Business Advice from Expert Amazon Seller, Manny Coats from AM/PM Podcast

Imagine reaching $1,000,000 in sales within one year of launching your private-label product on Amazon. Seems impossible right? Entrepreneur and Amazon Seller Manny Coats did just that, in nine short months.

Manny shares his inside tips to other Amazon Sellers in his weekly AM/PM Podcast, which he started just a month after launching his Amazon private-label business. We interviewed Manny to gather his expert insights for our readers — everything from how he started and grew his business, to the mistakes he made and advice he’d give other private-label sellers on their journey.

Why Amazon?

“I found that on Amazon, every hour I put in, I would see dividends,” Manny said. “So, I said, ‘This is for me!’ I did about $800 in sales in my first week and went full bore in December, 2015. My first major goal, which I announced publicly on my very first episode of the podcast, was to sell $25,000 in products in my first 90 days. I not only hit that number, but crushed it. I generated $75,000 in sales in one month. My second long-term goal, also announced on episode one of the AM/PM Podcast, was a quarter of a million in sales by the end of 2016, a goal which I eventually exceeded by over $1.4 Million. I’ve now been selling on Amazon for just over a year.”

We asked Manny to break down his top seven tips to entrepreneurs looking to grow their Amazon business fast. For the record, the first three out of his seven tips are “keywords.”

1,2,3: Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

“Keywords are the lifeblood of your product,” Manny said. “You really have to do your keyword research right because that’s where people are going to find your product. And you’re going to want to use a keyword research tool — you can search Google to find one that works or use the one we’ve created at Helium 10. ”

4: Test and Use your Data

Manny now sells numerous private-label products on Amazon. But, his very first private-label product he launched was a failure. Instead of giving up, Manny used this failed product to test and gather data on how placing keywords and phrases in different places of the listing, both the frontend and backend, generated massive differences in both keyword rankings and overall sales. Patterns started to emerge during his tests.

5: Product Image Optimization and Packaging

In addition to optimizing your listings through keywords, make sure you employ incredible product photography. Manny recommends spending good money to ensure your product photography is high quality and makes your private-label product shine on Amazon. If you can’t honestly say your product looks better than your competitors’ products, you’ve done something wrong. If you spend time on great photography and optimizing your product listing keywords, these two things alone should do a lot to grow your Amazon sales.

The actual physical product packaging is also huge. “Spend the extra dollar your supplier will charge you to put you product in a high-end looking box with your brand clearly printed on the box. A great looking product will increase perceived value which allows you to charge way more,” Manny said.

6: Inventory Management and Planning

Find a good freight forwarder and try to use sea shipping whenever possible. Carefully planning your inventory shipments should be high on your list, according to Manny.

“Freight Forwarding is an area I wasted more money than anywhere else,” he said. “I express-air shipped most of my inventory in 2016, and because of that I’m tens of thousands of dollars poorer than I should be. For example, for one of my products, it costs about $6 per unit to ship via express air. When shipped by sea using a good freight forwarder, my cost drops to about $2. That’s a $4 per unit savings. My last order with this supplier was for 10,000 units. That’s $40,000 I save in shipping costs with one huge order.”

7: Get to Know Your Suppliers and Build A Great Relationship

Manny mentioned that in this digital age, we tend to forget some of the basics to building a great business relationship. “Get to know your suppliers,” Manny suggested. “Don’t just email and text them. Call and talk to them every once in a while. Let them hear your voice. Ask them about their day, their family, find out what they enjoy doing and what they like. My top suppliers send me gifts for the holidays, and I do the same for them. Building this relationship will pay dividends later as you grow with that supplier.”

Bonus Tip. Time is money.

A final bonus tip for Amazon Sellers that Manny says ranks right up there at the top is the recommendation that new sellers find ways to optimize their time and become ultra efficient. If your competitors are using every tool they can, so should you.

“Anything that saves me time or makes me money, I’m going to try to use,” says Manny. “I list many of the services and tools I personally use at my AM/PM podcast website in case new sellers are curious. I’m also making it a goal in 2017 to outsource as many of my daily tasks as I can. Time is money.” Employing those seven tips (plus the bonus!) will give you an advantage over most other Sellers and a good chance at launching a successful product.

Competitive Research, Customer Reviews and Review Failing Products

If you find yourself with a failing product, however, Manny has some additional advice for you.

“First ask, why is it failing?” he said. “Go and look at your competition that is doing well and see what is different. Do they have better images? Do they have more reviews? Is their packaging better? Are they advertising the product heavily? One of the things I do is order all of the products of my competitors. I like to see what their product looks like up close and how well it functions — and even to see how they handle the email follow-up after the buy. Also take a look at your listing — do you have something that is stopping people from buying your product, like a negative review at the top of the review section? If you have negative reviews at the top of your listing, you want to bolster your positive reviews so the negative review is pushed down.”

Reviews are especially important since that is where a lot of shoppers go before deciding to make a purchase. Here are Manny’s thoughts to growing your five-star reviews on Amazon:

“First of all you have to make a product that rocks,” Manny said. “It has to be a five-star product if you want legitimate five-star reviews. What I see people doing is email-blasting their customers using email follow-up services. Ever since Amazon banned incentivized reviews, sellers have gotten overly aggressive with their email campaigns. Buyers get too many emails, and they hate it. I believe that less is more in this case. What I found that works really well is you send out an email after the person has received the product. They don’t need to know that you just sent out their product. Forget about that. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What kind of email would you need to receive in order to elicit a response? My goal for the first email is to just get the customer to reply to my email. That’s what I think new sellers need to be doing. Ask a question like, “Why did you choose my product over others?” When they reply, not only do you get valuable information, but you’re going to have an open dialogue with that customer. When that happens, it’s magical. They are now 10X more likely to respond to your 2nd email which does ask for that review. This is what I do. I have 1,000s of positive reviews on my products, and I never ask for a review in the first email.”

You might be surprised to learn that Manny didn’t have immediate success with his first product. Testing and iteration, however, did lead him to success with his private label business. But, his private label business challenges weren’t limited to the product. With the massive burst of $75,000 in sales at the start of his business, Manny found himself out of stock and with money all tied up, so he couldn’t order new stock to fulfill his orders.

“I found something that worked — now how do I pour money into this?” he said. “I tried to get a loan, nope they need tax returns and business history. It was difficult. Back then, I didn’t know about funding companies or online factoring because it wasn’t as prevalent as it is now.”

Factoring for Amazon Sellers

The online invoice factoring help that Manny is referring to is a product we offer specifically designed for Amazon Sellers. Since waiting two weeks to get paid by Amazon can be a deal breaker with big months of sales and dwindling inventory, we provide next-day payments with Payability Instant Access for Amazon Sellers. We also offer Payability Weekly Payments for Amazon Vendors with Net 30/60/90 terms.

If you’re looking for further advice and support in growing your own private-label Amazon business, Manny has a wealth of resources for you. His AM/PM Podcast is free with more than 100 archived episodes that you can access and listen to anytime, he has a Facebook Group with more than 15,000 Amazon Sellers bouncing ideas off each other, and he’s also the founder of Helium10, which is a suite of tools created by Manny just for Amazon Sellers (including a keyword research tool!). If you’re a seasoned seller and you’re looking for more advanced strategies and tactics, Manny’s “Illuminati Mastermind” is the way to go.

Manny recently interviewed our CEO, Keith Smith on his podcast to learn how Payability started, qualifications to sign up and more on saying goodbye to cashflow issues.

Finally, Manny has some simple parting advice for our readers:

“Selling on Amazon is not a get-rich quick scheme — I hustled,” Manny said. “There are so many 80-hour weeks that I put in to get to this point. And, the majority of those hours were spent learning. Education is a big, big thing. Just learn. Do what I do, and listen to podcasts in the shower — that’s seven minutes that you’re not doing anything, so there’s an easy opportunity to learn.”

Alison Sperling
Alison is the Director of Marketing at Payability. She has 10+ years of experience in marketing helping small businesses and startups find new tools to grow their business. Prior to Payability, Alison started the marketing team at Stack Overflow. Alison completed an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Syracuse University in 2011. She volunteers with several cat rescue organizations.

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