Back to basics: How to beat FBA information overload
Let’s talk about feeling overwhelmed by all the amazon FBA information out there swirling around - hundreds of podcast episodes, endless kindle books and a ton of courses.
If you’re excited by the private label business model, but it all seems too much, this post is for you. I want to help you smash through your doubts and start something that will, hopefully, blast you out of your cubicle and into a new stratosphere.
So in this article, I want to break down the core things you need to focus on:
1: Product research
2: Finding a supplier
3. Ordering product
4. Listing and selling on amazon
To keep yourself from spinning out mentally and getting bogged down in a million details, the best thing to do is a take an online course (if you have the spare capital) or, even better (PLUG ALERT) grab a comprehensive Ebook.
Run through the whole process, then come right back to step one and focus only on that. One step at a time. No getting swamped thinking about launches and shipping until you find a product.
Selling is very simple, stick to the fundamentals
Regardless of what any hype machine tells you, there are no secrets in this game, and if there are, you can bet your sweet ass you won’t be hearing about them on podcasts or in E-books!
Every time I see a webinar pop up or facebook ad that sounds like this “THE SECRET LISTING TWEAK THAT MADE ME $5000 IN ONE DAY, SIGN UP TO FIND OUT MORE”, “The ppc hack that CHANGED THE GAME” I want to f*cking punch someone in the face, preferably an internet marketer and copywriter at the same time (even though I myself am both of those things!).
But, getting back to the point, let’s go over the steps. Remember, only focus on the step you are on, one foot in front of the next, no asking about shipping before you have a supplier etc.
1. Product research
As you probably can imagine, this is the first step, the most important one and the thing that has the potential to suck you in like quicksand. If you are the kind of person prone to analysis paralysis, this stage alone is your arch nemesis, but if you can beat it, the rest is very straight forward, trust me.
The basic rule of product research is of course to find a product with healthy demand, which you can do by using Jungle Scout or something free like Unicorn Smasher (I prefer JS), then you see if it has low enough reviews that you can squeeze into the market. That’s basically it. Is there demand, are the reviews low enough? If yes, move to step two (finding out prices from suppliers).
To get an idea of where to start with product research, you can check out the many Jungle Scout webinars and also this selection of articles, which is pretty good. Also, jot down things you’re interested in and check the numbers on them using JS.
Key takeaways on product research
No matter how good you feel about a product, remember, it’s just a feeling and there’s no way to know how it will sell until it hits amazon. There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ product. Somewhere, someone is probably making a ton of money selling shitty straw hats, another seller is killing it on cat-meme based mugs. There are only products that make you money and those that don’t.
Also, at some point, you’ll probably decide you like a product but, the longer things take with the supplier, waiting for samples etc, you might convince yourself of the opposite. The fear will kick in and so will the doubts, this is normal, just ignore ‘the voice’.
To make life easier on product selection, go get Jungle Scout and also another tool called Amazeowl. JS will help you quickly get a feeling for the depth of the market and Amazeowl gives you a place to store all your potential products, analyse the competition and a lot more, for free. Also, for $10 a month, you can use their product database (the JS equivalent costs $50 per month) to get even more product ideas. I’m not affiliated with these products and I don’t get a cent for sending you there.
If you're also confused by all the sotware options, I have an article on what software you need when starting out.
Whatever you do, though, you must differentiate your product, I can’t say it enough. Whether you create a bundle (check ‘frequently bought together with’ for ideas) or a multiple (like a 2 or 3 pack), your product has to bring something different to the table. If you don’t bundle, then the design should look different or be modified in some way to help you stand out, especially important for when you start ppc.
2. Finding a supplier
For most physical products, you’ll be using China as your supplier (for supplements, some industrial and beauty stuff, you can usually source in your home country).
The most common place people go is to Alibaba which can still be a perfectly fine option for some products. I prefer to do things differently these days, which is why I have a sourcing guy (you can read a bit on that here), but Alibaba isn’t a bad place to start.
From there, finding out the cost of PLing a first product is a simple as dropping the suppliers on Alibaba a message (you can subscribe to my mailing list to see the simple template I like to use). If you phrase your message correctly, you will usually have enough info to start a rough calculation and see if this product will be profitable for you (here’s an article to help you understand cost calculations).
Once you see who has the best price and communication, you’re now free to order some samples to see what kind of quality they offer.
But if you see the pricing is tight and profit slim after estimated import costs, prep, etc etc, go back to step one.
Key takeaways on suppliers
The supplier will often inflate the moq (minimum order quantity), but you can usually negotiate. It’s super, super, super important that you don’t do a large first order of a new, untested product (especially with an untested supplier!)
I recommend no more than 200 units for an untested product, simply because, if it doesn’t sell quickly, you won’t be hurt financially.
I read a message in a seller group just yesterday by a guy who splooged his entire life savings on a new product and he was having trouble with the supplier.
Please use your head when dropping mad dollar to China on new products – don’t spend all your savings!
Also, a final word on China, if you will be dealing with the Chinese, go and read poorly made in China. It’s a freaking excellent book and will arm you with 100% more knowledge that the vast majority of sellers.
We have very different cultures and mentalities and knowing what to expect will make your life much easier, especially if you want to do business with them.
3. Ordering a product
Sending a money to China, even if it’s a relatively small amount, can be a bit daunting at first, but it’s just a normal part of business. For small enough orders, you can usually pay with PayPal (which is fee heavy, but might make you feel better inside), you can pay by escrow on Alibaba, which is also super easy or you can just pay by standard money transfer, called T/T (you should be able to do this via online banking, although some banks differ).
The main thing is, don’t overcomplicate things.
If you were worried about getting scammed in some way (highly unlikely if you did even a little bit of diligence) you should be placing such a small order that it won’t even affect you mentally or financially. Remember the mantra: I will not buy more than 200 units, I will not jizz away my life savings, repeat ad nauseum.
People work themselves into a sweat over this for no reason. You’re not the UPS man and you’re not a logistics specialist, all you need to know is $5 per kg is decent when air shipping (although it will be a lot more in Jan on the run up to Chinese New Year).
Just let your supplier send over the goods via air express (usually FedEx or DHL) and pay them as part of the order. It’s that simple.
Forget about sea shipping – you shouldn’t ever be sending over enough of an untested product to warrant sea freight (see the mantra above).
If and when you do need to sea ship, you just get a freight forwarder to do literally everything for you. Just shop around for quotes, then pay them and wait patiently for your product to arrive.
I always recommend having your product sent to a prep and shipper (here’s a big list of them, but best to dig around some seller groups and see who they recommend). They’ll do all the labeling and pack things properly and do an inspection if you need it to make sure nothing got damaged in transit. If you’re in the UK, FBA Ship UK are by far the best and I now only recommend them.
4. Listing and selling on amazon
At this stage, your product should be on the way or with the prep and shipper and you need a properly optimized listing with excellent images (high quality shots, a few lifestyle images). I usually recommend outsourcing this as you don’t want to skim on it. I have a big post on listing optimization that you can check out here.
At this point, your prep and shipper will send out your goods to amazon and that’s it. You’ll need to set up some ppc (I have a very good course that will teach you all about that for less than $40) and you’ll need some customer feedback software to generate reviews (I review the main ones here).
That’s basically it, the real games start once your product is live.
Of all these steps, number one is where all your attention should go. The rest are as simple as doing some messaging on Alibaba and saying, how much are X units, please air ship me 200. Pay and say thank you.
Your first product probably won’t do that well
I don’t say this to piss on anyone’s bonfire, I just mention it because your first product is like your training wheels. If you do things the way I recommend and have a slow seller, you will probably still break even and be ready to do try a new product, forget all the success screen shots you see thrown around and just keep working.
I’ve had a lot of nonstarters in my fba journey (you can read about them here), that’s life. I’ve also been smashed by depression when I had a failed online business that was selling 0 units per week while I was sitting on 20k worth of inventory with a new born daughter and having to use my parent's credit card just to pay for groceries – at age 29. We’ve all got something to fight.
Fast track learning
Here’s something quick you can try if you are feeling overwhelmed right now:
Go do some basic product research (or don’t, it doesn’t matter), go to Aliexpress and order 10 units of something smallish and light. Open an amazon seller account and then go and research prep and shippers and sign up with one.
Send those ten units to the prep and shippers, then make a basic listing and get those items on amazon.
Don’t do it to try and make any money, just do it do walk through the process and to see what it all feels like, the workflow, the backend of seller central etc.
Think of it as an educational kamekaze product. You’ll probably spend about as much as you would on a month’s coffee budget, but you will have found, imported and launched a product in probably about 2 weeks.
Or here’s another idea. If you are based in the UK or US, go try some retail arbitrage, just to get a feel for listing things and selling things on Amazon. Take whatever baby steps you need.
But don’t listen to people when they say PL is hard or complex or risky (usually long-term retail arbers are terrified of PL). Rubbish, at best it’s daunting, but how many good things in life come easily?
Take out the ego (ego only causes problems anyway) and think about potential ‘failure’ as learning, as paying your dues.
I like to remember that Kobe Bryant missed more shots than any player in basketball history and that’s exactly what made him so great.
So take small steps and manage your risk. But start, today, take action and make something happen and be a boss like Kobe!