Jeff Lieber, founder of Turnkey Product Management once dreamed of starting his own business, and he knew that Amazon would be the perfect channel to do it. He learned the ropes and soon, from selling one dog product, he quickly expanded his inventory, ventured into baby products, and then eventually sold his online business for six figures. Together with his cousin, Turnkey Client Manager Jenna Lieber and their team, they now help clients reap the full benefits of online marketing with focus on an informed, overall approach to Amazon product listing campaigns and strategies. Jeff & Jenna lend you their expertise on maximizing profits from your online business. Ease your worries and send us the questions that matter to you. Join us every month as these first-rate Amazon experts dive in on tips, trends, and practical advice on asset building that you should not miss as budding entrepreneurs in the ever-changing landscape of digital advertising and e-commerce marketing.
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I’ve got Jeff Lieber and Jenna Lieber of Turnkey Product Management. That’ll be all right here and proper in their expert profile on Product Launch Hazzards’ members. You can find them in the experts listing and you’re going to find lots of future episodes with them and videos and they’re here to help you. I want us to get to know them and how they ended up starting their company.
You are cousins working together. Let’s take your stories a little separately then because you probably each came to this idea that you would become Amazon experts separately. Jeff, let’s start with you. What made that happen for you?
I got into Amazon over four years ago. I’m the founder of Turnkey, but before Turnkey, I started a pet products company, so I would’ve been great for your program four years ago. I took a course on how to sell on Amazon and I lived and breathed it and try to do that on the side as I had another full-time job. That quickly grew larger than my job and so I was able to quit my job and then I built and grew that products business. Then my sister helped roll out a spin-off baby product business and then ended up selling that company in 2017.
That’s a harder category too so we’ll talk about that a little.
Meanwhile, I had a couple of friends that were entrepreneurs and had physical products. They sell sunglasses and a couple other different products and so they said, “Jeff, how are you selling so well on Amazon?” I looked at that and gave them some tips and they’re like, “Can you do it for us? We don’t want to do that. We want to focus on Shopify and Facebook,” and what they like doing and new products. I helped them and that was how Turnkey was born. I didn’t even quite know it.
Some of our businesses start that way.
I didn’t realize what a skill set it could be. As we built the team over the years, Jenna hops on board and my sister, and we’ve got a whole team of over twelve people and now we’re doing it. This is our only focus, which is helping other companies to sell on Amazon using the strategies that we’ve built over the years.
I want to get back to that story on how you sold your company too, but let’s go on. Jenna, tell us how you got excited about the Amazon and the whole model of selling.
I graduated a year ago last May. Jeff was rolling out this company and it was perfect timing. I think the applications are being accepted my graduation day. It was cool.
Is there any nepotism or was he like, “No, you have to apply like everybody else”?
No, it didn’t. I took it incredibly serious and it was cool. It was good timing. I’ve seen Jeff through the whole process of creating the pet line and the baby line, so I saw it all and I saw the processes he went through. I definitely was like, “This is cool. This Amazon thing is super cool.” That’s how I got involved with it and why I was so excited about Turnkey and why I am still currently excited about Turnkey is, truthfully, it’s an incredible thing that Amazon’s put together and I’m glad that we can be a part of it.
What is your role, Jenna? What is your title? Obviously, Jeff’s the founder.
I am a client manager. I have a batch of clients that I basically manage their whole account. I have clients in the supplement part, I have clients in the coffee part, fitness; different things. That’s basically what I do.
I have a couple of Hazzard Rules of Hiring and this is about not just hiring people internally because that’s a little bit different, but the Hazzard Rules of Hiring a consultant or hiring a service company. This is an asterisk I put on it. I hire people who have been there, done that again and again. I am not a fan of hiring somebody new to things. However, the exception to that is that we can’t find anyone who’s not new to Amazon selling. You haven’t been doing it for decades. It’s not going to happen. My asterisk to that is that means all these different categories, they don’t just have one experience. They have multiples of the experience, because in social media, if we’re hiring someone who’s a Facebook expert, the algorithm is changing every day.
That’s why you are so valuable because you have a broader category look at things and you also have, “This didn’t work for this customer and this customer, but it works for this one and that one.” You have those things to draw on that is so invaluable. The next thing is that this is your core business. You’re not building a whole brand and selling products. You have all these other things distracting you to deal with so that you forget to stay an expert in how Amazon is changing. Tell me a little bit about how you keep up on that, Jeff. How do you keep up on all the changes that are happening all the time?
Amazon, just like Facebook and Google and SEO, the algorithm and all the strategies and Amazon’s policies, they change on a daily or monthly basis almost. You do have to keep up on it and one of the best ways is going to conferences. Conferences are a great way to stay up on the latest strategies, but we’re in a lot of masterminds and groups and paid courses, everything that provides great value and all the latest tips and strategies, because we learn one strategy and we can roll it out to dozens of clients all at once. It is a cool thing. Sometimes our clients will teach us something that we didn’t know, which is one of the coolest things ever.
It’s like a feedback loop.
They tell us and we tell them, “We think you should try this,” and they’re like, “Why don’t we do it this way?” and we’re like, “Yes, we should do it that way. Jenna, tell Kevin to do that for all of his clients.”
We own a podcast production business as well and that’s exactly the same thing. We guinea pig things on ourselves, on our own part of the business, and then if it works for us then we’ll say, “This client could benefit the most from the value we had,” and then we start rolling it out through all the clients and then when it works through multiples, we go, “All of them.” It’s the same model, and that’s great that you come from the experience of having sold. You have that model of this are the challenges you were facing, this is what you needed. Instead of saying, “I have this company and now I’ve added Amazon listings to it,” you come from the perspective of, “What’s in the best benefit to the product and the brand who needs to sell or present this product?”
Cumulatively across our whole team and myself, we’ve seen a lot. I’ve even built and done Kickstarters before and sold good amounts on there and a lot of our clients have come from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and those platforms. We’ve helped dabble in a lot of different places and dabbled in the business sometimes. If they ask questions, then we want to help them and we’ll work with our clients in any way that they need.
Jenna, I expect that there’s going to be a lot of questions on our platform for you because you’re that day-to-day person and they’re like, “What do I need? What kind of photographs?” We get a little in the weeds on our products sometimes especially as inventors, and so product-focused people get very all in the details. I’m sure that is a big case for you, but how do you manage the flow and make it easy? The value you add is being able to take the stuff off my plate so I can concentrate on launching my products and developing them and doing the marketing and not worrying about like, “Did I word this listing right? Am I going to get my listing shut down?”
It’s more based on experience taking what worked for that last client and what can I apply to this client. It’s more of I’ll just ask for all of your images and I’ll say, “This is why I picked this one,” or if I need images I’ll be incredibly specific. “I need this image for this reason.” I give a reason because some people will be like, “Why do you need that? I don’t understand.” A lot of the times we’ll run into that and I’m like, “This is why.” It’s more to make it easy on them. I do explain basically every move, but a lot of the times it gets a little bit easier when you have so many clients because it worked for this client, it’s going to work for this client, it’s going to work for that client. In a way, it all starts to connect.
You have a lot more confidence in the process, but it’s a lot of hand holding to explain the process to someone who’s totally new to it.
It’s fun getting on Skype with them saying, “Can you show me your screen?” and I’m like, “It’s right there.” It’s totally okay. It’s understandable. To me, I’m on Amazon every single day, but someone else, they’re not on it every single day. It’s fun to teach people new thing. Like Jeff said, sometimes they’ll show us, “We ran across this because we accidentally like this.” They’ll accidentally find something and sometimes that works in our favor. It is cool to have more hands on the listings. It makes it exciting.
Let’s talk a little bit, Jeff, about your early experience with your brand yourself. You said you had a pet brand in dog product, if I’m not wrong about that. Pet products is one of my favorite areas to design for and then my second favorite is juvenile, so you’ve also done that world, but baby products and juvenile is a gated category for some products within there. Is that correct?
Sub-categories on Amazon. They are making it a little bit more difficult, but oftentimes you have to supply whatever. If you’re putting anything and say, “Put it in the baby’s mouth,” or something like that, you’re going to probably need to show Amazon the proof of the materials list and that it meets these certifications, but once you do that and assuming you have a safe product which you always should make sure that you’re doing, then you should be able to get a selling.
It might take longer in some of those areas and so you have to be a little more cautious. Tell me a little bit about how you built it up to get it sold, because this is why we’re here. We’re here to asset-build here in Product Launch Hazzards, we’re here building a bigger brand that gets acquired or gets on the shelf. One of those two things, or licensed. Licensed is another option as well. What was the value that you added along the way and why did it make it so easy to acquire or difficult to acquire?
Selling the business, maybe I could just do a whole session on that one because it’s worth for a lot of people a lot of time and a lot of money on the selling process, but as far as building the value of the business, actually almost 95% of our sales were on Amazon. We were primarily a one channel, one-trick pony. We were on Walmart.com and Shopify and Chewy.com and a couple of others, but very small stuff there. Amazon was what got it sold because it was 95% of the sales and 95% profits, and so that’s the beautiful thing today. It wasn’t possible fifteen years ago, but now you can launch eCommerce physical products on Amazon alone, even 100%. It’s obviously better if you can have more sales channels, but when you build up Amazon the right way, when you have a base of hundreds of reviews across your products, you’ve really built something.
The other key thing is when you have systems in place and preferably a team in place as well so that it’s not reliant on you, the owner, adding the value, because whoever is buying your business wants to buy a profitable business. They want to buy you and you don’t want them to buy you either because you don’t want to stay on as an employee or be chained to them for years and years and hundreds of hours. If you can build those profitable systems and operations in place so that the buyer can see that and the buyer feels comfortable that, “If I bought this business, it would only take me four weeks to be handed over the reins to the business and understand how it runs.” We build a lot of stuff in Asana project management software. That’s our bread and butter, but any system works so it doesn’t need to be Asana. You can build your systems in Google Drive or whatever. That’s a valuable asset that’s going to be attractive to a buyer. They don’t want a messy business that’s going to take forever to figure out.
We use something called Basecamp but Asana and Basecamp are fairly similar although Asana has a lot more notification details and process flow. Those things are so critically important to someone taking over, and there may be a lot of people who are getting bought for their product and for their listing. There had to be value there, because a consumer product business is not highly valued by market standards so you don’t get multiples.
It’s not an easy thing to sell a consumer product business because tomorrow you could be out of trend and your sales decline. They don’t look at that as high, so you had to have had some good value elsewhere and that’s one of the things you’re talking about, is good systems and other things. I’d love for you to tell our group here because we care a lot about the product. Why do you feel your products were better too? Why did they sell so well? Why were you able to get 100 reviews and have them be so complimentary?
We recommend this for all of our clients. You’ll see most of our clients, they have great products. There’s always at least one innovative tweak about it. If you’re selling another can opener off the shelf because can openers sell hundreds of thousands of dollars a month on Amazon, it’s going to be really hard to be successful unless you can add some value to that product. Every product that I’ve ever sold always had some tweak. Either I’d have an idea or my sister had an idea, and then we would go and built it or I hire an engineer to build something, and so the more value you can add.
Originality, we call it intentional invention here. That’s our bread and butter and it’s how we do it. Sometimes it’s IP and sometimes it’s just having something so much better than everybody else style-wise.
You may already have talked about provisional patents, but that’s a cost-effective way for $300 or $400. I’m not a lawyer or something.
Jason and Rich are on our platform and they’ll be happy to talk to you about the legalities, but they all believe the same thing. Something that we do too is provisional patents. Exactly the same thing, it is cost-effective. Prove your market, prove your product is worth something, then spend money.
It buys you a year or whatever it does. That’s what we do about that.
What about profitability? There are a lot of people who complain about Amazon. If Amazon were to buy my products or I’m selling them as an FBA, there’s a whole controversy over, “You shouldn’t sell on Amazon.” We hear that a lot from people who are aren’t in the know about it. Demystify that a little bit. It’s high fees but building it yourself is higher.
In a lot of clients that we talked to, they have this concern and as well. Amazon will typically take a 15% cut. It’s their fee for accessing their platform. That seems expensive, but if you don’t use Amazon and you’re building a Shopify or an ecommerce WordPress site, where are those customers going to come from? You have to go out and pay for those customers somewhere on Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads, or you got to get real creative and find ways to get lots of free organic traffic. If you find those ways, let me know.
Do you have any idea on the current numbers on how many people are shopping on Amazon, the prime numbers?
Yes. It’s 90 million just in the US.
You’re bound to find, if you’ve got a good product, a portion of that 90 million user base to find you. Where else could you be that you could do that? You can’t even do that in a mass market retail store. I can tell you that right now. You’ll do a lot more volume because they’re all over the country, but you can’t do it simply and easily and 15% is cheap to try to have access to that. Now remember, that’s not conversion access. That’s just access, but they deserve it. They worked hard to build up that 90 million base and that’s where that 15% comes from.
What you’re paying for is that they’re the biggest online store in the world, and we’ll cover this in our next presentation, we’ve got some slides on all the stats. Let’s say you’re selling a dog toy, there are already tens of millions of people that are searching for dog toys every single year in different variations and different keywords. Maybe they want a fetch toy, a long-range fetch toy, or a Frisbee dog toy. Whatever they’re searching for, they’re already searching for that with the intention that they want to buy something right then. They’re ready to buy like, “Just show me the product, got enough reviews, I’m going to buy it.” That’s what you’re paying for. If you can get in front of them, that’s your cost to acquire a customer oftentimes, which is you have to pay that on another platform like Facebook where they’re not looking for a dog toy.
They’re not looking to buy on Facebook. They’re looking to communicate with their friends. It’s a big, big difference and it’s the same thing about Google. Someone’s searching in Google, they’re looking for something which is why if you meet the criteria, you have a higher conversion rate, you have a higher opportunity to get the click. It’s the same thing on Amazon. Being in a place where the intention is to buy is a whole lot more valuable than having to find them out there and convince them it’s time to buy. That’s a lot harder ask, so worth it. What about other costs like doing FBA and other things like that? It varies so much by category and by product type and size. Is it still less expensive than having your own warehouse and having your own staff?
The cost will vary based on your size and all that, but there are a couple of benefits of FBA. FBA is Fulfillment By Amazon. Those are the warehouses. Amazon has warehouses all over the country and they are probably the biggest or the top two or three shipper in the entire world, so they ship using UPS, FedEx and USPS. They’re the biggest volume shipper probably in the world, so they get the cheapest fulfillment rates and discounted rates than you could get on your own filling a Shopify order. You might have to pay $8 to ship to New York, but Amazon might be able to get it for $3 or $4. The fulfillment rates can be cheaper with Amazon. Then the other benefit is once you’re with FBA, that’s how you get that Prime eligible tag where you get their world-class, free two-day shipping – all that good stuff.
This is my statistics that I have been shopping on Amazon since 1998 when I bought my very first book. You can see that in the history of your account because I’ve had the same account that whole time. I could see the history of my purchases and it gradually grows and grows to where I probably buy more on Amazon today than I buy at any other store except for maybe the grocery store, and even that’s tipping because I use AmazonFresh a lot or Prime Now a lot, so even that is starting to tip as well. When you have a Prime Shopper, they’re way more loyal. Do you know the statistics on that? The statistics are high in the loyalty level and so that’s what I think that pattern of behavior tapping into as well and you’re getting the benefit of that.
There are a lot of customers out there, and those people who are paying the $60 or $70 a year for their Prime membership will not enter their credit card on any website out there ever. They’ll go look on Amazon. “Is it there?” If it’s not there, they’re not going to go buy it at TracysDogToys.com. There are some people that won’t do it. They’ll be like, “I’m going to buy another dog toy on Amazon,” So you’re missing out on that pool of traffic. We’re not trying to say you should not have a Shopify store or you should not pursue retail. You absolutely should, and that’s going to increase the value of your business, the sellable value. The more channels you can have is great, but Amazon should be in almost every business. The answer is yes, you should have an Amazon channel. Your reputation is everything.
This is what I think. For those of you out there who have never launched a product before, what you don’t realize right now is that the cost of building a warehouse, having a team fulfill those and ship those, it’s a nickel and diming mindset that you’re going to start with. It starts with thinking, “I don’t have the money to do this. I don’t want to give away my margin because I’m selling zero right now.” Every sales seems to matter, but at the end of the day, if it’s cutting down the volume of what you’re able to do in your business and your ability to build your business, then you’re not serving your future and your brand well in terms of making it acquirable, making it bigger, and getting it growing fast enough. Speed matters in consumer product sales because it could be out tomorrow. Something could change.
That’s why this kind of system and service is so valuable to be able to take advantage of an Amazon and an FBA model and all those things, and that’s why I’ve invited Turnkey on here and Jeff and Jenna to participate in Office Hours as experts because I know these things worry you as you’re launching products, and so they’re here to catch you. They’re here to support you. They’re here to take it over for you, because think about this, I would love to have a Jenna on my team. Wouldn’t you love to have the person managing? That’s what you would have to build. I have to have a person who’s going to manage my Amazon listings and take care of all that and do that. If I can afford, or maybe it’s not a great idea for me to be affording that in a time at which I’m building my brand and should be spending more money on marketing, then let me spend that money now and have a consulting firm to take over for that for me.
That’s the reason why these resources are here for you members and here for you to be able to tap into both the brains, because sometimes you’re making decisions along the way. I think a great question and a great time for you to make a consult appointment with Jenna would be, “I’m thinking about using you, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to, and I got to take my photographs right now. What should I do?” I bet you we’re going to do an episode on that coming up because it matters. The last thing you’d want to do is then go ahead and have to have a second photo shoot if you do it in the wrong order.
That’s one of the key parts of what we have built here for you at Product Launch Hazzards, is the fact that you have access to Jenna and Jeff and all of our experts and be able to ask the questions when it matters to you or when you’re concerned about it or when it raises a red flag. It’s, “I’m going to take pictures. I’m going to need them for Amazon. Are there requirements? Let me get a list of those so that I’m ready and Jenna is not going to ask me to do them again.” This is the fastest path for you to launch and it’s also the least expensive way because you won’t be doing a lot of redo. Utilize our resources because that’s why they’re here and that’s why they’re here to support you and take you to the next step. Jenna and Jeff, you are going to do your next episode on a one-on-one on selling on Amazon and what it’s going to take. Is there anything else you want our members to know about you?
If you are at any phase, we can do full service for you and do all that, but there are a lot of people that aren’t a great fit for us. Maybe you’re not quite ready for our full service yet, but we also have other resources available and other lower touch programs so that we can help you with the training. If you don’t have the budget but you want to do the photo shoot yourself and try listing the products yourself, that’s fine too. You can still reach out to us. We’ll give you the resources that you need to bootstrap it in the beginning. That’s fine as well.
They’ll be ready for you later. This is why you are here, because your interest is in the right place. You want to make these products sell, because when they sell, we all win. There are better consumer products out there, Amazon’s growing which means there’s more third-party sellers who get attracted to it, brands can win, and so I appreciate that. I also think that there is a lot of our businesses, a lot of our product companies and brands on this membership group that are starting out that think that Amazon’s not important, that all they want to do is get on the shelf.
We’re going to do a talk with Timothy Bush, our On The Shelf expert, in sales on mass market retail, and he’s going to tell you what I tell you every time I give a talk, you must also be on Amazon if you want to present to mass market retail because it gives you three things. It gives you credibility. You would exist, your big enough brand, invested in your brand. Number two, you can deliver because they can check it. They can see if you’ve got a bad review, if you’ve shipped late, all that stuff shows up in your profile. Third, that they have confidence that there’s a pretty good chance when you say, “We’re selling well on Amazon,” they can check it and they could say, “Yeah.” If that sells well there, it’s going to sell even better in Target. It’s going to sell even better at Bed Bath & Beyond. They’d know that and they’d look for that.
If that’s not a core business you want to build, Jeff and Jenna are here for you and I want you to be aware of that because it’s critical. You’re on that path to get on the shelf, but you must let this part be taken care of because it is a critical stepping stone to getting you on that shelf.
About The Authors
I’m Jeff Lieber, founder of TurnKey Product Management. I am from San Diego and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for college. After graduation, I moved to San Francisco to work for a healthcare auditing company, where I worked for over 4 years. Towards the end of my time at that company, I wanted to start my own business and knew Amazon would be the perfect place to start. I started with 1 dog product, grew it to over 20 products in the dog and baby space, and ended up selling those brands for six-figures to a buyer in the USA. After several years of selling my own products on Amazon, I have learned so much about making the most of your product listings to maximize profits. Over the past two years, I was approached to help other companies to make the most of their listings as well. And that brings me to today. I want to help YOU get your product on Amazon, so you can start reaping the profits that can be found on that powerful sales channel. This work is my passion and I can’t wait to work with you!