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Today we’re going to talk about Amazon. Douglas Levin helps eCommerce sellers to take back control of their brand’s income.
He started out doing Retail Arbitrage, sold Wholesale products, and now sells his own Private Label Products using Amazon FBA.
Listen in to hear Douglas share:
- Why he chose to start selling on Amazon (1:22)
- How he got started and why he chose to change his business model to Amazon FBA (3:13)
- How Retail Arbitrage works, what he liked and what he didn’t! (7:20)
- Why he decided to stop selling other people’s products via arbitrage and become an authorised wholesale seller (11:38)
- What inspired him to create his own products to sell and how he went about it (15:50)
- The importance of building up your own web presence (18:18)
- Why you might want to consider selling replenishable products (20:00)
- How you might get customers to buy your product from you directly, rather than on Amazon (21:25)
- How to get customers on your email list (25:39)
- HIs number one piece of advice for other product creators (32:50)
From Arbitrage to Private Label an Amazon journey - with Douglas Levin
Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast, Practical advice and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. He is your host Vicki Weinberg.
Vicki Weinberg (00:00:22):
Hi, this is the day I have a fantastic interview to share with you with Douglas Levin. So Douglas is an Amazon seller and he has a really interesting story to show you how we started on Amazon doing art Retail Arbitrage he moved on to Wholesale and then eventually he launched his own private label product. So he went on for quite a journey, which I've read excited to share with you. Today so Douglas helps e-commerce Ellis to take back control of their brands income. And he's going to talk to you all about what he means by that. Douglas has lots of insights and experience to share with you, which I think you'll find really useful say without any further ado. Here's Douglas so welcome. Douglas thank you so much for being here.
Vicki Weinberg (00:01:03):
And so can you introduce yourself first of all?
Douglas Levin (00:01:06):
Yeah, so my name is Douglas Levin and I'd been selling on Amazon platform and off the Amazon platform for about six years now.
Vicki Weinberg (00:01:15):
Perfect. Thank you. So I guess that it started right at the beginning. So how and why, why Amazon first of all, let's go.
Douglas Levin (00:01:23):
Mmm. So in terms of Amazon itself, it wasn't really anything at the time that was amazing about Amazon obviously there was still a huge, at that point, not to the level of that they are now. It was more, I come from with like a miles and points backgrounds. So I was a drummer And and that was my job at the time. And as a professional drummer and I was like obsessed with like the travel end points community were like, do you have to get like free trips? Ah, well that for you, but you, you, you can like earn points to, to get cash back And and travel for a little or no costs. And they ended up talking specifically about basically reselling and getting free points in essence, where they were selling stuff on Amazon, and then they were getting like, I dunno, like thousands of points.
Douglas Levin (00:02:16):
And so that was how it got introduced to the world of e-commerce and a, an Amazon specifically. It, it wasn't really anything that had to do at Amazon at the time. There was a, it was more of like, I found them through, through like the bloggers that we are talking about traveling points. And I had also heard, and like, I guess
previously from a friend of mine, who was, we kept saying, Oh yeah, I want to do Amazon, but he never, he was too scared to do it. So I had heard of Amazon like, in terms of being able to sell there, but I never really
done anything with it until, until the eye kind of came across the traveling and points the world.
Vicki Weinberg (00:02:55):
Okay. Thank you. And just remind us what year was that just was
Douglas Levin (00:03:01):
About six years ago.
Vicki Weinberg (00:03:02):
Okay, cool. And so you started off selling other people's products, is that right?
Douglas Levin (00:03:07):
Yeah. Yeah. I think when it started, I had some stuff in my closet that was like either guests over the year or two or something that I have a choir that was like a new unopened product that I never touched for whatever reason I never did. So I started with that. I'm just trying to do, what's called like a merchant fulfilled where at
the time an order was placed, you're the one who has to go fulfill it to the customer and you handle the customer service side to handle all of those kind of things. So I will put something up on Amazon and then someone would buy, I think it was like some piece of electronic or something that I had, like in my closet.
Douglas Levin (00:03:48):
And then I would have to drive like five minutes or so to, to the post office at, at, at the time we didn't have boxes or anything like that. So every time I would have to go through that whole process of finding tape, finding a box, what's the shipping information again, like probably to put them on my phone or something, and then going there spending money on, on all that stuff. I probably in the store, well there working with the, working on other people's shopping's up putting it in the box type, taping it up, writing on the box or what the shipping information is and then shipping it out. And so it was not the most efficient way to start, but that's how I got started with it.
Vicki Weinberg (00:04:30):
Do you know what we do? We'll have to start somewhere, right. Say how long did you spend selling with that kind of model? So did you spend the while, so once you'd sort of saw the things in your house you had, what kind of a, you know, good Bible products to sell on Amazon? Where did you take it from there?
Douglas Levin (00:04:46):
Mmm. So after I started to learn a little bit about the, how the Amazon worked in terms of that process, I kind of, I quickly realized that I wasn't doing it the best way possible. Like I was probably losing money in terms of when I started to like, think about the shipping that I had to do. And like the, the shipping prices were also a lot worse because I didn't know what I was doing. So like, it's one of the great things about what's called FBA, which is what Amazon fulfills the order, or is that they get a lot better shipping rates. And unless you're
like a seller, that's selling a lot, I'm where you could get better rates with like the ups and, and the post office. I didn't realize that until like I ma and ended up making a change over that.
Douglas Levin (00:05:32):
That's going to save me a lot of money. And then the other part as well is it's going to save me a lot of time. So that's why I ended up making a change over, to go to the FBA and all that fulfilled by Amazon model, where I could now take products that I had and shipped them all in one box. If it was under 50 pounds and Amazon will take it they'll deal the customer side of it. Like as far as most of the effort on my end is over. As soon as I Shipt that box and to Amazon, there's always going to be an extra things you have to deal with, but it meant a lot easier in terms of how I did my, my business at the time and 'em and stuff.
Douglas Levin (00:06:19):
And it made it a lot easier to scale as well. So I didn't have to fumble around with getting a shipment together. Every time somebody ordered from me, the shipping was a lot cheaper and I was able to, to scale it better just by changing from Virginia to fulfill to the FBA model. So that was like the next step.
Vicki Weinberg (00:06:39):
Yeah. That makes total sense. I sell fire FBA myself as well. And I guess the main thing that I noticed, what was the time, like you say, like the time it takes you to pack and, or to make sure the slips in there and then take it to the post office is, yeah, I think that I do, I don't really know about, about, I think the rate's in the UK anyway, pretty comparable to what you'd pay yourself and what you'd pay for. Amazon doing it for the
convenience. It's like totally, totally way of it. So at that stage, we, you still be selling other products.
Douglas Levin (00:07:09):
Yes. So I ha at that point I S I M was done with the stuff that I was in my closet and I was starting to do, what's called Arbitrage where I ended up going to like the big box stores, like a Walmart or target and office max, like those kinds of stores and try and find products that I was eligible to sell where I could buy it for less than I could sell it on Amazon. So like maybe I would find it for like say $10 and they would sell it for like 30 or 40. And at that point I was starting to do better in terms of understanding how Amazon works. So I would start to have a lot more money coming in to my account, which is always a nice, ah, so I was doing both the Retail Arbitrage, which is where you go into the store.
Douglas Levin (00:07:57):
And then online arbitrage is where you would buy stuff online and have it shipped to either you, or since I didn't really want to deal with the shipping and prepping part as much as I could, I would use a, a prep centers, which is like, I just had to incorporate that into the cost. So like, if I was buying something or like $10 and I would, and the prep center, I would get stuffed shipped directly to the prep center. So they would prep it and ship it, prep it, and then pack it and ship it into Amazon for me, they will charge like, say a dollar, a dollar 50 or so whenever I was trying to figure out what would be profitable on my, on my order for online
Arbitrage I would say, all right, well, it's a $10, but then I also have to account for the dollar 50 or so now it's all in 50, that's my costs.
Douglas Levin (00:08:46):
And then whenever the shipping rate is going to be in it. So just trying to take that stuff into account, and that was kinda the next kind of phase, I guess you would say in terms of what I was going to go on through when I was selling stuff on Amazon. And at that point it was actually making a lot more money than I, that I was going to doing stuff like one of the play drums. So it, it was a pretty exciting at that point.
Vicki Weinberg (00:09:07):
Yeah. And then that also I've never had any prep centers and that also it does sound like, it sounds like you have a PA, like what you're doing is just getting more and more efficient. Cause I guess actually going into the retail stores and looking for these products that are going to sell on Amazon, that must be incredibly time consuming as well. So I'm assuming that if you're able to source them online and then ship them some way to get them prepped, that must be a massive time saver as well.
Douglas Levin (00:09:31):
It, it usually is. Yeah. I will say one of the things like, I, I haven't done advertising in a while, but I remember when I was doing it is that there's pluses and minuses like anything else. I mean, that, that's a great plus in terms of the time saver, you don't have to touch to the product. And at that point you can kind of do it a lot easier. However, the downside of it compared to say, Retail Arbitrage is everyone else who is doing it. So if, if you find that deal, honestly, a walmart.com and the odds are somebody else is found it too. So you are competing with other people versus if you actually go into the store, you might find some, find some products that nobody else's now, because you're actually like, what is in the trenches like, Oh, I found this And and nobody else knew about it because it was on the sirens or whatever at Walmart.
Douglas Levin (00:10:20):
And, and those are the kinds of things where you could potentially find yourself less competition. And when you kind of do it in the Arbitrage, but then obviously like, like I said, I will say that the one thing I didn't like about Arbitrage, well, there was a few, but one of them is that I did not like the idea of going to like 10 or 15 Walmarts a day and like going out on sourcing trips where I would go like, take like my, like my wife, my girlfriend at the time, his van, and go on sourcing trips were like, you are going, you have your shopping list of, of Arbitrage products. And you're going in to like 10 Walmarts a day or 15 Target's a day, or any of that kind of stuff in your planning, your out. And you're just like going from store to store for like two or three days straight.
Douglas Levin (00:11:04):
I mean, it was great in terms of like, I would come back with like, like a ton of products that I could list and start to make money. But I also just didn't like the idea of spending an hour or two at every Walmart trying to
as far as Products. So it wasn't what I found fun.
Vicki Weinberg (00:11:19):
Yeah. I can see that. Yeah. Okay. So at what stage did you decide to start selling your own products and, and what sort of, what inspired you to do that?
Douglas Levin (00:11:31):
Yeah, so I was on the Arbitrage model for a little while. And like I was saying was kinda getting sick of going into the stores all the time. On the other part, that is the downside about Arbitrage is that it's not your products. So the brands do you generally do not like Arbitrage sellers because it's a leak on the supply. So like the brand is very, very protective of, of their image of, of, of everything that has to do with their brand. And they're seeing these people that they don't know, selling their products online. And a lot of times they don't know what to do to stop it.
Douglas Levin (00:12:10):
So the Arbitrage the sellers, they're doing nothing wrong, it's all completely legal. And, and, and there are many sellers that I no to this day that have seven and eight figure business is doing this model, but I was starting to get worried because the brands would send notices to Arbitrage and sellers, and they will try and reach out with basically like what is called IP plans or intellectual property claims where yes, the Arbitrage the salary was, could fight it. And there were within there, there are a legal rights to do so. However, with Amazon, you were pretty much found guilty until proven innocent.
Douglas Levin (00:12:49):
So at the time I was also more, more and more relying on Amazon for my income. So I was getting more and more nervous that something could happen to me where I faced suspension and I'd have to fight it and I'd have to spend like two to $5,000 trying to figure out how to get reinstated. I was like, I just didn't want to deal with this stress and headaches of it. So first I was, I had made that transition to what's called a Wholesale where you're the authorized seller on a brand's inventory. So I will, I always give an example, like you will never get an, a, a wholesale account with Nike, but for, for example, sake, let's say that I reached out to Nike and I said, I was going to sell my products on Amazon.
Douglas Levin (00:13:33):
And they approved me to sell their products. That's never gonna happen, but say Your, then at that point, we would get an invoice from Nike. You had place your order for like, say a in bulk of like a, I don't know, a 200 units have different products of theirs for you. You would get it shipped to you or your prep center, had it prepped and then shifted to Amazon and now your authorized to sell a product. So they knew they knew who you are I'm or you could go through a distributor as well, and you have an invoice. So if anything does happen in the future, you're more protected. It's not generally as high of a return on investment as Arbitrage. There are always a, a certain examples that are not of that are exceptions to the rule, but in general,
Arbitrage is a model that can get you a higher return, but it's a more varied in terms of how much you can get.
Douglas Levin (00:14:27):
So you can, you can pick up like 30 or 40 units at one store. I never get it again, versus with Wholesale you're in a way, yes, you might get a lower return, lower profit margin. However, you can, you get an order from them over and over again for potential years. So I tried that model and I was doing it doing pretty well with it. However, the change, the change that I did was partially because of the, of the worry and the stress, and even with the Wholesale, I had to do it with the $20,000 shipment, like a, when I got in my first exclusive, where I was holding the bag for about two or three months, I'm trying to figure out what to do because Amazon screwed up the shipment.
Douglas Levin (00:15:07):
And then I also I even with Wholesale I still look up to a 10 use all of this new complaints on my account, where these are all products that are, were authorized and legitimate from the supplier yet Amazon is still dinging me because of something that happened. So I was finding myself more stressed. I'm still trying to
figure out, like, what am I going to do so that I don't have to deal with all of these headaches, even with Wholesale where I thought I was going to be all unicorns and rainbows. So that was when I started to look into like, what can I do differently? So then that's where I started coming up with the, with the, the idea of a private label and to come up with my own brand, my own products so that we didn't have to be completely reliant on an Amazon for all of my sins.
Vicki Weinberg (00:15:51):
Yeah. That, that definitely makes sense. So when you use it, I guess she was starting to think about creating your own products. What, so what next, so talk us through how you, how you went about it.
Douglas Levin (00:16:03):
Yeah. So I will say one thing about me is that I, I spend a lot of money on courses. I I've, I, if you ask my wife, she'll say I sent out way too much money, of course. But, so I think that when I was doing Wholesale, I was interested in the idea of private label, but I didn't really know what to do with it at the time. And it was never something that I had thought, Oh, well, well, I'm going to do that right now. I was so obsessed with like the Wholesale model, but I ended up buying like a few different courses. There was one specifically what you learned a lot. Like if you, if, you know, later on first born in Andy sermons, I, I took their course and I learned a lot from them in terms of the idea of private label and like, how do I get started with it?
Douglas Levin (00:16:46):
But I never really did anything with it until like, there was something going on with my, with my wife is like a niche that she is very passionate about it. And she was looking for a specific type of product, but it wasn't there, everything that was similar, basically it was terrible. So it wasn't even in something where we were
looking at it from the perspective of, Oh, I just want to create a product and bring it to market. It was more like a passion project because she was looking for something, it wasn't there. It was like, all right, well, I mean, we're doing okay with Wholesale. I had been, I wouldn't talking about wanting you to do it eventually anyways, so, and I'm getting more and more stressed about Amazon in general. So yeah, let's, let's try it.
Douglas Levin (00:17:27):
And worst case scenario, it fails, and we tried to find something that works for you. Right. So that was the kind of the idea behind it. And then at that point, I'd just kind of become to become obsessed with what can they do now to kinda bring that product to market. I became obsessed with the idea of, of chatbots. So the idea of marketing in general, so that I could start to not relying on Amazon when the product is ready, but use them for the amazing channel that the thing that they are while also like, like starting to build up my own actual brand so I can start to do whatever I want. So that was kind of the, like the thought process is, is that kind of started it.
Vicki Weinberg (00:18:05):
Sure. So it was the idea that you would sell on Amazon, but all say sort of build up your brain web presence elsewhere so that you, yeah, because I guess that's the thing about Amazon, isn't it, if you sell just on Amazon, they can, they own your customer. You've got no customer details and yeah, it definitely makes it harder when you want to scale. So do you want to tell us a bit more about the products about what it is and what it does?
Douglas Levin (00:18:27):
Mmm. So that's always the thing that I, that I hate about Amazon too, is like, you always feel like if you can, you give too many details about your product and there's always going to be these competitors that are going to try and steal the Ivo or do anything like that. So I always feel like, like, I'd love to see more about it, but then you're always like, well, what can I do then? I'm a, well, something happened where there is going to be a whole bunch of competitors that come out of the woodwork and do like black hat tricks and all of his other things. So you have, at least it was the one thing that I like really don't like about the Amazon platform is that you always feel like you have to be like very restrictive in terms of, Oh, I can't say anything to anybody because bad things would happen versus if you just do any eCommerce in general, it's like, Oh yeah, here's my here's my brand here is my product.
Douglas Levin (00:19:13):
I'm ready to chat it from the rooftops. So, so it's, it's, it's unfortunate that it has to be like that. And I will say that, that our Product is like a replenishable products, so, and it's a consumable. So we were able to get to like go through that, like replenishable aspect of it. So we get people that buy from us every month, which is amazing. And I would say, if you're capable of doing it, it is an amazing model in terms of like, when you're building a brand is something that you can set it in terms of like, if you can really have a great brand set up in terms of your compositions and in terms of how you relate to the customer and you have something that
people have to order from you every month, it's a much easier way to scale because I'm, then you can just, you going to have those happy customers.
Douglas Levin (00:20:01):
We're just going to put it on autopilot. And now you have that monthly recurring revenue coming in in just by doing that model of versus some of the, and I saw it's a one off, even if it's a higher price product, like say a hundred, $200. That's great. However, you're going to have to see, you're going to struggle a little bit more trying to figure out what can I do to get them to buy from you over and over again. And then there's always cross-sells that you can do, but you can do cross sells with, with replenishable products as well. A So it's the one thing that I would kind of say kinda moving forward, if, if people were to do it, it kind of pay attention to that as well.
Vicki Weinberg (00:20:35):
Yeah, that makes sense. And I guess also if you're buying something in, it costs, you know, 100, 200 pounds or dollars, you'd expect it to last a while as well. So you wouldn't, yeah. You wouldn't be wanting to go out and buy the same product that also a bit of a higher price point. And I guess that I recommend to someone even when something cost that much. So yeah. I liked that, that idea. And I guess as well, it's we were talking about sort of getting your own customer may be getting some traffic on Amazon, I guess that was a bit easier as well. If people are buying from you over and over, presumably it's a bit easier to get them to come and buy from your website rather than purely buying on Amazon each time.
Douglas Levin (00:21:11):
Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and that's the whole thing. We're like you, us all, as you get into the marketing aspect of like trying to sell on your own, you have to understand that Amazon is easier for the customer is more convenient. Right? And they're there, they have built up there. They're a brand over what, 20 to 25 years now. So if you're gonna try and compete with Amazon, which basically you are, right. In terms of like, it's much easier to just put your products on Amazon. If you're going to try and get a customer to buy from your website versus Amazon, there has to be a reason because they're, it all things being equal there, just going to go to Amazon, even if it's your product. And so that comes down to like, what can you do to get to differentiate your own products?
Douglas Levin (00:21:55):
Like the offer itself, potentially what you can go, like why you would want them to buy it from your own website. So you, if you can make it like that, apples to oranges comparison versus an apples to apples comparison. So like maybe you offer something extra by going through your website. And in the past, you used to not be able to do this, but now you can, we're like it, it might be to potentially be a little bit cheaper on your own website versus Amazon if you can potentially offer. So some kind of, of bookmark a bonus digital content or art, or you basically make an, an, an irresistible offer where you have a bundle in games where it doesn't cost much extra two.
Douglas Levin (00:22:36):
You potentially the spec. That's why I'm thinking like a digital product will be amazing because it's no extra cost, but it is it's adding enough value potentially where that customer is going to look and go, all right. Yeah. It could buy your product or a competitor's product on Amazon for like say 40 bucks. Or I could go into your website, spend like 45 or 50, but I'm getting this, this, this, and this on top of it. And maybe it costs you an extra, like two bucks or something, but you are now not having to compete on Amazon with Amazon as well. And your starting to actually get that customer were you, weren't getting them, if you are going through the Amazon.
Vicki Weinberg (00:23:12):
So what are you doing? So w with your products, what you're doing is to get people into your website rather than to buy from Amazon.
Douglas Levin (00:23:18):
So in our irresistible offer is a huge part of it. Intro those basic same aspects will also do a monthly promotion sometimes in terms of when we get people onto our list. It's the whole thing of when you get people onto your list, nobody ever reaches out and talks to them like I'll reach keenly, like, like, like I'm in a whole bunch of masterminds with people that are trying to do the same thing in terms of selling both on, on Amazon at all. And like I noticed like sellers that are like brand who have like a, an email list or a messenger list of like 50 or a hundred thousand people, they don't ever talk to them. It was like, you put it in all of these RESOURCES to talk, to build up this list.
Douglas Levin (00:24:02):
This is this huge asset, which is honestly, why, why companies usually buy brands and you are not contacting them. So I'll, I'll reach out with like, say, well, I guess we have the monthly promotions, a first access. I'm a potentially giveaways, everything once in awhile, different, different kinds of lead magnets, where it's going to incentivize them to want to check out my site. And only my site, because if I control that customer, because I brought them in, however, I acquired them a as a, as a lead and, and everything I'm doing is to nurture that relationship with them. Then I lead them to my website and I had given them some kind of NSM to buy 'em and I'm following up at that point, then they're more likely to want to buy it from my website, versus just going on Amazon.
Douglas Levin (00:24:51):
It's a different type of thought process in terms of the, that, that whole idea. But if you kind of like a funnel them to your website, and you've done all of the great propositions, customer service giving value, then you can't compete with Amazon. Just, if you are going to say, Hey, buy my thing. But if you're doing those other aspects to it, to your whole brand building, then at that point, that is where you can actually build a real brand that is going to start to get sales away from Amazon as well. So we done done a few different things.
Douglas Levin (00:25:30):
So what I usually like to do, and this is what I recommended for anybody. That's, if you are, if you're trying to sell on your own website, or if you're trying to use Amazon as a platform for like, just like we do now, as we, we were never gonna get away from Amazon. We, I love Amazon And I and I, and this is a great model. I just don't want to be completely relying on that for all of my traffic. I want to use them as something to supplement my traffic. So what I, I always recommend is if we're going to start with like a brand, it is there's three foundational strategy's, which you always need to be in place. You need to know who your ideal customer is. If you need to have a brand values set, and you need to know who your competitors are and how you can compete with them.
Douglas Levin (00:26:13):
So I'll, I'll, I'll look at those three pieces first. And based off of that, I'll come up with a, basically a lead magnet that is going to be irresistible for them, where like, if I had done all of that research and I know everything about my ideal customer, what I'm getting it started, then I can, I can now, all right there, having this problem, this problem, this problem, this problem, and all your product ever is, this is the, this is, I can't remember when I heard it, but this is all we ever think of is all products are, is a solution to a problem. So everything I'm looking at is, is what, the problems that they're having and how can I potentially solve it.
Douglas Levin (00:26:55):
So I'll look at that and then start to brainstorm different types of lead magnets, and that will help solve that problem. And then from there, it's just a matter of testing, different ones, seeing what resonates the most with my ideal customer, and then sending traffic to it, whether it's in the form of like add, or if I had built up my own community, putting posts out there to try and get them onto my list any way you are going to do it, like, like a thousand different ways could work, but it's, it's having that strategy in mind ahead of it. And then just testing and looking at the data.
Vicki Weinberg (00:27:31):
Yeah. I think you're right. And trying out different things is definitely a really smart way to get started because you just don't know what's going to stick the thing that has worked best for me, for having, for getting people on my mailing list. It's an insert inside the actual products box with, you know, with details. So I, one of my products that I sell is swaddles for babies. And I've got a little card that goes out in the box. It says, if you want the free guide six ways, so what are your baby? Or go to this link and that's, yeah, that's the biggest way or a bit. I bailed my list and I've tried as, I'm sure you have to write all kinds of things. And that one just seems to be the one that works. But I think I let you try these things. You're just not, you are just not going tonight. And I think it, is there a lot of testing involved isn't there.
Douglas Levin (00:28:13):
Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. It's the one thing that, like, if you're, if you're trying to like, reach out to say
somebody or somebody's to handle your Facebook ads or somebody to do anything at all with like marketing or anything, really at all, in terms of like the business world, anyone who says they know what's going to work is like, like, like I say, it was like, when I'm handling your stuff for a client, like, I don't know if this is going to work. Like, I don't know what's going to work, but you have an idea of what will potentially work. Like, because you've done enough, like testing and you kinda have gotten got a back in the past. So, you know, it's really at that point of like, like doing all of the research that you can ahead of time and knowing different things about whether it's the marketing aspects or ads or anything like that, where you're like, all right.
Douglas Levin (00:28:57):
Based off of my history of testing this, I, I know that it probably one of these types of things could work. So we're going to test this, this, this, this, this, right. You've got all of these different things that are going to test. Then we're going to just look at the data. So you're trying to not look at things emotionally at all. You're just like, like, all right, I'm going to look at the data. I've got these a hundred potential ways that I could test. And now I'm just going to go down the list and then I'm going to revise and iterate based off of what the data tells me, you know? So don't just assume like, Oh yeah, I tried this one time at the door. So it, it, it's obviously not going to work. Right. You don't know. I mean, nobody does. So you just kinda look at it and just keep testing.
Douglas Levin (00:29:38):
And that's all, all of this ever really is. And that's a lot of business in general. Like I I'm speaking about it and this, and this is an example, but I mean, whatever you're trying to do, that's pretty much how it is. And then ultimately if you stick with it, it's the idea of like the mindset aspect to is like a eventually you will burn through, or you don't know, what is it going to be that ultimately gets you to that point. But if you keep sticking with it and looking at what, where, what potentially didn't work, and then how can I make a change based off of that and try this other thing, and then this other thing, then eventually you will find something
that hits. So, so I think it's something that everybody in general it needs to do regardless of, of, of what you're doing.
Vicki Weinberg (00:30:21):
Yeah. I think you're right. I think it, it definitely is an evolution as you shown from your story today of how you started off doing Arbitrage and then moved into wholesale and private label. Yeah. It's always an evolution, isn't it? And unless you try these different things, you don't really know what works for you. What doesn't, I think you're right. If you think that plays to all aspects of business, and it's definitely better just to go out there and try something, then don't think about it for months, years, whatever the case may be.
Douglas Levin (00:30:48):
Yeah. The whole idea, like everyone does get ready to get ready. All right. If you're, if you have that, that that's all it in your head, you're going to be like 80 and looking back like, Oh, I wish I would have done this. But really when I look at like people that are, or are not going to have any regrets and there they're going to
look back at their life and it's like, okay, this is how I always looked at anything. It was like, all right. Even if I fail and I do everything I possibly could, and it just didn't work out for whatever reason, I'll be 80 looking back and going, all right. Well, I tried, right. I did everything I possibly could. And it just didn't work, but I don't have any regrets because that's like the big thing that I, I know that they've done studies with like a whole bunch of people and their eighties, nineties, hundreds, who were like looking back at their life.
Douglas Levin (00:31:31):
And that's the biggest thing that they have is they have a regret that they didn't do something or they didn't try something. So no matter, like I could look back and like two years and I completely failed and everything is terrible, but at least I know that I gave it everything I possibly could. So I didn't get ready to get ready. Like, because you're in that it's never going to be perfect. You can always look at it and go, all right, well, I need this to happen. And then I'll, I'll try it for a while. Once this thing is in place, now I'm going to go at it before it, like, it's never the right time. Like, like you, you got to dive in and you're going to make mistakes. And that's fine. It's part of the process.
Vicki Weinberg (00:32:07):
This is a great point a witch to ask you about actually. So what is your number one advice for anyone listening, who is thinking of starting to sell their own private label product or something they've created for themselves? What's the key thing that you want them today?
Douglas Levin (00:32:21):
Well, there's a lot of things, I guess, I guess it depends on like, I need people that have been selling already or are the people that are starting off from scratch, I guess, starting from scratch. Alright. So if you're starting from scratch, one of the things that I would say is that what you are going to do, does it matter at the moment? And I would say there's two things you have to have in place before you can even think of getting started. And the F the first one is that you are going to make a lot of mistakes, like it's going to happen. So what I usually recommend to people is, is first start doing a lot of reading.
Douglas Levin (00:33:01):
The people that had done it before, like is something that I really wish I would have done when it got started is you can avoid so many mistakes and put yourself in a much better position from day one, just by looking at what people that are successful. I had done in the past and just modeled. So like, look at Jeff Bezos, he's got a story out there. Look at Warren buffet. He's got a story out there. Like there are so many people that have done amazing things that our, or telling you what to do, basically. So I would say start there in terms of like reads voraciously is something that I've done it for the last, like six to 12 months where I had finally started to take on trying to be, be a big reader, and it's completely changed my life.
Douglas Levin (00:33:48):
And, and that will help you in business. And the other part is you have to have the right mindset for this. A, if
you're going to co go into it with a negative mindset, you're going to fail. If you go into it, like we were saying that the idea that you don't know what's going to work, but I'm going to take whatever it happens and learn from it. This is take it as not failure, but as feedback and keep iterating until I get there had that kind of a growth mindset. If you, if you see in like the mindset book by Carol Dweck, she talked about that idea were like, you can either look at it like I'm doing, I'm going to say it's a fixed mindset. Or, and I'm either going to be great at this, or I'm not, or a growth mindset of, I don't care what happens or what can I learn from it?
Douglas Levin (00:34:35):
How can I grow from this, those two pieces I would say, or the big things to get started. And then from there, I mean, like I said, there's those foundational strategies. If you're going to solve your own product, where you have to become obsessed with what niche, you're going to start with a, what can you learn about your ideal customer? So you can know everything about them, what their fears are, what their hopes are with their desires are. And then at that point, it's just about getting them what they want. The like, like I was saying, like, everything is just about solving a customer's problem and that's all of your product ever. It is. So if you look at it from that perspective of, I know everything about them, I know that they're having these issues.
Douglas Levin (00:35:17):
And now all I got to do is talk to them in their own language and give them what they want. The products will start to take care of themselves. You'll start to figure out what's going to help them along their journey. And, and it's not that complicated. Like e-commerce in general. Yes. You're gonna, you're going to make a lot of mistakes and we're going to do things, you know, I had no idea you would ever do. Like, I didn't think when I started six years ago that I would be doing this. So there's going to be that, that kind of a journey that goes, it goes forward. But the, from the actual platform itself in selling is not rocket science. You go through this process and you find out what the customer wants, or you give it to him and then you get them a great experience.
Douglas Levin (00:36:00):
And then you give it to them again, that's all of this ever is So. So I would say, if you're going to start, go through those steps, I had at a time and then made some mistakes and just learn from them.
Vicki Weinberg (00:36:11):
Thank you. And I'm really curious. So the product, is it on the promise? This is my last question. So say, you mentioned that you are, the product you've came up with was inspired by something your wife is looking for So. Is she your ideal customer? And did that help you with the developing the product and its sort of the voice and figuring out who it was she was talking to?
Douglas Levin (00:36:32):
Oh yeah. Yeah. She's my ideal customer. We only, they all say about her is that she, she said it herself, that she is w one of our propositions is, is like, you're what was it called? I can't remember the M of the costs of
cheap. I can't remember what the name of the proposition is, but where you're supposed to be, the idea is that if you make yourself a commodity where you're just fighting on price than the only person that ever wants is to the customer. So you have to come up with how your product can be a premium product and you're in customers or going to spend more money because they're going to actually save money in the long-term like you talk about the idea of about a hundred dollar product where it's your last a while.
Douglas Levin (00:37:12):
So she is fully admitted that she doesn't look at it that way. She looks at it from the perspective of, I want the cheapest thing. So that's the only thing I think we're at where she differs than the idea of the customer. But she's pretty much the idea of customer. So for us, I'll say it made it a lot easier because I was doing that idea of customer research, looking at brand values. I'm looking at your competitors because she was obsessed with that niche. So like she was on there. So as I was going through that process, she was probably getting very annoyed at me asking about a thousand questions, like, alright, so what, what, what are the category of games? Like a, what do I need to start looking at it and do it like we would buy? Like, so the other thing, like if you're familiar with ClickFunnels and all they talk about like take out your wallet and buy something.
Douglas Levin (00:37:56):
And so we would buy our competitor's products and we were looking at what's, our funnels are all of these other things. She was great in terms of that, because if you're like, Oh yeah, this is how I would think. And I would pick out my credit card and spend money on it so I could get, I start building a swipe file and all of these other things. So yeah, she's, she's pretty much a customer
Vicki Weinberg (00:38:19):
Well that I can see that it will be really helpful. And I think its kind of good that it was how, the idea of customer or you as well, because I think it could be tricky when you're your own ideal customer, because you sometimes then don't realize that they were other people that think differently from how you do. So I think the fact that it was hard or not, you and, you know, seems that it was like you are the one driving there. So that's yeah. I bet that's a great combination actually.
Douglas Levin (00:38:41):
Yeah, yeah. Definitely. And I know now because like we're, we're doing some other things where like I'm the ideal customer and it's, it's easier, I guess in some ways, because like I don't have to ask my wife and I know that the market. Right. But it's also, like you're saying Your and more biased, I guess. So you, you, you, you have to look at it is as objectively as we can and sometimes it's Oh yeah, that is a really hard, so I was still bugger all the time and she is probably going to get annoyed just in terms of like, well, ah, I've been telling him for like six years now. So I'm at this point she knows a lot about businesses. Like not as much as I do, but she knows from me talking your ear off.
Douglas Levin (00:39:21):
So I'll sometimes like to talk about things and like some like in June she she'll give me a feedback or like I've got other masterminds I'm in where we'll talk about things and then I'll, I'll put it on them. Like what do you think? Does it seem like it's a good idea, right? So the idea of like networking and masterminds in general, where like you now have that community that you can bounce things off of, like you trust each other enough where you're like, like I was saying before, about where if I don't feel comfortable, obviously at the Amazon side of it, where are we talking about your product? Are any of those kinds of thing? Like user people where they know my brand and they know everything about me where like I, and I know everything about them. We trust each other is like a whole back and forth where I can start to get feedback from them there, probably some of that in my ideal customer as well.
Douglas Levin (00:40:06):
So we can kind of go back and forth and I'm helping them that are helping me that have kind of a hole kind of process.
Vicki Weinberg (00:40:11):
Yeah. And then talking to people about your products and your ideas in general is good. I think it's a mistake I see people make is kind of keep everything really close to their chest and not talk to any one because you're an absolute, you don't talk to everyone, but you need to have people you can trust that are going to give you useful feedback because yeah, I think if you develop your product and a little bubble It yeah. I don't think this is always going to be the best version of what it could be, but if you actually went out and shared your ideas, well, thank you so much for your time and thank you for everything you've shared today. That's been so helpful. So I will include links in the show notes that everyone can go and find you and follow you and find out more. And is there anything at all that we haven't covered if you'd like to mention it before we wrap up?
Douglas Levin (00:40:55):
Mmm. So I would just say that if anyone that's listening that wants to learn more, like I say about marketing or also chatbots, they can contact me on Facebook. I'm at Douglas Levin or a free cheat sheet at the top five tips for taking full control over your e-commerce income. You can also fall on my channel more on the marketing machine and I've also got a new program build your brand university. And if there's anything I can do to help you please feel free to reach out.
Vicki Weinberg (00:41:23):
Well. That sounds amazing. Well, thank you so much. Douglas
Douglas Levin (00:41:26):
all right. Thank you.
Vicki Weinberg (00:41:26):
Thank you. Hi I really hope you enjoyed this interview with Douglas and do you take something away from it? And you'd like to find out more about the information Douglas shed. If you all the links will be available in the show notes are also included links to my product creation course, which you can also find at courses.chipmunkmunkcoach.com as always. I would love to note your course of this episode. Please let me know if it's Vicki@tinychipmunk.com and please do rate and review the podcast. If you're listening within Apple podcasts, is that really just help other people to find out about it. Thank you so much again and have a lovely day.