Tips For Making Money Selling Online

Why You Suck At Merch And How To Finally Start Selling Some Shirts On Merch

Recently I was in a large Mech By Amazon Facebook group and saw a post that the person was complaining about the fact that they had 18 shirts up and had made 1 sale in like 4 weeks. Then they mentioned running ads, keywords, etc and nothing was working.

Why You Suck At Merch

I  made a reply to the post that people just don’t get this Merch thing and with this post, I want to explain why I think people are failing at Merch.

I am going to make an assumption that a large number of people doing Merch By Amazon are also FBA sellers. I am sure some aren’t, but if they aren’t , they will understand this even less.

The basic reason people fail is that they don’t understand how the Amazon algorithm works.

I know, you are yelling BS right now. Your saying ”I put in keywords on my listings” . ( So quit your damn keyword stuffing. It doesn’t work) That isn’t all the algorithm cares about.

Yeah you suck. You still don’t get it, so sit down, shut up and learn some shit!

What Amazon Algorithm Was Designed To Do

Amazons algorithm was not designed to be gamed by you. Putting 500 keywords into a listing thinking that more is better and the algorithm will rank your shirt high is just plain stupid.

That algorithm is written by a bunch of smarter people than you or me and they know what you are up to.

Amazon’s algorithm is made to sell products. That is the only goal Amazon has for it.

Type into AZ search the phrase “ funny t shirt” .

funny t shirt

Amazon only returns 60 of over 2 million items.

These are the 60 items that Amazon’s algorithm thinks you will most likely BUY when you are looking for a “funny t shirt”.

It is not the listings with the search term “funny t shirt” stuffed in 40 times.

So the simple fact is that Amazon wants to show you items that you most likely will buy for each search you do.

This is the MOST important part.

How Amazon’s Algorithm Learns

When you put keywords into your listings, it tells the algorithm what your listing is about at first but then it learns if the terms are right.

Huh?

Yeah, the true measure of if your search words are right is ( drum roll)

CONVERSIONS

If you say your shirt is about say “owls” and when someone searches for a shirt about “owls” and Amazon displays your shirt and they don’t buy it, that tells the algorithm that your listing isn’t about “owls” or that it sucks. Either way, the algorithm doesn’t want to waste a spot in search results by showing your shitty listing that doesn’t sell.

As a side note, the algorithm gets more clues from things like reviews but that normally happens after conversions.

So when you first put up a t shirt and have it loaded with your keywords, the algorithm is going to sort of take your word for it. It will display your shirt sometimes as a search result for those keywords but if it doesn’t start to sell, it discounts those keywords as being valid.

Basically you get a chance to prove yourself and if you don’t, well you are pushed to the search results abyss.

So the goal for any shirts that you put up is to make fast sales.

Merch Is Just Like Private Label

The whole thing is to handle Merch like Private Label ( or any listing you make for Amazon FBA).

When private label sellers bring a product to market, they have to do stuff to get their products to rank in Amazon search and make it sell well.

The normal process is (was) to give away ( or discount) a bunch of the product at launch to get sales, reviews and to move up in ranking.

Well that same holds true for Merch shirts.

Remember me mentioning conversions? ( sales ) Well in private label, people give stuff away or sell cheaply to get the conversions.

Well we can’t exactly do that with Merch, but we can sell our shirts cheaply to make sales ( conversions) .

Time out for my rant

Everyone that knows me, knows how much I despise “fast turn” FBA sellers. I believe people are suckered into the math of compounding returns that some gurus teach. It normally goes something like this, “ If you return 10% every 2 weeks, that turns into a massive return after a year”.

Yes on paper it is amazing, except that it results in a crap load of work trying to spend that much money every 2 weeks.

Basically it is taught by people that don’t understand margin and basic business.

Ever walk into a Walmart that sells out everything on their shelves every 2 weeks?

No, never and that is not how you should run a business. The only thing you do is destroy the margins for everyone else before you burn out and quit selling on Amazon FBA.

Rant over

With that said, I have found that the same low ball, fast turn sellers on FBA have a totally opposite strategy when it come to Merch.

They believe that their shirt designs should sell for a premium. They think that every one of their designs are worth $20, $25, $30 each.

They are willing to make 10-20% return on a product that they buy from Walmart but there is no freaken way that they would sell their shirts for say $14.99. ( $3.47 royalty )

They are willing to make $1 on a $10 investment on a product that they bought from Walmart but $3.50 from a digital file is sacrilegious. Go figure.

With that said, I am going to suggest you become the low ball seller on Mech that I hate on FBA.

Besides making a good design and basic keywords, the only other thing that we can control is the price we ask for our shirts.

Why would we want to do this?

Conversions!

Most people are more likely to buy a cheap shirt than an expensive one ( yeah I know that isn’t always the case) .

So let’s go back the owl shirt.

You have just designed a cool looking owl shirt. You put some good ( relevant) keywords into useful, human readable title, bullet points and description. ( ie keywork stuffing on these doesn’t make people want to buy anything)

keyword stuff

So you have told the algorithm what the listing is about so it gives you a chance to show your stuff.

Someone searches for an owl t shirt and yours gets displayed in the search results.

This is your chance to show the algorithm that you really should be displayed for the search term “owl”.

Now there is the problem. Your shirt has no reviews and is priced at $24.99 ( remember you think it is freaken the most awesome thing to ever be listed on Amazon) and is shown next to a shirts that have reviews ( social proof) and priced at $19.99.

What are the chances that you convert?

Slim.

Now the algorithm begins to think that the keywords in your listing are wrong. The buyer bought another “owl” shirt. There is a strike against your listing.

This keeps happening the next several times that someone search for owl shirts.

Now the algorithm says enough is enough, the listing isn’t really about owls and it isn’t going to show it to buyers anymore when they are looking for owl shirts.

Now let’s say you priced your shirt at $11.99 and it showed up in the search results for owl shirts.

Many people shop on price and some of them will buy the $11.99 shirt. ( Oh, no. There is no way in Hell that I am giving away the shirt that isn’t selling for almost nothing…..)

When you sell your owl shirt for $11.99 you don’t make crap on it (like $.88, but hey you are in fast turner range of return) but and the BIG BUT is, that you made a conversion. You just told the algorithm that your shirt is what people want to buy when they search for an owl shirt ( see this is exactly the same thing of what private label sellers are doing)
Your shirt will start to show up in search results more which will result in more and more sales.

So you would keep your price at this point until you make several sales on your shirt and then start to raise the price ( people do the same thing with private label. There is a launch price and a full retail price that they move to).

This is really no different than how you would launch any other product but for some reason people are afraid that every person that would ever buy their shirt will snag it for $11.99 and the will never have another person want to buy it.

Basically if 10 people buy your shirt for $11.99 and that is the end of it and there is no more demand for your shirt after that, then you have a dud of a shirt design anyway.

So what if 10 or 20 people get a great deal on your masterpiece of a shirt design.

Sell some cheap to teach the algorithm that you are the real deal and you will benefit down the road.

Conclusion

If you are someone that is totally sucking at Merch and you aren’t making sales, you have nothing to lose by following my advice. Log into your Merch account and reprice all you nonsellers to $11.99 and let them sit for awhile. Some are still going to suck but some will start to sell and after you have taught the algorithm, you can start to raise your prices up to increase your profits.

Or you can just keep sucking at Merch.

Why You Are Failing At Amazon FBA

There are a lot of people that start FBA and either quit or never really get any traction. They would tell you that FBA is all hype, no real money to be made in it but it is not true. They failed and I want to take a look at why.

Size Matters

The first reason that your WHY isn’t big enough.

I would love to say I thought of this on my own but honestly I learned it for this presentation that I saw live ( check out the video below, it is well worth your time to watch it)

So what does it mean when we say our WHY isn’t big enough?

Basically the reason why you are doing the business. Your motivation is not big enough.

For example say you are doing Amazon to get money for buying your kid some high priced pair of fashionable jeans even though they have plenty of good pairs.

How motivated are you to do the extra work to make the money?

Probably not super motivated.

Now say you are doing Amazon to buy medicine for your kid that keeps them from having seizures?

How motivated are you to make the money?

Really freaken motivated!

The example given in the video is that you are asked why you are doing FBA and you say to make a million dollars.

Not specific, not going to happen. Not a good enough WHY.

I personally am guilty of this.

I do FBA full time but honestly haven’t tried very hard and pushed it to the next level.

Why?

Well lots of reasons.

Mostly because I didn’t really have to.

Here is a some signs and signals that your WHY isn’t big enough
Signs and signals that your ‘why’ isn’t big enough:

* procrastination

* self-judgment

* embarrassment

* self-doubt

* indecisiveness

* confusion

* fear of making a mistake

* fear of failure

* apathy

* all talk but no action

* inconsistent action

( From http://www.streetdirectory.com/etoday/what-do-you-do-if-your-why-isnt-big-enough-eloppc.html)

How many of these apply to you ?

Most apply to me.

The honest truth is that we are our own worst enemies. The struggle in not doing the business, the struggle is overcoming our minds.

So what the video above and see if any of the above signs point to you. If they do, then you need to figure out your WHY and if you find that you don’t have a WHY, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing FBA right now.

Comfort Zones

We don’t want to get out of our comfort zones, but everything we say we want is outside of our comfort zones.


I suffer from this too. Private label is out of my comfort zone and everything that I want from my business is setting on the outside of my comfort zone, right next to Private label.

How to get out of your comfort zone is not my area of expertise but I have several conversations at the conference with other sellers about private label and how they got the guts to do it.

Most basically said that they just did it. They took the chance.

One guy said that he mentally considered the money he was investing as a loss already. (he was sending $500 for a product)

He said that made it so much easier. He said that after considering it a loss, he was happy when he got a return. Made him feel really good, which cause him to get out of his comfort zone easier and more often.

You need to figure out how to get out of your comfort zone. The hint is when you feel scared, you are at the edge of your comfort zone. At that point, it is time to just take a leap of faith.

Connecting With Other Sellers

Are you scared to make friends with other FBA sellers? Scared that they are going to steal all your products ideas and put you out of business?

Almost every successful FBA seller with tell you that making connections is one of the things that really causes their business to grow.

On the other hand, most unsuccessful sellers are lone wolfs. They think every seller is out to get them and they keep to themselves.

Which are you?

If you haven’t made connections, now is the time to start.

Like I have said earlier, I am recently back from an Amazon resellers conference.

Meet a ton of other resellers and have so many great conversations and learned so much about reselling and what other people are doing.

And not once did I worry about someone stealing my ideas and people told me what they were selling and I didn’t try to steal their ideas.

Seeing what they were doing gave me new ideas of my own.

So if you are hiding away from other resellers, open yourself up to connecting and you will be surprised how much that will help your business.

Training

People fail to take the time to learn how to do this business right. They do one of 3 things usually.

They try to wing it

They get the wrong training ( or worse pay for some way over priced training and get totally ripped off)

They get the right training product and don’t take the time to got through the training.

When it comes to training, I have been recommending the same training for a long time and the priced is stupid cheap ( I think that people may think it isn’t good since it doesn’t cost $1000.

You should read Chris Green’s Aribrage from front to back before doing anything with FBA ( cost about $9 new, $5 used)

http://www.amazon.com/Arbitrage-authoritative-guide-works-work/dp/1478251891

After doing a little retail arbitrage that you learned how to do via Green’s Arbitrage book, the next step is to go through Green’s Online Arbitrage book.

Now this book is more expensive. ($70 for the used black and white version and up to $170 for the new color version)

http://www.amazon.com/Online-Arbitrage-Sourcing-Secrets-Products/dp/1500333824

I wouldn’t buy the book.

I would either sign up for Kindle unlimited and read it for free or go to Udemy and take the course for $30 (it is the same as the book)

https://www.udemy.com/onlinearbitrage/learn/v4/overview

Actually, I would go to Gumroad and get a special deal he has that has 3 his courses, the 2 arbitrage books and his course on Merch By Amazon, all for $49

Why You Are Failing At Amazon FBA

https://gumroad.com/a/790246515

So you can get all the training materials for $50 but you have to actually sit down and go through the material.

Most people won’t do this. This is why people fail. This is why accounts get suspended.

Did you take the time to learn how to do FBA? Did you try to piece together the training by finding different sources online?

If so, that could be a reason you are failing.

One other training I just started recommending ( because it just came out out) is Stephen Smotherman’s How To Keepa Camel.

This training helps you understand how to read charts better and make better buying decisions. I would say that you need to have gone through Green’s training fully first before taking this training ( it is a lot more costly)

I did a review of the training in a blog post

http://www.arbitrage411.com/amazon-fba/stephen-smothermans-how-to-keepa-camel-book-video-course-review/

While it is no fun taking the time out to learn how to do something, it is very important to learn what you need to know before investing a bunch of money in inventory. So many people do this backward and lose a ton of money learning the hard way.

Wrong Business Model

This is where I step on toes but the truth is that the barrier to entry is almost non existent for FBA and some people aren’t business people.

There are a few business models that while they work for some people, they honestly don’t work for the majority.

This biggest example is the Fast Turn model.

This appeals to people because it is presented in compounding math.

10% return every 2 weeks for a year is a shitload of a return ( on paper)

It does work for some but the issue is scaling.

This is a business model that is great if you are broker than shit and don’t have much money to invest.

You can quickly build up your nest egg by turning it over every 2 weeks.

That works great until your nest egg grows so big that you you have problems spending all of it every 2 weeks and/or the processing of that much inventory.

Basically you get overwhelmed and the business model breaks down or you start hiring employees and getting a warehouse, etc.

Now you have overhead.

Still there are people that make this work, but it gets harder. The 10% return doesn’t work so good when you have overhead and payroll to meet.

Margin is very important to a business.

Almost all the successful FBA sellers I know protect their margins as best that they can ( ie they want to make as much as possible off every single product that they sell)

So while you may have started out as a Fast Turner, maybe it is time to adjust your business model. You have to remember that you aren’t Walmart trying to sell on paper thin margins. They have large systems in place to make it work and just like the retail world, there are very few other retail businesses that can survive doing what Walmart does.

So take a look at your business model. If you are working your ass off and it seems like you are barely making any money, you might have the wrong business model.

Conclusion

FBA works and if it isn’t working for you, you need to figure out why. Hopefully one of the points in the article sticks out to you and you can adjust and make this business work for you. The hard part is that you have to accept responsibility for your failure and then fix it. Harder said than done for most people.

Organic Marketing For Merch By Amazon T Shirts

“Welcome to Merch By Amazon!”

Now what?

How do I get sales?

Facebook ads? Pinterest? Instagram?

Everyone is scrambling to figure it out.

Here is what I know about Facebook ads for Merch:

0 , zero, zip, nada

Going Old School

I want to present a totally different idea for marketing Merch tee shirts that I haven’t heard anyone talking about that I have seen happen with my own t shirt designs.

I can’t prove that this works but I think if you follow my thought process you might buy into how this can work.

Niches Baby, It Is All About Niches

Everyone wants to jump into the big niches that have hundreds of the same design or saying. You have seen it, 3 pages of the exact same shirts.

Or people trying to jump onto the current events. Really? How long does current stay current?

So what should you focus on?

Small, unreached niches.

Unreached niches?

Think about it, How many knitting fan t shirts are there? ( ok there are a lot of them on AZ so not a great example, but have you tried to find on at Walmart or your local mall?)

In general, odd hobbies or interests are not going to be found locally.

So say your mom is a big time knitter and you want to get her a shirt for her birthday. You are going to have to go to Amazon to buy one because the sales numbers for those shirts are too low for other retailers ( other than other print on demand t shirt companies) to manufacture them.
So now let’s move on to an example of how I see this working.

Case Example

So first I want to choose a niche that I believe this will work in a little different way.

I chose the niche dental hygienist.

When was the last time you saw a dental hygienist t shirt in the store?

Probably never.

But……there are a lot of dental hygienists out there.

I did a quick search to see how many searches does Amazon have a month for dental hygienist t shirt

merch1

Wow, less than 100 a month.

Most people are moving on right now. ( not me, I wouldn’t mind selling 100 t shirts a month but 100 search would lead to less than 100 sales)

So let’s look at another search

merch2

Dental hygienist gift

211,000 searches a month

That is really good and I shouldn’t have used it because it won’t prove my point but you have a great keyword right there.

So let’s just forget about about that but hint, hint, the word “gift” seems to be something we should be adding to any niche search terms.

Ok, let’s get straight on this.

We know there are a crap load of dental hygienist out there. We also know that you can’t buy a t shirt for one at just about any other place except Amazon. And finally, we know that less than 100 searches are done looking just for “ dental hygienist t shirt” ( that last one sounds so unpromising )

Organic Marketing For Merch By Amazon T Shirts

Why would I want to make a dental hygienist t shirt and why do I think I can sell any of them?

shirtfba

Currently the sales rank of this shirt is #385,476, which if you look at FBA Toolkit, that says that it is selling about 1 shirt every 4 day, so 7 or 8 a month.

Not killing it but remember that the term “dental hygienist “ is only being searched less than 100 times a month and there are a few other designs to chose from on Amazon.

Now here comes the secret sauce ( hold on tight)

Now say someone order one of these dental hygienist t shirts and say it is really a cool shirt. Now they wear it to work in the dental office and their co workers think it is a cool shirt too.

What is going to happen?

They are going to say, “ That is a cool shirt. Where did you find it? “ and they answer “ On Amazon”

Amazon is easy to remember and easy to access. It wasn’t like they said, “I found it at a flea market in Alaska”

So now you have a walking billboard to your t shirt.

Nobody sells dental hygienist t shirts locally and there is this person where it around the office.

There is a good chance that their co workers might order some of the shirts too.

Now imagine that every month the same thing happens. 7 or 8 t shirt get ordered and then you have the walking billboard showing it off around the office.

Next then you know 7 turns into 15, then into 25.

Notice I haven’t said anything about paid promotions?

I think the term is “ organic sales

Here is the thing. Merch hasn’t been around very long. People haven’t taken notice of the whole organic sales thing yet. Too busy trying to make a current event, hashtag shirt. Too busy trying to copy the best selling shirts.

Now fast forward to Q4.

You are the dentist. You are having an office Christmas party. You need to buy a gift for everyone in the group.

Hey there is that cool shirt that Suzy Q has been wear once a week all year on casual Friday.

A quick Amazon shirt shows the shirt and you can visually recognize the shirt ( no need for the perfect keywords because you know the shirt you are looking for)

You place an order for 12 shirts and go about your day.

Organic sales and nobody has been thinking of this.

Conclusion

Just think about every different job or hobby that isn’t represented. That is a shit load of niches. Make the cool shirt and then sit back and let the magic happen over time ( remember that once the shirt is up, it is there forever to make you money)

Cell Phone Hacks For Retail Arbitrage

Finding Products That Don’t Scan

Many times other sellers list products under a different UPC code to throw other sellers off. You pick up a product to scan and it doesn’t show up as being in the Amazon catalog but actually it is.

The first way to try to find it that most people do is typing in the name of the product.

Total pain in the butt to do.

The biggest tip is to type as little as possible. If you type too much, it might be too specific and not show up in the search. Start with the brand name. People also change the title of products and if you put in a big long title, it might not give you a search result.

There are better ways to do this.

The Amazon seller app ( along with Google and the Amazon buyer app) has a dictation feature.

Look for the microphone

Cell Phone Hacks For Retail Arbitrage

Just push the microphone button and speak the product name into the phone.

This is a hit or miss thing. Some words just don’t pick up right, but it can be a time saver.

So here is the ultimate trick.

Amazon uses a image recognition function on the Amazon buyer app ( not your AZ seller app). There is also a stand alone version of this called Flow,

On the Amazon buyers app, it looks is the camera icon

IMG_4006

And here is the stand alone Flow app

flow

You just start Flow up and aim the camera at the product. It has these crazy little light things that run around the picture and tries to figure out what the item is and then pulls it up in the Amazon catalog.

The catch is the it bring it up in the Amazon buyer app and you need to grab the ASIN from the Features & details section

This works really good. It actually works better than typing or dictation methods.

This is also a trick to use when you can’t hold a product ( like video games that are in the glass cases)

Bonus Tip : Using the Flow app for sourcing online

AZ Buyers List

If you are using product sourcing lists, you can use the Amazon sellers app for having a visual shopping list

Using The eBay App

The eBay app has a bar code scanner built in.

When you hit the search on the app, the scanner icon comes up.

ebay

Many times you find a good deal on a product that isn’t selling on Amazon ( or restricted) and this is great for checking if a product is selling on eBay. I also use the scanner to scan the bar code and create my eBay listings on my phone. I then go back and edit the listing on my computer.

Keeping A Charged Cell Battery While Doing Retail Arbitrage

One of the simplest way to charge your dying cell phone battery is to use a rechargeable power block.

IMG_4009

Just pull your phone into it and charge your phone right in the store.

When you are in your car, if you put the phone on Airplane Mode while charging it, it will charge at least twice as fast.
If you turn the phone completely off, it will charge 3-4 times as fast

There are a brand of cell phone cases called Incipico that have a build in battery. It basically doubles the life of your battery. When your phone gets low, you press a button on the case and it recharges your phone.

http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Incipio-offGRID-Express-6s-Black/dp/B00RZV2MT4

Reading Bar Codes

The Amazon seller app camera seems to have a hard time focusing compared to Scoutify.

One trick is that if you touch the screen on the AZ seller app, it causes the camera to focus faster.

Bonus Tip If you are at Walmart and trying to use the price checker and it doesn’t seem to want to read, touch the bar code image on the screen, it make it read the bar code

The Scanning App Running Really Slow Or Not Working

Sometimes you are scanning in a store really good and then the scanning app just seems to stop to running or is super slow.

I have found that if I get near the Walmart photo area ( or electronics dept) that my phone hooks up to the Wifi and the wifi sucks.

I have also had this happen at Meijers.

So check to see if your phone has hooked up to Wifi and turn it off to make the scanning app start working again.

Now if there is no cell signal at all, then look for a wifi source to hook up to. You might be able to sweet talk an employee for the password or my son has had luck with using xfinity when there is no cell signal.

In low signal areas, it seems like Scoutify will work when the AZ seller app won’t.

Checking CamelCamelCamel And Keep Charts

You should be check CCC and Keepa charts before buying but if you are using the AZ seller app, it is a pain in the butt because there is no built in function for this unlike Scoutify, Profit Bandit or ScanPower.

Here is a video that shows how to easily check the charts if you are using the AZ seller app

Listing Product Merchant Fulfilled In Store

If you are an MF seller or you MF during Q4 for hot products, the Amazon seller app allows you to list a product through it right there in the store.

You can literally list a hot product and have it sold before you even check out.

Up To Date Data

Amazon doesn’t give other scanning apps access to the current pricing data. They have to basically have data bases that they access that may be hours or days old.

The Amazon seller app uses the current prices, so if you scan on Scoutify and then scan the same product on the AZ seller app, you will many times see a different buy box price.

Bluetooth Scanners

Using a bluetooth scanner will really speed things up and it saves your cell phone battery.

They are also pricey, but I use a generic one called the TC30.

You can find PL versions on Amazon for about $80-$85

http://www.amazon.com/BLUEHRESY-Portable-Bluetooth-Wireless-Compatible/dp/B01AHYMCZY

I got mine off of eBay for about $70. I looked for the ones that are shipped from the USA.

Mine works great but the Amazon seller app doesn’t work good with it because you have to touch the search box each time before scanning. ( that is faster than the camera works but not really easy to do constantly in store)

It works great with Scoutify. I can just whip through items in the store with it.
The instructions that come with the TC30 suck but it isn’t hard to set up.

Bonus tip  The scanner by default beeps every time you scan but if you use the code below, you can turn the beeper off.

sound