How to Sell (More of) Your Stuff on Amazon – Jeff Lieber
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
On the surface, selling products on Amazon seems like a pretty easy way to make some money, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. In order to do it successfully with impressive results, you definitely need the right strategies to help get you there. Today’s guest, Jeff Lieber of Turnkey Product Management, shares his own strategies, tips, and expertise around keyword research and optimization, product branding and listing, and PPC advertising that he uses to help his own clients sell 8+ figures on Amazon.
Rich: My guest today is the founder of Turnkey Product Management, a boutique consulting firm which helps brands at every level sell their products on Amazon. He started by selling his own products on Amazon and identified the fundamental strategies to help sellers stand out among the competition and see their full potential on Amazon.
His company offers everything from full-service Amazon account management to consulting Amazon ad management. Today, let’s find out what it takes to be successful on Amazon with Jeff Lieber. Jeff, welcome to the podcast.
Jeff: Thank you, Rich. It’s a pleasure to be on the show and a long time coming. I know we had some hiccups along the way, so I’m glad we got to connect finally again.
Rich: It’s all good. So I am curious, what were you originally selling on Amazon?
Jeff: My very first product, I had a list of about 50 products in a spreadsheet that I was choosing between. And of all the products in the world, I decided on puppy training pee pads. I decided on buying a 20-foot container from China of just that one skew for $15,000 or whatever it was. It was the best way to just to jump in and dip my toe in the Amazon waters. And luckily it did work out, but it took about a year to sell through that product. And it turned into a pet brand and a baby brand that I was able to sell a few years later. So it all worked out, but it was not the most glamorous, sexy product.
Rich: Interesting. I can only imagine when that pulled up on your front lawn and you all of a sudden had to figure out how to get rid of all of those pee pads. But it does actually bring up a good point. So, a lot of people think about Amazon for a place to sell their products, but you can obviously also sell other people’s products as well. Is there a different strategy when you’re selling your own product versus when you’re selling somebody else’s that might also be on sale by other vendors on Amazon?
Jeff: Yeah, there are two completely different strategies. So all of our clients and my core expertise is on the side of where people have their own brand of products. So private label or whatever you want to call it, where they go to a supplier and hire a graphic designer or whatever to create their own brand and slap their own label on it. So they’re not reselling Crest toothpaste as a wholesaler or reseller. I know there is a market, Amazon Retail Arbitrage out there, where you can buy toothpaste that’s on sale at Walmart and try to sell it on Amazon. But those models, there’s so much competition. I feel like the ceiling on where you can take it is lower. It takes a lot of work and it’s just, and as soon as a hot product opportunity comes along and you make some money, people are seeing that there’s software out there that can easily find those niches, and you’re not building something that’s sustainable. You might make some money for a time, and I know some people have been very successful with it. So, I don’t know exactly. I’m sure there’s ways to do it. But in my opinion, building your own brand that you own, that you control building an audience, building a customer list, that’s something that is an asset that you can build for years to come, and you can sell it down the road if you want to as well.
Rich: All right. Great clarification. So today we’re going to be focusing on products either that you manufacturer or that you white label, so there is a point of differentiation, at least in the brand. All right. So if we’ve never sold on Amazon before but we have a product, how do we get started? What’s that very first step?
Jeff: So step one is you want to choose the product. And so if you don’t have a product yet or brand, then you want to choose a niche, choose a product niche that you’re 1) ideally passionate about. But 2) do what I did, do what you’re most passionate about, what you go to bed dreaming about.
So, yeah. But there’s lots of great software out there like Helium10 and Jungle Scout, and there’s a lot of them out there now. You can use those to assess what are the revenue potentials, what are the actual sales and revenues of a particular product niche? So if you’re interested in that toothpaste niche, you’re interested in that yoga mat niche, you can use these softwares and it’s very cheap, or even free, to go find out that, wow, the number one seller of yoga mats is selling $500,000 a month. And then the number 10 seller is doing $100,000 a month in sales. So if you see those sort of numbers, that’s a big competitive niche, but you know, it shows that it’s probably worth serious consideration before entering.
Now if you searched and it was some really odd, peculiar product that just wasn’t something that people searched for. Like, I don’t know, paperclip holders or something like that. It might have a cool paper clip holder, but that’s maybe not something. Maybe if we checked the numbers on that, if the top seller product is only doing say $25,000 a month and then from there it goes down. Then I would say, that’s not a product opportunity worth spending any time on, as far as Amazon. You might be able to go make a business out of it elsewhere, other channels. But so that’s kind of just step one is come up with a list of your product ideas. If you already have an audience or a following or social media or something, ask them or figure out what products can I give to you to serve you? And you can then go verify is there a good potential on Amazon or not? And then if it is, then you take the next steps from there.
So I’ll just pause there, if you have any questions.
Rich: Yeah. If you have your own product. A lot of people are like, how can I leverage, maybe they’re a manufacturer, whatever it is. Can you use that same software to determine what your search volume might be on? Like you’re going to sell this anyways. And so I think the question becomes is Amazon a viable channel for you? Would you recommend using the software in the same manner to determine that?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s a great way to go as well. There are search volumes out there for keywords and things of that nature, so that’s great, too. But I would say that the sales revenue at the end of the day is what keeps you in business. So that’s the easiest, simplest way to look at it, to cross off product ideas or niches that aren’t working.
Rich: If we’ve identified the product that we want to sell or we have a product already to sell that the numbers add up, what do we do then? What’s the next step after that?
Jeff: Yeah, sure. So once you have your product, then you go to your manufacturer, you place the smallest order, ideally that you can, just to save your cashflow, their minimum order quantity. Sometimes it might be 1,000 units, so that that that’s usually enough units to get started. You don’t want to place a 100,000 unit order if you’re just testing this out as a business model. And then you make sure that you have good quality control of your product during production. Make sure to send someone out there, if not yourself, to go inspect the quality of the product, get good packaging ideally if you can, but it’s not absolutely essential for your first product run. But you want to put your own labels on it at least and barcodes and things of that nature. And then you ship it ideally all the way to Amazon FBA.
FBA stands for ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ warehouses. So Amazon has warehouses all over the United States now, as well as all over the world. They’re now obviously taking over the world as they do. And so you can ship your inventory straight to Amazon’s warehouse so that they handle the fulfillment for you. Which is really nice. And that gets you eligible for that beautiful Amazon Prime badge, which gets you that free shipping that everybody wants for all the Prime members.
And so the high majority of our clients that have success, I mean, they’re using Amazon FBA for Prime shipping and just for the ease of fulfillment. And then once you ship the product there, it takes a couple of weeks, it arrives, it’s checked in. And then during that time, ideally a month before you’re ready to launch, that’s when we start working with clients. One to two months prior to launch is to build up the product listings. When you’re shopping on Amazon and searching for a yoga mat and you go to the page, there’s good pages that make sense, and you understand what the product is. And there’s really crappy pages that look like someone threw it up in five minutes and didn’t put any effort in. So our job and whoever’s selling job is to make that as well optimized as possible of a product. Which I can give some tips on that.
Rich: Exactly. Yeah. I want to get into that. So what makes for a really effective product page and what do we have control over? And maybe what don’t we have control over, as we’re trying to create this optimized page for our product?
Jeff: Yeah. Great question. So you have control over, the biggest things are you want to have good images. You’ve been to product pages where maybe there’s only one image there and it doesn’t clearly show the ingredients of the product or the dimension. So you have typically eight or nine image spots. You want to use every single image spot available for all the angles of your product or get a model or a person using your product and demonstrating it. And then you want to have infographics as well, not just plain images. What I mean by infographic is those nice images that have text overlay of the benefits, and little graphics saying it’s ‘non-GMO’ or ‘’sugar-free, those little things that people can instantly see and be like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, those are great benefits, and we understand the product.” So at a minimum you want great images. You can hire cheap graphic designers that can make those infographics. We do them for our clients.
And in an ideal world you also have a video on your product page as well. You’ll see as a shopper not all products have videos yet, just because sellers are kind of lazy or behind. And so adding a video can be a huge boost to your conversion rates because you can. Explain and sell products so much more clearly than just through static images.
And then additionally you have the title, which you can put great keywords in there, but also good, sales copy and the benefits and the things that people need to. And then you have the sales copy weaved throughout the product page. You have the bullet points, the product description, and that’s where people again kind of get a little bit lazy, I think. Where you’ve got so much space in real estate that Amazon gives you, so you want to use as much as possible to put as world-class sales copy as possible, sell the product, tell them about the benefits, the why, and everything that they need to know in order to purchase. And yeah, those are the basics of having a pretty solid, fundamental listing that can be converting it 20%, 30% or more depending on your niche.
Rich: So as we’re talking, I pulled up an Amazon page and I’m just looking through some of the sections. We’re all familiar with on Amazon pages, and there’s a huge section for product description. As you get further down the page with even more photos of just a random product. I chose dimensions. Like you talked about product details, a bunch of videos, I noticed a bunch of customer videos as well. Any tips around encouraging people to create their own videos? And does this help, assuming that they’re not videos of showing how bad your product is?
Jeff: Yeah, it can be a double-edged sword. That’s great if you can get customer video content. And it can be hard to influence them, so Amazon can be skeptical of how you communicate with customers, trying to influence them for fake reviews and fake videos. So you don’t want to aggressively do anything or incentivize things of that nature. But you know, if you have a great product and people really love it and you’re selling big volumes, they will just naturally come if you’re doing well and doing a great job and doing good customer service. So yeah, you can’t exactly influence that a ton.
Rich: I’ve definitely received a few products through Amazon where there was a heavy incentive to leave a positive review. And it always made me question any other reviews for the products at that point. Then we have customer question and answer areas, and I often will notice that the seller will answer a lot of these questions, although usually not all of them. Do you recommend going on the page and answering all those questions for sellers?
Jeff: Yeah, 100%. Because it just shows you as a buyer, wow, this seller is paying attention, they care about their customers, they’re handling any issues that people have or questions. And oftentimes those questions are really good questions that people wouldn’t buy unless they knew the answer to that question. But if you don’t answer it yourself, you might get John Smith from wherever California leaving a bad answer that’s like, “No, it doesn’t work at all. The batteries died in three weeks.” But you want to be able to put that first answer and to make sure that you’re putting your answer in first and you’ll get priority. Otherwise it can actually do a detriment to you.
Rich: Amazon heavily promotes customer reviews, and even which ones bought it through Amazon so they can verify that it was purchased. I’m wondering, do they allow you to give feedback on the reviews? Like if you’re the seller and somebody leaves a positive or a negative review, can you respond to that review?
Jeff: Yeah, Amazon’s changed its policies over the years on this. So it changes all the time. So by the time this is live, it could be different again. But yeah, there’s different levels. So sometimes you can respond. Like ideally if a customer leaves a bad review or something, there can be ways where we can find that customer info. Sometimes their name is actually in the review, and you can actually go look up their order info. And I recommend trying to contact them directly, one-on-one, outside of having a public discussion on your review page. You can’t delete that after and sometimes I’ve seen that go south. And so ideally you try to actually have a private conversation or try to ask them to give you a call so you can just work it out or give them a refund or what have you.
But yes, there are ways to respond as well to the reviews, most of the time to defend yourself or to do that. But you know, you need to be very tactful and careful because customers can send that. They’re not always the most reasonable people and you don’t want to get into an ugly public fight where they trash you even harder or upset them. So it can be a delicate topic.
Rich: All right. So we’ve optimized our page. We’ve got everything in the right place. What can we do? Because sometimes depending on the search, there may be 10 – 20 pages of results, and nobody’s going to the 15th page. So what are some of the tactics that we can use to kind of move up in the results? Obviously, relevance is going to be part of it, but what can we control when it comes to ranking higher in that Amazon search?
Jeff: Yeah, really great question. So number one, I would say if you have your own audience at all, if you have your own customer list, if you have a social media page, email list, it doesn’t matter what it is, but if you’ve built up an audience of people interested in your product or interested in your space, that’s the best place to start. Because that’s as close to free as you can get. So you want to drive traffic to your Amazon page to get those initial sales, those initial reviews. That’s a really important part. And you want to continuously keep doing that. Not every single day, but especially in the first month you really want to try to flow Amazon with as much traffic as you can from whatever sources of traffic that you have at your disposal. So free organic traffic is obviously great. If you have any influencers. If you don’t have your own audience, but you have relationships or you can go start relationships with people who have audiences in that space.
I’m thinking about yoga mats today, but if you make a relationship with, there’s tons of influencers on YouTube and on Instagram and TikTok now, there’s all over where these people are doing fitness and yoga and stuff like that. So you can reach out to them, offer them free product, say you just want to let them try out the product and ask how they like it. Start a whole relationship with them and they actually might start using your product in their videos. You can create an affiliate relationship with them. So that’s another way is to use other people’s audiences to drive traffic.
There’s obviously paid traffic as well. So using a company like yours, Rich. I’m sure some of your clients need to drive traffic to Amazon. So, people that can do the paid ad side of things off of Amazon, drive that over to Amazon.
And then the last, and probably the biggest I saved it for last, is because it’s actually the most important topic that we’ll probably want to talk about is the Amazon PPC, pay-per-click advertising. So Amazon has its own advertising platform on Amazon. And it’s the highest ROI, the most predictable and successful traffic source I’ve seen for Amazon. And that’s where we spend a lot of our time with our clients.
Rich: And I do want to talk about it, so let’s jump into that. There’s its own advertise. I’m going to ask you what we’re talking about, because I see sometimes that as I’m scrolling through a specific search that I do, I see sponsored listings. I assume that’s code for ‘advertised product’. But then also very often I’ll be looking at one product and I will be getting, similar products to this. And sometimes I think it’s says, ‘sponsored’, I’m not sure about if it does every single time. Where are the ads showing up? First of all, what kind of like there are different ad platforms or different ad units, I’m guessing. And then kind of like, what is the process for getting involved in that?
Jeff: Yeah, Amazon is incredibly adept at making the ads look like organic search results. So sometimes even, I don’t know which ones, because they do weave them in there. So yeah, certainly if you see the word ‘sponsored’, that definitely indicates that sometimes it does organically just show related products. Someone that bought this also bought this. So those aren’t necessarily ads most of the time.
But at the same time, there definitely are a lot of those because there’s types of ads that we run for our clients that specifically say, if someone bought this competitor, advertise our client’s product to them. So, there’s just so many different ways. But it’s really easy to get started with the Amazon PPC ads. It’s actually keyword based largely, like that’s the biggest portion of it, which is why I think it’s such a successful ad network. Amazon ads are actually, I believe now they’re the number three advertiser in the entire world behind Google and Facebook. And who knows, they’ll probably surpass one or both of them in the coming years, if I had to guess.
But the reason that ads are so successful. One is because, as you mentioned, that they blend in and they look like normal search results. They’re at the top of the page, the sidebar, the bottom. They’re weaved in all throughout all the Amazon pages. And then two, they’re largely keyword-based, like intent-based searches. So it’s similar to Google ads where if someone’s searching for ‘yoga mat’ or ‘recyclable material yoga mat’, if that’s your product and you have a recyclable material yoga mat, make sure that those keywords are in your title and in your listing weaved throughout it. And you can run different types of ad campaigns specifically around all those keyword phrases. So we’ll find hundreds of keyword variations around the yoga mat that suit our product and match what we’re selling and run different types of test and ad campaigns around them.
It’s just so amazing that if you launch your own product tomorrow, Rich, and you have never sold before, you can advertise and show up at the top of the search results for your exact search term phrase. It’s just so powerful. And it’s one of the most profitable ways to get sales, versus if you compare it to say a Facebook ad. If you’re trying to sell a yoga mat on Facebook, you’re doing distraction marketing. Those people are not on there to shop for yoga mat, they’re on there to be on Facebook or on Instagram to browse, do content, have fun. And then you’re trying to interrupt them and say, “Hey, want to take a minute and maybe buy me, I know you’re probably interested in yoga at some point.” But you know that they’re probably not ready to buy right then and there. But on Amazon, they’re searching for yoga mat and in the next 15 seconds, they’re hoping to open three different product listings, choose the best one, and have it delivered tomorrow.
Rich: So you mentioned that a lot of this is keyword driven, and that’s a lot like paid search and going after keywords. So when I think about Amazon and where I see the ads most often, one is when I’m doing a search. So if I do a search for LED lights, I’m going to see mixed into the – let’s call them organic results – I’m going to see those sponsored ads. So I can understand how that’s keyword driven. But then also when I get to a page of a product I like for LED lights, as I scroll down the page I see products related to this item. And you see off in the corner ‘sponsored’, it kind of whispers if not every single product is mentioned, but those are all sponsored. And then below that four stars and above another sponsored area. So are those still keyword-driven, or in that case am I saying I want to be on related products pages, or I want to be on this specific product page? How does that work?
Jeff: Yeah. And that’s where Amazon PPC ads have become very complex and that’s where it takes a lot of time. So there’s both types. So there’s more simple-based, keyword-based campaigns. But then you can advertise towards your competitors. You can advertise towards similar products that are complimentary. You can run video ads.
And there’s a whole other ad platform called Amazon DSP advertising called ‘demand side platform’ advertising, which is also owned by Amazon. And they allow even more reach where you can retarget your own customers that bought from you in the last year but haven’t bought from you again in the last 90 days. You can do various sophisticated ad campaigns, video ads. You can also do retargeting ads to people that visited your listing and didn’t buy, and follow them around when they’re off of Amazon, when they’re on their phone, on other applications, other websites. So Amazon’s always expanding and growing. And that’s why it’s just like the hardest thing to nail, because it takes so much time and effort to do. But it can be really successful if you nail it.
Rich: All right. Question. There’s obviously advertising on Amazon is primarily for advertising products that are for sale on Amazon. Is there any market or anybody who’s advertising literally on Amazon, but driving traffic off of Amazon? Is that even a thing?
Jeff: Hmm, that’s a good question. Amazon really tries to avoid that. There might be some people that have figured out something, but no.
Rich: That’s not how it works. All right. I was curious. I’m just always looking for new ways to drive traffic, so I figured that I would ask.
Jeff: Yeah, no. There used to be some successful types that you can drive traffic to like a YouTube video, but it was on Amazon. But you know, then you could put in the YouTube video or whatever you want, that went away. So, there’s probably some little thing, but it’s not going to last long. I’ve never heard people talking about it.
Rich: Sounds good. Now let’s say we’ve been talking about maybe putting our ads on competing product pages. What if we have a page and we notice that our competitors are running ads on our page, do we have any control over that? Can we say we don’t want an advertiser or certain advertisers to appear on our page?
Jeff: That would be nice if you could, but you can’t pick and choose. But what you can do is you can run brand defense campaigns where basically you’re actually advertising on your own brand and keywords. And we actually recommend doing that. Just because it is common practice, because you don’t want someone searching for Jeff’s brand of yoga mats, but then I’m not bidding on it and Amazon puts the ad on the top. So if I’m not bidding on my own term, the ad at the top will be someone else’s brand, and then I’ll be the first organic search result most likely. And so we do recommend running brand defense, and it’s just the cost of doing business. It’s typically a lot lower cost per click, it’s not super high traffic volume like the big keyword. So it’s just cost of doing business on Amazon. Because yeah, it is a competitive place.
Rich: During COVID I got back into doing jigsaw puzzles, and I seem to be ordering them off of Amazon all the time. I’ll be honest, I may have been interested in certain topics, but I never built any brand loyalty to the different puzzle makers. Do you have any recommendations if we do have that level of control, either because we’re the manufacturer or we’re able to white label it in such a way, to build brand loyalty outside of Amazon so they’re coming directly to us after that initial sale?
Jeff: Yeah, great question. Yeah, there are ways to do that. Let’s see, which one should I cover? So one that you can do is you probably see when you place orders, some people will have a warranty or a guarantee or something like a marketing insert card or a sticker that says, “go here to sign up for your free product replacement warranty” or whatever. And then that way they take you to a landing page where they can get your name and email. Which at that point, you now own their name and email.
And then there’s gray area things that Amazon doesn’t really look like you doing, like offering 15% off your next purchase. But it needs to be on Amazon is what you make sure that you need to say and do. But you could still get their customer info through that. So for a puzzle maker that, “Thanks for being a customer, we’re coming out with all this cool stuff, make sure you’re on our VIP future Amazon launch lists.” So there’s things you can do along those lines.
Rich: All right. This has been great. If people are interested in learning more about selling on Amazon or working with an agency like yours to help them sell their products on Amazon, Jeff, where can we send them?
Jeff: Yeah, appreciate it. Yeah, we love talking with companies that are interested in Amazon. We have a ton of free resources on our website that you can pick and choose which ones apply to you. I talked about the revenue analysis tools. We already subscribe to all those things and use them every single day. So if you have a product idea or when you’re thinking about a different product, you can contact us and we’ll actually run the report for you and tell you what the number one seller in your niche is, whether it’s a good product opportunity or not. Or if you’re already selling and want to see what it would look like for us to help take your business to the next level, we’re always happy to talk with businesses about that. So all those free resources and the ability to book a call with us is turnkeyproductmanagement.com/resources. And yeah, happy to always connect, for sure.
Rich: Sounds great. And we’ll have those links in the show notes. Jeff, thanks so much. This has been very enlightening, much appreciated.
Jeff: Thank you, Rich. Appreciate it.
Jeff Lieber has mastered the art of selling on Amazon, and he uses that knowledge and expertise to help his clients sell 8+ figures per year on the platform. His website has tons of free resources for you to check out to help set you on your way to a successful Amazon seller journey!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.