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Transcription in this episode:
[00:00:01] spk_1: Welcome to the seller roundtable e commerce coaching and business strategies with and er, not and amy Wiis. Mm [00:00:11] spk_0: Well I don't, I don't want to be at a dead horse with the review thing. Um, but recently there was a news article that came out and these folks at a company called safety detectives found a server with what, 13 million over seven gigs of data have been exposed. Um, and basically this just huge scandal catching sellers who were reaching out to customers and offering them, uh, you know, free products in exchange [00:00:49] spk_1: for reviews. And so there was a [00:00:51] spk_0: bunch of suspensions that happened and as as a result of that. And, and [00:00:57] spk_1: so, you [00:00:58] spk_0: know, across the board in the community, it's been, well, you know, those, they'll just spin up new accounts and you know, they'll be back up in no time. And these were like some major, I mean 88 some nine figure major sellers that were, that were suspended in this. Uh, so did you hear about that Jeff? And what do you think about it? Like I would just love to hear your view on this. [00:01:24] spk_1: So I did hear about it and we don't represent any of those sellers that are involved in it so I can speak freely about it. Um, I think that that's sort of bad behavior on it was on happens quite a bit and it's, you know, if it's not, you know, amazon taking action in the federal government certainly is going to start getting involved. You know, we've got a new administration that's not quite as business friendly as administrations past and that certainly ups the ante. So things like review manipulation, rank manipulation stuff, that's actual federal crimes I think is going to start being prosecuted. And so, um, anyone that's taking those engaging in those practices has a lot to worry about. You know, if you're, if you're outside the United States, a common misconception is that um, you can't get me, the reality is is that their products are in the United States and the government can certainly get those. And so what so things that they can do is, you know, maybe they can't go after, you know, Shenzen Technology Corporation or whatever the company's name, but they can certainly freeze their United States assets, their money that's not been dispersed yet. Their Paypal accounts, their inventory, they can also block future shipments from coming into the United States from those companies. These products are mostly made in china, they know who the exporter is, they know who the importer is. It's not hard for CBP to, to impound all those goods and prevent them coming back in. Um, and they also know who the owners are behind the company's, so, you know, if the federal government wants to make someone's like miserable, they'll just revoke their visa and that, you know, so there are actions that can be taken against foreign sellers, even though a lot of them think that nothing can happen similarly if you're in the United States and you're doing it, um, well, there's fines and jail time. So you really have to be, you have to watch out for it and you need to know your risk because something that makes money today and makes a quick buck could be prosecuted tomorrow if it was illegal today and you just didn't do your due diligence. That's, uh, you know, something to watch out for it, [00:03:27] spk_0: right? Yeah. So the thing is, I know that the common practices for them to just spin up new accounts, but as you were mentioning, these were some really large accounts, so to lose something like that and have those assets frozen is a big deal. That that would be hard to just replicate that in all new [00:03:47] spk_1: accounts. [00:03:48] spk_0: I know that many of them probably will write spin up new accounts and they will under new company names and they won't be prevented from importing. Right? But but yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely hard for amazon because they're trying to be there, trying to have low barriers to entry. That's what made them so successful in the first place, Right? And then at the same time, you know, there's a lot of loopholes and if there's a loophole, somebody's going to find it. So I would love to hear from you in terms of you guys run seller basics where you help people who are suspended, you help them with all kinds of different things. Um, what are some of the loopholes that you've kind of discovered and that you've seen have been popular there and how are you helping other people not have to use those loopholes. Um, but be able to operate aboveboard? [00:04:49] spk_1: Well, I guess the biggest loophole we've seen in the last 12 months was this whole idea of insider I don't want to insider trading, but Insider Insiders and amazon. So you had suspension people that were driving amazon employees to get either seller account data, like getting a report saying this is why someone suspended or driving them to actually reinstate the account and that the loophole is caused because amazon system allows, you know, any seller performance employee to go in and review accounts. Um What happens behind the scenes that a lot of sellers don't realize is that anytime someone from amazon log into your account, it instantly creates a record. And so whether they just look at your account and do nothing, there's a record that so and so entered your account at this time on this date. And you know, we have a former seller performance representative on her team. And as she describes it, you know, she makes, she said, you know, amazon makes it very clear they give you a queue every day of accounts that you're supposed to look at. And if you finish looking at all those accounts on your cue for the day, it will just send you more so you never, you never finished. But you know, the thing is, is that what she's getting at is that amazon tells you these are the accounts that you have assigned to you. So if you start looking in other accounts, that's a red flag because what are you doing looking at some random account again, Heuristics, that's not a normal behavior for someone at amazon and seller performance to be like, well, my cue has 100 counts that I'm supposed to review today. And you know, I'm just going to go ahead and start typing in randomly some other one and I might go ahead and just review their appeal that's out sitting out there, that hasn't been reviewed yet. Let me just click the real estate button, you know, totally natural. Right? No, of course not. That's totally not natural. So that's where people get in trouble and it, you know, and, and so, you know, we have had sellers that did utilize those services that are no longer sellers anymore and we've had tried to get their accounts back and some of them have gotten back and some of them have not. Um, so that's the loopholes that we see people doing. And then what we do is we are totally above board. So we're all licensed attorneys. Um you know, we all follow the rules we write you, we review the accounts we write legitimate appeals using, you know, are, you know, paul started selling in 2000 and five Carolina worked at amazon back in the day and so into the T. R. M. S. When it was called TrmM transaction risk management services. Now it's called seller performance. You know, we all have an amazon edge that we bring to the table for what we do and so we utilize our experience collectively to what I say. What I think is right, really good appeals. And so that's how we get sellers back the right way so that we don't, you know, the only time we reach out to amazon insider is if we're sending a letter to one of our attorney, contact legal asking them to review the matter and take action. And again, that's not some backdoor text messages, a certified letter going to, you know this attorney I amazon in their official capacity at amazon for 410 North Cherry Street in Seattle Washington. You know, again, we want that paper trail to be there that this attorney being involved, there's no favors taking place. He's just doing his job, which is to mitigate risk. God. [00:08:09] spk_0: And I think, you know that helps people understand the situations where they should hire an attorney because you're dealing with amazon attorneys. It's not like you're just contacting seller support some random person and doing something and that is what a lot of the um reinstatement services that are out there, that's what they're doing is they're just using the right jargon with and sometimes it works. But if you really, if you really need the job done, that's the best way to do it. Is that way. So let's shift our focus from, you know, the, the amazon side and the seller side and well from the seller side to the amazon side. So when we're talking about protecting our products, of course we can talk about trademarks and patents and all those things and we'll get to some of those questions. But in terms of the processes that amazon has in place [00:09:06] spk_1: for [00:09:06] spk_0: protection, um one of the programs, we've got transparency, we've got brand registration, we've got the Zero program um of those programs, what do you recommend? Do you recommend that sellers utilize those programs? Have you seen them to be effective? [00:09:24] spk_1: So I don't recommend Project Zero, mainly just because I don't, I see a lot of the Ill effects of project zero when it gets it wrong, but I recommend transparency to almost every private label seller. I don't see a situation in many cases, like I don't see many situations where transparency doesn't make sense. And that's because transparency prevents, you know, people from joining their listing in the first place. And so this whole notion like I have, we have clients of ours that pay for hijacker alerts where they get text messages at three in the morning because someone is selling on their listing and I'm like, or you could just pay for transparency. Like there's just because my biggest thing, I always tell them when they're like, why get hijacker alerts. I had a client say that to me once, I was like, okay, and what do you do with that? And he goes, well, I said you just said you have your solution to the problem is hijacker alerts, but what do you do with it? And he goes, why don't do anything with it? I just know that they're, they're [00:10:22] spk_0: like, okay. So you because you know, hey, I got a hijacker help me deal with. [00:10:29] spk_1: So it just goes to show it's like, you know, data without any, you know how they like the phrase, you know, data is meaningless without a purpose. Like that's to me that's meaningless data. Dean, you got a text, text message, great, you know, taking no action. Okay? Whereas transparency, you never get the ding in the first place because they never even make it onto your listing. So [00:10:50] spk_0: What's the difference between zero and transparency? Can you talk about that a little bit? [00:10:55] spk_1: So zero operates independent of transparency And you don't have to be in transparency to get zero. So zero is just like you register your trademark with amazon, you give them pictures of what a legit product is supposed to look like. You designate sellers that are allowed to sell it and then they just monitor the listings and then if they find things that could be counterfeit they'll just you know start taking down those sellers automatically and dropping them into the I. P. Complaint bucket. Which is that [00:11:22] spk_0: that could also hurt you too if another seller submits a picture of a product that looks like yours but yours is perfectly above board to then have you seen that happen? Are people getting shut down under zero for no reason. [00:11:38] spk_1: So a lot of times what happens is people get shut down when they're like retail arbitrage or online arbitrage, That's where people get shut down on zero. And the reality is is that the seller who signed up for zero that caused that person's seller account to be suspended when they were just selling your product. They didn't commit a crime, they didn't sell counterfeits, but zero has false flagged them as selling counterfeits and shut down their entire account. And now you're the one that has to get involved to, you know, to help as part of that reinstatement. And so it just ends up being more work for The zero Enrollee to deal with. [00:12:15] spk_0: Got it, Got it. Okay. And then transparency. So we were in transplanted parent see for a little while and we actually stopped using it. And the reason was because in transparency you get unique. So for those of you who don't know about transparency, you get a unique barcode for each of your products and it must be applied to every single product uniquely. It's not like you can just design your packaging with your you pc barcode on it or your F. In skew on it and mass manufacture it and send it out. You have to buy these labels. These transparency barcodes are like little Q. R. Codes. You have to buy these labels from amazon and they actually come from vista Print or something. Um and you have to individually apply them to every single product. And if your products do not have an individual barcode on every single product, you will get turned away when they go to get checked into amazon. So for us and you're supposed to also keep those transparency barcodes on every product in retail too. So if you sell in retail outside of amazon, you're also supposed to apply your transparency barcodes there. So now what amazon has done with transparency as they've also forced their program on everybody else. And in the way of I see what you're saying Jeff or it might be really, really great for a seller that's only selling on amazon that is dealing with hijackers that maybe has a more common product and doesn't have any protection for their supply chain. I get it like that would be worth labeling every single product, but for me it was a nightmare and I was so tired of it. [00:14:04] spk_1: The the other thing to mention real quick too is, you know, if you get those transparent, we never used it. But you know, one of the reasons why Amy was very similar. It's like, we're not going to sit here and hire somebody local to to do that. So if you send those transparency labels over to china to your manufacturer, then you really have to trust that manufacturer to, you know, you got to send them the exact amount of barcodes right to make sure that they're not going to be like, oh well it's just, you know, you take half of these and go manufacturer and you know, our own and seldom or whatever. You know, you got to really trust that manufacturer as well. And then it just adds a whole nother layer of complexity. What if they put them on wrong, you know what they put them on the carton rather than the individual product or the case pack or whatever. So then uh, that was the other only other thing. But I agree with you in terms of, you know, if if you're selling a product that's maybe not super unique, um it totally could be worth it. So um, you know, we're checking out for your business and see whether it will work for you or not. It also depends on what you're selling to. So like, you know, we have one manufacturer that we work with That we got set up for transparency Amazon accounts for about 10% of their worldwide sales, so not a whole lot, but on amazon they were dealing with an issue with counterfeit products being you know, imported in and that we're and it's an annual health drug and so those, you know when you're selling otc supplements and all of a sudden you show up in the new york times in an article about someone's dog having blood coming from his eyes and ears. The cost of transparency for the 90% that will never touch Amazon and it doesn't matter was way worth it just to squash that problem and prevent it from ever happening. So [00:15:44] spk_0: yeah, I think, I think all of those are really, really good points and especially if people are dealing with some of those things, it's a no brainer. You just got to make it work. You have to make it work and you got to work with your supplier and you know, [00:15:58] spk_1: it [00:15:59] spk_0: makes sense. So we got some good programs on amazon side, all of them with different benefits and risks on both sides. And then let's talk about from the seller side when we're setting up our brands, what is the easiest way to protect our brand and our products when we're selling them online? [00:16:19] spk_1: So the easiest is a registered copyright. However, that's going to be your most basic form protection. I I always encourage sellers to copyright things like, you know, product, product inserts, product packaging, you know, logos, all that stuff, product detail pages and the images, assuming that they're your images. You know, go ahead and get your copyrights on it because it will prevent issues down the road. You know, one of the things we've seen as a black hat tactic is you have a private label product is doing really well. Somebody else starts selling the private label product, they get a copyright on your [00:16:54] spk_0: text [00:16:55] spk_1: and then they go to amazon and say, look, I've got a copyright. And even though the copyright law protects you because that's a fraudulent copyright, you still could prove it. And that's where it gets, you know, it's like you're, you're stuck in this loop of dealing with Amazon trying to prove, well, I started selling this in 2012 and they got their copyright in 2015 and it hasn't changed since then. And you're having to prove that to Amazon. So getting it at the front end, especially since copyrights or about $65, it's just so cheap. You know, why not just go ahead and get it and get it done. Um you know, going up from there up the ladder in terms of protection, you get trademarks, trademarks again, not super expensive, government filing fees are like roughly $250 You know, for seller basis members, we charge a flat rate at 599 and that includes the government feed. So I think we have the best value for trademarks in the Amazon space. Um and then, you know, then going up from there, you've got your patents, you've got design patents and utility patents, utility patents or like the Holy Grail because their way expensive to get. Um but that, but when you start talking about, you know, selling your business for real money, it's the businesses with design patents, utility patents and really good trademarks that command the highest multiples because otherwise the brains could go out and do it themselves and those are what prevent that from happening. So [00:18:11] spk_0: yeah. And as far as trademarks, I think that is the very first that I love the idea of copyrighting it, it's really easy. And then the other work around that, I've seen people uses the D. C. M. A. Or D. M. C. A. Because if you have that digital proof that you own that and you publish it on your own website, then you use that same text on amazon, then you can use the D. M. C. A. And actually this has been used against the DMCA takedown has been used against legitimate providers as well, just like the copyright, like wherever there's wherever [00:18:50] spk_1: there's a loophole, [00:18:51] spk_0: people will use it. Um But yeah, that's another way if you didn't file a copyright and you're like, oh no, you know, you can still file it, it's very easy [00:19:00] spk_1: to do, [00:19:00] spk_0: but I mean literally google how to file a copyright. That's one that is a D I. Y. Thing. You don't necessarily have to hire an attorney to do that, right? Um But I [00:19:10] spk_1: want it done, and you just don't want to think about it. You know, it's all about a matter of, you know, we have different clients that have different values. So, you know, [00:19:17] spk_0: your how you value your time and whether or not you how you want that done and how efficiently and effectively you want it done as well. Um And then there's trademarks, right? And so trademarks, I think we should spend a little bit of time here, because this is always, you know, I think Andy and I both in both of our groups and both of our clients, everything across the board, it's always a question of, well, what should my brand name be and what should I trademark and how do I pick it? And you know, of my four trademarks, I have had to fight three of them. The only one I have not had to fight is amazing at home because it's a service based, it's a service based trademark and those are really easy to get approved. But all of my product based trademarks I have had to fight, I've had to do office actions and so yes, you can do it yourself, but it's not as simple as just searching for the word and going, oh, it's not trademark. Great, because there's so much more to think about. So, um, I always recommend that people hire an attorney for trademarking and or a service and all in service that's going to cover the office actions and everything else. But talk about trademarks. What are the easiest ways to pick a brand name for trademark? And what are some considerations? [00:20:42] spk_1: So the thing about trademarks is the easiest trademarks to get are the ones that don't mean anything. So think of like google or zoom, even like you think about these names that have absolutely nothing to do with what they're selling. Um, trying to think like other names just going around. [00:21:00] spk_0: Nike. Nike means nothing right? Like, I mean, [00:21:04] spk_1: you just, you find some random collection of letters that maybe sounds cool, however they do check foreign languages to make sure they don't sound cool and means something in a foreign language that's related. But you know, you find something that you find something that means nothing to what you're selling and that's the going to be your strongest trademark. Um, as you work down the list of trademarks, you know, the more it represents what you're selling. Like, you know, I was selling pet shampoo and my trademark, it's pet shampoo will not a very strong trademark. I got it because of length of time selling. So they had to give it to me. So it's over the five year mark. But, you know, it was very descriptive in terms of being a trademark. So you want it to be original, non descriptive, not geographically miss descriptive. That's a big one. So, you know, if you're selling a product that's made in china and you're calling it, you know, swiss made, that's a problem. So don't, you know, um, so it needs to be, you know, not miss descriptive in any way. And uh, and yeah, and then you go from there, you know, there's just, it's more than just saying, looking and seeing that. No, no one else is using your mark, for instance. We're now advising sellers if they really want a comprehensive trademark search, you're going to want to search both both the United States as well as all the market places that amazon operates that you think you could go to? Oh, in china too. Because if you're making your product there, you probably want a chinese trademark as well to protect you from what's called trademark hijacking in china. And um, we'll get to that moment. Yeah, Jeff, I'm sorry. I just wanted to add on real quick to that. So Amy and I have talked about this a lot. I know that I've I've mentioned this a lot, you know, early on to is, you know, the best name that you can get is number one, you know, something that doesn't describe your product, right? Especially if you're new on amazon because you could start in the dog category and then pivot to something else, right? So you don't want like, you know, dog products or magical dog products or something like that. You would want, you know, like Jeff was saying something that that doesn't mean anything like one of, you know, movoto or for example, is like a real estate website, right? That's a made up word. But it's short and super easy to remember, right? So to me, the strongest name, uh, you know, if you're just getting into amazon now and you're not entrenched and already, you know, on a trajectory something short, something that has the domain name, which a lot of people don't even think about that. They're like, oh, I'm gonna go get the trademark. They try to submit the trademark and then look at the domain, it's not available, so short name domain available. Um, and, and, and then also, [00:23:35] spk_0: uh exactly like uh like uh [00:23:40] spk_1: that's that's also great advice. Like look at all these things before you go down that road. And like I say, I always tell people now, one of the biggest mistakes I made when I started my amazon business was a was a category specific name, which, you know, like I said, you don't know where you're in a pivot to get it super short. Something that's easy to remember and then go from there. That's just my advice anyway, continue. Sorry to interrupt. No, I'm sorry. [00:24:04] spk_0: Good stuff. Well, I mean, as far as we could go on and we could have a whole session about trademarks and maybe we should, one day, I know we've had other sessions with you Jeff where we just talk about this. Um it's been so good. So what's your advice, Jeff for those sellers that are just starting out because it's kind of a big scary world right now, you know, all the latest stuff that's been going on. What's your advice for those sellers that are just starting out building their foundation, their initial brand getting started selling, How what's your advice for them? [00:24:38] spk_1: I mean I don't want to sound like we're promoting too much, but seller basics is a really good investment for a lot of sellers because we charge $99 a month and that gives you unlimited consultations with licensed attorneys in the United States. So right now it's myself paul and Katie in the future, we're gonna be adding more attorneys into our network and you get to talk with whoever you know, whatever you want to talk about, you'll get routed to the expert that best serves that area, so its trademarks, you'll talk to someone that's knowledgeable about I. P. If it's LLcs, you'll probably talk to myself for paul, you know, and that's and that's really where we're trying to build it. So it sounds like a lot for new sellers. We don't have any contract requirement. And so $99 As you know in the legal world, is very cheap, especially because our consulates are 20-30 minutes long. So it's not just like, you know, a five minute call, you know, it's a 20-30 minute consult that normally we'd build out for $250 that were given to you for free as a member of our program. And so you know, just last week I was talking to a seller who had unfortunately joined seller basics after she received a Nike complaint Um 1st her private label product. And it was a trademark infringement complaint. And the product was really cool, but it was definitely on the infringing side of things. And so herself, her manufacturer in china never told her like she asked, are you sure I can sell this? And he said of course you can. It's allowed to be sold in china Not and didn't say anything about the US. and now she has 5000 units that she purchased that are, she's asking me what can I do with? And I'm like well legally you can't sell them there, you can't do anything with them legally, you gotta throw in the trash. Like if you choose to give them out to friends and family, as long as you know, they're not going to sell them that, you know, I can't tell you you can do it, but that's about you're what you're limited to because you can't make a profit off somebody else's intellectual property. And these products are definitely infringing. So it's so that's sad. And if she would have paid, she's planning on staying salary basics now and running future product ideas bias. But if she would have should have come to us for a free console Under the $99 a month program, she would have saved yourself thousands of dollars. Because I didn't [00:26:55] spk_0: mean for all of those situations where we're like, yeah, you should ask the lawyer, I don't know, ask an account and asked the lawyer all those, all those questions that come out constantly. [00:27:09] spk_1: And we're working on bringing an accountant into the team too. So that way, when you need to talk to an accountant, you can talk to the CPA and when you need to talk to a tax lawyer, you can talk to paul. And that way, you know, whether you're selling your business or you've got, you know, some sort of other questions related to law. We pretty much are, you know, we're trying to be that full service approach. I love it, I love the one stop shop in the in the and the laser focus and the and the, you know, niteout in terms of, you know, there's so many people who claim they know amazon and they don't, so I really love that. I think you guys are gonna do awesome. Um Jeff, one of the things we love to do here is um you know, I love too, since we're always learning, right? So A B. L. Always be learning, what what are some of your favorite podcast, you know, any personal development, motivational stuff, you know, anything that you would like to share with with the audience that you're into you right now that might give them some some benefit. So I'm kind of one of those that's a terrible question for me unfortunately, because I like to things I do is I read the Wall Street Journal to try to figure out what's going on in the world because I find it to be a little bit less biased than some of the other sources. And then I just listen to Spotify like music because I just like if I was to listen to my podcast all the time, I probably like, I just, it would explode. Too much info info overload. So for me it's like, I just have to after unfortunately, you know, like tune out sometimes to what's going on, but there's definitely a lot of really good podcast in the space and you know, so you know, and I, so we'll leave it at that. I can be hard to just, I have to like start listing everybody. I know and then people might get left out. It's all good. So uh what's next? Like you guys said you're bringing on account accountants and it sounds like you're building the team, let us know like you know what what's in the future and how people can get hold of you guys. So some of the big things we've accomplished recently is uh You know, we made it now if you're in celebrations in your account gets suspended, you don't after two and you've been a member for 60 days, you don't pay any suspension reinstatement fee unless you choose like a weekend service or something like that Because we still offer, you know like the over like if it's 10 p.m. and you want the appeal within three hours, like that's not free. But we otherwise if you're willing to wait till tomorrow that's not free. So selling basics definitely protects you against the suspensions. Um You know that's a big one other things that we're rolling out, you know, we just one of our sellers came to us two weeks ago because I wish I had a service where you guys could look at my product listings and tell me if I was gonna get suspended. Its like that's a great idea. So now it's it's you know, instead of charging these, you know the fee for reinstating the suspended product listing, which is only $500 for seller basis. My verse which is pretty cheap compared to Most people. We made that $350 where I should just look at your list and say Amazon can have a problem with this, you can get a trademark infringement for this, you know, and just really proactively preventing issues before they happen. So we're really, we're big on, we don't profit off of people's misfortune. We, you know, are there to help after proactive solutions to keep people from being in misfortunate situation. Love it, Love it, awesome. Well Jeff, thank you so much for coming on. It was, it was awesome to have you. I'm glad that I got, you know, everyone's like, I don't believe the rebate thing. I'm like, okay, fine, I have a lawyer now. He says, it's cool guys, come on, thank you for that. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much for being on again. We really appreciate it. Everybody joins us live in the meeting. Thank you guys so much. We'd love to have you guys dropping questions and stuff. We really appreciate that. Um, if you haven't done so yet, please rate, review, subscribe and all the major podcast platforms. It really helps us and it gets the word that word out and we're going to every single week I keep, I'm one of those people, like I used to check like my amazon seller profit dashboard. Now I go to my charitable uh in my podcast dashboard, I'm like, all right, how are we doing this week? You know, I'm obsessed with that. So I really appreciate that guys, Have you done that? Uh if not, you know, put it on your, your very long to do list, it only takes like five minutes, but I really appreciate that. Uh, once again join us live every Tuesday one PM pacific time. So a round table dot com forward slash live. Thank you guys so much for being here. Thank you. Thanks for tuning in, 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.