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Focus on conversion first, traffic second. The mistake most sellers make, including experienced sellers, is they’re always asking the question, “How do I get more traffic?” The algorithm is conversion-driven. If you get conversion right, traffic follows automatically; you’re going to win PPC clicks because your performance history is better. That’s going to generate more sales velocity, which will rank the products higher organically.
As a part of my interview series about “Five non-intuitive things you need to know to run a very successful Amazon business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Ashburn.
Dan Ashburn is an industry-leading Amazon entrepreneur with a team that delivers 8-figures in annual sales. Having used his ambitious and entrepreneurial mindset to build countless brands, he has become a sought-after speaker, inspiring crowds with his leadership and depth of knowledge on stages across the world. Dan is the Head Mentor on China Magic, the Co-Creator of Amazing Selling Machine, and most recently, the Co-Founder of Titan Network, an exclusive membership organization for elite Amazon sellers. For more information on Dan and Titan Network, please visit: https://www.titannetwork.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, I found an interest in computers and the internet pretty early on. While my friends were out playing football, I was learning how to build websites using platforms like Yahoo! GeoCities. The entrepreneurial spark in me got hooked on how you could use the internet to combine that with an entrepreneurial mindset to make money.
At age 13, I was building websites and selling them to local businesses, and doing a lot of affiliate marketing. Along that journey, I kind of became known as the guy who you go to for Google SEO and advertising. This was during the early days of Google and Facebook advertising. While in the military — which I joined at age 17 — my technical capabilities saw me progress really quickly within the military, but I was still hustling on the side. Fast forward twelve months and my business partner John comes and joins me at my local marketing agency, and six months later, we had offices in the centre of Birmingham in the UK.
But while we found early success — we built a seven-figure business almost overnight through pure hustle, cold emailing and cold outreach — I suddenly found myself being a slave to my own business. We were working 18 to 20 hours a day, building an eCommerce store from scratch to $2.5 million a month in revenue, maintaining hundreds of websites and ranking them all on Google, and working with Google SEO and Google Advertising. I was getting burnt out and I was looking for a new way of having that freedom of being my own boss without being pinned to my desk and being a slave to my business.
Randomly, one day, an email landed in my inbox about the opportunity of building a private label business on Amazon, which didn’t make any sense to me at the time; I thought Amazon was just big brands, but what I came to learn is that if you source products and print your brand on that product, you own your brand and on Amazon, you own 100% of those sales. So I saw this as being a real tangible business, something of real value, and being my option to get away from being a slave to my business.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?
I think it just comes down to results and my passion for converting what I’ve learned in my vast experience — we have a 170-person team across 40-plus brands that have been selling on Amazon for seven years now — into ways to help others along the way. It got to a point where there became a need for me to do that in a more professional, organized way, which is how the platform of Titan was created.
We’ve been able to take clients to China twice a year and, for 12 days, help them source products during the day and give them a nightly MBA course on selling on Amazon. We realized that when you take someone out of their natural environment and submerge them into that knowledge away from their day-to-day distractions, they’re able to transform their business and their lifestyle much faster. My authority has really come through a natural progression of leveraging the skill set and passion that I have and then naturally growing it into a more professional and organized environment.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
If I hadn’t gone through those 18- and 20-hour days building my business with John, I might never have been led to start my Amazon business. If I hadn’t gone through that pain, I might not have taken it seriously enough to take a business trip that would ultimately help me meet the people who, over the last six years, have supported me through my journey to where I am in the industry today. I think, while there are many interesting stories, I think the interesting thread throughout it is how decisions that feel like throwaway decisions at the time can actually set you on a new path forward.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A friend of mine and I decided to sell a pair of salt and pepper shakers, the ones with the glass bottom and the metal tops that are still very popular on Amazon. We were so confident in this product that we invested between $60,000 and $80,000 into them. While we did our product development and market analysis, we slipped up in our foresight on how to package the products. Instead of using double-corrugated cardboard between the two shakers, we used single-corrugated cardboard, and the majority of the inventory got smashed on the way to Amazon. It really did teach us that while this business is fruitful, the market can be very unforgiving and accessing experience is paramount.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re working on lots of exciting projects inside Titan, including projects and teams of people who can help automate and systemize every stage of Amazon buying and selling, so brand owners can direct shipments knowing all those capabilities are there. We’re essentially transferring all of the experience that sits in our heads as sellers and leaders into tools that don’t just give you data, but that are intuitive that think for you with human approval in place. This allows Amazon sellers to scale so much faster.
Ok. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. You are a seasoned Amazon expert. Can you share with our readers five, non intuitive, insider tips, in order to be as successful as possible on Amazon? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Focus on conversion first, traffic second. The mistake most sellers make, including experienced sellers, is they’re always asking the question, “How do I get more traffic?” The algorithm is conversion-driven. If you get conversion right, traffic follows automatically; you’re going to win PPC clicks because your performance history is better. That’s going to generate more sales velocity, which will rank the products higher organically.
2. Target keywords with specific buying intent that aligns with your product to build credibility first, meaning reviews. The longer a keyword is, the more buyer intent there is. Use the targeted terms to generate your initial sales and get reviews, then once your reviews and conversions are in place, your click-through rates are solid, and your unit session percentage is solid, go after the broad route keywords. Then your listing is in a position where it’s mature enough to compete against the other sellers who have already gotten hundreds or thousands of reviews.
3. Always run PPC at break-even costs to maximize sales velocity and gain organic ranks and profit off the organic sales. Too many people beat their chests about how profitable their PPC is, when in reality, 12 months later, that product will drop off the cliff organically because you’re not being aggressive enough with your PPC. The only time your PPC should be profitable is if you’re ranked number one for the root broad keyword, you’re dominating with thousands of reviews, and then there’s no need for you to be overspending on a PPC.
4. When you’re ranked across target terms and at target prices and you’re thinking, “How do I generate more sales?” complete a process called keyword gap analysis. All you’re doing here is running a reverse search against your competitor’s products to see what keywords they’re ranked for. Cross-analyse that against the keywords you’re ranked for and highlight the keywords that they’re ranked for that you’re not. Add those into your listing and your PPC campaign, then go get ranked for those same keywords your competition is ranked for. That’s where your extra sales are going to come from.
5. Always be launching. Scale and success in this business come from launching more products. Yes, PPC, high-converting listings, maintaining all-organic rankings with rebates and external promotions all do generate more sales and more profit, but 90 percent of success in this game comes from launching products. You should have at least 12 months’ worth of products ready to go in the pipeline, and you should be consistently launching products within your cash flow.
Amazon sellers have a reputation for being great guerilla marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
The big mistake I see larger brands making is they treat Amazon like any other retail store. They just throw product up on the platform and expect it to sell without diving into details like which keywords they’re targeting, who their target customer is, and simple things like copy and images. It’s about treating Amazon listings the same as you’d treat any other website and producing a high-quality listing full of images explaining the benefits and features of the product. It’s not really that there’s something secret that we’re doing that big brands aren’t. They’re just not doing the fundamental basics.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The big idea for me is that entrepreneurship is the vehicle that allows you to create life with intention. We all grow up being told that we must follow the system: go to school, get good grades, go and get a good degree, climb the ladder of a career and retire at 65 or 70 with a pension that’s probably dwindled because of inflation.
But actually, you can determine what your day-to-day life should look like to keep you happy, and that happiness comes from understanding what you want that life to look like and designing it to deliver. If I was to create a movement — which I kind of am through Titan — it would be to make people understand and believe in themselves and believe in their ability to create a life with intention.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A quote that summarizes everything that I have to remind myself of quite frequently is, “Success lies on a pile of failures.’ It doesn’t matter how many times you fail because that failure is just more experience towards your goal and can give you more clarity on how to succeed towards what you’re working at.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Comedian Kevin Hart. From the outside looking in, I have so much respect for what he’s been able to achieve from where he’s come from and the position he’s in as a global influence and authority. He’s able to deliver global impact through his movies and comedy, but he also has that entrepreneurial drive and has generated substantial levels of success in every area of his life.
Thank you so much for these great insights.
This was very enlightening!