There’s so many incredible people in the world who have the ability to inspire and electrify. In my case, I really respect people who’ve battled and fought through diversity, and have managed to maintain their integrity.
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 Shane Oglow.
Shane is the President of prREACH, a communications company that specializes in building online authority for brands using high-quality content and traffic driving strategies. Shane also works with high-level Amazon sellers creating customized managed launches utilizing a variety of proprietary methods.
His e-commerce background began in 2013 when he started his first Amazon brand, generating over 1 million dollars in revenue in the first year. From there, he went on to literally train thousands of people to do the same, mostly through his partnership with amazing.com.
Through his efforts with prREACH and working independently, he continues to work closely with online businesses in the areas of amazon coaching, product development, sourcing, and logistics, to name but a few.
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?
Gosh, that’s a tough one, because most of the things I’ve done in my life are seemingly difficult to build a correlation to where I am now. I’ve been simultaneously blessed and cursed with erratic adventures and jobs, almost right out of school. From various military stints, being a private investigator, body-guarding, working in the Arctic as an aircraft maintenance engineer, right up to become a professional proprietary trader for a major bank, all in the quest of adventure and knowledge. In fact, many people either outright say, or imply, that they don’t believe half my stories!
I suppose that trading is what led me to where I am today. It exposed me to several key new things in my life up to that point.
The ability to earn money disproportionately to the “effort” put in, the satisfaction of doing something well that few others were capable of, and the wonderful, wonderful gift of freedom of movement. After several years of working under banks and investment firms, I shot out on my own, and although I admit that I was far less successful than I had planned or anticipated, I started to see a different future ahead of me that wasn’t glued to an office chair all day.
I went through some significant life changes and hit the road, trading wherever I found myself. From hotels rooms, crashing on friends couches, and temporary apartments I’d rent, I split my time between Canada and Europe. Once I tasted freedom, there was no going back.
After about 10 years, trading finally fizzled out for me as the continued dominance of High-Frequency Trading machines made it too difficult for me to earn consistent income in the way I previously had.
However, I knew it was just a matter of time before I found the next, more significant and more sustainable opportunity, and with the rise of Amazon, that opportunity appeared very shortly after that. Knowing some successful early adopters, I latched on and knew I could make it work, which it did, and here I am today.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about selling on Amazon.com?
I had some great out of the gate success in the early years of the Amazon private label boom. Because of that, and some close relationships with the folks at Amazing, formerly named Amazing Selling Machine, who were one of the first, and continue to be the Cadillac of the industry in terms of providing Amazon beginner seller training, I started helping them out by mentoring newer sellers.
Eventually, I was asked to help create and teach their course platform, which I did for two years before stepping back to focus solely on my own private label brands. During that time, I helped to coach and advised literally thousands of new Amazon sellers.
Since then, I have branched out to speaking gigs (mostly in Europe where I now live), participating in masterminds, starting new brands and partnerships, exploring Amazon related businesses, and I still do some coaching and mentoring.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The first time I went to China on business, like most people, I had no idea what to expect. I had a girl in my employ there for some years, and she arranged for the two us to spend a couple of weeks visiting various factories that we were doing business with, and some potential new factories as well.
While I was fully prepared to “talk turkey” and get down to business, all everyone wanted to do was go out to lunches and drink. While I enjoyed myself immensely, it just kept happening with one supplier after another. Once we finally were able to head back to the actual factories after who knows how long, I was rarely in a condition to talk business and pretty much let my employee handle everything while I wandered around factory floors and nearby neighborhoods.
All in all, it was probably the most productive thing I could have done, as my employee is somewhat of a pit bull, and she negotiated better than I ever could have! She is of course still with me, I trust her implicitly, and can’t imagine running portions of my business without her.
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?
The funniest if you have a dark sense of humor mistake I ever made when first starting with Amazon was when I switched fulfillment from FBA to FBM during the holidays. Not that the action itself was a mistake under the circumstances, I just had absolutely no idea what I was in for, never having gone through the madness of a holiday sales season.
Basically, I had inventory enroute to FBA, and knew that inventory being checked in was greatly backed up due to volume, so I switched fulfillment to FBM. Clueless as to the volume of orders that was about to hit, I thought I’d fulfill any orders that came in manually. No software automation, no help, just me… literally 12 hours a day manually fulfilling orders. It was ridiculous, my eyes were bloodshot for days from staring at the screen and my fingers were constantly cramped up from the same repetitive motions with the computer mouse. Lesson learned!
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yeah absolutely, and that’s the work we’re doing for any ecommerce seller, not just Amazon sellers, with our company prREACH.
We have a unique launch and rank system that combines high quality keywords targeted signals along with strong backlinks from content like press releases. This continues to be developed and improved, providing strong results overall.
We’re also pushing ahead in areas that the average Amazon or online seller has not been aware of, or been able to effectively utilize before. Namely, affordable and effective SERP rankings and earned media placements for their brands. This is huge for sellers, because a massive amount of traffic flowing into Amazon is coming from Google search, and we’re helping sellers capture a share of that. With the earned media and high quality placements, not only are brands gaining authority and credibility unlike anything they could have imagined, that all translates directly into more traffic, whether directed to their Amazon product detail page or to their own website.
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.
While I could easily name a hundred, here’s the first five that pop into mind, and this first one comes up a lot with newer sellers…
1. Don’t try and game the system. Years back, it truly was the wild west, and it was practically anything goes, it is much less so now. The hacks and shortcuts just don’t exist like they used to, and moreover, even if they do work right now temporarily, you can be held accountable for them in the future. Bad news when you’ve got a business on the line. Build a strong brand and an ethical business that you and your customers can be proud of.
2. Don’t load up with too many “me too” products. Having products like others that are top sellers are ok, but you know that there’s a strong chance of them having a limited life span or limited success over time, due to the fact that anyone can sell the same thing.
Innovation is where it’s at, but I also understand that every new product you launch isn’t likely going to have a patent or some form of IP protection, but the more you can set yourself apart, the better. Don’t be a one trick pony.
3. It’s all about perceived value. While you can have the model of selling the cheapest product and going for a volume play, it’s not for most of us. By focusing on a quality listing, strong branding and a strong brand presence, you can set yourself apart from the crowd and charge higher prices. Higher prices mean more R & D, better customer service and customer experience, and more assets to throw at business growth.
4. Constantly streamline and evaluate your logistics / supply chain. I can’t tell you how many people we’ve helped, even long time, large sellers by examine their suppliers, storage, shipping, fx, etc., and discovered all sorts of inefficiencies and huge cost savings.
And the great thing is, most of the above are easy wins if you know what to look for or have the right relationships.
5. Never think that a “guru” has it all figured out and there’s no other alternatives. Not guru bashing here by any means, it’s just that I’ve seen so many different business models all deployed around Amazon, and they can all work! I’ve seen them all fail too.
Just because someone has figured out a system of doing things, or claims to have, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon, or is necessarily right for you.
Amazon sellers have a reputation for being great guerrilla marketers. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
There’s a lot of little things that can work, but the problem is, over time many of them start to lose their effectiveness as a result of everyone piling onto the idea or customer fatigue. The one thing that can make a huge difference over time is earned media and public relations. So many fantastic brands don’t leverage this either due to the cost (barrier to entry) or they simply don’t understand the power of staying on top of the news cycle. With prREACH we’ve found a way to make this affordable and because we have a press release company, we’re able to amplify the effects and really squeeze the juice out of every placement a brand gets. Get yourself and your brand constantly if front of the right audience with a good PR agency.
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. 🙂
It’s funny that you bring that up, because I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how I want to spend the rest of my life and how I can make the biggest impact (outside of taking care of my family). Having 5 kids myself, it just kills me seeing kids suffer. I won’t tolerate it, and have decided that that’s where my focus will lie. Stopping child trafficking and working with orphanages and disadvantaged kids are amongst my top priority and I see myself devoting more and more time to that over the coming years.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Stop worrying about what other people think”. So much of my younger life was spent worrying about what I did or didn’t have and putting heavy value on others opinions of me. As I began to let that go and started to not give a f**** what people thought about me, things just started to get better, simple as that. Stress, anxiety, focus, energy, my own self opinion, all took on positive trajectories, it freed me.
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 🙂
There’s so many incredible people in the world who have the ability to inspire and electrify. In my case, I really respect people who’ve battled and fought through diversity, and have managed to maintain their integrity. Two people that I believe fall into this category, and I’d love to hang out with are Tony Robbins and Joe Rogan.
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!