Welcome back to another episode of the Brand Builder Show!
This week we’re joined by Troy Johnston, long-time Amazon seller and founder of Seller.Tools.
Having achieved a 7-figure exit in 2017, Troy has since gone from strength to strength in his execution of building leading Amazon brands.
He has also helped drive the Seller.tools suite to becoming one of the most respected tools in the space.
In this episode we discussed Seller.Tools recent acquisition by Carbon 6, along with what Troy advises sellers to look for when researching and launching new products on Amazon.
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00:00 Ben introduces Troy Johnston
01:04 Troy talks about his career journey
08:44 Focusing on repeat purchase behavior
18:52 Big earning potential
21:31 Troy Johnston after his exit
26:04 How Troy’s exit affected his decision making
29:29 Troy talks about Carbon 6
33:47 Where is Seller.Tools going?
44:09 Troy talks about Campaign Manager
50:31 Troy’s forecast for Carbon 6
53:53 Troy’s social media presence
Hey folks, welcome back to another episode of the Brand Builder Show. I’m here today with my good friend Troy Johnston. Troy, great to have you on the show,
Troy Johnston 00:07
man. Thanks for having me on. Appreciate it.
Ben Donovan 00:09
Yeah, it’s an honor and a privilege. You’re like, one of the star names of the Amazon Seller community. So I should have put the red carpet out for you. I’m sorry, but it’s just a screen. today. I’m looking forward to diving into a lot of stuff really with you, you know, eight figure seller you had an exit or probably multiple exits. I mean, I lose track to be honest. But you’ve you’ve been there you’ve done it. You’ve built seller tools, which we’ll get into recently been acquired by carbon six, the talk of the town in the Amazon tool space. So, so much that we could get into want to talk about launching products in 2022, as well, because that is obviously a major part of what you guys have been in and around so much for the last couple of years. And so yeah, we’d love to get some more insight on all of these topics. But for the you know, the two or three listeners that don’t know who you are, give us a little bit more of a background, how you got started in E commerce selling on Amazon, and you know, just a little bit of the overall journey.
Troy Johnston 01:05
Yeah, no, absolutely. So I started in the corporate realm. As a project manager, that’s really what my background lies in. So I was doing TV commercials, radio, digital media, just kind of in a project management role. So managing teams resources, and budget and all that good stuff. And then I stumbled into the FBA opportunity in 2014. That time was around ASM, too. So Amazing Selling Machine. Yeah, so got started with that program alongside a fellow colleague, another project manager, we were looking for side hustles. And always looking for different ways of making more money. And we actually stumbled into ASM through a, it was a real estate network and the leader of this network and community was a affiliate of ASM. And so it’s the kind of first exposure of what you know, what is this opportunity in E, commerce and Amazon. And the way that I actually got into, beyond her promoting this program was, there was an opportunity for an angel investor to come in 5050 split, finance, the inventory, finance the program, and you just had to say, why would you would be a good fit why this angel investors should be looking at you as a good option. So on a whim, did that over a weekend, and I won. And so that was the that was the initial steps and phases, and sort of building up failed through a few initial products, started to find opportunities in the beauty space, and sort of a really built start building up a brand fairly quickly. In that process, I had to have the conversation with the angel investor of, hey, you know, this is this is really starting to take off as I’m spending more time putting in more money. Fortunately, I was able to buy him out, he still still made, you know, made a good amount of money got it got a solid return on his investment. But once I kind of transitioned away from that, and I was the sole owner and full operator, really built out that brand. And fast forward about two and a half years really after scaling it to about 27 SKUs, sold it and realized a really great exit was really the first substantial business that was throwing off quite a bit of money and quite a bit of revenue. And then once I was on the other side of that acquisition, started consulting and advising for brands, notably some brands in the supplement category, that were very mature. So they were also kind of right on the cusp of being acquired needed to refine some of their processes bring in more key hires. So it was able to kind of help take them across the finish line. And really not too long after that was the beginning of seller tools. Or I joined my my partner’s Brendon, who was really developing a lot of tools for his own businesses, eight figure seller himself, one of these tools wanted some of these data points. And that was really the seed of the idea and the initial elements that were coming together. And then when I synced up with him, it was how do we start to formalize this to create something that the community can really resonate with and be more more broadly applicable. And so those were kind of the early days now, she’s nearly a half decade ago. That was the early days and with enough time, effort, energy resources, really arrived at what ultimately can be known today as a more of an all in one suite, really, solo tools is aiming at taking a user through that journey. of the FBA journey of really being able to build out the foundational pieces, you know, do better keyword research, manage those keywords, build out a better listing, do thorough competitive analysis, be launch ready, and then take the steps. And we support launching, launching at scale, capturing more reviews, being able to more easily rank. And yeah, that was really, I think, at the end of the day, and as you mentioned, was compelling for carbon six and their vision. Because it’s very similar. They sort of want to take the FBA journey and fill in all the gaps give very explicit competitive advantages to the users that are within the the community. And do that, again, at all levels that that dreamer, where I was at 2014, as well as the enterprise, and we have these conversations with the aggregators of like, Hey, we’re in a cutthroat saturated space, you know, all these desirable categories. But we’ve got to tell and show our shareholders, this is where we’re exploiting a competitive advantage and not being commoditized or bringing parity to the market to where there’s, there’s just no, no advantage to be had. So. So yeah, that’s, that’s what’s brought us to today. And you know, what I’m focused on now on the m&a side. That’s the role I’ve taken on so I’m staying on with carbon six, and supporting very similar to where they saw what we were doing at cellar tools. And how compelling that was, is I get to have great conversations with tools and tool providers, and those that are putting together some really unique tech, and the talent behind those tools, and talk with them about what’s next. What’s innovative, and how that can fit into that. Yeah, the carbon six vision.
Ben Donovan 06:52
Nice, nice, G so much to unpack there. I’m mentally thinking about 17 different questions to work on. I would love to talk just briefly about the early days, because I think there’d be a lot of value in that for people. And then yeah, definitely talk more about carbon six, what’s happening there and product launches. But you talked about building a brand starting selling in 2014, before selling on Amazon was cool, before the Facebook ads about selling on Amazon started. One of the early adopters. And you talked about making that transition towards building a brand again, before people really talked about that I started selling in 2017. And nobody talked to me about building a brand. People just told me find a product that’s got high demand low competition. And that’s how you sell on Amazon. And, you know, that was good for a time. But 2017 was really coming to the end of that season where that was the only thing you had to do, you know, because more and more people were selling on Amazon, you have to start treating it like a real business grow a brand. But you were way ahead of the curve with that. What were the signal points that you saw in the industry that made you make that pivot?
Troy Johnston 07:58
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think if I if I look at it, honestly, and I think you know, luck plays an interesting part and, and a lot of businesses especially those that that realize some level of success, so I have to chalk it up to look in a few different forms, I ended up in the beauty space. And so as a matter of wanting to compete in that, that category, building up some amount of brand equity and brand loyalty was really, really essential on a number of fronts of you wanted, I wanted to work on repeat purchase behavior, I did not want to be purely transactional. And so I really had to focus on what creates that repeat purchase behavior. Not only that, what I really aim to do when I released my first product was start thinking about how I can extend the product line to where there’s repeat purchase behavior on one SKU, but then how can I supplement or as is the case for beauty skin and haircare products, there’s a regimen that most people follow right? There’s you know, if you start selling an oil you can also sell start selling a serum and then you can sell a moisturizer and then a cleanser. And so somewhat organically for lack of a better phrase, it was natural organic skin and haircare. I was already thinking about that of cross sell and upsell potential. And so it’s um I was very fortunate in that sense because it sort of forced it it was it was did I want to be a one hit wonder where my hero product was the entirety of my brand or did I wanted to build something out you know, both you know in the depth, so more commitment at that single product or single SKU level but then that cross selling potential to where I can own the regimen or you know, as we would kind of say his own own the bathroom as somebody has a stack of products. I want that to be my whole brand and then to resonate and and And, you know, from a psych, you know, buyer psychology perspective, we want them to align themselves or sort of identify themselves with with our brand. So that’s always the pinnacle that you shoot for. But we thought about that. I mean, again, especially in those early days, it was still on platform. How do we do that on Amazon? You know, this is before brand registry and how me your rich listings are now? How can we still do that with some of the some of the levers that play, you know, nano influencers, other promotional strategies, other ways that we can endear customers to us? Through? Not even us directly? It was Who else were we kind of working with? That had a positive compelling messaging message that really resonated with our products and brands?
Ben Donovan 10:45
Yeah, yeah, that’s really good. Really interesting thoughts. And it’s crazy to think that you’re talking about media rich listings, that even videos on listings, there’s only a quite a recent thing for the standard, you know, third party seller. So, you know, I imagined back in 2014 2015, that was pretty basic.
Troy Johnston 11:03
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, it’s true. It’s true, we sort of overlooked that. But now it’s been, once we sort of hop that hurdle, Amazon has sort of like doubled and tripled down to where, you know, they want, they want Amazon to be a essentially a social media site. So they want images and multiple placements, they want to encourage that they want to see it, you know, as it shows up in more ad types, think about mobile and desktop. So it’s, it’s taken on this really different and unique form. And in the past, you know, we only had a few, few select placements that we could use, you know, use images. And so you sort of had to make the make the most of the real estate you had. Yeah.
Ben Donovan 11:41
And you have a quick one, on your opinion now between the camp that says, build a brand, you know, diversify, sell off Amazon, as well, social media, or just focus on launching products that meet search demand on Amazon, where do you find yourself on that scale?
Troy Johnston 11:58
Yeah, I really like to still look at it on a case by case there are certain products where it’s really hard for somebody to, you know, we mentioned a sort of a customer being able to identify or identify themselves more closely with a product, there are certain products that are just, they’re not compelling enough, somebody is not going to say, you know, I’m all about this, we’ll use the garlic presses a trope in a, you know, a mainstay of an example. Somebody’s not going to identify themselves and be endeared to that type of product. There could be exceptions, of course, that rule. But there are other product types categories were outdoor sports, different ways that people sort of identify and see themselves and the products they use are just an extension or reflection of that. So if the low hanging fruit is there, absolutely maximize it, if you can explore it in indirect ways. I know the copywriters and others in our community would say, hey, added an emotional appeal, sort of sort of take advantage of, again, that’s the low hanging fruit, we’ll have to build out detailed pages, how are you? You know, crafting and positioning? The real estate that you’re given? Is that sort of make sure you address that nuance really understand that? I think when when you see it being somewhat forceful, and somewhat opportunistic. It is those it is those one off purchases, those are just, you know, even as we as buyers, on Amazon, we know that this is something that will we’ll buy once, maybe come back in a handful of years. And revisit. Yeah, but I’m not I’m not going to their social media page. I’m not judging, I’m not on Instagram posts, I can’t I can’t see myself associating to that degree. So I think that category specificity and allowing yourself to I think we’re all say I’m guilty of this as you just don’t put yourself, you know, take the lens of your customers or your customer avatar, and really sort of see what your brand and product perception looks like. Yeah, I think that’s, it’s just a good exercise.
Ben Donovan 14:14
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I It’s never black and white is that I think there’s, there’s nuance to it all and definitely a bit of a scale there. So that’s good to hear your thoughts on that. Fast forward then to when you sold the business was 2017 2018. Yes. 20 2017 2017. It’s pretty, pretty impressive. You know, 2014 2017. You I mean, I don’t know if you’re able or wants to talk about how much you sold for range, kind of to give people a bit of a perspective. Yeah,
Troy Johnston 14:43
it was a multiple seven figure exit. Sure. Okay.
Ben Donovan 14:46
So which is good perspective because, you know, three years to go from zero to multiple seven figure and you talked about some product failures there at the start as well. That’s That’s impressive, right. How did you manage to scale up that quickly? What were some of the keys there?
Troy Johnston 15:00
Yeah, I mean, it really helped for me. So in those early days, you know, when I was just sort of seeking, had my full time corporate job seeking these other income streams and sort of side hustles, what really helped for me, my colleague who, again, I’ll chalk this up to some degree of luck is that I had, I had somebody right there next to me, who was very entrepreneurial. And formative times. For me, I come from a far more conservative background, I’m fairly risk averse. And so I think that always kind of handicapped my ability to really aggressively pursue a new business opportunity. Because what you have to remember, this is where people look back at this time and say, Oh, it’s so easy to sell on Amazon, you know, you could just do x, y, z, and then you are automatically making your millions. And while it’s, it’s not without a grain of truth, it’s also we didn’t have the proof of concept. We didn’t have the stories of people saying, you know, it’s this easy. I’ve had this level of success. We were in the early days. So it was still, what’s up,
Ben Donovan 16:10
you didn’t have the data either, you know, search volume demand competition, you know,
Troy Johnston 16:15
yeah, yeah, it was, I mean, it was a different time in that sense, too. So you kind of have to take it as a whole, and not just say, well, it’s it was the heyday, it was so easy to make. While that’s true. That’s that’s also true that that the data just wasn’t there. We didn’t see the success stories. And so we were sort of plodding along, creating success with out examples. And so it was, it was still sort of a new landscape. In that sense. And so what helped me is that that colleague, again, we sort of, we were able to, he pushed me probably a little bit more than I pushed him. But that aggressive stance, to where when we saw the proof of concept with that first product, well, it was like, Okay, if this can happen once, we should be able to finance something similar, extending a product line, more inventory, just being willing to ultimately fully invest in sort of tip instead of just kind of tiptoeing around, that’s a big reason why I was able to get to a fairly healthy SKU count fairly, fairly quickly, understanding that we were developing products, that was iterations we were working with our manufacturers to, to come up with different formulations of the product. And so that was really, really big for, for me, is really seeing the inside of the proof of concept, seeing it so close. And then having having both the accountability and the support of somebody who, at the end of the day, we were actually so we were competing with similar products in in the beauty space. And so it really required me to sort of level up and say, Hey, let’s, you know, let’s have some fun with this. But also am I am I bringing my my A game to what started to formalize and come together as a as a really good opportunity?
Ben Donovan 18:08
Yeah, I think that’d be really encouraging for a lot of people, because I think that a lot of people that I interact with, at least they come to try and start selling on Amazon, because they want to, you know, make more of an income or quit their job in 369 months, but the opportunity really is understanding the concept, being able to convince yourself that yes, this does work, seeing some success. And then I think like you say, the biggest opportunity right now is going all in, you know, I keep saying to people, the biggest opportunity right now is not what you can make in three months, it’s what you can make in three years. Because the you know, the big earning potential is, like you’ve seen and experienced yourself building something that you can sell. And so I think it’s been super encouraging for people to hear you kind of back that up. So it’s good to hear,
Troy Johnston 18:52
ya know, that’s a great point that you you bring up as well as that longer time horizon is really important. Not seeking that that immediacy, I mean, pretty much anybody I have seen with some degree of success on Amazon, and it’s a physical product business, it’s it’s somewhat capital intensive, is that you turn you continue to finance that, that growth. And so we’re not, we’re not thinking in terms of just extracting a ton of money in six months. Obviously, you need to come into the space with your goals and objectives and kind of operate with those in mind. But that longer time horizon sort of can reduce your stress, it can kind of get you Yeah, away from just seeking that more immediate dollar and building something, you know, substantial, bigger, synergistic, that can, you know, ask for those, those bigger valuations. If at the end of the day and liquidate, you know, some sort of exit. You’re looking for a bigger, bigger payday. And then I would just echo that, that point to of where we didn’t have as much on the way of the proof of concept, now, with enough history and the ability to kind of look back, see some examples of what’s worked. So you see examples of what works today. Because obviously, you know, there’s a lot of thought leadership, a lot of really great people out there doing exceptional things on Amazon is really seeking out I think there’s, there’s so much content and I can I can imagine for somebody starting brand new is that you get this these pieces of content, these videos, tons of views, people even maybe just sharing their their journey, which I think is great, can help really resonate. Because we all you know, we love stories, we love hearing those journeys. But you really have to, in my opinion, gravitate towards who’s done it, who’s got the battle scars, who’s had that level of success, and get those nuggets that that help you when you come up against those hurdles, and start to see some of those challenges.
Ben Donovan 20:56
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Now, that’s good, that’s good. Let’s move on. And then I’m conscious, I don’t want to go like an inch deep, but a mile wide and not really dig into it, because we could carry on on that topic for forever. But I do want to just move on to some more of what you’re doing now as well. But when you did have that accent and coming in to say cellar tours era for your your journey, was there a temptation? You know, I’ve had my accent, I’m just going to chill out. Now what? What were the emotions or feelings of that? Did you take some time off? Or was it straight into the next thing? Yeah, how was that season for you?
Troy Johnston 21:31
Yeah, um, honestly, it was, it was very challenging. I think a lot, it’s, it’s thought and I would have, if somebody were to have asked me before I realized my first exit, that it’s going to be all roses, you’re going to feel great, it’s just going to be such an exciting time. After I sold my business, it was fairly abrupt. So I had a transition period with the team that acquired my company. And then it was, boom, you’re done. You don’t identify with this brand, you don’t identify with this business, it’s, you faint, you’ve handed off your baby. And so I went through a kind of a bout of, let’s say, depression, but it was it was kind of a downtime. That was it was really challenging for me to get my bearings. For that reason, because I think when you run a business, you are so entangled. In it, your your, your identity is so tied in it, that it’s that kind of abrupt change can really shake your foundation. So I went through kind of a really serious funk, where I was just trying to navigate that and trying to figure out what you know what’s going on. I thought it was potentially health issues, because it’s just so destabilizing. And so I know it’s not, it’s not the greatest thing to hear. But when I talk with other entrepreneurs, and they’re sharing, hey, I’m looking at it, like, I started, I start to share that with them of like, here’s where I stumbled and sort of didn’t, didn’t properly plan. But I think it’s one of those things where it’s, it’s, it’s sort of looking at your expectations. And yeah, ultimately making sure that you’re, you’re in a good place and a good headspace to be able to move through that type of transition. Because then what I ended up doing is I got into, I got I got busy again, I started to really tie back in and said hey, I’ve got this, this expertise, let me support and it was through my network. Some of my, some of my close friends, and where their brands were, were at. And it helped me kind of get through it. But But yeah, I been I’ve you know, I’ve had that thought of okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna take a long sabbatical, I may even retire, like I may step away altogether. But it was it was really, you know, is really challenging, challenging times i, whether it was my own understanding or what I was ready for it just like I said, it kind of it kind of knocked me off. But then I then I kind of pick things back up. And I’m somebody who loves to work like that’s for me, I identify a lot with my work. So as soon as I got back in it was like, Okay, well, hey, I enjoy this. I’m involved. I’m doing really cool things I was able to help. One of my friends at the time was he was going through again, a sizable exit, multiple multiple eight figures all cash deal, really great opportunity, and was able to get heavily involved and really support it. And so that right into solo tools, I was able to put a lot of that behind me and kind of mature, mature as an individual but also from a business perspective. And I think about that now with you know, the exits that we’ve recently gone through and as I look ahead, kind of where where I’m at now.
Ben Donovan 25:01
Did it feel different this time?
Troy Johnston 25:03
It did. It did. Absolutely. Absolutely. I, I’ve definitely I would say definitely matured more in terms of getting more of that foundation. It’s it’s a really strong exercise and what your priorities are in life. Like I said, I love the challenges, it’s it’s business to me can often be like that, that puzzle to solve. So it keeps you very engaged. But yeah, when you tied yourself almost too far into it, you lose that identity you lose, like, what else is important to you? And what else you want? Is that stabilizing foundation?
Ben Donovan 25:47
Yeah, yeah. When you do secure a little bit of a curveball one, but when you do secure that exit, maybe last time, this time, from an investment point of view, what’s your personal sort of thought process, cash in the bank get into investments? What are you? What are you like to do with it?
Troy Johnston 26:04
Yeah, my priorities right now, I mentioned how I’m far more risk averse. I’ve really become far more far more aggressive. So I really try to actively deploy as much capital as I can, obviously, we’re in a very inflationary environment. There’s there’s a lot of dynamics and macro trends that are that are at play. So when I when it comes to these exits, I really do try to think about in a tax advantaged way, how aggressively I can redeploy that capital. So yeah, looking at different crypto funds and a lot, a lot of really fun stuff. And to your prior point, and question, then I thought, well, I could just be a money manager of my, you know, I could just spend time, strategically investing in that time to thing so I love it and what I’m doing with the m&a space, I’m absolutely geeking out on that too, because that is that’s the last 10 yards. That’s the last little bit to where I think in this community. People aren’t thinking about how they could structure creative deals with FBA brands, and do stuff on paper do really, really cool sophisticated things that could merge two companies and take based on their top line could get you a higher valuation, just really simple stuff that can use the the strict the strategies that m&a provides, to do some, yeah, some creative, creative deal structuring.
Ben Donovan 27:38
Yeah, no definitely. Like is that think, again, something that a lot of entrepreneurs coming in and starting their own business, they underestimate the potential of buying businesses as well. I think that’s something that’s fascinating me more and more, I think long term, that’s definitely something I want to try and get more and more into. And so I think, having an active role in an m&a role for anyone listening, mergers and acquisitions, so buying selling businesses, having an active role in that for you, that’s obviously putting you in a spot where you’re going to be learning a ton about that. Putting you in a Yeah, giving you great insight, great opportunity, I would imagine.
Troy Johnston 28:15
Absolutely, yeah, this team is really sophisticated. We’ve got great leadership with a great track record multiple exits under their belts, just closing series A so the fundraising, the excitement, the size of the vision, you know, the m&a side is really, really formative in that. So I’m sure we’ll see plenty of really great, unique deal structures, ways of working with owner operators. So plenty that I’m excited to bring from just to the FBA expertise, but plenty I’m going to learn as we accelerate a lot of the growth.
Ben Donovan 28:49
Yeah, yeah, let’s talk about carbon six. And because like I say, there’s a fair amount of talk about it, like the new kid on the block. There was a bit of talk beforehand, before prosper, and then obviously, the prospect but actually the first time I heard about carbon six is when you posted in the FBA kings group. Were part of the carbon six family. I was like, Oh, that’s great. And I looked into kind of who they were and sounds exciting, you know, and, and then obviously, prosper kind of announced a lot more and started to become a lot more overt, I suppose about that the marketing, but for anybody who’s listening, don’t know who carbon sinks are. Give us a bit of background.
Troy Johnston 29:29
Yeah, so carbon six is really it’s a convergence of tools, talent, and tech, really helping FBA sellers at every stage in the journey at all levels. And so as an example, one of the exciting initiatives that are that is coming together is the build out of the academy. This is going to be a place and a resource that will will truly be that from the dreamer to somebody again, who’s just looking for their first Amazon Buck really wanting to build that foundation. Going all the way down to the enterprise level brands, the aggregators that are looking for, again, have been in the space and trenched, potentially saturated, what’s their unique point of difference? How do they stand out from a from a noisy landscape is being able to walk through, and then each one of those points provide a compelling solution and advantage to two sellers. And so where I mentioned, some of the talent, I guess I’m patting myself on the back is that carbon sinks, when they’re acquiring tools, is that they’re also bringing in really great people. There’s a ton of thought leadership, even today, that they’re bringing in and letting speak to the community support the community, and form the roadmap and the tools. And that’s where I think, on as I’m touching on a number of points, is really compelling to the community at large. We know the vast number of new sellers that come online, we know the vast number of sellers that are turning out of this business. So there’s a big market gap, I think a lot of people think, Oh, well, all the solutions are out there every problem solved. The numbers don’t, the numbers are pointing to the polar opposite. There’s just way too many knots, people not succeeding based on the scale of opportunity that Amazon provides. And carbon six, I think is going to be a big part in addressing that market gap in that opportunity. And so that’s, again, where I my role in particular, is, I get to have fun, I get to sort of say, hey, what’s what’s missing? Who can we talk to? On the talent side? Let’s talk about the tech and the tools that they have. And see if it makes sense. And if it does, how does it incorporate and provide a carpet six user a distinct advantage? And so I say this a lot, because some people if if they hadn’t heard seller tools, I don’t know why not. But if they haven’t, we were sort of a piece that had a similar vision as a piece. And now as the bigger puzzle is coming together, that vision is magnified tenfold, where now truly every every box that we would want to check have unique data, better optimization, true automation, all of these specific things that we can start to do for sellers can really come together and under one umbrella.
Ben Donovan 32:38
Yeah, I just had Clayton, as I was saying earlier from from carbon six on the podcast, and that was completely unplanned, like two weeks in a row. You know, it’s unplanned, but a good you know, it’s a trending topic. So hopefully people find some interest in it. But I was, when I was talking to him, he was mentioning a really great point that obviously, with you guys, there would be skill sets in seller tools, there’ll be skill sets and some of the other tools in carbon six. And there will be people that are maybe more tech oriented, that are running the company running the marketing, whereas now everyone can specialize. And it can really bring out the best in all of the tools, which is as a user, I’m excited to see right what you guys do. And I think there’s a great healthy competition in the tool space, which forces all the tools to get better, which again, for me as a seller, I think is great, is great for the market competition is great for the market. And so I’d love to hear you know a bit about seller tools, where you see it going, you know, the developments you see that are needed for Amazon sellers, and how you’re going to try and meet that need over the coming months and years.
Troy Johnston 33:40
Yeah, and Ben, you bring up a great point is that all of this reinforcement and investment in tools, the FBA seller is the is the winner, because we are going to we’re going to compete for the best product. And that is value that lands in the FBA sellers lab. So I think that’s a that’s creates a really, really exciting environment for for everyone will have to up our game. And then like I said that value will be will be delivered. So yeah, and then in the context of seller tools. We just recently had a kind of a product review and looked at what the roadmap will look like. And it’s really interesting, because we’re identifying these clear steps in that sequence of the FBA journey, identifying the things that we already do exceptionally well, and then identifying what’s missing in the market at those specific steps. So let’s take product research as an example, seller tools. Just recently, we released our opportunity explorer Pro, which takes the data that Amazon now provides so first party data, something we’ve never had the last decade. Any seller on Amazon FBA has never had Amazon source data to inform product research. We’ve sort of caught pulled together these other sources. But literally, these sales estimates that we had that algorithmically estimate best guess we can go to Amazon for free and get. And now what we can do it solo tools, we do this right now if you use the seller tools, Chrome extension, the raw data is great. But I’m a seller myself. I know at the end of the day, what I want is the analysis tells me this. So what are so why? So the data is there, the tool does that analysis for us. And then it allows us to make a informed decision. So this is again, happening right now, sellers can go access this today. But we’re going to continue to improve on that fact, because there is a huge market advantage to addressing the anxiety of sellers that are like, wait, I’m using estimates to source a product, that’s the most anxious time for most sellers, especially new sellers, of I’m about to commit 10,000 $15,000 to my first product or my next meaningful product. And I’m doing this purely on estimates. And an arm’s reach away, Amazon’s giving me that first party data to validate and really give me the peace of mind with my substantial investment. Yeah. So we’re doing that at each step product research, keyword research. As an example, looking at what’s missing in the market. What What are sellers doing right now, that’s maybe leading to a lot of parody. One of the tricky things and this is sort of a known but not spoken about enough issue is that when there is a heavy density of sellers doing a lot of the same thing, there’s no competitive, there’s just no competitive advantage. I know it’s a challenge, because we love community, we love kind of congregating. But when you have 1000s 10s of 1000s, potentially hundreds of 1000s of sellers are doing the same exact thing. Your direct competitor could be doing the same strategies at the same tools as you and your your successes left to a coin flip. What we want to do is make sure we inherently from step one give you a competitive advantage with your keyword research with now the superior data that Amazon gives us to allow you to make a more informed and superior decision, we don’t want to leave that success to chance. So those are some of the nodes that we’re looking at. And then I know that we mentioned and touched on it briefly, Dan is also and this is a little bit outside of solo tools, is the external traffic is the other ways that some of these big levers have become focal points for more reliably ranking and automating the scale of product success on Amazon. So but those can all be complimentary. Because when you do better keyword research that informs how you’re driving that external traffic, and you want to ultimately create a flywheel. That way you’re sourcing new products, you know, validating products, doing effective keyword research, having your ranking and reviews automated, and then you can rinse and repeat. So that’s really how similar tools ties in at the at the feature level. But then it feeds into this flywheel where we want to and we again, created the sequence when we reviewed the product roadmap, is we want to give you a framework that you can follow. But within that framework, there’s still advantages. So it’s predictable. But there’s elements that give you an advantage.
Ben Donovan 38:17
Yeah, nice, nice. The Amazon first party data, I think we’re all still grappling with that getting used to what that looks like and how we interpret that right. But you guys have sort of got that overlay on top of it that’s really helped giving sellers clarity there. What would you say for anybody listening that maybe hasn’t looked at that data is never seen? What sort of tools is doing with that? How would that differ from a, you know, classic Jungle Scout helium? 10? You know, product research tool? What’s what’s going to be the differences?
Troy Johnston 38:48
Yeah, yeah, I mean, also product research, where you’re looking at sales estimates, BSR weight price, I think, I think it can be, I’ll say it again, it could be a nice piece of the larger puzzle. But I think it’s also really starting to show its age. In the context of opportunity explorer Pro, some of the things that we look at is things like keyword level insights. So we want to see if there’s any disparity in the traffic and in the sales at the keyword level. Because a really obvious this is where it’s like obvious to explain to somebody is, if there’s one clear winner in a space, well, then that isolates for me, can I beat that clear winner? Can I out optimized? Can I help position can I create a customized product or unique offering if there is a shared amount of traffic and sales across the competition? Well, that may indicate to me that I have more competitors to overcome, and I have to be able to specifically address where those opportunities lie. One of the other things that we do is we tie into that analysis. Knowing our numbers, I think this is where again, a lot of first time sellers and honestly even intermediate and beyond sellers overlook the importance of knowing your numbers. And what the tool does is it actually requires you to get down into the your cost of goods, factor in your lead time, add in your advertising and launch costs to where, based on your budget, it’s going to tell you whether this product opportunity makes sense, because again, somebody who’s got $10,000 is going to be much more different than an aggregator with $50,000. And that’s really where that validation should happen in real time alongside some of this, some of this informed data. So really, that’s what the the data opens up is, we get to see little pockets of disparity or little signals of opportunities. But again, the raw data, it’s it can be intimidating for some lot of people will geek out on it and really enjoy kind of diving into like the brand analysis and search terms and be able to spot some opportunities there. But what we do with the scoring, is we we sort of speak to that, is it too saturated, is there keyword opportunities is it within your budget. And so we give you that snapshot to where then you can drill down, add in your numbers factor in some of your costs. And then for you for your individual case, that’s where the validation can can really take place. We’re not just saying, oh, there’s a ton of sales. And this BSR fits in a, you know, a specific criteria, we really unpack each one of those metrics. And one of the things that you’ll notice is that we do this at each level that Amazon provides us data. So they have what they call niche level, product level. And then search term level, we have analysis and each one of those levels. And as you can probably guess this is sort of intuitive. We want to see checkboxes at each one of these, we want to see that the niches viable. The product specificity we can we can see what products or type of products are presenting opportunities. And then at the search term level, we can already at this point in time, identify that small subset of keywords that are going to be crucial to our success, because that is also a huge, both on the education and the tool support side. Keyword Research has to ensure happen right alongside product research and product validation. That’s so yeah, keyword economics, as I as I like to call it really important, looking at the supply and demand of keywords. What does the landscape look like? Is there any kind of disparity there? And then, when you have all of that all of those levels checked off, giving you that peace of mind to source that product? And bring it bring it on platform?
Ben Donovan 42:28
Yeah, absolutely. It’s so key, it’s the key word game is as important as ever on Amazon. So it’s definitely essential there. How about obviously, there’s product research, how about when it comes to product launches? It’s been a whirlwind kind of 12 months for that, especially with you guys, you know, seller tools, the real drivers of ranking campaigns, using many chat was a sort of a sad day when Amazon updated Terms of Service to maybe roll that out, you know, I don’t want to say definitely, because he knows what other people out there are doing. But what has what has changed for you guys on that on that landscape? What’s what’s working right now on your phone?
Troy Johnston 43:05
Yeah, yeah, I think I think for us, you know, when that when that news came out, I think it was a lot of mixed reactions, both and how people took it, and then how they responded and the steps that they took. So it was it was a bit mixed, to see how the community responded. But for us, specifically on the seller tools side, you know, where we really tried to encourage the conversation is thinking about still supporting customers in sort of a non transactional way. And that really leads to a lot of the post purchase strategies, and doing so in a careful, crafted and strategic way. Because ultimately, if we can do that, if we can have, you know, one out of five customers, come back read, you know, buy from us, again, we know that that’s going to continue to grow not only the goodwill and the support, it’s going to increase our LTV and some of our other performance metrics. So that’s really where we’ve encouraged and we support now through some of our tools, notably one that we we’ve released, it’s called campaign manager. And what that allows you to do is use a web based bot, to be able to engage with a customer and ultimately provide them value on the other side of the purchase. Is there content that we can provide is there a warranty and or registration, we can have them complete, to where we can get to know that customer a little bit more, and gather more meaningful information and data to continue that conversation. So that’s really more where where we’ve pivoted, it’s been a little bit lighter on the pre purchase side of things. And then we supplement that as we kind of zoom out to the the at the carbon six level we really aim to supplement that with other external traffic influence or marketing initiatives. Those are really big levers to be able to pull right now. Yeah, where that really hits more on the on the pre-purchase on it for a number of reasons. Not only in terms of, you know, the brand referral bonus, but also the rewarding of that external traffic from high domain authorities, things like Google YouTube, that kind of thing. Yep.
Ben Donovan 45:15
And the because of that, you know, the post purchase, like we are using the, like, free gear funnel at the moment, and like, it’s really, really been powerful for us, a game changer, really. And that means if you’re using something on post purchase, if you’re building a brand, come back to the stuff we’re talking about earlier, you know, the first product you launch should be the hardest product, you have a launch, because second, third, fourth product you should have, then the audience the tools to be able to launch much easier, right? The I mean, you mentioned about the campaign managers, is that mean that you are you pushing people away from many chat or is that like a customized thing,
Troy Johnston 45:52
it really came about from feedback from the community, there were there were sellers that really wanted to move away from Facebook dependencies, there were others that are absolutely in love, and have built out very robust solutions with many chat, that would wouldn’t wouldn’t leave, you know, if they had to, they really tried to make make a lot of their systems and flows work. So really, it’s, it’s in the same vein in terms of the features and benefits that it offers. It’s just sort of a different take with a web based. It’s it’s as if they’re on a website. So they’re right there engaging with a chat flow going through that journey. And you can do the same thing, like a free gift or free free offer to make sure we’re delivering that value.
Ben Donovan 46:35
Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Yeah, because there’s, there’s the thing I love most about many chat is just the flexibility, you know, we can add like a one time notification in we can add a SMS pick up, we can add, you know, email, subscribe, there’s so much you can do there is it’s similar with campaign manager
Troy Johnston 46:51
It’s really more, I would say more templatized. So really, we try to make it objective driven. So if it is, if it is a warranty, it’s a standard float, where you can pick some of the branding, add in your logos, but we really try to make it a very streamlined process. And so I think that brings up brings up a good point in terms of the differences if you really can and get excited by some of the customizations. Many chats are really strong option, the campaign manager is I just want to get to this objective, really want to cut out any excess. Don’t want to make any tweaks or customizations. That’s a great way to take a customer through that journey.
Ben Donovan 47:27
Would you say that campaign managers simpler for people just getting started with that kind of thing, then?
Troy Johnston 47:31
Yeah, yep. And it focuses right now. So version one is just post purchase strategies, but it would be somebody just starting and saying, hey, I want to click a button. Take us take me through a little wizard that just plugs in my information, you know, what product? What am I what is the offer? Hit it live. And then it’s good to go even give you a little QR code, you can just print it right there from campaign manager to add it to an insert or packaging.
Ben Donovan 47:56
Yeah, there are people out there that say that to put a website on an insert or even as extreme as on your packaging is against Amazon’s terms of service. Your opinion on this?
Troy Johnston 48:09
Well, I’m going to I’m going to call and report Sony, I’m going to call them a report. Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, it’s I think, I mean, I’ve got a lot of feelings on this. But yeah, ultimately, I mean, you know, Ben, yeah, it’s, it’s one of those things where I can appreciate how, let’s say, under nuanced and sporadic, Amazon can be if a competitor is just acting with malicious intent, they can look out for poor execution is, I would really try to mimic and match examples that you see in the marketplace and have a softer touch. I think, anytime, you know, I’ve been heavily involved in Facebook groups. And so I have a really good sense of the community of when people run into these events where they’ve been reported that they’ve been taken down. And all of the examples without fail are overt examples of incentivizing of over marketing of being too aggressive with things that we want to do with a real soft touch, we want to get give that customer value, make it to where if I’m that customer, I’m excited by the offer. I’m wanting the continuity, I want the engagement want the support. And so we operate in that way, and the execution really reflects it. It’s where you get in trouble. It’s almost like you know, when you see it, you’re like, man, yeah, no, I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t add that to my product insert or if I’m even remotely concerned about incentivizing and in today’s landscape, I understand people are taking down, you know, they’re not displaying five stars. They’re not implying in any way that like, here’s what’s expected of you. They’re soft, touching the language the execution was presented, and that’s, that’s more of my stance. But yeah, it’s ultimately just just handling Okay, do it do it in a tactful and strategic way.
Ben Donovan 50:01
Good political answer. choice. I don’t want to take up too much your Friday, we’ve been going nearly an hour already. I feel like we could do an episode on each of these individual topics. Yeah, and still have questions left over. But I was excited to hear, you know, hear your insight, your journey and hear about what you’re up to now, what do you see as the next sort of year to two years with carbon six, lots more acquisitions? building out the tools that what’s the what’s the strategy?
Troy Johnston 50:31
Yeah, I think there will definitely be we have we have Amazon changes. And then we have the the landscape of I think, consolidation, I think what, what’s taking place with all these cottage industries, everything that sort of supplement and surrounds this, you know, as part of the ecosystem of FBA is I think there will continue to be a lot of consolidation, that will also consolidate a lot of the value. And so really, you know, I think carbon six is going to be a really good example of that of, instead of, hey, I need a dozen tools to take me through this journey. Well, maybe instead, it’s consolidated. It’s refined, it’s tweaked and optimized. And I walked through one door, and now I’m confident in every subsequent step in that journey. So I think that’s going to show up in a number of different forms. I mean, we didn’t we didn’t dive too deep into to aggregators, even service providers and agencies, there is a fair amount of consolidation happening happening there, just in terms of how noisy the landscape is. And and the challenge that a lot of folks have of bolting on the thought leadership and the expertise and the sophistication throughout a number of these cottage industries. That’s a big challenge for even aggregators, they’ve got to accelerate growth and show that shareholder value after they’ve acquired a viable brand that meets their category that has all the has all the numbers to prove out success. So I think I think consolidation is definitely probably going to be a big, big buzzword alongside a lot of the disruption. I think, like I said that carbon six is sort of a case in point of there’s been a lot of it’s been very stagnant. It’s kind of in the cool, calm waters. And I think the community this sellers in response to Amazon are excited by and that’s really what’s what’s resonated, excited by that disruption, because they want to grow right alongside these hyper growth companies. And so I think it’s a really unique this this year. And we’ll call it the hopefully knock on wood, the post post COVID world now that ecommerce has accelerated tenfold. Yeah. It will be very interesting dynamics. As Amazon brings more marketplaces online, makes their changes, more native tools that we get to play with this tool providers and think of creative creative ways. So yeah, that’s that’s my, that’s that’s my long answer. But a lot of dynamics at play a lot of that consolidation, and the disruption I think is exciting.
Ben Donovan 53:13
Yeah, that’s totally I’m here for I’m excited to see everything that unfolds. If people want to follow the journey a bit more of you, like, Are you active anywhere? Sort of on social or anything like that? And, um, where can people find out more about seller tools?
Troy Johnston 53:28
Yeah, absolutely. So if you want to check out seller tools at seller dot tools, and then for carbon six, if you’re taking a look at our tools journey there, it’s carbon six.io, as you mentioned, and we only just came out of stealth at prosper. So a lot of things are new, a lot of things exciting. You may see a brand new website, lots of different touch points coming online. And then yeah, feel free to find me. I’ll be on LinkedIn. You’ll be able to reach and see me there be engaging plenty, and there’s plenty of other communities that we take part in and I do as well. FBA kings comes to comes to mind, it’s community. We built our tools. Yeah, really awesome community with plenty of supportive people. So you can always catch me there are
Ben Donovan 54:14
definitely lots of places to connect. That’s amazing. Joy. Thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate you being on the show. Thanks, Ben.
Troy Johnston 54:20
Yeah, appreciate it.
Ben Donovan 54:21
Awesome, guys. Thanks for joining us for this episode. Hopefully you got lots of value out of that check out we’ll put all of the links to what choices there so you can check it out in the description, and we’ll see you in the next episode real soon.