This is a guest post from Amazon FBA Expert William Tjernlund who has has sold over $10M on Amazon over the past few years. It has been lightly edited for structure/style. (The original is entitled: Why Are You Selling on Amazon? And What I Wish I Knew"). Check out Will's blog at FBAExpert.com.
For the beginners, I wanted to post about some of the lessons learned from growing a business on Amazon and using FBA:
Before starting your business make sure it fits the lifestyle you want. Everyone wants to be successful, but there is a big difference between the person who makes $400 per week spending 2 hours on their business and the person spending 40 hours to make $2000. If you aren’t serious about this and take it into account when you are structuring your business you may end up with something that isn’t what you want. You will be surprised how many decisions are simplified when you take a step back and think if the next step matches where you are trying to head.
Suppliers vs. products. I am a huge believer in shopping for suppliers from which to source and not just shopping for products. When you put all your effort into searching, selecting and sourcing a single product you are putting a lot of effort (and potentially capital) into something that may have a limited chance of success, and may not be a sustainable business even if it is a success. For example, if it fails, did you put all your chips on red on the first roll of the roulette wheel and when black came up you are done for the night? And if you do find a successful product, great, but now you have to start all over again and repeat the process to grow you business. Alternately, if you find a good supplier who offers related items you can spread your capital over a variety of products, see what sells well and what does not, and reshuffle your capital to match what is successful. Now, in order to grow, you select more products of the same or add to your mix. It is much easier and you have spread out your risk. Think about it: when the supplier demands a minimum order are they asking for a minimum order of 500 units at $10 apiece or are they really asking you to spend $5000 with them? Plus, if you get really successful you may have more customization, better terms and thin out the costs of your transportation by buying many products from one supplier.
Go with what you know. What store could you walk into today and throw on a orange vest, blue shirt, or tie and be a legitimate salesperson instantly? If you played Lacrosse in high school do you have a pretty good idea of what makes a good shaft or mask and could you identify a under-served market in that space? Did you grow up riding horses and find out that parents are looking for cheap binoculars to throw in their pockets while their kids perform? Couldn’t you offer a $99 set of “Equestrian Binoculars” that has no competition and probably costs less than $10? What else does that supplier have that you didn’t think off that you could also offer to complete a full line? My early successes weren’t selling what everyone else sells (I’m looking at your meat claws and “fancy” robes), but minor niches in what I knew well.
Relying on hacks is not a sustainable business model. I’m not Michael Porter, but I do know that the best way to have success on Amazon is to offer a good product at a good price. The easiest way to show up at the top of Amazon search results is to consistently sell a lot of product. Focus on getting more products if you need to grow and sales have plateaued and not resort to gimmicks that may only work in the short term.
U.S. suppliers are great. If you have decent capital ($10,000+) you may be surprised, with the right presentation, how good of a deal you can get with brand name suppliers and how willing they are to sell to you. I am not saying you'll get Apple or Nike products, but if you can find businesses that are big and legitimate in their space, but you can still be a decent sized fish for them at $10,000 then you may really have something.