Welcome to another part of our Building a Brand Blog Series. In last week’s blog post we went over a brief introduction on social media and which social networks are best for Ecommerce sellers or importers.
This week’s blog post will be on a completely different, but equally important subject – Inventory Storage & Fulfillment. When it comes to product-based businesses such as ours, it’s important to not only get your logistics right, but also have the best rates and fast shipping.
I have used both FBM(Fulfilled by Merchant) and also FBA so I will also give my point of view on what works and what doesn’t. Although my main focus is on FBA, I normally still leave some units in a storage facility either to reduce my Amazon fees or to fulfill any orders from my own Ecommerce store.
This blog post will be all about how you can manage your inventory effectively and save fees when compared to Amazon. I will also show you how you can use a third-party fulfillment center to take advantage of busy periods such as the Chinese New Year or the December holiday seasons.
So let’s have a look at what options are there for importers or sellers and explore different ways on how you can manage your inventory effectively.
If using a third-party fulfillment centre, ideally it should be as similar to Amazon FBA as possible in terms of service and efficiency. However, here are some features I look for when making my decision:
Fulfillment centers offer a lot of advantages for ecommerce sellers who want to expand towards other sales channels. Some of the benefits are:
As you can see, choosing the right fulfillment center has a lot of benefits and if you’re planning on launching your own store, a FC outside of FBA is recommended.
Prep centres are storage facilities specifically used for preparing or assembling your products according to your requirements. FBA prep centres will make sure to prepare your shipments according to Amazon’s guidelines. This service might be very useful if you want to make sure that you have everything in order or if your product(s) come in multiple pieces and need assembly.
Nowadays prep centers have evolved and offer multiple services, including:
Please note that prep centers don’t fulfill any customer orders, they should be exclusively used for storage, inspection and prepping.
When choosing a fulfillment center or storage facility, location is very important. Since ideally you want to save on shipping costs from your supplier/manufacturer to the destination(if not an FBA warehouse). When it comes to locations, my preference would be coastal states in the US. In particular:
If your supplier is in China or any other Asian country, Los Angeles would be my choice. LA has both the busiest port and airport in the US in terms of cargo, making it an ideal destination to ship your inventory. Also, a lot of fulfillment centers and storage facilities are situated around LAX airport or close to the port.
Shipping your goods domestically will always be cheaper, so the only way to save time and money with your imports is to pick the closest location in the US from your supplier/manufacturer.
Image Source: Forbes
Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment service where you can use FBA to fulfill third-party orders such as Ebay or your own ecommerce store. This is extremely convenient if you want to have all the shipping and fulfillment in one place. However, in my opinion, the
Amazon fees are quite high and you even have to pay extra to have a multi-channel order.
If you don’t have a lot of sales from other channels you can use Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment, however, if you really want ultimate control over pricing and customer experience on your own website, you should pick a third-party FC.
Fulfillment centers, prep companies and storage facilities allow you to diversify how you manage your inventory. If you sell on your own ecommerce store or have large/oversize items, a fulfillment center will help you reduce your fees substantially.
I would still suggest you to use FBA if most of your sales come from Amazon, however, ideally you would want to expand into other sales channels. By using a FC you would have ultimate control on pricing and customer experience.
In next week’s blog post we will talk about Product Branding. Manuel will guide you on the best practices on how to brand your product effectively and create stunning inserts and marketing materials.
We hope this blog post was helpful and as always, if you have any questions, kindly leave a comment below.
All the best and happy selling,
In last week’s blog post we had a brief introduction on E-commerce and the key steps you should take to create your own sales channel. Another way to create a powerful sales channel is through Social Media.
Social Media is essential to get your target audience to find your brand and connect with influential figures in your niche. In the past few years, social media has become the number one medium for promotion and businesses who want to achieve long term success need to have a social media strategy in place.
We often hear how social media is powerful and important for brands around the world. The main reasons why social media is the platform of choice is:
Facebook is without a doubt the most popular social network to use. Although having(and growing) your own Facebook page is essential for your brand, the advantage Facebook has over other platforms is an affordable and converting advertising platform.
Initially, the best strategy to use Facebook Advertising is to find your target audience. No other advertising platform in the world allows you to segment your audience by:
When launching a new brand, my strategy is to have a budget of $5 a day maximum to find my target audience, that way, when the time comes to launch my product, I know already who to target. Facebook also allows you to target audiences who liked a particular page, so if you have a fitness brand and want to target female audiences aged 18-25 who like Nike, Adidas & Under Armour; you can do that with FB Ads.
What this allows is to have better converting Ads and more clicks to your sponsored posts. One suggestion I can give is to not direct the audience to your Amazon listing(unless you have a lot of positive reviews), but instead to your website/landing page to collect email addresses.
We will talk in more detail about Facebook Advertising in the coming weeks, however, as a business in 2017 and beyond, you need to be on Facebook – it’s where your target market hangs out most of the time so take advantage of it!
Instagram is the platform of choice if you want to showcase your products, brand and your story. The visual aspect of Instagram allows you to truly differentiate yourself from your competitors. Since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can use their advertising platform to also target Instagram users.
What I really like about Instagram though, is the ability to connect with authority in your niche and even larger brands. This makes it the perfect social media platform alongside YouTube to gain massive exposure for your brand.
However, the downside of Instagram is that you only have one clickable link in your whole profile – The Bio. This makes it very hard to direct audiences to click the link, for this reason, although Instagram can be used to drive sales, the main use of the platform is to gain exposure.
Twitter is one of the top social media networks, however, their follower base has been declining in recent years so in my opinion, other social media platforms are much better. Twitter works best for announcements or to give news regarding your brand or products.
I would still suggest you to have a Twitter account though, not only it works great for some niches such as fitness, yoga and cosmetics; but also because as a brand you need to be everywhere! The more places you are, being social media platforms, marketplaces or countries, the better.
So while in some cases twitter can work great, it’s not an ideal platform for Ecommerce sellers.
Out of all the most popular social media platforms, snapchat is the newest one. However, they are quickly gaining a large following(particularly amongst younger audiences) and they are set to go public soon. Snapchat is a video-based application that allows you for to share videos which are only available for a limited amount of time.
This is a great app if you want to make quick promotional videos or even use it to make instruction-based videos on your products. However, unlike most social media platforms, Snapchat only applies to certain categories.
Nonetheless, if your market is mostly younger audiences, you need to use the app as it’s quickly becoming the number 1 social media platform amongst the younger generation.
YouTube is by far the best social media platform for exposure and driving insane amounts of traffic to your website or Amazon listing. With the introduction of their Video Advertising Platform, you can quickly gain enough exposure or even go viral. It’s not uncommon for unknown brands to go viral and get massive sales via YouTube. Video based ads convert much better also, however, at $0.20 a click, it can become quite expensive.
The power of YouTube relies in a pool of YouTubers from all kinds of niches, in fact, if you can find influencers or brand ambassadors willing to make an unboxing review or How-To-Guides for your product, you will get more sales than any other method, such as PPC or FB Ads.
The major tips I can give regarding YouTube are:
If used right, YouTube can be the single platform that elevates your brand from a small business to a well-known brand loved by its audiences. Unless you have enough video making or editing experience, I wouldn’t suggest you make YouTube videos yourself(as a brand), instead, outsource the whole process or even better, leverage the audience of other YouTubers.
Pinterest is a social media platform that very different from the rest. It focuses mainly on images where they are structured using pins and boards. What makes Pinterest unique is that the platform has a majority of women followers, so if your brand or products are aimed at this demographic, you need to focus your marketing efforts on Pinterest.
Pinterest, unlike Instagram, has clickable images, so every image you put in the platform can be directed to your website or Amazon listing. This becomes really powerful when your follower base get bigger as it can help increase conversions.
Social media and E-Commerce are a perfect match for each other! No other platform gives you the ability to showcase your products in front of thousands of potential buyers. When it comes to promoting your products on social media, you need to focus on these points:
However, the most powerful way to gain followers and exposure to your brand via social media is by advertising. Facebook and YouTube provide the best converting advertising platforms and give you a lot of data about your customer behaviour.
Amazon PPC can get very expensive after a while and social media is another great way to drive traffic. It is recommended to not drive traffic directly to your Amazon listing via social media advertising, but instead, use the following strategy:
By driving traffic to your website you have the ability to collect email subscribers. Email subscribers allow you to:
Social Media Marketing can be a great asset to have for your business. No other tool comes close when it comes to connecting with your target audiences and getting exposure for your brand. Keep in mind that social media is a slow process and not every platform will suit your brand.
We recommend focusing your efforts on 2 or 3 social media platforms and outsource the rest to a virtual assistant.
In next week’s blog post we will discuss Inventory Management, FBA Prep and Storage. Amazon has been constantly increasing their fees so it makes sense to look for alternative options to store part or all of your inventory.
We hope this short guide prove helpful and as always, if you have any questions, kindly leave a comment below.
All the best and happy selling,
18/F., Blk. B, Tung Luen Ind. Bldg. 1 Yip Shing St., Kwai Chung, Hong Kong