Amazon Product Marketing – Kris Gramlich and Dustin Kane welcome Jason Boyce, founder, and CEO of Avenue 7 Media.
Jason Boyce, a seasoned entrepreneur and nationally recognized expert on Amazon, is considered one of the world’s leading advocates for Amazon.com Third-Party Sellers. He is the Founder and CEO of Avenue 7 Media, LLC, a seller management group that harnesses the power of Amazon for direct-to-consumer product brands.
Boyce began selling direct to consumers as an e-commerce retailer in 2002 and as a 3P Amazon seller in 2003. Over a decade and a half of real-world trial and error, Boyce developed his 7-Step Method that established his company as a Top 200 Amazon Seller and a top 1,000 eCommerce seller, according to Internet Retailer Magazine.
As an Amazon Top Seller for close to 20 years, Boyce is now a go-to expert for media sources seeking to understand the Amazon experience from a seller’s point-of-view, including CNBC, PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg News.
Find out more: https://avenue7media.com
Follow Jason on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonrboyce
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– Hello everybody, and welcome to episode 100 of “Two Amazon Sellers and a Microphone,” brought to you by Sellozo. And to mark this big occasion of the 100th episode, Kris and I are super pumped to have Jason Boyce on with us. Jason, how are you doing?
– Oh man, hey, congratulations! A hundred, I feel so special to be your 100th guest! Thank you, guys.
– Yes, it’s awesome, and you’re one of the very few that gets the Beck reference to the name, “Two Amazon Sellers and a Microphone,” so you’re obviously very cool.
– Whenever Beck’s around, James Thompson, and I, we go watch them. We love Beck. He’s another old, white guy that plays music, so we like that. We like that kind of music.
– I actually saw him in Kansas City, here at Arrowhead Stadium. He was with U2. That was a really cool concert.
– Oh, man, that would be great! That would be great.
– It’s funny, because Kris and I started this podcast late last year, and we’re like, what should we call ourselves? It’s like, A-M-Z-this — every name is always the same. We’re like, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, “Two Amazon Sellers and a Microphone, it’s perfect!”
– First time I read, I just chuckled a little bit. I was like, that is awesome. I love that name.
– Every once in a while… I wish I was always that good. I wish I had that moment of clarity. When I’m thinking of a brand name for different product lines on Amazon, it’d be nice if you had that epiphany, like, oh, this is the perfect brand name.
– But it’s fun.
– You guys nailed it with this one. That’s a great name, I love it.
– Every once in a while, you get lucky.
– Yeah. Right, right.
– But we just met you a few minutes ago, when we were talking before the show started. We can already tell this is going to be a lot of fun, talking with you. It’s going to be a blast. But anyway, right off the bat, just for everyone listening, and for us, Kris and myself — he usually, when he walks off like that, usually the UPS guy’s coming to his house.
– I thought either that, or the dog scratching.
– [Kris] I’m back, I’m back.
– The dogs are barking, and the UPS is probably at the front door.
– My 10-year-old’s home, so she’ll for sure barge in on us in the middle. Apologies, ahead of time.
– It’s the fun of these times like this, I love it. But anyway, just real quick, give us your background. We know a little bit of it, and you’re going to be interesting because you’ve been in this space a really long time. I mean, Kris and I feel like veterans, and we got started in 2014, on Amazon, back in the heyday, but you got really started early. Give us your…story of how you got into this space.
– Well, that is a long time, guys, 2014 because every year on Amazon is like a dog-year because it’s so hard.
– [Dustin] Seriously, it’s true.
– But my story is, I was just getting out of the Marine Corps, and by the way, my standard joke: the only difference between being a Marine and a big Amazon seller, is the Marines was a lot easier. I started in 2002. My brother had met somebody at a company called Overture. Overture had this tiny office in Pasadena, and guys, they invented pay-per-click advertising. They later got bought by Yahoo, Google stole their tech, and got sued by Yahoo, and Google ended up licensing their PPC technology, and then perfected it with Google AdWords. So, we somehow got lucky, my brothers and I. We got lucky, met with these guys. We would meet with them at their tiny office in Pasadena, as they were about to change the world, and ads, and we were everywhere on the first page of search results, with our first company, superduperhoops.com We sold basketball hoops, direct to consumer, Dropship method, right? And man, life was so good. We were on the first page of Alta Vista, insert other name vista, three was 100 different search engines back then, it wasn’t just Google back in 2002. So, we were– There’s my interruption, right there, already. Hi, honey. I’m on a podcast right now. You got your Tesla wall connector, wonderful. Great. All right, we’re going to be a Tesla household soon. Sorry, guys. So, we were all over the first page of search results, at nickel a click. Let that sink in for a second. Five cents a click. Life was good. So, we did that about a year, and then, some guy from Amazon, I wish I could remember his name, it was three before Jeff Yurcisin, who’s now running Zulily, he was our third sports and outdoors category manager. But he called, he picked up the phone and called, and said, “You guys are everywhere “on the Internet.” We’re like, “Yeah, we know “because we’re that smart.” We just happened to know a guy, who helped us figure this out. “We want you to sell on Amazon,” and I said, “What are you guys talking about? “You guys sell books. “What do you mean, “you want to sell basketball hoops on Amazon?” I said, “I just bough a VHS tape on Amazon. “Come on, man.” That’s how long ago it was, right? And, sort of the rest was history. We launched, we were doing 100% dropship. We did that– we’ve got three phases, I’m kind of in my fourth phase on Amazon, as an agency now, but we were dropshipping everything. Amazon cut us off at the kneecaps, overnight, when they came in and started buying direct, all of our Spalding hoops, and selling them for 30% less than we could buy them. And then, we started to work on exclusives: exclusive, unique UPC codes– those were doing great. Following the Spalding thread, Amazon called Spalding and said, “If you don’t sell us the stuff “the Super Duper guys are selling to you, “we’re going to stop buying from you.” Scared the hell out of them, and so, we lost a lot of that business. Then, we were like, screw this, we’re going to create our own brand, we’ll just sell it ourselves. We built and amazing brand; 17 years, top-200 seller, had an exit, and then, I wrote this book and started an agency because I had made every mistake, guys, you could make on Amazon, losing, and making my own money. I thought, this could be helpful. I always loved helping other sellers, that was the one thing that got me really excited, and then I’d go back to running my business, and I’d get bored, and then I’d reach out, “Hey, how can I help you?” Right? So, I knew that, when that business was behind me, I wanted to help other sellers, and that’s what we do now at Avenue7Media, is we help folks with a private label brand, rock Amazon. We’ve got some life-changing stories, and it helps me get up in the morning. You guys know, you guys know what it’s like to help sellers, who are hungry, smart, energetic, and that’s what does it for me now.
– I’ve got so many things I want to talk about, but– I know Dustin’s waiting too.
– I’m just fascinated by this story because, literally, you’re– the amount of time, 2001, 2002, it’s hard to even think back that far, and what life was like. I remember, I think I got my first cell phone in 2003
– So, real quick, I’ve got to ask this because when Kris and I started in 2014, we would tell friends and family what we’re doing, and they would have no freaking clue. You’re like, yeah, I sell on Amazon. It’s like, what, you’re doing thrift store-type stuff? It was like, yo, I’m trying to launch a big, worldwide brand on Amazon, and they’re just a partner in this whole deal.
– And they’re like, “Oh, that bookstore?” Right?
– [Dustin] Yeah, exactly.
– Oh, my gosh, it was hard to explain. It was like it was just some little, oh, isn’t that cute, the little hobby that he’s got going on. But, I can’t even imagine what it was like trying to– or, what it was like, I’m assuming, when you started, just the fact that you could start as a dropshipper.
– Oh, man, I have so many horror stories of going to theses trade shows, because that’s how you found suppliers back then, and saying, “Hey, we want to sell your product, “we’ve got superduperhoops.com.” And they’re like, “Oh, the Internet? “That’s never going to work.” Because we launched superduperhoops.com after the dot com bust, right? And we’re like, you know, we think this Internet thing’s got legs. Even though the bust just happened, we think it’s going to be around. And they wouldn’t sell to us because of that, and then, later on, when we started selling on Amazon, we told them we were Amazon sellers. They’re like, “Oh, we don’t want anything to do with you. “That’s terrible. “We’re not selling to you guys. “We don’t want to be on Amazon, “it’s like eBay.” And I’m like, “Actually, it’s bigger than eBay.” So many stories like that. My favorite stories of people not understanding Amazon, was, my God, talking to bankers. Like, hey, we just did five million in revenue, we need another two million to launch the next five products, and they’re like, “Explain this business model to me again. “I don’t understand, you’re a customer of Amazon?” That is like, I started getting angry, thinking about those conversations. I used to go in with a whiteboard, and go, okay, we’re going to break this down, I’m going to draw pictures for you, dumb-ass. This is how Amazon works.
– [Dustin] Seriously. Right?
– And they still didn’t get it, they still didn’t understand. So, yeah, I mean, Dustin, it’s been a long journey. Amazon has come a long way, obviously, to the dominant position they’re in now. You guys were smart, joining in 2014. That’s early.
– I wish we would have done it sooner. We talk about the reason to listen to some podcast, and I swear we took about a year before we did anything, so I wish we would have done it a lot sooner. It was easier back then, it’s a little bit difficult now.
– Oh, man, it was so great in the heyday. We went from 100 grand, to a million, to two million, to four million. Every year, we were doubling. And we were just throwing spec sheets up there, with one imagine, right? And it was just, fwoom, taking off. Obviously, we got more sophisticated over the years, but I refer to those as the good old days.
– Good old days.
– It’s so funny, everything you bring up. We’ve experienced it with — I mean, I’ve been burned by traditional lending in this space because it doesn’t fit the model at all, and these things– just now, really, there’s options available now, there’s really creative, good financing. We’ve talked to a lot of people on the podcast that are in that space. Man, I wish that was around when I started. But, it does make it a lot easier. It’s like you’re talking about, talking to a bank, it’s still, if you go to a traditional bank, it’s still, they’re not super–
– They don’t get it. They don’t get it.
– At all. But I love, you said a second ago, talking about how you’ve made every mistake in the book, and then, that’s what makes you an expert in something, is learning from your own mistakes, and keep going.
– Yeah, that’s exactly right. You know, I knew I wasn’t Steve Jobs when I started building the private label business, right? I thought I was, until I made some fabulous mistakes that cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars, learned from them, and then started to do this customer-driven innovation, and reading negative reviews, and improving the product for that, to get to 4.5 stars. It was like, wow, this makes me seem so much smarter than I actually am. You know, that’s exactly right, Dustin, you just… failure, so long as you don’t fold up the tent and give up, so long as you can grip the mirror and say, “Okay, how badly did I screw this up? “What did I do this time, “that I don’t repeat next time,” and having the fortitude to keep going, in spite of burning embers of a mistake that you just left in your wake, there’s a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, if you can fight through it. There really is.
– Totally, totally agree. I’ve made big mistakes. I was almost done, I was almost down and out in 2018, based on a big mistake, or a combination of a lot of mistakes probably. But yeah, perseverance is what’s key, and learning from them, especially now, because the barriers of entry are more difficult, I would say.
– Oh, yeah.
– You can have stumbling blocks, really easily. So, the people that power through, get to this experience of selling in this massive, massive marketplace, that’s bigger, and bigger, and bigger. So, it’s fun. We love talking about it, but I want to pivot real quick. I want to talk about your book. You wrote a book. Tell us about it. So, you wrote a book. Why’d you write it?
– Great question. So, I coauthored it with my good friend, Rick Cesari. He’d be a great guest for you guys, by the way. Rick Cesari is a marketing legend. I’ll tell you what I mean. So, he took a taco-grilling machine, and turned it into the George Foreman Grill, and put a Direct TV campaign, went out and found George Foreman, signed him for the product. He did OxiClean, GoPro Cameras, one of those toothbrushes, I always forget which one, but he’s a Direct TV genius, and has built multiple, billion-dollar brands. He and I were at the Prosper Show, which is coming up in July, right? I’m on the board for the Prosper Show, the Amazon seller show. You guys going to be there?
– We’re on the fence a little bit.
– Oh, come on, guys, just go. I’ll see you there. I’ll see you there.
– I was at that one Rick first talked at, 2015, 14-ish?
– You got it. He was the keynote. I also spoke, but I was the last person to speak, while everyone was leaving out the door with their suitcase, to get to the airport. We connected at that show, and we realized that we were 20 minutes away from each other; I was living in Sammamish, outside of Seattle, he was living in Issaquah. So, we started to have Friday morning coffee together, and he would talk about DRT marketing, and helped teach me everything I know about what works, in terms of messaging, and I would teach him about Amazon, so we sparked this friendship, and he’s like, “You’ve got to write a book about this.” And I’m like, “Write a book? “It took me eight years to graduate from college, “and I’m talking about the four-year degree, man, “I can’t write a book.” And he goes, “No, you have to. You have to write a book.” So, we wrote it together. It took us about nine months to write the book. We started off with the book, to write this Pollyannic story about how to make a million dollars, selling on Amazon — the get-rich-quick scheme of the day, on Amazon. I started writing that book — and you guys will appreciate this, Kris and Dustin — I got pissed. I kept remembering all of these stories about something Amazon did, or something an Amazon competitor did, or something the bank wouldn’t do, and all of these things, and I said to Rick, I was like, “You can’t write that book, “it’s just not who I am. “We’ve got to make it real. “We’ve got to tell them the real story, “that this is really hard, “that Amazon is not your friend, “they’re not going to make your life easier, “in fact, they’re going to make it harder. “You’ve got to be on Amazon.” I say this all the time, I’m not a lawyer, but I think they’ve got monopoly, monopsony power. They own at least half of the online market share. You’ve got to be there because that’s where the buying public is. If you’re going to be there, do it this way, and by the way, because I’ve tried every other way, and failed at it, to get to this one, private label brand really build something special, different. One of my favorite quotes from Rick is, “Different’s better than better.” And then, you’ve got to play the Amazon game, and you’ve got to do it the right way, so that was my gift to the seller community, is writing that book with Rick, and basically telling it like it is, and laying down a solid foundation for new sellers, or even big brands, to read this and understand, this is the way forward on Amazon.
– A lot of our audience is going to be new sellers. When we first started this, Dustin and I, we listened to podcasts, and we were those people, new sellers.
– Give some words here, for new sellers. What would you recommend doing, not doing, maybe those that haven’t even picked a product yet? Get off the fence and start going, I’m guessing that’s what you’re going to say, but give some words here. If you’re a new seller–
– Number one: save your money. Save your money right now. Build up a war chest, because it’s pay-to-play, and you’re going to lose some money before you make some money on Amazon. It’s just like another business, right? Think about this: think about Target. When Target builds a new store somewhere, they put these financial models together, and they say, “We’re going to have to invest this much money,” which is a huge chunk of money, “We’re not going to make that money back “for three to five years, and we know it, “but this is the financial model.” You have to think about an Amazon business like this now. I’m sorry that’s how it is, but that’s how it is. When I started, I was in an apartment. We freaking went to the Spalding warehouse in Carson, California, and loaded up my brother’s Volkswagen Jetta, and crammed basketballs in there. It was totally unsafe, we couldn’t even see. Right? And then, we turned those things into end tables, until we sold them and shipped them, down at the Kinko’s store, or the FedEx store. So, we didn’t have any money, we made money from selling product, and the was the game. You cannot do that anymore. You need investment, you need– sure, you could go out there and retail arbitrage, and you can go to the tent sale around the corner, and attach it to a listing, and make some money that way. That’s not a bad way to learn the “Amazon way,” and get the wheels spinning, but if you’re going to have longterm success, you need to build your own brand, and I break it down… easy, so I can understand it, how to come up with your own product, develop your own product, some resources go to… customs.panjiva, thomasnet.com, some of those sources to find suppliers, and how to negotiate, how to make sure you’re doing quality control before that thing lands, because if you do it after it lands, it’s too late, so, literally a step-by-step process. I’m thinking about it, I want to start a brand, how do I think about that? What is a product that works for me? We talk about some good steps on how to pick a good product, and then, the most important — and this is one of my fabulous mistakes when I learned I wasn’t Steve Jobs — is, make sure there’s a market, and make sure that Amazon shoppers are already buying something similar to your product that you want to make. Make it different, make it better, and follow the rest of the steps. You’ve got to drive traffic, you’ve got to find a way to drive traffic, and more often than not, it revolves around sponsored ads. You’ve got to get people to enjoy it, you’ve got to listen to them, and not dig your heels in and take it personally when someone leave you a bad review. You tell them, “Thank you. “Thank you for taking the time “to tell me what’s wrong, so I can fix it,” and this sort of iterative process. Dustin, you talked about it. You’ve got to play the long game here, and you’re going to take your lumps, but so long as you have a process where you can do an after-action, assess what went wrong, get some key learnings, and don’t repeat that behavior, you can work your way, eventually, to success, as a six-figure, then seven-figure, and hopefully eight or nine-figure seller, and you sell to one of these big aggregators with all the money. You know?
– You’re 100% right. I really like the way you’re breaking this down, and it’s step-by-step, but the biggest takeaway, is you’re setting expectations up front. At our role, here in Sellozo, Kris and I have the privilege of talking to a bunch of sellers all day long. We get to talk about their business, where they are, and I think, especially for newer sellers, you either have existing sellers, who are mad that this is the situation, or new sellers, who don’t realize this is the case, it’s going to be a while before you’re profitable.
– Oh, yeah.
– And you could have the wrong product, and you might not be profitable, and you’ve got to be able to drop it like a bad habit, as fast as possible, rather than throwing more money behind it, and like you talked about, what your goal is because it is different. This snuck up on me because I can tell the whole story about how it was the dream come true: I was able to start my business, I was able to quit my job. I was working full-time on Amazon, but, right around that same time, the barriers to entry got harder, and the launch got more expensive, and now, what I thought I could draw to live off of–
– 2016 was when things went whoompf! Oh, that was a painful year.
– Yeah, it became very different. It wasn’t like– before then, I was launching products for 500 bucks, and then they were selling $10,000 a month. But then, it was the reverse. You launch for 10,000, take 10,000 to launch it. Anyway, I think it’s really neat, the way you’re setting up expectations because if people do have their proper expectations, then they can treat this the way it needs to be treated: as a longterm play. Another thing you brought up — and I’m talking too much here — but, it was really interesting how this whole aggregator space has evolved now. This was not on our minds when we started, and now, everything from — in my personal experience, I know Kris is the same way — has transitioned towards, how can we focus on the exit? Let’s build something that’s worth selling, and that is cool.
– Oh, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, as Amazon put that squeeze on 2014, 2015, 2016, CPC’s a nickel a click! I saw that movie before, on Google, right? And now, it’s two dollars, five dollars, I’ve seen 14 dollars a click, and I’m like, what? Who is doing that? So, yeah… absolutely right. I’m really excited, especially in the near term, for sellers to have… not only a path forward to grow their businesses, which, you’re spot on, Dustin, it’s as hard as it’s ever been, and it hasn’t gotten easier. Part of that is competition, part of that is the frigging Amazon A.I. bots and their damn false positives that happen every single day, right? Good, Lord. I like to say A.I. is like a six-year-old, and I’ve got a seven-year-old and I love her, but I don’t want her running my business. A.I. really started running amok in 2016, and making life difficult. You know, and the size, and then, Amazon rolled out the red carpet to the China factory, which I have big problem with in terms of the way that they did that, making it easier for China sellers than it ever was for a U.S. seller. But, on the bright side, you’ve got 30 companies out there that have raised $3 billion in the last 12 months, going, “Hey, these folks that really put their blood, “sweat, and tears into creating a great product “and doing things the right way, “and creating a great brand, “these guys are valuable to me — and gals, “and we want to go and pay these folks off “for all their hard work, “so they can go take the year off,” that’s necessary to recover from being an Amazon seller with a big, fat bank account, right? So, I totally agree, Dustin. I love that this is happening. I think it’s all positive for sellers. There’s probably some downside in there. When you’ve got $100 million to burn as an aggregator, you’re probably not worried about ad spend, so my guess is CPCs are going to continue to go up, and eventually these guys are going to figure out systems and repeatable processes, and make it harder to compete, for the small guy, I think longterm. However, there’s always opportunity, there’s always nooks and crannies on a company that has half a billion products listed. You’ve just got to find your niche.
– I don’t know if you– I may cut out here, but you mentioned something about the knowledge, and people that have the knowledge now, and people are paying for it. I’m a big fan of “Shark Tank,” and over the last two weeks, two weeks ago, a shoelace company was on there — or maybe it was two, or three, two weeks ago, yeah. Anyways, they said they launched their product, using PPC ads. My wife and I were watching it, she’s like, “What are they talking about?” I’m like, “I’ve got to pay attention here.” They didn’t know, all these sharks had no idea about PPC ads, they didn’t realize you could do that, or they may have not known the expertise on it, but it was cool to see that that is now creeping in, more and more, and people are paying for that. Last week was really great. Last week, it was a shoelace company. They were all out, they all got out. Robert came back in, and he only did it because he wanted to get her on his team, to help his other businesses out because she knew all about the Amazon space. And at the end, he says, he looks to Kevin and says, “Sometimes, you’ve just got to pay for talent.” And he just wanted to get her involved with his other businesses because she knew how to launch a shoelace company, and get to page one, and do millions of dollars in sales, and it was a $13 product.
– It’s the process, baby, not the content, right?
– Yep. More and more people are paying for that.
– Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more with that sort of assessment by that astute investor. I say this all the time, or I used to say it, I said it six or seven years ago, the next billion-dollar products brand will have launched on Amazon or Instagram, and why is that? Why is that, that these Amazon brands– I get calls from big CEOs from big companies all the time, and they say, “Jason, why in the hell “am I getting my ass kicked “by this brand I’ve never heard of, “or this other brand?” I said, “Because they know the Amazon game.” Right? You don’t know the Amazon game. You’re trying to put a square peg in a round hole, trying to layer on your B2B experience with some buyer who’s never even used your product, who’s making a decision on your life, right? You need to get closer to the end-user consumer, and that’s what the Instagram seller does, and that’s what the Amazon seller does, that great product feedback from folks who have paid real money to buy a product, and have something to say about it, when it’s not right. That negative review is worth so much more to you than a positive review, on some level, when it comes to product development. Right?
– [Dustin] Yeah.
– Certainly, positive reviews are much better, in terms of ranking algorithm and conversion rates, but this is the future, guys. This is 21-century marketing, and it’s some of the stuff that we’re trying to do at Avenue7Media, is to try and look about this from a holistic view. You guys know this, as an Amazon seller, you’ve got to be a jack of all trades. It’s not an algebra equation, it’s a calculus equation. You have to be able to do so many different things, and that’s not what these B2B brands grew up doing, the wholesale brands, so they’re at a severe disadvantage. They all recognize it, they all know it, and that transition from a wholesale business to a B2C, and I consider Amazon a B2C channel, is really, really difficult. So, what these sellers need to understand, to your point, Kris, and to the smart folks on “Shark Tank,” is that what you are doing and learning on Amazon, is incredibly valuable and frankly, it’s the future.
– Yeah, you’re touching on so many great points here. This is why I think everyone who’s listening should be pumped up and motivated because I’m a firm believer in the fact that this evolution in e-commerce is actually a benefit to everybody. Products are getting better. You can’t be a lazy product developer anymore, and that’s why I think, for a long time I thought, brand doesn’t actually matter than much, on Amazon. In 2016, 2017, that kind of heyday, nobody was really paying that much attention to the brand, all they cared about was this because this guy’s got 10,000 reviews. And you were talking about Chinese manufacturers coming in, the brand name sometimes was gibberish.
– I saw one yesterday, J-G-P 1996.
– I know.
– That just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?
– At aol.com.
– [Dustin] Yeah.
– [Jason] Yeah.
– [Jason] Yeah, exactly.
– It’s unbelievable. They could be selling half a million dollars a month. And so, it’s interesting. But to your point about how the opportunity’s there, a story I used to tell people when I was telling them what I was doing for my new living here, it was like, imagine if you could walk in to Wal-Mart, and shove your product on the middle of the shelf, and just have it there for basically not a whole lot of investment, you could get it right there. I’m like, that’s what I’m doing on Amazon. I know how to launch a product and get it in front of people’s eyes. It’s the same impact.
– Mind share. I call that mind share, right? In the old days of the CPG business, you know what was the difference between a good product, a successful product, and a not-successful product? About 50 to 70 million dollars. What do they do with that money? They made a mediocre product, they put it in front off a focus group — and Rick taught me so much about this, my coauthor of the book, he put it in front of a focus group who have never used their real money, probably wouldn’t have even bought the product in the first place, right? So, they getting crappy advice about a crappy product, then they’re putting it to market, and they’re spending $50 million in T.V. ad campaigns, and they’re paying millions of dollars to get endcap space in the retail stores, where all the purchases were made. That propped up really bad products, and over time, you don’t have a review, you go to that endcap, you don’t know if there’s product reviews, so you buy what you trust, what’s been bounced into your unconscious a gazillion times, so that you feel that you know the name. I know Tide, I know this name… And that’s not what Amazon sellers are doing. Amazon sellers are starting at the end consumer, they’re throwing something out into the wild, they’re listening to the consumer — the good ones, and they’re making adjustments based on what they’re hearing on Instagram, on Amazon, and making best-in-class products that no one’s ever heard of. So, one other thing I want to say, Dustin, I’m with you. There was a time when I would go to China or my factories all over the world, and say, “I just need the lowest price,” because I don’t have the opportunity to put my brand in the best possible light on Amazon. It’s a commodities market, I need commodities. Give me commodities. As soon as Brand Registry happened, as soon as third-party sellers could do A+, Video, Brand Store, all of those other elements, that’s when the game changed, and that’s when you now have the opportunity– and I say this all the time to clients, and I realize there’s 200 million Prime subscribers now, but I need a third, so I’m going to go back to 2020 when it was only 150 million Prime subscribers, and I say to them, “You can’t compete with the China factories, give up. “You can’t compete with Amazon Basics, “they have a pricing advantage.” And by the way, they don’t care if they lose money on an Amazon Basics product. The 50 million people that are Prime subscribers, that go to Amazon and only search for price, are not your customer, but that’s okay because the 50 million on the top end, who are making $300 thousand, $250 thousand or more a year, like my wife, who will never buy the lowest priced product, are very much interested in your product, and if you can put your brand in the best possible light, you can focus on the benefits of the product. Right, Kris? That’s what Rick talked about. Features tell, benefits sell, at that Prosper Show. And you can price high and justify. You can afford the ads, you can afford the fees, and you can afford to continue to improve, and make a best-in-class product, and that’s still the white space, if there is such a thing on Amazon, right? Building brand is an absolute necessity. You don’t have to be the lowest price, so long as you sprinkle that pixie dust on what you’ve got, you listen to that consumer, and make a great product. If any of your new seller listeners take anything, take that to heart. That’s the game. You think you’re going to go and buy something on Alibaba, that everyone else has, and beat anyone on price, you are absolutely wrong. Don’t do that. You’re better off being a retail arbitrager and getting some discount deals, and attaching to other people’s listings, than trying to beat China or Amazon at their own game. Branding is the key. And you know what? I sometimes talk to– I haven’t been to the airport in a while, but I’m going to go because I’m going to the Prosper Show in July, and I’ll see young people buying stuff on their phones or they’re doing things on their phones. I’m like, “Hey, where do you buy your stuff from?” They’re like, “Amazon” sometimes, or they’ll say, “I go to Amazon, “and then I see if the brand has its own website “because I want to know their story.” Right? That wasn’t important in the 80s and 90s, but it’s critically important now. People will buy your stuff and love you if you tell your story. That’s another thing I talk about in the book, I tell my story, which is warts and all, right? And I tell this story because that’s what these brands have to do. It starts, that’s the seminal moment, that’s the beginning point for building a great brand, is telling your true, authentic story, and sharing it with folks because these young folks who are buying stuff on their phone, they want to know who you are, they want to know what you’re about, and they’ll be loyal to you if you share that story honestly.
– Yeah, you’ve got to be vulnerable. You’ve got to share why you started it. You’ve got to tell people why you wanted — because the big brands, they don’t do that —
– No, they don’t admit any mistakes. Institutional narcissism, I call it. They can’t admit anything, right?
– [Kris] Yeah.
– It doesn’t let them be very fluid either.
– That’s why they’re having a hard time to compete. This is something Kris and I talk about a lot of times, this is why this was so attractive and appealing to us, individually and as businesses, it’s sort of a game, it’s competitive. How can you do things better? How can you be more nimble, and constantly shifting? Every mistake I’ve made, is probably not shifting fast enough. It comes down to–
– Speed, agility.
– Yeah, I get too comfortable in the commodities, how easy it was to launch commodities and not focus on brands, so, boom, I got bit. 2017, 2018, I didn’t shift fast enough when I could have, if I would have made that shift faster. But that’s what makes it more fun, and that’s why it’s a blast because you can– you’ve got to navigate and shift when things go. You’re talking about, with your brand story, the really good people. You can tell, when you look at a listing, or if you’re searching on Amazon, you can tell the people that, they’ve got these great, sponsored brand videos that, it’s captivating, it’s telling the story, or in their A+ content, you see pictures of them, you see their family business in operation.
– It’s really neat. You’re right, big brands, there’s no way they can compete against that.
– No. There’s two parts to the brain that are important in marketing: the frontal lobe, that’s where people make their decision process, but the amygdala is so much more powerful in marketing, that’s the feeling center. Some people call it the lizard brain, right? If you can bypass the frontal lobe, and connect on an emotional, real-person level, with the consumer, you’ve got them. Now, look, you can’t ship them a crappy product because they’ll ruin you. You’ve got to make a good product, or you’ve got to make it right if you’ve made a mistake, or Amazon made a mistake, for them. But if you can speak to that unconscious part of the brain that makes them feel something, now you’ve got them. That’s what Rick is so great at. I sat at his feet for years, at the coffee shop there, and just soaked it up. That’s what he was so great about, that’s what people care about. What’s the real benefit to you? How is your product going to make my life better, or solve a problem for me, and how can I connect with you? I need connection, I need some kind of connection with you, and that brand stories are a really important part of it. You talked about agility, Dustin. I have to give a little shout to the Marine Corps, because the Marine Corps has this thing called, “maneuver warfare.” They’re not the biggest force, they’re the smallest, so they don’t have the brigades that the Army can throw at us, so they have to be fast and agile, and they have this saying that I share with sellers all the time, “Always have a plan, but never fall in love with your plan.” Because the minute you cross the line of departure, your plan goes to shit, and you’ve got to adjust and adapt in order to not get killed. Amazon is a lot like that. It’s very much like that, and that initial Marine training that I had has been incredibly valuable as a seller. It’s still harder to be a seller than a Marine, but that lesson has always stuck with me, and that’s what’s required for longterm success, and it’s fun. It’s fun as hell, Dustin. Look, you get mad, right? But overcoming those obstacles, and looking back in the rear-view mirror, and you’re like, wow, I did it again. I overcame another obstacle. I’m a badass. I’m going to keep doing this. Right?
– That’s when you get those emails that, in the subject line, says, “Your Amazon account, dot dot dot,” and you’re like, oh, my God, what the hell’s going on?
– Now what?
– Yeah, oh, boy. Please tell me it’s not suspended.
– Here’s my robot overlord, making another mistake.
– It’s so true. You can see what they’re trying to do on Amazon, like for face masks, for example, or when the pandemic was happening, they had to make so many fast decisions, but man, that slap can hit so much collateral damage. It’s crazy what can happen, and you’ve got to be prepared for it, which is another reason why your very first point, save like you need some sort of bankroll for this, because I can tell you from firsthand experience, you do not want to have put all your eggs in this basket, quit your job, be super pumped about your new life, and then have the rug pulled out from under you.
– Yeah, that’s —
– It’s a difficult feeling.
– That’s shocking and painful, and you want to avoid that as best you can.
– Yeah, that’s– sleepless nights are tricky.
– You guys are going to have to pull me out of this rabbit hole, if I start down it too much. Talking about Amazon, and I talk about this all the time in the press and wherever else, my own podcast and the “Day 2” podcast at GeekWire, if you don’t mind me making that plug, we’re a new podcast that we’re launching, that’s Amazon-specific. But we talk about some big issues as well, and one of the things that I repeat over and over again, is, amazon.com, Amazon the company, would not be what it is today without the hard work, the product knowledge, the grit, the capital of the third-party seller. They will not continue to be what they are going to become in the future, without all of the same, without the third-party seller. And they need to do better. They need to do better for these third-party sellers. Having a mom and pop business with three to six employees, who can’t make payroll that week because some dumb-ass robot made a mistake, is not okay. Right? And the engineers are like, oh, it’s only 0.3%. Well, that’s like 20,000 people, who now can’t make payroll that week, and Amazon needs to do better, and they need to admit more freely, how much money they make. The third-party seller makes more money for Amazon than any other cohort. I’m talking AWS, everyone, right? They hide it really nicely because they don’t share the gross merchandise value of what the true goods sold, they only share that take rate, that seller fee. So, these are some things that I like to say. Dale Dabbs, my president and my COO, will say, “Stop poking Amazon in the eye.” I’m like, “They need to hear this!” They need to hear that, what makes them great, what has made them great, is the third-party seller, and their technology, combined together. I feel like, like you said, 2016, started to get away from that. And they’re big, and they’re massive, and I know they’re trying to replace human beings with A.I., but they need to do better. I still think it’s the best place to go to launch a product company because of that feedback, and because of the size of the market, it’s enormous. We’re talking about half a trillion dollars in goods sold in 2020, through those dot com’s. That’s big. But Amazon also needs to step up.
– Yeah, I think they’re trying, but they could try much better because they’re doing things like Brand Registry, and getting brand pages, and inviting more brands on the platform. But at a flash, it could all be over with.
– Kris, don’t get me started on Brand Registry, good Lord. I love it when my client gets the email that says, “You may not list this product “because you’re not the brand owner.” Then, we have to screenshot from the Seller Central, the Brand Dashboard that shows we’re the rights owner. I mean, come on, man. Come on, Amazon, that shouldn’t happen. I love Brand Registry when it works, but that’s just crazy.
– [Kris] Yep.
– [Dustin] Yep.
– You’re 100% right, though, they could do a ton better, and it does seem like it’s a pendulum that keeps swinging, and they got way out of whack earlier. A couple years ago, you could tell. It was like they didn’t give a crap about the third-party sellers at all, and they were actively competing directly against them, but they were taking your product data, and then launching Amazon Basics.
– Oh, yeah. It was 100% off of your hard work and effort. They seem like they’ve dialed that back, and it seems that they at least have made a token play. You see these commercials every once in a while, of an Amazon commercial, it’ll highlight some family business. At least they’re kind of broadcasting that there’s third-party sellers out there, so hopefully the pendulum will swing back.
– You guys don’t vomit in your mouth a little bit, every time you see one of those commercials? I do. I throw up in my mouth. I’m like, come on. They’re like, call them three months later, when their account gets suspended because some bad actor attacked their account, and dropped F-bombs in their search terms, right?
– Exactly. Yeah.
– I mean, look, you are much more positive than I am. My outlook on Amazon, Dustin… The very first episode we did on the “Day 2” podcast, on GeekWire, we interviewed Peter Dering. Peter Dering created– I don’t know if you guys saw, that became viral, that YouTube video about, he has this great camera bag…
– Yes! His brand name’s escaping me now. Sorry, Peter. His brand name is escaping me, but he made this amazing, best-in-class camera bag, selling for $99. Amazon copied every single bit of that thing, even the logo tag, and just put “Amazon Basics” over the exact shape of the logo tag, and sold it for $30. Now, if you compare that product, physically, and you touch it, you can tell Peter’s product is superior, and Amazon’s product is junk, and it’s not going to last nearly as long, but they put it right there, right next to his listing, and they’re probably making about the same amount of money. But come on, really? At least have some imagination. At least make your own damn product, don’t be ripping off the third-party seller, like you’re doing, who made you what you are! Right? That’s my admonishment to Amazon. So, Dustin, I think it’s still happening, unfortunately, but as long as folks like us can keep embarrassing them when this happens, maybe they’ll learn, and maybe they’ll try to get better, and I think that’s important. I think it’s important for everyone to speak up and talk. And look, I’ve been in the press a lot over the last X number of years. I think they call me because I don’t care, right? I’m not afraid to tell them what’s really happening. So, this is one thing that I want everyone to remember: if a reporter calls you and asks you for comment, it’s one of the only things that Amazon listens to. The PR department picks that up, and they send it down to the managers and say, “Is this really happening? “Because we need to fix this.” Or, the mangers, who are buried — can you imagine growing 44%, this $1.7 trillion-dollar company, how busy they must be? But if you speak out about it, and enough people speak up about it, and say, “We love you, Amazon, “but you’ve got to do better here,” I think that actually infects change.
– A hundred percent. Yeah, we’ve got to keep their feet to the fire.
– Absolutely. You guys are great. Keep them honest. Keep them honest.
– That video, kudos to Peter, that video is really good.
– Wasn’t it amazing?
– Yeah, he talks about the differences, and how they actually did it all, they studied it. And he’s like, or you could just buy Amazon Basic, it’s trash.
– The googly eyes, right? Because that’s what they are! They’re zombies over there, copying and pasting, right? I expect that from a Chinese factory, I do not expect that from Amazon.
– I did see this. That was amazing. That was a perfect play off of what they did. That’s so cool.
– They didn’t get mad, they got even, just brilliant.
– Oh man, we could talk for hours, and hours, and hours, I feel like. There’s so much to talk about, but… I do have to stop you in a little bit, but I want to definitely give you a chance, right now, tell everybody out there who’s listening, how can they get in touch with you if they’re loving what they’re hearing, and they want to work with Avenue7Media, your company? Tell us, how do we get in touch with you? How can they get started working with you?
– Well thanks, Dustin, I appreciate that. We do work with private label brands, and you can reach out. If you want our help as an agency, you can reach out to my website, avenue, the number seven, media dot com. You can also reach out, Jason R. Boyce, B-O-Y-C-E, on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter at J-A-S-B-O-Y-C-E, jasboyce, and then you can buy the book. It’s on Amazon for now, they haven’t taken it down yet. Buy the book, read the story. There’s a lot of good information, especially if you’re brand-new. Know what you’re getting into, consider that book a good recon of what you’re about to get into, and a roadmap for some basic steps for how to get there. Then, check out the– stay on this podcast. Right? You guys are awesome. I love your podcast. And also, check out “Day 2.” We try to keep Amazon honest there, so if you’re interested in some of the— not necessarily just selling, but what’s going on in the warehouse with the unions, if you’re interested in what’s going on with AWS and some of these other anti-trust issues like that, reach out on “Day 2,” and follow the “Day 2” podcast from GeekWire. If you’re out there, a seller, hang in there. Hang in there. Get informed, get knowledge, and reach out to us, we’d be happy to help.
– That’s great stuff. I will definitely be tuning into the podcast. I’m fascinated by that kind of stuff anyway, just to see where that’s going, what happens in the industry as a whole, bigger-picture type stuff. So, I will be definitely tuning into that. Everyone who’s listening, it’s obvious, your passion, and what you know, and your expertise is there, and I’d encourage anybody to reach out to you. They’ve got to go buy the book. I’ll be buying that later today as well. I’ll check out the book, so I’m excited to read all that. But man, we will have you on because there’s about 15,000 topics–
– Another good thing about Amazon, right?
– So, we’ll get you back on again, in the future, and we’ll talk about more stuff. Everyone, go check out Jason, go check out Avenue7Media, buy his book, and lastly, if you are a seller and you’re looking for help with your advertising, we’re here for you. Reach out, you can go to sellozo.com. You can book a demo. Kris or I will be on that call. We’ll talk with you about anything with your Amazon business, we’ll talk to you about how we can help you with your advertising as well. And then, if you like this kind of content, if you want to hear cool people like Jason, who have been in the space, seems like longer than Amazon even existed, I don’t know how it’s possible, but you did. Make sure you’re following all of our content. We go live on Sellozo’s Facebook channel, or Facebook page, Sellozo’s YouTube channel, LinkedIn page. You can like all those pages, subscribe, turn on notifications, and then, obviously subscribe to our podcast, whatever channel podcast platform you listen to. Jason, thanks so much for coming on, and we’ll be at this again tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll have you on very soon. See ya.
– [Jason] Congrats–