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Interview with Will Haire – Growing Your Business On Amazon – Episode #77
      • Will Haire is the co-founder of BellaVix which is a full-service Marketplace Marketing Agency for direct-to-consumer retail brands who want to grow sales on the world’s largest marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. Will has worked with eCommerce businesses in leading the strategic planning, implementation, and tactical execution of marketing strategies for products across all Amazon business segments. His portfolio includes companies like Instant Pot, Pyrex, Derma E, Think, and Outward Hound.Questions we covered on the show:
        • What are the basics marketers should know about before selling on Amazon?
        • Should businesses hire in-house to scale their Amazon marketing or should they hire an agency?
        • What are the ins and outs of Amazon SEO?
        • What are Will’s favorite Martech tools?
        • How similar is Walmart advertising to Amazon? What are the notable differences?
        • What other marketplaces does Will explore with his clients?
        • What thinking goes behind developing a buyer persona for an eCommerce business? What should a marketer consider?
        • How will Amazon Live is going to change the online shopping experience and how can marketers capitalize on it?
        • And more!


Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto  0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people of digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest will hair. Hi, Will, how are you?


Will Haire  0:14  

Hey, Kenny, how are you? I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here to talk about Amazon and digital marketing.


Kenny Soto  0:20  

Yeah, I’m very excited to pick your brain today. And prior to this recording, I was just giving you a little background on the podcast and the listeners. And I think the best way for us to start this episode is to get more context about you as a professional. So my first question for you would be how did you get into digital marketing? And part two of that question would be, how did you get into Amazon Marketing?


Will Haire  0:42  

Yeah, great question about how I got into digital marketing. That’s tough. It’s, you know, I got into it through listening to like Neil Patel, reading his blog. KISSmetrics was always pretty interesting. So the SEO component fascinated me while I was in school. 


So I ended up taking a job at a digital marketing agency, at first doing SEO, then getting into search advertising. And then shortly after, left that agency to do more e-commerce stuff, and another advertising Pay Per Click position at that agency, doing Amazon ads and learning a lot about the ecosystem. And then sometime in 2018, decided that with the way I’ve been exposed to agencies and my experience with them thought I can run myself. 


So I decided to weave the current agency I was with and kind of start my own agency, which was primarily focused on helping brands can accelerate growth on marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. And from there, I was really fortunate enough to, due to my experience doing marketing and advertising, I was able to kind of get my first few clients through my network. And now we kind of have a system in place where we, we get new clients and stuff. 


So that’s a bit about me, my background, and my journey through digital marketing started off with general SEO and advertising and kind of got more focused on marketplaces like Amazon.


Kenny Soto  2:21  

Now, let’s put ourselves into the shoes of a marketer who just joined an E-commerce company. What are the specific considerations? Or even specific steps like the criteria that need to be checked off? Before a marketer can bring to leadership the idea of promoting products on Amazon? Are there specific requirements that need to happen before you even start?


Will Haire  2:48  

Yeah, I mean, if you have a product that you have a UPC for you guys own the brand, you can list it, if it’s not your product, you can even list it. So Amazon is just somewhere where people shop, and having a presence there is important, they’re going to check reviews, and so on and so forth. 


If you’re new and like a kind of getting into like, where do I start understanding? The Amazon Marketplace? There are a lot of different considerations, everything from inventory management, to whether are you going to be able to keep up with demand. 


Do you have the ability to fulfill orders? Or would you want to use Amazon Prime? And the cost associated with that? Do you have the ability to do an advertising budget? So like, those are considerations to get started, it’s pretty basic, you know, like, like, you would list your product anywhere else, but doing it the right way. Make sure you’re, you’re following all the best practices that come with time, or you can hire an agency. Who does that full-time to kind of set it up for you? 


Kenny Soto  4:01  

Now, this might be a leading question because you might have your own biases here. But what would be the pros and cons, the advantages and disadvantages of hiring an agency to manage this for you versus building out your own in-house team to manage this?


Will Haire  4:17  

Yeah, I mean, I think a good way to look at it is your time or your money. You would have to sink a lot of time into like understanding the processes like anything else. You build processes because you know what works or what doesn’t in an agency like mine like we do every day. So we’re able to systemize everything, lower cost, and a lot of different ways to know what works and what doesn’t. 


And what frameworks we can put in place. And there is a human element to it, of course, being able to analyze market data and make strategic decisions. But it comes with somebody doing it all the time, you know 50% Give or take big commerce happens on Amazon 66% of searches will lead At Amazon as they check reviews on products, so it’s a part of your user journey, whether you like it or not. 


But it comes down to, you know, how, how much do you want to make it a part of, you know, your time. And it takes time to grow these brands. So it’s not something that happens overnight. But it’s definitely an opportunity and a large market.


Kenny Soto  5:23  

Let’s say I’m in my first year, diving into Amazon for the first time, I either have a client or I’m working in an in-house team. And I want to make a name and make a name for the brand, but also make an impact on the brand. What are the high-level three or four basics? When it comes to strategies for promoting on Amazon?


Will Haire  5:47  

Yeah, I’d say real bait, like, what’s gonna impress anybody is getting sales up. So implementing a consistent promotional strategy where you run coupons or some type of discount, definitely helps. Making sure the listing quality is top-notch. So having some really high-quality images, your listing is optimized for search. 


So your title has maybe one or two keywords that you’re kind of targeting. If it’s a newer product, consider longer tail keywords, versus a more mature product, you can go a little more direct after specific high-volume route keywords. And then leverage knowing which products you should do prime. 


So there’s give or take, it’s 30%, of picking package fees. But a lot of shoppers don’t want to wait more than two days. The system is robust. And it’s a great way to just have a good customer experience. And it’s great for brand building, as you’re able to as your customers are able to get their products from wherever they want to want to buy them.


Kenny Soto  6:57  

We’ve had several SEO experts in the past on the podcast, but I have to assume that there are somewhat stark differences between Google SEO and Amazon SEO, what would those differences be? Specifically?


Will Haire  7:12  

That’s a great question. Amazon specifically, it’s more product oriented. So the way people use it in their journey is just different. So for example, you know, super high-level browser data, Google’s based on browser data. So how somebody interacts with that, how do we interact with a browser and was searching for something we’re asking more questions. So the mindset and where that customer can fall in that journey are a lot different. 


And there are a lot of different tactics. When it comes to Amazon at this point, they’re kind of towards the bottom of the funnel, you know, at Amazon, the bottom of the funnel, search the catalog, search platform. So the like, principally, they all work the same. 


Amazon is going to provide the best user experience, they’re only going to showcase products that actually sell really well. But their data is based on bottom-of-the-funnel data, which is great for like remarketing and doing some programmatic ads. But obviously, educating customers about your solution, especially higher price point items, like that needs to happen off of Amazon, which is why you need to have like a tiered approach, you can’t be all on one. 


I mean, there are products that you must be brand agnostic about. They give all your lemon squeezers that people just shop and based on price and reviews, but for anything else, it requires good branding. And it requires a presence both on search, you know, through the entire journey of a customer. 


Kenny Soto  8:51  

I’m a self-proclaimed nerd when it comes to marking tech and Google Chrome extensions. My next question is, are there any specific tools martech Google Chrome extensions, or what have you, that you leverage to promote your clients on Amazon?


Will Haire  9:04  

Yeah, Helium 10 is probably my favorite. My agency experience and my agency and another agency are usually Helium 10, or Jungle Scout tend to be the two big ones. We like helium 10 the best. So we use it there. The reverse ASIN tool gives us a lot of information on keywords, what we’re indexing for, and what we could be indexed for. 


We also work with a tool called sell zone which allows us to split test listings. We do a lot of testing and continuous testing in order to kind of just maximize our effectiveness. And then we use a tool called analytics. And that allows us to track a lot of the ins and outs of what happens inside an account, set up alerts, and get updates all on one channel. 


So we can like put a lot of our processes in place. So there are three big tools. And for the average consumer, Helium 10, has likely everything you need to do to be an effective marketplace manager.


Kenny Soto  10:11  

Diving in a little deeper, you mentioned testing, what are some variables that marketers should consider when they’re managing experimentation on Amazon?


Will Haire  10:23  

Yeah, your levers, if you will, are your images. So your first image you could change around. And that’s really one of the best things to test. You can do the title, you could split test the language in the title, if you’re getting more impressions on your listing over a given period of time usually means you have a better title. 


So you can gauge what your click-through rate might be. And then there’s the plus content towards the bottom of the page. And that’s like, branded visual content, to kind of help stimulate somebody into making a purchase. So those are like three key functions, you can test, then there’s always like, depending on your price point, if you can stack items, do different types of sets. 


And you can run tests off that they keep it a really basic image, the title, and the plus the body of the of a listing are three of the big and easiest to test regularly to look for improvement. And then we don’t like a multivariate test. So we don’t like to run multiple tests on a listing at once, because it’s really hard. If you run your tests through managing my experiments on Amazon, it’ll just Alpha bait it for you just split test. 


So you’re just getting variants, equal distribution over a period of time. If you use software like sell zone, it’ll just change that for two weeks, and you just run a test in two-week increments. And we change one feature at a time. We look at it over a two-week, two-week period.


Kenny Soto  12:03  

I did some research on you. And you don’t only do advertising on Amazon, you also manage clients on the Walmart marketplace as well. What are the specific differences? If there are any between Marketing on Amazon versus marketing on Walmart,


Will Haire  12:21  

Walmart’s making a lot of improvements they just came up with like their product opportunity improvement dashboard, and it gives you a bunch of SEO recommendations. A lot of the principles apply with regards to like indexation, making sure you have all your variants, good, good images, and testing your title and bullets. 


Put from a back-end user perspective, it’s like 10 years behind. So like early, you know, there’s still it’s clunky, there are lots of errors, things don’t always go where it makes sense. So it’s just, you know, from an agency or for somebody running, it’s just a lot more hands-on. A lot of things require cases because they just don’t have the functionality. 


So Walmart in that sense, from a principle perspective and the advertising dashboard, like they run the same, it’s keyword oriented, you want to make sure you’re leading with your best images, you want something optimized for search that’s relevant to the product. A nice benefit that Walmart does that Amazon doesn’t is you can connect like your plugins if you use Yato. And have those reviews show up on Walmart. 


So it shows is like your listing has 10,000 reviews, because it’s how many reviews you’re able to get on your post. So it integrates a little better and plays nicer with off-Walmart technology whereas Amazon is a black hole. It does not share how that’s how they’re sending people out of space. But those are some of the big ones.


Kenny Soto  13:58  

I can imagine that email marketing is one specific lever that can be potentially used to facilitate more reviews, including email marketing the mix. What tactics and or marketing channels do you recommend and use for your clients for gaining more product reviews?


Will Haire  14:21  

Yep, so we do everything within Amazon’s Terms of Service. So we definitely don’t recommend purchasing reviews or participating in a search manipulation. This week, they cracked down on two more websites that participated that in the websites get cracked down and sellers get in trouble too. 


So it’s something that Amazon’s paying a lot of attention to. But outside of that, how do you do it the right way? Package inserts, be careful with the language you can’t ask for a positive review. But you could ask for a review. Tell them a little bit about your brand story. Usually goes a long way to point out that the post-purchase email sequence is something you can set up for anything that is like, like makeup or something that gets used in 30 days very perishable, it’s great to have just touch points to gently remind them of your product taken advantage of the post-purchase email sequence. 


Amazon has a request to review feature that will send you a request to review from Amazon. And then the vine program for anybody to brand registered. It’s a way to get up to 30 reviews. By putting some products on the vine market, FBA products only brand registered brands only. But it’s all done through Amazon Associates, Amazon influencers go and buy your product. 


And then, of course, your existing audience, just drawing their attention to purchasing the products. And what’s nice with your audience and your email address? You could tell them how to find you share some love, you know, you just got to be careful the language you use, but those are the within Terms of Service ways of acquiring reviews and give or take. If you do nothing else, two to 5% of people who purchase on Amazon will leave a review. 


So sometimes it’s just a time game. For brands that have advertising budgets you kind of bake it in and make it part of your advertising cost of sale knowing that you’ll convert a certain number into reviews.


Kenny Soto  16:32  

Are there any other marketplaces aside from Walmart and Amazon that you’re experimenting with for your clients?


Will Haire  16:41  

No, those are the only two right now I foresee us eventually getting into Target I’d like to cover all three. But at the moment, Amazon and Walmart take a while and takes a lot of time. And Walmart’s still getting up to speed. So we’re staying on top of news and information they’re making sure we’re keeping up on our game.


Kenny Soto  17:02  

Target might be the best example for this follow-up. What are the things that you consider when adding another marketplace to your services?


Will Haire  17:14  

We considered sales velocity. So like from a brand perspective, you should be moving at least a million dollars a year, give or take to be ready to like put a little more commitment into Amazon, what you’ll see when you get past that billion-dollar point did you start getting brand searching for products if you search your brand on Amazon, you know if your native deodorant or something like that, and other people are advertising on your brand name, it usually means that people are searching it. 

So there’s some brand equity built up. So you know that there’s going to be a little bit of a market there. And then depending on your situation, you can go with a third party. reseller, there are companies out there, that’ll just buy your products wholesale and they’ll own that retail relationship. Generally, the lower sales velocity on your products usually means less attention. But depending on the contracts you work out, they’ll sell on your behalf or where you own the brand experience, you set the prices, and you manage that entire end-to-end customer experience. 


So that’s kind of where we specialize in and the brands that work like that. So making sure that customer service marketing and all that is fluid between your website and the different marketplaces. And usually, when you’re getting above a million dollars, you have a marketing person. And these are some of the considerations as you’re talking about channels for growth and opportunity.


Kenny Soto  18:44  

What thinking goes behind developing a buyer persona for one of your clients, if they don’t have one, or they’re requesting more like market research as part of the onboarding process?


Will Haire  18:57  

Yeah, from a buyer persona, will rely on them, they’re going to know their buyers love better than us. What we will provide is keyword data, generally understanding a tent and how they search for products is usually pretty informative. 


And then what can we put in place in our listing? So for example, if you were on Shark Tank, or the Canadian equivalent dragging layers, that might be something we put right up in the title because for a product that launches and may not have a lot of reviews and a competitive category like beauty. That’s a differentiator that would help speed up the process of making money faster, essentially. But knowing how to position your product, is a lot good. 


Companies will source products, they’ll look at existing categories. They’ll look at the negative reviews and they’ll see what’s wrong with what’s out there. And then build the better widget and call it out. You know the pot that doesn’t leak or the whatever and then they’ll grow that way. So like it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a TV spot on NBC. But there are creative ways that have come out in the research, which is what we do when we work with somebody over the first 60 days.


Kenny Soto  20:12  

Are there any specific trends, either with Amazon Walmart, or two-sided marketplaces in general that excite you this year?


Will Haire  20:22  

Yeah, we’re actually getting into Amazon live. So shoppable videos, Amazon life is Amazon going after QVC? Essentially, so they’re their online television sales program. And we’re starting to work with influencers who are promoting brands, Amazon’s obviously rewarding brands internally for those who participate. And you know, it’s happening overseas already. So it’s only a matter of time before it makes it here. 


What does it look like? When it gets here, who knows, but it’s fun to be working in that space, we think it’s going to be creatively something brands that succeed do on Amazon, versus those who don’t. And Amazon’s becoming definitely more of a platform for brands, somebody who can list their product, get a lot of reviews, positive reviews from just people who love their experience with the brand or products, and less of that retail arbitrage or, you know, lowest common denominator type of approach. So it’s just a difference in how the platforms behave and how sellers behave, and what works and what doesn’t.


Kenny Soto  21:30  

With my last two questions, I want to take a step back and focus more so on myself. If I wanted to be just as good, or even, hopefully, better at doing what you do, what skills do I need to learn first?


Will Haire  21:47  

Um, I mean, from somebody who should, like grows a human service business. Leadership is something that needs to be developed. So having people who follow you, and that’s by leading by example, having good morals, putting it out there, stepping up sticking up for team members, and always doing the right thing, those, I think, are fundamental. 


And outside of that, knowing what your strong suits are, and putting people in positions in your week, I got, I spend a lot less time now working on characteristics that aren’t really good. Like, I’m somebody who’s not as detailed. But I’m somebody who’s really good at starting initiatives, validating them, and getting them off the ground. 


So putting somebody on my team who can follow behind me and start to process things has accelerated our growth, and has helped us just put the right processes in place. And also know, from a people perspective, what personalities and characteristics really succeed in a role. And that comes with time, but like those are, those are two of the biggest things, at least from my experience as an agency owner.


Kenny Soto  23:08  

My last question is hypothetical because time machines don’t exist. But if they did, and you can go back into the past around 10 years, knowing everything you know, right now, how would you use your knowledge to accelerate the speed of your career?


Will Haire  23:22  

Good question. I would invest a little more time and I probably would have started the business a lot earlier. Instead of working for other agencies, and building it up by that I could have probably just jumped, started the agency a lot sooner, and kind of went through a lot of the trials and tribulations you go through when you start an agency. 

Even working in an agency, and then actually running an agency is just so different, you know, working in and on your business and fundamentally, like it’s a lot different. So before you jump, you’re like I got it, I can deliver a service, but you don’t realize all the other things you have to consider when running a business not to mention when you hire your employees, and these people rely on you for their, their livelihood, like how to navigate that, how to make sure you’re bringing in like high-quality talent. 


There are a lot of things you don’t think about, especially when you get to a point where you don’t want to be owned or operated anymore. It’s no longer about like we’ll going in and doing all these great things to your Amazon account. What does it look like to have Bella VIXX go in and put these systems and processes in place to help deliver these great results? And that marketing and movement? All come with time. But that’s how it’s different. And that’s a great learning experience. I wish I did that 10 years earlier.


Kenny Soto  24:58  

Will if anyone wants to say hi to little tea online, where can they find you?


Will Haire  25:02  

LinkedIn is the best way hit me up on LinkedIn. I’m pretty active on there. Try to post every day. And I will move you over to my email if you do send me a message, but definitely refer to Kenny let me know where you found me and anything you found interesting and I’m happy to share resources and stuff I found useful on my journey. A lot of general concepts apply to your niche. So like for your points, being curious and having a good digital marker take you a long way.


Kenny Soto  25:31  

Perfect. Thank you so much for your time today. Well, thank you to you the listener for listening to another episode of the people with digital marketing with your host Kenny Soto. And as always, I hope you have a great day. 




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