Episode 19 | Posted on

Maximize Sales with Amazon Marketing with Shaahin Cheyene

The world of eCommerce is more popular than ever and Amazon is at the top of the charts. Shaahin Cheyene is an expert in Amazon marketing, and he shares the details on how to create a thriving business by selling on Amazon. From finding the right products to creating a brand and generating reviews, we cover the crucial steps that will help you scale your business or create side income. We discuss everything you need to sell without having to pack, ship, or provide extra service.

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Marketing Speak! I’m your host, Stephan Spencer. Today, I have Shaahin Cheyene on the episode and you may have already heard from Shaahin if you listened to my other podcast, The Optimized Geek. We talked about brain hacking, bio-hacking, and just optimizing performance. Now, in this episode, on this podcast, on Marketing Speak, we’re going to talk about Amazon marketing—how to drive significant sales for your products through Amazon. We’ll talk about FBA or Fulfillment by Amazon. We’ll talk about how to optimize product listings on Amazon, how to increase reviews, and all sorts of stuff. But first, let me tell you a bit about Shaahin, if you haven’t already heard of him or you haven’t heard him speak on my previous episode on The Optimized Geek. Shaahin is the CEO and chairman of Accelerated Intelligence, which is a brain nutrition startup. He is the inventor of Herbal Ecstacy, a smart drug that he invented back in his teens. He’s an award-winning filmmaker. He had produced a documentary about the Aztecs and he had a production company. He’s a brain hacker, a bio hacker, a serial entrepreneur, and just an all-around good guy so it’s great to have you again on another episode with me, Shaahin. Thanks for joining us!

Hi Stephan! It’s great to be here!

It’s awesome to have you. So, let’s talk about Amazon and how did you even get into the Amazon space because you had all this nootropics and bio-hacking the business and yet you saw a huge opportunity to leverage Amazon.com. How did that evolve and what has that turned into for you?

Okay, great. So, you know I come from a product space. Initially, I’m a product developer, an inventor, and a formulator. Mostly in health wellness and I started my first company when I was 16. By the time I was 18, we had over 200 employees, offices in 30 countries, and our products generating over $350 million dollars a year in revenue. I’m sure, as you know, usually there is one area that is hotter than all the other areas and when I started, there really was no heavy activity in the internet. So, if you want to sell a product, you really had to be in brick and mortar. Initially, my products sold on retail stores and brick and mortar and we were in GNC, Walmart, Urban Outfitters, and even Tower Records and those kinds of stores. Of course, the internet grew and developed in the mid to late 90’s for retail. A channel opened up called eBay, which I’m sure you guys are all intimately familiar with and all of a sudden, everything gravitated over to that channel. It was the hot business so if you wanted to sell something, in addition to having on your own website and whatnot, you had to be on eBay. Then some years later, things shifted and eBay sadly became a dying channel. Things sort of moved back, and I know you’re one of, if not, the leading experts on SEO. Things shifted to, hey, let’s have everything on our own sites and we’re going to dominate and manipulate Google in a way where we’re going to get all the traffic to our sites. Amazon was there—sort of this book seller and they sold some other things but there was really no gravity moving towards it. Sometime in, I would say, the last 6-7 years, things started to change. Amazon changed its business model. They opened up a lot to sellers so anybody could start selling on Amazon as opposed to just businesses of book sellers. What happened there was, there was an influx of people who were selling on eBay, who were selling on all these other channels who were saying “Hey, this is a really cheap way to get traffic—not only a cheap way to get traffic—but a very effective way because the trust element is there with Amazon, people recognized the name, people knew them, and that’s where I get my books. It’s a very easy way to transact, plus when Amazon started their FBA arena—their FBA offering, which basically means that they’ll pick, pack and ship it for you— and you have to do nothing. You ship it once to Amazon at that steeply discounted rate, they’re going to take care of all the fulfillment for you, which is something eBay never did. It changed the game. Now, you have hundreds of thousands or millions of sellers gravitating towards Amazon and making offers on products and in a way that had never been done before so all the gravity moved from eBay and some of the other little channels over to Amazon’s. About, I would say, 5 or 6 years ago, we noticed this happening and we decided that was going to be the biggest channel so we started putting our products online, started thinking about how do we optimize sales, and that’s how we came to, basically, be where we’re at. Now, we have close to 200 different SKU’s that we offer on Amazon, plus we have our service company where we take products and we accelerate them and get them top page and best-seller on Amazon.

You have hundreds of thousands or millions of sellers gravitating towards Amazon and making offers on products and in a way that had never been done before.

Great! See, you have a company now that helps other companies get to the top of the Amazon food chain and the best seller rank or the BSR, which we’ll talk about BSR a little bit here too. And to get high rankings within Amazon’s search results and just optimize the whole process because you’ve gotten so good at it yourselves that you wanted to share that with other companies? Do you charge on a performance basis or do you charge on a flat-fee basis? How does that work?

At the moment, we actually have way more interest in our service than we have the bandwidth to handle, sadly. We generally charge a fee. We are probably the most expensive out there and I’d say, we’re probably in the top 3% of service providers doing what we do on Amazon. We usually handle mid-sized businesses or startups that have passed their first round of funding that are probably past the seed ground of funding and we do everything from helping them brand and position their products on Amazon, which is very different if you are creating a product to sell and rank on Amazon. It’s very different than if you’re creating a product to sell and rank on brick and mortar. Two totally different things. Even I would say, if you’re creating a product because you wanted to rank on Google and if you want it to rank on Amazon—very different, so we consult from conceptualization all the way up until, “Okay, so my product is a best-seller. I’m selling a thousand units today.” We have clients that sell thousands of units of just one SKU a day and so, how can I get that to ten thousand a day or how we can increase that, and then beyond that, how do we take those people who have purchased products and how do we capitalize on those customers? Because, of course, the big downside of Amazon, unlike selling on your own website, or eBay, or one of those sites, is that with Amazon, those are really not your customers—those are Amazon’s customers and so what we had developed systems to do is how to encourage those customers to come back to us and to our clients and to become part of our tribe and part of our community of products, as opposed to solely being Amazon customers. I know Amazon is not going to like me saying that because they spend a lot of money marketing and acquiring those customers and they want to own them that’s why they don’t give you their emails.

Great. See you need to build that list, even though these folks are Amazon customers, they need to be on your list as well so what would be some strategies to get folks buying the product from you to now, being on your email list? Or, perhaps they haven’t even decided to buy your product yet and you want them on your email list?

You know, that’s an excellent question. There is a lot of different strategies. We’ve got some proprietary techniques that we use, but of course, I can’t go over on the podcast what we do for our clients but some very simple things that you can do, is include a letter, or a note, or a postcard in what the product that you sell and offer them an extended warranty, for example. An extended warranty is great because (A) you’re offering an added level of service to the client and you can do this on anything. We do it on supplements, we do it on home goods, but you can even do it on things like DVD’s, or books, or anything like that. Offer money-back guarantee which, first and foremost on Amazon, everything has a money-back guarantee if you like it or not, so no matter what you do, Amazon will take anything back in 30 days for any reason, even if the policy stated is different. If the customer calls Amazon and says, “Hey, I’m unhappy with this!” Amazon’s default is, “We’re very sorry, sir, here’s your money,” and sometimes they even let them keep the product. That is not an uncommon thing so if you know that that’s going to happen, you might as well help promote it and try to capture that customer in the meanwhile so, we put a note there, for example, saying, “Hey, register your warranty or your money-back guarantee and we’re going to extend the 30-day warranty to 90 days,” and what we do is, once we tell them to do that, people will register and now you have their email and you can put it through your sales funnel and offer them other things. Contact them a week later and say, “Hey, thanks so much for registering your warranty. Because you’re such a good dude and you did that, get half-off on your next order,” and this helps our clients propel sales and have increased their sales because the more you sell, the higher in the ranking you’ll get on Amazon and at the same time, your capturing these customers and you’re creating a dialogue with them and a conversation and so you’re engaging, which is, I’m sure you know, is very important to traditional marketing but even more important to Amazon because all they’re interacting with is Amazon, they don’t know you or your brand. You become a commodity and as we all know, commodities are very easily replaceable online but if you become a brand and you have brand loyalty and you have engagement—and that’s one of the areas that we focus on with our clients—if you have that, now you’re in a position of power.

Yeah, definitely create your own brand if you don’t already have one and differentiate yourself but also, what do you think about somebody driving their customers that they’re acquiring through Amazon to their own platform—to their own e-commerce site? Is that a good approach or should you try and keep them buying on Amazon and writing reviews on your Amazon products?

So, there are two different thoughts to that. That’s a really good question.  The first thought is, “Yeah, we’re going to make more money,” Amazon, on the average, takes 25%, right? So, we’ve averaged hundreds and thousands of products we’ve done and on the average, including FBA, including all your costs, you get to keep about 75%. If you have a healthy margin, you get to keep about 75% but there are exceptions, if you have healthy food products, liquids, those kinds of things, the margins go down to way lower. On the average, we do a “Buy it for 5, sell it for 25”- type thing at retail and say, you’ve got 5x markup from cost to retail and you’ll usually keep about 75% of that. So, that’s really a good way to think about this. Moving forward from there, it’s really important that you have your fundamentals right and once you do, the answer to your question is, “yes.”

And so, let’s say somebody is not already selling on Amazon, would you recommend that person source some products out of China and get some trial samples then after it checks out, order a small quantity and have it shipped directly to Amazon on FBA setup and just try to iterate and improve and buildup their Amazon business or do you think that they’re a little in the game at this point to start seizing this opportunity?

Yes, so the answer to that question is, you know, there’s a lot of different ways to sell on Amazon. There’s guys who go to book sales, literally. They go to library church book sales, they buy truckloads of books and they put them on Amazon and they make some money. That’s one business. Some people even do arbitrage. They do the difference in price between what you can buy it for on sale at a local store and what it sells for on Amazon. For example, one guy found out, I was reading about him, this guy found out that the single packs of Tylenol at one of the big stores, Target, Walmart, or whatever, went on sale for $0.49 but on Amazon, they were selling it for $4.99 so he went to one of the stores, bought them for $0.49—bought a thousand of them and then sold them for $5.00 and you know, that was his business model and now he continues to do that. He just looks for those sales and special coupons and he buys that. To us, that’s a very slow way of making money, right? You can make a good living, you can probably make more than a lot of jobs. It’s not hard to make a couple hundred bucks a day doing that in pure profit. But it entails a lot of work and the bottleneck is your supply line so the final option is that you could go on Alibaba, source a few products, buy them in small quantities, sell them on Amazon, and you could sell them on other people’s listings. What this means is that, there are a lot of listings that are just generic listings and on those generic listings, anybody can come and list pretty much anything. So, you’ll go on the generic listings, you list anything and everything, and you can make a sale even though you don’t own the listing. The problem with that is, then that becomes again, sort of you’re commoditizing things or you’re selling things that are commoditized and you have no ownership of it so although, it could be easy for you to make 1-2-3- $400 a day, a lot of people do that, and it’s better than a regular job, it’s still not a sustained long-term model. What our clients do and what we encourage people to do when I mentor people to do is developing a brand and a product that really has value. Whether the value in that product is inherit and what you do is, you create your own brand, you create your own value proposition and you own that listing, we register you, with brand registry, which is something everybody should do, when you have a brand, you can register it with Amazon, under the brand registry, and that way, if anybody tries to sell under your listing a different product, you can go to Amazon and they’ll take them down pretty quickly. And so you develop your own brand, you do a private label brand—that’s very easy to do through Alibaba because there are tons of vendors here in the US who do it, which I often prefer to deal with domestic US-vendors if we can just because of lead times, even if we have to pay a little bit more and now, you own that listing and you own that brand and you can start thinking about different ways even outside of Amazon to sell that product. And so now, you’ve shifted from having a job to having a business. And that’s where you want to be if you’re doing Amazon.

Great, so a couple of distinctions for folks who are really not familiar with Amazon and how it works. With the generic product, you can be one of the sellers who’s competing to sell that product but only one of those sellers gets to control the buy button, right? That buy button is golden. If I am the one who is the seller that gets the sale, if somebody just clicks the buy button, then I’m going to get the vast majority of the sales whereas, if I’m number 2, somebody would have to find me in the list and choose me separately, so that’s an important distinction. There’s also this thing called BSR, which is best-seller rank, and that comes into play. There’s a whole algorithm for Amazon to figure out who should be the one in their buy box but what you’re suggestion also is that you have your own products and your own brand—and that’s a great tip to register with the brand registry. If you have your own brand, your own formulation of that product, whatever it is, and somebody comes along and tries to sell under that brand, they are going to get smacked by Amazon because you got that protection. So, anything else that we should mention about the BSR that are important ingredients?

Yeah, I think you called it really well. So, the three most important things, if we have to say it, in Amazon is going to be, well, I don’t know if it’s three, but I’ll tell you the most important things are going to be: First, the listing quality—your photos, your listing titles, your listing description, and what-not, and there’s a whole art to doing that and there are people who do that for a living. I used to learn to do it fairly easily. The second component of it are the reviews. Amazon is a business that’s based on social proof and its reviews. Even though I’ve been on this business for endless years and do this for customers on a regular basis, I still constantly look at reviews and oftentimes, the purchases that I make on eBay are strictly review-based. I just bought something for my two-year-old and I click on the listing, I look at the reviews, I click the buy button. Our lives are busy and we don’t have so much time and the easiest way is social proof. The third thing is sales and ranking and there are ways to optimize your sales and your rankings but with Amazon, it’s a bit of a catch-22 because to get that best-seller banner, which I’m sure you guys have seen “number one best-seller,” you’ve got to be selling more than everybody else in that specific category but in order to get up there, you got to have the sales and to get the sales you kind of have to be up there because the number one best-seller always sells multiples of what all the other ones under it sells and there in lies the art and that’s why people would retain a firm like us or you know, a professional SEO like yourself because there is a whole art in how that’s done and that’s something that we have perfected. To answer your question, if somebody wants to get involved, absolutely do anything! You’re absolutely right, Stephan, and I tell people this all the time: You can’t win if you don’t play. You know, you’re not going to win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket—although I’m big against not playing the lottery for anybody but with that said, when it comes to Amazon, try it. Open up a seller account—it doesn’t cost much—open a Fulfillment by Amazon account, pick something, and start selling it. It doesn’t matter if you do great with it, if you make money, or if you don’t make money with it, but the idea is, get in there and try to understand how it works. Get in there as a buyer, get in there as a seller, and really try to wrap your mind around their system and once you do that, then you can go into, “Okay, how am I going to optimize?”

You can’t win if you don’t play. Click To Tweet

So, how would somebody start sourcing their first product? You mentioned Alibaba. You mentioned the HKTDC. There are a lot of products on those sites to choose from with varying margins and varying levels of quality and perhaps, the product that they’re going to choose is oversaturated on Amazon and they don’t just stand a chance in breaking into all that noise. How would somebody who doesn’t really know the inner workings of all these “pick a good product to start”?

Okay, cool. That’s really easy so I think what you do is, you do a lot of research and there is a lot of great tools online for researching. One of them is Camel Camel Camel—just “camel” three times over—which is an online tool that helps you research historical prices on Amazon. There’s a bunch of other research tools that you can look at. The first thing is, finding a few products so you can narrow it down, maybe narrow it down to 4 or 5 and then research them. You research their seller ranking. Usually, a good thing to look for if that’s the way you want to go with it, a good thing to look for is something—and there are a lot of stuff on Amazon—products that have some demand for them but the listing quality is not great or the price might not be great.  What you want to do is you want to look for vulnerabilities, oftentimes, Chinese companies sell their own products, actually the manufacturer will sell it on Amazon but maybe, their command of English, is not that great, their brand isn’t that good, the reviews aren’t great. These are all areas that you can perfect and coming in with a great looking brand and a great looking product with a great looking listing that’s optimized and possibly adding extra value, which we encourage all our clients to do, which you can do by bundling. Sometimes, you know, there’s a product in China that only costs $0.50 that you can sell for $10 or $20. Everyone else is selling one for $20, maybe because they’re greedy. So, you make your own brand, you sell 4 for $20 and not only that, you’ll include a free carrying case, which caused you an extra $0.20. You’re now, all of a sudden, bringing value into the equation here, plus you’re optimizing your listing. You reach out to Amazon’s top reviewers. You do your research and you find the best reviewers and you contact them and you say, “Hey, would you like to review my product?” or “Can I send you a free copy of my product or a free sample of my product in exchange for your honest review?” and so you use that and other systems to build really strong reviews for your products and you can beat out these other companies because you’re beating them on value, you’re beating them on brand, and you’re beating them on product altogether.

So you mentioned bundling. Let’s say that, there’s a really popular product on Amazon and you want get in there but you don’t really have much differentiation, you’re a new player, and you don’t have a separate brand or anything like that. It’s the product and the brand that is just popular on its own and there are a lot of sellers out there but by bundling with something else that is a value-add or by bundling multiple of these things together so you might see there’s a lot of competition just for a one-off of that product but if you make a 5-pack of that thing and create a separate product for that, there would be potentially a lot less competition and you could sell and you could break into that space that way so, what else would be an important thing to consider in terms of bundling?

So, in terms of bundling, again, you want to see things that might bring very high value to the consumer but maybe not cost you a lot more. We’ve even done things where, Amazon doesn’t like this, but we’ve included a free e-book or electronic book, and they don’t like you including anything that they don’t ship or you don’t ship so sometimes, you can put in on a CD or a cheap flash drive and include it with what you’re doing. On your listing, put a big picture of a book or a picture of a CD so that it looks like, you know, for example, if you’re selling a diet pill, maybe you include an e-book or an audio program that’s how you lose weight in 20 steps or less or ’30 days to less weight,’ and there are easy ways to do that—low-cost ways to do it—that brings value to the customers that puts you ahead of the competition and at the same time, doesn’t cost you that much so you bring in a lot of value to the equation. The other thing is, you just give them value. A lot of these things don’t cost that much and if you’re initially willing to take a little bit less to get the sales or reviews and the rankings, if you’re willing to take little to no profit, let’s say for the first 90 days, and you get up there and you beat everybody out, then you can increase your price. It’s really interesting, Stephan, because what we’ve seen is that price is really not the only determining factor on Amazon so sometimes, we’ll have a product that’s selling for $19.95 and we’re selling it all day long—let’s say we’re selling a couple hundred units a day for a supplement product and as a test, we’ve done it where we’ve increased the price to $25 from $19.95 with a zero effect and then later increased it to $39.99, and actually had more sales at $39.99 than $19.95, and we’ve found that the reason for that is perceived value. People think, “Oh, this costs double what the other stuff in the market is so it must be better.”

Got it, so let’s talk a bit more about reviews and I found it really interesting the stat you shared recently at your presentation that one in 200 folks who buy the product leave a review and that’s not a lot. It’s actually maybe more of what I would have guessed if you’d ask me to make a guess, but it’s hard to scale to get to hundreds or even a thousand reviews, you would have to sell a heck of a lot of product to get that so, what are some ways to circumvent that natural progression and just crank really hard on getting reviews?

Yes, so there are lots of different ways of getting reviews. One of the things, I tell people all the time—and again, Amazon doesn’t want to hear this—but the whole review system is rigged. You have the White Hat people, who just basically do pure- with the terms of service they do nothing further that’s against the terms of service of Amazon. They’re always reading the terms of service and following it to the letter. Then you have Black Hat people. These are oftentimes, Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Bangladeshi hackers who have figured out how to manipulate Amazon’s algorithm and basically, are not products-people. They know nothing or little about products but they are masters at manipulating any way that they can and they use, what we call, crash-and-burn techniques, because it’s fast, they might bring up fast bolt of sales to them, they make their money, and then quickly, they get shot down but it doesn’t matter because they’re already up on another account. That’s a very risky way to do business and Amazon really has been cracking down on that more and more. The third type are Grey Hat people and I kind of like to think that pretty much everybody who’s doing well on Amazon falls in that category, unless you got millions of dollars and you have this huge brand and you can afford to pay fortunes for advertising and actually driving traffic to Amazon, or you have something that nobody else has, it’s really difficult to get to the top on Amazon because you’re competing with other black hat and grey hat people Now, grey hat could somebody who, perhaps, isn’t just getting reviews organically, which as we discussed, we believe from our research to be half a percent. Most researchers now are saying between 1-2% but I don’t know anybody who gets 1-2% organic reviews. So, the way you get the reviews is very simple. There are companies, one for example, Trust Review Network. Fairer Disclosure , I am affiliated with that company but it’s trustreviewnetwork.com and it is a review site where people can go on there, sign up, and receive free products in exchange for your honest review. Now, that doesn’t violate Amazon’s term of service. The reviewers do get the products in advance of leaving the reviews, they actually do get the products and once they get them, they have an opportunity to leave a good review, a bad review, or no review at all. If they leave no review at all, they just no longer get products from our network or other affiliated networks. There are other companies out there that do that. There are risks associated with that, particularly if you have a product that the consumer doesn’t love. These guys aren’t required to give great reviews for you so if you haven’t dotted all your I’s and crossed all your T’s, you can get a bunch of bad reviews. But generally speaking, it’s a really great way to get great reviews for your products. It’s kind of like that way it’s done. Another way that it’s done, like what I said earlier, is include some kind of card to capture their information and then contact them. Shoot them an email, send them a postcard, whatever you have to do to the consumer and say, “Hey, thanks for buying product A. If you’d like to try product B, we’d be happy to send you a free sample of it in exchange for your honest review.” Now that’s fully in-line with Amazon’s terms of service. The reason why I would say it’s grey hat and not white hat, is because they don’t like to think that people are doing that. Amazon likes to think that everybody is reviewing on Amazon, which I now believe is probably one of the biggest blog networks in the world because every time somebody leaves a review, Amazon owns that content and there’s so much review content coming daily on Amazon. I don’t know any blog network that exceeds them but if you do that, that’s another great way of getting reviews and that’s really two of the strongest ways—there are other ways of getting them—but that’s really two of the strongest ways of getting reviews and it’s a fair and clean way of doing it and it works well for most people.

And what if somebody wants to create their own, let’s say, community Facebook group or whatever and offer free product through that. So maybe, they’re not going to go with a third party network such as Trust Review Network, they’re going to build their own community and give free product away to that community and perhaps, they’re not previous customers of you, they’re just people who like almost free product. There has to be almost free and not completely free because they have to be a verified buyer through Amazon in order for that review to really count, correct?

Not necessarily. You can actually get products for free. Amazon counts it based on the retail price and not on the discounted price so you can issue coupons to people for 100% off and those people can still leave their reviews but they seem to stick better lately if the person has paid something. So, you’re correct in your assumption that Amazon likes to see them pay for something for it if they can but the reviews still do stick even if they don’t pay anything for it. That’s another way of doing it and it’s a more costly way of doing it, you’re acquiring the reviewees as well so you can set a—what some people do is setup a lead page and you can run Facebook ads  to that lead page. For example, you are selling a lemon squeezer and you go on Facebook and say, ”Hey, I’m going to contact  the Citrus Lovers Association Members of America or Citrus Lovers of America and you set up the page where it says, “I love lemons!” and you buy Facebook ads, driving traffic to that page: “if you like lemons, click here!” so the citrus lovers click “love lemons” and they clicked on your page and now you have a group on a dedicated Facebook page of people who you know love lemons and you can go on that page and say, “Hey, for today only, we’re offering a Stephan’s lemon squeezer for $0.50 and it’s  a $10 item, use this coupon code, in exchange for your honest review,” and so they click on the link, takes them on a lead page, of course, you capture their email, and then they get emailed the coupon code where they can buy the product in exchange of their honest review.

But if you say, leave a 5-star review then you’re in violation of Amazon’s terms of service.

Right, yeah, you can’t say “leave a 5-star review” but you can say “in exchange of your honest review.”

What if somebody didn’t buy the product from you and leaves the review? I have three different books that have been published through O’Reilly and let’s say, they bought the book from the oreilly.com site but then they go to Amazon to leave a review.

It’s very possible still for people to go on there and leave a review. Amazon is frowning on that more and more now. They love the free content, they love people to go there and write the reviews but the problem with that is a lot of people gained that system and they utilize fake accounts to leave reviews like I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of the authors who did that and got busted by Amazon. There’s one famous one who, basically, hired some guy to create 5,000 fake accounts and every day they would leave a few hundred reviews and he shot up to first best-seller and then Amazon found out and they tore his books off Amazon so, now they’ve kind of figure did it out and they have an algorithm where they know if the accounts are real or they’re not and they can tell with a pretty good amount of certainty but people still can do that, it’s just even rarer, right? Because if I’m going to go and buy your amazing SEO book say, from O’Reilly or Barnes and Nobles or wherever I can buy The Art of SEO, which by the way is an awesome book—

Thank you for that!

Yeah, we have it in the office and we utilize it all the time but if I’m buying that from a store, for me to—regardless of how much I love your SEO book, for me to actually take the time and go online and log on to Amazon and find the listing and leave a review, I mean it’s so unlikely. If I was consulting Amazon, I could tell them that probably with 90-something % of certainty, they could think if someone’s doing that, that it’s likely not a legitimate review but rather somebody who’s trying to gain their system.  More likely, the reviews on Amazon are going to be from people who bought it. Sometimes though, people will buy products from Amazon or they’ll buy it from their wife’s account and then they’ll go to their own account and they’ll leave a review and it won’t show up as a verified review—that kind of thing happens from time to time. It’s not often but happens from time to time. So, that’s a legitimate reason for an unverified review. I think the average person maybe gives 30-40% more weight to a verified review more that an unverified review. I don’t think the average person, if it’s a really well-written review and the person is reading it, I think the fact that it say verified review or unverified review, for the majority of people, I don’t think it’s going to take that much weight. But now, more and more, what we’re seeing is 95%+ of the reviews on Amazon are verified.

Yup, so if I participate in this network or if I get my own network going of people who are getting free or almost free products in exchange for writing a review, what are the disclosure requirements because somebody would presumably have to write that they got this product for free or almost free in exchange for writing the review.

Yeah, it’s really easy. When they leave a review, at the end of it, they just have to write “I got this product for free in exchange for my honest review.” There’s language that Amazon wants you to write and it’s right there on their terms of service. Most reviewers now know that they’ll just cut and paste that. If you join a network, like trustreviewnetwork.com or any other review networks—and there are a couple of really good ones out there—and if you join them they’ll tell you as part of their terms of service that if you are getting products for free or cheap in exchange of your reviews, you have to add it at the end of your review like, “I did this in exchange of my honest review.”

And one thing you pointed out that I felt was really interesting during your presentation, you asked the attendees, “What about this particular product listing makes it look like it’s been engineered in terms of its reviews that is kind of unnatural?” and the most striking was the top critical review wasn’t critical at all. It started with a bunch of pros followed with some cons and I don’t know if after you hit the link to show the full review, perhaps, set on the very bottom, “I got this product cheap and in exchange for the review,” and then there were ton of people who said that this was a helpful review so that helped it bubble up to the top and become a top critical review. It’s genius and it sounds grey hat to me, but is that a pretty typical tactic?

Yeah, it’s reputation management, right? So, on Amazon, you’ve got competitors who will vote up or vote down their competitors’ reviews and so if you’re a seller on Amazon and you’re familiar with selling on Amazon, you need to control your real estate and you need to make sure that your best reviews are there for people to see, like, putting your best foot forward. You’re right, it’s grey hat. Amazon definitely doesn’t like that but I put it to this way: The most people who who are on networks like ours, like to encourage their bloggers and reviewers to vote up positive reviews in other to maintain that top real estate.

Yeah, and there’s this one other thing that I’ve found really interesting in your presentation. You asked people to guess what the top conversion factor was in driving sales on an Amazon listing and it wasn’t reviews surprisingly. You want to share with our listeners what that is?

Yeah, funny enough, what I was saying is that the top conversion factor is having somebody like Oprah or Dr. Oz promote your product. That’s the best way and if they do it indirectly, then that’s even better. So, if they say, “Hey, get the SEO book with the green book cover and the bird on it. We’re not promoting any products here but you know, the green SEO book with birds on it tends to be better for everybody so please, go ahead and get that!”

The top conversion factor is having somebody like Oprah or Dr. Oz promote your product.

You know what’s ironic is that now, the cover is orange! It’s the third edition!

Oh no, what’s on the third edition?

Well, it’s still the bird—the hummingbird—but it’s all orange instead of green so the first two editions, I guess, green is passé now and we want to be the new latest color.

Okay, so that’s what Oprah or Dr. Oz, you know, would be suggesting to their clients for no specific reason, of course.

Right!

So, having a celebrity behind your product is the best, most surefire way because they have the loudest loudspeaker and if you have the loudest loudspeaker in marketing, it doesn’t matter how much SEO you do. None of that stuff matters. One Oprah or Dr. Oz can take out any marketer because those guys are on the top of the hill with the loudest loudspeaker and they can reach the most amount of people and the rest of us are holding our hands over our mouths trying to yell with our Mickey Mouse voices and trying all different kinds of techniques to make our voices carry but these guys are on top of the mountain with the loudspeaker. That’s really what you want.

So, how would somebody who wants to upscale or get better in this Amazon game, where would they go? Is there a book that you recommend or training program or a video-based course? I know there’s a course from amazing.com, or at least there was, I don’t know if they still offer it. Where would somebody go to learn more about this fascinating world?

I’m going to continue a blog on my website so if you want to, sign up for my newsletter. It’s shaahincheyene.com, spelled S-H-A-A-H-I-N C-H-E-Y-E-N-E.com and I’ll have resources and tools up there. What I recommend, again, you’ve got great resources on Amazon alone. If you’re starting out, go on Amazon, open up a seller account and just do it. Just start selling there—sell anything and everything, it doesn’t matter and that’s the best way where you can learn, right, because we can read a book on how to surf and we can see the pictures of the waves and the way the board fits or whatever but when we get out there on the ocean, it’s a very different story so no matter how many books, or websites, or videos you learn on how to surf, you’ve got to get out there and do it so the number one thing for people to do is to take the initiative, get out there, open up an Amazon account, and start selling. And you’re right, the best way to sell anything is to start selling somebody else’s product, start selling something that won’t cause you a lot of money and that you can sell very easily. Now, if you want to learn about it, come on to my blog, sign up, and I will be posting monthly newsletters on that. Other great resources online, The Amazing Seller is pretty good. I like Ryan’s Freedom Fastlane. He talks a lot about Amazon and Amazon’s selling techniques but again, at the end of the day, there’s no magic bullet and you’ve got to learn and the people who have the information, who are really making the money, don’t give it away for free and they’re not going to give away their best tricks and secrets and you don’t really want them to. You want to learn how to do it on your own and have your own tips and tricks of how you do it but it’s a humongous market, it’s gigantic and it’s growing and I don’t think Amazon is going anywhere for the foreseeable future and I think you can only win by getting involved now.

Yeah, and I definitely agree to that. Awesome! And then if somebody wanted to hire you or your company to optimize what they’re doing on Amazon—I know you’re only taking on select clients and you get a lot more demand than you have supply—but let’s say, somebody has the funds to be able to afford you, how would they contact?

Great, just reach out to me. My email is ai@xlrl.net or go to our website, which is xlrl.net.

Perfect! Well, thank you, Shaahin. This was a great episode and I’m sure folks who are interested in Amazon are going to get a value out of it. Listeners, if you could go to the Marketing Speak website and download the transcript and the checklist that come with this episode, that would be, I think, a good next step for you. Of course, check out the show notes, which will have links to the different resources and tools and so forth that we have mentioned and recommended in this episode. So, again, thank you, Shaahin. Thank you, listeners. This is Stephan Spencer, signing off. Catch you on the next episode!

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Get started! Create an account on Amazon, and sell something-anything-to start learning the ropes.
☑ Create a list of 3-5 products that you would want to sell long-term, and begin researching their value and reviews.
☑ Sign up for Fulfillment by Amazon so you don’t have to worry about anything related to the packaging and shipping.
☑ Start an email sales funnel or even a Facebook group based around your product so you have somewhere to send Amazon clients to capture their information.
☑ Begin looking into developing your own products and brand, so that you can sell outside of Amazon as well.
☑ Create different letters or notes to your customers and send with your products offering extended warranties and free samples in enhance for reviews.
☑ Optimize your listing by creating engaging titles, descriptions, and using clear photos.
☑ There are professionals who specialize in this if you need help.
☑ If you have the budget to work with a professional, reach out to Shaahin at ai@xlrl.net to get his help in building your Amazon empire.
☑ Look for steep discounts on products at local stores to find your first products to sell, then list them at an average Amazon price point.
☑ Don’t violate Amazon’s terms of service by asking for a good review, make sure that you offer samples for an honest review, and that your reviewers state this.

About Shaahin Cheyene

Shaahin Cheyene is an award winning entrepreneur, writer and filmmaker. He is the CEO and Chairman of the brain nutrition start-up Accelerated Intelligence. He invented and branded the original Herbal Ecstacy as a teenager, and went on to develop over 200 other award-winning products. He produced a documentary about the Aztecs and also had a production company. You can find Shaahin on Twitter at @ShaahinCheyene.

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