2021-04-13

How To Find The Best Amazon Consultant or Marketing Agency

The Best Amazon Consultant

 

What are some things you should look for and ask when looking at Amazon Consultants?

 

When I started this company in late 2008, early 2009 the concept of what I wanted to do wasn’t even a thing yet. I was having trouble describing the business model to insurance agents and even clients because it was so foreign. A contract ecommerce sales manager or ecommerce manufacturer’s representative. These were some of the terms being heavily used at the time within the CPG industry for this type of position. In the first decade of the 2000’s the traditional method of retail was still dominant, but somewhere around 2006 or 2007 when the housing market and economy started booming e-commerce was just beginning to spread its wings and fly. This is about the time when I began to dabble in 3rd party marketplaces outside of eBay. The online payment protection and encryptions just started to get decent, and consumers started to feel comfortable entering their credit cards on the internet to make purchases. 2008 hit, and the economy was in a tailspin. The American consumer was shaken, jobless rates were spiking, bankruptcy was increasing, and so were foreclosures. This superstorm of poor economic conditions created a scenario where the consumer was looking for value, I saw this online and entered at the very point in time when e-commerce (and Amazon.com) began to skyrocket. Free shipping, lower prices, cost conscience audience. By 2010 Amazon was becoming the front runner within ecommerce retail and I was well positioned to take the bull by the horns. Now how did I see this trend before it occurred? How was I so well positioned, Was it luck?

The answer is no, and this is one of the pieces an Amazon expert must understand in order to be successful. Understanding consumer behavior plays a large role into understanding how to position yourself on Amazon. Fortunately, I have a degree in Marketing and studied consumer behavior heavily in college (UCF class of 2004). Many sellers and even experts never understand this concept of positioning, along with how and why the consumer buys. For all intents and purposes, we will hone in on the Amazon consumer specifically and what you should be looking for in Amazon Consultants before you sign on the dotted line.

Unfortunately, with the rapid growth of Amazon come a lot of coat-tail riders and band waggoners. People who have 2-4 years of experience on the platform, but profess themselves as experts. I will make this one analogy which should hit home for you; Michael Jordan didn’t start playing basketball in college, He started when he could walk. When you are looking for any sort of consultant, you are paying for experience, so why chose an Amazon consultant who lacks that experience? Like professional basketball this is a game where the experience matters for MANY reasons. I will go into a few very common concerns when shopping for a digital sales partner, but the below comment will outline my general point.

Many seller experiences are unique to the brand and many problems can be unique to the products.

Unless you have a lot of experience selling different product types, you won’t understand the segments and you also will not understand the potential conflicts that may arise with that product type.

Brand registry is about 10 years old. Before the existing platform was brand registry version 1. The tools were totally different. If you are integrating an old brand that has not been updated, you need to know to look out for this and what the implications are. Ask any e-commerce consultant, amazon marketing agency, or Amazon product consultant how much experience they have using brand registry tools. Also ask what sort of issues have they used brand registry for.

How many brands are currently being managed via brand registry? This is an important question because many of the content and brand conflicts we see as an Amazon marketing expert come back to how the brand is sync’d to the store and the ASIN’s. We see a lot of mistakes made with brand registry as it concerns catalog conflicts and content ownership. If you manage a lot of brands in brand registry you likely have seen a lot of conflict. It is also important to ask how many brands the Amazon consultant has personally registered. We have done dozens of registrations at this point, personally and for clients.  

Amazon Advertising, formally AMS, has also gone through two iterations. It was first launched around 2011 or 2012. It started with two different ad types, and now it has blossomed into at least half a dozen. The tools and metrics have also changed in this time period, understanding what the metrics mean determines once ability to properly perform optimizations. Unless you have a deep understanding of PPC, you cannot properly develop any brand on Amazon. In order to have a deep understanding of PPC on amazon you would have had to been exposed to every ad type and had clients with robust budgets which would allow for the consulting experience. We personally manage millions in ad budget every year, without this budgeting knowledge you cannot have long standing contracts with clients. IE no one would renew.

An Amazon consultant should have equally weighted experience in Vendor Central and Seller Central, Author Central, and KDP (kindle direct publishing). You cannot be an Amazon consultant with partial knowledge with 1 selling platform. Having spoken with a number of my competitors I can tell you many of them are mostly one or the other, and this serves as a disadvantage because of how dynamic Amazon is. From year to year, you cannot always determine which selling method may make better financial sense for your business. What if you get locked into an agreement and you have to move to the other platform for financial reasons, or Amazon invites you into the retail program and your rep has little experience there. What if your resellers are on Seller Central and you are on Vendor central and don’t know enough about the other platform to resolve some of your marketplace issues? These are very common problems, so my point is you cannot limit your business to the limitations of the Amazon consultants who only focus on one side or another.

You should always ask any potential Amazon consultant what are common restrictions in the category you are selling in and or what are some of the restrictions you are normally able to overturn. With COVID-19 a lot of new restriction and regulation on keywords specific to claims have flagged and deactivated tens of thousands of ASIN’s. Amazon does not allow you to use the words mold, mildew, bacteria, antibacterial, virus, germs etc without documents from the EPA or pesticide testing (kill tests).

There are also product restrictions, things you can and cannot sell on Amazon which are changing regularly. Amazon recently announced it will not be allowing anything meltable in their FBA network starting in 2021 which include candles, wax, chocolates, etc. What will your plan be for fulfillment in the event you are blacklisted from FBA at random? Do you have a backup plan?

You cannot assume status quo will continue every year because of how often Amazon changes the way they conduction business.

If you are a retail vendor how many pitches have you negotiated, the contract term renewals and what are the experiences there? If you are a retail vendor in vendor central every February or March new terms are issued, they could go up down or remain the same. Does your consultant understand how to navigate these? Maybe your returns are so low that you can turn off the damage allowance, activate return rights and save yourself the 2%.

Ask for examples of brands built from the ground up by the Amazon Consultant. At any given time, I can provide links to brand pages which link back to an ASIN that has thousands of reviews. In fact, all of my repeating customers are top performers in their categories. My best-selling brand has been with me for 10 years and they have over 40,000 reviews on their best seller, 100% authentic and verified reviews. The best amazon consultants have clients that have been with them for a long period of time, so also ask for the renewal rate. Mine is very high, any of my clients which have left have either brought this position in house after years of brand development or they are still with me.

How much experience does the “Amazon Expert” have with a full year’s promotion calendar on Amazon and understanding preparing for peak season as it relates to deals and inventory positioning? One of the worst situations is growing so fast and being unprepared for holiday season, unfortunately I see it all too often with new brands. Supply Channels have also been very disrupted over the last 24 months between tariffs, raw material, and labor shortages. Planning will be crucial to maintain or gain a competitive edge on site.

Ask for a list of ASINS which have rank under 10,000 in their product category. If they provide you with a list of ASIN’s that have beautiful content, images, and video but the product rank is 100,000 + this is very telling. It means they know how to build a detail page, but that is it. Don’t be fooled by only visuals, they need to know how to move volume not just build a pretty detail page.

Understanding keyword research and how this links back to product optimization of title, bullet feature, product description and A+ content is important. Alternatively, any Amazon expert should know that your most high targeted terms should be included as infographic marketing call outs within the main image gallery. Do you see this in any of their example ASIN’s?

The best Amazon consultants can assist brand owners with new product development, this knowledge should extend to both categories to avoid due to commoditization and also categories to enter which are underdeveloped. Niche categories are of the best performing on Amazon, ask for experience with niche brands.

Does your Amazon consultant own their own private label or does this Amazon Marketing Company have their own house brands which they sell on Amazon? I would also ask to take a look at them as well. See what type of products they sell and if they are performing. Is it a commodity or is it something unique?

Last but not least you need to ask Any Amazon Marketing consultants if they have any existing clients that directly compete with your brand before you sign an agreement. Many inquiries of ours forget to ask this question, but it is important in many ways. Most importantly you are vying for the same customer base and bidding on the same keywords organically and for PPC. We are very upfront with our inquiries if there is an existing conflict and will not accept new business if it directly competes with an existing client. If we have existing clients this serves to protect their interests. I don’t think any consultant can be objective enough and withhold favoritism with this conflict present. It also allows the consultant to give up trade secrets on terminology that may be working for brand #1 and apply to brand #2.

When interviewing Amazon selling experts ask them how often will you be able to reach them by phone, email, and what are regularly meeting intervals. I find from a lot of our inherited customers that our competition mostly has a set it and forget it model, they never hear from their Amazon rep after a few months. This relationship is a partnership in order for it to work, and the more important you are as a client, the better access to your amazon consultant you should have.

Ask about commission and flexible or tiered rate agreements. Many of my clients have different agreements, and at the end of the day we can make nearly any service level work. Dotcom reps Offers flat rate, hourly, and variable commission agreements for its clients. Amazon is not one size fits all, therefore your consulting agreement should be catered to your needs as well.

Selling on Amazon comes with its fair share of challenges, and if you plan to grow to a high level you need to partner with the correct service providers. All Amazon experts are not created equally, and all amazon consultants do not have the same length and amount of experience under their belt. The level of experience determines how fast you scale, how quickly you overcome challenges, and how much market share you occupy in your respecting selling category. Understand that experience does come with a cost, and I would expect to pay more for someone with more experience. After all, you wouldn’t hire just any lawyer, you hire the lawyer who can win in court not the one who will just show up for court.

By Adam E. Wilkens