Why hire a consultant to help with your Amazon sales? The short answer is that selling on Amazon takes a lot of time and technical expertise, and there are people out there who work with Amazon sellers all day, every day, helping them build their businesses.
As interest in Amazon’s marketplace has grown, so has its support ecosystem. There are now plenty of Amazon consultants around, offering support, advice and training. They cover areas from listing optimization and SEO to product compliance and account suspension appeals.
But they aren’t all equal. Some have just a couple of years’ experience with Amazon, while others are veterans with over a decade of knowledge. Some worked for Amazon itself before branching out on their own. Others were successful sellers in their own right, or worked for big companies managing their Amazon marketplace accounts. There are different ways to gain the depth of expertise needed to help others effectively.
In this post, I’ll be looking at what Amazon consultants do, who uses them and how to choose the right type for your businesses needs.
What do Amazon consultants do?
Amazon consultants can help your business in a number of different ways, depending on their specialism. We list many of them in the Web Retailer directory.
Some specialize in suspensions, and can help you get your account reinstated, or listings unblocked. They can provide you with a Plan of Action or review your existing one, write appeal letters and help you handle the escalation process. Some also deal with account health and performance issues. In this case, they’ll audit your account, assess your metrics and give you advice on how to improve them.
Some consultants are qualified lawyers, and may handle suspension appeals as well as intellectual property issues, such as trademark protection and removing listing hijackers. They may also help draft supplier contracts to help protect your business against unauthorized copying.
Other consultants are experts in international expansion and help sellers offer their products on Amazon’s global marketplaces. They can help translate and localize listings, provide customer support in different languages and, for European expansion, help you with VAT issues. They may also be able to provide advice on import regulations, shipping and order fulfillment logistics.
Then there are consultants who specialize in optimization, and help your business sell more products. They might help optimize your Amazon listings to improve search ranking or conversion rate, and make sure that your PPC campaigns are running efficiently.
Ad campaign management
You may also find internet marketing agencies who offer Amazon services, such as PPC ad management. Their other services might be focused on wider digital marketing, including design, SEO and Google AdWords campaign management.
Account management and training
Alongside these consultants, who specialize in certain aspects of your Amazon account, there are also those who provide account management (also know as channel management or managed services), looking after the whole selling process for you. They are responsible for everything from listing your products to dealing with customer service. This means you don’t need to have any hands-on involvement in the day-to-day running of your account.
Some Amazon account management services are provided by experienced marketplace sellers, providing these services as an offshoot of their own retail business. They might work with brands who don’t sell online at all, or are struggling with their Amazon sales, and help get their account on track. This could be a full managed service, or more of a training and consultancy arrangement where they give advice but you manage the day-to-day running of the account.
Who uses Amazon consultants?
There are some types of Amazon consultants that all Amazon sellers may need to use at some point. A common example is with suspensions, as these are prevalent on Amazon, and consultants can help sellers get reinstated as soon as possible.
International expansion is another good example, as consultants specializing in this area can help any type of seller set up global accounts and provide services such as listing translation and local-language customer service.
Brands and manufacturers
Then different types of Amazon businesses have their own specific needs. If we look at established businesses, like brands or manufacturers who are new to Amazon, they might decide to go with a managed service. They already have other channels to manage and may not have the appetite to learn about Amazon as well. By using a managed service, they are in the hands of experts and it can become a profitable channel without creating extra work for them.
Alternatively, they may look at sending existing team members to a consultant for training, so that they can learn about Amazon, and manage the channel in-house going forward.
It can be a similar case for start-up companies, for instance those that have an innovative crowdfunded product. They are likely to be a small team and may opt for a managed service, because they simply don’t have the time to run a sales channel as complex as Amazon. But they also have the option of training or consulting services, so they can run their Amazon account themselves.
Another option is to find an experienced Amazon merchant who can sell their products for them. This could be on a wholesale basis, perhaps with exclusivity to help motivate the seller to invest time in marketing activities, such as creating high quality listings.
Established retailers on Amazon
What if you’re already an established Amazon seller? Conventional retailers face tough competition, because they are often competing only on price. By going to a general Amazon consultant, or a more experienced seller, they can develop a strategy to stay competitive. Part of this strategy might be implementing software, such as repricing tools, to try and gain an advantage over competitors.
In recent years, the rise of unethical competitors has made having an Amazon suspension consultant crucial. We’ve seen sellers using a variety of dirty tactics on their competitors, and one seller even had his Amazon account destroyed by false intellectual property claims and negative feedback. Having someone on hand to consult on these matters is now a key tool in many Amazon merchants’ arsenals.
Amazon private labelers
Sellers with their own private label products or brands can also benefit from using Amazon consultants. They might use them to help optimize listings, get advice on how to generate reviews or help them run more efficient PPC ad campaigns. To achieve this, they might use an ads management service from a marketing agency, get one-off advice from an experienced seller, or use a copywriting or photography service on an ad-hoc basis.
Private labelers can also have their own suspension-related issues. It’s quite common for their listings to be hijacked, or intellectual property claims to be made against their products. In this case, they may need to seek advice from a lawyer as well as a suspension consultant.
New Amazon sellers
On the whole, Amazon consultants aren’t really suitable for new Amazon sellers starting from scratch, rather than expanding an existing business onto Amazon.
These sellers are more likely to benefit from training or coaching, so they can learn about Amazon and handle processes themselves in the future. They may also benefit from outsourcing tasks to virtual assistants to help cut their workload.
How to choose the right consultant for you
1. Identify the type of support you need
Before you even start looking for a consultant, you need to look at your business and work out what you really need. If it’s one specific area, like consistent problems with your metrics, then you need a specialist that deals with suspensions or seller performance issues. If there’s more than one area where you’re struggling, then a generalist is going to be a better fit.
When you’ve identified the areas where you’re struggling, you need to assess how big your problems are and how they can be solved. Are they minor things that you just need some expert advice on? Would training be a good idea, so you can solve the issues yourself in the future? Is it an area like design or listing optimization, where a specialist can add value on an ongoing basis? Or are you really struggling in all departments and need someone to manage your entire Amazon account for you?
Asking yourself these questions will help you develop a clear idea of what you need. This is going to help you get the most out of using an Amazon consultant. Firstly, because you can whittle your search down to consultants that offer a relevant service, but it also means that you can provide them with a really detailed brief of what you want them to do.
2. Think about how you like to communicate
A key element of using a consultant is communication. If they are offering you advice or training, you need to choose someone that explains things in a way that you understand. You need to be happy dealing with them on an ongoing basis.
Your Amazon consultant needs to be approachable, and easily contactable, particularly if they are managing your account or providing you with optimization services. It could be that you’ve spotted a problem with your account that needs fixing immediately, or that you want to arrange weekly catch ups to discuss progress. Either way, you need to be kept in the loop.
There are also a couple of other things to consider. In the age of the internet, the world is a smaller place, and you’re likely to come across overseas consultants. One thing to keep in mind here is time differences, as you don’t want to be dealing with your consultant at unsociable hours.
Their location also impacts on how you will communicate. Telephone or video calls might be fine for progress updates, but if you prefer being taught in-person and not through screen sharing, then a local consultant may be your best option. It largely depends on how you learn most effectively, how you like to communicate, and what your consultant is doing for you.
3. Quiz some consultants
You now know what you want a consultant to do, and how you want that help to be delivered, so it’s time to find a consultant.
One headache here can be weighing up the benefits of using an ex-Amazonian, or a seller, or a marketing agency, or a lawyer, or another type of consultant. Each can have their own distinct benefits, but by identifying what you need at the start, your choice should be easier.
Also, the reputation and communication style of the individual consultant is usually more important than their career background. An exception is with legal services, for which you should always choose a qualified lawyer.
So, make a shortlist then look into each consultant’s experience, their credentials and what qualifies them to advise on Amazon-related topics. It’s always important to ask if they have dealt with a business like yours before, and whether it was successful. It can also be really useful to talk to those businesses, and ask them about their experience – would they recommend working with this consultant?
If you’re satisfied that the consultant is suitably qualified, and you get good feedback about them, then interview them. Give them a detailed brief of what your business does, how it works and, most importantly, what your problem is and what you need them to do.
Based on this, ask them what they would do for you, and how they would achieve the results you want? Use this as a final chance to test their Amazon knowledge, and get the really granular details. This way you can be clear on what they are, and aren’t, going to do for you.
The same goes for price. You’re paying for your consultant’s time, so make sure you’re clear on what they will be doing at each point in time. Check that they will update you regularly as the charges build up. Establishing an estimate of how long it will take to achieve your goal is really important, as it’s going to give you an idea of how much using the consultant will cost overall.
To avoid the risk of inaccurate estimates, many people find fixed pricing an attractive option. This way, you know exactly what the cost will be. It does cause other uncertainties though. For example, there is often confusion about exactly what is included in the price, and little flexibility to change the brief. This can lead to poor results, if unanticipated events occur.
Remember that your Amazon consultant can’t do endless amounts of work on a fixed rate. A detailed plan needs to be created, and agreed to by both parties, with a process for what happens if changes need to be made.
When you sell on Amazon, you have to manage so many different areas, that you simply don’t have time to become an expert in them all. But, by hiring an Amazon consultant you can get expert advice on the most important topics where you need help, and in areas where you are weakest.
To get the best results from an Amazon consultant, you need to know your own business inside out and honestly assess where you need to improve. You then need to find an experienced consultant, with a strong track record of achieving similar goals and deliver a clear, detailed brief of exactly what you want them to do.
Remember, consultants aren’t miracle workers, and unless you use a managed service, you will need to put in the work to implement their advice. So it doesn’t get you off the hook completely, but is surely a better option than muddling through alone and risking irreversible damage to your business.