Asking right questions is a skill. I didn’t realize that I was good at asking right questions until I started building my Amazon consulting business (I credit my Goldman Sachs career for developing this skill). By asking right diagnostic questions I can get to a REAL problem, which means we can come up with a RIGHT solution.
And in my by now hundreds of conversations with business owners who were looking to grow on Amazon I have been asked a lot of questions. Some of questions are great, on point, and focused on right things. But some are more indicative of a symptom rather than a real problem. Here is my top list of wrong questions you may be asking yourself when it comes to Amazon:
1. WHAT IS MY POTENTIAL ON AMAZON?
Oh that warm and fuzzy and exciting word ‘potential’. Sometimes we humans use word ‘potential’ as an excuse. As a substitute for action. ‘This has so much potential’ is a phrase I hear very often, especially from start up business owners.
And sometimes I get asked this question as a pre-cursor to the decision of whether to go on Amazon. If there is ‘a lot of potential’ then yes, a business will focus on Amazon. If not, then a business will focus on other channels.
But the thing is: EVERYTHING has potential on Amazon. If you sell physical or digital products to consumers- your business has potential on Amazon. And if cat butt magnets have customers Amazon (yes, I did not make it up), then most likely your products have potential on Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong: defining opportunity, market, and how big a business can grow is all part of setting business goals and developing a roadmap. But defining opportunity needs to be in a lot more tangible terms that are more specific to YOUR business.
And if your competitor is doing monthly on Amazon what you do in annual sales – that’s a great indicator. But it does not mean that your competition sales define your ‘potential’ either.
Better questions to ask:
Is my product suitable for e-commerce?
Is Amazon a channel I want to focus as part of the overall business growth plan?
And if yes, do I have a set of criteria to determine resourcing required to focus on Amazon?
2. HOW DO I GROW MY REVIEWS?
Over the years reviews have become this stand alone entity, Amazon SEO’s version of a gold pot at the end of the rainbow. A variation of this question comes up in almost every conversation I have. And I want to tell you it is another wrong question to ask. Here is why:
While reviews are very important for Amazon’s search and ranking algorithm, they are a result, not a goal. They are more of an effect, not something that affects. The more sales, the more reviews.
And let’s not forget that ‘improving reviews’ (another business objective I hear often) is usually a red flag of an underlying product or fulfillment issue. Here we still go back to the fact that product review is a result. So in order to improve review rating we need to focus on identifying and addressing an underlying issue, not focus on trying to get 5 start reviews by all means possible.
There is definitely truth in focusing on growing number of reviews, but that is usually in very early stages of the business on Amazon, when social proof is critical to get traction. More often I see businesses put too much focus on growing number of reviews, instead of areas that will grow sales, and, consequently, grow reviews.
Better questions to ask:
Do I have strong market feedback that my products are liked by customers?
If yes, and if my main goal is to grow sales, do I have a plan to grow on Amazon?
3. ‘WE ARE GOING TO ADD MORE PRODUCTS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT SEEING GROWTH WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON AMAZON’ .
Ok, this one is not a question, but a statement. But I had to include it because it makes me want to scream ‘stop the insanity’. This statement is another example of a symptom or a band-aid type of question.
The best comparison I can come up is this: we all know at least one person/couple who decided to have (another) child as a way to resolve their relationship problems. And we all know what this leads to: a baby puts additional stress and tension on already strained relationship. A little chubby bundle of joy created a whole lot of responsibility, and in spite of being cute and surely loved, this baby did not ‘fix’ whatever the underlying issue was.
Adding more products to Amazon catalog, or adding new marketplace in most cases will not ‘fix’ the growth problem. It will create split focus, and multiply existing dilemma of ‘how do we grow’.
So in the end you end up with more products and marketplaces that require your attention and that still do not grow as fast you would like to grow.
Better questions to ask:
Are strategies I have in place working (hint: ‘working’ can be defined by KPIs you set for your business)
If yes, do I have resourcing and focus in place to expand by adding more products or another Amazon marketplace, and replicate my existing strategies?
And here it is, my top 3 wrong questions list. I want you to be thoughtful about your plans and decisions on Amazon, because, let’s face it: it’s a challenging space to operate and be successful in. And asking better questions is often winning half of a battle towards better results.