Many sellers say that success on Amazon snowballs. But to get to that point, your listings need to get some traction first.
On this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll hear from CJ Forse and Ryan Gresh from The Feel Good Lab, health and wellness products designed for today’s world, who have figured out how to generate early success on Amazon.
If you're considering selling on Amazon, this episode is for you.
Search engine optimization for Amazon is really based on two levers that you can pull. It’s social proof through reviews and it’s sales and conversion rates.
Tune in to learn
How to successfully crowdsource a logo on 99Designs.
How to effectively communicate with a designer when you yourself aren’t a designer.
The key Amazon SEO factors for increasing your product listing’s ranking.
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Store: The Feel Good Lab
Social Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Recommendations: Mintel, Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, 99Designs, AMZTracker, ZonBlast, ProductPhotography.com, MerchantWords ($30/month), ConvertKit, FeedbackGenius, Slack
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Felix: Today I’m joined by CJ Forrest and Ryan Gresh from TheFeelGoodLab.com. The Feel Good Lab sells health and wellness products designed for today’s world and was started in 2015 and based out of Los Angeles, California. Welcome CJ and Ryan.
CJ: Hey there Felix, thanks for having us.
Ryan: Hey Felix.
Felix: Hey, okay let’s talk a little bit about these products you sell. Health and wellness products, give us an idea of what are these products and what kind of problems do they solve?
Ryan: I’m over her located in Connecticut. I think you mentioned earlier that the business is located out in California but grew up here and CJ and I were actually close friends since college. I grew up in the health and wellness field because my father owned a pharmacy but it wasn’t really your typical pharmacy. It really focused on natural medicine, compounding pharmacy, and focusing on functional health where you’re looking to solve the root cause of the problem and not really just solve it with pharmaceuticals.
Early on when I was six years old I was always working there behind the scenes and seeing some of the things that they worked with, a lot of natural medicine. As I got older my dad transitioned full time into specializing in topical pain relief. I would say, wow, two years ago he had the idea that he was making this natural topical pain relief cream in his pharmacy. He made it for about ten years now and kind of specialized and got the formula exactly where he wanted it and he wanted to take the product to market. That is quite a long process especially when you consider the FDA regulations and such in the field.
Back then they went through all of the different approvals to get the product FDA approved through the quality requirements, the good manufacturing, et cetera, et cetera. When they got everything finalized and went to launch the product they realized they didn’t quite know how to market and brand it. That’s where I’ll punt back over to CJ, where I called him up, it’s been two years now, and pitched him across the country. I knew what his skill set was and what my skill set was. I pitched this unique idea that he had no idea really about what my father does. I knew there was an opportunity with the skills that we bring to the table and this awesome product that he had developed.
CJ: Yeah, picking up where Ryan left off, it was just for context. What I do at my day job and we’re doing this right now as a side hustle gig. I work at an ad agency so I do strategy at an ad agency. When Ryan presented this idea, “Hey, my dad’s jamming on this thing. He’s got this really cool product. He’s getting really good results, the only thing missing from the equation is the brand identity and the marketing aspect to set this thing off. We took a look at it, did a little bit of strategy and said, ”Hey, there is a huge opportunity here. It just needs a little work on the voice."
Ryan and my answer is the long answer for fast forward to today and we’ve created this brand around the Feel Good Lab and our flagship product is a product called You Plus Relief. We deem it as Earth, from the Earth. Earth’s most powerful pain relief cream or muscle and joint rub.
Felix: Yeah, beautiful packaging. I’m looking at the product today, right now and it looks beautiful. We’ll again say a little bit more about packaging in a bit. Ryan and his family, family business they created this product and they reached out to you CJ. What did you particularly see about the market or about the product itself that made you say yes, I’m on board? Did you see anything about the … Did you do any kind of research to find out that it was going to be a worth while market?
CJ: Yeah, it’s great, I’m so happy you mentioned that. The first thing that we did, my first reaction honestly was skepticism. Oh, here we go another pain relief cream. How many of those are there on the market, right? Needed a little bit more validation. Exactly what you said, where is the research? One of the things that we did and one of the very first things that we did was contacted Ryan’s brother who was still in college. Fortunately he had access to the university library and data base. We were able to get access to a mintel report. It’s a 4,500 dollar report that we had the luxury of looking at. It was on the topical pain relief market.
The interesting thing that we found there which was … It was crazy, it was a jaw dropping … I still remember to this day opening up that report and you got to be kidding me. What the report told us was this market just in general, the topical pain relief market versus oral, taking an Advil or something like that is growing but also the niche within that was all natural. People were really valuing what they put in and on their body from natural versus a synthetic standpoint. We’re like, “You got to be kidding,” because this is exactly what has landed in our lap. Once I saw that report, it was like, “I’m all in.”
Then you take a look at what’s out there on the market, what’s the competition look like? If you look at what traditional it’s called topical pain relief competitors are doing. They’re putting it in a white bottle or tub and then just selling it to you and you’re on your own. Like, here you go, figure it out, rub it on, hope it works. We’re like, “There’s such a better way.” There’s so much information and value that you can provide to the consumer in the sense of don’t just rely on rubbing it on and hoping that it works, you can pair the use of a medicine with exercises, stretches, a different showering technique for instance and get way better results. We approached this right from the beginning of, yeah we happen to sell this pain relief cream but really what we’re trying to do is help you get better. That’s how we backed out to let’s create the brand and the company first and that’s the story for the Feel Good Lab versus start with a product and try to sell a product.
Felix: Makes sense. This mintel report, I believe I have heard this too when I was back in school the access to these reports. I didn’t realize it was that valuable or expensive. Someone was able to get their hands on something like this for their industry, was it an easily readable report or did you have to decipher? What tips do you have on, once you’re able to get your hands on a report like this, how do you even look at it to glean actual tips from it?
CJ: Most of the reports like a mintel or a forrester or a gartner is they make it very [actionable 00:08:11]. That’s their business. They’ll literally have in the sections, here’s all the stuff that we found. Then they’ll have a summary by section of here’s why you should care or here’s what you should do as a company or as a marketer. To answer your question it was very easy and it was also just starting at us in the face. I think that’s why it was such a jaw dropping moment.
Felix: Makes sense. Okay, you mentioned earlier about how a lot of the competitors in the space, they just slap it into a white plain tub and throw it at you. I think the reason behind it is because typically when you’re solving a very serious pain point, literally you guys are solving a pain in this case, people are often very forgiving about the branding. You don’t walk into a store and you’re walking into a hospital and your arm is falling off. You don’t care about how the particular packaging of the hospital or whatever is. You just want that pain to go away. But you guys do a great job. The packaging looks amazing. What made you decide, let us focus on the packaging and the branding rather than just put it in a tub like the other folks were doing and selling it that way?
CJ: I think there’s a couple reasons for that. One it’s just, and my advice for anybody listening would be you can look at markets just like ours, and there’s tons of them, of where it’s exactly what you said, “I have a pain and the only thing that matters is if that thing solves my pain.” In our case it’s quite literally a pain. You can say, “You know what? Experience matters,” and the experience of unboxing something and the way that it makes you feel, that matters. There’s all these different industries out there and markets that have that opportunity exactly like ours that are not in the medicinal side.
The other thing just what sparked that was honestly, it was a different podcast that was centered on private labeling. I think it started maybe three years, maybe five years ago, this whole trend of private labeling products. Sourcing them from China, via AliBaba or whatever and if you literally just create a better experience, an unboxing experience, a packing experience. The truth is that has a great effect on the perceived value of a product. That’s the way that we looked at it.
The way that we thought of it is a great product, especially in our market is table stakes, it’s got to work. That’s like if you want to compete your product has to work. The reason for that is because nothing will kill a great product faster or a bad product faster than great marketing. Then we went from that to how do we differentiate? The thing that was glaringly obvious was everybody’s putting it in a white tube and nobody’s helping people get the best results.
Felix: Makes sense. Okay, let’s talk about the building of a brand. I think this is a stage that a lot of entrepreneurs are at either very early on or maybe they’re already pretty far along with their business but never really dedicated the time, maybe the weeks or however long it takes to craft that brand identity. Talk to us about how you began. You got this product that like you were saying table stakes, it works, how do you begin to build a brand around a product like that?
CJ: We back out of a reverse engineered. We knew we had a really good product because Ryan’s dad has validated it through using it with his patients and all of that. It was just lacking a brand identity. To back out of it, we actually referred to, and I love this I talk about it all the time, is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. Anybody who is listening should definitely go You Tube that right now and listen to it. That’s talking about why do you do things as a company, how do you do them as a company, and then what do you do?
We looked at it as we got this awesome all natural muscle and joint rub, we know it works. Then if we backed out of it and said, “What would a company be, what kind of company would create that product?” We zoomed out. It’s a company that would be trying to help people feel good. That’s the uncreative I guess, or conversational name of the Feel Good Lab came out of. The reason I think that is so important is because we never wanted to be just a pain relief cream company. That was never ever the vision. We needed to back out of that.
Now we pivot to we kept the Feel Good Lab who just happens to make a great pain relief cream. Now it’s opened us up and now we’re working on right now today of what’s going to be the next product. Our product pipeline.
Felix: Got you. You have this vision for where you want the business to be, the brand to be, like you’re saying you’re back into it. You worked backwards. You had this grand vision for what the end result would be and then you figured out how could you begin with just this product today. When you sat down and decided to design the look of it, I’m looking at it now, and I recommend anyone that’s listening go eventually check out the site TheFeelGoodLab.com. I really like this packaging. How do you begin to design the assets around that identity of the brand?
CJ: The first thing that we did just because I’m fortunate enough to be from the ad agency world. My networker includes a bunch of designers and art directors. One of my friends from and agency that I worked with her at, I just gave her a call and said, “Hey, do you want to work on something freelance for us? We have this idea, let’s talk about who we’re targeting.” She helped us with the packaging design and gave us the friends and family discount, if you will, to get it done. I think you could replicate the same exact experience using an Upwork.com or something like that.
One of the things that we did was we focus on, at the beginning, using just the research, the data that we had from mintel from just anecdotal research online of who we thought our target audience was. Trying to sketch out what a persona was, our best guess at that time. We now know it’s a little bit different from when we started and we said, “Let’s create a product for them.” You’ll notice that the packaging is kind of gender neutral. If anything it might slant a little bit more on the feminine side because we wanted to create a general neutral product. It was really hard to remove, Ryan and I, to remove ourselves from the equation, obviously we’re both male and we are predisposed to liking more masculine type branding and look and feels. We had to realize this is probably a product that definitely needs to be gender neutral.
One of the things our designer did was she literally went to a bunch of different stores, Target, Nordstrom’s, all these different stores and just took an audit of all the different products that were targeting people that we thought were our target audience and just took a snap shot of what these products look like and what design elements that they were using. We said, okay if you look at all those what do we like, we do we don’t like, and then how do we differentiate? That’s how we came up with the look and feel for the packaging.
Felix: I think when someone takes this approach of looking at what’s already out there and then trying to create a brand, create a design, create a look that seems like it would fit on the same shelves. I guess one of the potential issues is that you might make it look too similar to what’s already out there. How do you balance between making it look like it will fit in on that shelf and not stand out as an item that you would never even consider and then also stand out enough so that it doesn’t fade into the background?
Ryan: I think, and I’ll take this one CJ, I think we had a unique opportunity because nobody had really come into the health and wellness, especially the pain relief cream but even pain relief in general, and try to bring a premium product. All we had to do was look at a different category. You look at beauty, for instance, almost every single one of their products are marketed to be premium. We really just focused in on the beauty products and just found the ones that had the health and wellness and made you feel good and gave us the feeling we wanted. We just transitioned that over and copied it with no expectation. When you look on Amazon, it becomes very clear that we stand out. We did that on purpose.
Felix: Right, you went to almost a different isle, if we’re talking about walking to a store where your target market would shop. You almost went to a totally different isle to get inspiration for what you would design your product to look like?
CJ: I think that’s totally it. Then just one thing to add there, one of the things that you might even notice on the front of the tube design, this is something that’s just special to us and probably people shopping would never notice. We wanted to create a design that meant something, had a reason to be. That front, the apothecary type look on the front of that tube was inspired by the prescription that a doctor would write for his or her patients. Basically what we were trying to do is create a packaging that if you asked us, “Why did you do that,” we would have an answer to. The front of that tube we have an answer to. We created that because it’s supposed to replicate a prescription note from a doctor or a physician.
Felix: Got you. Yeah, I can see that. If anyone out there that wants to take the same approach that you guys took where they worked with a designer to help build out their packaging, what kind of … Do you need a specific designer or different designer for all of these specialties? Like from the packaging to the design of the website? Can you work with just one designer to put all that together or do you need a specific specialized designer for all of the different avenues, the different channels that your brand identity would appear on?
CJ: That’s a really good question. I think it … The answer to these types of things is always “depends,” right? I think you could play it two ways. I think we were really lucky because I knew the designer and I knew she was going to be awesome and she’s just a great communicator and could understand and we could just brainstorm together. I think for this I would actually point to our logo design. Our logo design was done by 99Designs.com. That was great because it was just an abundance of different variations and concepts to choose from and then we could distill it down. I couldn’t recommend that approach enough for just packaged concepting if you’re doing packaging design. Then what you could probably do is go through 99Designs and get all those concepts, pick the ones that you like and take the rough concepts and then go to whoever is the packaging … The manufacturer, right? Whether it’s local or somebody in China or something like that and say, “Hey, here’s the concept, can you give me a quote and an estimate and tell me how feasible it is?”
Felix: Okay, makes sense. 99Designs, great avenue for anyone out there that’s looking to essentially crowdsource lots of great designs for your logo or your brand. Tell us a little bit more about your experience on there. Maybe to quickly explain it’s basically a contest where everyone can submit a design for whatever you’re looking for and then you choose a winner. Do you remember how much you spent on the contest itself?
CJ: We spent, I think it was … At the time this was one of the very first things that we did because it’s the logo. It was a little bit of a tough pill to swallow but I think it was five hundred. I think we shelled out five hundred dollars for that logo design. We said to ourselves, “This is the logo that we’re going to be staring at hopefully forever or a variation of it. Let’s just pony up the dough up front.” I seriously can’t recommend that experience enough. It’s five hundred dollars, it might seem expensive. Again, it’s the logo you’ll be looking at forever.
The one thing, the advice that I can give is you’re going to get out of 99Designs what you put in meaning you have to stay engaged. I think we … I can’t remember the number exactly but we didn’t get 99 designs, I think we got closer to two hundred and fifty designs.
CJ: The reason was because we just kept everyday we would go in there and give feedback and direction and go rounds and rounds with all the different designers submitting their work. We just said so many different submissions through the process, which was just incredible. Then we were able to refine it from there. Then what happens is then you get to work, I think a handful if I’m remembering correctly, you work with a handful of designers a little bit more closely and you can take the design a little bit further.
The final delivery, which is awesome, is they give you all the design files that you need for online uses or printed uses so you have all those native files for if you’re printing tee shirts and a tee shirt vendor ask you for this type of file, it can illustrate a file or something or whatever, you’ll have it. If you’re printing a billboard for instance you’ll have the vector art or something like that. It is really great. That’s one skill set that Ryan and I are missing is creating production ready files for either the packaging vendors or anybody printing something, we just don’t know how to do that. That’s where we’ll always need to hire a designer.
Felix: In terms of setting up this contest in a way where you can get as much out of it as you put in, what kind of information do you give these designers right off the bat? There is kind of a wizard that they walk you through asking you questions about basically trying to get you to put into words what you’re looking for. I think if design is not your background, being creative or being artsy’s not your background it’s really hard to get out what you want. Sometimes you don’t even know what you want, you just want someone to tell you this looks good or not. Any advice there on how you can communicate your thoughts on what you want designed? Especially if you don’t come from a background of design?
CJ: For sure. I know we’ll probably talk about it later but what tools do we use and that we rely on is Power Point. We think of it as the poor man’s Photoshop. My advice to any, we work with photographers too so it’s the same exact problem. How do you communicate what your vision is without being prescriptive? You don’t want to tell the designer or the artist exactly what to do and get your own idea fed back to you. My advice would be one, go out there, do a bunch of Googling and figure out what you like and just take screen shots of it and put it into a Power Point deck. Get it all aggregated and in one place. Then you start to look for patterns and clusters. Think of it as a spectrum. I’ll just use photography as an example here. If the photography on our website, if you go there it’s light and airy meaning that it’s a lot of white space and it’s not a lot of heavy colors. If you had done the same exact photo shoot and put everything on dark wood, that would give that website a much different feel. It would give it a heavier feel.
One of the things that we did for the photography to brief out photographer was we collected a bunch of photos that were heavy and dark, still nice. Then we collected a bunch of photos that were light and airy and shot on light marble and things like that. We said if this was a spectrum from dark to light and airy or heavy and dark to light and airy, we want to go more on the spectrum of light and airy. Even for a logo you could say … And the wizard on 99Designs tries to do this for you but I think that you could take … It’s very limited. I would go out there and look at, especially in your category. The logos will look a certain way in each category. I would just collect them all and then see if you can cluster them and be like, “These are the ones that I gravitate towards and I like and these are the ones that I don’t like.” If it was a slider from left to right, tell the designer or the photographer or whoever, “I want you to go more on this side.”
Felix: I like that approach because I feel like without going through that exercise it would be very hard to even determine what you like or what you don’t like. This is a step by step approach you can take by carefully or slowly curating a bunch of things that you like or maybe things that you definitely want to stay away from. By just going through that process you have a better understanding of what you like and what you want created for your brand identity which you might not know before going through the exercise. I really like that approach.
CJ: I think my advice to anybody giving direction to a creative, because this is exactly what I do in my day job, is you want to define the rules and the guidelines but you don’t want to tell them what to do. Does that make sense?
Felix: Yeah, definitely. Cool, now when you have all of these designs made, you said that next step was production ready images and assets so they could be produced. What was that step like? You have all of these assets from 99Designs from designers that you work with, what’s next? How do you get this and actually print it on the packaging?
CJ: The first step is we identified a packaging manufacturer. We actually did it local in California. Before we created the production ready files, we sent the concepts pretty well baked concepts to the packaging producer and worked with them for a little bit. Put the designer on hold, in a holding pattern for a week or two and worked with the packaging company. They got us the templates for … I think they sent it was either, I think it was in-design files. Here’s the templates that you need to design to, these are the die cut templates. Then we sent those to our designer and we said, “Hey, you need to put your design and concept into these templates.” Then sent it to the production company. We actually put the manufacturer of the packaging in direct contact with our designer because they were speaking a completely different language than we could understand.
Felix: Right. Rather than playing the middle man just connect the two and have them figure it out rather than having to communicate through you especially if you don’t know, like you’re saying, the language that they’re speaking. That makes sense. Now you have the packaging done. You have the product ready. You have everything ready to go. You guys first launched on Amazon, is that correct?
CJ: That is correct. Yes.
Felix: Very cool. Tell us about launching on Amazon. What did you do and just going to preface this, you guys have over 220 reviews, all very positive reviews, and also it says here, number one best seller in your category. We’ll go into a little bit more about reviews and all of that. Talk to us about the beginning. How did you guys launch on Amazon? What was that process like?
CJ: Ryan, you want to take that one or no?
Ryan: Yeah. I absolutely will. What’s kind of interesting about our product selection, it was a long lead time. We had to order the tubes from China, we had to get it manufactured in an FDA approved facility in Miami. The logistics was about six months. We had a long time to research how we were going to launch on Amazon. If anybody’s affiliated with Amazon FBA there’s a lot of content out there. We were ready to rock. We got all these packages boxed up, shipped into Amazon and we were just tapping our feet to launch our page. Next thing you know we get denied.
This was about a year into it, significant money. We had 5,000 units of inventory. Over the next two weeks we continued to reapply, reapply, reapply, and could not get in, could not get approved by Amazon’s system. They had actually shut down the entire health and wellness category because of the fear of lesser companies private labeling products and not having the control over the supplement category and so they locked out everything. CJ and I went in to panic mode but what we did was just pure persistence. We reapplied every single second that we got denied. We would call up customer service and talk to them and see if we could escalate our case. Over the course of about, it was 32 days we finally got approved.
As we understand it still today, that category is almost impossible to get into as a brand. It was pure luck. Pure luck or timing. The fact that we got locked out, however we were just not going to be denied from Amazon. From that day forward we had put so much work into just getting approved over the 30 days, we carried that momentum forward and really had a pretty awesome launch. Where we got friends and family, every person that we talked to over the last six months were excited and telling about the product. It’s because by getting momentum from people that you meet to go online and purchase the product on Amazon further builds the momentum within the Amazon system.
We’ve seen ourselves sky rocket up the sales charts as well as up the search ranking charts, which really go hand in hand. The whole game on Amazon is getting the right search words and really handling that search engine optimization from an Amazon side. It’s a lot different than Google. If you can win that game, you get your product in front of the right eyeballs and you’re going to get sales. That’s really what we’ve seen a lot of awesome success for the past really month we’ve seen the most success. The five months leading up to that built the basis with the reviews and the sales to give us such a strong leg to stand on right now as we start to really … We’ve had our best day ever in sales just today which is quite exciting.
Felix: That’s amazing. It sounds like two prong approach to having success on Amazon. One is to have the very successful launch, getting a lot of momentum early on so that you essentially get bubbled up by Amazon in their search results. They see there’s a lot of activity around your particular product. Then number two is that Amazon SEO, I’m assuming that means the key words, what you put in the listing itself. Let’s talk about the preparation for launch. What was the window that you were trying to hit to squeeze as many orders through during, was it the first month, the first week? How important was it to get a lot of orders through at the beginning?
Ryan: It’s funny how that changed just so much. Early on we thought if we did five to ten sales a day that was going to be awesome and huge and so we just had to maintain that momentum. What we learned later on was that really was more like 20 to 30 sales a day to really get Amazon to start taking notice and a huge thing that we learned was that early on we almost wasted that launch by not doing it big enough because we were in such a competitive marketplace. We were a little bit shy to give away product and try to do things to promote to increase our sales when that was the whole key to our success.
Three months into it we decided to really almost do a relaunch and look at our strategy and try to spike our sales to get some more momentum. This time it really stuck.
Felix: Very cool. I think you mentioned maybe in the conversation outside of the podcast, maybe through email about this concept of review communities to jump start review and a social prof of the product. I think that’s very important, getting those early reviews because nobody wants to be the first one to try a product. No one wants to be the hero and try a brand new product out especially in the health and wellness space. It could be potentially dangerous if you’re one of the first ones to try it. Obviously social proof is really important for you. Tell us more about this approach. I know lately, I’m not sure if this was the case back when you guys started, but lately there’s always been a lot of discussions around reviews, right? Amazon’s trying to crack down on reviews. What was your approach towards getting reviews in a way that was obviously following Amazon’s rules?
CJ: Just to even summarize what Ryan was saying. The search engine optimization on Amazon is really based on two levers that you can pull. It’s social proof through reviews and it’s sales and conversion rate. So it’s sales and social proof, reviews and how many people are converting on your page. For a launch strategy, even if you’re discounting the product down to one dollar that counts as a sale. That’s why it’s so crucial when you come out the gates is to just rack up these sales and then segway those into reviews.
For the review communities you’re absolutely right, Felix. Amazon has locked that down in the last say, two months. I think as a consumer or shopper we might have all seen it, “Hey, I was given this product for free in exchange for my unbiased review.” That’s on the bottom of a bunch of reviews. That was messing up with Amazon’s shopper experience. They banned that. That’s not allowed anymore. Fortunately our strategy was really never about exchanging free product for a positive review, it was really we looked at it as we have a finite number of friends and family. Let’s say our network is only a few hundred to, let’s say generously a thousand people. If we could extend that network of friends and family to give product to and exchange for their feedback, that’s how we looked at these review communities. There’s a ton of them.
If you did a Google search you could find a bunch of them. They’ve all changed the way that they approach this so that they’re most of them are within Amazon’s terms of service so you don’t get that, “Hey, I wrote this review in exchange for free product.” You don’t get that anymore. At the same time I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying if you have something nice to say we’d love for you to post positive review, that’s great. If you have something negative to say let us know personally so we can fix the problem. I think that’s completely in line with Amazon’s terms of service. Give us a chance to fix it before you hit us with a negative review.
Felix: Makes sense. Today, I’m not sure how familiar you are with those communities today but what are some ways now to get or to increase the reviews that you get and also follow Amazon’s terms of service?
CJ: There’s a bunch of them that I can rattle off that I know of in terms of those communities that still exist. The one that we use is AMZ Tracker. It’s actually a different tool but has a review community built into the tool. I would say you can just Google it and find it. I think there’s Zon Blast is another one. They’ve all pivoted their businesses. These are small little online businesses, maybe some of them aren’t that little, that used to do, in all fairness, they used to do these review blasts of, "You’re going to jump start your launch on Amazon by getting an influx of reviews. Some were more shady than others. The ones that are the shadiest have dissolved or dried up and then the ones that are still standing are the ones that changed their entire way of business to follow Amazon’s terms of service. They’re online companies so they’re pretty transparent about on their blog about what they’ve done to accommodate or to abide by Amazon’s terms of service.
Felix: Got you. You mentioned … Did you get ranked highly with those listings? There’s a social proof then the conversion rate. The conversion rate probably relies heavily on the photos, the description, and all the content that you put onto the page itself. What tips do you have there? For someone that’s just launching on Amazon for the first time, wants to put their first product on Amazon. Where should they focus most of their attention on to get the most bang for their buck?
CJ: Yeah, you’re totally right. I think that’s another thing in hindsight what we would have done differently and I think that’s focus on the product photos earlier. We thought we could do it ourselves with an Phone or an SLR, we both have an SLR camera and we did our best. In hindsight it’s not worth the hassle trying to perfect it. I would just send that. There’s so many websites out there, photographers that just make the process so simple. We went through ProductPhotography.com, they’re a small company in Las Vegas. We sent them one of our products. We had really nice professional photography on white backgrounds. It was done in probably a week and better than anything that … Not to be arrogant about it but I do have some photography skills and I couldn’t replicate this. They just have the equipment. That’s what I would say.
It’s one of those things that’s kind of like the logo. It was $499 for the logo. I think the product photography we spent maybe 3 to 400 dollars for, it was less than ten photos. To somebody just starting out that seems like a lot of money but the photos by far, I think if we look back at the journey here were one of the things that had the biggest impact on the conversion rate on Amazon. Which I believe right now on our Amazon page we’re looking at about a 30% conversion to sale from a visit.
Felix: Wow, that’s amazing. Before they get to that page I’m assuming things like key words matter a whole deal too. What else other than all of this social proof does Amazon take into consideration when they pull up if someone searches, I’m not sure what they would look for specifically for your product but how do you make sure that you’re one of the top results by making … Is it just key word based? What is it that you need to focus on technically to make sure your listing is all in order?
Ryan: I’ll take this one, C. I think the most important thing from Amazon’s algorithm is where the key words fall within your title. If your product is named You Plus Relief, like ours is, and you search for that it’s going to come right up because it’s the first thing in our title. The closer it is to your product name the more clout it has. Their algorithm’s always changing but I do know from a change we made last week with one of our key words, just moving it closer to the title jumped us up ten spots. That was a whole page in difference. It might be the reason why we had the best sales week ever this week. That’s really important.
There’s some tools, one of them’s called Merchant Words. I think it costs $30 a month but it is well worth it when you’re starting because you can get access to estimations of Amazon’s search volumes. You can understand within your category what the most important search terms are. I do know that, I think the statistic’s 50% of Amazon searches are long tail or have never been searched before, something crazy like that.
However, the main key words are extremely consistent. We have two key words that make up 70% of our click volume. By finding out what those are and then by strategizing and building our list around those and building it to convert for those, we’ve had a lot of success.
Felix: Got you. Ryan, you mentioned that you were able to change the title to make alterations to improve to test out all of these different key words and to improve your SEO. One thing I think it might have been CJ mentioned to me over email was that Amazon actually changed the title of one of your product listings and spelled the product name wrong and you were locked out from the listing and couldn’t change it. Is that still the case? What happened there?
CJ: Can I take that one? This is why we’re on the Shopify MAster’s podcast right now. How insane is it that we’re selling our product through Amazon and they changed the title of our product and we can’t … They’ve spelt it wrong and we can’t do anything about it. That’s just insane. That answers the question, why are we on this podcast right now is because we are in the middle of migrating off of Amazon to go direct consumer to our own customers. Just to answer your question Felix, we did resolve that but I think it took two … One to two weeks where we had a typo in the product name and we couldn’t do anything about it because somebody at Amazon thought we were against terms of service.
The way that Amazon works and we totally understand why, they’re at such a massive scale, how do you deal with these millions of companies and vendors if you’re Amazon and all these millions of products? They have to outsource a lot of the work. You have people in Africa, India, all around the world that just have one job and it’s just to take a snap shot look at a listing and say, “That’s out of terms of service. Denied,” or something like that. Then getting ahold of people that actually have the authority to make a change on the listing is really really difficult. If anything goes wrong in Amazon, at minimum you’re probably looking at two to three days to get any kind of traction to solve the problem.
If all our eggs are in one basket at Amazon and that’s our livelihood and how we put food on the table, that is very very unnerving. It’s crazy. It’s time to try to migrate over to create our own business that we have full control of. Just one thing to piggy back on that too, you might of covered this in other episodes of the podcast Amazon, their terms of service, they own the customers. Anybody who buys our product through Amazon, they are not considered the Feel Good Lab customer, they are considered an Amazon customer. We are not allowed to follow up with them and market to them or upsell, cross sell to them whatsoever. If we do that we will get banned from the Amazon marketplace.
Felix: Yeah, it’s amazing how much you take for granted the ability to edit your product listings, be able to create a website then assume that no one’s going to touch it the next day. I won’t ever even imagine what it would be like to have your listing that you spent so much time on that is essentially the only landing page that you generate revenue from being altered like that and taking multiple days. Actually you probably didn’t even know how long it would take while you’re going through it with a typo in the title of the actual product. You must of been pulling your hair out while you’re going through that process.
CJ: Not only pulling our hair out but we saw our measurable results go into the toilet. Our sales dropped dramatically from that. One because I think there’s just a … Somebody sees the listing and there’s a typo, it’s like, “What’s that about? I’m going to move on.” The other thing is it ruins our SEO. Now the key word that we want to rank for is spelled incorrectly so we’re not ranking anymore. It just killed us for two weeks.
Felix: Right, makes sense. Now obviously once you have a lot of control back, once you actually own the customer list, own that data base of customers by having your own site. Talk to us about this transition, when did you make the move over to owning your own store on Shopify and what was that process like?
CJ: We’re really early in that migration. One of the first things that we did when we launched, just the brand and our initial strategy was always Amazon but we knew we needed to have a website. We were originally on WordPress and we had a pretty slick template and very customizable and all that. It was nice but it’s only been a few months here since we went over to Shopify. The one thing that’s been awesome about it is, WordPress I will say it felt very much more customizable than Shopify but at the same time because Shopify limits, it’s definitely customizable if you know HTML and all that or whatever language that they’re using. At the same time it limits how customizable it is and it almost forces you to create a website and a page that’s optimized for conversion.
That was one of the things that was pretty awesome when you shop around for the different themes or templates in Shopify, they’re all just created to accelerate sale. When you look and shop around for WordPress themes I would say the majority of them are designed to be blogs. That’s a totally different strategy online of a site that’s designed to get people to convert and a site that’s designed to engage people. That was one of the things that made it easy. It took the decision making out of the equation so we would just … We only had a few options in the Shopify template and we said, “Okay, this is what we’re doing,” and by the way it looks great. It prevented us from messing up a design.
Felix: Yeah, I think one of the interesting things about WordPress is that it kind of gives you a little too much rope to hang yourself. It gives you too much freedom that you just end up putting way too much stuff on there that, like you’re saying, doesn’t actually lend itself well to conversions. Now that you own your own site, the pros for Amazon is obviously they have a marketplace already, they already have a bunch of customers. You’re goal is just to rank highly on there and appear how they rank in that marketplace.
Now that you own your own store, you have your own marketplace. You also are now responsible for driving that traffic there. What’s the approach today? What works for you guys today as you’re building out this site? What kind of marketing works to drive the traffic to your own store?
CJ: Again, we’re really early on here so it’s … I’m not an expert by any means in terms of I can’t sing you a song about the amount of leads and stuff that we generated but the one thing that’s exciting about Shopify and then having an actual e-commerce store where we can track to conversion is we can optimize our ads on that. The thing that’s crappy about Amazon is because they’re not your customers and because you can’t tag anything on Amazon.com, you can’t optimize any of your media planning against conversion. You’re just kind of left to optimizing on click throughs, which is just not good. You send people to the Amazon page and you have no idea if the person who clicked the Facebook ad converted into a sale, you just don’t know.
The thing that we’re doing right now is, and we’re pretty excited about it. We’ve launched only maybe a week and a half ago on this, is Facebook lead gen ads. We’re doubling down on this Facebook lead gen ad. How we’re doing it is we subscribe to a service called Convert Kit which I know you’ve talked about before on the podcast. Convert Kit is really nice user interface for doing some pretty sophisticated automated marketing or drip campaigns and auto responders. What we’re doing is Facebook lead gen ads, which those are cool because you don’t have to send anybody to a landing page. Somebody click the lead gen ad, it brings up a Facebook lead capture form but it’s auto populated with people’s information, your name, your email, and whatever you want. All the person has to do is click “okay I agree to sharing this information with the Feel Good Lab.” What we’re able to do is connect that Facebook lead gen ad directly with Convert Kit.
You don’t have to leave Facebook to actually become a lead for us. You do it right into our marketing automation. Why is that cool? Because it kind of streamlines the creation process. We don’t have to create any landing pages. We’re just focusing on doing different versions of the ad and not different versions of the landing page. We stripped that out of the user experience or the user journey. That’s what we’re doubling down on right now in terms of … Is it driving traffic to the website? Actually no. That’s not the strategy. It’s driving lead capture and email registration for us.
Felix: Yeah, it’s pretty new. I think [inaudible 00:49:20] for them right there, the lead gen ad. I think one of the hesitations that store owners might have is that there’s this kind of need for almost instant gratification of sales. You want to run an ad, you want someone to click on the ad and then them landing on the product page as deep into the funnel as possible and then hopefully make a purchase.
But with this approach the sales funnel’s much longer. Obviously a lot more touch points along the way because now you have their email address and you can essentially advertise to them for free after that initial lead gen ad. Have you been able to measure the success at this point? Even though you’ve been running about a week and a half, have you been able to see if it’s been a profitable avenue for you guys?
CJ: No, the answer to that is it’s too early to tell. We’re still in the email collection phase. People can actually go on our website right now. What we’re driving to is what we’ve created as a … This is … It’s so funny I actually have to thank you because all this is inspired by this podcast. What we did is we created the Feel Good Challenge. It’s a ten week video challenge. It was inspired by whoever was talking about creating video to market to their customers. What we did was it’s a video series that you sign up for, it’s all delivered via email and drives you to our site. Then basically what we’re doing is just we’re driving people to sign up for that and it was inspired by, I forget who was talking about it, Felix. Maybe you can remind me. Somebody said … It was the company that created the shoes for small children.
Felix: Wee Squeak. Susan Bradley from Wee Squeak. Yeah. She’s been great with emails and all the responders.
CJ: The thing that sparked this idea was she said something like, “I know once somebody enters or I get their email address, once they enter my whole system or ecosystem it’s a 22% conversion rate. I don’t know when that’s going to happen but 22% of people buy something from me.” If you look at the long term play, let’s just get their email address and then follow the approach of teach everything we know. We’re just trying to educate and provide value, like real value and then every once in a while say, “Hey, thanks for following along. You’re doing great,” in the challenge that is. “Here’s something to say thanks.” It could be a dramatic offer, whether it’s a discount or some kind of deal of some sort. We haven’t got there yet because we’re honestly in … The oldest subscribers are only a week and a half into the challenge. We’re not there yet. We’re still in this phase of we’re providing value to people.
Felix: I like this approach of creating new videos because now obviously that requires a ton of time to create videos and to create this entire funnel for all of it, but ideally it’s going to pay off at the end of that funnel. How did you know to create this kind of content? How did you know to create a challenge basically a sign up for a challenge? What made you choose that particular hook into getting them into your funnel?
CJ: I think it’s … When you look at bloggers and content markers and if you were going to sit down and write something, I think the inclination is to just sit … There’s a trend like create an epic blog post for instance, where you’re going to tell them everything that you possibly know. That’s great and I think that’s one approach. When it comes to changing the way that you feel and your health, it’s less about having the knowledge. Everybody knows what to do, everyone on this planet knows what it takes to be in great shape, it’s diet and exercise. We all have the answer yet 44% of doctors are overweight and these are the people telling people that they’re overweight. The thing that’s missing is the approach and the … It’s the steps and the tools to actually execute. This Feel Good Challenge was us trying to teach, one teach everything that we know to help people feel good. Also deliver it in a way that they can actually succeed. The way to do that is to purposely hold back information and drip feed it to people. The first thing is to train people how to form habits.
To feel good and get into a routine where you are in a health and wellness type routine, it’s all about habit forming. If you’ve ever went to the gym it’s getting into that groove for the first week or two weeks, that’s the hardest part. Once you’re in that groove it becomes much easier. The whole first part of the challenge is we give you these little things that yeah they’re going to help you feel better but really we’re testing and coaching you on how to form a habit and then the challenge actually gets more difficult as you go on into the weeks.
Felix: Very cool. This is not the only kind of funnel you have set up, you mentioned also outside the podcast about post-sales autoresponder you have set up that’s so conversational that a lot of people think that it’s actually a real person that’s conversing with them. The goal of this is to collect reviews. Tell us a little bit more about this autoresponder, is it also set up through Convert Kit? How do you have this particular autoresponder configured?
CJ: Yeah. Before we go on to that, I totally want to answer that, I will answer that question. One thing, just advice for people on, you mentioned it takes a lot of time to create these videos and everything. One of the things that we did when we were creating this video series that I just think is so valuable is we created a bootstrap, I’m doing air quotes right now, video studio. We bought a white seamless background from I think Amazon actually. It was maybe $50 or something like that. We bought a lighting kit from Amazon, it was less than $100. I have this set up in a spare bedroom right now. We leave it set up all the time. The camera’s set up right there all the time. All that I need to do is go in there, step in front of the white seamless background, the white backdrop, press record on the camera and record the video.
Basically what we do is we batch process these videos. We’ll shoot five, ten videos at a time versus breaking down all the equipment, having to set it all back up. Just trying to remove those barriers from actually executing. I think that’s just a really important tip. When you’re doing any kind of content generation, think about how you can batch process it or remove all the barriers that make it painful to actually create that content.
Felix: Right. Basically move all the friction that might come between you and the content creation mode, makes sense.
CJ: That’s the hardest part as an entrepreneur is actually just … We all have these great ideas but as Gary Vaynerchuk says, ideas are … I won’t curse as Gary V. would but execution is the game. It’s the person that executes that is going to win. Back to your question about the autoresponder and being conversational. That’s a challenge that I think a lot of people struggle with and it’s the idea of being able to write like you speak. A lot of people are too verbose or use big words or want to sound too professional. The advice there is if you can get away with it with your brand and what kind of product your company you are, which is most today. Even the most conservative brands today that I see even in the agency world are picking up a more conversational tone.
We wanted to write our autoresponder series in the tone of if I was … Literally I addressed when we created the initial emails, I addressed it to a friend. I have another friend named Ryan coincidentally and I addressed it to Ryan like I was speaking to him. I wrote the email that way, hey Ryan just want to check in with you, see what’s going on. Wrote in a super conversational way. I wouldn’t say you can get away with breaking the rules of correct grammar by using sentence fragments and things like that. Stuff that you would say and speak. We write in that tone and it’s just so funny.
Literally everyday we will get a response to this autoresponder series like a reply because the autoresponder isn’t a just text based email of people just replying like we’re a real person. Which is really fun. Then of course we get the opportunity to actually reply and then we have a conversation going which is nice. We learn stuff about their customer.
Felix: Awesome. You mentioned a Convert Kit before for auto responders. What other tools do you rely on to run the business?
CJ: Convert Kit is the autoresponder on the site. The one that we use that plugs in to Amazon is Feedback Genius which a really cool tool if anybody’s using is on Amazon. I have a laundry list of all the different tools that we use. I just want to go back to this idea of the number one tool that we have is Google. I think people get hung up on this “I don’t know how to do something, so therefore I can’t move or I can’t execute.” It’s just … Ryan and I spent 90% of our time just teaching ourselves how to do stuff and it’s just through Google. There is a resource and a tutorial on how to do any single thing you want to do to create a business. That’s how we found Shopify Masters, that’s how we found … We are completely self educated in the Amazon sector. All this stuff is self taught.
As far as tools keeping going, tools to run a business the other thing that we, at least at the time we felt like we were an early adopter was Slack. Ryan and I live across the country. He lives in Connecticut and I live in Los Angeles yet we are running this business together. We adopted Slack early before we even knew what it was. I think I literally heard about it on Tim Farris’s podcast and knew a bunch of startups were using it in Silicon Valley. I said, hey they’re using it, let’s try this thing. We signed up to start using it and that has completely changed the way that we communicate. We’re barely on email. Basically don’t use it other than outside communication to vendors and stuff like that in the business.
The other thing that Slack is amazing for and helps us focus on getting things done is it’s a tool for cataloging ideas. One of the things that we know and actually we struggle with till this day is figuring out what ideas we’re actually going to pursue and do tomorrow and which ideas are really meant for next year, next month, six months from now. Slack, because it organizes the ideas and the thoughts when you post them, we can go back to those. We capture all our ideas there and then we can go back to them and execute them when the time is right, which has really changed the game for us and keep us focused on what matters tomorrow versus a cool idea that we should really be focusing on a year from now.
Felix: Awesome, yeah I’m a big fan of Slack too. I think communication like that, that’s easy and reference able and searchable is so important because like you’re saying, so many things go back and forth. Especially when you guys aren’t sitting right next to each other it can get lost. I think Slack’s a great tool for anyone that has a remote team or even just two co-founders like you guys are that aren’t next to each other all the time. With all of the marketing you do, all of the tools that you’re using, can you give us an idea how successful the business has gotten to today?
Ryan: For 2016, we launched You Plus Relief in June, beginning of June. For about six months we’re going to do 50,000, which is kind of the perfect number because that would fully pay back the investment that we put in to launch this about a year and a half ago. Then for projections for next year, we’re looking at about 500,000.
Felix: Wow, that’s amazing. Amazing growth. Lots of, sounds like lots of plans for the coming year. What do you guys want to see the brand be? I know you mentioned that this is just a first product for your brand. Do you have plans to launch more products in 2017?
CJ: 100%. I actually think there’s a lot of things that we have in the pipeline. You’ve kind of hit a nerve, Felix because this is the one thing that we actually get hung up on, what makes sense to execute next?
CJ: I think, yeah. This is why we’re excited about the brand and the company that we’ve created about feeling good. There’s definitely some things that we have in the pipeline that we’re excited about because they’d be products designed for us. Admittedly Ryan and I are healthy young guys and we definitely have use for You Plus Relief and we use it on a regular basis. We have some stuff that we’re cooking up that these are would be designed for us. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re the target market. Without going into detail and letting the cat out of the bag, that’s the vision that we have.
Felix: Cool awesome. Thanks so much for your time CJ and Ryan. TheFeelGoodLab.com again is the website. Where else should listeners check out if they want