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Transcription in this episode:
[00:00:01] spk_0: Welcome to the seller roundtable e commerce coaching and business strategies with and er not and amy Wiis, hey, what's up everybody's and er not with [00:00:12] spk_1: Amy Wei's [00:00:13] spk_0: And this is our roundtable number 124 and we are super excited to have David Lang and Ryan Shepherd. Welcome guys, thanks for being on Yeah, baby. [00:00:23] spk_1: So we messed up Ryan's last name. It's hard, it's hard. [00:00:30] spk_0: You know what, [00:00:31] spk_1: it was just reading very fast. [00:00:33] spk_0: I was, if I was still doing that, I'd be in big trouble for not getting the call sign right, so what happens when you get old? [00:00:42] spk_1: Yeah, [00:00:43] spk_0: hey, you [00:00:47] spk_1: know, I've known these guys for a while and I'm so excited to have them on the cell, a round table today and have them share their inspiring story with all of you guys. You know, it's always good to have sellers on, we have had a lot of service providers on lately and they're helpful because they give us the tips and they get to uh, you know, they get to talk to a lot of different sellers and work with a lot of different sellers and along with that comes a lot of experience that they can share with us, but we love having sellers on the seller roundtable because it's really inspiring to be able to have you guys here to talk about your story and you know where you got started and where you are now and what you're working on and um, so without further Dude, David and Ryan, why don't you give us your background and just tell us kind of how you got started and uh as much as you want to tell us, and he always says, you know, if you want, if you want to leave a blood sample or whatever, it's [00:01:48] spk_0: ok [00:01:49] spk_1: much as you want to tell us, let us know um a little bit about you. [00:01:54] spk_0: Okay, well it started back in 1985 when I was born. Uh so um yeah, so I'm we're living in Germany, so we're both Canadian, but we're living in Germany actually and uh we're living in Munich, that's where we met, we met online actually, which is kind of funny because now we're working a lot online with other people and meeting cool people we met online because my wife was also Canadian was homesick. Um and I said, look, let's just try to find more Canadians living in the city. And that's how Ryan and I met. And at the time, my wife and I had actually started a little amazon business. We started just the two of us. I saw a course online um that I decided to sign up for. It was just a dream of mine to always try to produce one idea to real product. I gave myself a year deadline. So I said by New Year's Eve, I want to actually launch a product. So when we met Ryan, he saw me working on all this stuff, this amazon stuff and we finally launched our first product last year. Um it was right as Covid hits. It was, we're live, our first product was february 2020 we got in, so at least I had all my socket amazon and we're trying to sell it, but it was a complete dot, it wasn't working. And Ryan saw me a little frustrated trying to figure stuff out. He's like, what are you doing all this time? Come and have a beer, let's go to the beer garden. I'm like, no, I gotta work, I gotta hustle. Um, and I was doing that, you know, I have two small kids. So I was listening to all these podcast Andy your voice literally, I would listen to it. Uh, this podcast as I was like pushing my daughter to fall asleep for a nap. She only falls asleep while we're walking or driving the bike I was listening to and you know, while listening to Annie, you didn't put her asleep. I was listening to all these podcasts and try to figure everything out. And then Ryan kind of got a, got a feel for it. Yeah, it was kind of curious, you know, I was like, I've never done anything on e commerce before. And so I was just kind of kind of curious and offered, um, I think initially to help out with what was it, some social media. So that was the deal. So our personal backgrounds, I'm an airline pilot. I am a scientist, so very analytical people, but also very different. Yeah so quite different but similar. We have some similar interest but I actually made him a deal. I'm like look I'll get you my buddy pass but I need you. Just care of my social media stuff. And I'm thinking okay I can get like free flights, this is going to be a great year. Do some social media just make a few facebook post and I can have some free flights. And I think it was two weeks later that covid hit and flights stopped, flights stopped. So he never got a fight. But then he also never did a social media post for me ever. Because I found out he hated social media and he just wanted to help me. But [00:04:31] spk_1: you get the bump into that deal. I [00:04:34] spk_0: know but he was getting Photoshop to help me with some Photoshop work some artwork. And then he would actually go online and try to find more people that I could follow that I could learn from. Because I'm a big believer of trying to find someone who has already made it and just learn from them. Um And he actually found Amy which was hilarious. He's like hey look she's starting a course is about listening writing. I think you're listening might suck. We don't know do of course you're going to learn some stuff about S. E. O. Um Sure. And I think Amy I think the word that goddess was canonical U. R. L. And you had you had an article talking about that and I just blew our minds were [00:05:08] spk_1: like science. [00:05:11] spk_0: Uh Yeah that's how we started doing different quarters. And uh you know we continued I had a bit more time as more than I wanted last year because of Covid. I was in flying a lot. Um I was grounded for most of the year and then we made it official, Ryan joined the team. We became a trio at that point and then Ryan and I got to work, did all the work. My wife was really supportive at home, took care of the two kids and you know kept her, she helped with some creative stuff and then uh we basically retired that first failed product But it took all the learnings from it. And then we launched two new ones last October we finished the year with 73,000 in revenue. So that was a big milestone for us for our first year live. We thought that was pretty good. And now this year it's our second year we have we've launched several new products. So we're currently at seven different products. Um and we're at 1.4 million year to date. So pretty excited for Q4 and it's been an exceptional growth. It's been busy nonstop and it's been kind of wild. We still don't really fully believe it or know what happened. No I mean I started this whole thing with [00:06:16] spk_1: a full head of hair [00:06:17] spk_0: for anyone. [00:06:18] spk_1: Can you [00:06:19] spk_0: Can imagine what my hair looks like, we've been doing Amazon, you know for two years and we based about 30 years, so [00:06:27] spk_1: wow, well, you know, it's just amazing that you guys really figured out, first of all through taking the listing class, that the product might be a dug, your first product might be a dud and you you still were able to sell that dud by changing up your listing. And then you also realize like wow, imagine if we like applied this stuff to new products and look how fast, you know, you also took many other learnings, not just mine, but but you were able to scale so fast and that is just really, really incredible and it's it's a good thing to show others how if you just stay focused and you continue to learn what you don't know and you continue to apply the things um that you know others are working for others, that you can really make it work for yourself. So along that line, what was really the biggest challenge with amazon once you got started and is there any advice that you want to give other sellers that are just starting out? [00:07:28] spk_0: Uh Yeah, so I think, I mean the biggest challenge at the beginning, when I was starting, we have 00 background in e commerce. Um No, no real marketing online, everything was new to us. So the biggest challenge that we had at the beginning was learning things while implementing them at the same time and it kind of felt like we're learning we're building and luckily our character is is okay with not fully knowing what's going on and still trying to figure it out and we didn't see it as a as a bad thing or as a failure. So we were okay. My original concept was just get a product life, it doesn't matter if it fails, just get it live because that's when the real earnings are going to come from anyway. And I was totally okay with that and I said we just got to get out there and then that that was the one thing that kept us going because it didn't de motivate us. We didn't see it as a failure, We saw it as a learning opportunity, we just saw it as a practice run the first product. Um And the hardest thing was just a constant learning, dealing with the external obstacles because amazon loves throwing curveballs right, like especially last year we all have them the ace in restock limit, right? And everyone scrambling to get a three pl last minute and all the three ps are full, the shipping delays lost inventory. I mean we see like since day one, I think they've especially has seen amazon is this beast and it's just like don't poke the beast because you can get your account suspended for three months and you know so he's passed that on to me and now we're both super cautious anytime it comes to you know poking, poking the amazon beast so we stay well within you know we don't do any black hat tastic everything or gray had everything is you know white we think forward like what can we do today? That's probably going to get us through. You know not only the next few months for the next few years in amazon we kind of look where amazon is headed and and make our decisions based on you know what we think is still going to be acceptable in two or three years on amazon. Yeah like like one key example that was just when it came to barcodes right at the beginning, I knew I could probably get an exemption and I could just do an F. And skew. But I was like my mindset, I was always like that but think bigger. Think really big, forget amazon like right? And I get into fights because if people ask us what do you guys do? He'll be like we're amazon sellers. I'm like no we're not, we're e commerce people, we have a business like we're bigger than just amazon and uh so we'll fight a bit. So we're always trying to think like bigger than amazon to actually protect us from amazon because so we go with Gs one barcodes from the beginning right? And now it actually evolved that you need a Gs one bar codes and it's better to have the official one. It allowed us to get on to walmart. Um so all that stuff, just thinking always bigger than Amazon has kind of protected us from amazon, [00:10:03] spk_1: right? Thinking of amazon as a sales channel instead of your entire business. I think it's so important, you know? Yes, it's a very strong sales channel. But I'm always trying to think about diversification as well and I know and he does the same thing, you know, we're always doing new things and we're never afraid to pivot to another strategy or to selling somewhere else. So um what about product selection? So you kind of talked about how, you know, your first product? I think all of us have that first product story, we're like learned from that one. That was fun, but how has that evolved for you and how do you now choose a product or develop a product? [00:10:45] spk_0: Yeah, I mean I think it's it's really keyword based keywords, search volume. Can we can we make a product that has high many many keywords with high search volume and that are highly relevant for this product. You know, You don't want to launch a product that only has, you know, a couple search terms with, you know, 300 search volume, you know, a month. And and then you're wondering why no one is visiting your listing or why you're not gonna be in sales. So it's really just keyword. Yeah. And I think that that's exactly why the first product that, that they've launched um you know, failed and why? Well here's the people that bought it, they loved it and the people that found it, they loved it, but people weren't finding it right? And so the course that I originally did said you just have to differentiate as long as you're different and better you're gonna get sales. That might be true if people are looking for that. Right? So if you do something that's so unique and so crazy and so out there, then maybe you should launch on Etsy or via facebook or you should, you know, find a group that's specifically looking for that. Um but if you're going to just launch straight on amazon, there has to be demand for it. So we just pivoted that approach, saying, okay, let's find the search volume and let's create a product that's better than the competition on that search volume. So [00:12:07] spk_1: you aren't really thinking about finding a product, [00:12:11] spk_0: you're [00:12:11] spk_1: finding keywords where there is an opportunity and where others have not developed a product in that area yet. And then you're looking at those keywords in that opportunity and developing the product to match. So that when customers search that keyword and there's nothing to match you are the first to market with that product that perfectly matches that keyword and that intent behind it and there you go, right, You've got you've got a great product out there. So it's it's that's a great strategy to use. It gives you enough search volume where you're not stuck, right? But it also gives you the search volume plus the product that meets the need that isn't currently being met in the marketplace. [00:12:55] spk_0: Plus it's a very good way to think of variation for product to right? So if you're looking at pet products and you create something for a certain type of dog, then you just find what are the search flames, what other kind of dogs have high search volume. And then you just pivot that product turned into variation for that type of dog or at least marketed that way. And that's how we were able to come up with so many different variations of our product, which are all very similar, but they're similar to us because they're similar manufacturers, a similar process however, because they have a completely different set of keywords for Amazon is a completely new product in a completely different market [00:13:29] spk_1: and [00:13:29] spk_0: great with all the products with all the different keyword tools you have nowadays, you know, they're just so accessible to people with helium 10. We love brand analytics because that data is coming straight from amazon. Um and then even one time Dave and I were just sitting kind of searching on amazon dot com in the search bar and we started typing in something and the search for auto completed, but we're typing into something we never even thought about and we're like, are we launching that product? We just launched it a successful a [00:14:05] spk_1: that's really, really awesome. Yeah, I think that that is a really great way to find the market. It's like um when they say find your buyer instead of looking for that product right, where you're just getting stuck in that loop of analysis, paralysis, Find your buyer and then give them what they're looking for. And that's a very quick way to be able to launch and rake very, very quickly. So speaking of launch, can you guys talk a little bit about your launch process? What does your launch process look like? And Yeah, [00:14:43] spk_0: yeah, it's a good, it's a relevant topic because yeah, we just launched a new product a couple of days ago, so we're actually smack dab in the middle of a new launch right now. I mean maybe Dave you can you can take the lead on this one, but it's just well our launch, we actually started way before like during product selection kind of so it all starts with the keyword list, we create our keyword list, we make sure that when we select the keywords that we want to really launch for and when we launched the product or during the product selection, we don't just look in the month that we're looking at the product. So that's what we were doing keyword research or product research in February, we're not looking at February search volume. What we're looking at is the Q4 of last year, maybe the year before we try to get historical data on it. Because we want to make sure we have a product that has a nice big peak and we also want to see seasonality of the product, end of search volume. Right? So we actually plot, okay, where are the peaks? Okay, there's gonna be, we're expecting a valentine's peak maybe or a summer peak or christmas speak. So applaud it all out and we do this kind of like a forecast of each keyword what their search volume looks like. And then we say, okay, in which month are we launching and what's the search volume, that's highest in that month, those are the key words we're going to go for, always looking forward those saying we're going to use the chance now. So for example, the product we're launching now, we're trying to be organically and the top christmas keywords because by the time christmas comes we don't want to start having to rank for where PPC is going to be expensive. Everyone's gonna try to rank for it. So we're always thinking like 34 months ahead. Where do we want to end up after we finish this launch. So that's kind of where it starts and then for the actual launch itself. Um we actually just in PPC so we started very narrowed we do a very very focused PPC. Our main objective when we launch is just to prove to the algorithm that we know what our product is, what keywords we want to be listed for rank for we targeted with exact match only and we only start actually with a sponsored products. So we don't do any brand ads at the beginning on it or video ads at the very beginning. We can explain later why we only do sponsored product. We try to get a very high click through rate on it to show relevancy. So we actually do a higher top of search modifier and we're okay with a high a cost because we know that it will be worth it long term. And we start on a very very small list of keywords that are high, highly relevant, so ultra relevant and in the first couple of days we may not get a lot of sales but the sales that we do get are at a very high conversion rate right? And then we start we track everything. So we have a lawn tracker that we built where we track our daily sales and or organic ranking of all the keywords that are in our list where we can actually see what's happening and we can see a halo effect meaning that we're targeting only five words but we're starting to get ranking on 10 15 words. And once we see some ranking from that halo effect, we start now pushing with PPC on that phase two or phase three keyword Yeah, I [00:17:34] spk_1: think normally Andy and I both would be like, what do you mean? You only use PPC because we really want people to use external traffic, we want you because it's just ranks you really, really well but in your case, what you're doing differently that most people don't do is you're doing that keyword research extensive keyword research and you're launching based on those keywords and the timing of the search volume of those keywords and you're focused on the platform specifically for that search volume. Um so I think in your case it's okay to be using and clearly this launch strategy is working well for you because [00:18:17] spk_0: it's [00:18:18] spk_1: really been successful for you. So not only are you using keywords to choose the right product, but you're also using your um your keyword research [00:18:30] spk_0: in in [00:18:31] spk_1: depth keyword research from the past, right looking, you know, a year or longer backwards so that you can predict what is going to be in the future. You're planning your launch around that and you're really focused in on those keywords that you want to be on page one for that you want to convert for that are super relevant to your customer, you're launching your ranking for those first and then you're moving on to your next ones and your next ones and you're having the snowball effect. So well it is an amazon only PPC thing I think that uh well the proof is in the pudding and you guys don't [00:19:08] spk_0: know fairness, we do start running external ads after about 23 weeks, but we want the 1st 23 weeks just be fully in our control where we get full data because when we run external adds the attributions, we found they're not very accurate or they lag sometimes, so we don't feel like we're in control and we're a bit control freaks, right? So we like to have as much data as possible to see the results from what we're doing. That's why we just focus on amazon for the 1st 34 weeks and then we start doing external as well and even if you think what we do is just, it's just you know, google search ads again, just on those very high relevant terms like you're driving external traffic but it's still ultra relevant um you know, external traffic that could convert on your listing. So I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing either in terms of staying focused just on on that one thing unless you have a dedicated, you know, you know, if you're a small team and you don't have somebody who's like dedicated to PBC or paid ads or something like that uh you know the whole 80 20 thing, you know, if you can put more uh concentration into making sure that those campaigns are successful, that might be better than you know, kind of half assing like three or four different, you know, traffic sources and being like as it working, I don't know, maybe, you know, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. Uh Yeah, it's not necessarily a bad thing but but also you know uh you know, getting that data and then turning on the the traffic that you know the key words that are you already know through the amazon platform are converting uh not necessarily a bad plan, especially if you're getting in there before the honeymoon period's over. Yeah. Sorry. No, I was just gonna say going back to the first product that we had. Yeah, because we had a really hard time selling it. We were trying everything we were throwing, you know, Pinterest facebook, all the things we were filming video ads in my backyard, you know, on my camera just before. It was good because it forced us to look at all the different avenues of traffic. But it did spread us pretty thin and we didn't see a huge boost based on those efforts. And the only thing that really taught us is like if you screw up the product research phase and if you try to launch a product that's destined to fail on amazon, it's just gonna be expensive and time it's going to cost you time and energy. It's just not worth it. [00:21:25] spk_1: Yeah, it's really awesome that I think all of us learn from those failed products, we try to sell them any way possible and it builds us up but like you were saying if you know the platform that you're selling on and you know that you're bringing a product to market that is meeting a need that isn't being met right now and you have a strategy for that platform and I agree the first my phase one of launch, I don't run, I do spin up my google ads but that's just because google ads take a couple of weeks to spin up but I only focus on exact match sometimes phrase match depending on the key word but very very targeted keywords. I'm not running an auto campaign during the first couple of weeks launch because your listing is an index yet so you're going to get a bunch of bad data and it's just it's not good to not tell amazon exactly what your product is and where they should be showing it because otherwise you're just going to get bad data and you're gonna be index for all sorts of things that you really have no business being index for. So love that strategy. I think it's great and I'm glad that you guys also take advantage of external traffic eventually. That's awesome. [00:22:39] spk_0: So [00:22:40] spk_1: great launch process but what about your best, give us your best ninja ranking [00:22:46] spk_0: tricks, best ninja ranking trick. So we've tried so many things. One trick that I could mention is what's bad for ranking because it will allow you to avoid it, which is almost as good as ranking. So the nice thing that we learned. So last year when we had the ace and restock limit and we, you know, our first product fails, we only bought a couple 100 units for the 2nd and 3rd product and the nice thing was that we saw we're gonna run out of inventory, we're gonna sell that we're gonna be out of stock. So we actually turned off BBC and what we noticed was by turning off PPC all our sales were organic that organic sales have way more power for ranking that PPC does and before that we're putting so many sales on PPC and even top of search, we want to get that PPC sale because we figured that's the only one and by just having a bit more patients getting organic sales actually helps boost it. And then we actually found it on a couple other websites I think seller S Ceo or something that they actually applaud that showed you the ranking juice of different types of ads or organic sales external traffic, how much that helps. Right And organic actually carries a lot of the weight. And we actually tested that again a couple months later when you finally back in stock and we're running out of stock, We turned it off again and you know, we did $480,000 worth of revenue, 30 days, purely organically. which was crazy. The real lesson came when we were out of stock, then we're out of stock for two months so like okay this is gonna be hard, we're gonna have to re rank now, we had all the stock we could ever imagine because we bought a lot of stock and then we're pushing PPC hard and what we noticed was the harder we pushed like we opened the floodgates, the worst are ranking God and like it doesn't make sense, we're giving amazon more money, we're getting more sales by what was kind of happening was that we are at contribution was going up so we're getting less organic, it wasn't counting as much, we're putting the, you know the we're spending a lot of money for top of search, so the sponsored ad was always above the organic one always. And so the customer had very few chance for cannibalizing organic sales. Um so then we decided okay we panicked, we said okay we only want to do highly relevant, our best converting one was our video act. So we turned off all PPC except for the video ad and then we noticed our ranking was hurting like this doesn't make sense, we're converting so well our Yoon recession percentage is good and not only was the video ad converting, well it was it was all, it was driving a lot of lawsuits as well and we're like, we're selling our video at is targeting a single keyword and it's selling a ton why is in our ranking was just stagnant on this keyword. So then we realized that the video ads for amazon is considered a brand ad, so it's attributed to the brand, not necessarily to the product, so it doesn't carry the weight of the product for the organic ranking as much as essentially saying, okay, this brand, let's say Nike is getting a sale. It doesn't really know what product you're selling cause it's a brand at is the same like if you run a store at right, it just gets attributed to the brand. So although they're really good for conversions and like they were cheap for us at the time, there wasn't a lot of competition, it wasn't helping with the rank. So like our ninja trick would be to everyone that talks PPC there, obviously most of them are trying to sell you their PPC products or methods or their agencies so they're going to say PPC is master and you have to do it, but sometimes less is more because you still want to try to get those organic sales so don't cannibalize your own organic ranking with the PPC stuff and it might be as simple as saying, look if we're on the Top half of page one we're going to make sure we bid low on PPC so that the sponsor replacement is below the organic placement as of like you're going to catch them the second time around. Thanks for tuning in to part One of this episode, join us every Tuesday at one PM pacific standard time for live Q and A. And bonus content after the recording at cellar round table dot com, sponsored by the ultimate software tool for amazon sales and growth seller S C o dot com and amazing at home dot com.