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Podcast PR Specialist – Marketing Hack of the Year for Young Businesses

Whenever I’m trying to gain some recognition for a young business, I put someone on my marketing team in charge of finding some low cost opportunities to promote the business online.  That person performs a deep dive into our content niche and sources opportunities to find backlinks, get mentions on other pages, build connections with others in the industry, etc.  It’s a time consuming effort, but in the long run it’s so worthwhile.

Take a simple backlink for example.  In this graph, check out those two spikes.  That’s from when we had new backlinks live from good authority sites.  Even though our traffic dropped back down, consistent links and mentions over a long period of time will build up our own recognition in the industry, reputation in the niche, and our website’s authority.

backlink organic traffic

A lot of the time, backlinks and mentions aren’t free.  Leaders in the industry and high authority website owners are savvy to their power, so they’ll often charge a fee for that outbound link.  This can range anywhere from $50 to $1000+ depending on the site.  It depends on things like their traffic, the page that the link is going on, if you’re asking for an image or other content to accompany that link, etc.  Sometimes you can get lucky, or you have a buddy with a high authority site that owes you a favor, but, more often than not, this is one more thing that you’ve gotta work into your marketing budget.  (P.S. Don’t spend $1000 on a backlink.)

And then we tried something new.

Podcasts.

Nowadays, it seems like every guy and his cousin run a podcast out of their garage. (“Hey, we are geniuses about Bill Murray movies and classic rock history—let’s start an Americana Movie & Music podcast!”)  An April 2018 news article from Fast Company states that there are currently “over 525,000 active shows, with more than 18.5 million episodes available, including content in over 100 languages.”  In the world of business, digital media, and marketing, there are literally thousands upon thousands of podcasts available.  Plus, most of those include interviews with leaders in the field.  So, with this in mind, my brain started spinning some ideas:

  1. Those podcast episodes are always published to an associated website, with a backlink to the guest’s website.
  2. Podcast appearances look great in a media kit.
  3. There have got to be people out there, already in some podcasting networks, who can help us get connected to podcasters.

I had to test it.  So I took to UpWork (my favorite place to find freelancers) and posted a couple of jobs.  This was an initial trial, so we wanted to cover all the bases; we needed someone with some podcasting experience, maybe some PR experience, and digital media connections.  Here’s the strategy: Offer this ideal person $50 for whatever podcast they can get us booked on.  For someone who’s in a network of podcasters, it’s easy money.

podcast specialist job description

After a couple of hours, there was radio silence (pun intended).  24 hours went by–still crickets.  So I started actively searching on UpWork for freelancers who fit the description.  I just searched for terms like “podcasting”, “podcaster”, “PR”, etc.  A ton of people with good looking experience showed up right away.  I invited them all to the job, and within about a day I had a few people working away!  I asked them to look for podcasts that were specific to our field (in this case, ‘digital marketing’, ‘entrepreneurs’, and ‘start ups’, etc.).

The person doing this outreach usually has a tracking system, like this spreadsheet, where they can keep a record of everything.  It’s a good way to make sure they’re following up with opportunities, getting things booked on schedule, and take notes of any new ideas.

Podcast Outreach Trials spreadsheet

Two months later, we’ve recorded FOUR podcasts!  There are a few of these ‘podcast specialists’ working for us, actively seeking new shows for us to record on, and they’re happy to get $50 per booking.  It’s perfect for us, because they do all the time consuming work, then we get our company name out there at a low cost, with in depth interviews about our company’s origin story.  We also get to add a new podcast appearance to our media kit, which looks great.  Plus, we get a backlink from the podcaster’s website.  All this for $50 each.

This podcast hack has gotta be one of my favorites.  If you give it a shot, leave me a comment about your experience!

ListingEagle Failure To Soar – A Case Study on a Failed SaaS Project

With the success of some of my recent projects and the income number I will be sharing next week I am always concerned that I present an inaccurate image of someone who has all this online business stuff figured out with few challenges and no failures. Todays case study of a failed SAAS business including all the details in the SaaS dashboard will hopefuly present another picture.

The fact is that some projects are definite successes but I have my share of failures as well! Anytime a project fails to hit the goals I set for it hurts but I am reminded of a favorite quote…Continue reading

FBA Case Study – How to Leverage External Traffic and Build Sales Funnel

Setbacks are a part of any business and mine is certainly no different. The best kind of setbacks I have found are ones where as a result of the setback we identify a new opportunity and the business/systems come out the other end stronger than before.

That was certainly the case when it comes to my Amazon FBA business that I sold and shortly after had my Amazon Associates account suspended (You can read all about that and what some of your options are here if your amazon associate account was closed).

My FBA business was launched off the back of an Affiliate site that was making about $1k/month and then grew both the affiliate and FBA business to $10k/month with the affiliate site adding $3k of that.

With the loss of the affiliate income we had a BIG problem…how would it still make sense to drive traffic to Amazon if we were loosing out on the 8% affiliate commission?Continue reading

Amazon Affiliate Site to FBA Business

Today’s post I get into the weeds of how to analyze an affiliate site you either own or are considering buying to convert to an Amazon FBA model.

Big Disclaimer – I have not fully verified this model… I have one successful win under my belt with this strategy and another business which is struggling a little with this conversion. So although I have successfully done this once and watched others do it there is risk(like all business)!

 

Basic Strategy – What the heck am I talking about?

This strategy is the basic strategy I followed to build and sell an Amazon Affiliate Site and Amazon (Fulfilled By Amazon / Private Label Product) business in 8 months with a 530% return and made $334k including sales price and net earnings.  See the full case study here – how to sell Amazon FBA business.

  • Step 1 – Build or buy an affiliate site that is generating sales of a product you believe you can source and private label yourself
  • Step 2 – Start an Amazon FBA business leveraging your affiliate website to drive traffic to your sales page.

What if you own  an affiliate site and are considering using it to build an FBA Business? Although a lot of the details in this post talk about considering the FBA model when buying a website, the information below is the same approach you would use if you own an affiliate website already and are looking to convert it into an FBA business.

phase1

What I Will Share in This Post:

  1. How to analyze the potential of an affiliate site for an FBA business
    • A – 10 Point Checklist Weighted Average Matrix to evaluate if the site could work
    • B – How to get and analyze the data to estimate potential sales driven by affiliate site
    • C – Assumptions to use based on my experience to gauge the impact Amazon organic sales will have
  2. Run the numbers (what is the expected net profit for the FBA business?)
  3. Spreadsheet I use to do this analysis – Free Download (Completed for One fake Site)
  4. A clever/slight twist on the Affiliate to FBA conversion model

 

ONE – How to analyze the potential of an affiliate site for an FBA business

A – 10 Point Checklist and Weighted Average Matrix To Evaluate Multiple Opportunities

Whether you own the affiliate site or are looking to buy one here are 10 key questions including their weighting in order of importance(from my perspective) to help evaluate the potential opportunity.

  1. Product can be easily sourced
  2. Not a restricted product (weapon, ecig, liquor, uranium)
  3. Similar Private Label Product Selling on Amazon
  4. Website Focused on a specific product
  5. Price point of product $20min to $40+ ideal
  6. Target $3k/month minimum amazon associate income
  7. Product is small/light (not oversized & cheaper shipping)
  8. Traffic Growing
  9. Industry Growing (easy to check with Google Trends)
  10. Backlink Profile & Risk

question

B – How to get and analyze the data to estimate sales

In order to determine the size of an opportunity, there is some critical data that is needed.

The key question we are trying to answer with this step in the process is…

“How many sales of a similar product to the one we could source does this website drive per month?”

This is a key piece of the equation when working on the next step.

So here are the detailed step by step instructions.

  1. Get the data – Login to Amazon associates account, go to reports, click on download reports, select max relevant date range and all associate tags attached to one website, download report
  2. Slice the data up using some excel tricks – Open the spreadsheet in Excel, sort all the orders by the date, create a pivot table with (filter on for relevant categories, row label = names, values = sum of items shipped). This pivot table will now show you how much of every product the site has sold. The next step is to copy that pivot table into a new tab and paste it as text then filter on the quantity so you can see the number of each unit that has been shipped starting with the most.
  3. Group the data based on the type of product you could replace – Based on looking at this table make some assumptions on the number of a similar product

Simplified Example – Download the template at the bottom of this post

category

The result for this step is that we can say in our fake example that our website sells around 500 3D Printing Pens in the given time period (for the purposes of this example assume 1 month)

C – Assumptions to use based on my experience

Back when I first launched my affiliate site to FBA case study I shared several assumptions I made well before I knew if they would be true. Some held and some didn’t, however based on a very small sample size here are the assumptions I am using to evaluate a sites potential…

item

salessplit

 

TWO – Run the Numbers – What is The Potential Profit?

For this section we just punch the numbers we have collected into the summary tab on the spreadsheet and it provides a very rough approximation of what kind of volume and net profit the business is going to do.

YES – I know this is simplistic and there are many ways to get into more detail (which I do in the template) but when evaluating any potential opportunity this is great way to start!

product

So after this analysis a Printing Pen (no I didn’t check if any of these numbers were reasonable) would be able to generate an additional $4k/month net profit if the little affiliate site added an FBA arm to it.

THREE – Spreadsheet I use to do this analysis – Free Download (Completed for One Site)

To get the same template I used to do my analysis on this “fake” site for the post or many other potential acquisitions simply click on the link below…

Download Template

 

FOUR – What About Buying Both an FBA Business and Complimentary Affiliate Website

Slight Twist – Eric from DigitalStrats made the interesting suggestion that flipping the model would deal with a few of the downsides of my suggested model… meaning buy an FBA business and then add on acquiring Amazon Affiliate sites in the space. This would result in a much faster return on the investment since you would see the increase in earnings immediately. There are 3 main downsides to this model I currently see…

Upside:

  1. The time until you realize your return is higher… as soon as you point a related affiliate site at your FBA business you will see the benefit.
  2. If you can acquire both your probability of success for the overall investment goes up vs acquiring just one. This is mainly due to there being fewer unknowns that could derail the business.

Downside:

  1. Total investment required would be more substantial
  2. The ability to find complimentary affiliate sites and FBA sites all willing to sell is tricky
  3. The return on your investment is lower than if you completely added the FBA side potentially

 

Wrap Up

I hope me sharing this method and spreadsheet for quickly evaluating the potential is helpful to some of you. Although one of my recent migrations is not going as planned I still strongly believe in this model and am looking forward to continuing to

If you are doing anything cool in this space please let me know I always like connecting and learning.

How I Sold My FBA Business for Six Figures and Generated a 530% ROI in 8 Months!

Today’s post is an exciting one! The success of my authority site conversion to an Amazon FBA brand has been a huge success and today I can announce that a successful sale has been completed!

In this post I will share everything (except the URL) of the business I launched and the sales process from my FBA business.

Sell Your FBA Business FAST!

If you are looking to sell your highly profitable FBA business with a lot of history and have time then this post will show you all the options available to you. 

However for those of you who were like me and don't meet all those requirements your options are limited. If you want to explore all your options for selling your FBA business click on the link below and I can see if the team I have built to buy FBA businesses is the right setup for you...

Your Options Are Limited If You Meet Any Of These Criteria...

  • Not making over $2k/month
  • Can't wait 1-3 months for money to hit your account! (regardless of size)
  • Your business hasn't been running for at least 12 months

However, even if your businesses situation is the same as any of the items above click on the button below and fill in the form and you will be able to receive an offer on your business today!

​How Much is My FBA Business Worth?

​If you are interested in seeing the state of the industry when it comes to Amazon FBA business sales then I highly recommend checking out this free report!

If you are like me you want to see the results…the money…the numbers… I won’t make you scroll if you don’t want to…

Initial Investment

53 k$ Initial Investment

Final Sales Price

334 k$ Final Sale Price + Net Earnings
530 % Return on Investment in 8 Months!
  • My Original Plan = Invest $100k and build a business to sell for $297k (197% return)
  • The Actual Results = Invested $53k and sold the business for a sticker price of $281k in 8 months (530% return)

If you like numbers and graphs enjoy this beast of a post showing you all the gritty details about the business.

If you enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it… you probably have issues 😉

PART 1 - My Authority Affiliate Site to FBA “Can’t Fail” Business Plan

The plan with my move into Amazon FBA was first shared here. After hearing about Amazon FBA for over a year I swore I was not going to jump into a new business without an advantage.

This advantage took the form of a website that I had purchased from my eventual partner of BrandBuilders.io (affiliate site creation package is equivalent to what I bought) which was making $100/month that I had grown to make $1,000/month on Amazon Affiliates.

Seeing that many of the products this site was selling could seemingly be easily imported from China and private labelled I decided on a weekend my wife had left me alone to jump in an start a new business!

The basic concept of the model was to turn the 8% affiliate commissions into 48% private labelled product profit margin!

The simple model is to use the traffic from my website to promote the private label brand I import.

The simple 3 step plan was as follows...

3 Benefits of This Model:

  1. Product Selection Is Easy – You are now selecting a product you know you can sell because you are already selling a similar product. Product selection can be a large stumbling block and this strategy helps remove that problem.
  2. Huge Initial Promotion Not Required – The common strategy is to run at a loss while you continue to promote until you have “bought” sales rankings…this is not required (but can still be effective) with this model since you are already driving sales to your listings. Plus as Amazon turns down the weight they put on sales generated by huge promotions this strategy will become even better!
  3. Minimal Risk of Capital to Buy Inventory – Since you can be reasonably confident your site will drive sales your capital is not at substantial risk. Buying the first order everyone has the fear "what if none sell" but since you have a website to drive the sales you can again be more confident you won't be stuck with product that won't move.

PART 2 - Previous Posts Regarding This Case Study

If you are new to my website or haven’t seen the previous posts here is a summary of all the locations I have talked about

PART 3 - Original “Can’t Fail” Amazon FBA Business Plan

So going into this business I made several assumptions about how the business was going to perform and shared them publicly on this site when I first started back in September.

Basically I created a model trying to answer the question of if I invested $100k and spent $50k to purchase affiliate site(s) and used the other $50k for working capital what would the return profile look like?

  • NOTE – In my case I spent substantially less because I grew the site from a $100/month to $1,000-$1,500 per month site. For the purposes of this post/analysis I will treat the site as if I purchased it for $30k.

Here are the assumptions I had back when I started…

Keep reading and I will show how each of these assumptions actually turned out in reality!

PART 4 - Business Timeline (Approximate)

Below is an overview from the time when I decided to start building this business to the point when the deal closed.

PART 5 - Original Plan vs Actual Results Compared

This business had a lot of assumptions when I built the plan back in September. Many of these numbers were flat out guesses and I truly didn’t have a clue at how they would turn out.

Original Plan Summary – Invest $100k and generate a return of 191% within the year

So What Were The Actual Results Compared to the Plan?

Above shows a lot of the data for the business including the affiliate site engine driving this business and the substantial traffic increase it is experiencing right now!

There was a substantial failure in the business and that was one affiliate site I purchased died shortly after purchasing it. I have included none of the revenue it generated in this analysis but did include the $12k cost in the upfront capital. 

The potential sales price is $270k but what did I actually sell it for and what were the terms of that sale?

See below…

PART 6 - Unique Amazon FBA Business Sale Multiple and Deal Terms

Where I Sold My Website and FBA Business

I considered a few options to sell my FBA business including EmpireFlippers.com but in the end my decision was to first attempt to sell to my audience directly by announcing the business was for sale here.

In the end there were a few groups that were interested and the conversations progressed over several months including…

  1. Private Equity Group
  2. Marketing Company
  3. Private Investor

The synergy with the private equity group was low while the marketing company had some solid upside opportunities but in the end the most benefit that could be realized by the buyer was for the private investor.

I can say that the entire process took longer than expected (although in hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised).

Creative Win-Win Deal

The buyer is a highly talented/hard working Sr VP of a fortune 100 company who is looking to apply his considerable focus and skills into a new venture. As part of the terms of the sale I will remain heavily involved/invested in getting him trained up to ensure he succeeds online! He was looking to purchase online businesses and for a very small premium he is getting a business that comes with extensive 1:1 training and me very incentivized to see him succeed all while investing only a portion of the final value of the site up front.

Valuation Bridge

How did we come up with a fair price? We used the baseline for FBA businesses selling in the marketplace and then made adjustments (some negative & some positive) to come to what was believed to be a fair number for all.

The $284 sticker price (tweaked to get to $281k) is only part of the deal terms with many additional terms added in to help protect the buyer and make this deal more of a win-win.

Key Deal Terms:

  • Closing Date – May 10, 2016
  • Down Payment = $100k (due once transition is complete)
  • Earnout = $87.4k (Due Jan 15, 2016 based on the table below)
  • Detailed Transition Plan to be Executed (See transition plan below)
  • Ownership & Earnings 
    • Jon – 1/3rd partner
    • Partner – 2/3rd general partner

Earn out Basis:

Detailed Transition Plan:

6 Learning’s from the Sales Process:

  1. Lawyers can cost a lot of money – Although not going through a broker I thought I was saving the 15% by making this deal a little complicated the legal fees added up on both the buyer and sellers side. The vast majority of the terms were solved before they even got to the lawyer but it still cost a lot of money to work through the deal.
  2. Sales Process Is Complicated – This was my second sale of an asset with a sticker price over six figures and both times it took a lot of time for both the buyer and the seller to be comfortable with one another. Trust is huge and we certainly have it now but it takes time to naturally build it.
  3. Find a Win-Win or Don’t Sell – I hate inefficiencies in life and business and unless I was selling in order to make the pie bigger or to create a better win-win I would not sell again. Since much of the effort of selling a website is simply wasted energy working with people who ultimately don't buy, no fault of them it is the process but it is a lot of hard work that doesn't generate real results. Talking with potential buyers to see if they would be a good fit is part of the process and I am thrilled with the people I met as part of the process but it was not pushing the business forward.
  4. Data Transparency is Key – For all my spreadsheets calculating every number I had it built into a spreadsheet that goes right back to the raw data dump for every line item for both my affiliate site and FBA account. This level of detail helped to provide confidence with the data.
  5. Finding a Good Deal & Working With a “A” Players Is Fun and Pushes Me to Be Better!
  6. Accountants Can Help – The way a sale is structured can have significant tax implications. Reviewing the deal with my lawyer helped save a minimum of $14k in taxes by correctly structuring it.

Hijackers Almost Killed the Deal BUT… an Idea was Born:

During the sales process we started to get our first hijackers on our listings which…

  1. Increased the perceived risk of the business and could lower the sales price
  2. Stole sales again decreasing the sales price of the business
  3. Could damage the brand hurting the sales price of the business

The result of these hijackers was my wife checking our listings at every hour of the day to help fight them off since rapid aggressive responses are key!

Due to this problem I parterned with some awesome people to put together a tool that helps people monitor their listings and help their sleep deprived wife get some sleep J

See the solution to monitor your listings and the full story here…

PART 7 - How to Sell an Amazon FBA Business

7 Tips to Setup Your FBA Business Now to Sell Later

  1. Make Sure All Data is Transparent - Don’t mix up multiple businesses or tracking codes. Data that is easy to check results in a better sales price.
  2. Setup a Business You Are Going to Sell On Its Own – For businesses you are thinking you are going to sell for a reasonable price tag it is best for it to be its own entity. For me I made the mistake of not doing this and as a result will forgo any small business capital gains tax breaks (Canadian specific tax credit).
  3. Build a Brand – Having a branded website for your private label brand will help increase your multiple by presenting yourself as a more established business.
  4. Get Diversified Traffic – I achieved this through my affiliate sites but however you do this it is important to not have any single point of failure in order to earn a premium multiple.
  5. Run Lean but Don’t Stop Running – If you are preparing to sell your business make sure to keep costs down but don’t stop pushing your business forward. The sales process can take a long time and it is vitally important that you continue to push your business forward during that time.
  6. Diversify Suppliers - Similar to above it is never a good idea to have a business that can fail with any single point of failure. If a business doesn't have a backup for its main supplier(s) it can hurt the sales price.
  7. Position Product in a Growth Niche – Positioning your product offering in a growth niche can provide a lot of interesting upside for a buyer. If you are looking to sell for a premium a dying market is not going to demand a premium.

How Much Is My FBA Business Worth?

FEInternational.com has a great post talking about selling an FBA business and from the image below shows that generally expect an FBA business to sell for 2.0X – 3.0X annual earnings (24X-36X monthly)

DigitalExits.com did a great summary analysing 15 deals in 2015 and found the multiple to be closer to 1.83X or 22X monthly earnings.

EmpireFlippers have multiple FBA businesses for sale in their marketplace and have them priced from 22X-25X compared to 25X-30X for the websites for sale on their marketplace.

4 Places to Sell or Buy FBA Businesses

  1. EmpireFlippers.com
  2. DigitalExits
  3. FEInternational
  4. WebsiteClosers

I haven’t had much experience with these but certainly don’t recommend Flippa and can say that if I was going to list with a broker I would have listed with EmpireFlippers.com

Should You Use a Broker or Sell Your FBA Business Privately?

Reason to Use a Broker – The biggest benefit of a broker is the access to buyers who would be out of reach otherwise. The other large benefit of using a broker is their help in guiding you through the process with structured deal terms and some security to ensure you don’t get ripped off.

Hidden Cost of Using a Broker - Inflexibility to come up with a unique deal structure – If me and the eventual buyer had connected through a broker we would have struggled and been discouraged from coming up with this creative deal structure.

Reason to Sell Privately – Ability to structure a unique win-win deal was the main reason I liked the private sale model. In addition I was able to save the ~15% brokerage fees.

Hidden Cost of Selling Privately – Lawyers! Although they were necessary and did add value they certainly aren’t cheap!

Final Thoughts on Using or Not Using a Broker:

  • If you have a straightforward deal and don’t have access to potential buyers than definitely list with a brokerage.
  • If you have access to potential buyers and are looking to structure a unique deal than listing privately definitely makes sense.

Using a Broker Update (May 21) - Differing Opinion From Justin/Joe...

1. Yes, you avoid the broker fees selling yourself, but I think it's a bad idea for MOST people. (You're fine, Spencer's fine, etc. I'm talking about your average site owner) They don't know the ways they could be screwed over and aren't likely to get a great deal. In many cases, they sell for less. Avoiding the brokerage fee is only worthwhile if you're getting the same value, of course! (Jon Comment - I don't disagree here, getting experts to help is definitely worth it)

2. You mentioned not being able to get a "unique deal structure" is a hidden cost to brokers, but that's just not true. That's exactly what brokers DO! 🙂 We do earn-outs and deal structuring all day long as part of our value add. You COULD argue that a broker is more likely to offer complicated deal structures as their goal is to ultimately get the deal DONE, not to necessarily get the best price. (I think that's a better point, heh) (Jon Comment - I can't imagine how we would have gotten to this unique deal going through a broker...however I have not had enough experience with buying/selling sites to truly understand the unique deals brokers are able to structure so I believe it is possible to get some to truly unique deal structures with the HELP of a broker). 

Learn more about unique deal structures with this podcast episode​

PART 9 - Conclusion

Obviously this is a great success! I am thrilled with the growth of the business, the sale of the business and the next steps for me in this space!

Effort + New Problems = Opportunities

For the past 9 months in addition to building my other projects I have been putting a lot of effort into the FBA business and where effort flows opportunities follow.

The combination of effort and new problems has presented new opportunities which I am progressing with and excited about…

New FBA Projects:

BrandBuilders.io – Was born by partnering with the person who I purchased the original affiliate site from when it was only making $100/month and focusing on creating a web development service specifically focusing on FBA sellers looking to establish a “big brand” presence online. Or for people looking to repeat the model above a done for you affiliate site.

ListingEagle.com – This SAAS was created due to the massive pain we had monitoring our listings for hijackers. Partnering with a great team including a programmer, business development lead and a couple advisers has helped this idea take shape within the span of a couple months.

Partnership with Investor Syndicate – One of the groups I was first in talks with included a very accomplished group of investors who are looking for additional acquisition plays and working with them we are looking to rinse and repeat this model and then do so on scale once the model is validated again.

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