by: Skip McGrath
In This Issue:
"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."
Jim Cockrum has temporarily reduced the cost of his Proven Private Label Course from $299 to just $67 from now through August 20th Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the special offer. Remember: This ends on August 20th at Noon Eastern.
Feedvisor is the repricing service I use and recommend. They are now offering a one-month free trial. Click here for info .
If you sell on Amazon, and do either Retail Arbitrage or Online Arbitrage then the Facebook group you need to join is Scanner Monkey. Scanner Monkey publishes a really helpful newsletter, gets many large discounts for its members and posts Bolo alerts daily that show you items on sale at leading stores that you can stock up on to sell. I have been a member for over a year and often post there. I am a member of several Facebook groups related to eBay and Amazon and by far Scanner Monkey is one of the most valuable and helpful.
Amazon FBA sellers were caught off guard by a new and sudden policy change. Ina Steiner reported on the story in eCommenceBytes. Read the full story here.
John Bullard from My Inventory Team has implemented an "expert guest" program where they have different teachers/coaches/leaders in the FBA community pop in on their FB group weekly and answer your questions. Join their FB group. It's a free group to join.
FBA Master has published a step-by-step guide for anyone interested in getting un-gated in Health, Beauty, or Grocery. Here is the link.
The Annual SCOE - Amazon Sellers Conference will be held in Seattle from October 2 to 4 th. Since I will be one of the speakers this year I have a discount code. Use the code RESOURCES when you check out for a discount. Click here to register.
Lets get started with this month’s articles:
1. What to Do If Your Amazon Account is Suspended
You get up in the morning and log into Amazon Seller Central and a message comes up on the screen that says - "There is no seller account associated with that login information." After you get your heart re-started you go into your email and yes, there is a message from Amazon that says your account has been suspended. For some reason, lately this has been happening to a lot of folks.
But don't panic - In over 90% of the cases, sellers were able to get their accounts re-instated. Before we get to what to do if this happens, let's talk a little bit about how to prevent it.
There are many ways to get your account suspended. One of the leading ways is to sell products that are outright counterfeits or even close fakes. This happens completely innocently to a lot of people. There are two places that you will most likely find fake products - Liquidation sites and importing sites like Alibaba and Global Express.
It's not so much that the liquidator is dishonest (a few are but most are not), but just like you, a liquidator can be fooled also. Here is how that happens. The liquidation source is contacted by a storeowner who bought a huge supply of say, Ralph Lauren shirts that are fakes, but they are really good fakes. He tells the liquidator he needs to move the shirts to make room for new product. So the liquidator buys the shirts and sells them on his website. You buy them and list them on Amazon. The folks at Ralph Lauren know who their licensed sellers are and they see your shirts and file a complaint with Amazon and you get the dreaded suspension notice.
The other way sellers lose their accounts is by having poor seller metrics. It's not just poor feedback totals, it can be a high number of A to Z claims, a high number of feedback comments that say the product was not as described, a high number of returns or you take too long to answer customer emails. Any of these metrics can cause you problems. FBA sellers do get suspended, but not as often as merchant fulfilled (MF). So one way you can reduce your chances is to sell through FBA (FBA sellers tend to have much higher feedback scores than MF sellers.
Now what to do if this happens to you.
Occasionally, if Amazon thinks your performance is really poor, they will permanently ban you. If that happens there are ways to get a new account set up but it's very difficult and beyond the scope of this article. (A few folks have written books about this that you can find if you Google around). If you are not banned, the message from Amazon will describe why you were suspended and give you the opportunity to file a plan that explains how you will fix the problem.
Here are some tips for doing that plan:
First of all take responsibility - don't blame someone else or argue the point even if it was someone else's fault. If Amazon sees this it is highly unlikely they will approve you for reinstatement.
Be patient - Don't rush your reply. Take the time to think it through and make your response businesslike and professional. The process to get reinstated can take anywhere from 5 to 15 business days (The average is about ten). So take an extra day to really think things through and come up with a good plan.
Be sure and address their exact complaint. If Amazon said you were suspended because of too may A to Z claims or slow shipments, one thing you could do is tell Amazon you are hiring someone to help you, or that you have made the decision to transit to FBA which would completely solve the problem.
If the complaint was about inaccurate product descriptions, you will need to find a way to convince them you can fix that. But again, don't fight the issue. Take responsibility and come up with a credible plan to fix the issue whatever it is.
Once your plan is ready, read it over a few times to correct any spelling or grammar errors and make sure it sounds businesslike, credible, and professional. Then send it in and just wait. Don't bug Amazon if you don't hear anything right away. I know it is aggravating and expensive to not be selling for a week or more but this is one of those times you just need to be patient.
2. Keeping Your Affiliate Blog Fresh and Profitable
A few years back I teamed up with my Webmaster, Marsha Perry, who is an expert on WordPress Blogs and wrote How To Make Money Blogging From Home. The concept is all about creating blogs that you can monetize with affiliate programs. The book has been one of our best sellers.
The world of affiliate marketing has really changed over the years. A few years ago Affiliate marketing was a license to print money. Today it is more difficult. This is mostly due to all the changes Google has made, making it harder for small websites and blogs to be found. Another important factor is the increase in social marketing which has increased competition for space on the web.
Having said that - I don't want to completely discourage you as it is still possible to earn affiliate income from blogging - it just that it's more work and you have to stay on top of things.
It occurred to me that some of you may not know how this all works so let me digress with some basics to bring any of you who don't understand this up to speed.
Affiliate marketing is when you recommend a company or a product to another person on the web via a special link that affiliate marketing companies create with embedded codes so that if a person buys a product after clicking on your link, the advertiser will pay you a commission. Here is an example: Amazon has an affiliate program that I am a member of. Here is a link to a book I recommend about learning digital photography:
If you were to click on that link and purchase the book, Amazon would pay me a commission of 7%. And it gets better than that. When you click on that link it sets a cookie in your browser that lasts for 24 hours. If you buy anything else on Amazon during those 24 hours I will also get a commission on that also.
It's not only Amazon that has affiliate programs. Other large companies including eBay and Wal-mart also have them. And almost every credit card company has an affiliate program.
There are two ways to earn money from affiliate commissions:
If you have a mailing list (as I do) you can send out email or newsletters with links to products you recommend.
The other way is to have a blog (or website) where you review products you recommend and when people buy them you earn commissions. Here is a link to a website I own that does that.
By far using a mailing list is the most profitable, but it can take time to build a list - although social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter make that easier.
The problem with a blog today is that it can take a lot of work and a long time to get your blog found and develop a following. Of course you can combine the two. Once you have an effective blog with traffic you can invite people to sign up for your newsletter and market to them that way in addition to what you write on your blog.
OK - enough of the basics - Let's get back to talking about how to make your blog successful.
The main keys to doing this are:
Affiliate relationship - It is important that you associate yourself with reliable companies that have good reputations. If you recommend junk or scammy products you will never develop a following. That is one of the reasons I use Amazon - they are a very trusted company and I don't have to worry about my reputation when I recommend them.
Relevant Content - There is an old saying that "content is king." That means two things. You have to have enough content that when people are searching online, Google will find some matches to their searches. The other important factor is relevancy -your content must be relevant to the topic of your blog. If you blog about fly-fishing and then you write an article about the best credit card to use for points -that is not relevant content. Many affiliate bloggers have a number of blogs -each on a different topic and they work hard to stay on that topic when creating posts.
Frequency -One of the things Google looks for when trying to match searches with content is the recency of the content. If you set up a blog with a few hundred posts then just leave it alone for a year, your traffic will really crash. It's OK to take a break once in a while, (in fact that can be a good thing as after a break you can come back refreshed with new ideas) but in general you want to publish posts fairly regularly.
Vary Your Content -Content does not have to be just words. You can post images, videos, webinars, podcasts, etc. In fact Google tends to give better results to content that contains images and videos. If you do this be sure and name the video or image with something related to the content. For example, if you were doing a review of a fishing reel, use the name of the reel in the image name for example: Okuma_SLV_Diecast_Aluminum_Fly_Reel.jpg
Be Honest in Your Product Reviews -Many affiliate blogs do product reviews as a way of generating affiliate sales but it's important to be honest - talk about both the pros and cons of a product. This will enhance your credibility much more than if all you do is sing the praises of each product. Remember, you want to develop a following. A large following may take a while to create but in the long run it's your following that will generate traffic. And, the more traffic you have, the higher Google and Bing will rank you which will bring in even more traffic.
Use Social Media to Promote Your Posts - Every time you do a post go into Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and post a hyperlink to your blog. This will also help traffic.
Avoid Duplicate Content -Google actually penalizes websites that contain duplicate content both on their own website and if you duplicate content from other websites. If you follow my newsletter you may notice that I use the occasional guest article. When I do that, one of the things I insist on is that the article be original to my website and not a copy of a post the writer did somewhere else.
Blog About Something You Know and Love -Doing this will keep your blog fresh and interesting. Just because diapers are one of the top selling products on Amazon I would not do a blog about babies and baby products because it's not something that interests me and unlike my wife and daughter I know very little about it. It would not take a reader reading very many posts to see that come though and it's unlikely they would visit my blog again.
Website vs. A Blog -The difference between a website and a blog is that a website is essentially static - You create it and then make occasional changes to keep it up to date. Blogs on the other hand change constantly as you add posts and content. Both of them work. Websites are far less work - but in my experience, blogs work better and will drive traffic sooner than a static website. Most of the folks who use static websites develop dozens of them. Since its unlikely one website will provide a large income using dozens of
smaller sites that each provide a few hundred dollars a month will add up to serious money.
So yes, affiliate marketing has gotten harder, but by following these steps you can still succeed. It does take time. Don't think you can make thousands of dollars overnight. My website provides me with a nice income but it took a couple of years for that to happen.
3. Making The Move From Retail Arbitrage to Wholesale Sourcing
A lot of new eBay and Amazon sellers start their businesses by using Retail Arbitrage (RA) or Online Retail Arbitrage (OA). This is a sourcing technique that is simple, takes very little cash, and can be highly profitable. In fact many sellers opt to do this full time and never make the change to traditional wholesale sourcing.
It consists of nothing more that shopping the clearance section of stores such as Wal-Mart, Toy-R-Us, Target and others (or their online versions) for cheap clearance items you can list on eBay and/or Amazon for a nice markup - often as much as 200% or 300% or even more.
Here is one example. I don't do as much RA or OA as I used to, but a couple of years ago in September I found two dozen pair of Buzz Lightyear lighted Goggles on clearance at the Toys-R-Us website for only $2.00 each. I bought all of them and held them until we got close to Halloween. Just before Halloween I sent them all into FBA where they all sold out at a price of $16.95 per pair.
If you're buying a large quantity or the entire stock on hand of a product, remember to ask the manager if you could make an offer. You might be surprised how often a greater discount will be given, all for the sake of the simple question. But if you don't ask for one, the answer will always be, "No". So, get in the habit of asking.
The big disadvantage to RA or OA is that you are always sourcing and always creating new listings for new products as you rarely can find the same product again. Between my eBay, Amazon and writing business I have very little time, so I needed to make the transition from RA to exclusively wholesale sourcing where I could just order the same items over and over again when my stock runs low.
Finding wholesale sources can be a little work and it can be a little complicated getting set up with your first few. I find most of my sources in three ways:
1. If I see a product in a store that I think I would like to sell, I look at the box and it usually has the manufacturer's website on it. I either write that down or take a photo of it. Then I use the contact form on the manufacturer's website and send them the following email:
I am a small retailer located in the suburbs of Seattle Washington and I recently came across your product. I would like to carry it. Do you have a distributor or sales rep in the greater Seattle area or can I purchase from you directly?
Here is my business information:
1004 Commercial Ave
Mt. Vernon, WA
It can sometimes take up to a week to get a response but this works for me about 90% of the time.
2. My second way is to frequent Wholesale Merchandise Marts (sometimes called gift marts or design centers). A Wholesale Merchandise Mart is a building where manufacturer's reps and/or distributors have showrooms. You go in and it looks exactly like a retail store with merchandise on display. Except when you pick up the goods to look at them the price on the box is the case size and price. It might look something like this:
4@$26. (or it could look like this 4/26) That means that a standard inner case contains 4 units and the case price is $26 -or $6.60 each. Typically items like this are sold in inner case units of 4, 6 or 8 and master cases of 24 to 48. Often if you buy a master case you get a slightly better price - usually ten to fifteen percent less.
Most shops will carry several lines of products - although there are some wholesale merchants such as Messermeister and RSVP International that will have their own shops with only their merchandise.
Each product line will typically have a minimum opening order (MOO) and a minimum reorder (RO). In some cases this can be pretty high such as a $500 MOO and a $200 RO. But there are also many companies with no minimum or very low minimum such as $100 MOO and $50 RO.
When you arrive at a merchandise mart for the first time you will have to register. You will need a business card, checkbook with the company name on your checks and a copy of your business license or sales tax certificate. (In many states these are the same document). They will ask you what type of business you have. Your answer should be "I am a retailer of (name your product lines - gifts, kitchen ware, toys, sporting goods, etc.). Notice that I do not volunteer that I am an online retailer. A retailer is anyone who buys goods at wholesale and sells them at retail so you are being honest.
Typically the merchandise mart management folks don't care that much but some of the sales reps firms will have lines that do not permit selling on eBay or Amazon. When I am with these folks if they ask me if I sell online I tell the truth, but you will be surprised at how often they just never ask. They see your badge that says "Retailer" and they just assume you have a store.
One of the best sales rep firms I deal with carries over 20 different lines of kitchenware and there are only 3 of them who will not deal with me. My rep knows I am an eBay/Amazon Seller so she is always on the lookout for new products I can sell.
The Seattle merchandise mart is called the Pacific Merchandise Mart. They have about 60 different showrooms. I currently deal with about 9 of them and buy everything from to Toys, to health and beauty, jewelry, kitchenware, gourmet food and seasonal items.
3. I have kept the best for last. My absolute favorite way to source new products is wholesale trade shows. Wholesale trade shows are held in almost every major city in America, Canada and Europe (The trade shows in Asia tend to be large and regional, a trade show in China will include companies from several different Asian countries).
There are two types of trade shows - General and Specialized. For example if you see a show billed as a Gift show - that is a general show and will contain exhibitors of fashion, health & beauty, gourmet foods, toys, jewelry and more. But if a show is billed at an outdoor show, hardware show, jewelry show or fashion show then those are the only product categories you will find at those shows. Although a term like Outdoor or Hardware can encompass a lot of product categories.
The process of getting into a trade show is very similar to a merchandise mart and you will need the same documentation, although a lot of the general trade shows will allow pre-registration online. When registering online some shows will just take your word for it, while others may ask you to fax some documents to them such as your sales tax number.
The thing I like about trade shows is that is where you see the new products before others do as manufacturers typically use trade shows to introduce new products. The other thing is the exhibitors are there to sell. I find at most trade shows, it is fairly rare for someone not sell to online sellers so it's best to be up front with these people as I don't want to waste their time or mine. When I do run into a seller who will not allow me to sell online, I just thank them for their time and walk away. The last time I went to the Seattle Gift show there were over 400 exhibitors and I think I ran into 3 or 4 who did not want to work with me so that left plenty who would.
I do have a couple of resources that can help you with wholesale sourcing. If you have my Complete eBay or Complete Amazon Marketing System those both include my book The Wholesale Buying System and access to my online members wholesale sourcing website. Or you can buy The Wholesale Buying System as a stand-alone book.
4. Selling Arts and Crafts for Artists
The annual arts and crafts street fair was just held in our small town this past weekend. Each year we get about 400 booths set up along our main street with artists and craftspeople selling their wares. Our festival is a juried festival, which means you have to pass your works first through an approval process so we don’t get a lot of junk and cheap poorly made crafts.
Some artists and craftspeople are savvy about selling online on sites like eBay and Etsy, but many are not. This is a great opportunity for an experienced seller to make some extra money - sometimes a lot of it if you hit upon the right product.
There are two ways to operate this business. You can buy outright or sell the items on consignment. In general consignment is much better because you don't have to lie out the cash. When you speak with the artists and craftspeople you will find that artists are more used to working on consignment because that is how most art galleries work, whereas craftspeople are more used to selling their work as it tends to be lower priced.
About the only challenge to doing this successfully is the sales pitch. You have to sell yourself and your service. And the biggest task is not convincing them of your online selling ability -but your honesty and trustworthiness. So it's very important you have a conversation that leads them to think in that direction.
The first thing I do is compliment them on their work and ask them questions about themselves and their work. People like to talk about themselves and this will help you build rapport. After a couple of minutes of that I ask the question: "Do you sell your products online?" If they say that yes they already do then they may not be an option -but not necessarily so. If they say yes, your next question should be, "How well do you do at it?" Again if they report good results then you need to move on to someone else. But if they say they are struggling then it's time to tell them that you are a full-time, successful seller and you might be able to help them.
Now obviously, if you are a brand new seller yourself, then you should not be doing this. Remember selling hand made items or art requires the ability to take good photographs, write great descriptions and essentially turn your eBay, Etsy or Amazon listing into a sales page for the product. Unless you have the experience to do this you are wasting both your time and theirs. But if you are an experienced seller and you can make the right kind of deal for products that will sell, this can be a very profitable experience and one you should try.
5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers
Remember that not all of the websites listed below show the actual wholesale pricing and some of them are even retail websites. But all of the companies listed are legitimate wholesale sources. If their website does not show the wholesale information do two things:
- First look for a link that says wholesale info or reseller information
- If you don't see that, find the contact form and send them an email like the one in Article number 3 above.
Pyar & Co. sells Luxury home accessories - table linens, pillows and throws.
Sailor Bags sells Nautical-themed bags, home decor and accessories, made from genuine sailcloth.
BasB sells a very nice line of Organic, natural and eco friendly home fragrances including candles, home diffusers, beeswax candles, and soy wax candles.
The Paris Bracelet Company sells a collection of bracelets uses Swarovski® Elements to add striking crystal highlights to a couture quality stretchable ribbon.
WAV Wholesale audio video - CD's, DVD's, Plantronics headsets, wireless microphones, GN Netcom headsets, DVD players, digital cameras, blank cd's, blank dvd media, and all audio needs.
Team Sparta Hunting offers gear for the hunting enthusiast. They have partnered with Mallard Mafia Outdoors to produce a duck hunting DVD coming this January! Buck, Duck, and Fish Nation is a brand in which they partnered with Southern Marsh to produce more products.
The Freeze Dry Guy offers a wide selection of ready-to-eat Freeze Dried food individually packaged Freeze Dried entrees, meats, vegetables and fruits.
Central Restaurant Products sells Restaurant Equipment and Restaurant Supplies.
Precision Products Online sells hobby tools, sport knives, magnifiers! Lowest wholesale prices! All customers welcome large and small. Very easy online ordering.
APM Body Jewelry sells Wholesale Body Jewelry
PRO DOG grooming supplies offers high quality dog grooming supplies, dog care and grooming tips, dog chat rooms, and a dog forum.
Rings & Things sells beads & jewelry-making supplies at wholesale! Plus honest, helpful information & fast shipping since 1972.
See you again in about two weeks.
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News
P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.
Here is a look at what I am selling on eBay right now: