How Our Business Relationship Started and Grew Our Success With Amazon Selling

Rick Cesari co-wrote The Amazon Jungle The Truth About Amazon, The Seller’s Survival Guide for Thriving on the World’s Most Perilous E-Commerce Marketplace with me, Jason Boyce.  Rick helped me understand what motivates consumers to buy and how to better use those tools to promote a more compelling listing.   What I was lacking in marketing knowledge, Rick had in abundance, and the reciprocating value of our unique experiences and compatible skill sets continue to help our clients across all of the retail channels – online and offline. 

We met after Rick gave the keynote address at the Prosper Show in Las Vegas. Rick’s branding message sparked what I can only describe as a spontaneous understanding of what was missing from my own online selling strategy – how to build a brand.  His message became the turning point in my entire approach to selling on Amazon.

After the keynote address, I was able to connect with Rick.  We hit it off immediately as we are both product marketers at heart.  I wanted all the knowledge Rick could share about product marketing and Rick wanted all the knowledge I had about selling on Amazon – we were a perfect fit.

Over countless cups of coffee at the Issaquah Coffee Company, Rick shared his wealth of knowledge about the human psychology of selling.  We are connected now more than ever, blending our strengths to help our shared clients improve their sales performances and build better brands. 

Rick provides a recap of the lessons we shared over coffee over the years. These are lessons we continue to draw from as we work together to help our clients grow sales and learn how to build a brand on Amazon.

Features tell, benefits sell

Rick’s first reminder is that features are telling, but the benefits of a product, that is what sells.  I talked about this in a previous blog and in Chapter 5 of Amazon Jungle when I explained listing optimization.  So, a juicer that focuses on features like stainless steel blades and powerful motors will not sell as well as a juicer that Rick sold focusing on its benefits.  His company took a totally different approach.  He focused instead on the healthy benefits of drinking fresh juice, like weight loss, more energy, and healthier skin, nails, and hair.  Positioning the juicer like this helped Rick increase sales exponentially.  This is a relatively easy change in focus that has a major impact on sales.  Rick explains that it is important to leave the features for the spec sheets and explain the product benefits – this is where it counts most on Amazon. 

Read the Review

Testimonials are the primary reason for Rick’s marketing success.  He noticed that I was relying on ratings to know whether or not I had a product with winning potential.  He made the connection to my success on Amazon.  Even though Amazon doesn’t allow the use of customer testimonials in their listings, they do provide all the feedback you need to be successful through their customer ratings.  This feedback is similar to a focus group, except better, because the person providing the feedback is not being paid to tell you what they think.  As I explained in Chapter 3 of Amazon Jungle, Amazon reviews come from real people using your product and talking about their experiences.  This information is worth its weight in gold! 

Share Your Backstory

Rick recaps what we discussed back in Chapter 2 of the book, that in order to build a successful brand today, you must have an origin story.  This is the story that tells how a company got started.  It is not enough anymore to throw something on Amazon and expect good results.  Telling your story is one of the most valuable steps a business can take to improve its sales and conversion rates.  People want to make connections.  The more you share who you are, the more they trust what you are.  Rick’s advice – once you find and create your origin story – share it broadly across each and every one of your marketing channels, using video whenever you can! 

Rick tells the story of Puriya, a company with the ultimate origin story.  Sisters Jill and Yi-Jen had a successful skin cream business.  They were lacking in brand awareness and approached Rick for help.  They used the power of plants every day growing up in Taiwan.  Their mother and grandmother had a botanical recipe for almost every ailment.  They grew up learning to look at nature first.  When the sisters moved to the United States, the sisters were forced to take care of themselves the “American way”.  But when Jill needed treatment for a skin condition, she was shocked by the ingredients in her medications.  A few years later, that led to their research to find natural plant-based ingredients for a hydrating cream.  They had a small batch manufactured using their own unique formulation and tested it on themselves and close friends and family.  They named the cream The Mother of All Creams – as a homage to their mother and grandmother.  What a powerful origin story! 

5 Key Strategies for Building a Great Brand

Chapter 7 in Amazon Jungle also includes highlights from Rick’s presentation at the Proper Show where we first met.  These strategies had been recently published in his book on brand-building and the conference founder felt strongly that these strategies could benefit 3P Sellers.  And he was right! 

Key #1:  Find your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Instead of trying to incrementally increase how much better your product is than your competitors, look for a way to differentiate your product from the others so you have an open territory of your own.  Your USP is crucial when determining how you can differentiate your product from all of the other products in the marketplace. 

Key #2:  Zig When They Zag

Lasting success comes from carving out your own space in the market.  Rick loves this idea presented in the book called The Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  Carving out your own space, just like the blue ocean, means finding a segment of the marketplace where no one else is.  For example, Rick was asked to rethink the slant technology of the George Foreman grill, originally named the Fajita Express.  The reason for the slant was for sliding meat into a taco shell.  After reimagining the grill and naming it The Lean, Mean, Fat-reducing Grilling Machine with a tagline “knock out the fat”, the grill went on to sell more than any other product in housewares history. 

Key #3:  Deliver Value

Rick’s 3rd key strategy is to exceed the customers’ expectations whenever possible.  When you are building a brand, you must always deliver value.  Set realistic customer expectations and then exceed them.  Even better- exceed them in unexpected and helpful ways!

Key #4:  Always Listen to your Customers

For me, customer feedback is the most important information that helps me determine how to pick a winning product.  Rick used this same information to build enduring brands for three decades.  We both agree that delivering exceptional customer service is important.  It helps build long-term relationships with your customers.  This leads to brand loyalty and allows companies to introduce new products down the line.  Rick encourages Sellers not to take any shortcuts and listen to and respond to what customers have to say. 

Key #5:  Use Authentic Testimonials

Rick explained in his presentation and in Chapter 7 that authentic product testimonials are one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use to sell your products.  Testimonials work for three reasons:

  1. People want to believe a product will work for them, but they usually have a list of objections for why it might not be the best fit. 
  2. People will believe your advertising and product marketing if they believe it is credible. 
  3. If someone is trying to make a decision about whether or not to buy your product, they will look for social proof before making the purchase.  Amazon reviews are a great example of social proof. 

Meeting Rick at a Seller’s conference all those years ago led to a successful relationship and a lasting friendship.  Chapter 7 took a look at ways in which this relationship has benefited our businesses and helped our client grow sales.  We will hear more from Rick in Chapter 10 when he addresses effective strategies for expanding your business off-Amazon and how a strong presence, across multiple marketing channels, actually improves your performance on Amazon.  Until then, in the next blog, and in Chapter 8 of Amazon Jungle,  we will look at some of the different ways people sell on Amazon.