Agency Best Practice

Takeaways from the Prosper Show 2022

Expert People

Host and Guest

James Dihardjo

James Dihardjo


Profile Pictures-Mar-10-2023-01-57-28-6408-AM

Kevin King

Amazon Seller Mentor

Podcast transcript

James Dihardjo
So Kevin, Thank you so much for making time all the way from the US to chat. I just wanted to get you to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.  

Kevin King 
Sure, yeah. My name's Kevin King. I've been doing e-commerce since before Google existed, so I've been selling online for, I don't know, about 30 years or so now. Started I think actually almost 30 years, 28, I think. I ran my first sale in 1994. My background before that was direct marketing. So, the old traditional, sitting stuff through the postal service, getting people to buy before the internet. I have a degree in business from Texas A&M University.

I've never worked for anybody since I was 16. It's the last time I had 16, 17 had worked at a pizza place and McDonald's. And that's the only time I've ever worked for Miami Bay. So I've been an entrepreneur my whole life, been doing at Amazon, since 2001, I guess. I was one of the first guys with PayPal back when they were giving you $10 just to sign up for an account and $10 for every person that you referred to PayPal. So I made a lot of money referring people to PayPal. I remember when Amazon was just books and CDs, and DVDs and whatnot. So yeah, been doing that for a while. Been selling as an FBA seller since 2015 on Amazon. I also have run several e-commerce sites outside of Amazon. Whether it be on platforms like Shopify or proprietary platforms. I think my merchant processor uses a company called Plug n’ Pay.

I think they'd been around. So when they first started their programming, they were helping me every time my computer crashed. So we'd run some sort of promotion and our server or whatever would crash back in the mid-nineties. And  I would call him and say, Hey, I can't take any money right now. How do I restart this machine? And he would log in and restart the machine. So I go back to the early days.

But today I do, I'm on four different Amazon accounts, either myself or with partners. I do training for Helium 10, which is the biggest software in the space. I do a course called Freedom Ticket, which is about how to Sell on Amazon from A to Z. And it's free for anybody that has a membership. And so it's not a paid course. It's about 60 hours of content. It's about the top course in the business last year in seller pole. I also do the advanced training on Helium10 at least. I run the Billion Dollar Seller Summit, which is a twice-a-year event.

Once, in person, and once virtually. For seven, eight, and nine-figure sellers. It's very exclusive, with about a hundred or so sellers, all at the high highest level. I do that in Austin, and then I am involved in a company called Product Savants with Steve Simonson, where we take a couple of the pain points out of some of the product sourcing and discovery for big sellers and including some aggregators. And then I've spoken at I don't know, 30, 40 different Amazon events around the world. Been on podcasts like yourself and virtual summits and tons of that kind of stuff. So, yeah, I'm pretty heavily involved in the space. 

James Dihardjo 
Interesting. I feel like I just got a history lesson, Kevin. That was really good.

*(both laughs)*

That was especially the part about rebooting the machine to accept payments. That was gold man. So more recently though, both you and I were at Prosper right in Vegas last week. I'd love to hear your thoughts. I know there are a lot of people on LinkedIn raving about it, but, what did you think of it? What was the new news you heard on the ground? Any headlines? Keen to hear your thinking. 

Kevin King 
Yeah, the prosperous show. Yeah, I've been going, I didn't go to the first one that I think it happened in Utah, Salt Lake City, like in 2015. I guess I remember hearing about it right when I first started doing this FBA business model but I didn't go, but I've been to every one of them since. So, since 2016 on, this was the first time they moved to Mandalay Bay, which I think was a smart decision from that piece of junk hotel that they were in before.

So that was good I think. I know I just talked to someone today who was on the board there. They had 170 exhibitors at booths. And then they had, about 2000 total tickets sold. So I don't know if all 2000 people showed up, but that's a pretty big event. It's the biggest event in the space right now. I think even Helium10 Sell+Scale that's happening in September might be bigger. But that's the biggest event in the space. It's great for networking for people like myself. I don't really go for the content. You know, there's a lot of sessions. Some of the people I know, some of the people I don't know, but I find that's not the value for me.

The value for me is networking, you know, meeting with other people and sitting around at lunch or talking to different vendors in the booth or as you know, James, it turns into a big party. So every night there are two or three different parties hosted by different folks at different suites or different, events or even Helium10, they had a huge, they had Mark McGrath and a huge singer at the House of Blues.

And so a lot of it rolls around, revolves around the social aspect and just the networking seeing old faces. The word that I was getting from a lot of people, especially the vendor size, they felt like there were not enough sellers. There are too many vendors and service provider types. You know, if you just do the math at 170 booths, you know, some of them had two or three people in them. Some of them like giving 10, had 30 people there. So I don't know if it averages out to four or five people per booth on average, you know, that's 800, 900 of those 2000 right there. Plus there are other service providers and software companies, they just bought a ticket to come. So the big knock I heard was just not enough sellers and too many people selling services. I heard that from several different people. So, you know, Prosper a big, it's not my favorite. It's in Vegas and there's a lot of people that go, so I like it for an aspect for it.

But as far as an Amazon event, it would not be in my top 10. For content, I think some of the smaller masterminds and some other events are far superior, for learning, and for actually getting the skills that you need. But from Vegas party city, there are a lot of people that go. Prosper is run by a big event company that's really not in the space. 

The better events I think are run by sellers themselves, versus these big, corporate events and Prosper tends to be pretty corporatey. And so they, they attract a lot of the corporate types, which is there's nothing wrong with that. But the real sellers or the guys down in the weeds, the guerilla marketers, the guys doing this, building their businesses from scratch. And those are the ones that are really on top of their game more so than the corporate people, who are just well funded and maybe right place, right time type of stuff. So from that aspect, I preferred smaller events. 

James Dihardjo 
Yeah. Interesting. Very interesting insight, Kevin. I must say it is my first time at Prosper. Everybody was new to me and like you, I think I thoroughly enjoyed the networking. So yeah, interesting. Certainly. Interesting. 

Kevin King 
Yeah. I mean if you’ve never been to an event, it’s not, don't get me wrong, the event is not bad. I just I've been to so many all over the world, including like what's happening in Ukraine right now within Kyiv. I spoke at an event there three years ago for Amazon.

So there's a huge Amazon seller community in Ukraine. And they had spoken to an event there. So, there are lots of different types of events, but if you've never been to one, it's great to get out and, you know, you can talk the language with other people if you go. Everybody knows when you say what you do, they know what you do. You don't have to explain it to people like you do your friends or your family or something like, what the heck are you doing? You know, everybody gets it. So it's nice. And then you can put faces to some of the people you've dealt with by email or seeing on Zoom, go have drinks with them. You know, it's really cool to get out to events like Prosper, prosper draws a lot of people. So that's a good thing. It's a big event. 

James Dihardjo 
Yeah, for sure. 

Kevin King
You and I were both there and I don't think we even ran each other.

James Dihardjo
Yeah, that's true. So, the next question for you, Kevin. So on the back of that, like we're now kind of three months into 2022, what's your big prediction for Amazon selling in for this year?

Kevin King 
Well, I mean, a lot of people ask me all the time, is it the time passed to sell on Amazon? Is it too late to get started? And, or is it, you know, have all the good products gone or whatever. And I say no. I think right now is the best time ever. Amazon has grown so much and knows just from when I started selling on FBA seven years ago, the sheer volume, whether you're on a big keyword or on a small keyword, the sheer volume, of a small keyword that you may be ranking on in 2015, you might sell five units a week. 

Now that same keyword because Amazon's just grown so much. You're selling a hundred units a week or something. So the opportunities are huge. It's not easy as it used to be. It's not, you know, just going to Alibaba and sticking your name on something and throwing it up on Amazon. The chances of that succeeding are greatly reduced from the past.

It's become more of a big boy's playground. To make a good go of it, you need good money and you need good software and you need good, good people. I mean, that's not to say that someone can't start this business and have a side hustle and make a little bit of money. You know, there's a huge community in Pakistan of like 800,000, they’re called Enablers, I think 800,000 people that are learning how the BVAs or to sell on Amazon. And for someone like them to be able to come onto whether Amazon or Walmart or Shopify, whatever and make 500 or thousand dollars a month profit, that's life-changing.

But for me and you. You and Australia. Me in the US, that's not going to do anything for us really. Might get us a few extra beers at the pub or something but that's about it. So, it depends on your perspective. If you're looking at this from a real business perspective and to make serious money from the Western culture, you need some money. And you need to really have some good branding and some good differentiation. 

And that's where a lot of people are struggling right now, to give it a go and the competition is getting fiercer. And so, knowing how to use the tools and knowing how to use the proper tools. There are a lot of people that start selling and then end up developing tools, and some of those tools are great.

Some of them are pieces of junk, but knowing which tools to use and how to use those tools to see the opportunities is more important than ever. Then having a firm grasp on your financials, and knowing your true numbers. A lot of people that sell on Amazon, including some of the biggest brands, don't really know their true numbers. And you really got to know that from the logistics side to the advertising side, to the sourcing side, to all the little fees that get added in. And you really got to factor all that in, or you might have good cash flow, but you don't have good profits. And so those are some of the critical things that in 2022 and beyond people need to pay attention to.

Some of the biggest opportunities out there I think right now are in creating brand-new products. But to create a brand-new product that takes some branding, that takes some education, and a lot of people either don't have the money or the patience or the know-how to do that. Amazon's still a great platform to launch on or it's going out and doing licensing deals. I think there's a huge opportunity in licensing right now, on Amazon where you can go to some of these bigger brands who may want a presence and they've tried Amazon but they hired some kid out of college for 40-50,000 a year that doesn't really know what he's doing and it didn't work for them. 

But if you go and you take the US Army for example, if you're selling a flashlight on Amazon and it's a tactical flashlight and you come out with James's tactical flashlight, nobody knows who you are, you're got to have to do all kinds of innovative things. So just try to get rank and get some reviews. But if you come out with that same flashlight and say, this is a US Army tactical flashlight, you know, soldier approved or whatever, because you have a licensing deal with the US Army and you can put their logo on it. Yeah, you're paying 6 or 7% and a licensing fee to them but that's almost like a part of your Advertising expense or part of your TACOS or something. And that immediately gives you credibility and sets you apart. And so I think there are some major opportunities in that side, that a lot of people just aren't looking at right now. That I think could be exploited. And so the opportunities are huge on Amazon and the data, and the tools have gotten more sophisticated. The data is there. If you just know how to use the data, you can find a lot of building opportunities. 

James Dihardjo 
I think that everything you said makes complete sense and certainly the part about, building a brand, like, I don't wanna use the word properly, but I would say, really investing in building a brand and achieving credibility and all these things is certainly something I'm hearing a lot and it makes a lot of sense. Gone are the days of just getting some product, as you say, and slapping it up there with your name on it. Like, I think you need to really, really invest beyond that. So, it’s interesting.

Kevin King 
I mean that still works from time to time, but long term success, you need branding. And branding is not just a logo and a name. Branding is appealing to a customer avatar. It's creating something around a belief system or a people's sense of wanting to belong. And that takes time. 

Amazon's a great place to kickstart that. I mean, you could go do this on your own Shopify site, but you got to drive all the traffic. You got to do a lot. But why not use Amazon? Yeah. You're giving them about a third of every sale, if not more. But they have the eyeballs, they have the trust, they have everything there, and it's still a great, great place to launch on.

And then, then the pivot off but creating a brand around an avatar or a lifestyle or a passion of people is definitely the way to go. And it just, you know, people get impatient. They see these Ads on Facebook of someone that showing sales, you know, I started on Amazon last week and now I'm making this much money or they show all these screenshots of crazy stuff or Lamborghini or whatever. And there are a lot of people that see this as a business opportunity that they're working a nine-to-five job. They want to quit working for the man. And they're like, I want to quit now. But they don't have the patience to you know, this is got to take a year or two years before you can get to that point where you can do that. 

And then the big brands, some of them just don't understand it. Some of the biggest brands out there that are successful despite themselves, don't truly understand Amazon and they're leaving a lot of money on the table as well, just because they don't really understand how the algorithm works and how to properly do stuff on Amazon, they just get by simply on the random.

James Dihardjo 
Yeah, interesting point. The a good segue, Kevin, into my last question for you. So I'm sure a lot of people ask you this, but what is your top tip at the top of your mind at the moment for the Sellers out there?

Kevin King 
The top tip? It would be in doing the proper product research. I mean, it all starts with the products that you're going to sell. So whether you're launching, an existing product that you've already had and you've been selling well in other channels, or you're coming up with something brand new or some brand new opportunity, you have to know how to do the proper product research.

And you can't just put something up on Amazon and expect it to sell. I mean, occasionally that happens, you hit gold. For the vast majority, you got to know how good is your competition? How good are they at creating the listings? How good are their images? How good is their video? Which keywords are they targeting and which ones, are they missing out on? And you can see the competition level, because basically if you can't get to the top three spots on Amazon for a certain keyword, You're got to have very few sales. 

Most of the sales come off those top three. Sometimes they'll go a little bit deeper than that. But usually the top 3, 4, 5 keywords, I mean, positions organically. Amazon's starting to charge more, and have more and more advertising spaces. So the organic or the non-paid listings, the natural listings are less and less. And Amazon's replacing those more and more with paid Advertising spots. So you got to have the margins there. And so you got to know how to use these tools, like Helium10 or Data Dive or Brand Analytics or some of the other ones that are out there to really analyze the opportunity to decide, is this something that we can go into and sustain, or is this something that's gonna be a quick hit, or is this something that's gonna be very, very difficult to get a foothold in?

And then there are some saturated markets on Amazon that are very, very difficult to, to compete in. And I see people try over and over again and it just doesn't work. So product research, and knowing how to use the tools to actually get the data, it's there. And when I first started FBA seven years ago, we had to piece together a bunch of stuff and just wasn't there. But now, you can tell within a matter of two to five minutes if you know how to use the right tool, whether you should proceed on, evaluate an opportunity, or whether you should, back off. It's too competitive. 

James Dihardjo 
Interesting. Another piece of, very pragmatic advice, you, Kevin. So, yeah, appreciate it. And look, I guess I've taken up a lot of your time, so I do want to wrap it up. And yeah, thanks again for making time to chat and I really hope that yeah, we can do this again and get your thoughts again and hopefully cross paths at the next, next event.

Kevin King 
For sure. Appreciate it, James. It's been, it was a pleasure here and, hopefully, this has helped somebody. I'm giving someone something to think about. 

James Dihardjo
Thank you.


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