What would it be like to be a fly on the wall in a room with e-commerce leaders discussing the ingredients of success? You don’t have to wonder! On this episode of The Amazing Seller, you’ll hear part one of a two-part series with key e-commerce entrepreneurs as they discuss their journeys toward success, how to validate products, picking a strategy, lessons learned in failure, and much more! You will need a pen and some paper for this episode to catch all the helpful insight that these leaders bring. Also, make sure you keep an eye out for part two of this series, you don’t want to miss it!
Everyone Starts Somewhere
Does it feel like you’ll never reach the heights of success that leaders like Scott have reached in their e-commerce businesses? Do you think that these leaders have some special edge that you don’t? On this episode of The Amazing Seller, you’ll hear how several e-commerce industry leaders got their start in the marketplace and it's not as glamorous as you might think. Don’t put these guys on a pedestal, they had to work through their own failures and difficulties just like you. Learn from their story and push through adversity to find your own journey toward success!
Identifying a product to sell
How do you find the best product to sell online? What methods do you use to validate that product and make sure it will provide you with profit potential. Should you spend time checking the marketplace, researching existing products that consumers are unhappy with, or should you build a brand and start cementing yourself as the expert in that field? On this episode of The Amazing Seller, you’ll hear from entrepreneurs and business leaders who walk through the product validation process. If you are looking for your first product or for your next one, this is the episode that you’ll want to take notes on!
Find a Strategy that works for you
There are a couple of schools of thought when launching a new product in the e-commerce space. Which strategy is the best fit for you? On this episode of The Amazing Seller, you’ll hear from e-commerce leaders who break down their approach to selling a product online. Find out how they would market the product, build a brand, and find their audience. If you are just getting started and want to know what different approaches work in the e-commerce arena, then you don’t want to miss this episode!
Lessons learned from failed products
One of the best ways to learn about a process is to learn about what doesn’t work. What lessons can you take away from e-commerce leaders who tried and failed with launching their products? On this episode of The Amazing Seller, you’ll hear from industry leaders who walk through a failed experiment they had with one of their products. Each story is unique and brings a different perspective that will help sellers like you understand the process better and figure out what you need to do to make your efforts a success. If you are looking for key insights that you can use in your business today, make sure you catch this episode!
OUTLINE OF THIS EPISODE OF THE AMAZING SELLER
- [0:03] Scott’s introduction to this episode of the podcast!
- [4:00] Steve, Ian, and Scott introduce themselves.
- [7:00] Scott talks about his start in business and ecommerce.
- [10:00] Ian talks about his start in business and ecommerce.
- [19:20] Steve talks about his start in business and ecommerce.
- [21:30] How to get started selling a product in the ecommerce space.
- [27:45] Finding an audience for your product.
- [31:20] Lessons learned from failed products.
- [38:30] Difficulties with product quality from China.
TRANSCRIPT TAS 353
(Part 1) LIVE Product Brainstorming and Website Tear Downs with Ecommerce Experts
[00:00:02] Scott: Well hey, hey. What's up everyone? Welcome back to another episode of The Amazing Seller Podcast. This is episode number 353 and today is going to be part one of something that I haven’t really done before…
[read more=”Read full transcript…” less=”Read less”]
…and this is a Live product brainstorming session and part two will be a Website Teardown where we talk with other E-commerce experts and people that have been doing this for a while and those people are Noah Kagan. I had him on the show before. He was episode 342 and then Ian Schoen from Tropical MBA. So another great guest. And then Steve Chou, a repeat guest on our show here. He was on episode 93 and 323. Really excited to have him on as well and this what was here… Let me just kind of talk about how this whole thing kind of happened.
Noah had reached out to me and said, “Hey, maybe we should get together sometime and we can kind of do this round table thing and maybe get Ian on, maybe Steve, maybe you and we can just sit around and kind of talk about product research and brainstorming and how to test and validate and all of that stuff.” And then he went ahead and he asked people on his Facebook page, would they like us to review their website. So all they had to do is just submit their website. So we picked the three websites and the way that we approached this was, let’s take these websites with fresh eyes and land on the page and then talk about how we would improve it and all of these products have to do with physical products.
But it’s a website that you would land on if you were just searching for something related to these products. So that’s going to be in part two. So you are going to want to definitely listen to this one on part one and then part two will be the website teardowns which is again another great session. And this was actually recorded for all of us to share if we wanted to. So I went ahead and I took all the highlights and it went on for almost a couple of hours. So I broke it down, got really to the meat of it, and I think you guys will get a ton of value from this recording.
[00:02:02] Scott: And just imagine being at the table with all of us and just digging into this topic and I had a blast doing it and I felt like again I was not the smartest guy at the table, which I never want to be. Which is great because I learned a ton as well going through this process and I really enjoy doing it. So definitely listen to this episode and listen to part two because you guys are going to get a ton of value. There’s tons of golden nuggets scattered amongst these episodes.
Now the other thing I wanted to do really quickly is just remind you on the show notes. You will want to download the transcripts to this episode and part two. That will be coming next. But right now you can head over to theamazingseller.com/353 and then you’ll get all the transcripts, all of the links and the show notes that we talked about will be there on that page. So guys I’m going to stop talking because this is a great episode. You guys are going to enjoy it. I’m fired up for you guys to listen to this awesome conversation that I had with my good friends, Noah, Ian and Steve. So enjoy.
[00:03:05] Noah: Brag the most about yourself in 15 seconds and give us how much you’ve made in ecommerce revenue so that people can take you more seriously. I want some status updates or some brag updates.
[00:03:14] Steve: This is going on your podcast?
[00:03:18] Noah: I originally thought everyone could take the episode and put it in their own and that’s up to you guys if you want.
[00:03:23] Steve: Okay, but it’s going on yours for sure? Right?
[00:03:25] Noah: Yes. If it sucks I’m not going to put it out. But if it’s great, I’m going to put it out. No pressure
[00:03:33] Steve: Because I’m telling my intro. All right, so this is going on your podcast. In that case, it’s your boy Steve Chou aka Papa Panda aka Chewfusious aka the emperor. I run a seven figure store called Bumblebee Linens. I started it back in 2007 before there were all these popular platforms around. Grew to six figures in profit in the first year and it’s been growing in the double and triple digits ever since. That led to my blog mywifequitherjob.com
where I kind of document my experiences running my store, which has led to a popular podcast and an ecommerce conference called The Seller Summit.
[00:04:10] Noah: Damn, one. Four plugs, one intro, 15 seconds, impressive. The Asians always overdo it.
[00:04:16] Scott: He prepared though for that. He prepared for that. Don’t let him fool you.
[00:04:19] Noah: The Asians are like, “Oh I’m not ready, I’m not ready. A plus.” Alright, Ian Schoen, hit it off.
[00:04:25] Ian: I’m a little bit slow. I don’t know if I can do this in 15 seconds but 2007-2008 time frame. Me with my business partner, we started an ecommerce site. We're selling valet parking equipment. I grew that into portable bars, grew that into cat furniture. It was a mid seven figure ecommerce operation, had product design, manufacturing, sourcing and sold it in 2015 and since then I've just been kind of hanging out on the porch. Not all hanging out on the porch, so Noah comes over once in a while. Started a blog and a podcast back around 2010 called The Tropical MBA and that's where we were musing about the company that we used to own and now we interview other people that are running successful companies.
[00:05:13] Noah: Alright Scott, the finale.
[00:05:15] Scott: Yeah right, okay. I'm going to go a little different angle here. The most thing I want to brag about I think is that I’ve been married for 22 years. Can I hear a round of applause on that?
[00:05:22] Noah: Yes.
[00:05:24] Scott: That's impressive, right?
[00:05:25] Noah: That is really impressive.
[00:05:26] Scot: And my wife has been my partner in a lot of those businesses that I've come up with. So yeah and she's been a huge supporter. So basically I'm a dad. That's my first and foremost passion and I’ve created lifestyle businesses. No college degree, never stepped foot in college and was able to build a photography business locally, a six figure business that allowed us to work from home and then from there started selling on eBay and some of our own digital products on CD and that's really where my first product was kind of sold. But then since, have built multiple six figure businesses in ecommerce and in digital. So yeah, that's pretty much my spiel in a nutshell.
[00:06:07] Noah: And Scott for a lot of people who don't know for my audience, he was actually a construction worker. So a lot of the times are like, “Oh Noah you're already like Jewish, so you have an advantage.” Like you know, literally someone was a construction worker, not with that experience that college was able to do. So we have a good show for you guys today about how to be the best in ecommerce. So let's just get going in and go back to the basics like for each of you guys I know. What was the first product you sold online? Like how did you guys sell your first product, make your first dollar, with your ecommerce business? So maybe we can go backwards in reverse so Scott to… Just jump in where other guys want to jump in.
[00:06:39] Scott: Yeah, cool. My first online sale was really, wooden cedar bridges that I found, I was doing a little bit of retail arbitrage back then, I didn’t even know what that was. What’s that?
[00:06:48] Noah: What is a wooden cedar bridge?
[00:06:50] Scott: It was a wooden cedar bridge for a garden. So little four foot bridges and my wife and I had seen that these things were selling on eBay and we had no idea what we're doing but we said you know what let's try to sell these things because we’d seen we could buy them for like 25 bucks at a local store. We sold them for like 130 bucks a piece and they were selling like hotcakes. We were buying 20 at a time.
[00:07:09] Noah: How did you even think like, oh there's wooden bridges, like I can put them on eBay and make money?
[00:07:16] Scott: I'll tell you. Yeah, I’ll tell you exactly. I think I was selling something else just because I was getting rid of something like something around the house and I just, everybody is saying that you could sell it on eBay. Let me just go ahead put it up there and like within like two hours I had like five bids and I'm like holy crap, like I never knew you could sell something online. I mean this is going way back.
And then I started looking at other things that people were selling. I started looking around the house and stuff and then my wife had said that she'd seen that these wooden bridges were you know, people were buying them off of eBay. So I said well let's just try to buy some and sell them because she had said she had found some at a store. So we kind of looked it up and just kind of reverse engineered it and we actually put our kids through private school selling those wooden bridges.
[00:07:54] Noah: So one thing to add Scott. I think that's what we talked about on your show. Which is just like, for anyone out there who’s like I don't even know what kind of business to start, just grab all the stuff in your house or all the stuff in your friend's houses or your office or wherever it is and just start putting it on eBay or Amazon or Etsy. Just get it going and then you probably find some type of angle or thing that should work for you.
[00:08:13] Scott: Yeah, so just again just to kind of really wrap up. So that was like just the thing that got me kind of like excited but then from there we had a photography business, a brick and mortar business and then I started seeing that people were selling different templates and stuff online or on eBay. So I started selling my digital wedding templates on eBay and that was really my first fledge business in the ecommerce world as far as like it was a physical product but it was a CD. So that was that was my first round.
[00:08:41] Noah: How do you feel because you know you were doing construction work, you're doing manual labor all day and now you're like, you know throwing… I just keep thinking the gardens of Madison County and you're just making easy money. Like how did that feel for you?
[00:08:52] Scott: It was insane because I've dreamt of it. I was out there in the construction site, like you guys are probably seeing the guys are out there on the roofs or in the hot sun or in the cold winters because I was in upstate New York and I dreamt of it. I mean I did all kinds of things. I mean I was even in Amway, imagine that. Way back when in the day. I went to meetings and all that you know, so…
[00:09:10] Noah: What's Amway? Is that like alcohol anonymous? MLM
[00:09:13] Scott: Yes. I think a lot of us entrepreneurs have gotten started in that way but it definitely introduced me to the business concept and stuff. But yes, so yeah, I was a hard labour for construction and then just never thought I could do it and then I started getting the taste for it on eBay and that kind of I guess gave me all of the knowledge to kind of keep moving and the motivation to keep doing it.
[00:09:37] Noah: Ian.
[00:09:38] Ian: Yeah, so back in 2007, we started our first ecommerce company and it was selling valet parking products. So going through college, part of the way that I paid for everything was as a valet parking attendant. I thought it was a cool way to drive nice cars. And then I got out of college.
[00:9:59] Noah: Do you have a favorite valet story.
[00:10:03] Ian: I mean back in the day like most of the stories are like you get like a big rush that you're not expecting and of course like it's a bunch of like degenerates working at the valet.
[00:10:14] Noah: That's nice to know. Well maybe is there something that most people don't know about valet? Should we not be doing valet?
[00:10:20] Ian: It really depends. I mean if you go on YouTube, you can see plenty of destruction going on but the valet industry or the people that work valet are not so dissimilar to the service industry. You know the cooks and the waiters and things like that. So they all like to party. They all spend every dollar that they have. That was me and so there was many days where you're very hungover, you come up to work and all of a sudden there's a rush and you're puking behind the parking garage because you're having to run around like a crazy man.
Anyways I was a valet parking attendant. I got out of school, I went to school for product design and started working at a firm and then I just started to look around. I just had like a different lens and I saw these valet parking stands. Did a little bit of research, they were all manufactured at the time in the United States and they weren't manufactured very well at all. The equipment hadn't really been thought through as clearly designed like by mom-and-pop operations out of necessity. No one had figured out how to make it efficient for shipping. No one had figured out how to make replacement parts for it.
No one had really thought through the industry. At the time, a lot of these valet parking companies were turning from small mom-and-pop operations to big corporations and none of these companies knew how to speak corporate either, the ones selling the equipment. So we saw an opportunity to start making that equipment and that's what we did back in 2008. And the way I got started in e-commerce was, I kind of had an idea of what I wanted the valet equipment to look like. So we designed it, we developed it. I had $50,000 worth of equipment on a container coming over from China and I had no idea how to market this stuff through the internet and so it was..
[00:12:00] Noah: One second. Just want to take you back. How did you, so you see valet and you're like, “Oh I can make a better valet box?” And then, did you just like draw it on paper or did you use CAD, like what did you like that's the part, did you just jump to like oh then I have stuff coming from China?
[00:12:15] Ian: Yeah, so I drew it on CAD. So I went to school as a product designer. So that was part of my skill set, was being able to design products.
[00:12:23] Noah: If someone doesn't have that knowledge, like let's say I want to design a better garbage can because I think garbage cans are overpriced. I don't know if that's just me.
[00:12:29] Ian: Totally overpriced. So the way to hack it, it's very easy. So if you go over to China and this has been the case for a long time. If you go to them with a sketch or a half an idea, they're unlike a lot of American manufacturing companies. They will put in the design and development work to make that product for you.
[00:12:48] Noah: Where do you find those kind of people now? Or where would you?
[00:12:52] Ian: I used to make pilgrimages. I mean I used to go over there for a month, two months at a time. Hang out.
[00:12:59] Noah: Like you could just show up in China and they’re like, “Hey, it's the white guy.”
[00:13:00] Ian: Absolutely, yeah. I mean I had a fixer, so I had a guy that spoke the language and that could take me around all the different factories. I mean these days a lot of people sell on Amazon and eBay and all these sites. It's relatively easy to find products through Alibaba and things like that but I was looking for unique manufacturing capabilities and unique products and to do that I was on the ground over there.
[00:13:23] Noah: So one thing I think you've mentioned to me in the past is that, when you actually get a product and you kind of like the way that it's made, you can actually just look on their tags or their stickers to see and try to work backwards of the manufactures. Is that possible?
[00:13:34] Ian: Yeah, absolutely. I mean the way that China is set up is actually in like small towns or small communities of manufacturing expertise. So if you want to get buttons made, chances are like you're not just going to get a one button factory. In China you're going to land at the button factory and then all the neighbours around that factory are also going to be making buttons. And so there's a lot of efficiency there in the way that they're set up. So…
[00:13:58] Noah: Oh excuse me,
[00:13:59] Ian: Go ahead.
[00:14:00] Noah: No it sounds like, so for most people if they don't have the skills of being able to design a better one, it's like find a product or I guess I don't know how… How would you find a fixer? Like if I want to make my garbage can or how do I do that?
[00:14:11] Noah: Find an existing manufacturer of garbage cans. Whether it be on Alibaba or directly in China and chances are they're going to help you to create a better garbage can. So one of the rules that I use, is like most products, I mean sophisticated products are made up of many different materials. So it might be like wood, plastic, metal, figure out what the majority of that material is. So let's say the majority of a valet stand is metal. I'm going to go find a metal manufacturer that makes something that looks like valet parking equipment. For example toolboxes and then if you have plastic or something like that that you also want to add on to the unit, a lot of times they will subcontract out for that plastic. So your manufacturer will do a lot of that work for you. Does that make sense?
[00:14:54] Noah: Yes, so they'll actually do work once you've found the person?
[00:14:57] Ian: Yeah, so you don't need a design, you don't need a background design or anything like that. I mean it was very helpful for me because I was able to get exactly what I wanted kind of you know in the first and second try whereas you'd probably have to go through a lot of different iterations with these factories.Go ahead, it was helpful.
[00:15:15] Noah: So you make the design and then you find a fixer who gets you the people in China and then they send you $50,000 worth of valet boxes and you hadn’t sold any at that point?
[00:15:25] Ian: We hadn't sold any. So I didn't know what my plan was. I think my plan was like, okay get this thing designed, order it and then as soon as I got on the water I kind of started to panic because I had all this money out there number one. Number two I didn't actually know the quality of the product. I mean I'd ordered the sample but as I found out later on, in China not necessarily what you order is what you get. So I had all this product coming over and I wasn't like an Internet power user at the time. Like I kind of understood what search results were and like how the internet worked, but I was very far away from understanding SEO.
And so that was the first thing we did was we basically sat down. We were like, alright, we have to figure out how to get this site to number one and one of the ways that we did it back in the day, I think this is like 2007, was we signed up for things like Yahoo. What was it, Yahoo Commerce Listings or something like that? I mean, it was like pretty rudimentary back in the day. But that first year, we spent tons of time understanding how to manipulate the search results.
[00:16:24] Noah: What was like your first sale?
[00:16:26] Ian: Okay, so the way that we actually sold the product… I don't know if people think this is sketchy these days but back then it was definitely sketchy. We had a rendering of the product. So it was like a computer generated image. We put up a website and then we started cold calling people in the valet industry and then also as we got better at SEO…
[00:16:47] Noah: Can you say that again? You kind of cut out right at the good part. How did you get the first sale? You’d started to say something shady which I liked.
[00:16:57] Ian: So yeah. What we did was we made a computer rendering of the image. So it wasn't actually the image, it was just what we took out of our solid modelling program. We took an image of the valet equipment. We put it up on the website and we put a “Buy Now,” button and we started cold calling valet parking companies and eventually our ranking started to increase. So as soon as we got a couple of sales, we would respond back and say, hey this product is out of stock, thank you for your interest. We'd refund their money immediately and that was basically how we validated the products.
[00:17:30] Noah: Oh, so you guys listed it on your site and sold them even before you even got them?
[00:17:34] Ian: Yeah.
[00:17:35] Noah: And then when people actually were like, “Hey I want it.” You're like, “Oh we don’t have it right now,” and then…
[00:17:39] Ian: Yeah, we said it was out of stock
[00:17:41] Noah: Was that before you ordered or afterwards?
[00:17:44] Ian: That was like as we were going through the ordering process. So I think at that time when we launched our website, like we had already negotiated with the factory like the pricing and like what the design was going to be and all of that stuff. But we didn't actually have the products in stock. It was going to be a couple months. But I think, if I’m remembering, this was a long time ago, we got our first sales before we actually paid for the purchase order in China.
[00:18:05] Noah: So you got listed online, people would buy it because you had a basically fake page, I mean a pre-order page now is what they call on Kickstarter or you know Shopify or whatever it is. And then that validated that oh, s***, people actually buy this. Do you remember how you got links back then, I mean how you got people to actually like…?
[00:18:21] Ian: So, one of the things we did was, gosh this was like way back in the day. We actually started our own link network. I don't even know what they call it anymore but it’s like a private link network.
[00:18:33] Scott: It’s like your private blog network, right?
[00:18:36] Ian: Yeah, we did that. We actually started a directory for our industry. So no one else was doing that at the time, like no one else had pulled together all these companies. So we started approaching them and saying like, “Hey we're going to put you in this directory.” And at the time none of these valet companies knew what SEO was either, so it was like oh this manufacturing company, they're going to supply us with supposedly better equipment which I think we did and they're also going to list us and they get rankings when I type in valet parking, they come up first, that's pretty sweet. So that's one of the ways that we got links back in the day.
[00:19:08] Noah: Alright Scott, set it off. What was the first sale? Oh not Scott, Steve.
[00:19:11] Scott: I was going to say, come on man, I already did that.
[00:19:14] Steve: Dude, my story is a lot geekier man. So I used to go on craigslist, comb the computer listings and what I would do is I would buy the computer system, strip it apart and then sell off the pieces for a lot more money.
[00:19:27] Noah: How did you know you could do that? How did you know you can make money doing that?
[00:19:30] Steve: Because I was trying to sell my computer stuff and I noticed that people were overpaying and then I noticed that people were selling this stuff on there really cheap. That career came to an end real quick though because I ended up like in a bad neighborhood one day to pick up these hard drives and like it was out of this guy's van and then like it was hard drives, I remember. And then he cut like all the hard drives had like the cables cut and then it was just a box of drives and he said, do you want them. Meanwhile like I had my Stanford sweatshirt on. I had my glasses on like an Asian and like an all like black neighborhood. So I ended up just like buying all those and then I left and that was the end of my career there.
[00:20:06] Noah: So it's kind of interesting you and Scott both just did things out of necessity and noticed you're observant about what's working. People actually really want more of this. How do I get more of those? And that actually got you more into ecommerce.
[00:20:18] Steve: Yeah, I mean I was just doing for fun. I was just doing for fun really, just some spending cash.
[00:20:23] Noah: No but actually in Berkeley, this is you know, it's funny now, it sounds so archaic but like craigslist and eBay and Amazon, I don't think how their marketplace were really early. So I would buy broken or laptops on eBay and then arbitrage them to craigslist and vice versa and similar to you, I stopped doing it because I sold one to the Philippines and it was one of these things where like everyone's like, oh don't sell to the Philippines. You’re going to get scammed and I was like, no, this person her name is Stephanie. She’s definitely there, she promised me it's okay and then I sent the laptop, it was a Sony Vaio little one and a week later it's like that account is hacked, we're taking the money and you lost the laptop. And I was like alright, this is maybe not for me.
[00:21:04] Steve: Yeah for me, I was like fearing for my life because I was ending up going to all these sketchy neighborhoods to buy stuff.
[00:21:10] Noah: So let's, before, I want to definitely go into a few of the listeners websites. Before you even get into that, I kind of want to know how you guys think about going about it now that you've done this for so many times. Like maybe let's go back to a new beginning if you're starting today. So for example, let's just say I create a garbage can. Like Noah's garbage. So I create Noah's garbage. How do you guys go about getting it to like $1,000 a month through ecommerce? Like I'm just curious how you guys would even start processing that and going about it and then try to create somewhat of a framework that other people can replicate from this.
[00:21:40] Steve: I mean for me like I'd have to know what's special about the garbage can first. So like what's special about your garbage can and is there a market for it?
[00:21:46] Noah: I like the waving thing. Have you guys seen where you wave and it just opens. But it breaks down after a while and there are $100. Like I think they should be cheap like 30 bucks and then just have a better motor so they don't break down after like you know a week. Is that not interesting?
[00:22:01] Ian: Okay, so your garbage can is $30. It has a waving motion sensor on it. What else does it have?
[00:22:08] Noah: You know it’d be cool if it had like a little counter and it shows how much garbage you're using.
[00:22:114] Scott: So it’s got like a gauge on it so it shows you how full it is?
[00:22:16] Noah: Yeah, either how full it is. I mean, I guess what's the problem with garbage, I don't know. I guess well maybe can tell us about, how do you guys even go about figuring this out? Like what kind of,
[00:22:24] Scott: Here’s my take on it Noah real quick. It’s like, first off, like okay, I think we all can have really great ideas. But I think the one thing that Amazon allows us to do, is see the product that you know products that are currently selling and then looking at the reviews and seeing what people like and what they don't like. I think that's like the easiest way kind of test the market, see a market, because it's already there. You don't even have to do any of the work. You can just kind of spy on the competition.
[00:22:47] Noah: Why don't we do that for garbage cans while we're talking. I’ll pull up the Amazon.
[00:22:50] Scott: Then from there you just dig in to, and again you might have stuff on your bucket list but like things that you like maybe two other people would really care. I don't care if I can see if mine’s empty. I’ll just lift the lid. But for you it might be important. Maybe you don't want to lift the lid. You know what I mean? So I think there’s different needs and wants for those people and I think again if we're looking at it, we got to be able to validate the market even exists before putting in like Ian. I mean he put in 50 grand and before he really, I mean he knew there was a market but he didn't really… I don't know Ian, was there already a product that was selling like yours or did you just come up with something and said, I think people are going to like this?
[00:23:29] Ian: Yeah, there was already a product that was selling. That's an important distinction to make. The least successful products that I’ve ever sold are ones that I’ve developed myself. So like I had an idea about something that I thought was great and turned out to always be a flop. What I'd look to develop a new product like I looked to who's selling the best product out there. I generally like to be at the top of the market not at the bottom of the market and what innovations can I bring to that industry or what innovations can I bring to that product.
And I think to Scott’s point, like looking at Amazon reviews and seeing… well first of all trying to sift through the real ones. That's a big challenge he says and then trying to actually figure out what people want in a garbage can. I think that that's important and it’s not, never my ideas by the way and I think a lot of people that are selling and making products would agree with that. Like even as the product manufacturer, I generally don't have the best ideas, it’s the customers that do.
[00:24:24] Steve: I just pulled up some garbage cans just for kicks here. Here's some complaints about some of the metal garbage cans out there. The containers are a lot smaller than I thought. There's no way you could put a cereal box in the recycling side without smashing into a ball. The trash bags didn't fit perfectly like there's a lot of give on there. So based on this feedback, we could probably create a better trash can and…
[00:24:50] Noah: It’s funny the one that I actually bought before, the 9 stars. So I really like where you guys are going with this, which is just like I think sometimes we solve our own problems which is good but you also have to make sure that people actually want to pay for that and it’s a really great point. And just because it's selling on Amazon I personally don't think it's guaranteed that’d be a success for yourself.
You know let's say we like this 9 star. So they have a touchless gas garbage can and if you look at their one and two stars, the number one complaint that everyone's doing is like it broke really early. Kind of what I mentioned before. So it's cheap, there's no warranty, I can't call anyone, so what do we do from here? Like it seems like this is an opportunity that, make one that actually doesn't break and then they can contact someone.
[00:25:32] Scott: Yeah, I think that's the easiest solution. I mean fix those really, those simple problems that you see on the surface and I think Ian like you had said, like how do you sift through the ones that are real? I think you're going to see more of the ones that are 5 star, that aren't as real than the ones that people are complaining. Yeah we're going to have sometimes you have competitors that are going to jump on there and try to bring your listing down for the most part though.
I think if we look at those we’ll get a good understanding especially if they're being repeated. So I think right there, I mean making the bag fit better so you're actually using the 13 gallon bag and not just 10 of it. I think that's something that you can look at. I think you can look at like you said if it breaks too easily, why is it breaking? Like what part broke? Is it lightweight material? Can we increase the gauge of steel or stainless steel that they're using?
So like I think those are like great ways. The other thing is too is though is maybe just don’t go there but you know you can go at other marketplaces and look at the reviews there. I mean look at it look at Sears, look at any of them, Walmart or any other ones that have reviews, Home Depot, any of those and just start to kind of uncover some of those simple ones that could be easily tweaked and then you're going to call those out as yours is the better one because yours has this, this and this which your competitors had all complaints about. So that would be my angle.
[00:26:49] Noah: I think making a not break, I think sounds like the number one thing and two maybe having like, hey how much garbage have I used, so it's kind of like I don't know that's negative reinforcing. I don't if I actually want to know that. I think it'd be cool if it just tells me when to take it out. It's like, yeah well I guess I already know that too. There’s not really that like, you know what I mean?
[00:27:06] Ian: I'm not liking this product but yeah go on.
[00:27:08] Noah: I'm not liking it well. So that's not okay. So I think the thing I want to get clarity on though is, like I come up with my garbage can idea that's just not going to break or I and what do I do with that, how do I actually see if you want to buy it?
[00:27:19] Scott: I think there's a company,
[00:27:20] Noah: How do you guys do it?
[00:27:22] Scott: Like I’m saying, I think there's a couple things that I want to highlight here first. So this garbage can, are you thinking like you're just going to sell this one off garbage can and you're just going to you're going to run with that one garbage can or is there other products you're going to be serving to this? Is it going to be a brand? Is it just going to be one hit wonder like what's it going to be?
[00:27:36] Noah: Taking a step back, It’s more like I want everyone who's listening, that has like, hey if I created a product like how do I actually get someone to buy it and how do I then so get someone to make it. That's part of what I'm looking for, what kind of process you guys go through when you're thinking about your products.
[00:27:48] Scott: I think another simple test is kind of doing what Ian did. But you can do it now very easily with Facebook ads. I mean you can literally just go target people and put up a landing page and ask them whether they buy it or whether they want to be notified when it's available or something like that to at least get some interest level. That would be one angle that I would have.
[00:28:08] Ian: The other thing too you know and this is like we haven't talked about like specific platforms yet like Amazon or Etsy or eBay or anything like that. But you know these days I think you have to understand what you're trying to accomplish and Scott mentioned this too, like are you trying to make a one-off product, are you trying to create a brand, are you trying to compete with other professional sellers on Amazon? Meaning people that are market focused and not necessarily product focused. There's a rabbit hole there but basically meaning like there are a lot of people on Amazon right now that are market focused and they will attack a market and they will flood it with their professional experience. They make it very hard for you to compete with them.
So that might not necessarily be the best place for you to introduce, Noah, your new trash can especially if it's not a differentiated product from much of what's out there. So if this was my product and I was hell-bent on building a trash can, I think I would probably go with old school content marketing to begin with. Like I would start talking about trash cans. I would talk about the problems with trash cans. I would try and develop a line of trash cans that solve the multitude of different needs. I might do Facebook ads but I would also question whether or not I wanted to be in the trash business too. Because if I'm developing this line of trash cans like I better be willing to talk about it. Better be willing to talk about it, like five years down the line.
[00:29:30] Steve: I think I would probably get a couple of samples made and just see if I can unload them on eBay also. Because that's kind of how we started our business. We sold on eBay for a while until we knew there was demand before we actually placed a large order for them and by that time we already knew that we could sell them and the worst case if we didn't sell them on our shop, then we could at least liquidate them on eBay. So there's tools like Terapeak out there that will tell you all the sales. They collate all the sales for you on eBay so you can get a pretty good idea.
[00:29:59] Noah: What’s that?
[00:30:00] Steve: Terapeak.
[00:30:01] Noah: Terapeak. How do you spell that?
[00:30:03] Steve: T-E-R-A-P-E-A-K. It’s basically a scraper for eBay. Tells you what all the completed listings are.
[00:30:09] Scott: That's a good tool definitely. It's been out for a long time too. Right Steve?
[00:30:14] Steve: It has, yeah. For as long as I can remember.
[00:30:17] Noah: I've never used it. Okay, you guys are professionals.
[00:30:20] Ian: So the cool thing about completed listings is actually taking people's money. So it's not like what products were sold but it's like who actually paid money for this product.
[00:30:28] Scott: Yeah it's a great point.
[00:30:29] Noah: So it's interesting it’s almost kind of like three different approaches. So Scott you are saying maybe do the Facebook ad to a landing page and see if you’ll get a pre-order. Ian you're saying Etsy potentially or content marketing as a way of validating the product and then Steve you're saying put it on eBay or used you know to see if you will buy or use Terapeak to see if there's a market demand for it.
[00:30:46] Steve: I think so. I mean assuming we all have samples already. In all our scenarios I would just try to sell on eBay and see what happens.
[00:30:55] Noah: Well so two questions. I’m curious, Ian if I wanted to make my trash can that would work better than this one, would I just try to find the manufacturer of the original one? What would you do?
[00:31:04] Ian: Yeah, I think I would probably go over to China. I would find out where all these people are manufacturing their trash cans. Like I said, they're probably in one concentrated area in China and I would figure out what their shortcomings are that so if everyone's saying you know the motors breaking or the optics aren't working on the trash can, well I would figure out what model of the optics that is. I would figure out what the step up from that optics is and you could probably do that from interfacing with these companies in China.
[00:31:34] Noah: I guess for you guys like on the flip side, what products Ian you mentioned something. Like what products have you guys created that you thought there's going to be a big market for, why did you think that and why did it flop?
[00:31:44] Ian: So the product that comes to mind for me is, we were in the cat furniture niche, so I had this idea because I'm a cat owner that cat owners like to spend a lot of money on their cats too but they don't get the opportunity because there aren't enough products. Whereas you go into Petco or Petsmart, it's just chock-a-block full of dog products. And so that was our thesis. It was like, hey these cat owners are willing to spend just as much they just don't have the opportunity. So we came out with like a high end line of cat furniture. And the products that sold really well, were the products that were already on the market. Basically enclosures to hide litter or litter boxes and so we made like a couple versions of those as always sold really well.
I had this version of what I called like the modern cat tower. You know people probably a lot of our grandmas, they have these carpeted cats towers that sit in the corner of the room and they like drag them into the closet when company comes over and drag them back out or they don't. And so my idea was to make like a cool looking version of that and it totally flopped. Part because I think it looked like a spaceship and then the other part is because you know these product's take a lot of consumer education and I think that that's one of the things that we don’t realize is like, a new product it takes a lot of education and so a lot of times it's great to be like a second or third mover because the first mover has to spend all the money educating the market as to what this new product is.
[00:33:08] Noah: So what did that change for the future for you with this cat product?
[00:33:13] Ian: We pretty much from that point on like solely focused on what I'll call like rip pivot jam which is like you rip an idea or part of an idea, you do a little pivot and then you jam on it. So like with the valet parking equipment. Like I said you know the companies that were making those, there were like completely welded units. So like after you rolled it over gabbro stone for a while, it would just completely disintegrate. We started making ours with componentry. So basically parts that were bolted together so you could replace them. So like finding little innovations like that, I think is important to build a sustainable, we looked at that as like a sustainable company/brand and probably less of like an ecommerce company.
[00:33:52] Noah: Sorry I'm not super clear because I guess I’m curious. So your point in general is like instead of trying to be breaking brand new just copy someone and innovate on that?
[00:33:59] Ian: Yeah, that's pretty much the idea. And it's the same thing like we're talking about big four which is like looking at Amazon listings and see what's working, what's not working. So you know a lot of people they'll do that through Amazon. They like read comments, questions, reviews of products and then they'll figure out how to build a better product. For me like I've always been interested a little bit more in B2B products and actually interfacing directly with the customer and having them tell me what's going on. So like that was one of the cool things in the bar industry for us was like people were so excited that we were developing products specifically for their industry and I wanted to talk with that middle manager about that.
Like no one had ever sat that guy down and said like what do you want better in a bar? He's like what? The industry leader’s coming to me, asking me what I want better in the bar and like it was amazing the kind of feedback that we were able to get. And in turn I think I build the best products. So you know you can do some of that I think through reviews. But one of the reasons that I've kind of shied away as I've gone further and further in my career from consumer products is because it's very hard to get that kind of feedback to make better products.
[00:35:02] Noah: Scott or Steve?
[00:35:04] Steve: It's interesting, I mean my experience primarily lies in linens and so like the biggest flops we've had have been like designs that we didn't really test and we just went ahead and bought some and turns out like people didn't like them. So for example, our napkins. Like we only sell them white napkins pretty much today because we try to do different colors and you know today if I were to approach that differently I would probably just email my list and say hey, are you guys interested in different color napkins instead of just going off and buying them. In terms of Ian’s comment about B2B and B2C.
I find it pretty easy to get feedback from B2C customers just mainly via email and you give them a list of designs and then you just have them vote on it or send out a survey. The B2B customers that we have, they tend not to give us any feedback but maybe it's different because we sell napkins and that sort of thing. They're more interested in consistent service as well as lower prices so…
[00:36:09] Ian: Yeah, that's interesting. I mean I think that Steve my experience could have been unique and also you know we were selling very high touch, very expensive products. So I think that some of the difference could come there.
[00:36:21] Scott: Yeah I think Steve brings up a great point though on that is like and I think Ian does too, it's like if you're going B2B you know, you got more expensive products obviously, you got a different clientele. So with the everyday customer especially in Steve's world with the linens and stuff and Steve you know he does a really good job too, I think, with interacting with that email list that he has and stuff and he can get that direct. And I know Mike Jackness has done that Steve very well in his business was the coloring book stuff and getting people's feedback and then not creating a coloring book versus you know what people actually want.
I think kind of going back to him, I've got a couple going way back I mean my wife and I dabbled in selling physical props for photographers just because we were buying them ourselves and backgrounds and backdrops and stuff like that and I think the biggest thing comes down to for that that we just guessed on design. Like we thought that people were going to like, it’s similar to what Steve said. We were kind of B2B at that point because we were selling to people that were photographers like us and then having hand painted backgrounds and backdrops and stuff like that and then just certain type old antique type you know kind of like replica props for because we did a lot of family and baby photography. So we used a lot of antique props and stuff like that.
So I would say that would be one that I would say too is just we guessed. We didn't see what the market really wanted and then the other one I'll just touch on too is like I had a great idea because I again I think all of us have connections after you start getting into this stuff and had a guy that I thought would be a great fit for supplements. And I got into that world which I never thought I would, I never wanted to and it kind of backfired on me just because we were creating a better blend, a better brand. He was qualified, he was a nutritionist, licensed nutritionist all that stuff. But then the partnership didn't really pan out because he just didn't live up to his end of the bargain and then we kind of fell short with these couple of supplements. So I think there we weren't able to then kind of help the market.
[00:38:20] Scott: So it's like one of those things like now what do we do. So we kind of backed out of that market. So again I think just your customers telling you what they want and then if you're going to get involved in a partnership, know what you're getting involved in.
[00:38:33] Noah: Have you guys had any crazy experiences where you like order an item from overseas or from someone and then like linen or the valet thing that then it was totally botched or totally off?
[00:38:44] Steve: Dude, happened all the time. All the time. Here's what happened. We would get samples and they would look great and then we place a small order everything would look great but then when we placed the large order they would intersperse the crap with the good stuff. This happened a lot early on and it actually did not stop until we actually flew to China and then we visited these guys. And after we did that, the quality just miraculously improved. At least in our experience.
[00:39:12] Noah: That's so interesting.
[00:39:23] Scott: No, I was just going to say, Steve I got to this quick question on that. I mean you went, you flew over and I get that but would it still have worked if you use like a third-party inspector to kind of go through those units before they were actually paid for and shipped?
[00:39:25] Steve: Absolutely and this is before we started doing this. This is like back in 2008 I would say. Yeah.
[00:39:31] Scott: Nowadays, it’s so much easier. You hire a company for like 300 bucks they go through your….
[00:39:35] Noah: I didn’t know you could do that.
[00:39:36] Steve: Yeah, I mean there's something to be said still about meeting face to face. Like it helps in terms of pricing and it actually helps in terms of just getting stuff pushed through faster. Like for example right now, we don't even need to put any money down, they’ll just produce our product and we'll just pay them once it's ready whereas traditionally you have to put like 30% down.
[00:39:54] Scott: That's right.
[00:39:55] Steve: And also for them to understand your vision to you know I've had like many conversations in China, like oh yeah you just want to order these handkerchiefs or whatever. It’s like no, this is my vision, this is what my company looks like, this is what we're trying to accomplish for our customers. I think that those conversations are helpful for them as well because they're flying blind in a lot of ways.
Like they're just like making these things and if you're like no dude like we're the highest quality premium manufacturer of this like we need you to take pride, we need to make sure that your factory is clean, these are our requirements, if you can't meet then we're going to have to go somewhere else. And a lot of times they'll be accommodating especially if your orders are increasing. So I think giving these Chinese factories a vision helps them as well.
[00:40:34] Ian: And if you look at it from their perspective, they only want to work with people that are serious. They don't want like the one offs. They want people who can drive, sustain business over the long haul.
[00:40:45] Noah: Let's go into some of the actual like sites that other people… So finishing up the garbage can. So we have a garbage can, we do these things, we see if people want it. Let's go to some sites that have actually done it and they're past that part and they’re actually selling a few the things, they have their own websites. I sent you guys three links. learntosolderkit.com, realham.com, and Kuva Coffee.
Why don't we start at learntosolderkit.com? I guess I was just curious because you guys have seen so many websites. Like what you guys, what would you guys recommend you know that you guys have done ecommerce sites that like right here the best practices that we'd recommend for these guys. So the first one is learntosolderkit.com.
[00:41:20] Scott: Okay, so that's going to wrap up that episode. That's episode 353. So definitely go grab the transcripts, the show notes and everything included in that part. That was part one by the way of that session. That round table and that was really us kind of going through like the beginnings and then also like product brainstorming and the garbage can example that Noah came up with and I think you can really see that there's definitely things that are happening as you're going through this process. But it is a process and Noah's asking these questions and then Ian is chiming in with some of his thoughts from some of the things that he's done in the past and Steve and myself.
So again you may want to even listen to that again because product research if you haven't really realized this yet is one of the main things that you need to understand and it is a process and there's ways to test and validate before you even launch a product and that can be on Amazon like we talked about or Etsy or eBay or any of those and I think you can see a common thread there was to test invalidate before you do a full fledge like purchase on these things. I mean Steve came up with a great idea to just do the samples, just order the samples and then sell them on eBay. That's what he did and that's kind of how he was introduced to his market that he's now selling in and he's been doing that for years now and seven figure business. So hopefully you got value from this.
Now that's not all. We are going to be now tearing down three websites and each of those websites is currently right now selling products. Some of them on Amazon but some of them on their own website and they wanted some feedback as far as what they could do differently or what they can maybe do moving forward that would increase sales or awareness of the brand and you're going to be able to hear that in the next episode. Now the next episode will be 354 and if you're listening to this on the day that this airs well it’s going to take a couple days.
[00:43:21] Scott: It'll be published the following day or the day after whenever you guys are listening to this but just it's 354 will be the episode and that'll be part two. So you're definitely going to want to pick up where we left off here because that's what we're going to do and that there is another 35-40 minutes of us tearing down these websites. Talking about branding. Talking about products. Talking about all of the ins and the outs of a business that's already up and running and how to get more sales and also get more awareness. So you're definitely going to want to check out that. But again to remind you guys the show notes to this episode can be found at theamazingseller.com/353 and this is part one of this ecommerce round table that I did with Noah, Ian, Steve and myself and hopefully you guys are getting a ton of value from it.
So guys, that's it, that's going to wrap up this episode. Remember as always, I'm here for you, I believe in you and I'm rooting for you but you have to, you have to… Come on, say it with me, say it loud, say it proud, “Take action.” Have an awesome amazing day and I'll see you right back here on the next episode.
LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Check out TAS Episode #342 – HERE
- Check out TAS Episode #93 – HERE
- Check out TAS Episode #323 – HERE
- BumbleBee Linens
- My Wife Quit Her Job
- Sellers Summit
- The Tropical MBA
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