Why is Amazon so crucial for product marketers versus marketing just for their own website? How do you make a listing stand out on Amazon? What are things to avoid doing on Amazon? How does Amazon Advertising actually work? Tim Leary has helped many Harvest Growth clients quickly and profitably grow their Amazon sales. We interview Amazon expert, Tim Leary, today so that you can learn from his expertise!
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
The ins-and-outs of how Amazon marketing actually works
The importance of Amazon for product marketers
Common mistakes to avoid that people make when creating listings on Amazon
And so much more!
If you’re looking to start working alongside an Amazon expert to launch your product to success, reach out to Tim Leary at email@example.com.
All About Amazon Advertising Full Podcast Transcript
Interviewer: If you're a product marketer, you know you need to be on Amazon and you need to do it right. In today's interview, I speak with an Amazon expert, they will walk you through in simple terms, how to be successful on Amazon.
Welcome to another episode of the harvest growth podcast focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their products or service businesses. Today, I'm really excited to have with us our guest and good friend, Tim Leary. Tim owns an agency that helps out consumer product marketers perform better on Amazon. This is a big topic that we get questions all the time and more often than not, what we do is I give Tim a quick call and he helps them.
He helps a lot of our clients to grow quickly and profitably on Amazon. We're going to talk about how to do Amazon right. Why Amazon so important? To really get into the meat of it soon in this interview. First, I want to finish out this introduction and chat with Tim again, welcome to the show, Tim, can you give us a little bit of your background?
Tim Leary: Sure. Thanks for being here. I have always been a sales and marketing person, I was classically trained in the venture capital world in Silicon Valley. during my suit days, you know, was active in a lot of different companies. In 2010, we sold our last company that I was with, and I was looking around for something to do and Amazon was starting to come on really strong so I started on Amazon in late 2011. With my own products, my own stores, my own heartaches, there were no tools back then, there were no mastermind groups, there was no anything, you just had to go figure it out yourself. A bunch of us did and it was painful, but it was also very interesting.
Then that morphed into the next 10 years of having a platform that's growing exponentially and sellers doing really well both on and off and that has been my focus for the last 10 years was e-commerce, in general, specializing in Amazon.
Interviewer: It's such a unique skill set or technology really. As many of our listeners know, we specialize in direct response television and directing consumer sales on Facebook, Instagram, and other digital marketing means and we dabble in Amazon, so we can give general advice, but it's so specific on really the techniques to use on Amazon. That's why we call you, Tim, frankly--
Interviewer: [crosstalks] because it's so different. I'd love to talk about before we dive into some of those specifics and what they are, do you have some examples you can share of how you've been able to help both some of your own products, but also client products over the years to be successful.
Tim: Sure. Success has a blueprint and so there's a blueprint quickly that we could go over and we can expand on it, but it's not magic and it's not blackhat anymore. It used to be, there used to be all the Dark Arts, of doing phony reviews and all that, fortunately, Amazon has cleaned a lot of that up. The main thing to be successful on these is that first the category has to have some sellers and people come to me sometimes and they say, "Well, I have something that's not listed on Amazon." I say, "Well, that's going to be hard because no one's looking for it."
When I look at a product or a category, I look to make sure that there's a few sellers that are at least selling for me at least $10,000 a month, and it may be lower for someone else, to make sure there's enough money in the category to where it's worth the time. Then I go and I look at what the reviews counts are to see what the competition is, you know what I mean? If everybody on the page has 22,000 reviews, then you getting on that page is going to be hard no matter how much you like it.
Then there are a couple of other things, but the main thing at the end of it all, and this has to be checked offices, what's your differentiation? What's your hook? What's your wizgat? What's so good about that? If you have all those three things together, then you have a probability for success. With that said, our first store, we did a home product store, and my partner called me up and he wanted to do this knitting bag and obviously, it's not my world, and he says, trust me, my wife buys all this and whatever.
As we launched that product, I was reading-- I probably read 500 reviews and all these reviews were the zipper is terrible and it breaks and this and that and all we did really is look at that and put a number seven zipper on it instead of a number five, that made it easier to open and reinforce with double stitching and it didn't take long for us to be selling more than 100 a day on that, it was incredible.
That was not rocket science, that was listening to the customers telling you literally in the reviews of what they wanted. That's part of the success story, we'll go into how to write a listing and what stands out and things like that, but at the end of it off Amazon, it's your product, and what's the differentiation? We have a baby monitor right now in a plush toy that sells out as soon as it comes in, it's not a cheap product, it's $150. When that cat-- and it's a mobile product that can be used for the home, but when we started with that product three or four years ago, there wasn't a big market for the mobile, we thought it was going to grow.
We looked at a dual position, if you could take this in the car, do it at home, do it in grandma's, do it anywhere you are, that was the book, and people were willing to pay extra for that. We'd have a speaker system for the hearing impaired and that one continues to crush it but it's got a real pain point it's got a real why of why you want this and it was easy to differentiate.
As you're looking at your own products, all of us fall in love with our dolphin, right? We all fall in love with our own products and magically, somehow you need to separate from that, go look at the facts, and see what the opportunity is. If you have those in place, most likely you're going to be successful if you know the rest of Amazon. The blueprint really doesn't change, whether it's a $10 product or a $500 product, and you have to have those things in place.
Interviewer: I get the question a lot because a lot of clients that we deal with are launching a brand new product, that's what we really specialize in is product launches and working with inventors. The question they ask is, so I get Amazon for if I'm developing an accessory that already exists like phone cases, that there's a gazillion of on Amazon or whatever. They get it for comparative products but how does Amazon work is the question we get for something that's brand new. There's no apparent audience for it, because people aren't necessarily looking for it, it's not a product that already exists.
They ask, so why do I need to think about that? If I've got my website going, and I'm driving traffic there from TV or from the web and of course you and I have discussed this at length, and we see the benefits of Amazon, but I'd love to answer this for our audience sake of why still is Amazon important, even if it's not, in your mind, at least your primary channel for selling your product?
Tim: There's two answers to that. One is positioning 101 is that every product in the world is a complement or substitute for something. You go back to the original horseless carriage. They didn't know what to do with a car so they called it a horseless carriage. Right, it’s in those without a horse. I don't know what that is but okay, at least now I get it.
The other is that you need Amazon for social proof because the way shoppers shop now, they're looking for touchpoints. They're going to see your website, maybe there's reviews on there, maybe they're not, maybe they've heard of you, they don't know whether the money-back guarantee is going to be good or not so what are they do? They go to Amazon, they see you there, even if there's no reviews, they also know that they could buy that in complete safety. There were no issues with that product on the back at all.
I have some clients really that we do more on the off side of it and Amazon is strictly there as a convenience to their brands so people can buy an Amazon if they want to, their main source is us. People breathe a sigh of relief when they get the Amazon, especially if they can see a few good reviews because now you're real.
Going back to the original question, so while there's nothing quite like this on there, there's probably something that's similar, right? There's something, I can't think of an example right now, but there's probably a category that's similar to that where you could find a keyword or a keyword phrase on the bigger category where people see it, and they say, "Wow, okay, that's cool." You tapped into the traffic on the other side of this because it's hard to believe it's not related to something. Do you know what I mean?
Interviewer: Yes, very true.
Tim: I could give an example right now. It's for a client that's really pretty visible, but I don't want to do that. There was not too much like this out there, but the category around it was there. People who would buy this product over here would qualify to buy this one as well. It's the same avatar. It's the same needs. Everything has a slightly different look on it.
Interviewer: We're finding too that it's-- You mentioned Amazon as a destination. Sometimes it's not your primary, maybe a secondary destination, but it's one we need to consider. What we find is, you've got a TV campaign running on national TV or a Facebook, an Instagram campaign, and again, it's driving traffic. Oftentimes, you're not mentioning Amazon, you're not pushing people there, but for heavy Amazon shoppers, which that percentage of the population is growing, that's where they go first because of proof of concept, social proof as you talked about.
In other means, just being able to trust that I can return it, ease of purchasing, or it's just where their mind goes for shopping. That's one reason it's definitely important to be there. It's just realizing if some people are going to-- they see your ad somewhere. You're driving traffic. They may not even go to your website. If they go to Amazon and search for it, something's going to pop up. It's going to be a competitor that might be something not as good or very different than your product, but it may fill a need in consumers' minds like, "Hey, I do. That is a problem I have. I want to get it solved." Then they find something else on Amazon. That's another important reason to make sure you do it right on Amazon so that you're found when they look for you.
Tim: Yes, you're right. There's a sidebar to that, and there's no way to really control this. When you look down the Amazon page, after a few sales, you start to get Frequently Bought Together. Amazon is looking for what the complements and substitutes are for your product. With a few sales and some feedback, now you're a good dog because Amazon knows you're taking care of business. They start pairing you with some of these Frequently Bought Togethers. Those could be a 20% or 30% sales increase on days, and you look and say, "I have no idea where this volume just came from." That's where it comes from.
Interviewer: Right. Let's give some advice then to product marketers that may be listening if they're setting up their first Amazon listing or improving one that's been around for a while but just needs to get better results. What advice do you give or what changes do you make when you optimize a listing, a storefront on Amazon?
Tim: I treat Amazon like a crime scene. It's forensics. There are tools that you will need. They're mostly paid tools where you can go and they aren't terribly expensive, 100 bucks a month for a couple. What I look for is, assuming that I had the success blueprint that I'm going to list this product, it's got the volume, it's got room for-- only another couple of sellers or few sellers that come in who are smart-- If that's there, then the first thing I'm looking at is, what are the top keywords that I am going to use to build this listing?
I'm specifically looking for longer-tail keywords. I can give you an example that maybe the main keyword is audio speaker. That's a tough keyword. There's a lot of searches on it, but it's also very broad. At some point, you would like to be ranked for that. When you look for a phrase that has audio speaker for the hearing impaired, that's got 1,500 searches which is pretty good, I would find four or five or 10 of those that are longer-tail that I know that have maybe 8,000 to 10,000 searches a month as approximate. You use these tools and it's not as if Amazon is giving up exactly, but it's a data point.
There's the repository of keywords that we want to rank for, so you end up building them into the title and the rest of the description, and then we can get the ads later and also use them. The next thing once I could find those hooks, I look for what I call a title arbitrage. This is hard to explain. I look for phrases that have a fair amount of exact search that other sellers aren't using the exact three or four words in the title. I could look down on the page, and this happens to a product that is no longer--
It was a hair growth product. When I was looking at this product, I kept seeing Vitalize Hair Growth with about 4,000 or 5,000 searches. It wasn't trademarked, and it wasn't branded. I looked on the page, and there was plenty of room on the page. Where Vitalize came from, it was a shortened version of the brand Revitalize, but it wasn't trademarked. We called their attorney and said, "Can we use this?" They said, "Yes." We used that as the main keyword and built the rest of the listing around that. We got page one on that for those searches in about 48 hours.
That's just free. It doesn't happen all the time, but when you're looking for something like that, those things appear. The next thing I jump to the images is probably-- The number one reason why you get a click is your main image. It's getting harder and harder to do that. The Terms of Service are relatively strict. You've got to have a plain white background. You can't have any text in there. You can look at examples where even Amazon breaks it, but you got to be careful. Nothing's going to happen if you go off Terms of Service there, other than the picture may get deleted but you want to think about it.
You want to have the best picture that you can and then you use all the pictures on the side. In a perfect world, you have, say, five or now six bullet points that you could use. You want your main benefits to line up with those graphics, so you literally have in a perfect world this graphic storyboard. If it's long-lasting, durable, whatever, and you got a picture of something that's proving that or whatever, you want to get these in sync going down. You're really not talking features, and that's where a lot of sellers they go into the bits and bites and the features, but they're not going into what's so good about that.
The baby monitor is a good example of this. Yes, it's a plush baby monitor, it's got all the text in there, but the reason why it sells is that because you can use it anywhere you are. You can use it in a hotel, in the backyard with grandma, in the car, at home, or whatever. Those pictures and the videos we have on the page are all mirroring those benefits and that type of stuff. Yes, okay it's got a fisheye lens and all that kind of stuff. That's great. At the end of the day, people want to see, "I could use it anywhere. I could buy it for the car. If I don't use it in the car, I could do this or whatever."
That's what you want out of that.
Then you have your product description. There's a thing called A+ Content if your brand is registered, meaning that your trademark gets registered. Pretty handy. You could do some extra graphics, but for the most part, I've got to tell you, you're getting the sale of the first kinesthetic feel for the title in their first image, and whether you've nailed their pain point or with a problem they want to solve. When I was in the venture capital world in a brand new suit, the senior partner would come up and say, "Well, we've got vitamins, we've got aspirin, and we've got heroin. We fund heroin".
A bad example, but we fund the pain point. We fund what is going to solve the problem. That's what you're looking for on a listing. To do that, take some thought because you have 200 characters, including spaces on the title. You have some restrictions on the bullets and whatever. You've got to think about every single word that you're using and get them into the right part, especially the title because the first 70 characters are unmobile. You don't want to ramble anything. You want to get that-- Sometimes I stare at this stuff for hours. I need a brand, I need a keyword, I need a benefit, and I need to do that in 70 characters. [chuckles]
Interviewer: I think one of the pieces of advice I give, sometimes we've got some unfunded inventors that come to us and just are really on a shoestring budget and need to work on their own. My advice to them is always look at the competition to see what they're doing. We don't want to copy. I will use the phrases, say learn from an old boss and borrow with pride, so we want to learn from that. These tools that you talked about are so valuable to have, but if you have one listing, you're just getting started off, one simple way is to look at see what is the competition doing, and you can tell. As you spend more time on Amazon, you can see which ones are working well, know what they're doing, et cetera.
Once you really want to grow your business, then these tools become very necessary. I like how you talked about it, you've got to optimize this listing. Once they've seen that image, the keywords, they need to resonate with people, but there's that whole behind-the-scenes piece that your listing's never going to be seen unless you do that right. That's the upfront piece of like, the SEO side of making sure that it rises to the top, it gets reviews, there's a whole process that you know so well that helps the listing show up when people look for it.
Tim: Yes. If you get the keywords right and really think about it, ultimately you'll start to have some success. Again, it goes back to the blueprint of-- Amazon unlike Google and some of the others, if you're selling well, it's hard to pry a competitor off that page. It just is. Amazon knows that they have this algorithm, and I can never explain it really, but it's a probability of success for a sale.
Once that gets to a certain point, that's why when you go to Google, and you type in a certain keyword in the first Amazon listing is one of the best sellers, Amazon is paying for that on Google AdWords. As a seller, I get that for free, and that's heaven. Google whatever you believe in. As I'm looking to compete with that, I better find an opportunity to worm my way in there, either with some differentiation to be able to get into a spot like that.
Interviewer: Sure. We've talked about the organic side, the free stuff relatively, other than some tools, et cetera here, but there's the other side of Amazon that really helps drive or accelerate this level of success, which is Amazon advertising. I'd love to hear some advice on-- now that you've got your listing set up, you've got great photos, you've got keywords that are plugged in there and starting to rank a little bit within those areas, you need to shop in. How does Amazon advertising come into play? Why is it important? How do you do it right?
Tim: Excellent questions. It's a rodeo on a good day. The good news about Amazon ads is that you don't have to, for the most part, do any copywriting, you don't have to agonize over anything. You basically just set it up, but the ads are critical on any stage, especially a beginning stage, to get Amazon to index the page so it thoroughly understands where to put you.
There are many types of ads on there. For those that aren't brand registered, what you have is what they call an automatic campaign and then a manual campaign. The auto campaign is something where you just literally go in there, click your product, click your budget, boom, boom, boom, it goes. Amazon figures out for you where they're going to show it. This is critical to do on any product. I have five-year-old, now seven-year-old campaigns, that I'm still doing the auto one because I go there weekly. I see what Amazon is now interpreting what this page is all about because you're updating the pages all the way through, nothing's static. You start here, and literally a week later with new information, you're switching some things around in the lab.
The auto campaigns help Amazon actually figure out where to put your product, and then you can look at the search results of where the impressions are. Look at the keywords are converting, and I can pull the converting keywords out of there that have a proven sale and now get them into a manual campaign and target those keywords because they're known to convert. Any bad keywords in there that if I get a lot of spends on like a baby monitor, I have turned off because there's so many different types of baby monitors even though I could spend $100 a day on that keyword and not get any sales. You would turn that off, but you're taking a look at mobile baby monitor, car baby monitor, those things like that and you're putting those into other campaigns.
When you go into the manual and you shut those off, Amazon goes, "Okay, I can't do that anymore. So I'm going to go find some new stuff," and it's literally rinse and repeat, to be able to do that. As your listing grows, and you get a few reviews, and you've got some decent social proof, now you have a couple of the paid tools where you could take your product ID, your ASIN number, and plug it into one of these tools.
You could see, for the most part, where you rank organically for some of these keywords. What we do is I will look at something that if we've done a good job on the listing and driving some outside traffic to it, or whatever, I take a look at, what keywords are saying are 20 slots out? 10 slots out, or whatever? I look at those, and I would grab three or four of those, then I would do a specific campaign for those keywords, and up the bids a little bit to spend some money to get some sales on those, and then consequently overtime, rank for those keywords.
Once your rank for those keywords up, then it's rinse and repeat, go and look for the next batch, and the next batch, and the next batch, and you're picking off all these longtail keywords that ultimately are all combined to get you on the page where all the big dog keywords that may be out of reach because there's too many sellers. That's really the strategy in a nutshell.
There's a lot of formats now that really work. Once you're brand registered, which Amazon wants you to be, you have access to the headline sponsored ads at the top of the page. Those convert really well. You need at least three products to be able to do those, but people click on those and a lot of new to brand people click on those.
The video ads are amazing. They just are. You don't have to spend a whole lot of time with a professional shoot, you could use an animated video or something, but if you've got something that's under 45 seconds, that's specific on what the product is in a pain point, they merchandise really well. Even though the video ad may not be converting, you will inevitably see your sales go up over time because the video ads in the middle of page is gorgeous.
Your listing may be already on that page, so what do they see? They come through the page, they see you. Sometimes even you get the triple whammy, you see a headline ad, you see an organic list and you see a video ad. We got door number one, door number two, and door number three to get a sale and where are your competitors? Smart ones are right there with you, most of them are sleeping. You don't have to have huge budgets.
Unlike Amazon or Facebook, I have budgets now doing-- if I could spend $1,000 bucks a day I would. I have $100 a day on there for a client and it's converting like crazy, and I can't get that spend up past $40 or $50. Amazon just doesn't take the money if it doesn't think there's going to be a viable impression for the sale. It's a complete reverse of other platforms.
Interviewer: Yes, very true. I think too one big difference that I've seen in working with you over the years is once you get that paid effort to turn the corner and really boost your organic ranking, your organic presence, you don't need, at least not in the same way, the paid Amazon advertising paid ads. Your organic sales really start to take over. As you talked about, now you switch gears, you focus on other keywords. There's always something to do, and Amazon advertising paid ads can always help to grow your business, but unlike other platforms, it is establishing a base that will exist even without the paid ads. Keep them going generally speaking to grow, but it creates this long-term business, it's really viable just based on your presence on the site.
Tim: Yes. I can't conceive of ever really turning off the paid ads because no matter what Amazon says, I always think there's a link. I really do. I think somewhere, some robot in the back is going, "Okay, he's got no ads. We're going to re-- decrease the love." I could be just making that up, but there's also what the term we use, A cost, the average cost of sale, and that's where it can get-- You have to look at the whole picture. In other words, you have to understand like off Amazon, what your cost per acquisition is and things like that so you're profitable and the launch days, the first 150 days or so that's out the window and just forget about it. I'm here spending some money, whatever your budget is, 200 a month, 500 a month, or whatever you can afford safely, so you're not blowing up the account to be able to do that. Then after that time, when it's enough seasoning we can start to pull that A cost in by doing some specific things. You need to be able to do that. If you opened up a retail shop, you're going to have to spend something, put a sign outside for the cars and people walking by to be able to do that. That's just the reality of the business. Again, it doesn't have to be huge, but it has to be something and Amazon is-- wants your ad money.
They keep coming up with ideas and solutions. When I look at the A cost and say my costs, I like for most of the products I do, if it's under 25%, I'm fine. Under 20 is good. They have another thing called return on ad spend so when I see a three, four or five or six ROAS on there, we're really profitable. Then, even though if it creeps up a little bit, I have to take the total sale. In other words we may see that we only got-- I'm making up numbers here, but we only got maybe 30 sales on the ad.
Now that A cost is like over 30%, which is higher, but I could take a look at the total organic sales during that same time period and put them in there. Because they're appearing on the same page. Now, all of a sudden the true ACos may be 10 or 11%, and that's where a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck. Well, I can't spend 40%, well you're not, right? Because people see the ad and then they see your listing on the page and you're getting the sale. You have to look at the whole picture.
Interviewer: For sure. All great advice. Tim, is there any question I didn't ask that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Tim: I'm trying to think. Amazon is a rodeo on a good day and it's well worth the ride, but if you've seen these commercials, where there are zombies and monsters in the backseat and somebody hands them the Snickers bar, and all of a sudden they're back to normal, that's what Amazon is. As far as Amazon support, it can be opening up cases and getting support is available. It's sometimes not as easy as we would like and that's where it helps to know somebody and there's plenty of Facebook groups that are free where you could go in and find any one of the FBA sellers.
It's good to surround yourself with some people that know more than you do. Where you could ask a question, post a question, because generally all of us have been through it at some point, that type of stuff. That was it. The only other comment is that when it works and most of the time, it does, if you pay attention, there's nothing like waking up and getting an inventory replenish alert.
Interviewer: Yes. For sure. It's selling. The interesting thing is when it starts selling it gets very consistent. You mentioned earlier on, and I hear this all the time when I talk to Amazon experts or people that are really in the business, it's always the daily sale. That we've got 250 sales a day or a hundred sales a day and the reason that's huge is I think because it's not like you sell a hundred units in one day and then nothing. When you get to that level on Amazon, you've got a system that's working and that means that's going to continue.
Generally speaking, if you're selling a hundred units today, you're going to sell a hundred units tomorrow and go on and on, it's a rate. It's a sales rate. You work to increase it and make it even better and profitable, it is a long-term profitable solution for many businesses.
Tim: Yes, it is. They're also, the businesses are, for entrepreneurs out there, they're very sellable. In the transparency, there's tools that you could get for not a lot of money that track all your statistics and profit and loss and everything, and they're indisputable. When we sold our home goods store, there was no question that the numbers were real. I could send them, we send them numbers from our Shopify site and we had to cross-reference that with bank deposits and all that stuff to verify they're real, but you're getting something from Amazon. Yes, no, right. This is the sales, this is what we pay it out. Here's what it is. That's a really good asset to have.
Interviewer: Well, this is, I think, great advice. I'm really going to encourage our audience to listen to this probably a couple of times, frankly. Because I think you, in a nutshell on your 20 or 30 minutes really described the important aspects that people need to know whether they're just starting out on Amazon or whether they've got a store they want to succeed better. I think you've shown us a good way where Amazon can be easy to start to do a listing it's relatively easy.
The difficulty comes, A keeping your listing live and B making it work. Making it truly grow to its potential. We've had a lot of people that we've brought to you where, they may be successful, it's working, but how do you make it work better and that's where an expert like you can really be helpful too.
Tim: It's also business management. We sit down and say, okay, where do you want to be a year from now? That's my venture capital business. How are you going to fund it? What's the plan? What's the product plan? What is it? If there is a plan, then you can move toward that.
Interviewer: I do encourage our audience, many of our clients, when I tell them directly, if you're thinking Amazon reach out to Tim, he's been kind enough for listeners of our podcast to give his email address. We'll put it in the show notes as well, but it's firstname.lastname@example.org. If you shoot him an email and have a simple question, he can help you out or set up a call if you're looking to get some help with your business to get it either launched on Amazon or really