How to Start a Profitable Business on Amazon – Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Mark Armstrong. Mark started off as a business consultant for small SEO and web design companies. Eventually, his heart went towards e-commerce and all the awesome things that are happening in that niche. He has a plan on creating his own website but for now, he is focused on reaching out to people with a similar mindset and getting his name out there.

The reason why FBA (fulfillment by Amazon) is such a revolutionary program is due to the fact that it made online trade (and trade in general) simpler than it ever was before. In fact, this feature is on a rapid rise in popularity and this year alone there are 1,029,528 new sellers on the platform. In the past, there was a belief that the use of a third-party marketplace is a stepping stone or a temporary move but this is no longer the case. Amazon went above and beyond to allow its users to customize and improve their presence in order to persuade them to see this marketplace as a permanent solution. Nonetheless, getting there is much easier if you have a solid start. Here are some tips that could point you in the right direction.

1. Finding the right product

As soon as you pick the niche (which is somewhat subjective), you’ll be faced with the most important task of them all – picking the right product. Here, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution but there are some factors that could make your life a lot easier. For instance, an item that’s light in weight is easier to transport, whereas an average product sale price that’s between $10 and $50 tends to be the most profitable.

Also, when inspecting other products, you need to check the number of monthly searches of their top 3 keywords. Ideally, you would see over 100,000 searches per month. One last piece of advice that a lot of people tend to forget about is the question of whether it’s a seasonal product or something that generates revenue all year round. Remember, there’s no right or wrong here but the degree to which these fit your plans may vary.

One of the things that you won’t hear that often is the fact that China is probably the fastest-growing market on Amazon. In fact, its share is about 25 percent of the Amazon marketplace and there’s a growing number of sellers from this region (especially in Hong Kong). Therefore, finding an item that sells well in China might give you a boost.

2. A frugal start

The main reason why FBA is such a popular feature is due to the fact that it allows you to launch with as little as $2,000. This means that you can enter the business world without selling assets or getting in debt. In fact, you can use this program in order to amass an initial capital, regardless if you aim to make your own e-store later on or remain on Amazon for good. Still, just because your break-even point is close, this doesn’t mean that you can afford to underestimate or ignore it. Therefore, you should make all the necessary steps to cut your operational costs even further.

The first idea you need to consider is the notion of drop shipping, which allows you to trade in items without having to purchase them first or keep them in storage. Of course, this minimizes your profit per unit but it also insulates you from the risk of overinvesting in a product that people aren’t interested in. It also allows you to keep your logistics much simpler, due to the fact that you don’t actually have to handle the issue of storage yourself. One more thing you can do to minimize the cost is to find a local manufacturer and supplier. Here, the term local refers to the proximity to your customer, especially if you’re trading in a foreign market.

3. A good return policy

Perhaps the most important reason why you need your own e-store, other than avoiding the fee, is the fact that there are so many fake items on platforms like Amazon. This somewhat ruins the reputation of the platform and causes a general audience to be less trustworthy towards those using this business model. Needless to say, the only way to avoid this is with the help of a good return policy. Nowadays, this process can be automated and facilitated with the use of an Amazon refund tool.

What you need to consider is the fact that by offering a refund for your products you A) demonstrate that you are confident in their quality and B) have respect for your customers. This way, you’re also demonstrating that you’re more interested in maintaining a good relationship with your customers than making a one-time sale. Also, a person returning the product is usually not satisfied with it and offering them a full refund might, potentially, prevent them from leaving a negative review. In this way, a good return policy also becomes a method of damage control.

4. Work on your brand

In theory, all you have to do in order to start selling on Amazon is make a registered account, however, in order to maximize your profit, you need to do substantially more. First of all, you should host a website, potentially even a blog. Nonetheless, like Amazon, there are just platforms for the promotion of your business. What you also need are brand markings like a logo, a slogan, and a company name. You need to understand that buyers tend to judge products by the title of a listing. In order to maximize your appeal, you need to include a brand name, the name of the product and list a couple of features to the title.

5. The importance of images

The downside of selling items on Amazon (and of e-commerce, in general), lies in the fact that your audience can’t personally examine the product like they would if they were to visit a brick and mortar retail place. The closest you can get to make up for this is to take quality photographs, use adequate photography methods and upload them to the product page. The method is particularly important and it depends on the type of the product. For instance, a ghost mannequin is ideal for selling clothing items, while it’s an unavailable option for other product types.

Conclusion

In the end, you need to understand that the choice of staying on Amazon or switching to a platform of your own depends only on your preference and long-term plans. As for the profit and chances of advancement, there’s really no limitation. You see, over 70 percent of all U.S. consumers have a tendency of buying from Amazon and there are those who managed to profit from this idea. In fact, the simplicity of this process is something that could potentially allow a one-person startup to earn several thousand dollars per hour. Nevertheless, it will take quite a bit of time and effort until you reach this stage.

5 Ways to Tell Your Brand’s Stories on Social Media

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The following is a guest post by Al Gomez. Al is a digital marketing consultant. He is the President of Dlinkers, and he specializes in SEO, PPC, & web development since 2008. Al has over 10 years’ client digital marketing experience and has helped businesses such as Dr. Berg, Patexia, Panel Wall Art, the Ritz Carlton, and countless others use the web to drive online visibility and generate leads.

Storytelling on social media is all the rage nowadays…

As consumers and target audiences trust sales pitches and product descriptions less and less, there is a greater need for brands to up the ante when it comes to engagement. Technology has evolved so much that interacting with brands have never been easier. But horrible experiences also abound. (Need I mention what they are?)

There is a solution to this kind of predicament, and it comes in the form of storytelling.

Storytelling and Human Nature

We’ll discuss storytelling and psychology in just a minute…

But first, and foremost, let me ask this question.

As a child, how fond of storytelling were you? In any shape, method, or form, any child would have been fascinated with the stories that they heard (or read; or seen). And even as an adult, that love for hearing stories hasn’t diminished. Although it’s morphed into a different form, the affinity that we have for hearing an introduction, a climax, and a resolution hasn’t changed at all.

Now, let’s step back from the modern era for a bit…

Imagine how people of the old days lived their lives. Without technology, how did people entertain themselves?

They played games, listened to music, and yes, they told stories. Lots of them.

In the words of Psychology Today's Pamela B. Rutledge Ph.D., M.B.A., "Our brains still respond to content by looking for the story to make sense out of the experience. No matter what the technology, the meaning starts in the brain."

Why, you might ask? Simply put, stories are the perfect example of authentic human experiences.

Stories are so powerful because:

  • It is a form of communication. It's very primitive, and yet, it has transcended the generations.

  • Stories represent a larger self and universal truths.

  • They are all about connection and collaboration.

  • Stories are how people think. It's how we make sense of life, isn't it?

  • It's how, we, as humans are wired.

  • ●       They trigger our imagination by engaging the right brain.

Is it such a big wonder why a lot of brands take to storytelling on social media?

Storytelling Formats on Social Media

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Thanks to technology evolving above more than what we had hoped for, brands and marketers no longer have an excuse to create stories that are bland and unappealing…

There are so many methods to tell stories nowadays, that it’s just up to us to delve deeper and come up with creative methods to indulge our viewers and audiences in our storytelling.

Besides technology (ranging from smartphones to virtual reality headsets), the number of platforms to share these stories have also increased in number (from print to stories on search engines to ones on social media networks).

Telling your brand’s stories on social media can be done through:

  • Videos: It’s how people prefer to consume content nowadays.

  • Images: A nod to visual content once again.

  • Posts: Something motivational or inspirational. Even captions do excellent work and pack a punch when combined with visual content.

  • Podcasts: Audio appeal, and a good way for people to entertain themselves while doing other things.

How to Tell Your Brand’s Stories on Social Media

The formats and the method of distributing your compelling stories matter, of course. But none are as important as the message you wish to convey to your target audience. What do you want your target audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do afterwards?

To evoke certain responses from your chosen audience, here are five methods to tell your brand’s stories on social media.

#1 Show real people

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In today's mode of storytelling, it's best to show real people working behind the company -- not just the brand logo or the company name (though that’s important too). From the first to the last link of the business.

Showing what goes on behind-the-scenes is no longer breakthrough news -- by any means. But showing what happens within the company walls, and how products are made -- or how services operate conveys more than authenticity. It fosters transparency and honesty.

Do you know how you can make it even better?

You can spice up your storytelling by letting members of team tell a story from their point-of-view. That's how you show different perspectives, and display your brand in a bright light, at the same time.

With full discretion, don't hesitate to show the big life-changing events happening in your company. From something as simple as an office renovation to events as grand as a product launch.

Tell your audience all about it!

#2 Uncover Your Origins

Another classic method of doing your storytelling -- or a good material you should use, is your company's complete background information. History isn't always the most interesting to a lot of people. But in this case, it's safe to say that it's an exception.

It's especially beneficial if your brand has been around a while, and it's been gradually gaining a lot of engagement. That's a perfect time to share company history with an audience who's interested in learning the company's beginnings.

Company histories are authenticity and encouragement rolled into one. It's you telling your audience that reaching your dreams is perfectly possible.

It's the business version of a Disney fairytale…

#3 Encourage User-generated Content

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Do you know what's more valuable and engaging than your own stories? Your audiences'.

User-generated content comes in three different forms:

  • Customer feedback: That's the most common type of user-generated content. It fosters engagement as your customers ask questions and get answers in return -- either from you or your other clients.

  • Reviews and ratings: These are more straightforward. And they come in either positive or negative. Numerous studies show that peer reviews go a very long way to up your business' credibility.

  • Pictures and screenshots: Pictures for B2C; screenshots for B2B. Image-proof goes a long way and is as powerful as the first two UGCs mentioned. It complements the other two, and adds another level of trust and transparency to the brand.

Encouraging and magnifying user-generated content tells a story all its own. And the best part? It's a story from your customers or clients that tells others how they feel about your business and your product; how they see it, and how they interpret the message that your business advocates.

#4 Highlight Your Corporate Social Responsibility or Advocacy

There's a thin line between tooting your own horn to look good, and sharing company resources with others while genuinely caring for the people and living things who need special assistance. When you're involved in doing social responsibilities, tell your audience about it.

Only do it, however, if you truly do care about a particular cause. Don't do it for the wrong reasons...

However, showing your target audience and the world that you have a stand on a particular issue shows everyone that you have values and advocacy that you uphold. Consequently, it’s a message that reflects in the products that you sell as well.

#5 Get Meme-ing

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There's an underdog among social media marketing methods. I won't ask people to hazard a guess, because I'll come right out and say it anyway...

Ladies and gents, we are living in an age of memes -- the most popular form of expression online and an integral part of pop culture. We'd be fools to ignore this marketing tactic any longer.

There's no long list of reasons for companies to start using memes. In fact, there's probably only two that will sum it up completely.

First, and foremost, memes fit seamlessly into social media platforms so well. They spread like a wildfire -- as a result. Second, humans these days are characterized with short attention spans. A meme's upfront nature makes it the perfect medium for quick consumption.

Memes are like inside jokes everybody wants to be in on. Why is it so popular among brands? The answer is simple; because they drive traffic and engage the target audiences simultaneously.

Make references to popular culture (The Avengers, ridiculous social issues, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, music stars, etc.) tastefully and tactfully, and you'll be surprised at how much people like it -- as long as its really funny and it's something everybody relates to, of course...

There's also inside memes. Jokes that revolve around your niche are a good way to catch your audience's attention.

Just Take It from Influencers

And when you go back to the root of it all, just take the time to learn from the experts of social media influencing and the basics of marketing…

A lot of mega influencers know how to play their marketing games, and how to engage the audience so flawlessly.

  • By 2019, there will approximately be 2.77 billion social media users worldwide.

  • 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about it (Scrunch).

  • 83% of consumers trust peer recommendations over branded advertising (Nielsen).

They’re not exactly influencers for nothing!

What kind of story do they tell, you ask?

They tell stories of their lives with every social media post. With every life update… In every vlog they do, they tell stories. In some cases, they even stir up drama. And what does the internet do? It consumes it and everybody participates.

I’m not saying you should start a brand scandal or drag an opposing brand to start drama to generate engagement and attention.

The main point I want to drive home is the importance of storytelling…

In Conclusion

Telling your brand's stories on social media is commonplace, and it's everywhere! Storytelling is that kind of entertainment format that hasn't diminished in quality (only increased). Moreover, it's transcended time, and will continued to do so in the generations to come.

A lot of brands nowadays understand that a lot, and everyone is called to constantly adapt. So what's the key?

For 2019 and beyond, storytelling on social networks is the thing. And doing it effectively comes with audience research, creativity, and clever strategizing.

5 Ways Social Media Can Wreak Havoc on Your Business

The following is a guest post by Diana Smith. Diana is a full time mom of two beautiful girls covering the good and the bad of today's business and marketing. When she is not being to serious and busy she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.

It’s not until a brand starts experiencing customer wrath on social media that it would even consider this godsend of a marketing tool to be a potential risk to your business. Unfortunately, as with many things in life as well as business, it’s a double-edged sword; one with the potential to help you conquer the realms of your industry, and one to gloriously self-destruct in the effort to succeed.

The potential benefits and profit that your brand can earn from a solid social media approach most certainly trump the potential poor outcomes, but knowing how to handle or preferably prevent some of the issues may actually be the key to help your brand thrive.

Before one of your novice social media managers causes a company-wide fiasco, or you come across a particularly feisty customer publicly ruining your reputation one post at a time, read on and learn about the best ways to prevent disasters in the world of social media and what to look out for.

Negative reviews

Mind the plural, because a single poor comment on your Facebook post, or a customer with a mildly dissatisfied tone will not truly be any cause for alarm. These simple, somewhat common situations are relatively easy to handle if you have a contingency plan in place, and a way to repay and apologize to the customers in question. More often than not, such a gesture is enough to make things right; even if they might not be a return buyer for your brand, at least there is no permanent damage to your image.

On the other hand, if negative posts, tags, comments and reviews start getting disseminated quickly, this can turn into a wildfire that may just be the one to turn your brand to dust. An ignored complaint can transform into a rant in an instant, while a single unhappy client may cause an uprising in social un-follows for your company. You need to be prepared and your social teams educated to handle complaints and negative reviews, otherwise they are bound to backfire.

Poor branding

With the rise of memes, animations such as gifs, and the relaxed tone of voice that is prevalent on many social networks (sometimes even LinkedIn), there is a time and a place for everything. Depending on your company’s list of services or products, your own language and types of posts can vary from slightly quirky to completely informal, but they should still retain the essence of your brand.

Your business social profiles are not the appropriate channels for expressing personal beliefs, as that will most likely lead to alienating your customers. A great (or terrible is more like it) example would be the KitchenAid tweet during a presidential debate, which was mistakenly posted from the brand’s page, not the personal one of the employee. While they mitigated the crisis quickly, it’s a valuable lesson for many brands out there to keep their professional and their personal thoughts separate.

Ignoring social mentions

It’s commendable that a brand should spend ample time on crafting, fine-tuning, and delivering a slew of consistent, well-branded posts, and make sure that the company is posting such content on relevant networks for their audience. Providing value should be the first and foremost goal of any social media strategy, but even the most experienced of companies should embrace the learning curve and hear what their customers and users have to say. Not doing so can actually result in missed opportunities, mishandled issues, or ones not handled at all.

The fact that approximately 60% of Australia’s population is on Facebook caused brands Down Under to begin implementing their social listening strategies more wisely, and the rest of the world follows suit. The sheer volume of active individuals using social mention monitoring tools can prevent full-scale crises and make the most of any brand mentions across the social realm.

Timing can be everything

While there’s no indication that an institution such as the NRA can get shut down after a poor social media move, there is so much any other commercial brand can learn from them when it comes to social blunders.

With a whole record of poorly-constructed tweets, some of them posted right after another mass shooting, or in an equally sensitive moment for the nation and the world, they are the perfect example of when not to post self-promotional, insensitive posts. It’s not just about following trends and taking care of being up to date with the latest events, but also delivering a brand image that will resonate with your values.

While there is a multitude of “dos” to utilize social media to do good, support your brand’s growth, and help your customers discover your business, it’s equally vital to know the “don’ts” imposed by common sense, as well as best practices on social media. Master them, and you’ll be able to prevent numerous crises, ensure long-term relationships and inspire loyalty.

How People Read Content Online - Statistics and Trends

The following post was written by Asad Ali. Asad Asad Ali is a digital marketing expert having more than 8 years of experience. Currently he is working at GO-Gulf – a website development company based in Dubai, where he has worked on numerous eCommerce SEO projects & successfully run digital marketing campaigns.

Now people don’t read the online content in the way they do years before. Knowing about the behaviors and interests of your online readers is significant in order to optimize the digital content accordingly. Eventually you have put so much effort in generating top quality content but still, you are complaining about low user's engagement, the main reason is the changes that occur in the reading habits. Now, most of the people only emphasize scanning the content rather than reading through the whole web page.

After creating the content it is significant to share it on social media platforms, as without much exposure no one will get aware with the presence of the content.

Users communicate with the content in the form of skimming, scanning, and reading. People also get attracted to the content of their interest. A relevant and context-based content that resonates with the user's area of expertise appeals more, as people tend to read about the things they love the most.

From the year 2000 to 2018, it is estimated that the rate of reader’s attention towards the content has gradually decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.

In the presence of huge information in the form of web pages, only 55% of the web pages get noticed for 15 seconds.

It is also observed that the left half of the web page gets more concentration by the users than the right half, as 69% of them get prompted towards left half and only 30% towards the right.

80% of the reader’s attention is towards the information present above the fold and only 20% get interested in the information present below the fold.

The readers who keep on reading the content from a web page for three minutes are likely to return back as compared to those who only bother to read it for just a minute.

For an individual post, a reader only conceive 20% of the whole information present on the web page, however, only 10% to 20% make it to the bottom of the page.

When it comes to the brand identity, 25% of the users who get engaged with a web page that is related to any brand for more than 15 seconds, the chances are they can remember its name for long, as compared to those who only spend 10 or less number of seconds.

The stories on the web pages that are more elaborate, having more than 1000 of word count; get more users’ retention than those with less number of words.

You can find more facts and statistics in the infographic below that is composed by Go-Gulf.

How Effective Customer Service Can Boost Customer Loyalty - Guest Post

The following is a guest post from Garret Norris. Garret is the founder and CEO of Healthy Business Builder and through his company, remains dedicated as ever to use his training and real-life business experience to meet his passion for seeing business succeed through disciplined management, creative marketing and committed client service.

Building a strong customer relationship and satisfaction that leads up to customer loyalty is possible through improved quality of customer service.

Having excellent customer service can lead to an increase in customer retention.  When you tend to your customer’s needs, over time, you’ll be able to build a relationship with them which results in repeat sales.

On the other hand, once you missed their expectations, they are more likely to switch to another competitor who can provide a better experience while dragging down your reputation along with them.

A single bad encounter with a customer service representative could cause a ripple effect on your business. While there are 72% of customers who would share good experiences with others, 62% would likely share the bad as well.

If your business provides a less than satisfying experience, chances are your reputation would take a hit from the bad reviews and complaints you’ll get. New customers rely less on advertisements and sales reps than recommendations from people they know such as family and friends.

Excellent Customer Service Means Making Returns Policy Easier

Before making a purchasing decision, some customers look at a company’s return policy for basis. Offering hassle-free returns is essential to your overall approach to customer service as it is not only great for persuading new customers but also boosts existing customers’ loyalty.

While a lenient policy resulted in more returns, it also led in an increase in purchases.

A study showed that free returns could boost spending by up to 457% of pre-return spending.

Items that are easy to return gives customers enough confidence to make and repeat purchase.

Compared to an organization with a generous return policy, firms with a stricter policy decreases consumers’ willingness to buy a product. Creating rules that discourage customers from returning products, such as fees, reduces spending and a business decreases to 75%- 100% by the end of two years.

Another factor that lessens a customer’s motivation to make a purchase is a deadline. A short time frame also creates pressure around the decision to return an item. Meanwhile, a longer return period would take away that urgency. The product would eventually grow on the consumer.

Researchers at the University of Texas-Dallas find it may be a result of the endowment effect. It means that the longer the customers hold on to a product, the more reluctant they’ll be to part with it.

Of course, returns come with a cost that your company has to cover but making a returns policy easier can increase customer satisfaction.

Excellent Customer Service Fosters Efficient Delivery

One of the root causes of customer service issues revolves around delivery. Poor delivery services discourage customers from doing business with your company again. 

A study shows that late deliveries makes 17% of consumers abandon business with a company after one delivery and 55% of customers left after two to three times.

Delivery can be a real challenge, especially for smaller business. Not only do you need to provide high quality and reliability for customers, but you also need to keep costs down which means relying on couriers. While you can control the quality of your product and customer service, you have to trust your courier not to undo your hard work.

You might not be able to control when deliveries arrived, but you can set customer expectations around the delivery. Your customers would be kept happy by under promising and over-delivering.

If you promise delivery within a few days, then ship everything overnight or priority, customers would be left with a significantly more favorable impression on your company. On the other hand, if you promise overnight delivery, and then there are delays, your customers may think negatively.

Excellent Customer Service Means Giving a Quick Response

One of the essential factors with effective customer service is speed. Responding quickly to your customers with their inquiries or complaints keeps them from moving their business to the competition since they expect and demand fast services.

A fast response is especially necessary for a customer sharing their bad experience. This would leave them with a good feeling and memory that overtakes any unpleasant incident. It would make them feel important.

The longer your representatives take to respond, the greater the chance you’ll lose your customer, but there will be times when a slow response couldn’t be helped. Sometimes, slow response is due to not having anything to tell, the lack of updates or changes to communicate.

Immediate request is not the only way to keep your customers happy but giving a timely response. Customers understand that orders could take time and some things cause delay. Sometimes a response to their inquiry is enough.