Focus More on Product Development than Marketing. So many Amazon sellers want to cash-in without doing the hard work. For example, when fidget-spinners became popular, thousands of sellers started offering the exact same product- you don’t need an MBA to know that this might not be a good idea. The only way to have long-term success on Amazon is to create products that are truly better than your competition. If you sell the same widgets as everyone else and just focus on the marketing, you may be able to have short term success, but it never lasts. For Back Bay Audio, we are offering better sound quality and more features than anything else in our price range, and that has allowed us to carve out a fan base in a busy category.
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 Jeremy Abend. Jeremy is the founder of Back Bay Audio, a brand of innovative wireless headphones that provide Hi-Fi sound quality and smart design features without a hefty retail markup. Unlike other earbuds, Back Bay’s have five EQ sound modes, so one pair of earbuds can make rock, rap, classical, R&B and even podcasts sound the way the artists intended. Back Bay Audio has quickly gained nearly 600 positive reviews for its earbuds on Amazon. Jeremy works with a team of audiophiles in Boston to continue making great sound quality available to everyone.
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?
Thanks for having me! Growing up, I was always immersed in good music and truly great stereo systems. My family has been involved in the musical instruments business for the past two decades and was heavily involved in the rock and roll scene in the 80’s. Naturally, I always gravitated toward the best sound quality I could get my hands on- there are pictures of me as a little kid wearing comically big audiophile headphones, slowly developing my passion for audio products.
In college I started getting into fitness and quickly made the shift to wireless earbuds, which allowed me to move more freely. As an audio-obsessive, I was never fully satisfied with the Bluetooth earbuds on the market. I saved up for some of the more expensive Bluetooth earbuds, but the sound quality and fit still wasn’t perfect. I would sit in my room for hours tinkering with the earbuds- hacking into the chip to adjust the internal EQ settings and creating my own attachments to keep the earbuds from falling out of my ears.
Frustrated with the lack of options, I began looking into what it would take to make the wireless earbuds I always wanted but could never find. After 1.5 years of development, and input from numerous audiophiles and fitness fanatics, I finally created earbuds that I personally wanted to use everyday. Through tons of trial and error, I was able to reproduce that rich sound of the classic American Hi-Fi systems I loved. Instead of trying to match the prices of the big brand names, I started to figure out how I could sell these earbuds for much lower prices.
I had always wondered why the big brand names charged so much for their Bluetooth headphones. It turns out that the big brands all jack up their prices to cover fees at big-box retail stores, international marketing campaigns and fancy offices. By cutting all that out and selling directly online, I could set my prices at a fraction of the competition’s prices. I started by selling on Amazon, which allowed Back Bay Audio to quickly pop up in the search result for millions of customers in the first year.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?
Sure! Back Bay Audio now sells thousands of products on Amazon each month and has used Amazon to put our products in front of millions of customers while keeping our advertising budget tiny- something that used to be unheard of with technology products.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
It’s always fascinating to see the reach of the internet. Products I designed here in Boston wind up going all over the world. I travel quite a lot for this business, and it’s always a kick to see someone sitting next to me on a flight wearing Back Bay earbuds! Sometimes I’ll ask, “Hey, how do you like those earbuds?”, and eventually I’ll tell them that they’re wearing a product designed by my company.
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?
Well unfortunately for me, my big mistake was not so funny. In the process of looking for the perfect manufacturing partner, I found a firm that talked a great game and seemed to be the right match to produce Back Bay earbuds. After months of development with this manufacturer, they were making great looking headphones that sounded fantastic, but after dozens of trials it became clear that durability was a huge issue. This first run of products couldn’t handle the heat of a Texas summer or the cold of a Wisconsin winter. I had to fire this manufacturer and go back to the drawing board.
Now I am a quality fanatic. I won’t use any production facility until I personally inspect it and verify their QC procedures. We have an “electronics torture chamber” here in Boston that replicates the extremes in climate and operating conditions, so we know our products will be as reliable as products that cost many times our retail price. Customers deserve assurance that they are buying a quality item, regardless of the price.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yeah tons of stuff. We are working every day to try and make our products better sounding, with better battery life, better durability and a stronger feature set. We’re working on new earbuds, over-the-ear headphones, Bluetooth speakers, all sorts of peripherals. It’s a very exciting time technology-wise as the use of wireless technology continues to grow rapidly.
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.
- Use Amazon Reviews to Help Develop New Products
Reviews are a treasure trove of consumer insights. We frequently gather hundreds of reviews to see what customers are complaining about. Then we create new products to solve the customers’ problems! For example, many customers were complaining that they would forget to charge their earbuds and would be stuck without music at the gym. That led us to develop our unique “wired + wireless” earbuds, which can convert into normal wired earbuds if you run out of battery.
2) Don’t Think of Your Business as Just an “Amazon Business”
Business is business. Amazon is just a distribution channel. Our focus is entirely on the customer, delivering the kind of value and customer experience that makes them loyal to our brand, not just to Amazon. Product quality is the number one ingredient to success in any marketplace, and it is especially important on Amazon where you have limited contact with the customer.
3) Be Hyper-Focused on the Customer’s Experience with the Product
The only way to have long-term success on Amazon is to provide a stellar customer experience. With Back Bay products, we think through the smallest details and put an emphasis on customer service. When a customer reaches out with a question, we try to reply as fast as possible with thorough responses. Our goal is for customers to say “Wow, that was a very easy experience.” This relationship with the customer goes a long way.
4) Focus More on Product Development than Marketing
So many Amazon sellers want to cash-in without doing the hard work. For example, when fidget-spinners became popular, thousands of sellers started offering the exact same product- you don’t need an MBA to know that this might not be a good idea. The only way to have long-term success on Amazon is to create products that are truly better than your competition. If you sell the same widgets as everyone else and just focus on the marketing, you may be able to have short term success, but it never lasts. For Back Bay Audio, we are offering better sound quality and more features than anything else in our price range, and that has allowed us to carve out a fan base in a busy category.
5) Drive Traffic to Amazon
Don’t just rely on Amazon’s search algorithm to put your products in front of customers. Use the power of social media and enthusiastic groups to spread the word about your products. We reach out to running clubs and music groups on college campuses to spread the word about our products. If you can reach customers that are passionate about your product, they will market your product for you.
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?
We’ve had a lot of success in partnering with groups that frequently use earbuds. We offer discounts to running clubs, music clubs and college campuses. Once our products are in the hands of some group members, we have seen a lot of natural word-of-mouth marketing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Entrepreneurship is like a muscle.” In the same way that you would go to the gym and train your muscles, entrepreneurial thinking is something that can grow over time when you train it. You can start small by applying entrepreneurial thinking in your daily life- developing creative solutions to even the smallest problems. A side-hustle is also a great way to develop your entrepreneurial skillset and train that entrepreneurial muscle before jumping into a larger endeavor.
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 🙂
I am a big fan of Jason Calacanis, the entrepreneur and angel investor. I think he is one of the clearest communicators and most insightful business thought leaders. I would love to pick his brain over a meal!
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!