Evolving organically from being a lawyer to an active investor, Roland Frasier has a unique ability for driving company growth. He considers his experiences as one interesting story after another and shares that helping a company to scale is like unfolding a new chapter. The first thing he does is create a personality brand that flows independently of the brand itself. He follows through by looking at the products, the market, and the size of the market for the products that are available at the moment. Jamie Davidson founded AMZ Insiders to provide coaching and mentorship for people who want to take their companies to the next level.
We have Roland Frasier and Jamie Davidson here. Roland is an active investor in a lot of different things. He’s a growth and scaling expert and he has a portfolio of companies and businesses. Jamie Davidson is the Co-Founder of AMZ Insiders. If any of you ever thought about having a business through Amazon, this guy has the answers for how do you do it, how you could find out different ways to sell things, get private labels, and avoid having to do retail arbitrage to do it.
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Driving Company Growth with Roland Frasier
I am here with Roland Frasier who’s an active investor, who drives growth and scale in his portfolio companies. He’s the Co-Founder and a Principal of three current Inc. Magazine fastest growing companies, and he’s funded, scaled, and sold 24 different seven to nine figure businesses ranging from consumer products to industrial machine manufacturing companies with adjusted sales ranging from $3 million to $337 million. He’s currently growing DigitalMarketer.com and NativeCommerce.com while advising over 100 other companies on digitally-centric customer acquisition, activation, referral, retention, revenue strategies, and plan implementation. I was looking at the list of things you do. It’s pretty impressive. Did you do sixteen different infomercials?
You’re a lawyer, right? You have a law degree.
I’m a recovering attorney. I practiced for thirteen years. Some people say I haven’t fully recovered yet. I don’t actively practice anymore, but you can’t leave that behind.
You got a variety of things that you’ve done that would probably need your background to do. Asset protection as a book for one thing. You’ve got to have a beautiful mind to handle that stuff. You have a law degree, but what led to your interest in doing what you do now investing and driving growth?
It evolved organically over time. My father is still a practicing attorney and he has been doing it for more years than he would want me to say. He told me long ago when I was growing up, he was a CPA and an attorney, that if you know how to read a financial statement and you know what the law is, it’s a tremendous advantage in business. I had the benefit of his mentorship as I was growing up and I liked that he seems to do lots of cool stuff. He practiced law and still does as a job, but on the side, he was an investor and so I had the chance to meet lots of entrepreneurs and get to know lots of his clients who are entrepreneurial when I was a kid. It just planted the desire to have that background.
I’ve been doing deals since I was about sixteen years old and I got my real estate license when I was eighteen and insurance when I was nineteen. I started selling securities when I was twenty, putting together real estate indications. I did that while I got my accounting degree. I got involved with Prudential Securities in New York and was doing leverage buyouts in the ‘80s when that was all the rage as I was going to law school. It continually opened up interesting thing after interesting thing. What I love to this day and what attracted me to it in the first place is that everything is a story, and I love stories. Every business, every company, and every entrepreneur is an interesting story wrapped in another interesting story. That, to me, keeps things fresh so you never get bored. It’s always something new, there are always people involved. I’m a social guy, so I like working with people and helping them do what they want to do and accomplish what they accomplish. It’s a perfect fit for that personality.
When you said that about your dad, it reminded me of Steve Wozniak. In his bio, iWoz, he writes about how his father showed him the ropes of how to put things together and why things work certain ways and didn’t just do things for him. He explained that nitty gritty to him and you could see how that shaped him. It’s amazing to see how that works. The parent influence is huge. I can see why your father would have such a big impact. Neither of my parents works, so I don’t know. It’s a little bit different than the norm.
My dad actually was born blind and he couldn’t work. I look at people that had this background with their parents giving them this foundation and it’s so helpful. I can relate to your real estate license. I have a real estate license, and some of the best training I ever got was when I was in mortgages. I was selling loans but they made us go through the underwriter training. You knew why your loans would be rejected. It was the probably the most helpful thing. I can see that you embrace education. Every single license in every single course you take opens up that foundational element to help you get to the next level, don’t you think?
It absolutely does. I had a lot of formal education with law and accounting. With the way things have changed over the years, my kids were not so interested in that, but they educated themselves through videos and YouTube. They have a hard time sitting through the formal education process, and so neither of them wanted to do anything that required a degree. While I initially hoped that they would go through that process, ultimately talking with them, I supported them in their decision not to do that because they’re both smart. They’re both super interested in learning and accomplishing things, but they just can’t sit still because all their lives is a one-minute short attention span theater.
My 26-year-old did it and now he’s a mini me out there investing things and working with companies and has a couple of cool deals he’s doing. Now my twenty-year-old came to me and said, “I’m ready to get serious. How can I learn to do the stuff you do?” I told him, “The best thing you can do is to tell me how much you’re making now doing what you’re doing. I’ll pay you that to shadow me. I want you, for the next six months, to come to all the meetings, come to the events that I do, and help me out. I’ll get you with different people in the company to train you on different things. We’ll talk after six months and see what strikes your fancy and what seems to speak to you.” Not getting caught up in the education that you’ve got to have or the mentorship that you have to do with your kids with other folks can be helpful. My sole desire for my kids is to give them the gift of entrepreneurship so that they can be their own person and work for themselves and be in charge with their destinies. That can come through lots of different ways.
How do I get to follow you? Are you offering that to other people?
I do that through Facebook.
I’m writing about curiosity right now and how we develop it. I’ve taught more than a thousand business courses in my time, which is funny that I do this because I’m like your kids. I hated sitting in class, it’s the death of me, but now that they’ve opened up all these other ways to learn through online. It opened up my desire to learn more. What do you think made you so curious to want to learn all these things? Was it just your father’s influence or do you think you naturally had that? What opens up your curiosity to start new things and new businesses and ideas?
Curiosity is such an interesting concept. What creates it? What sustains it? I like puzzles so every business thing is a puzzle. When I was a kid, I liked putting together physical puzzles and I liked all the brain games and logic puzzles, so that I came with, and then sustaining that by finding opportunities to do things that are puzzles. Practicing accounting is a puzzle. It’s how do I take all these pieces of these numbers then assemble them in this way that gives me something I can make decisions from. The IRAC is the process of analyzing any legal case. With the issue, you apply the rule, you do analysis, and come to a conclusion. Business is the same way, it’s just this big mess of people and challenges and opportunities. The win is to put that puzzle together in a way that leads to customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and shareholder return. For me, that’s what it is and always has been.
I’m like you. I get the wanting to solve and to find the problem. Accounting definitely is that. You want to get to it. I can see that you’d be a great programmer. You’ll get out of those nested loops that I used to get stuck in.
I started programming basic when I was about eight years old and got a computer for the first time. That was back in the archaic days when storage was on a cassette tape, and basically the computer came with nothing. “Congratulations, here is the computer. It does nothing.” I would write programs that would draw a flag or something like that and fell in love with it. I’ve carried that into HTML and CSS, ColdFusion, C+ as a hobby.
I can see that would be a great way to get your mind to work through all this stuff. You don’t just focus on one thing. You have infomercials and you have publishing deals with Simon and Schuster and Random House. You have hotels you’ve worked on the Vegas Strip and you’ve had all these private offerings. You’ve worked with brands like Pepsi, Uber, McDonald’s, and Microsoft. Do you feel like you’re in the groove of what you want to always do, or do you always want to change it up and do something new?
What’s interesting is that sounds like I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but there is a common thread and it’s something that I find is important to my personal happiness is. I’m able to do all those different diverse things because I have a skill or talent that I can apply, which is being a business strategist. I’m good at business and marketing strategy which applies to every business that needs marketing and strategy. I have something I can carry across all things and I go out of my way. My mantra is to stay off of the organizational chart, then I don’t have a job which I don’t want and I’m able to do the thing that is my best unique ability. I take the thing that I’m best at and that’s the only thing I do. Then I find partners who are good at operating and partners who are good at doing all the other things that I don’t necessarily want to do and I’m not the best at.
Dan Sullivan is the guy that coined the unique ability thing, your superpower. If you can spend all of your time doing the thing that you’re good at and that you enjoy, then you’re so happy because you’re never doing anything you don’t want to do. You’re able to do so many things because you’re not bogged down in all of these things that you’re only average at that your best hope is that you do for another five years, then you’re just a little better at average. You’re nurturing that thing that you’re best at and putting that to be an amazing skill or talent. Doing all those things, I’m able to do it because I find the partners that their unique ability is ops or their unique ability is accounting or finance. That’s something that I’m happy to know about. I don’t want to take it to the level of mastery. If you do that, then you can’t help but have this crazy hodgepodge of stuff that you’re involved in.
Dan has a lot of great advice and that is a good one. He was at Genius Network and he always shares such interesting insight and that’s an interesting point. I meet people all the time who wants to do big things, but they like the easy stuff. If you do what you’re good at and it’s the easy and not so hard stuff, how do you get those people to grow?
It goes back to the study that you’re making. You create curiosity, curiosity creates desire, and curiosity and desire create actions. Your job, as a person who is trying to motivate people, is how you light the fires of curiosity and desire that cause them to want to take action and then allow them or help them come to the decisions that the best thing they can do to satisfy the things they want and they’re curious about is to take this plan with you. If you do that, then you’re not telling them to do anything, you’re just helping them discover the path that will get them to where they want be.
Now that you’re doing these things that are higher level things and you’re growing companies and you’re taking that good advice, let’s say your company like DigitalMarketer.Com or NativeCommerce.Com, when you say you’re growing that company, what do you do? What is your part in that?
Digital Marketer is a great example. When I came into Digital Marketer, Digital Marketer was primarily a brand of my partner, Ryan Deiss. If you went to the website, it was a picture of Ryan, and Ryan was talking. Ryan was on every single thing. I know I represented Tony Robbins as attorney for a while and several other personality-based businesses. If you are a personality-based business, then it’s hard to sell your business. It’s hard to stop. My friend, Dean Grasiozi, said he was talking with Tony Robbins and Tony said, “We are the dancing bears and if we stopped dancing, then the money stops. We need to figure out how not to be the dancing bears anymore.”
The first thing that I did in that business was I thought it was a personality brand. It needed to become a brand independent of that with the personality that’s a spokesperson. We worked on elevating the brand, Digital Marketer, removing Ryan from the website, making him more of a spokesperson, and elevating the other people in the company so that Digital Marketer became a brand of several different personalities that all flowed into the Digital Marketer brand. Over the last four years that I’ve been with the company, we’ve done a great job of that.
The second thing was looking at what are the products and what’s the market for the products and what’s the size of the market for the products that we have now. At the time, the products tended to be more one-off training on how to make money online and things like that. We looked at the market, which was primarily business opportunity buyers at the time, and said, “Is this the space that we want to be in, or do we want to position the company to be acquired by someone in the future?” Ryan and my other partner, Perry, decided that they wanted to work towards being acquired. I said, “The next thing we do is we say who would we love to be acquired by and what do we have to be in order to appeal to the potential acquirer?” The answer was we want to be a digital marketing training, but we want to change our audience from business opportunity seekers to corporate and small and medium-sized businesses.
Rather than having a catalog of authors of how to make money playing on your phone or Facebook, now we’ve got a certification program in a software and as a service that allows businesses and business owners to have their marketing teams trained in eight core disciplines that are essential to digital marketing and get certified and take tests. We’re going through the ACE Accreditation to be able to offer this for credit and colleges. We know that the market for training companies to be acquired is great and the market for business opportunities to be acquired is small.
We lay out that growth plan and say, “How do we make the changes to get to there?” We need to change our program focus and content to appeal to corporate training. We need to standardize it. We need to see how can we appeal to that different audience and then create a plan for getting there. One of the big things that was involved in that is creating defensible intellectual property. When you’re looking to be acquired, one of the things that’s very helpful is to have intellectual property that creates a barrier to entry for other people that’s proprietary to you. We didn’t have anything other than the actual course materials, which were generic at the time, and so we created a software as a service.
We have to hire a software team and create a division of the company to create a learning management system that would deliver our courses on a software platform and to have this thing that we call DM Lab now, that is a monthly subscription service that allows people to get the content created in a special way, then a training program, which is called DMHQ. There is actually four SaaS, Software as a Service, that we created around this too. That gives us a unique position compared to other companies like us that don’t have that.
I have a lot of people who’ve been on my show who are the dancing bears. It may not be Tony Robbins, but they’re hall of fame speakers. Do you recommend people like that to use some other name other than their name and try and have it transfer over? If you’re not at that level, do you think that that’s the way to go for those type of people?
If you’re going to decide, you should take the time. Then you can design the process of getting to that outcome that you want around those goals. If you want a lifestyle business or you want to speak with a bunch of stages and that is your goal for now, that’s fine. If you want to have options, then you also want to build a brand around that. Big brands have spokespeople. That’s been the case since time immemorial. To be the brand versus being the spokesperson for the brand is a critical distinction that everyone should make as a personality-based brand.
Let’s say you’re Dan Sullivan. Dan Sullivan’s company is Strategic Coach. Dan Sullivan is a personality but Strategic Coach is a business that’s separate from Dan Sullivan that’s salable with or without him involved because he has created the intellectual property and they teach his content. If you go to a Strategic Coach meeting, typically Dan comes in and says, “This is such and such and they’re going to be conducting this. I’m excited to have you here,” and then he’s gone and the business goes on. That, to me, would be the thing that I would say for all of your folks.
I know that the challenge that Tony has is the same challenge that other folks has like Dean Graziosi who had that same conversation and HarvEker whose son is actually here with us in a workshop that we’re doing and we’re talking about branding and the challenges that he had where it’s hard to put up a company. He had to try to move away from this “HarvEker,” it’s actually Peak Potentials. Peak Potentials is his company but he had gone so far as HarvEker that it’s hard to ultimately do it. Had he chosen to position the brand ahead of this personality, it would’ve been easier sooner and he probably would’ve gotten a lot more money for it.
What you talk about is so important. Surrounding yourself with these people that know so much can be important. A lot of people forget to surround themselves with people who have more experience and have done more with their companies is an important thing. All the advice that you offer is important. A lot of people would want to know how they can learn more about what you do and the advice you offer.
With respect to all the people that are speakers, get yourself on stages around the folks that you want to speak with. You mentioned Genius Network. I had the opportunity to speak at Genius Network, and Tony Robbins was speaking and Dean Graziosi was speaking. Joe Polish, who created that, is such an amazing connector that you have the opportunity to connect with the folks who are also speaking. For all of you who are speaking, look for the people who you want to connect with and be like, and figure out how to get on stage with them. That’s the first thing.
The second thing for me, almost every significant leap in my personal business, journey, evolution, and success financially and emotionally and otherwise has come through relationships and people. I found that the best way to connect with high quality people and relationships is through masterminds. We mentioned Joe Polish, who has the Genius Network. That’s a fantastic group of people to get to know. A lot will come if you get involved with that. We have a mastermind called the War Room Mastermind, which is at WarRoomMastermind.com. That’s also a fantastic way to do that. Dean Grasiozi has one as well. It’s picking the people that you want to get in contact with and work with, and then finding the access points that they have created to work with them.
If you want to work with Tony, then you join Tony’s Platinum Mastermind so that you can get connected to Tony. That, to me, has been a strategy that I’ve used time and time again. When you go in and have the access, it’s up to you to create the value. Figure out how to create the value and think about this intentionally before you go in and meet them. “How can I create the value that will cause this person to want to have a continuing relationship with me?” I find that to be a really effective strategy. As far as getting a hold of me, the easiest way is either through Facebook. I have a page at Roland Frasier. I’m on LinkedIn and all the social media. I don’t sell anything, so I’m happy to interact and connect with people. I just enjoy helping people with the puzzles that they are facing.
Thank you for sharing some of those, because we can all benefit from learning from these guys. They have done some amazing work and you have done more than your share. Thank you again for being on the show.
You are welcome.
Getting A Private Label In Amazon with Jamie Davidson
I am with Jamie Davidson, who’s the Co-Founder of AMZ Insiders. He’s a results-driven, analytical, and innovative e-commerce expert with significant experience driving global hundred-million and plus P&L results and executing business strategies in the financial, retail, and education industries. He has a proven track record of leading and building highly successful multi-site teams, innovation, driving revenue, and operating income growth and beating the competition. Jamie also has extensive experience in the understanding of the US and international e-commerce and education markets. Welcome, Jamie.
Thank you, Dr. Hamilton. It’s great to be on your show.
I’m very interested in what you do because everybody is talking about how all these people are making money with Amazon and they’re making passive income online, and you deal with all that. I was watching some of your videos talking about the different ways to sell on Amazon, whether you develop a private label and all that. You can tell me more about the Insiders. What do you do exactly at AMC?
What AMZ Insiders do is we help provide coaching and one on one mentorship to those that are looking to either get into the space that are new or those that are in some cases more experienced with their business and they’re trying to get the next level whether they’re brand new or people that are already doing seven figures on Amazon but want to learn from our experience to how to take that to get to the next level of sale. Primarily, all we’ve done is focus on our own e-commerce business ourselves. We grew that very quickly beginning back in 2011.We passed $10 million in a few years. We’re over $60 million annually on Amazon, and then have another $10 million on the other e-commerce platforms like Walmart.com, Staples, and other platforms.
I’ve talked to other people who sell things on Amazon and they do certain things through Amazon. When I was watching your videos, you were talking about having a private label and selling something through FBA, Fulfilled by Amazon. Can you talk about those two things? A lot of people might want to make money on the side and do certain things with Amazon but they have no idea how to start. Can you give a little background on those two things?
In 2011, I have moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area. My now Co-Founder, Jason, was my next-door neighbor by coincidence. We both had corporate jobs. I was leading an education company. He was in the IT space, like a consultant for Microsoft. We had a third partner who was a Senior Manager for Coca-Cola. We all had well-paying corporate jobs, and he began selling on Amazon in 2010. At the time, if you know someone who sells on eBay, or at least typically when you think of eBay, it is a nice little side thing, but not that big of a deal compared to corporate. At that time, I didn’t even know how to even go about it. Amazon is a company and they sold products and people purchased. I didn’t know how you can participate in that. Jason was buying stuff for Black Friday at low discount and reselling them on Amazon, as people do on Amazon or eBay, which is called retail arbitrage.
This was the early stages. At that point, Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, wasn’t fully up and running, but there were two things that is 100% of what we do. 100%private label, which is instead of selling someone else’s brand or product, we sell product that we have the full rights to, which nowadays is not hard to do. The process is not hard at all. The private label is something for yourself. The other thing we do is the FBA, Fulfillment by Amazon. That’s a piece where Amazon houses everything for you in their warehouses. They do all the customer service for you. They handle all of the logistics and fulfillment and they charge a fee for that. You can run a seven-figure business out of your apartment because you don’t have to manage the inventory in your place.
How do you even get this private label? How do you create this brand to begin with?
The brand itself, some people would get caught up with what the name is and they think you have to have this perfect name. One of the things we talk about is the actual name itself. When you’re shopping on Amazon it’s not that important, unless you’re a major brand like a Disney or Nike. When you’re going to Amazon as a customer, most of the time you’re typing in a search term because Amazon is a big large search engine except for people that want to buy stuff. The brand name is not so important, but what is important is you need to take a brand name that is unique and available because over time, you want to have full rights to that name via trademark which takes about seven to eight months in the US. You don’t need it right away to get going on Amazon, but especially even now, more and more Amazon value sellers do have the rights with a trademark. You can create a logo nowadays for $10, leveraging a site like Fiverr.com or one of those freelancing sites.
You have to be able to create a product, though. How do you get the product? I’ve seen people sell their books. I’ve seen certain things, but how do you get the product?
It’s so critical. It’s the piece that people are worried about the most and it understandably is. “This sounds great, but what should I sell? How do I go about it?” There is a process. We have a methodology in terms of how we analyze products and pick things, which I recommend that you want to put some thought to that. There’s an element in your personal life or from your personal experience that you should look around too, in terms of what might be interesting to sell on Amazon. You can combine that with some level of analysis. Most of the stuff sold on Amazon, most people are sourcing from China and bring it over here.
Nowadays with a lot of things, life is not that complex to be able to execute these things. The primary site people use is Alibaba.com. Most people have heard that, but people aren’t exactly sure what to do. It’s essentially the world’s largest market for B2B. If you go onto Amazon, you can pretty much find any product. Go to Alibaba.com and look for it and you can essentially purchase it and establish a relationship with a manufacturer there. They have a minimum order quantity that you need to order and then you can get the products over here and resell it on Amazon.
That’s not a problem because you’re saying they’ll warehouse it for you, but you have to pay a percentage to Amazon from to do that.
The beauty with the Amazon FBA is their execution is almost flawless. One of the things found on Amazon is you get rated as a seller and Amazon has all these metrics. When you use FBA, your metrics are going to be high as long as you have a decent quality product. You always want to make sure that.
They’re going to deal with any customer service and returns, right?
A customer can reach out to you, but usually you don’t hear from what they do. We always recommend you go above and beyond, and it’s really simple. From your mobile app, you can respond back, but 95% of the time, you’re not going to hear from the customer when there is a return issue because they’re going to go directly to Amazon. You do have the ability to interact and provide support if you want. It’s very manageable because it’s very rare that you’ll actually interact directly unless you decide to reach out yourself.
If you do this fulfilled by Amazon, these items are considered Prime, right? They’re Prime eligible.
If you’re fulfilled by Amazon, that gives you the rights to sell as Prime. The only way in the past you could be a part of Prime was to be fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon also has a program for those that want to fulfill the items themselves out of their own warehouse or their own house that they can also get involved in Prime. There’s more stipulations around it, but otherwise a 100% of the products that are fulfilled by Amazon are all eligible for Prime, so they’re showing up people’s doorsteps in two days or even now one day and sometimes even the same day.
What’s great is that this is scalable. You’ve got this big warehouse where you don’t have to have all this overhead. Is there a downside to this?
The downside, there’s fees they charge. What’s your product? You need to make sure that you have enough margins, but usually the marketplace accommodates that because anyone needs to be able to make a profit. The actual Fulfillment by Amazon is something that we run most of our business through there. We’re huge fans of it. The downside, in general, with Amazon or some of the other businesses is you’d have to be careful. It’s very powerful to make money, but you have to make sure you know what you’re doing, because if you don’t, you could lose money certainly as well too. It’s awful that way if someone bought way too much inventory or got on there without knowing the steps. You could also certainly lose money as well.
You teach them these steps, right? That’s part of what you do at AMZ Insiders.
Through years of knowledge, not only what we’ve learned at work but also the mistakes we made. Sometimes dumb mistake, sometimes big mistakes, essentially trying to steer people away from those things.
Do you deal with individuals, or is this something that is for a whole company to learn? How expensive is it to go through training? Can an individual do this?
Our focus is on individuals. We do get approached by companies. With the students we’ve worked with, we usually work for them about four months intensively, meaning they have access to us directly for about a four-month period when it fits their schedule because most of the people you described have another full-time job and they hope to do this, or maybe they have a spouse or business partner that’s looking to get involved. We work directly with individuals like that.
In some cases, some of the students will find a local company. We had a gal that had a local candy distributor business in our town that is looking to take their business online. They hired her as a side consultant to help execute the exact same stuff that we taught her. It creates some cool opportunities for individuals not only to sell themselves. Once you learn it, you become an expert yourself and you can help others as well.
It takes four months to learn this. I know a lot of people who work part-time, especially instructors who teach online and say they wanted to do this on the side. What kind of time commitment is this for them?
You need to put in one or two hours a day. The reality is that other people have full-time jobs and other commitments, and we have some people that are like, “This is all we’re going to do,” so they spent most of the day. Typically, what people do is they spend one or two hours a day, but most people for few days don’t work that much. They’re just chatting there after their sales. You can get up and running pretty quick, but then they have a one night or weekend where they’re going at it for like four hours. Most of it is because people really get into it, with something of your own business, and people get excited.
Say you spend two to four hours a day working on this, what kind of income can you expect to make with that commitment?
There’s no guarantees. This is not, “Get rich quick.” You should be careful and smart. We are very down to earth on our approach. We’re very straight forward with things. You’ll come across people we work with, you’ll see in Facebook groups, there are plenty of seven-figure sellers that do over $1 million in sales. It’s not easy to do that. Keep in mind that even seven-figures or $1 million on Amazon, that’s total sales. Your net margin, the most is probably going to be around 15% to 20%. If someone gets to $1 million, which as we’ve talked about earlier, it’s not that hard in terms of managing that business because Amazon’s managing most of it in terms of sales, that would be someone who would learn about $200,000, maybe $150,000 on that sale, plus or minus.
It’s very realistic, given that there are people that you’ll see that have huge numbers. We try to take people on a more conservative approach. Most people say, “If I can make $500 extra a month or $1,000 extra a month after the first year, it would make a huge difference in our lives,” and then build on that. Just go into it realistically and recognize it’s not magic. If you put the time and effort in, you can absolutely do well.
It seems a lot easier than the retail arbitrage thing where you’re going out buying. It is easier than that, right?
Sometimes we say that’s a cool way for someone to get used to the platform, that you can go out and do that, and it’s quick and simple. One of the challenges going forward is that Amazon has always had this battle with the retailers, whether it’s Target or Walmart. They’re basically their competitors. The brand owners themselves, like Disney, these big brands, Amazon’s cracking down more on that side of things with sellers, because they’re getting more pressure from the big brand. You can still do that a little bit, but that’s where owning your own brand and having the rights to that brand continues to be a trend in the long-term play in that. In retail arbitrage, you can go out and do that, and it’s great to get experience in the platform that way. Those opportunities are less and less, because Amazon and the brand owners are going to crack down on reselling major brands.
I’m thinking of how you go through this process. You find something, maybe through Alibaba that is a cool thing. You work with them, you get set up with Amazon, they handle most of it. It seems like it’s on a cruise control.
You’re definitely characterizing the big points. There’s obviously lots of little steps involved to get there. I would say there’s nothing that’s extremely complex or super hard, but you need to know lots of little steps.
I imagine the first parts are much more complicated, trying to figure out the brand and trying to figure the product. You give advice with all that, I’m sure.
A lot of it is doing some level of analysis because the beauty of Amazon is it has a lot of traffic. Amazon is unlike anything else. Versus trying to sell on your own website or Shopify, we always come back to Amazon because the traffic’s incredible. One of the things you want to do on Amazon is you don’t want to necessarily pick a product that no one’s buying on Amazon. You think it’s going to be this great opportunity, but in most cases what’s going to happen is you’re not going to get the sales and traffic. You’re trying to find this combination of where you see people are buying this product or at least a similar type of product and at the same time you want to see that the competition isn’t too cutthroat. You find those opportunities where there’s good traffic, good purchasing behavior, but without extreme competition. That’s where we can create an opportunity for yourself and get off and running pretty quick.
Are there some areas that are better than others? Should you be in electronics, or should you be and kids toys? Is it better to have just one product or several products?
We say generally try to stay within a category initially. We struggled to come up with a product. Other people have the exact opposite problem. They have too many ideas. “How am I going to sell all these different things?”which can be great. There is an investment in terms of your time and how you think about the brand, so we generally recommend try to pick a certain category. As you pick additional products, initially stay related to that product to some extent so that you can go deep in that category and product and not spread yourself all over the place. You have greater risk of not getting traction if you’re too spread out.
On electronics, we tend to say for the newer sellers not to go into things that can break easily. On electronics, you also have to make sure they can get good quality. Sometimes in China, you have to be careful about what part of China. Typically, you don’t have to worry about this stuff, but with electronics you want to make sure. If you’re getting a Bluetooth speaker for example, you don’t want something that’s low quality compared to what people expect.
What’s your favorite area, if you’re going to sell?
In 2011, the competition was less, so we do cell phone accessories, and that’s probably the most competitive space on Amazon. On Amazon, we were one of the top one or two brands in the US for them. It’s a big space for us. It’s pretty difficult for newer sellers to get involved in that just because of where that’s evolved. It’s not typically something we’d recommend for people, but the process is the exact same and how you go about it or how we execute it in many ways. Generally, there’s all types of categories you want to find. There are some restrictions on certain categories versus open category.
In Amazon, if there’s risk of fraud or risk of, let’s say you’re selling supplements, they’ll create some additional hoops for you to go through. There are easier categories like home and kitchen or sporting goods. You can start in those categories, and then maybe work if you’re interested in some of the categories that are more restricted, then you can do that. It requires some more paperwork and sometimes a little more tracking because Amazon wants to create some barriers in a couple of categories. There’s plenty of opportunity to start with.
Can you mess it up and get kicked off Amazon and lose your whole business?
That’s one that people do get fearful. People ask us, “Should I be worried about that?” The answer is, “Yes, that can happen.” It goes back to knowing the process and the basics. It’s very unlikely to happen or will not happen if to some extent you know what you’re doing and you’re following the process. Amazon is trying to compete with Walmart and they’re trying to compete with everyone else out there. They want sellers to do well. People think at times that Amazon is a faceless beast. It’s just a bunch of smart people that want the business to do well. They have guidelines for it, so you have to make sure that you’re not doing something blatant. You’re not trying to cheat the system or create fake accounts do something blatant. That could get you kicked off, but that’s their fault.
If you’re trying to do the right things, even if someone does get suspended, there is a process that you can get reinstated. There’s people that help with that. Over the years, we’ve had our issues. We’ve been put in the penalty box at a time or two, because we’re in a super competitive category and our competitors took it out a little bit, but all of it has a process you can work through. It’s not a deterrent at that someone should not sell to Amazon. Just be a responsible seller and follow the guidelines for the most part. Don’t make some major violation. There’s mall things you could do that Amazon is usually going to flag something or help you self-correct.
I was looking forward to discussing this with you because I was looking at your videos of you training this. Are you writing a book about this or are you just doing the training?
At this point, a lot of the content online is the primary way. We do have some plans in terms of a book down the road, but we’re not there yet. Primarily, we try to stay active and participate on Facebook. We have things on YouTube and try to put out there just to add value to the community as much as we can.
I saw you graduated at West Point. Where are you located?
I’m located in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Myself and my one Co-Founder, Brad. Jason who was my neighbor is over in Shenzhen, China. We have 100 plus employees on our team. We’re split up.
If people wanted to find out more, they want to take your training and learn how to do this, what do they have to do?
We have a blog, AMZInsiders.net. Every week were posting new information. That’s a great way to get on free information. Just go to the blog, AMZInsiders.net. If you go to AMZInsiders.com, we have a free training video that you can get access to as well.
Thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks, it was great.
You are welcome.
I want to thank Roland and Jamie. If you’ve missed any of prior shows, please go to DrDianeHamilton.com/Episodes. We get so many great guests and if you’ve missed some past episodes, you can find them there. You can sign up on iTunes, so you’re aware when they arrive.
About Roland Frasier
Roland Frasier is the co-founder and/or principal of multiple Inc. Magazine fastest growing companies (e-commerce, e-learning and SaaS). Serial entrepreneur who founded, scaled or sold almost two dozen different businesses ranging from consumer products to industrial machine manufacturing companies with adjusted sales ranging from $3 million to $337 million. Roland is currently the CEO of the War Room Mastermind and principal in DigitalMarketer.com, NativeCommerce.com and Real Estate Worldwide. Through War Room Roland advises over 100 major companies on digitally centric customer acquisition, activation, referral, retention, revenue and growth strategies and plan implementation.
About Jamie Davidson
Jamie Davidson is a results-driven, analytical, and innovative e-commerce expert with significant experience driving global $100 million+ P&L results and executing business strategies in the financial, retail, and education industries. He has a proven track record of leading and building highly successful multi-site teams, innovation, driving revenue and operating income growth, and beating the competition. Jamie also has extensive experience and understanding of the US and international e-commerce & education markets (online and offline).