Product University - Sophie Howard (Aspiring Entrepreneurs)
MODULE 5 - Product Selection Strategies
Detailed Review of Module 5 of Sophie Howard's "Product University" internet course that advises people of all ages how to become profitable sellers on Amazon.
If you're looking for a different detailed to the max, up-to-date review of Sophie's teaching, you have arrived.
MODULE 5 - Product Selection
Session 1: All about Amazon: Week 1 (of 4)
Suppliers: She travels all over the world, from New Zealand, to China, all the way to India.
She searches for unique sources that are very hard to copy.
She doesn't recommend doing fancy clothing, but rather encourages the development of premium versions of common kitchen and baby products.
She recommends learning how Amazon thinks by reading Jeff Bezo's biography, The Everything Store by Brad Stone.
Amazon Short Notice: One negative mark about Amazon Sophie shares is their decision-making-with-no-notice (She gives the example of the 4th quarter decision in 2016 that new amazon sellers couldn't warehouse their products because Amazon's fulfillment system was overloaded).
Next she compares Private Label (PL) and Retail Arbitrage (RA), favoring PL over RA.
Her reasoning is that
at the end of the day you don't own any of the brand you are selling via RA,
since all you are doing is buying low and selling high,
but with PL,
you own a brand,
an asset that you can sell for a lump sum later on.
Well what about selling products wholesale? You might ask.
Wholesaling rides the line between retail arbitrage and private label,
being that you are buying another company's brand.
Key Amazon Metrics: Sophie covers Best Seller Ranking (BSR),
how it is made and
how you can determine your competitor's revenue level.
After naming some of the numbers you'll want to pay attention to with regard to your product listing, Sophie does a quick rundown of the process of what it is like running a business on Amazon, starting with setting up a new account.
Seller Central: When every she makes a new account, she makes it under a limited liability company license in the country that she is selling in.
Generating Amazon-Specific Barcodes: Then you set up your account and your listing, getting your FNSKU when you generate your labels (FNSKU is Amazon's product code identifier system).
Labels: You will want to send the FNSKU labels to your supplier so that they can put them on each product or have the labels placed into the product packaging by the designer (Sophie recommends this way).
In Stock: After your order is shipped, it will come in stock on Amazon in 45 to 75 days depending on your shipping method. (planes are faster and more expensive (7-14 days), ships are slower and cheaper (30+ days)).
First Sale: As soon as it is in stock, you should start to see sales coming through on your seller page in Seller Central (Sophie mentions that there is a "ping" sound every time you get a sale. For the first while it's exciting, but soon you just go down to checking your sale levels once per day).
Managing Customer Queries: Sophie has an interesting setup.
Her VA's are in all different time zones so her customer response rate,
the amount of time it takes her team to respond to questions asked by customers,
is below 2 hours.
Amazon's policy is you must respond in 24 hours,
so Sophie has earned big points in Amazon's customer-centric eyes.
Checklists: Every business has tasks that need to be done at varied intervals, either daily, weekly, or monthly:
Towards the end of her session, Sophie discusses being prepared in case your Amazon listings or even your whole account goes south, gets suspended, deleted, etc. The short of it is that you should have other places you have ready to sell online (drive traffic to and list your product).
Session 2: Amazon: Nut's and Bolts
- A new email address (exclusive to your Amazon business)
- A new credit card
- A business bank account
- Your LLC License
- Your EIN Number and Paperwork
Ungating: Not all categories are open to a new seller. Rather some categories, like supplements, are gated and you must submit to their fickle ungating process.
Barcodes: In 2017, Amazon was in the process of becoming more stringent on all their barcode requirements. It became mandatory to have a GS1 barcode that is used to create an Amazon-special barcode called an FNSKU label in Seller Central.
FBA or Merchant?
One of the choices that you will have is to sign up to have your shipping fulfilled by Amazon or fulfilled by your own shipper. Of course you are here because you are interested in setting up an FBA business and that's a good choice.
Let me tell you why:
Algorithmically speaking, Amazon's search engine favors those listings that are fulfilled by Amazon and will prioritize those sellers above all others (because they get to charge juicy shipping and handling fees).
Session 3: All about Amazon: Week 3 (of 4)
Finding Keywords Using Amazon
Use the auto-fill in on Amazon Search bar.
Type in the niche main keyword.
Then record what Amazon suggests for you.
Finding Keywords Using 6 Tools
Merchant Words (20min)
Sophie goes to merchantwords.com and views the estimated search volume for tea, noting that weight loss tea is searched more often than tea itself.
She makes it clear that you shouldn't depend on the exact figures, but rather incorporate all the terms to your listing by using a CSV file so you have a record.
LSI Graph (23min)
This tool shows the google search volume of related keywords to your queries.
Sophie uses it to see if there's any keywords that are showing up on Google that show buyers' intent. She spends literally less than 30 seconds on this tool so it is not very important in her process.
Keyword Inspector (26min)
-Using the Reverse ASIN Search Function, Sophie shows that you can compare your listing to the high ranking listings, spying on their tactics, and potentially steal some of their traffic.
Google Keyword Planning Tool (28min)
-Using this tool, you can look at different niche ads that have been running and how much they have been spending to push them into the marketplace.
Similar Web (29min)
-This online program enables you to see what your competitors are doing and for how long them have been running with their tactics.
Sophie notes that this tool works well to see what's working and what isn't because if a brand keeps running a given ad set, you know that they are seeing positive results, so then you'd better look into mimicking their strategy.
Composing Your Listing:
Sophie goes through how to write the title, bullets and product description.
She recommends that the Title not only be optimized for the amazon search engine,
but also be readable so that prospects are attracted to it.
Keyword List Cleaner (37min)
SEOBook offers a helpful tool called Keyword List Cleaner.
This tool removes duplicate keywords
Not having duplicate keywords is important when constructing your amazon listing for two reasons:
- Sophie warns about being flagged by Amazon for having too many of the same key terms. While it is technically an amazon policy violation, they do not prosecute all instances, only the super spammy ones.
- If you have duplicate words taking up the limited space, you can't use that space to put other keywords.
To understand how to use your keywords more effectively, read about Amazon's recommendations here.
According to Sophie, this is a "dry analytical process" of optimizing the key terms.
But on the bright side, she does say that Amazon PPC is a lot simpler to use than Facebook PPC because it is already structured into having only two main dials to adjust:
- Which Words
- How Much Per Click (for each term)
Amazon Launch Strategy:
Sophie suggests beginning your launch using Amazon's auto campaign to
- Get Initial Sales
- Buy Data on which to base your manual campaign
You'll optimize the manual campaign to get the most out of your highest converting keywords while filtering out the duds.
She also shares a recommended budget to begin your auto campaign with to get the most out of your listing's launch period.
Manual Campaign Optimization:
Broad => Phrase => Exact
- Broad, Phrase, and Exact
- Impressions (the number of times your ad is seen) (Amazon doesn't charge for impressions, only for clicks)
- Clicks (the number of times your ad is clicked)
- CPC (stands for Cost-Per-Click, what you pay for each click)
- ACoS (stands for Advertising Cost of Sales)
Additional PPC Resources:
- Jungle Scout Tutorial
- Brian Johnson - Amazon PPC
- Sellics (see youtube tutorials)
Sophie ends the session by doing a quick walkthrough of how to set up your initial auto campaign in the promotional section of seller central.
Session 4: All about Amazon: Week 4 (of 4)
When she made this course, Amazon had recently updated the way the reviews can be verified, (ie. they successfully stuffed a lot of the review groups that sellers would use to jump start their products).
Sophie has a perspective on reviews that differs from most other course makers.
Price during Launch:
Sophie sells her product at full price during launch and uses FB ads to promote the benefits of her product (not a discount on the product).
Another way to promote your product is to share it with bloggers who will write an article including your item.
Sophie shares her exact strategies, from blog writing service providers to a few different tactics to using Google to find them at a lower cost.
Amazon lightning deals have changed a lot in the past few years.
Sophe shares a story when her lightning deal enabled her to sell 55k worth of product in the 2 hour duration of the lightning deal.
That was then.
Now these super-fast sales are a lot better for Amazon than for the seller, says Sophie.
Now you have to pay for the promotion.
And you pay Amazon's fees at your full product price even while selling your product at your discounted price.
At the end of the session, Sophie glosses over going international as well as developing sales funnels.
Module 5 - My Primary Takeaways
My biggest takeaway is Sophie's long term philosophy when it comes to selling on Amazon.
Her philosophy is unique because,
rather than scrapping with sellers for the bottom of the barrel sales (using Kevin David's FBA Ninja strategies for instance),
she takes it on herself to develop brands of products that sell because they stand apart from the competition because they have particular benefits that appeal to a specific group of people.
Because of the rare appeal of those products to that target audience, she can command a premium price, enabling her to obtain higher profit margins.
Her discerning perspective is evident in this fifth module especially when she reveals her take on product reviews.
Many sellers are concerned about getting reviews and rightfully so, but Sophie seems less concerned... why?
Because she has done her homework on her target audience.
She knows that when persons from that specific group of people see her product offering and buy it, many will appreciate it and want to give back in the form of a positive review.
OVERALL IMPRESSION OF MODULE 5
In this module, Sophie covers a lot of the foundational, boots-on-the-ground elements of running a business on Amazon. Her experience on Amazon is clearly evident through the details she provides as well as the ease of which she switches topics. Excellent!