Listing Image: Use the central image that stands out to the shoppers’ eye compared to competitors’ main images — including any available differentiators, such as brighter colors, less clutter, facing left instead of right, or even zoom in to a section of the product that illustrates a unique feature. For example, a red or blue color product quickly catches a shopper’s eye scan results.
As a part of my interview series about “Five non-intuitive things you need to know to run a very successful Amazon business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian R. Johnson.
Brian R. Johnson is a Texas-based advertising strategist, brand architect, and e-commerce geek. He has served as a leader in online advertising and conversion rate strategy for nearly two decades. A trusted partner to tens of thousands of brands across the globe, Brian’s work has earned him a reputation as a disruptive force in a world brimming with new and interesting challenges.
Through his advertising agency, CANOPY Management, as well as his highly successful Amazon ad consultancy Amazon PPC Troubleshooting, Brian has helped companies dramatically improve their bottom lines with his peerless expertise in e-commerce and how to connect new customers by responsibly leveraging the latest advertising practices and theories in new and exciting ways. His expertise is used widely by thousands of marketing teams in his software and unique training courses. The results his products and services deliver, continue to put him in high demand with companies both large and small around the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have spent the last 14 years in e-commerce, with the most recent six years focused on Amazon sales channels. A natural tendency to entrepreneurship and the hustle keeps me self-employed (for better or worse) instead of returning to corporate life.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?
My focus is increasing awareness, engagement, sales, and product sales profitability for over 20,000 brands selling on Amazon. Having innovated the first community, first software, and early training course on advertising on Amazon has helped many third-party sellers and DTC brands succeed on Amazon.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The most interesting end-to-end story would be when I helped a brand sell fitness equipment transition across four years, from its first product launch to being sold to investors for an amount that allowed the founder to travel full-time with his family. This is an excellent example of what many entrepreneurs frame as the ‘dream’ to achieve an exit that delivers a goal lifestyle. My career echoes this result as of the time of this writing, since I am on a 2-month road trip with my family, and it is incredible!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
First, one that comes to mind is being naive to the customers and their multiple lifestyles for which a product may be used. One time, I launched advertising for a client that sold nighttime face masks to block out light during sleep. During keyword research, I kept seeing search phrases that seemed risqué and out of alignment with the product. As it turns out, sleep masks have a dual purpose of providing a better night’s sleep and also, enhancing the experience of a sexual encounter. The client was shocked by the search terms showing up in the ads and demanded the ads be stopped for those terms. I stopped the ads and reported the sales to the client on those terms, to which the client immediately asked the ads to be turned back on again since the sales volume outweighed their original desire not to want to sell their product for this type of use.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
This year’s massive competition on Amazon showed a light on a critical area most product sellers neglect in their product listings: The ability to stand out from the crowd, engage the shopper to seek more information about their product, and ultimately, demonstrate quickly how purchasing this product will fulfill their needs and real ad benefit to their life.
I recently launched a new service and a series of live workshops that teach sellers about the necessity to rebuild their product listing image, title, and key content to focus on the benefits of this product to the shopper while also differentiating their product a sea of similar competitors. The resulting increased visits and conversion rates have proven this is an under-appreciated aspect of taking a product and brand to the next level of selling to consumers.
Ok. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. You are a seasoned Amazon expert. Can you share with our readers five, non intuitive, insider tips, in order to be as successful as possible on Amazon? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Listing Image: Use the central image that stands out to the shoppers’ eye compared to competitors’ main images — including any available differentiators, such as brighter colors, less clutter, facing left instead of right, or even zoom in to a section of the product that illustrates a unique feature. For example, a red or blue color product quickly catches a shopper’s eye scan results.
2. Listing Headline: Write the headline title to ensure the first 75 characters, which is the default title seen on mobile, including a key differentiating benefit or feature. Use unusual words, when possible, to grab the attention of the shopper. For instance, “Apex Stitched” threading on an office chair simply means the top neck cushion is stitched, but the word “apex” catches the shopper’s eye as unique, odd, or out of place — which draws their attention to the listing.
3. Listing Description: Write the first three feature bullet points to lead with a brief, key benefit followed by a brief, key feature that supports that benefit. The first three bullet points are visible to mobile shoppers.
4. Keywords: Launch a new manual keyword campaign with a highly relevant set of keywords and also apply the fixed bidding strategy to prevent the ad auction from removing the ad from showing as being too early to trust the ad to show.
5. Advertising: Launch product targeting ads and brand video ads soon after launching a new product to expand market share and attract shoppers with moving ads.
Amazon sellers have a reputation for being great guerilla marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
I disagree with the statement that Amazon sellers are known to be great guerrilla markets. Some are, yet most Amazon sellers just follow someone else’s plan to research, source, post, and advertise a product. Every e-commerce or search platform has hacks that operators take advantage of to ‘game the system.’ Yet, I’ve seen more innovation on independent platforms such as Shopify out of necessity to maximize conversion rates, value proposition, and upsells. Plus, Amazon is just now entering the platform’s social media phase where brands can engage with their audience. A large legacy company needs to think of its budget, spend more as an entrepreneur, and not waste money on production-value video commercials and high-end product package photography. Just being unfamiliar with the Amazon platform is no reason a large, legacy company couldn’t enter Amazon and crush many existing competitors. With a comprehensive strategic plan fit to the Amazon sales channel, a large brand with more resources could dominate the differentiating name recognition, the ad placement real estate, and the social media presence to their target audience.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For me, demonstrating the value proposition of the product’s benefits to its target audience is easily the most impactful change that needs to happen this year and is still in its infancy. The results my clients have seen by following my product differentiation and positioning method have shifted my talks to lead with this aspect of product positioning ahead of the advertising mastery I’m most known for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
To narrow it down to a lesson applicable to e-commerce, if I could tell my younger self only one business lesson, it would be: ‘identify the Who, not the What’ of a task. In other words, who has the better expertise and team to execute a task or project. Focus on building a better team instead of trying to wear multiple hats as the founder of a company. The result is that I can focus on creativity and identify opportunities and less on how to get it done and the path taken to get to completion.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Arri Bagah, founder of the DTC Day conference in the United States. He had the vision to connect like-minded direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to thought leaders. I’d love to have a conversation with him to see how this vision has played out, where he’d take the industry next, and what challenges he expects to overcome in the next few years.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!