Building And Growing Your Brand On Amazon With Kiri Masters

OTS 154 | Amazon Marketplace

 

Getting around Amazon to scale up your business is not an easy-breezy task. From loading your catalog and getting your content together to setting up your campaigns, you can drain your energy doing all of these especially if you lack the manpower to do so. Podcast host, the author of Amazon for CMOs, and the Founder of Bobsled Marketing Kiri Masters offers her expertise in this area. Kiri launched her first eCommerce business on Amazon. She shares some tips on how you can make your way through the Amazon Marketplace and how her company can help you scale your products. She also introduces the Marketplace Institute and talks about the challenges and benefits of podcasting.

Listen to the podcast here:

Building And Growing Your Brand On Amazon With Kiri Masters

I hope your businesses are going well. It has been an interesting year so far and we’re coming up at the end of the year. For a lot of you, you are in the middle of some crushing sales on Amazon and maybe eCommerce. You have orders that are shipping now into retailers for the fourth quarter and I know this can be a stressful time. Take a minute to breathe and know that it’s all going to be okay. I know that things can get stressful. I know that sometimes there’s a storm, there’s this, the shipping is off but somehow in the end it all works out. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is that if you have people counting on your products being there and if there’s a hiccup here and there, be transparent about it, get out in front of it, if you can. The second that there might be an issue, that’s when you need to start talking to somebody. If you have a buyer that’s waiting for a product and you found out that it’s held up at the port, give your buyer a call ASAP. Let them know as soon as you know something and what you’re doing to resolve it and what the possibility or the timeframe that it looks like that it will deliver based on the information that you have. Give them daily updates as to the progress.

The more upfront, the more transparent you are about any issues, the more that buyer’s going to be willing to work with you and not want to cancel that order. The more that your solution-oriented, the more that you come through and say, “This is what’s happening and this is what we’re going to do about it.” The more willing that buyer will be to help you out. Be part of the solution. If you hold it back, if you don’t say, if you think that maybe it’s going to correct itself, if you keep waiting for it to be released before you say something, you’re going to find yourself behind the eight ball and that’s not a good place to be. Take a breath and make sure that you communicate every step of the way.

You can go to TLBConsulting.com and see the new site. It’s not fully completed yet. We still have a lot of page build-out to do but the structure is there. You can book coaching appointments, you can book a product eval, you can learn about upcoming masterclasses and mastermind events. There’s a lot going on there. TLB Consulting is going to be the hub for everything about getting your products into retail. Anything that you want to know, anything that you want to do, anything that you want to learn is going to be available at TLB Consulting. There’s access to the podcasts from there. There’s access to TLB Mastermind Group from there and there’s access to us from there. We’re excited about it. If you want to go by and check it out and see the progress that’s being made, please do.

Another announcement is our Scaling Beyond Amazon is coming in. We’re looking at the dates of the 22nd and 23rd of October or the 5th and 6th of December. We’re going back and forth and we’ll let you know. This masterclass is a half-day on evaluating your Amazon private label product for placement into retail. I know what you are thinking. You’ve been seeing people get delisted and hijacked every step of the way and it’s concerning. If all of your business is in Amazon right now and you’re not diversifying, you’re not in a good position. You’re putting your entire business at risk. It’s time to start thinking about what’s next. Not that Amazon is going away, not that you’re going to stop selling on Amazon, but nobody would ever put their entire fortune into one stock and hope that stock does great. Nobody should ever put all of their business in way at all on Amazon. Let’s start to find out, can your product transfer into retail?

That’s what this masterclass is all about. We cover eight different categories to evaluate your product and company for moving over to retail and when it’s done, you are going to have a strategy to make that move. Don’t miss it. You can go to the website. Under Masterminds you find it and you can fill out the questionnaire. If you’re interested in jumping into this masterclass, you can go and fill out the questionnaire at TLBConsulting.com. It’s at the bottom of the page. You can say, apply now and you can fill out the questionnaire and you’ll be ready and we’ll be sending out the information when it’s ready to register for the class.

Let’s talk about Kiri Masters. Kiri Masters is our guest on the podcast and I’m sure that you’ve heard her name because she is taking the internet by storm. I’ve seen her on multiple podcasts and I was so glad that we were able to grab some time with her to talk about what she’s been doing with her company, Bobsled Marketing. Speaking of Amazon, she is helping people in businesses and brands crush it on Amazon, not from a sales perspective but from a holistic, complete view of your brand and how to pick your brand up and move it down the road and get it growing, scaling and doing better than you ever thought possible. She’s got plenty of testimonials on her website. I’m not going to steal her thunder but I am going to tell you a little bit about it. She launched a new book. It’s called Amazon for CMOs. It’s awesome. It’s everywhere. She has a book that came up before that called Amazon Expansion Plan. She cohosts a podcast, eCommerce Brain Trust. She’s a contributor to Forbes and RetailWire. She’s killing it out there and we’re super excited to have her on the podcast. Let’s get right into it with Kiri.

Kiri, welcome to the program. I’m glad that you’re here. Thanks for spending a bit of time.

Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.

We talked earlier and I’ve looked at your website and see what you guys are doing. For the Big Boxers out there, let’s start out with you telling them a little bit about high-level, who you are, what you do, so that we get that context in there and then we’ll get into some other topics.

I’m the Founder of a company called Bobsled Marketing, which is an agency that helps brands to grow and manage the Amazon channel. I came into this business from a completely different career in banking of all things. I had a little eCommerce business that I started on the side while I was working for my day job at JPMorgan Chase. I got introduced to the Amazon ecosystem during my exploration there. This is back in 2014 or so and Amazon was starting to pick up steam on the marketplace side of things. I fell in love with the platform and started consulting for some other companies that needed help. My agency was officially in business in 2015 with just me. Now, we’re a team of 30 people who manage the Amazon channel for about 50 or so different brands in the US and beyond.

You have 50 companies that you’re managing the business for and how many people did you say are under the Bobsled roof now?

There are 30.

Why Bobsled? Where did the name Bobsled come from?

You would know more than anyone when you’re choosing a name for a company, it’s one of the biggest decisions you can make and also something needs to make a decision so you can literally start to get in the business. With Bobsled, there was toboggan that one of the friends had given my husband and me as a wedding gift. I turned it into a lighting fixture and hung it up on the wall because my first business was in DIY lighting. I went through a phase of turning everything I could into a whole lighting fixture. We had this toboggan on the wall and I looked around, I was like, “What about Bobsled?” The idea was with Bobsled, we would give your business to push and we’re going to help you in the driver’s seat. I thought I’d be able to figure out a nice pithy tagline to Bobsled Marketing but never landed on the perfect tagline for that. If anyone has any ideas, I will welcome those. Right now, we’re a few years in business now and it’s surprising how few people ask.

There you go, Big Boxers. If you want to weigh in on a tagline for Bobsled Marketing, you could be integral in pushing it forward. My mind is already spinning on things. I thought maybe Bobsled was in some way related to the Olympics and Bobsledding. They give a push and they jump on board and as they move down the track, they pick up speed, eventually going really fast. In my mind when I thought of Bobsled Marketing, I thought of, “We get you going and then once you’re using our agency, we can help you pick up speed.”

OTS 154 | Amazon Marketplace
Amazon Marketplace: The great yet difficult thing about podcasting is that the feedback is difficult to come by.

 

It’s something like that. There’s something there. A few people end up asking about that. It’s when I go on podcasts that everyone wants to hear the story behind that name.

What are you saying? Am I like every other podcaster and asks you the same questions? Now, I have to go back.

I’m a pod customer so often and all I have is respect and admiration for what you do, Timothy.

The thing I like about podcasting is you get to give people direction and information, but you don’t have to hear necessarily back. It’s a great platform to tell people what to do and let that get out there. I’m amazed and humbled when I talk to people and listening to the podcast and what it’s helped with. To me, the most fun part is you’re talking to people that and you’re affecting people in ways and you don’t even know.

That’s the great thing and the challenging thing. That feedback is difficult to come by. I love it when I hear from people that they listen to the show but it’s not so visible. You don’t get to see likes or comments. It doesn’t appear in podcast land. It’s a blessing and a curse.

We had this 30-day campaign to get the conversation going and that still didn’t go so well. I’m right on board with you on the lack of participation or feedback that you get. It’s mostly because I talked to somebody that said they listen to the podcast while they’re mowing the lawn. Mowing the lawn by the time you’re done with that, you’re onto the next thing. People listen to podcasts at all different types of times and they’re not in a position to go back and make comments. Generally, you’re going to hear from people when they want to ask something or they need something or they’ve heard something and they want some more information, which any drop of feedback that you can get is water in the desert for sure. You’re not from here, you’re not from the US or you picked up an accent somewhere.

I’m Australian and I moved to New York right at the end of 2010.

Where in Australia?

I grew up in Perth, that area in Western Australia and I lived in Sydney for about five years where I was in the retail banking world in marketing and corporate strategy. My husband and I decided to move out to New York in 2010. I started working at JPMorgan when I got there.

Was that super culture shock? Australia is so laid back to go from there to New York.

The weather was a big thing for me to wrap my head around because I’d only seen snow when I went on vacation. New York has a pretty significant winter season. It was a big deal for me to wrap my head around. What do you do? You wear your snow boots to work. How people got around in cars in the snow was a big thing for me to wrap my head around. Those mundane things were the most challenging.

The last time I was in Australia, there was this big deal going on in Perth. Surfers were going out in the water and never coming back. That was even on the cover of Time Magazine. They had this big huge issue, which is not shark attacks but going out and getting eaten by sharks and never coming back.

The sharks are alive and well in those waters. I grew up in a town that was famous for surfing. It’s called Margaret River. It’s famous for surfing and wine. It was a vibrant place to grow up and it’s a big risk. Surfers know the risks that they’re taking. It’s like any extreme sport. There are different kinds of risks involved. With surfing, it’s with sharks and people do die. They do get attacked. It’s one of those things that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

The only reason I mentioned that is at that particular time, it was way above the normal rate. There was a six-month period of time where it was crazy and what I kept thinking was, “They still go out and they’re still surfing.” I remember being there at that particular time and it was big news. Speaking of sharks right now, here in Florida, we’ve had more shark bites than in any other year. There are shark bites, these are sharks that are coming in dangerously close to shore, in knee-deep grabbing the ankles of people. People are going out in the water and never coming back. Anytime a shark puts their teeth on you, it’s going to hurt and there’s going to be a problem. Growing up in Perth, were your parents entrepreneurs? Where did you get the bug to become an entrepreneur?

I think that they were entrepreneurs in their own way without realizing it or certainly before it was ever cool. My dad had a day job and he also started a driving school in my town. He taught a lot of my friends to drive. He runs this driving school for a few years and my mom was a teller at the bank and on the side, she was an Avon lady. They both operated small businesses for a good portion of my time growing up. That was always normal for me. I’ve dabbled in those things throughout my childhood as well. My dad also had like an insulation-installing business is as well. These were all part-time small companies. I do have a vivid memory of me helping my dad out. He would sub-contract me as a twelve-year-old or something because I could get into the small spaces in the ceiling. I have always grown up around small businesses and thought of that as pretty normal to dabble on the side with some things.

The eCommerce business I started in about 2011. That was the first thing I set up to run and grow. Even though in the beginning, it was something more of a hobby. I was setting up the bookkeeping and filming tutorials on weekends. It was a craft company. It was driven by content. I filmed a lot of tutorials and there are some videos on YouTube of me making lamps. One of them has 140,000 views or something. I’ve forgotten about it because I made it years ago. There was this whole other period of my life where I was making a lot of videos and content for my first eCommerce site.

It’s interesting though that what you were doing before, making lamps was a very creative endeavor. Entrepreneurs are creative in nature. Even though there’s a certain part of being an entrepreneur that’s left-brained, the business part trying to make sure that the numbers work, I don’t think you can be an entrepreneur without being creative. Would you agree?

For sure. There are people out there who are creative in a different way to me. I’ve got a friend who runs a similar agency to mine that focuses more on the advertising side of things. He’s always asking me, “Kiri, what’s the ROI of your podcast? What’s the ROI of the book that’s coming out? What do you expect to get out of it?” I never have a good answer because I’m not a very metrics-driven person. I don’t constantly think about metrics the way that he does for example because he’s very scientifically minded. You need a little bit of both. There are different types of people out there running businesses and being very successful in their own ways so anyone could do it. If you are a real metrics-oriented person, harnessing that in a way allows you to be creative as well. You do need to have a bit of left brain and right brain working.

OTS 154 | Amazon Marketplace
Amazon Marketplace: The Amazon channel is so complex that you don’t have enough hands on deck to wrap your arms around it and make the most of it.

 

If somebody were to come to me and ask me, “What’s the ROI of your podcast?” I would say, “I probably would not dive too far into that.” Actually, that’s not true. When I first started out, I wrote this article called, How To Get Your Products Into CostcoEleven Crucial Steps!. I had purchased for $19 an article on how to write articles. Back then, EzineArticles was the best place to put your article. I followed the instructions of this article to the tee and I wrote that article. That one article was read over a hundred thousand times. It was read so many times that they had to start the ticker back at zero which irritated me. For a while, it was the number one referrer of people to my business bar none. Now, the podcast is the number one referrer of people. The ROI on my podcast is great because it’s the one way other than referrals so people get to me.

It’s an intimate medium. They get to hear you speaking and it’s casual conversations like this and they get to know you as a person. When they’re ready to hire a consultant or find a service provider in that area, they already trust you because they’ve been listening to you. You have these conversations over months, years in some cases.

I was thinking about, “The ROI on my podcast is actually pretty good. I don’t know what that number is.” If you were to boil it all down to the key thing that people come to you for, what would that be?

The key thing that people come to us for is if you’re a branded manufacturer, you might be selling to brick and mortar retail or through your own eCommerce site and you also are selling on Amazon. The whole Amazon piece is complicated. They change the rules all the time. There are new programs coming out that you get invited to and it’s unclear whether those are worth it or not. In general, you don’t have enough hands on deck to wrap your arms around the Amazon channel and make the most of it. In those cases, brands will come to us or other competent agencies in the space and there are several. We will manage the Amazon channel on their behalf.

Everything from the operation side of things like inventory forecasting and disputing fees and following up with Amazon on cases to brand protection. A lot of companies have issues with unauthorized resellers on Amazon to get into the bottom of who they are and trying to clean up that landscape. Organic marketing, which is your content and SEO on Amazon. Finally paid advertising, which is paid search as well as display media. In most cases, we manage all of those processes for clients and they’re still involved to the extent of approving budgets and letting us know about new products coming out so we can launch those on the channel. We act as an extension of their marketing and operations team to manage their Amazon sales and marketing channel.

If you’re having any one issue or you’re having a bunch of issues or it’s growing beyond your control, those are all reasons that people could come and speak with you.

The typical scenarios are you’re not getting the growth that you’re expecting or you know that you’re missing something. There’s a lost opportunity or you’re having a lot of issues with scaling. You’re not on the marketplace at all. There are some resellers on the marketplace representing your brand, potentially not in the best way. Those are the usual scenarios that we come across. It’s under optimization, lack of growth or a requirement to launch as the direct brand on Amazon. We do that in the US and the other major markets like Canada, Europe and the UK.

If you were to pull your 50 or so clients and they were to say, “Bobsled Marketing helped me in my Amazon business do this one thing.” What do you think the majority of them would say?

The majority of them would say to understand how Amazon works and to set them up for the future. We’re doing our job well. Unfortunately, some of our clients end up leaving and graduating from using an agency. We try and be helpful and educate our clients along the way as well about why this fulfillment method is better than that one and why they should be running this type of ads and what the ROI of each ad type is. How to do inventory forecasting better and why all these things matter. Which is why I have been working on a new project called the Marketplace Institute, which is more about the self-serve platform where brands can still access our best practices and processes and tools and even talk with our team on our Amazon help plan. It will give them more of those tools to work on their channel in a self-service way rather than paying an agency or consultant or freelancer to do absolutely everything for you. Once you’ve reached a certain level of competency and you have enough internal resources or team members to run with this, then there are a lot of processes that you can and should take back in-house once you get to a certain level of competence.

There are different types of people out there running businesses and being very successful in their own ways. Click To Tweet

The Marketplace Institute sounds awesome, but let me ask you a quick question though. I have found that a lot of my clients when we dig into it, aren’t making much money on Amazon, even if they have great sales. Do you find that this is a common occurrence? I find that they don’t put it altogether. They have marketing over here. They’re spending money on marketing. They’re spending money on FBA. Maybe they’re doing $500,000 or more sales a month on Amazon but when they look down at the money in their pocket, when you put the P&L altogether and you include everything, they’re not making much.

That is a great point. You’re right, a lot of brands don’t add everything up together and look at it as a channel analysis. It’s hard enough work to put the P&L together other than doing a P&L for every channel. Your point is exactly right. You should be doing a P&L for each channel and figuring out what that’s looking like. Possibly not on a monthly basis because there are a lot of ups and downs in retail but maybe on a quarterly basis and certainly on an annual basis. What is the contribution of each channel? I would also add that some channels, you can’t ever fully separate out these channels because someone might discover your product in a store and stores are still amazing channels for discovery and brand awareness.

They might discover your products in a store and buy it there for the first time and then end up buying on Amazon once they’ve been introduced to your brand. That is a phenomenon that has been well supported by research that people will often try a new product in a store and then repurchase it on marketplaces like Amazon. That’s definitely happening these days. You do want to see the contribution from each channel and understand how profitable it is in its own right. You also need to understand, you can’t fully separate these channels out because the same person who buys at Costco probably still has Amazon Prime Membership and they might be buying on other channels as well. I would say to do that analysis but also be cautious about that crossover behavior that’s happening.

For instance, I have a client right now that has a bunch of products. As you sell the line of products into a retailer, not all of the products have great margins. Some of them have great margins on average, some have a little under average. You cost average the entire margin of the line. Assuming that everything sells equally, the overall margin can be acceptable. You have to look at everything. Is there any one part of Amazon that you think the people don’t pay attention to that they should pay attention to because it could be costing them money that they don’t realize is affecting their overall profit? A lot of times good sales on Amazon, that cashflow can mask other issues. Is there one area that you would tell people, “Make sure you keep an eye on this?”

Do you mean from a marketing standpoint?

I’ll give you an example. I had a client and we were doing great sales. In fact, sales were increasing, but out of the total twelve or thirteen SKUs, there were two SKUs that were driving that business. What had happened was we had some SKUs that weren’t selling anything or very low sales and the FBA costs of holding those in the warehouse were costing us profit that we didn’t realize until we did a deep-dive analysis. What we ended up doing is pulling those products and doing fulfilled by merchant on those so that they weren’t costing us anything to keep it because they already had a warehouse that they could hold them in. Is there any one area that you think that sometimes you should make sure you keep an eye on?

That’s a good point because with fulfilled by merchant, for example, if you’re fulfilling from your own warehouse and you don’t get that Prime badge, that’s going to have a huge impact on your sales, volume and velocity on Amazon because all Prime members want to shop Prime-eligible products more or less. It has an enormous impact on the conversion rate. Also, Amazon ranks your products higher if you have that Prime eligibility. This is one that you need to think carefully about because although it might improve your margins to be fulfilled by the merchant, it’s going to have a huge impact on your sales volume.

This is your decision as a company, whether you are prepared to take a hit on some products to get people to try out your brand. There might be some products which are not profitable for you but they are gateway products. You make more profit on the rest of your line. You might be quite firm in that we can’t afford for any product to be under our profit threshold, let’s say. We need everything to be of that threshold. I will layer in the factor of sales philosophy going down if you don’t have those products prime eligible. Something that some brands are able to do and it’s not going to work in every category is doing things like bundling similar products together in packs or doing multi-packs, which can increase your average order value to a point where it is possible to do fulfillment by Amazon. To have Amazon fulfill that order and therefore get Prime eligibility.

Let’s talk about the Marketplace Institute. It’s a drive your own boat, so to speak, and use the tools that you want to use and don’t use the tools that you don’t want to use and be in control on your own. Can you break it down a little bit more and when is it going to launch?

OTS 154 | Amazon Marketplace
Amazon Marketplace: Prioritization allows you to sift and screen the most important things you need to do in your day.

 

That’s a good way of saying it, drive your own bobsled. That might be the new tagline. It came about because at Bobsled, we worked with a lot of brands who ultimately graduated having learned enough about the system to be able to bring things back in-house. For some of them, that was their plan all along. They needed an agency to help them get over the initial hump of loading up their catalog and getting the content together and setting up the campaigns. They felt like they would be able to take things over themselves. After seeing that happen for a few years and understanding, “A lot of brands don’t want to be forever dependent on an agency. Let’s see what we can do to help support them if they decide to take things in the house.” The thing with Amazon is it’s not static. There are always new rules and programs and changes and things going on in their system that you need to stay up to date with. It’s a job and a half honestly, to stay up to date with all of the new stuff that Amazon brings out.

If you’re the solo Amazon guy or girl in your organization, you have other things to do as well not just Amazon. It was almost impossible to stay up to date on what’s going on. How does this affect me? Does this affect my category? What does that mean for my item-level profitability and all that stuff? If you’re not working with an agency or consultant, you need a way to stay plugged in to the best practices of the day. That’s what we’re doing with the Marketplace Institute. There’s a knowledge base of all of our processes, checklists, best practices and analysis that we develop internally as an agency. As well as Amazon Helpline, which I mentioned, where you can schedule a call with the expert in marketing, advertising, vendor central operations and seller central operations.

The final piece is masterminds since I’ve been speaking with a few dozen brands to figure out how they learn and how they want to stay current. A lot of them wanted to hear from their peers and learn what’s working well in adjacent categories and what’s working well for other vendors who have very different problems to sellers. It’s difficult to find a posse of vendors because there’s not that many of them. We’re going to play the role of matchmaker and pull small groups together and get them talking to each other about what’s working in their businesses.

We do masterminds here at TLB. We do masterminds on getting your products into retail. It’s such fun to see like-minded people together and come back after a month and say, “I used this and I reached out to a buyer and this is what happened.” They certainly get as much or more out of listening to their peers and what their peers are doing and having success with and also failures too. I put out the topic and tell them what we do and then they go off on their own and it’s what they come back with that’s so interesting and so helpful.

You give them assignments or do you open up a topic and then everyone starts sharing about what’s working for them or not?

It’s interesting that you should say assignments because it is like that. It depends on what mastermind you’re in. If you’re already in retail, we’re then talking more of best practices but the masterminds that I run, people are getting into retail. We’ll talk about, “This is how we write our pitch emails to buyers and this is what we do.” I’ll give them an example and we’ll talk about some things that have worked in the past. Their assignment is to go out and write some pitch emails, reach out to some buyers. When they come back, they talk about that experience. Everybody has not only that but during the month they’re talking about it on in the Facebook group. When they come back to here, how or when and did they get any feedback and get a buyer respond, that’s the real gem.

That’s where the magic happens.

That’s the magic part of any mastermind and to make a mastermind work, everybody has to participate. It’s super fun for me. I enjoy it. In fact, I did a recording for a summit that’s happening for young entrepreneurs. These are kids that have their own products that are trying to take them to retail. I’m part of that kid’s summit. These are kids that already have products and creative products that are getting into retail. I did an interview with the person putting that on for tips for that. There’s a possibility that we may start a Young Entrepreneur Mastermind. That would blow my mind to have little kids in there doing their thing. Does the Institute cost anything?

Yes. This is our secret sauce as an agency so it’s going to be charging for it. We’ve got a beta period where we’re testing out our technology and testing out the system and everything. Through November, I’m going to let in 100 new members for a discounted rate of $75 a month to access the knowledge base and our weekly office hours conference calls and some analysis that we share with the group. If you want to join our mastermind group, that’s also $75 a month and then the calls to the help line are billed per session. You pay what you use there. The rates are $25 for a twenty-minute call. Off to the beta period, we’re going to increase the rates. It’s at least 50% off during the beta period. There’s so much value here. In the end, we’re going to suddenly see what people resonate with the most whether it’s the masterminds or how helpful the weekly calls are and the knowledge base. We’ll see what tools and resources end up sticking for the post-beta period.

In a nutshell, there’s a cost per month whether it’s going to be the beta cost of $75 or whatever you guys determine will be the final cost to have access to the platform and all the different tools that you guys have spent your life’s work creating. If you want to be in the mastermind, that’ll be an additional cost. It’s an hourly rate broken down by twenty minutes to have access to an Amazon expert and talk to somebody. Even at $150, depending on how many tools are in there and the expertise, that doesn’t sound completely unreasonable to me. Is there a level that people need to be at to take part in this? Can it be someone that’s getting their product up or do they need to be at a certain level to make this worked for them? 

I would say it’s not going to be suitable for really early-stage startup product companies that don’t have their product to sell anywhere. Frankly, there are a ton of courses and good free content out there that is helping brands, helping people to figure out new products to launch or if you’re an inventor and how to get started with Amazon or if you don’t even know what you’re going to sell yet. Frankly, there is so much content out there if you’re in that position. A quick Google will help you out with that. A lot of it is free. There is less content out there for what we’re addressing here for that more established brand that is selling through a direct consumer channel or through retail and the Amazon piece is the tricky part for them?

I would say as a general, to throw out some numbers out there, I’d say you’d want to be doing at least $500,000 in annual revenue. We’ve got some brands that are interested in this platform who are selling $50 million a year on Amazon. They’re looking for a network of peers and they’re looking to stay engaged with what’s going on. They want to stay on the cutting-edge. That’s quite a big range. I wouldn’t say it’s for complete beginners and folks who haven’t been running a product company for a while or managing a P&L for a while.

That’s a good distinction. I’m glad we talked about that. By the way, cutting edge, I don’t know if that was a Bobsled reference or not, but it certainly has a Bobsled ring to it. I haven’t asked this question in a long time and it used to be something I asked every guest and has absolutely nothing to do with anything that we’re talking about. Over the course of my professional life, I’ve tried a gazillion different ways to keep myself organized. I finally have landed in a decent area in that way but always looking to improve. How do you keep it all straight? You’re running a business. It has 30 employees, 50 clients. Part-time, you’re fixing lights to about anything that you can find. How do you keep it all straight? How do you keep organized?

I’m not organized. There are things that slip through the cracks. If you email me directly, I might not respond for two weeks. There are things that don’t get done. My house isn’t always clean. The first thing is recognizing that you’re not going to get everything done and focusing on not necessarily the most urgent things that come up or what are the most important things. The part of that for me is setting goals each year in each quarter and revisiting those and thinking. A big thing for me this 2019 was to launch the Marketplace Institute and you can bet that there were a million things that came up that were screaming for my attention. I had to set aside time every day or every week to plan this out, eat with the team and put some strategies together. That prioritization is probably the most important thing because then you are able to sift and screen all of those things that inevitably come up in your day and figure out, “This seems urgent. It’s not important in the scheme of things.”

That’s such an honest answer. I appreciate that. I’m sure you’re making everybody out there with a sigh of relief because of a lot of us times when that question gets asked, “Dude really?” When everybody hears somebody that’s going to answer that question, it’s going to be unbelievable. “I use this app and that app and everything’s completely straight,” but the honest answer is stuff slips through the cracks and you can’t be perfect on everything. Thanks for the honest answer. For me, there are two key things that I’ve learned. One is going to be a little bit of a cliché buzzword. If I’m always spending part of my week working in the business and part of my week working on the business, then I have a good balance of making sure that my business is moving forward. It’s the weeks that I am buried in the business that the business doesn’t actually move forward. That’s one thing.

The other thing that’s helped me is allocating a certain amount of time to everything during the week. Not necessarily when I’m going to do it but at least what day it falls on. That’s how I stopped things from slipping through the cracks. No matter what I’m doing, if I’m supposed to spend an hour on this particular thing this day, then whether that hour comes at 10 PM or 1 PM, I do it. It helps me too because otherwise I’ll get lost in email and all I’ll be doing is email triage all day long. I can go literally weeks on email triage and never get anything done.

It comes back to that principle of, “Are other people dictating your time or are you the one driving it?”

OTS 154 | Amazon Marketplace
Amazon For CMOs: How Brands Can Achieve Success In The New Amazon Economy

They all are constantly dictating my time.

You need to be in the driver’s seat and people are going to be coming up to your car and asking for your attention, but it’s up to you.

I was waiting for you to give that. That’s another Bobsled reference. You need to be in the driver’s seat of your own Bobsled if you’re going to get into the Marketplace Institute, bottom-line. The last thing, I know that you said you have a new book coming out. This is for high-level CEO, COO CMOs, but tell us a little bit about your book for those CEOs out there. What’s your book about?

It’s called Amazon for CMOs or Chief Marketing Officers. I wrote it with a friend and colleague of mine in another agency owner in the Amazon space. His name is Mark Power. We put this book together and understanding that there’s a lot of misconceptions about Amazon within the larger companies, particularly at the C-Suite about Amazon was always thought of as a bookstore and then a place to buy cheap stuff and a distribution channel. It’s really an end-to-end marketing channel as well as distribution channels. We set out to dispel some myths and educate the C-Suite. During the course of writing the book, we also interviewed about fifteen CMOs and retail executives to get the voice of the industry as well. We spoke with CMOs and leaders from Mitsubishi, Mondelēz, Samsonite, Charles & Colvard, the jewelry company and a bunch of others as well as the head of Amazon.

There’s a guy with the title head of Amazon at the mattress company, Tuft & Needle. We actually see that Amazon function come into these organizations in a bigger way. It’s all about that shift that’s happening within larger companies in thinking about Amazon. If you want to educate either yourself or other members of your C-Suite, it might be a good resource to have a look at and see what other companies are doing about Amazon and the different perspectives within that brands have.

Sometimes reading above your level is never a bad thing. It’s like when I play golf with people that are way better than me, I play better. When I play golf with people that are the same or not as good as me, I play horrible. Sometimes I don’t think it’s a bad thing to read above your level and see what people are where you want to be. Maybe in ten years, what those people are doing are to maintain that. Don’t be afraid. If you want to know what other people are doing in the Amazon space that is crushing it, that might be a fun read for them to do that.

It’s called Amazon for CMOs, but CMOs aren’t going to be the only people reading this. It’s anyone that interacts with CMOs, reports to a CMO. Maybe you run an agency that whether a lot of your clients are CMOs, maybe you’re a COO and you’re interested in what’s going on in your colleague’s world. The Amazon for CMOs is not tongue in cheek but we wanted to put a stake in the ground and say this is for an executive audience and the people who interact with that executive team as well.

The C-Suite of titles is expanding. Do you think a Chief Amazon Officer is out there?

The most striking to me and the one that made a lot of sense frankly is the head of Amazon that I mentioned, the Tuft & Needle. That makes a lot of sense because that company is very focused on their Amazon channel and it’s a significant channel for them. They might have divvied up a head of role for different channels that they currently operate. I’m not 100% sure which position the head of Amazon reports through too but it might be a CMO in that case as well or a chief revenue officer perhaps.

We created a new position. Remember right here, we created the Chief Amazon Officer position. Kiri, it’s wonderful to speak to you. Congratulations on your business, your book and your eminently launching Marketplace Institute. It sounds like these are all great opportunities for not only the Big Boxers but anybody to understand Amazon in a better way. I appreciate your insight and the time that you spent talking.

Amazon always has new rules, programs, changes, and things going on in their system that you need to stay up to date with. Click To Tweet

Thank you so much, Timothy. It’s great to come on. I appreciate the wide-ranging conversation. It’s great to be with you.

Kiri is killing it out there. She is a fantastic individual. I’m glad to have her on the podcast. Kiri, thank you so much. We are honored to have you on. Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with us and giving us access to all the great things that you are doing. We’re looking for feedback from you. We want to know how you’re feeling about the podcast. We want to know what you’re liking, what do you not liking? How can we improve? What topics do you want to hear from? I love it when I get a Facebook messenger or an email or a text message or a tweet saying, “I haven’t heard you talk about this,” because I can’t believe that we haven’t talked about that.

Please reach out to us, let us know how we’re doing and what you’d like to see more of this coming year. I do also want to tell you that my schedule is filling up fast for the end of year evaluations and 2020 strategy. You can take a look and book this on the website, TLBConsulting.com under Consulting. Do it now because this is filling up fast. These are only hour sessions and we can decide to take them to another hour if we want to but they’re initially only hour sessions but they’re very powerful. It’s important especially in the world of solopreneurs where we’re working with ourselves. There’s nobody to bounce ideas off.

There’s nobody to tell us, “Think about this, think about that,” and sometimes we get stuck in our head. We get thinking and this can happen one of two ways. We can think that things are going great when they’re not or we can tend to be super hard on ourselves. What we do here at TLB Consulting is we work with you to figure out where you ended up this year based on what your goals were. If you didn’t reach your goals, if you felt shy of those, why did that happen and what can we do differently this coming year with regard to getting your products into retail that we didn’t do this current year. How can we strategize about taking it to the next level? It can make a huge difference when we evaluate this year and take that information and push it into next year in 2020.

I hope you will go to TLBConsulting.com under consulting and book one of these end-of-year sessions. I’ll look for you there. When I say reach out to us, there are many places that you can reach out to us. The best place right now is the On The Shelf Now closed group. Go to Facebook, hit On The Shelf Now. You’ll find our page, which you can go ahead and follow that. You’ll also find our closed group where you can hit join and we’ll get you right in there so that you can start talking interacting with likeminded people that are working on the same thing as you. Don’t forget to go to the podcast website and leave a comment and let Kiri know how you enjoyed what she had to say. That is what we have for you. I hope that you enjoyed it. I hope to see you back here next time. Until then, I look forward to seeing your products On The Shelf.

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About Kiri Masters

OTS 154 | Amazon MarketplaceKiri Masters is the Founder & CEO of Bobsled Marketing, a digital agency created to help consumer product brands grow and protect their Amazon marketplace channels.

After a successful career as a commercial banker at JPMorgan Chase, Kiri launched her first e-commerce business on Amazon. Recognizing the enormous potential of the channel, it wasn’t long until Kiri decided to build a team of true Amazon experts and provide a platform for brands that were looking to grow.

Her entrepreneurial mind and passion for ecommerce, allowed Kiri to become a strong voice in the Amazon world. Today she is the author of ‘The Amazon Expansion Plan’ and a contributor on Forbes.com where she writes about Amazon from a brand’s perspective.

Kiri is also featured on the RetailWire panel of retail experts, a co-host of the Ecommerce BrainTrust podcast and the winner of a Silver Stevie® Award for Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

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