“All competitors have an equal chance of winning before a single move is made.”
We mentioned this critical perspective in our last post as we launched this series of articles comparing strategic Amazon selling with precise, analytical games like chess. And while we do acknowledge that the odds of winning on paper are almost 50-50, it’s sadly time to shatter that illusion.
Opportunity is equal, but the rest is up to you.
Every gain must be fought for and earned. This means the more you’re willing to test and learn, the more of an advantage you can build before a single move is made. And if you’re playing against Grandmasters, you might have a lot of ground to make up.
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out alone. Your success — on the chessboard or Amazon — will come down to observing the details, experiential foresight, and finding the right help to improve.
Observing the Details
Once on our website, we spoke with a man who sold a helpful product to people with a serious need: a back brace for posture. His dilemma was clear: the market was crowded. A simple search on Amazon will reveal over 30,000 results for a back brace. Even though he had an audience with a serious need, he had a very serious need to stand out better.
So he invested some money — about $1,300 in an PPC campaign.
In return, he got $900 in sales. Meh.
Now, we typically don’t advise clients to focus only on return when they first venture into Amazon sales. It’s often unrealistic to see big numbers right away, especially in crowded markets. Yet, sellers can get so stuck in the numbers game that they neglect to see other, critical details.
His product was no worse than others in the market. It was priced similarly to competition. With a level playing field, his investment in a campaign seemed like a logical move. But his results suffered because attention to detail is critical to determining how level the playing field really is.
As we spoke to him, we continued to dig, scouring Amazon to assess his competitive advantages and weaknesses. For example:
His product had only 4 reviews, while similar competitors had 100 or more.
He felt like his 30-day guarantee was a strong selling point, but many competitors also had a guarantee.
We speculated as to whether his ads (and the money spent) had in fact generated awareness, only to have his prospects choose a competitor instead! .
Looking at the big picture, we could see that the page needed some improvements beyond just running a PPC campaign. His expectations just weren’t realistic; even being detailed and very focused on the campaign, he’d lost the vision for how his product fit in with the rest of the marketplace. The Amazon campaign probably felt like a logical step for him, but it was a flop. And he couldn’t understand why.
Attention to detail is critical to ensure you continue to improve your chance at success. But detail alone doesn’t always provide meaning.
The benefit of working with a coach or partner is that they’ve experienced a lot. They have seen countless games of chess — or countless Amazon campaigns — and learned something from each of them. As you plan your own moves, a partner can help you assess if it is wise and strategic based on what they’ve seen and learned. That’s simple foresight.
Foresight requires a little bit of self-reflection to know when you are in a little over your head. Of course, you can gain experience by trying and failing, as the seller in our back brace example did at first, but you can also study and learn from others to save yourself the time and energy (and money!). And as a previous college professor of entrepreneurship used to tell us: “Success is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”
It’s all about turning failures into learnings, and continuing to come back for more. It’s tenacity. I thought of this every time Eric blindsided me by capturing my knight in the middle of a chess match. On other days, I thought of it smugly as I avoided a trap he’d used on me previously. With these regular chess matches still going on while Eric and I continued to build plans for our consultancy, I became even more interested in the parallels to sales.
So, one weekend, I ventured to a seminar at the Charlotte Chess Center, not too far from where I live in NC. I was curious, and it was fascinating to explore. In competitive chess, they annotate moves. It creates a record, which means you can sometimes research your opponents to learn their style and how they respond to certain situations. They even have software tools to help you analyze moves and patterns. This got me thinking…
Eric and I never took our chess matches so seriously that we’d take notes on them, but I did admire how the serious players who show up at tournaments and seminars will actually seek competitive advantage from the tools available to them. It’s like a booster to add in to your own experiences, helping you anticipate even better. Helping you plan even better.
That’s why we continue to grow our analytical capacity and identify the right tools to help our clients thrive. Experiences and past lessons are the bedrock of our strategic planning for future success, and the right tools can equip us to translate attention to detail into proper foresight.
Finding the Right Help
At the end of the day, our hope is that these articles inspire you to ask tough questions. You must reflect on your capabilities and weaknesses with honest clarity if you hope to seriously improve. That’s true whether you work with us or not.
For clients who do want to improve, we aim to help as true partners. We are the extra set of eyes finding key details in the landscape, and we bring our rich experience to provide foresight. Together, we think outside the box from the outset to find creative routes to achieve your goals.
Remember that guy with the back braces? Just imagine the myriad ways he could boost his sales if he asked himself the harder questions. If he really put himself in each of his customers’ shoes. How do shoppers browse and what do they really look for?
We’ve speculated ourselves. With all things being so similar, what if he ran a trial on price point? Since all the competitors were in the $15-$20 range, maybe he could try something wild. What if he sold his at $39.99? Yes if he decreased his price to $9.99 and razor-thin margins he would increase sales perhaps substantially yet necessarily building the kind of long term businesses we like to partner and support. If he were to increase to his premium price point, what are the features and benefits of his product that would support this price point? Maybe lighter weight? Better material? Digging into product reviews of competitors would be a good start to understanding what features and benefits customers especially appreciate.
Sure, it’s a calculated gamble, but sometimes that’s how you learn. If you plan for it by paying attention to details and then applying the right experiential foresight, you can see your numbers soar.
And if you fail, you learn from it. If you take the step to find the right help, you can learn together, hash out the results, and convert them rapidly into an optimized strategy. We all look at challenges through the lenses we know. Learn from people with other views and capabilities so you can expand your own.
Because that’s the other thing to consider when you look at a level-playing field. The field might seem fair, but one of you might be climbing while the other is preparing to fly. It’s up to you which route you take.