Kevin Rizer is today best known as the host of the Private Label Movement, until recently known as Private Label Podcast, but he didn’t initially expect it to become so popular. He started it as a way of talking with other online sellers and of helping other sellers who might be interested in what his guests have to say. He recently spoke with us about how he turned to podcasting and how that has helped make him a better online seller.
Matt Haldane, Global Sources: What were you doing before selling online and what made you get into it?
Kevin Rizer: I spent years in corporate America in various leadership roles in television, and then later in healthcare. When I first found out about people selling products online, I had a small consulting firm in the healthcare space. Our largest client (that accounted for 80 percent of our revenue) was 12 weeks behind on their invoices. I knew something had to change, and fast. Interestingly enough, I got an email about a training program to learn how to sell products on Amazon. I got at least a dozen of these types of money-making emails each week, and most of them I deleted without reading. I’m really glad I read that one.
MH: Was there a particular appeal of pet products for you that got you into that area?
KR: I was told to pick a category I was passionate about. I really couldn’t think of anything I was passionate about, but I loved my dog dearly, and so I chose pets. Later I would find out that it was a great choice, because the pet space continues to grow faster than just about any other sector.
MH: How important is it to “sell what you know” relative to selling what you think has potential?
KR: I think they are equally important, not one more than the other. If what you “know” is so obscure and crazy that no one is buying it, then that knowledge won’t get you very far. At the same time, if you sell something that has tremendous potential, but don’t take the opportunity to learn some of the basics about it, I think that is foolish as well.
MH: How important is it to develop a brand these days? Is there a point at which a new brands is indistinguishable from no-name products for customers?
KR: It really comes down to your long term goals. If your only aim is to sell some products and make some money now, don’t bother building a brand. If, however, you want something sustainable, scalable, and saleable, even, then building a brand is the way to go. You may be able to convince someone to buy a no-name, unbranded product from you today. But an investor is not going to invest in that business, and you will have a tough time scaling and eventually exiting a business that is not built around a brand.
MH: Many people today want to use their own brand to get customers onto their own website. Is this an important strategy with private labels now? Are Amazon and other web stores enough?
KR: I think diversifying is extremely important once you have established yourself. Amazon is a fantastic way to launch a product or brand, but if it is your only channel, you don’t really have a business; you have a sales channel. Those are not your customers, they are Amazon’s. Long term, the best and safest strategy is to diversify, whether that be to additional online channels, your own e-commerce store or even offline through traditional wholesale or retail.
MH: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about increasing conversions?
KR: Photos matter. In my opinion, they are the most important aspect of physical products selling. We are at a disadvantage in that prospective buyers can’t pick our products up and hold them, feel them, smell them. Good photos can bridge some of that gap.
Packaging is also critically important. We are starting to see that brands that focus on doing more than just throwing a product in a plain brown box or a poly-bag perform better than those that do the bare minimum. It not only affects conversions but how the customer feels and the opinion they form of your brand when they receive your product.
MH: How did you get into podcasting?
KR: By accident. I found that as I was getting started in my first brand, I really found tons of inspiration in hearing other people’s stories. There is always, I think, a bit of self doubt when you are trying to do something like start a business from scratch. You ask yourself “Can I really do this?”
For me, hearing the stories of other people who had overcome challenges and had found success was really helpful. I thought that if it was beneficial to me, it might be for others, too. I started recording some conversations with other sellers and really thought the podcast would just be a hobby. It just kind of took off, and because of our amazing listeners, it became much bigger than I could have imagined.
MH: As you’ve interviewed and spoke with so many experts in different areas of online selling, do you think the podcast has helped make you a better Amazon seller?
KR: Definitely. Not only has it made me a better seller in that I’ve been able to pick the brains of so many people that are much smarter than I am, but it has opened a lot of doors, too. I am lucky in that I often get a first look at the latest tools, strategies, events, etc., and that is something I would not have without the reach of the show.
MH: Which episode, speaker or piece of advice do you think has been the most useful for your listeners and which for yourself?
KR: I’m a bit partial to all of them, but a few of my favorite episodes are: EP 14 with Ryan Daniel Moran, EP 96 with John Rossman, EP 172 with Ryan Petersen and EP 200 with Braeden Hogan, who at 12 years old is lightyears ahead of most of us.