Using Amazon for Ecommerce with Ben Laing

He calls himself an online marketing consultant. I call him an Internet genius. Welcome to today’s episode, where I am joined by the incredible Ben Laing. Ben has an online marketing consultancy based in Fife, Scotland, where he helps businesses make sales on the Interwebs, using web design, SEO, and e-commerce, specifically through Amazon. Very interesting stuff. We all love sales.

Ben thinks of himself as a student of life, but in addition to that, he is an incredible teacher. I know you’re going to get a ton of value from all the wisdom he shares in today’s episode. Let’s say hello, shall we?

Timestamps

 

00: 01: 11 Can you tell us a brief background into who you are and what you do?

00:04:46 Can all businesses take advantage of Amazon for e-commerce?

00:11: 31 How would you recommend small business owners get started with this?

00:18:16  Once you have your products up on Amazon, how do you go about promoting them?

00:30:42 If you had to sum everything up in one tweetable, what would it be?

00:31:52 What is the number one book that we all need to read?

 
 
 

 Connect with Ben

 
 

Transcription

 

Chloë:

He calls himself an online marketing consultant. I call him an Internet genius. Welcome to today's episode, where I am joined by the incredible Ben Lee. Ben has an online marketing consultancy based in Fife, Scotland, where he helps businesses make sales on the Interwebs, using web design, SEO, and e-commerce, specifically through Amazon. Very interesting stuff. We all love sales.

Ben calls himself a student of life, but in addition to that, he is an incredible teacher. I know you're going to get a ton of value from all the wisdom he shares in today's episode. Let's say hello, shall we?

Hi, Ben. Welcome to this interview. Thank you so much for joining me. How are you today?

Ben:

I'm good, thank you.

Chloë:

I'm so excited that you're here, because we're going to talk Amazon and e-commerce. You're an online marketing consultant, which is the best job in the world, I would agree. I don't meet that many online marketing consultants who specialize in this. I know I don't. I don't have a clue how to get into this. Can you tell me just a little bit about what made you explore that? What made you go down the road of e-commerce, specifically on Amazon?

Ben:

Mainly how I got into it was through search engine optimization. My background in that is that I was building websites for my dad when I was at college at about 17 years old. Basically right through my childhood, I planned to start a business. I just had that idea that I was going to leave my work and do that, so I'd always been saving up. I started doing that for my dad and building websites for his property development company. He was buying and selling properties. Once we got quite successful with that, we were buying properties below market value, I was building the websites and getting them high up on search engines for Google so it would show up for property auctions, Glasgow, Edinburgh.

Back then, search engine optimization on Google was easy. Fast forward to now, I'm still going Google search engine optimization, but this opportunity came up. There's a business mode that people were using Amazon to sell their products. I figured out that really you don't need to have a product, because there's a system I figured out that we were able to do some research on products. The main skill that you needed was search engine optimization, because Amazon's a search engine just like Google. I call it a buyer engine, because you're cutting out that process you would go through if you were trying rank on Google. Obviously, then you need to convert them into a sale to buy through that.

Obviously, e-commerce websites are a wee bit different. When someone searches on Google, they're not necessarily looking to buy a product straight away. They're usually searching for questions or queries. I just liked the idea of cutting through that. You're going to a place where people go onto Amazon.com and they're there to buy. If you can get your website high up on an Amazon search result that's getting a lot of searches, then you've got a good chance of making the sale on a product.

I got into it myself, not only for me to start my own Amazon business, which I've done. It was mainly for 1, I'm able to use my search engine optimization services. I'm transferring over, just showing ... I'm doing it myself as well as being able to do it for customers, practicing what I preach. I seen the opportunity about 2 years ago, and I've been studying it. That's how I got into it. I've been doing search engine optimization, and that was a key skill, I'd been told, so I see that opportunity and jumped right in.

Chloë:

Perfect. It sounds so exciting. I never even thought of it like that, being able to cut out that middle set. If you're going onto Amazon and you type something in that search engine, you're looking to buy that thing or add it to your wish list to buy it later. That's a huge benefit to using Amazon. Do you think that this is something that all businesses can take advantage of, or is it very specific ones?

Ben:

I think the business model that I'm actually teaching, I've got a course I'm bringing out soon, is probably not for every business owner, but in terms of getting your products into Amazon, as long as you can produce a good amount of them to send them into Amazon and replace the sales, because the sales really go fast on Amazon. If you can replace your products in Amazon's warehouse quickly, then any business can really do it, if they've got products that they're selling on an e-commerce website. It's just using a different system with FBA, which is Fulfilled By Amazon. You put your products into Amazon's warehouse rather than sending it from your own place. You can also just set up your own business page, like an eBay seller, on Amazon as well. It's just a merchant seller rather than using their FBA service.

There's basically 2 ways you can sell, as a merchant or using FBA. You can switch over when you've got an account up. You can switch over between the 2, so you can sell them on Amazon then send them a package from your own place, or you can be on FBA seller and make sure that you're stocked up in Amazon using their fulfillment centers.

Chloë:

Perfect. That sounds like an exciting opportunity. What would you say are the other ... You've explained it in a bit more detail, but what would you say are the other benefits? If a business is to say, "This is an exciting opportunity. Maybe I should be going down this Amazon route." What would be some of the key benefits to using Amazon as opposed to just having e-commerce on their own website?

Ben:

I was thinking about that, as well, just to get the right point across on what the benefits are of Amazon over just using their own e-commerce site. Obviously, Amazon's got the big name. It's one of the companies you trust, because of their reputation for great customer service, fast deliveries. I know myself, I don't think twice, and everyone I know doesn't think twice, to order something from Amazon, because you know if something goes wrong with your order they're going to sort it out for you. When you're ordering from a small company's website, you're not really sure what's going to happen with your bank details, and you're not sure if it'll ever arrive.

You've got that trust with Amazon, and I think everyone has that trust, so it helps hugely. Trust is special on the Internet and is very important, because there's still people that are a bit weird about putting their credit card details into it. Amazon just feels almost like walking into a shop. Most people are used to it. I think that is the main thing.

The second thing is the amount of traffic that Amazon gets. I was just double-checking it, and I'm sure it was 2 billion or 3 billion views in the last year, actual traffic has went to Amazon. They're just growing like crazy every year. The traffic's growing and growing. If you can just get your products into Amazon, or even just get a listing on Amazon, then you're bringing in extra streams of where your sales can come from. You're giving yourself a huge opportunity to make a lot more sales than you would. You can have your e-commerce website and your products showing up on Amazon, just like you could show your products on eBay.

I think another third thing would be that people seem to think that they're buying from Amazon still. Some people don't know that there's other brands in there. You're standing behind Amazon's brand, and that alone helps sales go seamlessly.

Chloë:

That's huge. If you think about the key objections that may be said between someone ... They have to find you. They have to be able to find your website. If you're just starting out and you haven't done it a lot or you don't know SEO at all, and don't have someone like you to help them, it's really difficult to get that traffic. It's like what you were saying at the beginning, you don't just have to get the traffic.

You then have to get them into a transaction mindset, and also you have to build in the trust factor [inaudible 09:35]. I trust you with my credit card details, because I do that all the time. I remember buying my [inaudible 09:43] I couldn't get a [inaudible 09:47] anywhere. You have to have this one make. I went to Amazon. They didn't have any. Gave up on Amazon.com, and they ended up having to use this French company, and I didn't trust the website. I was scared. I was like, "I just want to get it on Amazon."

Ben:

They're normally quite good for having everything as well. I've read a book about Amazon called The Everything Store. That's what Amazon originally called themselves. Owner Jeff Bezos, his plan was from the beginning from being a bookstore, that's what they originally were, to building to being the everything store. They sell everything. Some things you can't get, really specific things like that, like a microphone.

Chloë:

It was so frustrating, but it just really made me think of that client. I trust Amazon, so there's times I will pick the more expensive item if it's on Amazon, because I trust it. Yes, you can get the traffic. They already have all the traffic for you. People who go in and type something, they are looking to buy what you have to sell, so you don't have to spend quite so much time really selling anything on that thing. It's set up for that. You've got all the reviews and everything, as well. As you've said, it doesn't have to be an either or, either. You can do both. Those are huge advantages that you've explained right there.

I know, from my own experience, and for other people watching this, they might be thinking, "This sounds amazing, but I don't know how to get started."

Ben:

Yes, that's always a problem.

Chloë:

What would you say to someone who is looking to get started with Amazon?

Ben:

If it's just for ... Skipping the steps that I would be teaching in the course, obviously for their own business with product, then you don't need to worry about actual buying or finding a supplier. That's part of the process on the business model what I'm teaching. Just to get on Amazon is actually really simple. It's probably easier than getting set up on eBay. If you've ever put anything up on eBay, I sell some of my secondhand stuff on eBay and it was really straightforward. I had the same feeling about Amazon. I just thought, "It's going to be a nightmare to set up on that." People seem to have this imagination that it's for big businesses only, if they even know that other businesses or brands can sell on Amazon. I know a few people, they think that they're buying from Amazon, but it's all brands within Amazon now, because they allow the FBA sellers to come in.

The way to get started is, you go to Amazon.com or .co.uk or wherever you are in the world. Go to your local Amazon website. There's a wee button on that page, just on the home page. As long as you're not logged in, you click on sell. It takes you and shows you the cost. I think it's $35 a month on .com to sell in the U.S., and whatever that is in pounds, maybe £20 a month for a seller account. You can choose individual to get started. You don't come up as a business with a brand name to begin with, and you get your products in as an individual for free. That's really how you do it. You just go to Amazon, click on the wee sell button, and then it tells you all the benefits. You can click there to get started. You fill in the form, and before you know it, you've got an account set up.

Then you just ... same as eBay, really. You add a product. You can search for product categories. There's a DIY category, foods, beauty. You go through which one you want to choose. You can actually find if you've got someone that's selling the same product, if it's reselling a brand's product, you can find that product, and it has all the details already on Amazon for you, so you just choose that. If it's a brand new one, you just have to go through and choose the category. Once you've got the category, that's the hardest step, then you can upload your own photos.

Photos should be taken professionally. I've got a lightbox there now. I didn't have that at the beginning. I don't know if you can see this, but my desk's white here. I began with just putting the products on the desk, and I put a light there so you shone the light onto the product to get it decent. That got me started on a budget, but now I'm able to afford some extra stuff, brought in a lightbox and got a light for that. The pictures are really key on e-commerce and on any e-commerce website, like Amazon or eBay or just a website, for making sure the products are really professional and they stand out. That really helps. If your products are better than your competition, then you can stand out and you can get that clickthrough over the competition.

Then you can put in your description, the title ... The title's important for SEO, search engine optimization, to make sure it ranks for the keywords that people type in. There's a section on top of that where it's got the description. You can click on another tab when you're setting up and you can add in keywords that you want to be found for, and you can add ... I don't know the exact character count, but there's about 3 or 4 different lines where you can add in keywords. You just put in a keyword, comma, space, and then add in another keyword. Do it as much as you can. You can fill that whole line right out with keywords.

Then you can add bullet points. You usually add your features and benefits, the benefits of that feature, describing all them. Then you add your price, and you can set up your account from there. Set up your banking details obviously to be paid in, and also for paying out. If you upgrade your account, you have to pay Amazon. That works as a statement. You don't actually have to pay right away. It comes in as a statement. You're minus £35 when you first set up your account, if you pay for the professional, but your balance will be 0 if you just go for an individual.

That's the basics really on how to get it set up. It's easy with me showing you on the screen, but we can't do that today, obviously.

Chloë:

That is so helpful, to know it's just that simple.

Ben:

It's as easy as eBay, really.

Chloë:

Yeah, you just need to follow through. Anybody can do it. You can start with an individual account and then maybe move up.

Ben:

Yeah, individual accounts, you're not even setting up as a business right there and then. You're just getting that going, and then you can upgrade if it is working out for you.

Chloë:

Yeah, it's a good testing ground.

Ben:

Yeah, that's how I started.

Chloë:

The other thing you said about portals, I really thought, "Yeah, that's exactly it." When you look at it, you could have the best product in the world. If you have a rubbish portal, people will associate the quality of the product with the portal. We can't help that. We all do it. That was key. If you ever need lightboxes, you can always get them on Amazon. It's perfect.

I have a quick question. Once you have your products up on Amazon, because it's a little different from how you can have it on your [inaudible 18:15], how do you go about promoting the fact that you have a store or you're selling products on Amazon? What's your most effective techniques?

Ben:

The actual feat is what they call sponsored ads. I don't think people actually notice what the sponsored ads. It's the same as how Google have, when you search on Google, you'll get a search result, and you'll see now they're more obvious what the ads are. You've got a green ad next to the search results. On Amazon, they have a sponsored next to their search results, but they have it a lot more disguised than Google do. You can't tell the difference between the ... We call it organic in search engine optimization. Organic just means the natural free listing, and then you've got these sponsored ads in between these listings. Most times they show up 2 or 3 at the top, the sponsored ads, and you can pay to show up there.

Once you've got your Seller Central account ... That's what your account's called, the back end of the seller section of Amazon is called Seller Central. If you're an Amazon seller, you'll log into Seller Central, and you'll get a dashboard along the top. To get the product up there on the ads in the sponsored listings, you click on advertising, and then you can add a product into there, and then start paying. You can go to a manual campaign or automatic campaign. I recommend getting started on going to advertising, then choosing your product and using the automatic, because what you get from that is the keywords that people are actually searching, clicking on your sponsored listing. You'll show up once you start paying for that. You can set your budget, like £30 pounds a month or up to whatever you want, £500 a month or £1000 a month.

You can check what your advertising cost of sales is. That's a percentage you can work out, and it's only costing you 5% of your sales. It tells you that. That's a good way to measure how much impressions it's got, how much actual clicks the ads had, and it costs you per click. If someone clicks on that, it costs 50 pence a click. As long as your product is £17, you're making a good profit off of that advert or that click. The advertising cost of sales basically work out the percentage of what advertising has come off of your sales.

That's the best way to get started, the automated campaign. Once you've got that going, you'll show up for your keywords that you want to be found for, like iPad case or something. Someone searches that, as long as you're paying a high enough bid for that keyword, that'll show up on the top result. It might go to the second page if it's competitive. If it's not as competitive, what you'll do is if you search for something, say an iPad case just for an example, but that's quite a competitive market, so I would guess that there would be ads on the top and ads down the right-hand side.

If you find a niche that's a small market that doesn't have those ads, that's what you want to look for, those keywords that don't have the ads all over the place, because then it's your own little niche, where if you click and add a sponsored listing, it will go right to the top, and you won't be competing to show up there. In the more competitive ones, you have to keep an eye on your ad every day to make sure they're not outbidding you. They go higher if they're spending more, putting their bids higher than yours. It's an eBay kind of bidding war but to rank higher, and it works the same as that on Google advertising. Google started it. Amazon-sponsored advertising is definitely the best way to get started.

You can use Facebook advertising as well to send traffic from Facebook, because can do a lot of targeting on Facebook to target people's demographics and their interests. You can find out their interests. If you go to facebook.com/advertising, that's where you can set up a campaign. You need to have a business account set up first. From there, you can go into choosing the demographics, age, sex, location of the customer, what pages they like, and that's their interests.

For example, I like a lot of Internet marketers, because that's what I'm into. I like anyone that's into FB and Amazon. People who are advertising can look into that and make sure the ad pops up in front of me if it's about Amazon. I see Amazon stuff all over my Facebook timeline, because they're targeting their marketing to the right person. It's really important, the targeting that you do on Facebook. I do that with the products we've got, for the customers. If we're selling iPad cases, then we'll make sure that they're interested in Apple technology. We were selling in the U.S., so we make the demographics from age 20 up to 40 in the United States only. I'll make sure that all the interests are targeting them as well.

That's how we do it. That's the 2 main ways. By doing that and sending traffic from Facebook over to Amazon, you're improving your organic, natural free listing with getting all that traffic to your product. There's a lot of ways to do it, but these are the 2 main ways that I'm using that drive a lot of traffic. Then there's obviously content marketing. You can build a website, do a blog around it, share tips, build an email list. That's a few ways of doing it.

Chloë:

[inaudible 24:45]. It's a little bit different from if you were to just do it on your website. I love that you pointed out the advertising and how you can improve basically your return on investment. A lot of people are scared. They don't want to give money. They feel like they're just paying for [inaudible 25:05], but if you can work it out, then you can basically, as you said, niche it down and know your customer, then you just need those advertising tools to find the exact right people, get them to the right place. They are more likely to buy because it is on Amazon. You can [inaudible 25:23] and build up to it. You can do more advertising.

Ben:

Once you've advertised for so long and you're making sales, there's a thing called sales velocity. You've got a Google algorithm, and that's the process of how they rank websites. We call it sales velocity. Amazon's main key ranking factor for your product listing an Amazon is the number of sales that you get. The more sales you're getting ... One thing you can do in the beginning is that advertising cost of sales percentage, don't ever go over 50%, because then you're starting to lose your profit, but as long as it's under 50%, then it's quite a good advertising cost of sales ratio. I've heard them right down to 2%. It's so cheap on Amazon, especially if you find a niche, a small market that's not being dominated with other advertisers. That's key. If you're starting from the beginning, you've not a business yet, the product research is a really important stage. You need to make sure you find one that's got no competition, and then you can get that 1%-2% advertising cost to sale margin, a really low percentage of advertising cost.

If you're already there and you're in a competitive market, you have to pay what it costs to show up there. Just make sure that it's as low as you can. The more sales you make, the better. If you're not making a lot of profit in the beginning, what you're doing is you're building up your free natural listing. It's going up the organic search results. Even if you get to number 1 for the free result, you can remove your ad if you want, and it will be free traffic there. I do advise just keeping the 2 of them, because you're getting 2 chances of getting traffic from 2 angles. Just make sure it's not costing you money.

Chloë:

Yeah, big one. Targeted sales. I feel like you've just given us a whole training session. Oh, my goodness. I did not even know this whole big exciting thing. I just didn't have any idea.

Ben:

It's a whole new ... Like I said, I've been studying it 2-3 years now, and I only started my Amazon business making sales in March. That has been going really well. People have seen some of the videos I've been sharing on Periscope and YouTube and things. I've gone into all these Facebook groups of other new FBA Amazon sellers, and I've started coaching people now, just sharing this information with them. I keep learning all the time. I've got, as you can see, my bookshelf there filled with books. A few of them are on Amazon. There's not many books on Amazon selling at the moment, because I think it's quite a new opportunity, with this FBA. It's going for a long time, but it's just been people are opening their eyes up to the opportunity.

It's a good thing to get in. I've been calling it the Amazon gold rush, because there is a huge opportunity in that. I think it's going to last for a long time, because the FBA, anyway, has been around for a long time. You can stock your products in Amazon. That makes it so automated, the business, you don't need to even physically have the products or have a warehouse yourself. It's all done by Amazon. You just pay a fee for the FBA. It's about 19% roughly you pay. If you want to do it yourself, you can send it from your own place or your office or your warehouse once you build up a business. To get started, it's quite handy having Amazon doing all that for you.

Chloë:

It's just that, the hassle. How much of your time does that take?

Ben:

I don't know what to do with myself.

Chloë:

If it's all done for you, it's a seamless, easy transaction. When you were saying that, I'm thinking I've heard a couple of big companies that started. There's one company that's not launched yet. It's an international [inaudible 29:58]. They're selling all their orders that exact way. I didn't even think of it. It makes the transaction process so much easier and more effective. As you said, it's this huge opportunity that people don't know about, and you don't know what you can't know. You have to learn this stuff.

That's why I'm so grateful that you've come on and shared this. I've learned so much, and I know everyone else will. If you had to sum everything we've talked about in a tweetable, what would that be, if you can?

Ben:

The advertising is key, with using the sponsored ads. There's a quote that I got out of a book. I think it's Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's his autobiography. It's Ted Turner, he said, "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise."

Chloë:

I love that. That is a perfect tweetable.

Ben:

It rhymes as well.

Chloë:

Exactly. Anything that rhymes is good in my mind. One more question. I always ask a random one at the end, and I don't know anybody who reads as much as you do. You put on your Twitter about student of life, and that's so true. If you had to recommend 1 business book, it could be anything, what would it be?

Ben:

I was looking through quotes on this book. If you're going to ask my favorite book, then it's this one. I always recommend this one. That's more for your finances, but you mean any sort of marketing ones?

Chloë:

Just if a business owner is watching this, and if I had to read 1 book, what's the single best book that I need to read?

Ben:

Richest Man in Babylon would be my first recommendation for anyone to read a book. It's more financial philosophy rather than business, so I would say, for business and entrepreneurship, it's more The 4 Hour Work Week. That's my Bible for business philosophy.

Chloë:

It's a huge book. It is very good. That's perfect. Thank you so much. Here's the thing. I know that when people are going to watch this, first they're going to be like, "How do I find Ben?" Second off, "He keeps mentioning this course thing and I don't know what it is. Where can I find that?" How can people find you and connect with you?

Ben:

The best place to connect with me, I'm very active in my business book club. If you go to Facebook and search Ben's Business Book Club, and my Twitter and Instagram handle is benlaing2, because benlaing was taken, unfortunately, so I'm Ben number 2.

Chloë:

Only in handles. That's perfect. Thank you so much. We'll include all of the links to that, of course.

Ben:

The Amazon gold rush course, it's not out available yet, but I've got an email list going. If they just go to amazongoldrush.com, that's the domain name, and they can just search that on Google or go straight to the URL.

Chloë:

Perfect. Thank you.

Ben:

I've been putting a few tips up there on the Amazon site through my Periscope, which is benlaing2 as well. It's all the same. They're the places I've been quite active recently.

Chloë:

Very good. [inaudible 33:57] to that course, and I am going there to see. Thank you so much for joining me, Ben. It was such a pleasure.

Ben:

No problem.

Chloë:

I can't tell you how much I learned, so I can't even imagine how much value you're going to bring to everyone watching and listening. Thank you so much.

Ben:

Thanks for having me.