Creating the demand you collect

Ahh, the good old days. When AdWords were five cents a click and affiliate programs actually worked without 50% discounts. But the one thing about good old days: they never last. Eventually everyone discovered how to get traffic to their website and costs went up, Google got rich and customer attention became hard to come by. Back then there was more demand available than marketers investing and the hordes of visitors you could pull to your site were profitable on the first shot.

Now things are harder. But it seems that some things are getting lost in translation. I think part of this is because of who became digital marketers and who didn’t. A lot of the digital folks either came up through IT or through direct marketing. Not many came from brand marketing. So digital has always been focused on efficiently getting sales, possibly at the expense of brand growth. The past few years this has started to change, primarily with the big brand marketers. But it needs to change more.

The biggest problem, as I see it, with digital marketing is that it fails to distinguish between demand creation and demand harvesting. Demand creation is the act of actually making someone want your product. Demand harvesting is simply getting an order from someone who already wants it. These skill sets are inherently different and one is much, much harder than the other.

Going back to the early days, many retailers were able to harvest very efficiently. Paid search, SEO, affiliate and even retargeting are all about harvesting demand. Customers have to be looking for or searching for your product. Nike would make them want it, they would hit Google and search for it, and whomever delivered the best deal would get the click and the sale. Anyone can harvest and efficiency wins.

Generating demand is really hard. It requires TV commercials and catalogs mailed and other marketing techniques that interrupt the customer with a product and try to get them to buy it. Digitally speaking, banner ads were always the great white whale of digital demand generation. However, the corruption and absolute crap going on with banner ads have relegated them to a wasteland. I see people trying to generated demand through social (small, but can be effective) or YouTube online nowadays. There is still no great way online to generate demand at scale. And those with proprietary products can’t just harvest; they have to create demand.

So generating demand requires more skill, more work and more investment. Good PR can do it, if you’re small. TV is still the medium that does it well and big. Product placement is doing well online, but again it isn’t at scale. To create demand requires a big, great idea plus good execution in a channel that interrupts your target customer. And gets mass attention.

What I see these days is brands who have hit a wall in SEM and have declining results in other channels like Amazon (still requires demand already be present) or affiliate. The problem is that they are no longer creating demand; maybe they scaled back on catalog mailings or stopped those expensive TV ads or closed stores. Their online marketing loses effectiveness (or profitability) because it was simply collecting demand from the things that created demand. Now that that has stopped, there is less to collect.

What do you do in this situation? Find a way to create demand. It’s possible even on a limited budget. My favorite example is how Duluth Trading Company went from being a catalog company to a direct marketing company using TV ads. That’s the model you should look at (not Apple, not Amazon).

More to come on this.

Improving Your Amazon Sales, Part III: Investing in Amazon

This is the third in a three part series on increasing your sales on Amazon.com. It makes sense to read part one, Quick Wins, and part two, Repackage Yourself, first.

This article focuses on ways to invest in your Amazon presence to drive additional sales. These tactics should be tested thoroughly before rolling out; they don’t work equally effectively across all Amazon sellers. Here’s what I suggest you try:

Advertise on Amazon

In some categories, Amazon still allows Amazon Sponsored Ads. These show up at the bottom of a search result page and drive customers to your product page on Amazon.com. They work very similarly to Google paid search ads. And you pay for them by the click, similar to Google.

This tactic is extremely effective for proprietary product that sells on Amazon, but doesn’t get enough exposure. This can improve the number of people that see your product and increase the number of visits to your Amazon product pages. If they convert to buyers, it’s a huge boost. Amazon won’t show your ad unless you are winning the buy box, so there is some protection from advertising for your competitors.

You do have to be careful not to overspend. You’re already paying Amazon a hefty commission on the sale and this results in more margin going to Amazon. On proprietary product, where you have higher margins, it can be a way to fuel sales. But it doesn’t work well on items that you’re discounting heavily in order to win the buy box.

Get a Lightning Deal

The Amazon Deals Page  is the most visited page on Amazon besides the homepage. Needless to say, it gets millions of shoppers every day. The best (and easiest) way to show up there is to get a Lightning Deal. Lightning Deals move a lot of product. Typically they can sell two weeks worth of goods in two hours. If you make it to the actual deals page, you’ll move two months worth in two hours (roughly).

However, to get a Lightning Deal you have to have enough inventory at Amazon (FBA) to cover their projections and you have to discount at least 20% below the price over the last 30 days and Amazon has to believe it’s a desirable product. Once you pass that hurdle, what is the value in a Lightning Deal?

Well, here’s the theory: Sales Rank means a lot on Amazon. Higher sales rank means you show up higher in search results. You get more merchandising, which means showing up in more emails and on other Amazon.com pages. So theoretically, if you can drive up your Sales Rank, you can lift sales of a product into the future. And the extra merchandising will help hold up those sales.

So, if you have a product that you want to drive, get a Lightning Deal (which lasts 2 hours) and let it drive up your sales rank in order to drive future sales at a (hopefully) higher price and margin. In my experience, this works extremely well for some products and awful for others. It’s something you have to test. In some instances, I also see a halo effect on related products that you sell (they are typically merchandised on the Amazon product detail page). So that’s valuable as well.

This is more of a one-off way to drive a specific product, but it’s worth considering.

Sell Direct to Amazon

Proprietary product is hard on Amazon. The reason is: people don’t really shop on Amazon (or rarely). They buy on Amazon. That means they only visit once they’ve already decided what they need. So if people aren’t searching on Amazon for your product, it can often sit unnoticed without a lot of sales. And proprietary product tends to sit unnoticed.

So consider selling directly to Amazon. If Amazon buys a product and owns it, they have a better reason to merchandise it and move units. In my experience it often drives sales up 3x by selling direct. You do have to give Amazon a wholesale price and to guarantee that you are not selling it cheaper to others. And it needs to be at least 20% below the list price. But you can stop selling to Amazon whenever you see fit and it is a way to move more goods.

The biggest concern here is that Amazon does not adhere (or agree to) MAP policies. So if your product is being discounted virtually anywhere online, Amazon will discount it. They desire to be the lowest price and they generally win that battle. So don’t do it if a discounted price would hurt the rest of your corporate sales too much.

Bonus Idea: Visit Amazon

Buy a plane ticket and go visit your Amazon category reps. This is a fantastic way to improve your Amazon sales and it costs little. I recommend setting up as many meetings as you can with key Amazon employees and talking to them about your business. This keeps your brand front and center in front of them, while also giving you better information about what Amazon wants and needs. It’s a great way to get in on alpha and beta tests as well.

Not enough folks do this. If Amazon is a significant part of your business, you should be talking to them face to face. Take them to dinner. Just hang out some. It’s worth every penny.

Last Thoughts

If I have to leave you with one idea it would be this: Keep Testing. Keep Trying. Keep Learning.

Try new things. See what works and what doesn’t. And move on. Also keep close to Amazon. They are always trying new experiments and usually looking for people to be part of it. There are so many buyers on Amazon.com that almost everyone has a business opportunity on the site. The question is: how can you maximize gross profit dollars?

Good luck!

Improving Your Amazon Sales, Part II: Repackage Yourself

This is the second part of a three part series on increasing your ecommerce sales on Amazon.com. The first article, Quick Wins offers some quick ways to help drive up your Amazon sales. This article focuses on some alternative ways to improve sales that are a bit less obvious.

Not all sales drivers on Amazon involve dropping your price. Some are available to you by thinking differently. These ideas may not work for everyone, but consider how they might impact your business.

Sell in Case Packs

This is a classic way of reducing competition on items where price has become the dominate way of winning. And it works well on Amazon. So think about your items and see if there are ways you could package sets or multiples in a way that consumers will care about.

These GE Water Filters are a perfect example. Notice that there are 45 competitors on the one pack, but only 11 on the two and only nine on the six pack.

If you have a product that folks will buy in bulk or repeatedly over time, put it in a case pack and ship it to Amazon. This also drives up your average order value, which can improve your margins (lower cost to ship in terms of a percentage).

Frustration Free Packaging

If you want to be more aggressive, test out Amazon’s Frustration Free Packaging. Basically you have to create easy-to-open packaging for your goods and get it certified from Amazon as “Frustration Free.” Amazon typically makes the frustration-free option the default when you click from a search results page. I say typically, because I have seen a few instances where this is not true, but it happens 99% of the time when I’m on Amazon.

If you’re the only Frustration-free offer, you win the buy box. The customer would have to select off “Frustration-Free Packaging” in order to even see the competitors, which seems unlikely. So it should reduce price competition, particularly among smaller players who don’t have the resources to go through the certification process.

Be careful with this option: it’s not proven and, as with anything, Amazon can change the rules at any time. But I do think it’s worth testing to see if you can get a bump.

Conclusion

This is the shortest of the three articles on driving up Amazon sales and this one tends to be more about reducing competition, rather than driving up pricing. But on Amazon less competition translates to more sales, so these are still worthwhile tests. Good luck!

Improving your Amazon Sales Part 1: Quick Wins

A few weeks ago at the IMedia Commerce Summit, I did a fast, down-and-dirty presentation of ideas for improving your Amazon sales. Unfortunately I only had 15 minutes to talk, so I really had to run through the ideas. I thought I would take some time now to go more indepth about the opportunity with Amazon and the “why” behind those ideas. For background, I’ve been working with companies selling on Amazon since they launched Z-Shops. I’m betting most people don’t even remember Z-Shops! The clearest thing I remember about Z-Shops was how crazy the secrecy agreements we had to sign with Amazon were.

These ideas assume you are already selling on Amazon. To read my thoughts on Should I Sell on Amazon, click that link. This will be the first of a three part series of ideas.

First, a hat tip to Marketplace Ignition and Mercent. We use Mercent as our tool to sell on Amazon. It reprices almost 100k skus on a constant basis and does a great job handling our feed. We engage with Marketplace Ignition for consulting services as well as hands on management of the feed. They are an invaluable partner to us.

Goals

First, it’s key to understand the point of selling on Amazon. Amazon is a source of additional margin dollars. Typically it’s not a great source of margin percentage, since you’ll have to discount to drive sales on Amazon. And it’s an awful source of customers or marketshare or brand building. Typically a customer won’t even realize they are buying from you on Amazon. And I’ve only seen a handful of situations where Amazon customers have any downstream value to a business.

On Amazon, you need to make a profit on every sale (unless you are liquidating, of course). So it’s key to know your numbers and make sure they are correct. We craft an Amazon P&L for every sku that takes into account return rates, cost of shipping, margin, etc to understand what we need to make on Amazon to hit our goals. Then we are willing to go down to that price, if necessary (Mercent reprices to win the buy box for us, but maximizes the margin we can get while winning it).

So to be clear: the goal is margin dollars. And here are some ideas to increase them:

Price Manage

Amazon is pricing superstore. To win the sale on Amazon, you need to win the buy box. If you’re selling branded, non-MAP products, you should be price managing. Using a tool like Mercent you can continually raise or lower your price to win sales. The key is understanding what price you are willing to sell at before you would rather lose the sale. That’s your floor. Drop your price to win until you hit that floor; tools like Mercent are very good at managing this.

The caveat here is: it’s really difficult to beat Amazon. If Amazon is buying the product directly, you’ll only win when they run out of inventory. You can try to push Amazon’s price down so that they run out faster, but that is a tough game to win.

Use FBA Strategically

Fulfillment by Amazon is where you ship your goods to Amazon’s warehouse and they fulfill the order. You, however, own the goods the entire time. FBA improves Amazon sales in two ways: it allows you to show up on Amazon Prime searches (when Prime customers refine by “Prime Eligible” on the left) and it allows you to win the buy box without being the lowest price; you still have to be close, but can charge slightly more and win.

The cost of FBA is cheap. It’s often cheaper than you can deliver an order from your warehouse. And, if a product is selling on Amazon, it will absolutely increase your velocity of sales. It will not increase sales of a product that isn’t selling. It’s gasoline, not a match. So pick your products carefully and test well.

The risk you take here is in inventory. Don’t send too much. On Amazon a strong selling item can go to zero for any number of reasons: Amazon started sourcing the product; a competitor decided to liquidate; someone added bad reviews; etc. If sales drop to zero, you have to pull the inventory back from Amazon to your warehouse, which is painful. You can sell direct from Amazon’s inventory, but it’s not an easy thing to pull off.

Ask for Customer Reviews

Your reviews matter on Amazon. If your reviews aren’t good enough, Amazon has no issue kicking you off the site. But, if your reviews are better than the competition, you can win the buy box more often than you would otherwise. So reviews do translate into sales albeit in a black box way.

So you should ask your customers for reviews. However, if you ask all your customers, you’ll increase the bad reviews right along with the good and not help your overall score. So be careful about when and how you ask for reviews. I recommend starting by asking for reviews on orders that ship same day and complete. They are most likely to give you a good rating. Then work your way into the rest of your orders only increasing when you see limited bad reviews. Don’t ask if you’ve screwed up the order.

We use Feedback Five to help us by sending review emails and they do a great job.

Build Your Content

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, build up the content you send to Amazon. Amazon utilizes the content you send to merchandise your products both on the site and within search results. This is true of the name, the description, and the bullet points as well as for the categorization. Include as much good information as you can to help their algorithms show your products correctly. This will give you an advantage over anyone not doing a great job. Typically I see this having impact in where you show up within Amazon search results.

A word on categorization: categorize at the lowest level possible for every product and be very vigilant to get this correct. It is a big, big mistake to not take the time to get your categorization correct. Lowest level, correct category. If you take only one thing from this article, do this correctly.

If you’re selling private label or proprietary goods on Amazon, content is a way to help your sales. You can pay for an expanded content page (like this) that gives you a great shot at improving conversion and your placement in search. Be careful, though. These pages rank high in SEO, so on critical products you may end up pulling more search to Amazon than to yourself. It’s something to consider.

Conclusion

This is the first four “quick win” ideas for improving your Amazon sales. Amazon is a massive sales channel and small improvements can drive a surprising amount of additional sales. I think these four are the right place to start and work on improvements. My next article will be about packaging ideas to drive additional sales and the final one is on investing in your Amazon sales channel.

Hope this helps and good luck! Amazon is the world’s largest mall and represents around 25% off all ecommerce. Getting it right is important.

Continue reading with Improving Amazon Sales Part II: Repackage Yourself.

Should I sell on Amazon?

This week I’m speaking at the iMedia Commerce Summit on Advanced Amazon Strategies. I’m running through key ideas that could help push up your Amazon sales. However, I’m skipping the bigger question (I’m assuming most retailers have decided): Should I sell on Amazon?

 

This question typically isn’t easy. And the answer can be very different based on the company and the brand. But there are some questions that I believe all companies can ask to help determine whether you should be there or not.

 

1) Are you selling branded goods? Amazon is a demand fulfillment business. People don’t shop on Amazon, they buy. So to drive any type of reasonable sales, you have to be selling something that people search for on Amazon. Typically this means branded goods. If you’re reselling popular products, there’s a way to sell them on Amazon. If you have proprietary items that need to be sold, there’s no point; you won’t get enough volume to make it worthwhile.

 

2) Is Amazon buying your items directly from the manufacturers? If so, I would skip Amazon. They will own the buy box as long as they have inventory. You can only when when Amazon is out of stock and they are pretty good at not running out. Definitely don’t send inventory to FBA if Amazon is buying direct. It will just sit there.

 

3) How much does gross margin percent matter to your company? Amazon is about volume. If you’re selling product that gets search volume, you will have competition on Amazon. And you’ll have to price manage. So you’ll lose gross margin percentage in exchange for gross margin dollars. If the percentage matters, it will cause problems.

 

Selling to Amazon is not brand-building. Amazon customers are not your customers; they are connected to Amazon and have little future value to you. Typically they rarely realize who they are buying from. The only reason to sell on Amazon is to increase profit dollars.

 

Selling to Costco was always considered a brand-negative move, but with large volume potential. I feel like Amazon is the same. It’s purely a move for sales that long-term is likely to push your prices down. But if Amazon is already carrying your product, it’s worth trying to capture some of the profits. Just be careful with private label goods.

 

How Does Gmail’s New Promotions Inbox Change Email?

Google is slowing rolling out the new Promotions inbox to those who have requested it; I still haven’t heard of anyone getting the new inbox who did not request it. In case you haven’t seen it, this is what mine looks like.

Gmail Promotions Inbox
My Gmail Promotions Inbox

This is an interesting and drastic change to what we know as email. And I believe it changes the game (again) for email marketers. One stat you need to track: what percentage of my email file uses Gmail. At this point, Gmail is the only email service even attempting to be innovative. And their innovations tend to roll email marketers.

The promotions box that came out last year limited your access to customers. It essentially quarantined promos to a separate box that only gets looked at when customers are shopping. And no one (believe me: *no one*) moved your corporate promotional email to their main inbox no matter how many times you sent that email asking. But I actually think this change is bigger for email marketing.

At the surface you can clearly see that images win again. It becomes much more important to have a captivating key image in your email than to have a good subject line. Subject lines are relegated to the small type at the bottom. And that’s literally the last thing you look at. But it’s more than that. I think there are few key changes here.

First, font sizes have to go up. Way up. One main idea, expressed clearly and quickly to capture attention. Design matters. Note the Scoutmob example here – extremely well done. If you pack a paragraph of copy into your main email image, it will be unreadable.

Second, your Google+ account has to be verified. In this example only American Airlines and Scoutmob have verified their Google+ accounts. That’s why they have a nice logo in the box on the right, rather than a weird grey letter.

Third, those with compelling imagery win. This is a small section of a big inbox. Your image has to capture attention quick and hold it long enough for your key copy idea to get through. Your main image also has to be one solid image, not broken into a hundred slices.

Fourth, metrics have to change. Open rates have been used since the start of spam to measure subject line efficacy. Clearly now this is wrong. Open rates are now determined by the key idea of the email; essentially we used to use click-through rates to tell us if the content works. Now opens and clicks are judgments on the key idea and creative execution of the main image. Your brand name is larger than your subject line.

Note that several of the key spaces are blank in my inbox. Technically you need to define the main image of your email using this spec. If you don’t, Google attempts to guess at which image is the most important. As you can see, they suck at this. It takes very little time to define it; go do that now. Verify your Google+ account now as well.

Finally, if you aren’t doing photography specifically for email, I think it’s time to start testing. The new email is all about images, so the quality of your images is likely to determine open and click-through rates.  And this will help all your emails, not just Gmail accounts.

This is a way for Google to monetize the promotions page within email. Now the promos are almost unrecognizable in your inbox. Definitely a win for the big G. And maybe an opportunity in terms of marketing to current non-subscribers. Time to test; the new ad is much, much better than the old yellow faux email ad they used to serve up.

Anything I’m missing?

 

** Side note: Animated gifs don’t work. Really too bad from a marketing perspective ….

The Rise of the Artist

We live in fantastic times. And things are changing at a fantastically fast clip. We’re able to build, pivot, scale and fail in business much faster than prior generations. And there’s no indication that this increasing rate of change will slow.

Viewing the world as an ecommerce retailer, I see a few trends that have the ability to completely change our world and how we live. The first is the trend towards design and art. This trend has been a long time coming, but is now impacting everything from inexpensive, fashion-forward apparel (something almost impossible ten years ago) to our home thermostat. Consumers now expect almost everything to look as good as it functions, no matter the price. Apple perfectly captured this trend and likely exacerbated it by raising the bar.

Combine that trend with the rise of 3D printing. We’re in the very early stages of this, but the move towards it is accelerating. You can now buy a home 3D printer at Office Depot.  And even it has an attractive, modern design. 3D printing opens the door to a massive change in consumer shopping habits. And I believe it will signify the rise of the artist or creative creator.

Currently we rely on manufacturers to design and create product. A designer gets hired (and paid) by a manufacturer to create a great design, which the manufacturer then produces and sells to retailers. We trust retailers to curate an assortment and stock the merchandise for when we have a need. We used to expect a retailer to have one type of our desired products available, now we expect a full selection at a discounted price.

When 3D printing becomes commonplace, we will no longer need the retailer. And a designer will no longer need the manufacturer. With the rise of the internet, a designer can offer his designs directly to end users.  These end users can purchase and create the items as they need them. This completely disintermediates the entire process. Great designers essentially become retailers and consumers become manufacturers.

I think there are other interesting questions in here as well: Designers (theoretically) have less overhead than manufacturers and retailers, driving down the cost of items. Over time, with unlimited designs available at lower prices, abundance removes any value we currently associate with an item. Unlimited customization means unlimited creativity and the ability to change designs or styles frequently. So the value of something like a couch is reduced to the cost of printing out another one.

Initially this only impacts simple products; current 3D printers can’t do anything as complicated as your iPhone. And home 3D printers are unlikely to do big objects (sofa or chair) in the early days. So this will start with cups, coasters, etc and work its way up towards increasing complexity.

This will bring additional drastic change to our world, particularly change for those bringing products to market. And I think it gives additional power to designers and creatives, who don’t have to rely on old paradigms. Perhaps retailers become more like marketplaces that curate the best of various designs. But that doesn’t sound like business model with good margins.

Facebook as a Customer Service App

What value does your company get from your Facebook presence?

It’s not sales. Rarely does anyone exceed 1% of sales through their entire social presence. Facebook isn’t consistently the biggest producer of those small dollars despite its size. And the elephant of social media sites continues to lower the value of a fan to almost nothing by minimizing your organic exposure. We’ve been busting our tail for years to gather fans or followers or likes believing that they would ultimately turn into sales – like email addresses do. Unfortunately, it’s just not working that way.

When someone is on Facebook, they aren’t shopping. Let me say that again. *When someone is on a Facebook, they aren’t shopping*. They are pretending to be important to impress their friends from high school. Oh, and playing mind-numbing games.

I actually see a divide coming in terms of how marketers, particularly ecommerce marketers, approach social media. Paid Facebook advertising is becoming more like targeted branding. It’s very tough to measure the value accurately. And it’s very hard to get a positive ROI on these ads (unless you inflate the value of engagement or a “like”). On top of that, you may be getting fake or foreign “engagement” on your targeted US Facebook banner ads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag

The non-paid piece of our social media work is essentially disappearing from feeds. Your presence really only matters when a customer decides to seek you out on Facebook. And customers are typically only doing that for one reason: they are pissed.

Facebook is becoming more of a customer service or support tool where you try to save customers who had a bad experience. Getting this correct is a key part of utilizing Facebook well. Yes, there are still a handful of fervent missionary customers who like every post you stick up there and comment on a handful. So we’ll always have to post content on a regular basis (seems like most are just pulling email and blog content into Facebook), but I think it’s wrong to think of your Facebook presence as a strategic opportunity. Or a growth play. Facebook is a required customer service tool that you can choose to advertise on or not.

Other social media sites, like Pinterest for example, are different and may work long term as a top-of-the-funnel advertising presence that actually drives new customers to you. Facebook will not.

Data is Changing Us

One thing that isn’t discussed enough is data. Data is changing a lot about what we expect and what we are willing to accept. The internet, in particular, is generating massive amounts of data on a continuous basis; take a look at this live infographic  estimating how much information is being generated right now. It’s amazing (note: I have no idea whether there is much statistical reliability to these numbers, but I think the direction is correct).

The one thing not discussed is that data is enabling better design, better products, and better performance of those products. As data has been used to augment, our expectations of new offerings have gone up. Companies like Amazon use data in very effective ways to raise the bar across industries. Mary Meeker suggested in her analysis  that very little of the data created on a daily basis is currently being mined to improve our products. I think that’s the big opportunity of the next 10 years. How can data dramatically improve your products (or your marketing) if you were able to deeply use and understand it? And where do you have an advantage because of data?

It’s a way to rebuild the competitive advantage that was dwindled away in recent years.

Marketing Proprietary Product Online

Proprietary brands and products have become the end-all and be-all for retailers in recent years. Brand aggregators have been struggling with margin squeeze since Amazon polluted their pool. And so more and more retailers are working on proprietary goods that seemingly don’t have any price pressure problems (say that three times fast).

But proprietary goods have their own set of marketing issues that tend to squeeze margin; namely, how do you drive demand for your own brands? The margins are great, but 70% of $0 is still $0. And if you create a proprietary brand there is one thing you need to remember upfront: *no one is searching for your brand*.

The nice thing about branded goods is that they already have built in demand. Paid search works great, SEO works great, social works … well, it is social. Remember, these sales are just collecting demand for the product that already exists. In other words, it’s easy (relatively).

Building demand for a product is a very different endeavor than collecting demand. And it requires different marketing than most ecommerce retailers. It requires brand marketing that creates demand. The creative is different, the channels are different and the execution is different. Once demand is created, you can turn on paid search and collect the demand as you see fit.

To start you need to have proprietary merchandise that is better in some way, shape or form for your target market. Creatively you need a campaign with a big, simple idea. And you’ll have to invest far more in the marketing, but hopefully far less in the promotional game to get the sales.

You will likely have to go offline to drive the demand. Here’s where old school catalogers missed the boat: catalogs do a great job of creating demand. But only if you’re featuring and highlighting your brands. Direct mail works. TV is the absolute superstar of brand building, but is expensive – start with radio, paying those with your core audience to mention your product. And focus on selling your new branded goods to your current customers and visitors above all else. Don’t half-ass it.

Building demand online for proprietary product is tough. Banner ads are an expensive way to build demand (bots don’t buy things). PLA’s are an opportunity, if you’re willing to investment spend.  Amazon can work, but only if you push it: a Lightning deal, invest in Amazon CPC’s on the few categories where you still can, or sell goods direct to Amazon and let them market it (questionable strategy for brand building). Everything else results in a very slow process of building a brand.

I recommend you commit to a significant investment in branded advertising that includes a strong offline component: TV, Direct Mail, Radio, etc. Advertising is like exercise, it needs to be consistent and sustained over time to be effective. You can’t measure it like a direct response marketer would or you’ll never make the investment necessary to create your own brand.

Long-term, the payoff is huge. Moving a large portion of sales to high margin proprietary brands would transform most companies. Start with the product, but no matter how great it is you can’t market it the same way you do your national branded goods.