Being Part of a Private Label Community
How can you get past the private label hurdles or get to the next level of your business? We’ll cover what it means to be a part of a positive, high-level community of private label sellers. And how essential this can be to your success.
Nathan: [00:41] Welcome to the Amazon Seller Podcast. I want to remind you to go to amazingfreedom.com/training to sign up for our free video series and Q & A’s. We will be holding very soon, but just for a brief time. Make sure you go there and sign up to be notified when we go live with those videos.
My name is Nathan Slamans, joined today by Andy Slamans. And we’re going to be talking about the power of being in a positive, high-level community of Amazon Private Label sellers. As we get talking about that, I know this is something that’s been really important for you, Andy. You say often how important this has been over the last few years to your private label journey. And something that you often credit to a lot of your success.[01:28] Before we get into that though, I just want a quick update. I think it’s been a couple of weeks now since we’ve heard kind of what you’re up to in your business. I know we’re at the time of recording this, we’re kind of winding down with Q4 now heading towards the end of December.
And for a lot of us, it’s kind of this high periods still of sales, especially people who have just those traditional Christmas gift type products that do really well in Q4. And so a lot of times people are on this high and it’s Kinda like, what do you do in your business at this point of the year? So let’s hear what you’ve been up to you and what do you, you know now looking forward to 2019 and in preparing for.
The Value of Customer Service
Andy: [02:07] Sure, so recently just hired an employee, a part-time. Going to be handling all of the customer service issues as well as research and development for one of my brands. It’s interesting when I first started selling on Amazon, I loved it because I didn’t have to do any customer service. I love the FBA program because I could send my products in. Unlike eBay where you have to fulfill every single product you sell yourself. Amazon FBA allowed me to scale up so I could send in 100 units and then I really didn’t have to do any customer service. Or at least very little, you know, for every hundred units of sales, you know, maybe you get one message to the Amazon messaging system from a customer. But for the most part, Amazon handles the customer service, right? They’re the go-between.
However, as I started to build out my private label brands, I’ve discovered that, although Amazon does still handle customer service issues. You’re a little more in tune when customers have difficulties just because it’s your brand. You’re really trying to guard against any type of negative reviews. And as I’ve moved on up, uh, and price points for the products that I sell, I have seen an uptick in the number of messages from customers, which makes sense.
I sell products all the way up to the $300 range and when a customer is purchasing a $300 product, if they have an issue, they’re much more likely to message you as the seller and as the brand owner. Because it is such a high price point product, and I get that.
I’m a customer too and I buy products and if I buy a $300 product and I have an issue with it, I want to be able to message the brand owner because hopefully, they’re the ones that have the right information. And so, Amazon, a lot of times, uh, you know, they’re just the marketplace, they’re not going to know the specifics of the product. And so, uh, I’ve began to understand how important customer services is for my higher price point products and how important it is to provide that good customer service. So I recently hired an employee who will be handling those customer service issues. It’ll allow that piece of the business to be taken off of my plate.
Hopefully, he’ll be able to take that over as well as he’s going to be doing some research and development on some particular products. So I’m excited about that. If any of you listening have been in customer service, you know, that it is a thankless job. However, it is a crucially important job in building good brand awareness. And if you follow Bezos at all, at the end of the day, Amazon is all about customer experience and everything that he does and puts out and what he preaches to his employees is costumer is always number one. So I agree with that philosophy. I’ve been able to build out my brands I think because of the great customer service which has led to really good reviews.
Nathan: [05:32] And I know that you’ve not only been providing the customer service but you’ve actually made an effort to make it easier for the customer to reach out to the brand, right? Whereas, you know, you can do certain things like giving a, you know, phone number or email or support information, maybe an insert card with support information, right? With the product where when you’re first getting into private label, at least a few years ago, most of us weren’t thinking about any of this because like you said, Amazon handles it so if they want to return it, they can return it but a lot of times we don’t want them to return a product if they don’t have to because if they return it without getting their issue fixed, it just is a greater chance that they’re going to leave a negative review and as Andy says, he feels like his life is all about reviews sometimes, and it’s so true that everything we do, in one way or another is trying to influence positive reviews in a TOS compliant way.
But one of the important ways to do that is through good customer service. So that’s great to hear.
I’ve been reading some books recently on different startups and stuff. A lot of times, not necessarily physical products, but you know, any, any kind of business or startup, it’s all about building out your business, right? Where you’re not just working in the business but you’re working on the business. And so an important part of that is not doing everything yourself. It’s hiring other people, to do the work for you. So we, we basically hire Amazon to get the traffic and to do the FBA related stuff, but they can’t do it all. So, sometimes you do have to hire a VA’s or in person, people and I think that is important to expanding out your brand, your business so that you can focus on those high task dollar activities. Cool, great to hear about that.
The Value of a Close-Knit Community
So let’s get to our talk about being in a positive high-level community of Amazon sellers. I think Andy, you, you’ve told me many times that this is important to your success and not just community of Amazon sellers, but almost little mastermind groups or whatever you want to call them, right? Little networks, masterminds of people that you are usually on a day to day basis, communicating with a, you’ve told me many times that you know, connecting with Liran, starting from a conference and then just having daily Facebook chats with him about private label has been really important. And so what can our listeners do to one, kind of, you know, get part of a mastermind like that and two, how can they get beyond just the mastermind but into a community of positive, high level private label sellers because there are so, so many communities out there that are kind of the lower level has just the same questions you see over and over and misinformation. What’s kind of that next level for you and how has it helped you?
Andy: [08:15] Sure, absolutely. So when I first started, I actually did a Webinar, after I’d been signed for about 18 months and I basically named the 30 people that have helped me build my business during those first 18 months. I just went over each person named by name and talked specifically about how they’d helped me.
And at the time it was a small community, It was a closed Facebook group and it was just super powerful in helping me understand the things I needed to do to grow my business and help me overcome obstacles and potholes that I hit along the way. And private for me has been the very same thing. So, you know, when I first started private labeling was part of a community, the community I lean into now on a daily basis is the inner circle that we have, folks that purchase our course, they get into a closed Facebook group and I’m in that group on a daily basis. And what’s great is, as you teach, you learn, but you know, students that we have, you know, they come up and they encounter things that are sometimes maybe we haven’t encountered yet.
They’re able to teach us things as well. But the best part is the support and understanding. I often say being an online seller, you know, sometimes you’re an island to yourself, you know, you’re not going to the office every day. I work out of my house, I have a warehouse, so I’ll go there two or three times a week. But it’s not like I’m interacting with sellers every day. So where do I interact with those private label sellers where I learned best practices?
It’s in, in the inner circle where Liran, you and I actually spend a good part of our day chatting with other sellers there. So yeah, the best part is just best practices, you know, we, there was a discussion thread yesterday about freight forwarding and we were discussing one particular freight forwarder that, that we’ve had difficulty with and some other members of that difficulty with and then there were a few great suggestions of other options for freight forwarders.
So what I like about that is the folks that we’re offering those other options, they’re trusted members so, you know, we’ve known them, we’ve been in the community for a while so I trust what they’re saying and, and, and you know, that’s just one of the great parts of being part of a community like that but yeah, super powerful for helping me move my business along with the shared best practices.
Nathan: [10:58] And I know Liran, and he’s not on with us today, but Liran is part of probably more mastermind chats or you know, closed network chats than either of us are on as well, but he’s on several that he’s a just developed through going to in-person masterminds, a lot of times it starts with conferences, but in Liran’s case, I know he has some long-standing, some two years where every day, he’ll show us sometimes when we get together, he’ll say, look at this Facebook chat or whatever, where there’s, you know, just today been 20 messages, high-level stuff, right?
A lot of these are seven-figure sellers who are just kind of seven, eight-figure sellers who are throwing out good information. Hey, did you see what happened here? Did you see what change was made in this group or this software? And so getting into that, a lot of times does take going to a person. It takes, I’m getting connected with the right group but once you have those right connections, that’s kind of why whenever we, uh, refer whenever we have a big problem, we go to Liran because he seems to know the answer and a lot of times is because he’s connected in so many different masterminds and groups and kind of staying out there where, as you said, it’s easy to stay on an island as a seller if you don’t purposefully get connected to different groups.
So I wanted to actually just look at a couple of the topics that we’ve gone through in the inner circle just in the last few months that, uh, you and I know have said in the last, I think just the last couple of days how helpful just these topics have been as we continue to build out our own brands because we’ve run into some of these issues just as we are trying to talk to suppliers and get our products going. So one of them was inspections, we had a webinar just a few months ago where we talked about the different levels of inspections, different types of inspections.
The Value of Pre-Inspections
And I know this is a topic that is easy to get tripped up on if you don’t do it correctly. So traditionally, you know, you just think of the one inspection that you do at the end of production when you’re almost done. But, I know with even some of your products now, Andy, you’re thinking about doing different levels of inspection and something that was really just born out of the group and talking to other people in the inner circle about that.
Andy: [13:04] If you’re placing a big order and it may be the first order with a supplier and I know everyone’s level of bigness is probably a little different, you know, for ours now, it’s probably, if it’s a first order with the supplier and it’s 30 or more thousand dollars, uh, we want to do a pre-inspection audit. So that means we’re going to have an inspection company go into that factory prior to any down payment and we want that inspector to give us some good feedback on what they think the quality of the factory is.
And so that, you know, that came about by, you know, discussing and talking with other members, how, you know, they’ve worked with some factories and they got the product just wasn’t that good. And so, you know, then another one as well as to do an inspection midway through production. I think if you’re getting an inspector and then shows the factory again that you’re serious, right, about quality, which, you know, if you’ve been doing this for any amount of time, you know, you have to constantly stressed that.
So those are like two really good discussions and the group, I thought people had some really good perspective on, you know, that a lot of private label sellers on Amazon don’t necessarily think about, you know, doing pre-inspections.
The Value of Good Supplier Negotiations
Nathan: [14:25] Yeah. Good points. And I know one of the talks we had recently was about supplier negotiations. And I think I mentioned this on last week’s podcast. I don’t think you were on with us, uh, but you recently ran into this where several years after kind of teaching our group about supplier negotiations and some of the keywords to use, you actually ran into this. Can you just recount that man, because I probably got a little bit wrong last time when I told it, but you recently ran into an issue where the supplier was kinda trying to do a bait and switch on you, you might want to refer to as and you were able to successfully negotiate that back.
Andy: [15:00] Yeah. So using words that translate well into Chinese culture is super important and a lot of times the typical ways that we negotiate here in the US at least is not going to translate into their type of negotiation or their thinking. And so, uh, we’ve been going back and forth with this supplier had been working together for probably like, I don’t know, three months and uh, and had a set price of $75 purchase price working through the product, modifying it, you know, many, many WeChats messages back and forth.
Finally got it to the point and got the sample the sample was like $900 to get it shipped here, it’s a larger product. Finally got to the point where we’re ready to place that 30 percent deposit, so we ask the supplier for the P.O and the next messages, oh sorry guys, the price has now moved up from 75 to $90 per unit and so that was a $15 increase. Nowhere in the last three months of negotiation had $90 ever been part of our conversation. It was, you know, immediately right before we, so we said, Whoa, put on the brakes here. You know what’s going on? We’ve invested in an extreme amount of time. We’ve invested now a good amount of money in the sample and the shipment, what are you talking about? And so then it turned into a week of back and forth of saying, hey look, this is not right. It’s not good business.
And then I remembered my, my training actually I gave this training like three years ago and I thought to myself, you know what? It seems like we’ve hit a wall, they’re not understanding. Let me go back and look at ways that Chinese companies might understand better when it comes to negotiating and there are certain buzzwords that you want to use, you want to use words like mutually beneficial, you want to use words like cooperating and there are like nine or 10 words and I actually just posted this in the inner circle and so I made a paragraph using and probably overusing these words, but the words that I think Chinese manufacturers culturally really understand.
So I made this paragraph, it was like the last and if they didn’t go back to $75, then we were ready to move on from this product. And we had spent an extreme amount of time. So I made the paragraph, send it to him and it was like finally, you know, the dam broke, he understood and he said, okay. You know, I think one of the words is good fortune, I think I wrote in that letter, you know, I really feel like it was our good fortune that I walk by your booth at the Canton fair and I was able to discover this product. Now, good fortune, it’s a buzzword that they use. He wrote back and he said, I, he said, you know what, I agree, I think it’s our good fortune to we’ll honor that $75 price, uh, and know that was born again out of conversation with other sellers that I have have had in our inner circle group and uh, and it worked. And so yeah, huge piece when you’re negotiating with Chinese suppliers that you understand the different buzzwords that they get.
The Value of Masterminds
Nathan: [18:31] That makes sense. And again, the benefit of being in kind of a having partners or mastermind or a, a high-level group is when you do hit those, those walls after months of working on a product, a lot of times you just want to give up, but if you can kind of bounce it off someone else and have a little bit of support, you can maybe find the strategy to keep going with it. Another good topic that was recently put in the group was from one of our members named Laurie, who decided this year to really make it a goal to expand internationally.
Now, this has never really been a goal of mine. I don’t think we’ve had very few topics about international expansion on the podcast. In May, maybe one episode, I can’t remember, but you know, expanding to Europe and in Japan and some other marketplaces, there are several now that are available. We just haven’t talked about it a lot because it hasn’t been kind of towards the top of my priority list. However, a member in our group, the inner circle group talked about how she was able to do this-this year, was only able to get a partial number of SKUs over to the EU.
However, you know, just with those partial number of SKUs between that and Canada, I think maybe Mexico, she was able to see similar numbers to her US sales. Now every product is going to be different, but that’s kind of, you know, enlightening in some, in some aspects. And also encouraging to see that once you do that. And so we actually kind of a, because of that topic that she brought up, decided to do a webinar just recently in the group about international expansion. Liran has gone through the process. So he knows it all and I was kinda surprised how easy the international expansion process is if you get set up with the right third party companies and kind of go through the process.
The biggest thing that was holding me back was the whole, the whole vat tax because I just didn’t really understand it. However, you know, it’s, it’s actually pretty simple and that was one of the things that member Laurie pointed out was it’s actually simpler than the US tax system in many, many aspects when you have the different states, it’s kind of just that flat rate.
And so it’s actually easier a lot of times if you get connected with the right people, if you get connected with the right Amazon reps that actually are trying to help as sellers get over to the EU and stuff because they just want more listings over there, a lot of times they’ll actually just help you do it. So it’s more about just taking the steps. But it’s one of those things where if you’re not around the right people who are kind of taking a few risks or taking next steps are trying to grow their business, you might kind of just stay stagnant and stale in your own business.
So I think for me, that’s one of the things that being in a high-level group just motivates me to continue to look for new products, not to get complacent. Seeing the wins of other sellers, things that they are doing and it encourages me to move forward in my own business as well.
Andy: [21:19] And for me, the coolest part about being in a community like we’re in is the synergy that you get from the other sellers. I love the testimony Shannon just wrote this in the group yesterday, she came to our retreat in Orlando and, uh, we sat, I sat down with her, Kelly Anne sat down with her and, and helped her kind of think through some potential products to bundle together and up to that point she was kind of questioning whether she was doing it the right way. We both gave her the green light, we said go for it and she just posted in the group yesterday that the bundles have been a huge success selling in the fourth quarter.
So when you, when you hear that type of encouragement, it just spurs you on, right? To want to do more, to want to sell more. And then I love that testimony that Jennifer just wrote in yesterday as well. She used to be a big RA seller and is really transitioning over to private label. This was her first Q4 where she didn’t go in stores and shop and we all know that if you do that can be a tremendous amount of work, but she’s really focused and dedicated her business to private label and that’s what she wants to build.
And uh, you know, she put that post in yesterday she just has had ginormous success. I forget how many units, you know, she’s sold in the fourth quarter, but it was like a crazy number of, of just her private label products. So that to me is the exciting part of being in a community like that.
Nathan: [22:52] Yeah. I think she was up to around 95,000 a year to date units sold, which to me seems like a lot, right? Because if you’re focused on higher priced products, obviously, you can, you can generate more sales with fewer units sold, uh, but that many units just going through your Amazon business is really cool to see people having success. And in both of these cases, these people, uh, both Shannon and Jennifer said, you know, it was a lot of work to build this up, which it is. I don’t think at any point we’ll say it’s not any worth to build it up. But the cool thing is that is that when you see the success when you see the work going out, it’s not just that you are kinda hustling for no reason. You actually feel like you’re building something. Uh, and as you go along and as you build up your brand, it really helps year over year as you kind of see that success compound on itself.
Andy: [23:42] Awesome. So yeah, being part of a group has been huge for our business. I know it’s helped you, Andy, I know it’s helped me. And I know the Liran will often echo how important it has been in his own business. If you’re looking for a community to join, definitely a go to amazingfreedom.com/facebook. Join our free public group, full of Amazon sellers, doing all kinds of things, arbitrage, wholesale, private label. We have sellers doing it all in there.
If you’re interested in our free training that’s coming up very soon, you can go to amazingfreedom.com/training.
We have a free video series that’s going to be coming out and we also will soon be opening up our inner circle group for anyone that is looking to be part of a positive, high-level community of private label sellers where we are actively every day talking about all things private label and Amazon. That’ll do it for this episode. We’ll catch you on the next episode of the Amazon Seller Podcast.